Sunlight filtered into the room through sheer curtains and the faint lace pattern created a matching dappled shadow on the wall. It was Saturday, and Jeremy found himself stretching comfortably in bed, his mind still lost in a sleepy fog. His muscles protested and he heard his spine crack before he flopped down, his limbs sprawling out from beneath his blanket.
If not for the distant explosion that entered his ears, Jeremy Cooke would have remained in his dreamy fantasy world. A normal world where his bed wasn't an unused sponge and his blanket wasn't an old sock. A world where Jeremy was just under six feet instead of just shy of six inches.
The cage bars over the tiny man's head, whose shadows connected the dots left by the curtains, shook with an unearthly might. Before he could even prepare for her arrival, the wall broke apart as the enormous woman pushed open the door. Jeremy's entire world shook as she walked into her bedroom and stood directly over his cage, casting him completely in her shadow.
He stared up her dark gray running jacket, his eyes following the curve of her small perky breasts before he completely craned his neck back to look into her huge flushed face. She sucked in deep ragged breaths as her delicate pale fingers wrapped around the bars of his prison and shook it violently. Giggles erupted past her full unpainted lips as he fell from his sponge bed, her dark brown eyes running over his wiry shrunken body.
“Wakey wakey, little boy,” if he was her size, Jeremy imagined that her voice would be high and sweet, but at over five inches tall it was almost too deep. She rose up to her full height, a terrifying 5'6'', and pulled the headphones from her ears, pop punk chords intermingling with her booming voice. “Figures,” she snorted, unzipping her jacket to reveal a sweat soaked tank and sports bra, “I go for a seven mile run and you take that as an excuse to lay about all morning.”
With a flick of her wrist, the cage door had popped open and her fingers were invading Jeremy's tiny world. His body froze up every time she reached for him, months of being grabbed and held and he still couldn't wrap his head around it. Her hand was uncomfortably warm, and his sweat instantly mingled with hers as her room blurred by before she dropped him casually next to her running shoes. Hitting the hardwood floor with a huff, he stared up her long tight clad leg and tried desperately to remember what it was like to be her size.
She cleared her throat loudly, expectantly, as she unbound her dark curly hair. Jeremy scrambled to his feet, his muscles protesting as he reached past the billboard sized Nike swoosh and tugged at the double knotted laces. He could feel her foot flexing through the thin material of the running sneaker, yearning to be free. The instant he pulled the laces apart, Jeremy found himself thrown to the ground as she kicked the shoe off and pried the damp sock from her foot.
The offensive piece of clothing sailed across the heavens as the tiny young man attended to her other foot. All the while, the enormous woman above him continued to disrobe, revealing more and more of her toned body to him. Her panties were the last thing to fall, a dark pair of boy shorts that matched her black and white Nikes.
She let out a high contented sigh above him as she expertly lifted the boy shorts to her hand with her toes. Tossing them into the hamper with the rest of her clothing, she strolled toward her closet. At ground level, Jeremy found himself sprawling onto his hands and knees with each step. The force of her footfalls enough to keep him pinned.
He gazed up at the twenty-nine year old woman's muscular glutes as she flung her closet open and bent over her impressive shoe collection. Shining pumps and polished heels occupied their own low shelf, all of them fashionable but understated, perfect for her mid-management position. Below them were an array of more casual but still tasteful footwear; fashion sneakers, boots of every cut, a few heels that screamed 'fuck me' rather than 'I am your boss.' The bottom of the closet was the realm of ugly galoshes for bad weather and beat up sneakers. Her hand lingered over the middle shelf before she finally grabbed a pair of black leather booties with a fetching strap and buckle, with a few barely noticeable black studs on the heel and toe.
The intimidating boots landed in front of Jeremy with an appreciable thump.
She continued to stand above him, and the younger man slowly lifted his head to face her, barely reaching her thighs before her dark black bush forced his gaze back to the floor. “Give them a once over while I shower and do what you can with my running shoes,” she paused for a moment, her heavy foot hitting the ground to get his attention, “Do you understand?”
“Yes, Alicia,” Jeremy squeaked back.
“What was that?” The world grew darker as the titaness bent over him.
“Yes, Ms. Everly,” he shouted, eliciting a small 'hmph' from the huge woman before she stepped over him on her way to the bathroom.
