My name is Brian Bartlett, and this could be regarded as a cautionary tale. I ran a web design firm in a large city, and my chief competitor was a bright and attractive woman named Jessica Lathrop. Jess and I soon concluded it would be better to combine our business efforts rather than fight each other, and we learned we were compatible in other ways as well. We combined our businesses into B & L web design, and soon moved in together.
Jess had a hard-edged competitive streak that served us well in business, but spilled over into other aspects of our life. We were both avid cyclists and would ride through the inner city as hard and fast as we could. I could be intense, but Jess was manic - red lights meant nothing to Jess and as far as she was concerned pedestrians were mere obstacles, and had better get out of her way.
We were riding hard through the city on a Saturday morning, when a traffic light turned red in front of us. I slowed, but Jess cranked on even harder. A large woman came out from between two parked cars and waddled out into the crosswalk. Jess missed her by inches, her cycle careening wildly, pedals scratching and sparking on the pavement. The fat pedestrian stared, mouth open. Jess fought her bike back under control, then wheeled around hard and cranked back to the fat woman. Jess was screaming - “What’s wrong with you - watch where the hell you are going!“ The fat lady yelled back at Jess “I pushed the button-you had the red light - you’re supposed to stop”.
Jess was in her face now- “Look Miss Piggy, if you weren’t six feet wide it wouldn’t be a problem would it”. I expected shocked silence from the fat woman, but she gave it right back to Jess. “Look you slinky little bitch, I have just as much right to be in the street as you do. In fact, I have more right.“
“Just like the right to be as fat as you are” Jess spat back. This was getting out of hand. I had learned long ago that yelling at Jess seldom brought dividends, but I was yelling now. “Jess… stop it. Look miss, I’m sorry for…”
But the fat woman was not interested in my apology. “Never mind you” she said, “I want to hear it from your lady friend.”
“Go to hell” said Jess, “your fat should sizzle a long time down there”
I noticed another fat woman on the other side of the street. She had a digital camera and was taking photos.
“Jess, let’s go.” Jess started pedaling away. I followed. The fat woman wasn’t done though. “We know how to fix people like you” she said. Great, I thought, ‘camera, photos… here comes a lawsuit…” “Fine”, I yelled back over my shoulder- “then you can go to hell.”
Once back home I tried to warn Jess about what I thought was coming. “A lawsuit?” Jess said, “No way. Miss Piggy has no idea who we are.”
“Don’t be so sure of that”, I replied, pointing to the prominent B & L logo on Jess’ cycling jersey. “I don’t think we have heard the last of this.”
But for a while it looked like we had. In fact, it looked like B & L Web Design had gotten a big break. We landed a contract for the on line catalog of an outdoor equipment retailer with a national market. The retailer wanted it launched in 90 days. Jess, the staff and I literally slept at the office many nights, but it was big money if we delivered- and we delivered. After this effort, Jess and I were feeling pretty drained. Jess came up with the idea.
“Let’s go island hopping in the Caribbean”, she said. “We can cycle on the islands instead of renting a car, and we can walk the beaches together.”
We agreed on an eight-week sabbatical from B & L. Eight weeks in paradise without staring into a computer screen! The staff would rotate handling tech support for the retailer, which would give them opportunities to decompress and take some time off as well. We posted a notice on our web site, and added that Jess and I were taking a Caribbean vacation with our departure and return dates. In retrospect, that may have been foolish, especially considering what happened to us.
We arranged for our bikes to be shipped to our first stop, packed up, loaded the car and headed for the airport. We would depart from New Orleans, and begin eight weeks on sun, fun and de-stressing. We drove into the airport parking garage, and were just about to pull into a parking space, when a uniformed man wearing sunglasses motioned to me to wind down the window. Just as I did, he sprayed a mist into the car, and everything went black.
