By Charon's Aide
Part OneIt was back in the early days Reagan’s first administration, and it was early in the spring. It was also Friday, and of that I was very glad. I’d finally reached the end of my first week at Integrated Processes and even though I wanted to believe that my new, corporate job was working out well, I couldn’t pretend that it hadn’t already begun to exhaust me. Sitting at a desk was wearing me out twice as quickly as pushing a taxicab through traffic ever had. I could only hope that, as time went on, I’d get into better shape for the demands of office work. Either that, or I’d learn some ‘tricks of the trade’ to get things done more efficiently. Today, for example, it had taken me all morning to open just five accounts – even for a newcomer that had to be pretty slow. Was there any chance that, after getting some experience under my belt, things wouldn’t take me so long to complete?
I was distracted from these ponderings by the sound of heavy footsteps walking toward my desk. Carl, from Marketing, poked his head into my cube. I recognized him by the conservative cut of his light brown hair and the pale blue eyes over his clean-shaven face. I looked at him and wondered, as I had when I first met him, if he might possibly be a member of the Young Republicans Club. He’d certainly be well cast in that role.
When he tilted his body forward to get his bulky torso into my tiny workspace the lower half of his tie went AWOL, abandoning its post over the buttons of his white shirt. While he was in this position, I got to see a penny-sized food smear which was directly North of the button at the apex of his belly paunch and due South of the one immediately above it. Carl obviously subscribed to the belief that a shirt merited more than one wearing before it had to be relegated to the laundry hamper.
I couldn’t determine whether the stain had always been brown, or had once been red and later faded to a darker hue. It might once have been chocolate sauce, but it could just as easily have been ketchup; either way, it had gone undisturbed for some time.
“Watcha doin’ for lunch?” The tone of his voice was boisterously friendly. He made me feel as if we were old chums rather than two guys who’d spent less than two hours together in the course of a four-day association.
“I brought a bag – tunafish and a Devil Dog.”
“Save it for later. A few of us are going out. Do you like Italian?”
“I don’t know, Carl, I only get half an hour.”
“Forget what they told you at Orientation. Everyone goofs off on Friday afternoons. If you make it back from lunch by quitting time nobody will say a thing.”
“You’re kidding me!”
“Gotta do it, Man, the pace around here will kill you if you don’t take a break now and then. You’ll see – ”
The hopeful promise of a lazy afternoon was soured by the ominous tone that Carl added to the phrase, ‘You’ll see’. I suppressed the impulse to get him to follow up on the remark.
“What time are you leaving?”
“Twelve Thirty. Meet us in the lobby.”
He spun around without giving me the chance to decline.
When I got to the lobby, Carl was standing near the exit, speaking animatedly with two other men. I recognized the tallest in the group. He was a full six and a half feet, and extremely thin. The tall man had straight, reddish-brown hair which he wore in a ponytail and which covered the entirety of his back. His name, I recalled, was Tim, or Tom. He was a programmer in our Information Systems department. The other man was short, squat and craggy faced. He looked to be at least fifty, which was roughly twice the age of the rest of us.
Carl called out as I approached.
“Hey! Justin – you know everybody? Justin, Everybody; Everybody, Justin.”
The craggy faced man rolled his eyes and stretched out his hand to meet mine. He gave it limp shake.
“Joey DiNapoli,” he said, “I run the place.”
“Oh, well then,” I gave the older man a deferential glance, “I’m glad to meet you, Mr. DiNapoli.”
“I didn’t say I own the place,” he corrected, chuckling, “I just run it.”
“He means,” Carl said, pushing the glass door that led to the parking lot, “that he sits all day at a desk in front of the Supply Room.”
“Yeah,” Tim added, or was it Tom? I couldn’t settle on which it was, but I decided against asking; hoping, instead, that someone would use it before I had to, “his job is to give you an argument when you come looking for a ballpoint pen.”
“We piled into Carl’s Jeep before the laughter subsided and headed directly to Alfredo’s, a large eatery along the strip on Route 1.
“This place has everything,” Joey told me as we were led to our seats, “Italian – American – if it’s good to eat they serve it here.”
“Joey doesn’t know there’s anything in the world to eat but Italian/American,” Carl said, grabbing a stick of garlic bread from the center of the table. “I took him to a Japanese place, once, for sushi. I thought his eyes were gonna pop out of his head.”
“Don’t worry, Kiddo,” Joey assured me, pulling an ashtray over the red and white tablecloth toward his place at the edge of the booth, “they won’t try to serve you any raw fish here.”