It wasn't until she was completely out of the room that Jeremy was able to stand again, his whole body trembling as he moved past the damp imprints of her bare feet. The scent of her sweaty feet filled the air, and Jeremy found himself amazed by how little it bothered him. He had finally grown accustomed to the comparatively giant woman's natural musk.
It reminded him of dying flowers. Sweet but inherently wrong.
Walking around the boots like he was inspecting a car, Jeremy found his body moving of its own accord as he brushed dirt and pebbles from between the studs. He spit and shined the leather as he went, buffing out any unsightly marks that he could spot. The tiny man knew from practice that Alicia wouldn't actually notice them, but she always seemed to know when he had done nothing. He knew she couldn't see the scuffs he did, her eyesight simply couldn't be that good, but yet without fail she always knew when he slacked off.
And slacking off was a behavior that Alicia loved to correct.
Shuddering at the memories of past punishments, Jeremy turned his attention to her nearby running shoes. They looked like sleek sports cars with a garish logo on the side, but unlike most of her footwear, Alicia's running shoes took a beating. The woman loved to run, and the nearby trails coated the bottoms of her Nikes in dirt and dust, waiting to be tenderly brushed away by him.
He was still moving down the long size sevens when the floor started to quake.
Alicia returned, her naked form towering over him as she stopped in front of the dresser his cage sat on. The tiny man cowered between her legs, her boots and sneakers offering a meager defense from the giantess as she slipped on a pair of panties and rooted about for a bra. She grunted to herself as she settled on a plain white bra that didn't quite match the green-and-pink striped panties she had put on, Jeremy hugged the floor as she stepped over to the closet and dressed for the day.
More feminine grunts rang in the tiny man's ears as she tugged on a pair of blue skinny jeans and slipped on a plain white t-shirt followed by a navy sweater. Her movements kept Jeremy pinned to the ground as she sat on her bed and tugged on her boots.
“And how did we do?” Alicia's voice rang in the air as she casually lifted her foot into the air, twisting it as she inspected his work. “Hmm,” the sound was low and contemplative as she reached down. Her hand hovered over Jeremy for a second before it snatched one of the sneakers into the sky. She twisted the plain but popular running shoe in her hands before finally grabbing its companion and returning them to their proper place.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Jeremy felt the tension start to ooze from his body, even as Alicia's shadow overcame him again. On weekends, it was just a few simple tasks at the start of her day before she disappeared. When she returned, she would feed him and he'd give her a foot rub. It was far better than the harrowing weekdays where he was confined to the dark underside of her desk, constantly in danger of being squashed by a stockinged foot.
When her thin fingers wrapped around him, it took Jeremy several long seconds to process the fact that he was being carried out of the room. As she passed from the hallway into her living room, he began to panic, his tiny limbs thrashing against her fingers before she set him down next to her keys and purse.
“Alicia...” his voice warbled as he watched her grab her peacoat from the hook, “Ms. Everly!”
The huge brunette didn't even stop buttoning her coat as she looked down at the tiny man, instead she turned her dark brown eyes on him and cocked an eyebrow.
“Where... where are we going?” He finally managed to choke out, his eyes darting from her huge body to the well worn door knob.
She laughed quietly as she snatched him up with her keys and dumped him into the pocket of her coat. Scrambling to right himself, the pocket flap fell back down and sealed him in darkness. In the world beyond, Alicia Everly wrapped a scarf around her exposed neck and said softly to her pocket-sized slave, “Brunch with the girls, little boy.”
Inside the pocket, Jeremy's pitch black world began to shake and sway with each one of Alicia's strides. His stomach rolled with the pitching of the coat pocket, and all he could do was take deep breaths to calm himself. Alicia's friends were all like her, giant women with good careers and money to throw around. He had spent many nights being forced to spit shine their heels or massage their feet while they drank wine and bitched about their days.
The worst part about them though, was that they were all Immune.
Alicia Everly was a woman who had won the genetic lottery and that was as much a part of her success as any of her hard work. She, and almost everyone she interacted with on a regular basis, lived without fear of being struck down by the disease that had snatched Jeremy's entire life away from him. There were thousands of people like him, people who had been reduced or shrunk or whatever they wanted to call it. And with each passing year, the Immune grew less and less interested in helping them. Instead, he knew for a fact that shrunken people ended up like him, trapped in the pocket of some building-sized person like they were any other accessory.
