Thin and Bone
by Hunter Lily Troy
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“Our secret, promise?” Sonya held out her hand.
John’s hand slipped into hers and they shook. “Promise,” he said. He watched her leave. Sonya glanced back and waved as she closed the door.
“God, you were in there forever. I thought I might have to send in the bean-pole police to bail you out of there!”
“Stop, Derek. He’s very nice.”
“Yeah, nice and skinny.”
“You’re just jealous I spent so much time with him, instead of you.”
“Never in a gazillion years would I be jealous of that.”
Sonya was silent as she punched John’s results into the computer.
“I’m not jealous,” Derek said defensively.
“Okay.” Sonya giggled.
The next afternoon, after her shift had ended, Sonya Porterly found herself back in John Small’s room. The lights were dim and an antique box television squawked out one channel, a local news station which provided background noise to the otherwise quiet room.
“My deal,” John said, collecting the oversize cards into his hands. “I remember when these things were half the size. They were easier to shuffle.”
“I think you can still buy them, maybe at an antique store,” Sonya said sympathetically.
“What’s the wager this time?” John said, shuffling the cards. “I’ve already won the fictional Island of Jinn in the Mediterranean, complete with servants that wait on me night and day.”
“And you’ve lost your 600-yacht fleet,” Sonya laughed.
“Oh yes, a shame, I shall miss it.”
“How about,” Sonya began shyly. “How about we wager a date for when you get out?”
John was silent.
“I know it doesn’t compare to the roundtrip ticket to Mars, but-”
“I’d love to. I mean, yes, it’s the perfect thing. If I win, you take me out, and if you win-”
“I’ll take you out!”
John dealt the cards with extra care. When the match was over it was Sonya’s fate to take John out. They talked quietly about the prospects. She asked John if he liked the theater, a music concert, or the opera. John said, “Yes, though I rarely ever go.”
“We shall have to remedy this.” Sonya smiled.
A knock came to the door, as the next shift nurse came in.
“Oh it’s late. I should go.” Sonya collected the cards and put them on the nightstand. She awkwardly left the room, and waved to John behind the other nurse’s back.
John Small was released the following morning. Sonya made it a point to be his discharging nurse, claiming she wanted to make sure Mr. Small was still in good spirits upon leaving.
They were silent in the elevator, and as they passed the indoor fountain, and as they waited for the cab to pull up to the curb outside the main entrance. John sat in the wheelchair and fidgeted with the fold of his shirt.
“Funny,” John said as the cab pulled up, brakes squealing. “A cab landed me in here and now a cab is taking me home.”
“Hopefully it won’t be the same driver.” Sonya helped John into the back seat. She tucked John’s crutches in beside him, and then slipped a note into his hand. “Call me,” she whispered and closed the door. She hurried back through the hospital, careful not to linger.
The following Saturday, on the corner of 5th and Fallow Street, John Small attended his first weight-gain group. The meeting was held in the basement of the city church in a room with chairs fit for John’s proportion.
John Small entered the room with a bit of nervousness, where he was immediately greeted by Hugh, a slender fellow with a wide smile.
“Welcome,” said Hugh, taking John’s hand. “Welcome, please, come in, have a seat, all are welcome.”
There were at least a dozen other people, men and women, all equal to John’s size. They sat in a circle and were encouraged to eat the twelve-inch round tire-donuts and coffee available on the table against the wall.
An older gentleman started the session. “I am underweight, have been my whole life. As many of you might know, no matter how much I eat nothing sticks.” The older gentleman rubbed his flat stomach. “I’m tired of the ridicule and the discrimination thrown at me every goddamn place I go!”
“It’s our fault,” a red-haired teen responded. “We make ourselves this way. We eat the tiny portions. We choose the active jobs.”
“Choose? Oh hell no! They won’t give me a sit-down job, honey.” A woman with a silver medallion, sitting across from the red head cut in. “Like the man said, the D-word-Die-scrimination: they see someone like you or me come in for a desk job and everybody in the damn place gets quiet and hushes up. They hand me an application with a look saying I’m too scrawny for the job. Ain’t no way I’m gonna get it, no matter what my qualifications. All they see is this,” she pointed to her body.
“The laughter,” a bearded man said, “when you leave the room, they whisper and laugh behind our backs and God forbid you do something stupid like slip on a wet spot or trip on your shoelace, it just makes the whole experience worse.”
“Eating in restaurants is the worst,” John Small said in a quiet and soft voice compared to the anger of the others.
“Go ahead,” Hugh encouraged. “Take your time.”
“The booths are too big, and the plates are almost the same size as the table, and most of the places only serve buffet style food unless it’s the occasional dinner, which doesn’t accommodate me at all. I can never finish what they bring me. One meal could feed... could feed this entire room! It’s like I’m the main attraction. Everyone watches me eat!” John’s voice had grown louder. “I’m tired of the abuse!”
The others clapped. The red head girl hugged him tenderly.
“Very good, John, you need to voice your feelings,” Hugh said.
When the meeting adjourned John found himself lingering at the coffee table with a few of the others. He leaned upon his crutches and listened. The elderly man had been stating how in his younger days he used to get dragged into the alleyway and beaten up because of his weight. Eventually, he dropped out of school.
“They’re all my enemy,” the elderly man said with hate.
“Not all of them,” John said.