Tim/Tom was studying the menu. “I don’t know why I even bother looking,” he intoned, “I always get the same – Large Pepperoni Pizza.”
Carl was shaking Parmesan Cheese over a second piece of garlic bread. “I don’t know how you can eat like that and stay so skinny.” He turned to me and added, “he doesn’t even work out. Isn’t that right, Stick?”
Tim/Tom didn’t answer right away. He was in the process of removing the ‘scrunchie’ that had been keeping his hair in a tight knot. It was a transforming gesture, and when it was complete, his head appeared to command twice the space it had previously.
“Who, me,” he asked, finally tuning in to Carl’s question. “I don’t do any exercise more strenuous than tapping on a keyboard. I just have a fast metabolism.”
I was still trying to adjust to the sight of Tim/Tom’s hair as our waitress arrived. She stood directly next to me and I caught the scent of her fragrance. Her aroma was an orgy of flowers and sweetness. I’m not the kind of guy who learns the names of perfumes, but this one was distinct, and evocative. I recognized it immediately because it was the same one June Sommers wore every day when we sat next to each other in Eleventh Grade Chemistry. My heart pounded as I was flooded by the memory of that voluptuous beauty and by the passion of my own unexpressed crush. Laughable as it seems, I actually expected to behold Miss Sommers' gorgeous curves when I turned to face our server.
The face that smiled at me wasn’t June’s, of course; it belonged to a pretty, perky slip of a girl who was only half June’s size. She had brown eyes and olive skin, and when she said, “how are you gentlemen doing today?” I detected irrepressible joy in her voice.
I checked her nametag and noticed that her breasts were surprisingly large for such a slender young woman. To my way of thinking, their size seemed to promise that the rest of her body would eventually fill out and balance the proportions of her figure.
“How do you say your name,” I asked. Realizing that my throat had become dry, I reached for a glass of water to suppress a cough.
“Crucificia,” she said, with a hint of pride, “it’s Italian.” She clasped the religious icon at the base of her necklace. “It means crucifix; but everyone here calls me Fanny.”
“We all know what we’re having. Right? Right?” Joey’s insistent nod wouldn’t allow dispute.
“Yeah,” Carl added, “let’s order everything now – drinks, appetizers, main course.”
“I guess you boys are ready for some serious eating.” I thought I detected a sparkle in our waitress’s eye as she took out her pad. The others ordered first, which gave me a chance to catch up. Hurriedly, I scanned the menu and made mental note of my selections. When Crucificia came to me I noticed, pointedly, that she smiled again.
“Which soup is good,” I asked. I felt some pressure to order quickly, and I could have made a choice without asking for a recommendation, but I was eager to make her linger for a little while longer.
“Do you like clams?”
“Well, our clam chowder is delicious, but let me tell you – if you ever come for dinner, you’ve got to order the clam plate special. Our chef has such a way with fried food, and he makes a special Tartar Sauce that – let me tell you – is absolutely out of this world!”
Absentmindedly, Crucificia ran her tongue over her lips, adding shimmer to her pink lipstick and hinting at bounties of pleasure previously known only to the gods. “When you see how many clams he piles on your dish you think ‘I’ll never finish them all’, but you do! They’re totally irresistible!”
“Wasn’t she going on about those clams the last time we were here?” There was a note of impatience in Carl’s voice. He was obviously eager for her to hurry for his Buffalo Wings.
“The chowder will be fine,” I told her.
We held each other’s gaze as Crucificia collected the menus. Sadly, however, my seat was oriented so that it faced away from the kitchen and I was denied the pleasure of observing her in retreat. Carl, however, was situated perfectly and had an unobstructed view of her movements. He exploited his advantage shamelessly.
“I dare say,” he announced, rather too loudly, “our girl Fanny is starting to live up to her name. I detect some rather significant new construction in the derriere. Don’t you think?”
Clownishly, Tim/Tom craned his body so that he could see as well. In the process, he knocked over a water glass, which he left for me to mop up.
“Right as usual, Carl.”
“…a decided reduction of wiggle room in the skirt?”
“Your observations are impeccable, Doctor.”
“…and a process which an economist, perhaps, might describe as ‘runaway inflation’ in the thighs and hips.”
“And run away she has – into the kitchen for Joey’s nachos. Let’s hope she doesn’t snitch too many before she gets them back to us.”
Both men erupted into guffaws.
Joey took a drag on his cigarette.