There was no real escape, Jeremy knew that. The enormous world thundered outside and he knew that no one out there would help him. If he managed to get out of Alicia's pocket, and somehow shimmy down her skinny jeans to the sidewalk and not end up kicked into the street by her studded boots, he'd likely get crushed by some high school jock a few years younger than him for laughs or turned into a sex toy by some middle aged divorcee. Jeremy shuddered as he realized there was no guarantee that the divorcee would be an attractive woman, or a woman at all.
Gripping the sides of Alicia's pocket, the tiny nineteen year old took another deep breath and tried to center himself. He hummed a quiet song to himself as the giant world passed by outside, trying his best to block it out. For a moment, Jeremy achieved inner peace, he could believe that he wasn't a tiny man riding in some titanic bitch's pocket, he was just in a boat that was rocking back and forth.
Then he realized that the sound dissipated because Alicia had actually just walked into the restaurant.
Light filled the pocket as she lifted up the flap, and her fingers slipped in. Jeremy reflexively tried to bury himself deeper in the fabric but there was nowhere to go. All his thrashing and panic got him was a leg pinched by her huge digits, the force almost crushing him but never doing any permanent damage. Biting his lip to catch his scream, he watched as the gigantic world swung by upside-down, and Alicia's thundering voice filled his ears, “Look who decided to come and join us today.”
Jeremy landed hard on his shoulder on the bare wooden table, lost in the shadows of the enormous women and their equally large drinks. He slipped on the recently wiped down table, his nude form unable to find any purchase on the slick surface.
“Aw, he's always so cute,” two huge fingers came down and pinched his butt before Jeremy could even register what was happening. Stumbling and spinning about, he turned to face the billboard sized face of Anna. The young Asian analyst always loved to fondle him, and without warning she snatched him up, her fingers pressing into his back and chest tight enough that he could barely breathe. Her full darkly painted lips broke apart in a smile as she carried him into the air, the overpowering scent of champagne and orange juice filling his nostrils as she cooed, “Such a little cutie.”
Each word was punctuated with a friendly shake that threatened to snap his head clean off.
The only thing that saved him from further torment was the arrival of their waitress. Anna did nothing to hide him, merely placing him down on the table like he belonged next to the salt and pepper shakers. The young waitress gave him a pitying look, but it didn't extend to actual disapproval of the giant women at the table. Jeremy had come to realize that even giants who weren't immune didn't think it was wrong to take advantage of their size. After all, it wouldn't happen to them.
The waitress left, and a bubbly voice thundered across the table, “Oh, that reminds me. Do you guys remember that uppity little intern I told you about?”
Turning around, his feet still slipping on the table, Jeremy found Nikki opening up her purse. When he had first met the titanic blonde lawyer, with her friendly smile, and sweet Midwestern accented voice, Jeremy was certain he had finally found someone who would sympathize with his tiny life. Then she had kicked him and called him a dirty little pest, her blue eyes like ice and her thin lips a firm angry line.
Alicia and Anna offered quick assents as they sipped their drinks, one of Anna's fingers knocking him over with a stiff poke. Out of Nikki's purse came a squirming and thrashing figure, her limbs thrashing against the blonde's iron fist. “Guess who lied about being Immune,” she said in a sing-song voice as she dropped the angry little woman on the table.
The former intern crashed down to the hardwood on her hands and knees, slipping instantly and landing on her face. The other giants laughed openly as the tiny woman's face turned bright red as she struggled to stand. Nikki's hand came down, eliciting another bout of angry thrashing as her fingers wrapped around the brunette's tanned skin and righted her. “There's no shame in asking for a little help,” the blonde cooed, her face swooping down before the tiny woman, her pointed nose practically ramming the tiny being.
The intern huffed and pushed Nikki away, which earned the shrunken woman a bemused look and a wag from Nikki's finger. “She's still adjusting,” the blonde explained as she sat up straight, “I swore she was shrinking for a week or two, but then the big one came on Thursday when she was helping me with a brief.”
Alicia smirked, and Anna let out a gasp of disbelief, “You actually saw it happen?”
“Yes, and it was amazing. She let out this little mewling shriek and then it was like, poof, and she was trapped in her ugly outfit...”
