I was one of those fat kids, one of those rolly-pollys that breaks into a juicy, glazed doughnut sweat whenever he goes to the effort of sitting down. One of those kids that could have survived the Titanic incident from the insulation of his own blubber. A great walrus of a kid.
Every day after school, all the boys would rush to the basketball courts. The courts were half a mile away. I would take my time, waddling at a nice easy pace so my massive curdled legs wouldn’t chafe, snacking on a box of Little Debbie Homemade Brownies, you know, the kind with the chocolate chunks smothered in chocolate dip sprinkled with greasy chocolatey almonds on top. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We’re all lardy fat kids at heart.
And I would get to the basketball courts, finally, after an unending twenty minute ordeal. It was like the great migrations of the sloths. Except slower. And fatter. I would be drenched in foul-smelling, gluteus maximus odored sweat, and the skinny little basketball stars would stare at me, glistening, and say, “You can’t play, fat boy.”
That’s what they would say, every day. “You can’t play fat boy.” And I would sit down and watch and eat powdered doughnuts as I contemplated on how great a basketball player I could be, if only I had a chance. If only fat boy could play. I wasn’t even tall. I was just fat. But I could have been great, and they would’ve nicknamed me “Fat Boy,” but it would have had a nice connotation. They would say it sweetly. “Nice shot, Fat Boy,” “Excellent dribbling, Fat Boy,” or “Fat Boy, you’re my hero.”
But it never happened.
I took it all in stride. I had a great sense of humor. I used to tell jokes about myself. The ladies loved it. Especially the fat ones. I had a whole routine.
“What’s the difference between me and a pizza? A pizza can’t feed a family of 203.”
“What’s the difference between me and the moon? The moon only eclipses the sun once a year.”
“What’s the difference between me and an obese walrus? Absolutely nothing at all.”
And so I trudged through life, wallowing in the lard of my own bleeding self-esteem. I would choke out my misery with Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Hugs, Hershey’s Almonds, Hershey’s Nuggets, Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, Little Debbie Star Crunch, Little Debbie Angel Food Cake, and Hostess Twinkies. I had no buddies but Skittles, no compadres but M&Ms, no one who cared but that great big juicy slice of lemon marangue pie—and those little chocolate chip cookies you always get as free samples at Albertson’s. I could always take four or five, and the fat bakery lady would always just nod at me knowingly. She was a fat kid too. We’re all lardy fat kids at heart.
If I was ever reincarnated, I would want to be a dove. Doves are never fat. Doves are never made fun of for who they are. Doves just fly and eat and sing and love. And they’re beautiful. And everyone loves them for that. And it’s simple. It’s so simple, and warm.
And then I met a girl. Her name was Sally. She had the prettiest brown eyes in the world. But she wasn’t a fat kid. See, most fat kids have pretty eyes, whether they really do or not. I would say, “I’m a repulsive porker.” And my mom would want to make me feel better. But I was fat. So she would say, “Honey, look at me for a second—you have the most beautiful eyes in the world.” In other words, “Honey, your eyes aren’t fat.” But Sally had the most beautiful eyes, and the sweetest smile in the world. She never made fun of me, or the six jelly rolls of my stomach that would cling to my shirts. She sometimes even spoke to me, little infinitesimal syllables of glee upon my gluttonous nonexistence. I fell in love with that skinny, freckled, brown-haired, four-eyes, zit-faced, gum-diseased, halitosis-breathed woman of my dreams. But I knew a flabby Ding-Dong chomping hot air balloon would never have a shot at her.
I engaged in a rigorous weight loss program. I starved myself. No more Mentos, no more Starburst, no more beef jerky, no more steak, blocks of Colby Jack cheese, or special ordered McDonalds quadruple quarter pounder meals—the McDonald’s guy was fat, too—or Nestle Crunch, or Nilla Wafers, or Nestle Tollhouse Chocalate Chunk Cookie Dough. I would power-walk around the neighborhood. Little kids would stick their heads out their windows and scream, “Hurry hurry, fat boy!” and “Run, fatso, run!” I would be in pain, the gelatinous coils of fat beneath my reverberating flab clenching tight in reaction to the strain. I would finally reach my house, the insides of my monumental legs rubbed raw as dead cow from the friction between them. It was a whole block that I walked, and Sally would get me there. I would huff, “Sally,” between each choking breath to remind me of my paramount objective. When I would finally reach my house, I would chomp down on a family-size bag of Reese’s Pieces, and then I would collapse on the couch, like a great whale beached on the surf. Except louder. And fatter.
I lost four pounds the first month, two in the second. I took to power-walking around the school’s track. The track team would be there, and Coach would say, “Look at that little fat kid walk. He’s got more heart than any of you.” And the runners would say, “No, he’s just fat.”
I had catchy phrases I would repeat to myself to keep me going. Besides “Sally,” there were “I think I can, I think I can,” “No more fat,” and “Shake the bacon.”
Finally, I tired of the endless attrition I pitched my blubber into. I decided it was time to ask out the love of my life. Fully emblazoned by the ten pounds lost somewhere to oblivion, and three chocolate shakes still fresh on my stomach, I rushed headlong toward her, my dear Sally. Unfortunately, I’d already told a friend what I was going to do; consequently, Sally was alerted to my plans long before I got the guts to address her. “Hey Sally, you, uhhhhh…..whuuuu….” That’s what I said. My last words to Sally.
And Sally said, “No way, fat boy.” Sally’s last words to me. My face fell, a prize-winning walrus squealing off a cliff. I waddled away. I waddled away from school. I waddled home. I waddled myself to bed and cried myself to sleep. It was like the great Noah’s flood. Except wetter. And fatter.
I still love you, Sally. I still miss you, wherever you are. Whenever I see a man with acne, and a moustache, and a sweet smile, I remember you, and I want to cry. We could have been great, Sally, great. We’d go together like peanut butter and jelly, like cookies and milk, like fudge and coffee, toffee and skittles, cheese and wine, bread and butter, raspberries and cheesecake, ice cream and chocolate, apples and cinnamon, watermelon and cantaloupe, beef jerky and saltine crackers.
Craig Robert Gehring lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife and one year old daughter. He writes fiction across many genres and is presently on the final draft of his novel The Nirvana Effect. You can learn more about Craig and his work at www.CraigGehring.com.