“They’re having a laugh on me,” he explained. “Ever since they found out that I prefer ladies who are, shall we say, ‘filled out’, they think it’s loads of fun to point out every pound a woman might happen to gain.”
Tim/Tom let out a chuckle. “Joey drives me home one night when my Toyota is in the shop. I notice he’s got a porno mag on the seat so I pick it up, thinking I’m going to see some hot naked chick. Instead, I get a load of this girl who’s about the size of an elephant. I go, ‘what the hell is this?’ and Joey says, all matter-of-fact, ‘I think she’s better looking than a Playboy Bunny.’ He was dead serious! I laughed till I wet myself.”
“Laugh on, Diaper Boy, but believe me – the bigger the cushion, the better the pushin’. What do you think, Justin?”
I didn’t dare let on how completely I agreed. “If you say so.”
“I know so, brother! When you meet Mrs. DiNapoli, you’ll now why I’m always grinning.”
“Dirty old goat,” Tim/Tom was laughing as he spoke, “twenty five years married and he still buys porno.”
“Just ‘cause the bull’s in the corral don’t mean he can’t look out at the herd.” Joey crushed his cigarette into the ashtray for emphasis.
“I’m starting to think you Chubby Chasers are having an effect on the way women think.” Carl grabbed the last of the garlic bread and launched into a story. “My brother got married last August and, naturally, my whole family came up for it. Well, my cousin Jill is about the same age as me and I’ve always had lots of fun teasing her. Jill is very easy to embarrass. She’s the kind of girl who’d turn red if you told her that her epidermis was showing.”
Probably sensing the story would be a long one, Joey lit another cigarette. “Carl’s only pleasure in life is in laughing at other people.”
“I’ll just ignore that.” Carl shot a practiced look in Joey’s direction. “Where was I? Oh yeah, I should tell you that Jill went through a phase when she was pretty chubby. She was ten or twelve then. It was great for me because I could always get a rise out of her by calling her ‘Butterball’, ‘Thunder Thighs’ – you know, the usual stuff.”
Tim/Tom was nodding his head, causing his enormous mane to shake wildly.
“Well, when she got to be a teenager, I guess she figured out that she’d either have to lose the blubber or be doomed to a life of loneliness. That’s when she became the world’s strictest dieter. From the time she was in Eighth Grade she wouldn’t even look at an extra calorie. She held herself in pretty good, too, although I hate to admit it – back then there wasn’t an ounce of unnecessary flesh on her.
“Was she happy?”
The question came from Joey. There was curiosity in his tone, but also a hint of something else – as if he were a professor making a point, or an attorney building his case.
“Happy?” Carl was upended by the question. “Sure, why wouldn’t she be happy? She was on the cheerleading squad, when she was in High School she got voted Homecoming Queen. She must have been happy. Actually, she had her pick of any boy she wanted because Jill was the one all the guys drooled over – but she wouldn’t eat a cookie if you put a gun to her head.”
Carl’s story was beginning to nauseate me, but I anticipated that a “turnaround” was in the works. His attitude toward fat women was nearly the opposite of my own, but I wanted to find out how his cousin worked it through.
“Jill being slim really sucked for me, of course, because I couldn’t make fun of her like I used to. I could still tease her about her lisp and her frizzy hair but, Man, I missed the days when I could say something about the cottage cheese on her legs and make her run out of the room.”
I was gearing myself up to tell Carl off when Crucificia returned with our appetizers. She set the food out in a professional manner, but when she put my bowl in front of me she ‘inadvertently’ brushed her hand against mine. I smiled and she gave me a wink. I loved the way this girl flirted! The sad truth about me is that I’m intensely shy; shyness probably accounts for the reason that I never asked June for her phone number back when we were at Taft High. Unless a female gives me an unmistakable signal that she’s interested, I’m more than a little bit cautious about risking her rejection.
Crucificia was giving me ‘unmistakable signs’ and that thrilled me. By the time she left our table, I was in far too good a mood to bother dressing Carl down. This time, instead of returning to the kitchen, she headed toward a table in the center of the room. I got the chance to view her shapely posterior. If it was, as Carl claimed, bigger than it had been, it could only have been a change for the better.
Carl, for his part, was so engrossed in his Buffalo Wings that he didn’t bother making any further comments about Crucificia’s expanding size. After he devoured two or three, Tim/Tom reminded him to go on with his story.
“That’s right, I was telling you about seeing Jill at my brother’s wedding. What was the last thing I told you?”
“You said that she ditched the pork when she was in high school.”