As the giants talked over their heads, Jeremy found himself staring up at the comparatively large legal intern. Standing up with the aid of the salt shaker, the young man found himself facing the shrunken woman's nipples. He had to crane his neck to stare up at the woman's face, who had only just noticed him gawking up at her.
“Fucking pervert,” she muttered, covering herself with her arms.
A huge finger came down and swatted her arms away. “No, we talked about this,” Nikki's edged voice rained down, before her finger rammed hard into the intern's stomach, “No covering.”
“She'll get it eventually,” Alicia said, her finger extending to pat the little brunette on the head. “You're not worried about her family suing or anything?”
“If this was last month or even last week, we'd have to rely on her contract,” Nikki began, sipping her bellini as she went, “Which had a whole clause explaining what would happen if she shrunk during her internship, buuuut now that the Governor signed the Protectorate Bill.”
All of the giant women giggled and a chill shot down Jeremy's spine.
“Oh no,” he muttered quietly to himself, and as he stared up at the shrunken intern, he saw the realization hit her like a ton of bricks. Her eyes went wide and wet, while her knees started to shake. Jeremy had only heard about the bill in passing from the giants who ruled his life, but it essentially made Alicia his owner.
Before, any giant could keep a tiny trapped in their home and no one would be the wiser. With the bill they would be guardians and protectors with power of attorney and a frightening amount of protections against the law. Theirs wasn't the first state to pass it, and Jeremy doubted they would be the last.
The table shuddered as the intern collapsed onto her knees, fighting back sobs as plates crashed down around them, the conversation above them turning to more normal topics as the giant women tucked into their indulgent meal. Jeremy sat there, on the tabletop, sucking in deep breath after deep breath as he tried to process what Nikki and Alicia had celebrated with a simple clink of their glasses. The gigantic brunette that kept him in a cage on her dresser now had legal authority over him. She could do whatever she wanted before, he knew that all too well, but now if she crushed him beneath her foot one day, no one would have the power to investigate.
She was now Immune not only to the disease but from the law itself. The only way she could be punished for killing a shrunken person now was if they were 'protected' by another giant, and that giant pressed charges. The law did everything short of calling them property, and Jeremy began to wonder how much longer that would actually take.
A pinching pair of fingers brought him back to the terrifyingly real giant world around him, as Anna slurred, “I need to get one.”
The plates had been cleared and a pile of cash longer than Jeremy's body rested on top of a bill.
“I'm sure you'll find one,” Alicia replied as her fingers wrapped around her tiny man, “Didn't you say your neighbor had shrunk to, like, four feet?”
The world blurred by as Alicia stood and slid her chair in.
“Yeah,” Anna's cheeks were flushed and she wobbled as she stood, “Annoying little bitch will probably be licking my shoes clean by the end of the year.” The enormous woman let out a sleepy yawn, “I should get going though, I'll talk to you both later...”
The enormous woman stumbled off, while Nikki and Alicia laughed at her departure.
“She had what, like, two mimosas?” Alicia asked as she slid Jeremy into her pocket, his world become dark as the giant world beyond was muffled.
“Oh I know, but she's always been like that,” He could hear Nikki say, the rest of their conversation lost as the pair left the restaurant. Jeremy didn't try to right himself as he swayed back and forth in Alicia's pocket, her enormous feet pounding the pavement far below. All he could think about as he was tossed about was how comfortable she had become with him, and worse how comfortable he had become with her.
When he had watched Nikki's former intern thrash in her fist, he thought it was so silly. As if the tiny woman could actually put up a fight against the giant blonde. The woman was almost ten times her size, and yet the little intern kept pushing back against her. Jeremy remembered fighting against the first giant that picked him up, a disgusting fifty year old man who grabbed him with nicotine stained fingers. It had been revolting, and in comparison to that, Alicia was a thousand times better.
But she still owned him, she still thought of him as nothing more than a slave or a toy.
Maybe before the bill passed, he should have fought or tried to escape. He could imagine it easily, breaking out of the cage, parkouring down her dresser, and then slipping out of her apartment by shimmying beneath the door or an open window. Then reality set in. He wasn't strong enough to open the latch on his cage, and he knew nothing about climbing up and down furniture. Worst of all, if he made it outside, he would be at the mercy of another giant and another giant person might not be as attractive or busy as Alicia was.