I do not recall very much about those missing eight weeks, and what I do recall can still give me the shakes. I do remember the needles and people in white coats. I remember sitting at a table, and just moving spoon to mouth over and over but I can’t recall what it was I was eating.
When I did wake up I felt groggy and heavy, like my body was in molasses. Two white uniformed people were at my sides and holding me at the elbows.
“Easy,” said one. “Take it slow. You have been under sedation, and are just coming out of it.” The mist cleared slowly. My head was down, and something odd came to me. I could not see my feet. I could not see my feet because of the belly hanging over the beltline of my pants. My belly.
“What happened?” I murmured. “Am I dreaming? What have you done to me?”
“Just a little re-adjustment in attitude”. Said a voice in front of me. I looked up at a large wide hipped, big bottomed woman who looked vaguely familiar, but in my foggy state I couldn’t make the connection. Then slowly it dawned. This was the same woman Jess had nearly collided with her bicycle six months ago!
“You…“ I said thickly, stupidly.
“Stay right there” the fat woman replied. “We are bringing your lady friend.”
A door opened, and Jess came in with two masked orderlies at her sides. But her sides had changed. She was wearing black panties and a brassiere. A roll of fat rolled over the waistline of the panties, soft jiggly flesh brimmed over the cups of the brassier. Jess’ thighs rippled beneath her hips as she walked. She was crying.
“Brian, what have they done to me?”
The fat woman said, “Turn around so boyfriend gets the big picture.”
The orderlies steered Jess so she was facing away from me. Jess’ taut buns of steel were now soft, lush and wide. They rippled when Jess moved.
“I’m fat!” sobbed Jess, as they turned her facing me again. “And they have done it to you too!”
My hands cradled the fat rolling over my waistband, and felt it jiggle.
“Who are you?” I demanded. “What have you done to us?”
“Re-adjusting your attitude” repeated the fat lady. “Remember the way you spoke to me at that crosswalk? My colleagues and I have been researching obesity for years. Obviously we have not found a magic pill. But we did learn a few things along the way. Like how to adjust your body compositions. We extracted some fat cells from your body. You didn’t have many then, but you do now. We cloned them and reintroduced them into your body. Some injections to tweak your metabolisms, and steady feeding for the last eight weeks. And now here you are.”
“HA! You don’t know us”, spat Jess. “We’ll exercise. We’ll have this gone in a few months”
“Ah, thinness the Holy Grail for so many” said the fat lady. “And now for the two for you as well. You both will have some adjustments to make in the future. Take them away.”
Hoods were pulled down over our heads. The orderlies dressed us, then walked us to a car. We rode 30 minutes, then were escorted out, still hooded, and then placed into another vehicle. Doors shut and the hoods were yanked off our heads. Jess and I were in our car, the windows down. Four men dressed in black jumped into a black van and sped off. The plates were covered.
We were in the parking lot of the mall. It was evening, the clock in the car said 7:30. Jess said, “What just happened here?”
“I don’t know” I said. “I don’t even know what day it is.” I checked my pockets. Wallet still there, with the travelers checks, cash and credit cards. Our luggage was still in the trunk, including Jess’s purse, untouched.
We looked at the mall - there should be a drugstore in there - and a newspaper. We bought one. It was dated eight weeks from the day we entered the parking garage at the airport. “Jess” I said. “You realize we have to go back to work tomorrow.”
“Like this?” sobbed Jess. “How can we? What do we do for clothes? Nothing at home is going to fit us”
“They left us our money Jess. There’s a Lane Bryant here. We have to get new clothes.” We picked up new outfits for the week, and started back home. As we passed the burger joint, we both got the same impulse. Before we knew it we each had polished off a super-size meal.
“Brian- what’s happened to us?” said Jess. “Usually we avoid these places like the plague. I didn’t have an answer.
After we got home, and put away out new clothes, I realized I had forgotten a belt - and none of my old ones would go around me. Jess came out of the bathroom. “One hundred eighty six! Sixty pounds!” she wailed. “Brian – we can’t possibly go in to work tomorrow. What will the staff say?”
