Xenology: The Tall Man

Jack is a possessor of the kind of height that makes six-foot-sixers look up and say, “Woah, you are one tall drink of water.” Which is kind of like telling fire that it’s hot. He lets them get away with it though, the ones with a height at the upper end of the spectrum of average. I think he enjoys giving them the chance to say those words themselves for a change, instead of just hearing them all the time. He understands, more than anyone else around here, what it’s like to live up there where your height will always be your defining feature.

“So I tell her,” he booms from across the counter, “you’re just gonna let some crusty old white guy tell you what you can and can’t watch?” If a cavern could talk through its stalactite teeth, it would probably sound like Jack.

“Yeah,” I say, smiling, “the whole no-rated-R-movies thing isn’t as hard of a rule as it used to be. Kinda like the no-caffeine thing.”

“Exactly!” he says, and pounds his fist down on the counter. The two cans of Copenhagen Snuff resting on the glass in front of him jump half an inch into the air. Jack isn’t thickly built, but he’s strong. Is it even possible for much extra weight to stick itself all over a frame that big? “There isn’t even any goddamn nudity in Being John Malkovich. And hardly any fucking swearing!”

I chuckle. When Jack gets into it, he gets into it, always throwing up a wall of profanity any time the discussion gets too close to his former religion. I never did learn his real name, but in my head, he’ll always be Jack Mormon.

“So, what’d she do then?” I ask.

“She got upset and refused to watch it.” He shakes his lowered head and throws a crumpled twenty on the counter.

“I’ve never seen it myself,” I reply, hitting the number two and rapid-tapping out three zeros afterward. I could hit the button that says “2000,” but why rush when the line is down? “So, Being John Malkovich…it’s pretty good, huh?”

“Oh, it’s fucking great. You haven’t seen it yet?” He squints at me, patting me down with conspiratorial eyes. “Hey, you aren’t still one of…them…anymore, by any chance?”

“Not since I was fourteen-and-a-half,” I reply, as the whole shock of my past, of the whole struggle just before and after my sundering hits me all at once—for all of a good two seconds. Then it’s over. I’ve long since made my peace with The Church. I’ve even come to terms with the fact that those words, “The Church,” will always be capitalized in my head. “C’mon man.” My hands reach out, holding a hammock of three clean bills with a pile of change resting on top. “You know I’m a Jack too.”

“Yeah well, sometimes they go back.” He reaches out and the money disappears. Soon he’s leafing the dollars away into his wallet and stuffing a can of Cope into his rear jean pocket. The chew slides neatly into the permanent circular indentation already there. He carries the other can out in his hand; his pendulous limbs swing towards the door. He stops before the exit and adds, “You be sure to watch that movie now.”

I promised I would, but I still haven’t.

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