Small Talk: Big Kids


Jun 30, 2019


Illustration by Shreyaa Krritika Das

Me – Hey, Peanut, what are you doing inside?

Niece – Nothing.

Me – I thought you were down playing with the other kids.

Niece – I came up.

Me – I see that. What happened?

Niece – They said I’m too small to play.

Me – Aw. That sucks.

Niece – Amma said you’re not allowed to say that to me.

Me – You want to hang out with your old aunt for a while?

Niece – No.

Me – Help me write this story.

Niece – I’m too small.

Me – Come on, you’re weird, this story is weird — it’s a winning combination. Anyway, I can see you have some ideas in your head.

Niece – Where.

Me – Right there, behind your ear, I can see.

Niece – You’re just making pretend.

Me – Come on, let’s start. Once upon a time, there was a…?

Niece – No.

Me – There was a No. And she had a yellow house and purple boots.

Niece – And a shoe rack.

Me – What is it with you and shoe racks?

Niece – I like shoe racks.

Me – Okay, then what happened?

Niece – Nothing.

Me – Aw, come on. We’re just getting started. There was the No, in her yellow house, purple boots and shoe rack. And she found a giant orange in her bathroom.

Niece – Why come you always say things like that?

Me – Like what?

Niece – Like giant orange in the bathroom.

Me – And what would you do if you found a giant orange in your bathroom?

Niece – Nothing.

Me – Nothing. You’d just sit there with a giant orange in your bathroom.

Niece – Ya.

Me – Well you know what No did?

Niece – What?

Me – I have no idea.

Niece – Hm?

Me – I don’t know what happened.

Niece – Maybe No peels it.

Me – That seems problematic. And non-consensual. Is the orange alive?

Niece – You mean, does he have eyes and mouth?

Me – Yes, exactly.

Niece – Ya.

Me – Okay, maybe she doesn’t peel him then. Do they become friends?

Niece – No.

Me – Ah, gritty realism. Why not though?

Niece – Because he ate all her bones. And drank all her blood.

Me – Dude! Why?

Niece – Because he… he was a dentist.

Me – Wow, okay. Let’s just leave that there, shall we?

Niece – I’m going down again.

Me – Really? You don’t want to finish this worrying piece of fiction with me?

Niece – No.

Me – Okay, have fun. Don’t eat anyone.

Niece – Okay.


Me – So! You’re back, I see.

Niece – Ya.

Me – What happened?

Niece – Nothing.

Me – Big kids still playing?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Want to finish the story?

Niece – No.

Me – Want to draw a picture of a monster eating your house?

Niece – No.

Me – Want to buy some bitcoin?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Should I tell you a story about how, when I was little, the big kids didn’t let me play with them either?

Niece – No.

Me – Okay. But you know what I did, though?

Niece – You told your Amma to make them play with you?

Me – No, I threw water at them and told them it was pee.

Niece – Really?

Me – You don’t do that, though. Especially not with real pee. And don’t tell anyone I told you that.

Niece – No one wants to play with me.

Me – Aw, I want to play with you. Kind of. Maybe not that much actually.

Niece – I don’t have any friends to play with me but.

Me – So, you’re saying I’m not your friend.

Niece – You’re too big.

Me – Yeah? Well you’re a banana butt.

Niece – Someone’s at the door.

Me – Well, go see who it is.

Niece – Amma said you’re supposed to answer the door.

Me – It’s fine, you’re better at opening the door than I am.


Me – So, let me get this straight: that was one of the big kids and they want you to play with them now because they’re playing house and they need a baby.

Niece – Ya.

Me – And did you pooh-pooh them?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Did you pooh-pooh them and say, “Fie! Away with you, and your ageist ways!”

Niece – I’m going down.

Me – You’re not going to resist? Fight the power? Defeat the… thingy?

Niece – No, I want to be the baby.

Me – What does this say about your generation?

Niece – I’m going bye.

Me – Wow, okay.

Niece – Don’t come down.

Me – Oh my God, I wasn’t going to come down anyway. Banana butt.

Small Talk chronicles conversations between the author and her niece that could, in an alternate universe or in this one, be real.


Written By Kuzhali Manickavel

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections “Things We Found During the Autopsy,” “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings,” and chapbooks “The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys” and “Eating Sugar, Telling Lies” are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/.


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