I replied “Jess - remember, we own the place. If people poke fun, then we fire them. Look - I have to run to a mart store and pick up a belt. I’ll be right back” But right back took me past the ice cream stand, and a large hot fudge sundae sure tasted good. When I got back, Jess was sleeping in the recliner, her pants unbuttoned and a soft roll of fat pushing over her panties. On the floor beside her was a box of a half dozen doughnuts. Five were gone. Jess stirred slightly, gave a little belch, and went on sleeping, probably dreaming of her old slim self. It had been a long emotional day, and I was tired. I left Jess in the recliner and went to bed. But not before I ate that last doughnut.
Monday morning came, and there were plenty of stares at B & L. But when the few people that dared inquire about our “trip” were met with a look and a curt “fine,” the questions stopped. Jess and I made damn sure the staff was kept very busy, and everything settled down. Everything that is, except for our appetites. Jess and I were constantly hungry. We had cleaned out the vending machines in short order, and wouldn’t you know it? The two food outlets closest to the office were a bakery and a doughnut shop.
That afternoon, after work, Jess wheeled her bicycle out. “I’m going to work this off Brian, you’ll see.” Jess put on an extra large t-shirt, and after some effort was able – barely - to wriggle and wiggle her hips and bottom into a pair of my gym shorts. It was the largest pair I had, but Jess looked as if she had been poured into them. She mounted, and the bicycle seat vanished beneath her soft wide bottom. Jess wobbled off, and as she rolled over bumps in the pavement, vibrations rippled through thighs, bottom and midriff.
She was back in 15 minutes, pushing the bicycle, puffing. Sixty extra pounds and eight weeks of forced inactivity were too much, even for Jess.
“To hell with this” she said “There has got to be another way.” Five minutes later Jess was snacking out of the refrigerator. We consumed a large pizza for dinner that night-each. And we both had a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. We spent the evening watching television, something we almost never did before. And we both were nibbling on doughnuts before we went to bed.
At this rate of consumption, something had to give and by mid-week Jess and I found our new clothes getting snug. By Friday things were uncomfortably tight. I had to suck it up to button my pants and Jess struggled mightily to pull her slacks over her widening rump. “Oh my God, Brian - look how the seams are trying to pull apart! How am I going to make it?” But Jess and her seams got through the day - barely. As we sat down at the table that night, Jess popped the button of her pants. She said nothing, went into the bathroom, came back out and started to cry.
“189, Brian… I’ve gained four more pounds.” The fat lady’s words came back to me “you both will have adjustments to make.”
We were eating constantly, doughnuts, pastries, ice cream, fast food burgers and fries, things we had previously avoided like the plague. We had no control, and it all tasted so good.
We were back at the mall Saturday, buying clothes. I chose some with some extra room, but Jess insisted on clothing that fit her exactly, with the result she was back at the mall the very next weekend moving up another size. Meanwhile the snickering and the jokes had started at B & L. The staff tried to make sure we weren’t around to hear, but it was impossible not to pick up snippets.
“Did you hear B & L are expanding?”
“What does B & L stand for? Bigger and Larger”
And this one that Jess hated:
“What does B & L stand for? Beerbelly and Lardbutt”
I was worried as Jess approached 200 pounds that it would be hard for her psychologically, but Jess zipped past that milestone so fast there really wasn’t much time to think about it. The office buzz seemed to have settled down, and things were relatively quiet until Al got into it with Jess over an on-line ordering system we were designing.
Al Raymond was 25, thin, smart, and knew it. He had put together a system that was elegant from the seller’s perspective, but difficult for the customer to navigate. Jess was pointing this out to him.
“Look Al, I agree it’s fantastic from the retailer’s side, but I played with it on the buyer’s end. It’s not difficult for me, but the average person is going to find it hard to navigate. If the buyer gets frustrated, they give up - that’s the problem.”