“Yeah, and that was just about the time I started getting pretty tubby myself. She could have saved me some grief if she was overweight, even a little bit; but with her being skinny, I was the Teen Plumper in the family. Even when we got to college, and normal girls were gaining their “freshman fifteen” pounds, Jill stayed thin as a rail.”
I glanced at Joey. He had a look of mild disgust on his face, but Carl continued without noticing.
“I swear to God, she stayed skinny it just to torture me but I kept praying for the day when the worm would turn. Reformed jelly-bellies don’t stay reformed forever. Sooner or later she was bound to have a break out. And, as always, I was right.”
“He’s got a sixth sense about this sort of stuff,” Tim/Tom said admiringly.
“It was hot as hell on the day of the wedding, and she wore a short, sleeveless dress that exposed all her crimes. Let me tell you, I was in heaven because there was no denying the fact that she’d fallen back to her old ways.”
Joey poked his chip into the avocado dip and said, “Carl talks about her ‘old ways’ like it’s a bad thing! Poor scrawny girl, never eating a morsel. She must be thrilled to be enjoying life again. Instead of being happy for her, he wants to tear her apart.”
“If a girl doesn’t want to get teased,” Carl said, “she shouldn’t get fat.”
Tim/Tom took a long sip on his Coca-Cola. “I couldn’t agree more!”
I knew for certain there was a logical flaw in their argument, but my head hurt just to imagine trying to straighten it out.
Carl took the opportunity to wipe barbecue sauce and chicken grease off his fingers. He performed the procedure with practiced aplomb. “I figure,” he said, smiling, “she’s put on a good twenty/twenty-five pounds minimum and I couldn’t wait to corner her. So as soon as we’re at the reception and the side dishes are getting set out, I go up to her and say, all innocent like, “you haven’t gained weight have you?” I figured I’d start her off slow.
“Good approach,” Tim/Tom nodded approvingly.
“I, of course, am expecting her to turn red, or get weepy – some kind of reaction; but she totally surprises me. If you can believe it, she grabs one of those mini-quiches off the hors d’oeuver tray, pops it in her mouth and says to me, ‘you know, Carl, I’ve finally decided just to let nature take its course. There are more important things for me to fret about than a little belly flab.’”
I could see a look of disappointment flash across Tim/Tom’s face. He wasn’t enjoying this turn of events at all, but I was delighted. Jill sounded like my kind of girl!
“It gets worse,” Carl went on, “she then says ‘since we’re on the subject of weight, I want to compliment you for looking particularly cuddly’. With that, she pokes her finger in my gut like I’m the Pillsbury Doughboy. Imagine that! Let me tell you, she really pissed me off. I knew it was time for the heavy artillery so I said ‘Listen, Jill, if you keep munching on those appetizers, your belly’s gonna grow even bigger than mine.’ So what does she do? She picks out a mushroom cap, eats it right in front of me, looks me in the eye and says; ‘I can hardly wait!’ Then she turns her fat ass toward me and ignores me the rest of the party.”
Tim/Tim was indignant. “The bitch! Who does she think she is?”
I sipped the last of my soup and gave my opinion. “I say good for her. Why should people have to be slim if they don’t want to be?”
Joey grinned like a guy holding the winning race ticket. “And I say, good for you, Justin. Thank God there’s at least one young fellow with a sensible attitude.”
“Oh brother,” Carl said, “don’t tell me we’ve got two numbskulls in the company. Next thing we know, you’ll be asking ol’ Fanny for a date.”
“What would be wrong with that?”
“Shhh. She’s coming with our entrees.”
Crucificia served Tim/Tom’s pizza first, followed by Carl’s Rigatoni and Joey’s Chicken Parmesan. When she placed my Lasagna in front of me she said, “save room for dessert. The chef made Apple Cobbler.”
“It is. And if you’re nice to me, I’ll put ice cream on it.”
Crucificia’s promise made me hungry; hungry for ice cream and hungry for her.
“I guess I’ll just have to be nice to you.”
Once she was out of earshot, Carl said, “Are you just playing that game to get my goat, or are you actually interested?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know, Man, can’t you see the signs? I mean, a couple of months ago I’d’ve ranked her as a grade-A fox. Now – well, take it from a guy who’s seen it – that girl’s poised for some serious blimping out.”
I dug my fork into the Lasagna.
“I’ll have to keep that in mind,” I told him.
The four of us ate in silence for nearly a minute. Finally, Carl broke in.