The small group fell silent. They glared at John with suspicion.
“I’m not defending any of them. How do you think I came to break my leg?”
The group continued to stare.
“When have any of them ever been nice to us?” asked the elderly man.
“I had a nice nurse at the hospital,” replied John.
“She was only doing her job,” said the red head.
“No, she gave me her number.”
“She must want you for some job around her house, like getting up into the attic, or the chimney, or some other small place she can’t fit into,” said the bearded man.
“She’s going to take me out on a date.”
“A date!” the elderly man scoffed. “Good lord, are you a fool? She’s just having pity on you. You can’t take any of them serious. Biggins don’t mix with spindles! It’s an unwritten law!”
“Yeah,” piped the red head, “you’re just setting yourself up for more ridicule.”
“Too true. Once you drop your clothes and she sees the real you, she won’t be able to get away fast enough,” added the bearded man.
Slowly the group dispersed, disappointed with John.
“It was only the first session for you, John,” said Hugh, “the next one will go better, I’m sure of it.”
“Yeah, I guess,” said John.
“The advice they gave is good, no? I know they’re only trying to help. They don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Yeah, I know.”
John Small took a cab home to his tiny apartment in The Colony, a community for Biggins, where all the maintenance had been kept up by John and a few other scrawny workers. John worked for The Colony in exchange for rent, and was responsible, among other tasks, for cleaning the air vents once a day.
When John reached his apartment, he found a note from his boss attached to the door, saying that he wanted a word with John the next morning. More bad news, John thought. He put the note next to a small vanilla colored paper with Sonya’s number on it, under a magnet on the refrigerator. “Maybe it was a pity date,” John whispered. He took out a cold oxygen-distilled water and guzzled it.
John Small was given one month to resume his duties at The Colony or he would be forced to move out. His boss was stern and without mercy over John’s situation. John wanted to say, “If I was a Biggins, you wouldn’t make such demands,” but John knew this would get him nowhere, especially since no one liked being called a Biggins, any more than John liked being called a Spindle.
Three weeks passed by quickly. John worked hard to recuperate from his injury so he could return to work. Although the laser surgery increased his overall chances of healing quickly, his leg was still not up to par. John offered to do light tasks and desk work for his boss, but he was told he was not needed. With little to do, John turned his attention to his diet, and made an honest attempt to adhere to the plan Dr. Brown laid out for him.
When his follow-up appointment day arrived, John found himself eager for Dr. Brown’s evaluation. He arrived sixteen minutes early and waited quietly in the waiting room despite glances from the other patients.
“John Small.” The receptionist led John to a room and told him to disrobe. He propped his rump onto the double-wide chair.
“Mr. Small, how are you feeling today?” Dr. Brown smiled and pulled a rolling stool toward the examination table.
“Very good, considering.” John pointed to his leg. “I had the cast removed two days ago.”
“It hurts some at night, but the surgeon said it was normal.”
“Quite,” Dr. Brown glanced over John’s file. “And how has your diet been going?”
“Pretty good. I’ve been trying to incorporate something new into my meals every day.”
“And the portions? Have you increased your portions?”
“I’m trying. It’s not easy.”
“Well, let’s weigh you then. The scale is the true crystal ball.” Dr. Brown helped John from the table and led him toward the scale.
John stepped onto the cold metal plate flush with the tiled floor, as Dr. Brown played with several buttons on the wall behind him.
“All right, let’s see... uh-huh... uh-huh...”
“Well?” John asked impatiently. “What’s it say?”
“I think you’ve gained three pounds. Yes, indeed, you have gained three whole pounds, John. That’s quite a start!” Dr. Brown marked John’s file as John returned to the table.
“I have to gain weight doctor, or I’ll be single the rest of my life.”
“I’m sure there are plenty of girls who would be interested in you, John.” Dr. Brown gritted his teeth as he checked John’s heartbeat. “No?”
“Not at this weight.” John sighed. “There was this one woman, a nurse, but I’m a third her size. My friends say she was only being nice when she gave me her number.”
“Oh, give her the benefit of the doubt. Let her take you out for a plentiful meal. It may help you fit in.”
“I don’t know, doctor.”
“A few dates can do wonders for your self-esteem. Maybe you won’t feel so alone, so ostracized.”
“I just want to feel normal.” John’s mouth crumpled in a frown.
“If you keep up the diet like you’re doing you’ll be weighing in at your target weight of three-hundred-fifty pounds in no time!” Dr. Brown said encouragingly. “Pretty soon you’ll be my size and all the girls will be flocking toward you!”
“Or else I’ll find myself six feet in a wall at the cemetery.”
“Cremation is the way to go, though it is more expensive these days. But that prediction I gave you three weeks ago was only a warning, a wake-up call, John. I think you’ve finally come around to understanding the seriousness of your condition.”
“You can get dressed.”
“You know, she was brilliant and gorgeous.” John smiled for the first time.
“Now that’s the spirit. Go out and buy yourself a new suit, nothing too tight, something that will, well, you know, I’m not a fashion expert, only a doctor.”
“Something that won’t turn her off. Something that will help me look a lot heavier.”
“That’s right.” Dr. Brown smiled. “In the end, John, we all want someone to love us for who we are: all of us, big or small.”
Copyright © 2007 by Hunter Lily Troy