Al replied “If your brains were as big as your butt, it wouldn’t be a problem”
Jess stared. The office got very, very quiet. I went up to Al, and said loud enough for all to hear “Clean out your station, surrender your keys and turn over all proprietary information to me. You’re fired.”
We had to replace Al. There was simply more work than we could handle- and we went though a lot of candidates in the process. The thin young men reminded us too much of Al, and the thin young ladies didn’t have a chance with Jess. Lisa was so grateful when we told her she had the job. I estimated her weight at 260, so she fit right in with me and with Jess, who was pushing 240 at this point.
“I can’t tell you how many resumes I submitted” Lisa said “And everything would be wonderful until the interview and they saw how big I was - someone else always got the job.”
“Well, you are just what we are looking for” said Jess. But it was apparent as summer approached we would need more help. Lisa suggested an intern, and we started interviewing again. We settled on Nicholas, who was young, bright, enthusiastic, and 305 pounds.
Our break room adjoined the supply closet, which had a ventilation grate that connected the two. If Jess or I were in the supply closet, we could hear any conversation taking place. We noticed the jokes had stopped after Al’s firing. Later I overheard this conversation between Manny and Ethan.
Ethan: “Didn’t see you at the gym.”
Manny: “Let my membership lapse. Going to the donut shop instead.”
Ethan: “What do you mean?”
Manny: “I mean look at what happened to Al. Look at the new hires. The culture here has changed, haven’t you noticed?”
Ethan: “So you’re trying to “fit in”?”
Manny: “It couldn’t hurt. I like working here, and I want to keep working here. You know the saying: Either get on the train or get off.”
Ethan: “You might be on to something there - in fact, I’ve been thinking the same thing lately.”
The word was out. Thin was definitely not “in” at B & L. Soon Ethan and Manny were sporting prominent bellies.
Then there was this conversation I overheard between Mindy and Sara.
Sara: “What do you think of the new hires?”
Mindy: “They seem nice, and know what they’re doing.”
Sara: “That’s not what I mean and you know it. And have you seen what Jess is always doing to Dee? Leaving goodies on her desk? And have you seen Manny and Ethan lately? Aren’t they getting pudgy?”
I hear Marge’s voice come in at this point “Hey girls - wassup?”
Sara: “Marge, what do you think of the new people?”
Marge: “Well, they seem to fit in, don’t they?”
Mindy: “Marge - what’s going on here? I mean Jess and Brian take that trip. Both of them are fat when they get back, and neither of them ever talk about it. Al gets axed. Then Lisa and Nick are hired. Now Ethan and Manny are getting big. And you look like you have gained a few pounds yourself. What gives?
Marge: “With me it’s what went - you know how Jess used to tease me about my weight? And now it’s stopped? I chucked in the diet, and decided to just let nature take its course. Feels good to relax and just eat what I want for a change. Any doughnuts left? This coffee fresh? Pass the sugar, would you Hon? I can’t stop, I’ve got a deadline…“
Sara: “Mindy, how do you feel about some extra pounds?”
Mindy: “Not very enthusiastic, but from a job security standpoint……”
Sara: “From a job security standpoint, it makes sense doesn’t it?”
Mindy: “How about a pact, you and me? We can buddy up for gain.”
Sara: “OK, let’s do it. What about Dee?”
Mindy: “Can you see Dee giving up her beach baby figure?”
Sara: “I don’t think so.”
Mindy: “You and me, then?”
Sara: “Sure - meet you at the donut shop for afternoon break?”
Mindy: “See you there!”
Before long Mindy and Sara were waddling around the office with wide hips and bottoms. Of course Jess and I did nothing to discourage this, and kept plenty of doughnuts and snacks around for the staff to consume. Jess’s disposition was eased - except when it came to Dee. Dee was now the sole reminder to Jess of how thin Jess used to be. And now that Dee was the sole “holdout”, Jess’s resentment focused on her. Jess was always placing doughnuts and pastries on Dee’s desk, which Dee spurned and merely passed along to the rest of the staff.