The sound of her door crashing shut immediately brought him back to his dark pocket riding existence. “I think there's an open bottle in the fridge but if there isn't, open whatever,” Alicia announced as she shrugged out of her coat.
Nikki's heels clacked loudly enough against the kitchen tile that Jeremy found himself cringing with each step. “Hmm,” the giantess muttered to herself, her voice carrying across the apartment with ease, “There's nothing open, do you want the Sauvignon Blanc or ooo, the Torrontes?”
“I said I don't care,” Alicia replied as her hand entered his world, and engulfed his body with ease. He shivered as her cold reddened fingertips wrapped around his body, but her palm was still pleasantly warm as she pulled him out and then set him down on the floor. Jeremy stood between her booted feet, unable to see anything but Alicia's thighs as he craned his neck up to look at her.
“Then I'm opening your Torrontes,” Nikki announced, a cork popping in the distance.
“Ugh, I don't even know what that's doing in there,” Alicia's footsteps threw Jeremy to the ground as she walked into the kitchen. Pushing himself to his feet, the tiny man started trekking across Alicia's apartment toward the living room. He had been present at enough of Alicia and Nikki's post-brunch day drinking sessions to know where he was supposed to be.
Nikki let out a giddy laugh, “I bought it for you.”
Moving at a light jog, Jeremy kept his eyes locked on the distant couch and coffee table where he knew the two giantesses would settle to continue griping and gossiping. Without warning, he was tackled to the ground and a heavy weight pinned him down. Pushing against it with all his might, he found his limbs tangled up with the shrunken intern's.
The young woman was sucking in terrified breaths and continuously turning to look over her shoulder. “Oh my God,” the intern's panicked voice filled his ears, “Those giant fucking cows are going to squash us.”
“Get off of me,” Jeremy struggled, his five inch body barely able to push away the eight inch tall young woman. “They're not going to kill us.”
Trembling, the intern scrambled off of him, and turned back to look at the kitchen. Nikki's huge high heeled boots crashed down against the tile, followed by Alicia's flat studded boots, neither of them watching where they were walking. The intern grabbed his bicep in her oversized hand and pulled at him, “Come on, we need to get out of here.”
Twisting from her grip, he shook his head, “There is no out of here! God! Don't you get that yet?”
The taller woman blinked away tears, “I -”
A huge pointed brown leather boot prodded the young woman's body. “Now, now, little Kimmy, what did I tell you about running away?” Nikki squatted down, her skirt preventing her from descending particularly far. “Why don't you be a good little intern, and go over to the coffee table with Alicia's little boy, hm?” The world shook as Alicia passed by, and Kimmy was prodded by Nikki's boot again. “Go on.”
Nikki rose back up to her full height as she watched the two shrunken people stand on shaking legs and start walking toward the living room. They had barely made it a few steps away before she walked directly over them, her booted foot hitting the floor with an all powerful quake. Together, Jeremy and Kimmy followed, the taller and older shrunken woman fearfully whimpering the whole way.
Walking between the coffee table and the couch where the giant women sat was like entering a shadowy box canyon. Gazing up, all Jeremy could see was the dark gray upholstery of Alicia's blocky modernist couch, and the legs of the giant women. Alicia had kicked off her boots to reveal clean blue and white striped socks, that brushed against the hardwood as she lazily swung her foot back and forth. Next to her were Nikki's stocking clad legs, and the matching knee-high brown leather boots she wore. The blonde kept her feet planted firmly on the ground, her legs close together, and hands resting in her lap, like she was an immense statue of perfect etiquette.
“Wh-wha-what do we do?” Kimmy the intern stuttered out next to him, the fire of her pitiful escape extinguished by Nikki's immense form.
Alicia's foot bowled them both over as she casually swung it about. “Oops,” the giant woman said, leaning forward to see the two tiny people sprawled out at her feet. The ball of her foot landed with a muted thud next to Jeremy as she announced, “They finally made it.”
“Aw,” Nikki added as she looked down at them, “Took you two little slowpokes long enough.”
Jeremy shoved himself to a standing position while Kimmy struggled to stand up. Alicia's foot wiggled next to him, followed by the simple command, “Hop on, little boy.” Sighing, the shrunken young man clambered onto the top of her huge foot, and braced himself as it catapulted into the sky. His stomach felt like it was still on the ground as Alicia let her heel slam down against the coffee table, sending him down onto the glass plane.
