The clerk was a bit taken aback. Not many customers asked for that section. He was, first and foremost, a Salesperson - he covered his surprise with a smooth:
“Just follow me, please.”
Stewart smiled. He had sensed the hesitation in the clerk. He admired how smoothly the clerk covered his surprise with an action command. Maybe they had some good stuff after all.
“I am sorry we are short on inventory. (in no way did Stewart not catch both the pun and the disdain in those words) There isn’t a lot of call for these particular fashions.”
“Oh, I know. I have been to a dozen outlets today. This is the first to have more than just three or four samples. Here at least I can choose from a dozen. Thank you very much.”
“Just call me if you need me.”
The Clerk left quite pleased with himself. He had helped a customer and was complimented on his wide selection. It was a good start to a good day.
Stewart pushed the first four or five selections to the side. He didn’t have a fetish, or some fiendish need to flaunt individual tastes in the face of more traditional standards. Five foot six and under would have been doing just that.
He did admire a few of the Six Foot examples, but he was really looking for Five Foot Ten, or Eleven. After all, his birth body had been only Five Foot Seven…and he liked that one- a lot. It served him well for the first century of his life.
He smiled as he recalled Wendy’s first words to her best friend when they met at Melany’s Graduation from College:
“Why are all the cute guys so short?”
He was still good friends with Wendy and her new Beau- Charles. Charles, like most males after their first body exchange, was well over seven feet tall. Wendy herself was a demure six foot three inches tall. She was five foot nine when she married Stewart…and back then, that was tall for a girl. Some hundred and sixty six years later, well, she wouldn’t find many clothes that would have fit her first birth body.
Stewart and Wendy had enjoyed a lovely seventy two year marriage…and still had a solid friendship. But when it came time for her to select one of the New Bodies- she didn’t buy one off of the rack- even though there was plenty of selection. She went with a Custom Model that stood six foot ten- with an athletic dancer build. She only kept that model for two decades.
They often laughed about how it was just too tall, too pretty, and too limiting for much beyond show and ego. Her next body - was off the rack. A simple girl next door model that stood six foot five- about mid range for most females buying off the rack. The under six foot rack in a female store had only a slightly larger selection than the male rack- but a whole heck of a lot more styles.
Stewart liked being on the short side. It didn’t bother him personally, and he liked not having to have the special training and adaption classes necessary to put a mind that grew up in a smaller body at ease in a much larger, stronger, faster, body.
He pulled out a dark haired, brown eyed, wide shoulder, slim hipped model. It was a little more rounded than he liked. Athletic, but not bulky musculature like a football player or weight lifter would have. No, this body looked more like one that could do solid work, and surf on the weekends. It had a nice neck, strong hands, and arms just a bit too long for the torso. Perfect.
Stewart called the Clerk back over.
“I would like to try this one on, please.”
“Certainly. A good choice. A lot of people like that model…it is sturdy, dependable, and most folks get a good fifty to eighty years out of it.”
Stewart nodded. Those were some of the reasons he chose it.
It only took a second to put the body in the transition room. Five seconds later, and Stewart was in that body. There was the usual minute of disorientation, followed by a brief wave of vertigo. He did the button tests. (Button tests are where you used your new body for the first time to touch buttons at various heights and distances from you in the transition room. In the early years, people used to touch their noses, but when half the folks poked out their own eyes, or punched themselves in the face…the Engineers got right on it. Hence…the Button Tests.)
His mind linked with the brain in the Five Foot Eleven model almost seamlessly. So well did it fit his new brain and body that the Button Test ended almost immediately. The Clerk was clearly impressed…and whistled.
“Citizen, if you don’t mind me saying…that fits you like a custom model. I mean you could wear it right out of the store.”
Stewart smiled. He did a pirouette in front of the mirrors. A few deep knee bends, jumped up as high as he could, landing lightly back on his feet, proved to him that he could, indeed, wear this out of the store.
“I’ll take it.”
“Fine. And what would you like done with your old body?”
Stewart thought for a second. He could put it in one of the Thrift or Charity Shops…but in those stores the search for under six foot off the rack models was in even less demand than in the Big Body Stores. Nobody wanted to be short anymore.
“Let me give it a hug and then you can give it to the biomass folks to dispose of.”
The Clerk smiled. It was a good way to discard an old body- and the hug was sentimental enough to even make the Clerk get shiny eyed. This man must have had a good time in that body for a long time.
Later that day, Stewart took Wendy and Charles out to dinner to celebrate his new body. He made both Charles and Wendy laugh when they asked him if it was a custom job. He let his hands rove up and down his body as he purred:
“Nope. It is off the rack. I got it for way less than a custom job.”
Charles looked down at Stewart.
“You know, it suits you somehow. I like it.”
Just then, all three of them went quiet when they heard a couple of women at the booth across from them talking. It was clear they were talking about Stewart.
“Look at that guy. Who would buy an off the rack under six foot model in this day and age?”
One of the other women leaned around the woman who was talking to peer over at Stewart. Her eyes grew wide…a smile ticked up the corners of her mouth.
“Why are all the cute ones short?”
Charles and Wendy laughed out loud. Stewart was already on his way over to the table full of tall women. He was going to ask the curious girl to join his table for dinner. She accepted.
Later that night, cuddled up on Stewart's bed among the crumpled up sheets…and laying on a diagonal so she could fit comfortably on the bed, the tall girl ran a finger down Stewart’s chest in a long languid motion.
“It’s hard to believe you bought this off the rack. “