With Dee being the lone “holdout” it was not long before the names started.
Those were spoken out of Dee’s hearing at first, but then more frequently in her presence. I tried to put a stop to it - the last thing I wanted was a lawsuit from Dee. Jess only added to the pressure by constantly commenting to Dee on how “drawn” and “gaunt “ she looked, and wouldn’t Dee like a snack to help keep her going?
In the meantime, Jess and I kept getting bigger and bigger. It was a good thing B & L was profitable, because we were going through a small fortune in clothes. It seemed like we needed a new wardrobe every two weeks, even if we bought things on the generous side of size, it would be pinching and snug in a matter of days. The rest of the office (except for Dee) was gaining or trying to gain voluntarily, but Jess and I has no control whatsoever. Jess and I worried that we may gain to the point of immobility. I caught Jess surfing a bariatric equipment site. “Brian, when is this going to end?”, she asked. “What if we wind up weighing 400, 500 pounds, or even more?” I tried to reassure her, but the reality was we were getting bigger every day. I was approaching 300 rapidly, and Jess had just passed 270. And there were the dreams.
I would dream I was sitting alone in a rowboat. In front of me there was a bench loaded with pastries, doughnuts, and all kinds of goodies. I would eat, eat and eat, but the huge pile of pastry would never go down. I would keep getting fatter and fatter, my belly rolling out from under my shirt. The button of my pants would pop off and go splashing into the water. My belly rolled out, like a water balloon filling. The buttons started popping of my shirt, starting at the bottom and working upward, my fat billowing outward and sagging down toward the bottom of the boat. As I got fatter, the boat would slowly sink lower and lower in the water until there was about an inch to go before the water would pour over the sides- and I would wake up.
Jess had dreams too. She would be in a room with a door on each wall, but if she tried to leave her hips were too big for her to get through the doors - except for one door, which led to a long hallway. The hallway had doors, too, but Jess’ hips and bottom were always too big and wide to let her get through. Jess would have to follow the hallway which a led to a room with a big banquet table loaded with food. The door would shut behind her and Jess knew it would not open again until she had eaten all he food on the table. After she had done so, the door would open again, by itself. Again, Jess would find herself in a long hallway, with doors on each side. The doors were wider now - but so was Jess. She would try to wriggle through, and while her shoulders would go through, her hips and bottom were always too wide. So she would follow the hallway, which led to a room with a big banquet table loaded with food…. And then she would wake up.
Dee went on a two-week vacation, and when she returned I noticed something different about her, but I couldn’t place it. New hairdo? New outfit? It wasn’t until Marge came in and started conversing with Dee that I learned what was different.
Marge: “Enjoy your vacation Dee? Do anything special?”
Dee: “Yes, I did enjoy it. Very relaxing. Just watched a bunch of old movies, read a little bit.”
This was unusual. Dee’s vacations were usually a whirlwind of activity.
Marge: “Looks like you put on a little weight. How much if you don’t mind my asking?”
Dee brightened: “Thank you for noticing! About five pounds. It was difficult for me, I really have to focus on what I’m eating and make sure I keep eating.”
Marge: “Decided to join out little club?”
Dee: “Yes - I was feeling so isolated”
Marge: “Well, good for you, Hon. I’m sure Jessica will be pleased.”
Jess came by, and as usual placed a box of doughnuts on Dee’s desk. Dee promptly speared a crème filled, and started munching. Jess stood astonished, stared a moment, caught herself, and then waddled on.
It was a struggle for Dee, but she kept trying. Soon her slinky beach baby figure filled out into soft billowy curves. In the meantime Jess passed 300, and I was at 340. Then a week passed, and we noticed our clothes did not start pinching like they usually did. For the first time in over a year we did not go to the mall over the weekend for new clothes. Jess and I exchanged meaningful looks, but we did not dare discuss it. Finally after another week of apparent stability Jess brought it up.