“Ooo, that looks like fun,” Nikki's foot nearly rammed her shrunken intern before she said, “Go on, grab onto the little strap there. That's it.”
Jeremy leaned against Alicia's huge foot, the scent of her foot funk and detergent clouding his senses as Nikki's foot rose into the sky. Kimmy clung to a barely noticeable strap that ran across the ankle, her eyes wide and filled with terror as she watched the ground become further and further away. The huge appendage next to him flexed, sending the tiny man stumbling as Alicia laughed, “She looks perfect there.”
“Yes, but I wish she was better behaved, like your little man,” Nikki mused, her foot still hanging in the open sky.
“I think he understood his place pretty quickly,” Alicia's dark eyes fell upon him, “The people I got him from ground all the fight out of him actually. To me, he's always been a perfect little gentleman.” Her toes bashed against his head as she said the last few words, wriggling against his body through the fabric.
“Maybe I should remind this little bitch of her place,” Nikki announced as she tucked her leg beneath her body, burying the intern beneath her hefty thigh. The giant women laughed as Nikki added, “She really doesn't like this.”
The enormous blonde wiggled back and forth, digging her foot and Kimmy beneath her wide buttocks. High above, Alicia slapped her friend playfully, “Oh don't be so mean. She might suffocate under your big ass.”
“She should get used to kissing it,” Nikki added with a smirk.
The two giantesses fell into a fit of giggles as Nikki continued to wiggle her butt against the struggling woman. Jeremy could only watch and listen with horror as the huge blonde gave intermittent updates that would send the women into another bout of laughter. It seemed like an entire year had passed when Nikki finally said, “Ok, I think that's enough.”
She swung her leg back out into the sky, revealing Kimmy to be a sweaty mess who sucked in fresh air with big desperate gasps. Nikki wiggled her foot back and forth over the coffee table, her nose wrinkling as she took in her now offensive looking intern, and Kimmy landed with a crash. The huge blonde then turned her attention back to Alicia as she spoke, “You know, I've been meaning to ask you for a while, how did you get your little guy?”
“Hmm?” Alicia asked, her other foot landing next to Jeremy, preventing him from reaching the panting intern. She took a sip of her wine and shook her head, “I'm sure I told you.”
“No, it was like you got your new job and then you had a tiny man,” there was an excited intake of breath before she asked, “Oh my God, was he like a management perk or something? Is that why he's so well trained?”
Jeremy shrunk back from Alicia's huge feet as she laughed, and he realized that he was well trained. He rarely disobeyed and never fought her. He felt his stomach turn in knots as he thought back to his first few days of being shrunk. It really was the family that Alicia had taken him from that made him so terrified of disobeying a giant.
“No, no, I got him from my old boss,” Alicia finally said, “You remember, the one I used to... you know.” High above, Jeremy watched as Alicia made a crude imitation of a blow job.
Nikki giggled, “God, it's still so gross that you did that.”
“He was hot,” Alicia replied as she leaned back against her couch, “And he was really very sweet.”
Nikki's eyes rolled high above, but Jeremy found himself turning to face the intern. The eight inch tall woman was staring back at him, her eyes wide as the giant women talked about him as if he wasn't there. “So wait,” Nikki asked, “How did your boss get him? He's pretty young, like, was he dating your boss's daughter and your boss didn't like him or...”
Alicia's belly rumbled as she laughed, the sound bouncing across the entire apartment, “Him? Date one of Mike's daughters? Not a chance in hell. I think one of them used to babysit him and the other was way out of this little guy's league.”
She shook her head, while Jeremy felt like he had just been punched in the gut. Alicia rarely said anything about him personally, but somehow knowing how little she thought of him when she could also turn him into a greasy stain with one step made him feel even worse. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Kimmy start to walk toward him but Alicia's foot slid in between them.
“It's a pretty funny story actually,” Alicia sat up and Nikki gave her her full attention. “You see, it started, like, two years ago when his father started shrinking. Apparently he was one of those, I can still be a normal person even though I'm only eighteen inches tall types...”
“Oh God, those are the cutest. It's like they don't even realize that the rest of us can literally just walk over them.”
“I know, right? Anyway, his dad was one of those, and he apparently lived in the same neighborhood as my old boss, Mike...”