Not A Monster

Slim Jim Smorgasbord was no monster. I mean yes, Slim Jim was skyscraper tall and his appearance was, shall we say, unique? But a monster? Not on your life. You might think that his name was monstrous all on its own. Who would name their kid Slim Jim Smorgasbord, anyway? But you see – – and of course this would be obvious to any well-thinking person – – Smorgasbord wasn’t really his last name and “Slim” never once made an appearance on his birth certificate. When Slim Jim was first anointed with the Smorgasbord moniker he laughed right along with all the kids who were standing around him in a circle on the playground, practicing their very best taunting, teasing, disrespect and bullying techniques. He laughed! He laughed even harder than they were laughing! And that disarmed them, you see, right down to the tippy-toes of their high-top sneakers. After he wiped a few laughter tears from his cheeks, Slim Jim looked all around at the crowd of pranksters (prankster being one particular variant of monster) and he said, still laughing, “Smorgasbord! That’s perfect, ya know why? Because the word ”smorgasbord” is Swedish and my great-grandmother on my mother’s side was Swedish, isn’t that fun? It’s as if you guys looked right up into my family tree and pulled on the perfect branch to find me a new name!” Slim Jim was sill laughing but the fun of calling him out for being different had evaporated for most of the crowd, just as if they’d been anticipating a chocolate sundae and got served black licorice gummies instead. Because everyone knows that black licorice gummies are the grossest candy ever invented.

But, back to Slim Jim, whose last name was, in fact, not Smorgasbord, but Sotiropoulos and whose heritage was, in fact, not Swedish at all, but Greek. None of his pea-brained classmates could pronounce Sotiropoulos (which really, if you think about it, isn’t that hard to pronounce, although it does have rather too many letters for most 5th-graders). Furthermore, a new Swedish buffet restaurant had opened in the next neighborhood over just a couple of weeks before the new school year began, the first of its kind in this backwater neighborhood in which most people wouldn’t have been able to find Sweden on a map. This restaurant, which was called Pelikan (with a “k”) had been written up in the town paper and the chef had even been interviewed on the local evening news. So, of course Slim Jim’s classmates, who couldn’t pronounce his name, didn’t understand why he looked the way he did, thought a restaurant named “Pelikan” with a “k” ought to either be located someplace where there were pelicans or else should be renamed “The Swedish Buffet on Front Street” because they had nearly no imaginative powers At All…

…Of course they thought he was a monster, and of course they named him Smorgasbord!

And of course, you and I know that it wasn’t his fault that he was four feet tall before his body had consumed four years’ worth of time on the planet. And he just kept going up from there, so you might imagine how tall he was by the age of 10! But his classmates couldn’t imagine it, not even when he was standing right in front of them, or rather, right over them.

Except for Laila. Laila, a fourth-grader there on the playground who witnessed Slim Jim’s laughing fit that seemed to act like an anti-magnet to all those other kids, barely reached to Slim Jim’s waist, but then, Laila was a might small for her age. You know, kids come in all different sizes and every single size is normal for that kid, am I right?

Slim Jim was still laughing when Laila finally got up the courage to walk over to him. As he pulled his long, wavy hair back from his face to wipe away some more tears, he looked down to see a cherub standing next to him, a small and incredibly beautiful person with eyes the color of glacial water and hair like his mother’s, long, black and curly. “Hello,” said Slim Jim. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Laila,” she said, “Why are you crying?”

Slim Jim squatted down so he could look into those eyes that he never wanted to look away from. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I don’t think I might ever cry again.”

Photo credit: Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

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