“Brian… I think it’s over.”
“Yeah, I think so too.”
We checked the scales. I weighed 346 pounds. Jess had topped out at 307, although “bottomed out” was a more accurate description given the way it was distributed.
Jess could not understand the numbers. “It doesn’t seem fair. Proportionately I gained more than you did.”
“Who did most of the yelling at the fat lady?” I said. Jess didn’t have an easy answer for that one.
We adapted. New clothes, sturdier furniture at home and at the office. We also re-arranged the furniture so there was more space between pieces. We got extenders for the seat belts in our car. Sex was a bit more challenging when it came to positioning, but Jess and I actually agreed that it was a much more enjoyable tactile experience, with so many curves and folds to “explore”. We even agreed that the rippling vibrations were an erotic sensory experience. I loved moving my hands up her soft thighs and stroking the underside of her bulging belly. I would get aroused about the way her generous rump would do the rumba when she walked by, and reveled in the soft expanse of her lush wide bottom. Jess called me her “big soft huggy teddy bear” and after dinner belly rubs were often a prelude to more romantic activity.
Meanwhile at work, the staff kept getting bigger. Dee continued to gain slowly, but it was evident to Jess that she was trying. Now everyone pitched in, leaving goodies on Dee’s desk, inviting her to breaks at the doughnut shop or the bakery. I overheard this conversation in the break room.
Dee: “Sometimes it is just so frustrating. I hit a plateau and can’t seem to move beyond it. “
Marge: “Have a doughnut, Hon, it looks like you could use it.”
Dee: “Thanks. I mean I almost got to 200 a week ago, but slid back. I couldn’t hold it.”
Marge laughed. “That’s alright Dee, I hit 200 too, and couldn’t hold it. I zipped right past it.”
Dee: “I know Marge, but, but I watch what I eat and try to make sure I am eating, but the lack of progress is just so frustrating. It seems like everyone else here can gain without having to think about it. Why can’t I be like everybody else?”
Marge: “I don’t think that’s quite true, Hon. Some people here can probably do that, but I know some have to watch their diets to make sure they are getting enough intake to gain. Here, have another doughnut. You can make 200, Hon, but you may have to work a little harder than the others. We can help you get there.”
And the staff did help. Dee gained, but slowly. Then suddenly her growth accelerated and it seemed her seams were always bulging. Soft rolls began peeking from under her blouse and over her waistband.
Jess noticed. “You are looking well these days, Dee.”
“Thank you. My new boyfriend is a pastry chef. He is always creating new things and asking me to sample them.”
B & L had a celebration when Dee broke 200. A catered lunch, cake, pie, ice cream - the works. We were all one big-very big-happy family.
Jess and I had a demonstration to present before a downtown business. Usually we tried to avoid doing application demos in person because we were convinced our size had lost us at least one sale. But the customer insisted, so Jess and I took a cab downtown, and then went to the crosswalk and waited for the signal to cross. We weren’t breaking any speed records these days. The walk signal came on and Jess started to waddle across when a red sports convertible careened around the corned, hit the brakes and screeched to a stop inches from Jess. A slim blond stood up and screamed “Watch for traffic you fat cow”. Jess started screaming back.
“I had a walk signal, sweetheart - which means you’re light was red. Why don’t you strip those dark glasses off your mug so you can see?”
The blonde’s male passenger was trying to restrain her, but to no avail. Jess and the blonde continued to exchange some heated dialogue when I noticed a large woman across the street. The fat lady. The same fat lady Jess nearly ran down with her bicycle a year ago. She had a camera was taking photos. Photos that would include the license plate of the car that almost hit Jess. I waved. The fat lady waved back. Someone else’s size and attitude would be making adjustments soon.