“Hate to say it, but I’ll have to agree with Carl on this one,” he said. Joey had tucked a cloth napkin right under his Adam’s Apple so that when he spoke the napkin vibrated with the sound of his voice. “I’ve watched a lot of young Italian girls get fat. I figure Fanny to be twenty-two, twenty-three – probably on her own for the first time. That figure of hers ain’t gonna hold out much longer.”
“That figure of hers is gone already.” Tim/Tom was plowing through his pizza slice in a methodical, almost mechanistic manner. His eyes gazed about distractedly – he gave the same look I’d seen people make while they fill their gas tanks from the pump.
Joey sliced a piece of chicken off his cutlet. “She’s still single, though, so she might not want to scare the guys away. She might go the same route as Carl’s cousin and diet for a while – at least until she’s got someone lined up.”
The thought of gorgeous Crucificia on a diet caused me to shudder. I’d already started to plan a picnic for two.
“Of course,” Joey continued, twirling spaghetti around his fork, “once she’s married she’ll let herself go for sure. I’d bet the house on that.”
“Nice surprise for her husband,” Carl said, lifting a forkful of creamed vegetable to eye level for inspection. “What is that? Broccoli??”
With a quick snap, Tim/Tom turned his head ninety degrees. “Good job, Carl, its broccoli all right,” then, turning to us, he added, “in another year or two he’ll know all his vegetables.”
“Get out of here,” Carl whined, cautiously placing the floret in his mouth. He maintained a skeptical look on his face while he chewed and swallowed the morsel. “What were we talking about? Oh yeah – chubby Mama Mias. You know, they say that Italian brides wear two wedding rings. A little one around their finger – that’s made of gold; and a great big one around their waist – that one’s made of Ricotta Cheese!”
Unfortunately, Carl delivered his punch line just as Tim/Tom was at the midpoint of a swallow. His effort to laugh resulted in a rather unappetizing snort.
“Serves you right,” Joey said, “laughing at us Italians. Now you got Milanese pepperoni stuck in your throat! Let me tell you, there’s nothing wrong with Italian Mamas, and when they get bigger they only get more loveable.”
My mind drew a picture of how Crucificia might look several years down the road. I pictured her in a sleeveless dress that revealed a gorgeous trove of flesh on the upper arms. I imagined her with very wide, very soft hips and a prominent double chin. This vision of ripe Mediterranean beauty enflamed me, but I wondered how her eventual husband might view her. Life isn’t always good for fat wives. Most husbands, I’ve been told, take Carl’s attitude are repulsed by extra weight. For her sake, I hoped that Crucificia would have the good fortune to marry a man who saw fatness the way I did.
Joey took a sip of red wine and adjusted himself in his seat. “My Gina, you know, wasn’t much bigger than Fanny when we first got married. As soon as we got back from our honeymoon, we went to her best friend’s wedding. Skinny little Rosetta! The wind could blow her away. Then, just a few weeks after that, her sister Dorina got married. Of course, Dorina was always a big girl. Three Bella Donnas married in the same summer.”
“Where’s this story gonna go?” Carl put his elbow on the table, as if to challenge Joey. I tensed, and had to fight the urge to knock it off. Carl, perhaps sensing danger, returned to his Rigatoni right away. “You know,” he said, “this broccoli isn’t half bad.”
“Thanks for the report, Carl, and if you’ll shut up for half a second you’ll find out where my story is going. I let you tell yours, you know.”
“OK, OK, go on – ”
“All right then! Now, if you’re an Italian girl who’s newly wed, the first thing you gotta do is you gotta establish the fact that you can cook, and not just for your husband. You gotta have people over. You gotta show off. And nobody can leave your table hungry.”
If Joey was trying to convince me of the advantages to finding an Italian wife, he was doing an excellent job.
“Well, first Dorina has us all over; next week Rosetta has to show what she can do; naturally, my Gina wants to prove she can do better than either of them. Then we’re invited back to Dorina’s. ‘Round and ‘round we go! Each dinner is better than the one that went before.”
I found myself positively entranced by this tale of friendly female competition.
“We’re all having the time of our life and everyone’s very happy, but wouldn’t you know it? Gina gets talking one day, saying that she needs to buy some dresses ‘cause the ones she’s got are too small and Dorina says, ‘No problem, you’ll do fine in the clothes I can’t fit into anymore.’ So my sister-in-law’s fourteens get sent down to our house. Thank God, too, because these girls are all snappy dressers and buying Gina a whole new wardrobe would really have set me back.”
The story was as relentless as it was predictable, but the artless style of Joey’s narrative combined with the innocence of his voice held my complete attention. His manner carried with it the force of primitive hypnotism. I wanted him to go on and on.
“Next thing you know, little Rosetta – who’s not so little any more – starts dropping hints that her clothes are making her feel cramped around the middle; so Gina gives her the size tens she can’t use anymore. Well, it didn’t take long for Dorina’s husband to see how things are going, and he complains that he’s the only one looking at big credit card balances from the dress shops. So, me and Rosetta’s husband have us a chat, and we decide that the only fair thing is to slip him a few bucks from time to time. Well, once we worked the finances out, we found that we had a regular assembly line going. As time went on, Gina got Dorina’s sixteens, then she sent her old twelves to Rosetta – and on and on it went. I don’t know how we could have fallen into a better situation.
Joey removed the napkin from his shirt and wiped tomato sauce from his lips – then he pushed his plate to the center of the table.
“As we ponder this revolting tale,” Carl commented, keeping his eyes on the Rigatoni in front of him, “we get a glimpse of how things may turn out for you, Justin, if you set your hopes on a girl like Fanny.”
“Justin should be so lucky,” Joey, declared, lighting a match, “there’s nothing a woman needs more than the chance to try out a new look from time to time – different hairstyle, different jewelry – makes her feel sexy and keeps her man interested. Our girls were giving us a new look every time you turned around. It was fantastic! You know, sometimes I look at a bunch of photos of Gina from over the years and I think ‘have I had one Missus or twelve?’ It’s hard to believe all these pictures are of the same gal.”
“Are you telling me,” Tim/Tom asked incredulously, “that you guys all stood around, watching your wives blow up like balloons, and nobody complained?”
“Complained???” Joey laughed himself into a coughing fit. “I can tell, kid, that you don’t have a clue what sexy is. I remember one dress of Dorina’s – well, it started off as Dorina’s, but it made its way around to all the girls eventually – but I’m getting ahead of myself. It was black and red and had a slit up the side – made her look like a movie star. I mean, my Gina has always looked good, but her sister – va va va voom!”
I covered my face to hide my smile. Joey’s old-fashioned expressions were starting to crack me up.
“Well, Dorina wears it for a good long while. Too long, in fact; there were days when it looked as if the seams were going to split on that number. Thank God they didn’t though, because it finally got sent down to our house. Gina told me she couldn’t wait to try it on but, as luck would have it, it didn’t look good on her at all. You never can tell with sizes. This one happened to be cut too big for Gina’s body type. I begged her to wear it anyway but my wife wouldn’t be caught dead in something she didn’t think flattered her figure.
“Anyway, the dress stays in our closet for months, and then one night I tell Gina I’m taking her dancing. She’s in one of these moods where she wants to look like the Queen of the Ball so she’s trying on this outfit and then that one. She’s in the bedroom, I’m down in the living room, we’re shouting at each other and all the time it’s getting later and later. I’m getting steamed because she does this to me all the time. Finally, out of desperation, she tries on Dorina’s red dress but this time she likes the way she looks in it. Without either of us realizing it, her figure had been developing little by little and now she was able to fill it out perfectly.
“Enough already!” Carl was nearly shouting with exasperation. “How much more of this are we supposed to take? I think we’ve all gotten the idea already.”
Strange as it seems, I was actually glad Carl brought a stop to Joey’s story. I had, to use Carl’s phrase, ‘gotten the idea already’ and by now, despite the fact that we were in a public place, I was in a state of complete agitation. In my whole life I’d never heard a story that ‘hit the spot’ as hard as that one did for me.
One dress, three gorgeous gaining girls with distinct personalities, countless fattening meals. My head felt as if it were going to explode. I couldn’t resist the urge any longer, so I excused myself quickly and made a rush for the Men’s Room. Sprinting, I didn’t even notice Crucificia heading our way with our dessert menus. We literally crashed. As if that weren’t embarrassing enough, I managed – while attempting to help her regain her balance – to plant my hand firmly on her curvaceous behind.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling the blood rush to my face.
“Pretty smooth, Romeo,” she said, laughing.
“I was heading for the bathroom.”
“Are your pants on fire,” she joked, glancing at my trousers. And then, heightening my discomfort further, she took on a ‘knowing’ tone and murmured, “I see….”
Whatever crazy ideas I might have entertained when I got up from the table were completely dashed by the time I managed to get into the washroom. Thoughts of sex abandoned me completely and I was left only with the urge to become invisible. I hid for a full five minutes before I found the nerve to return to my place.
“We were going to send out a search party,” Joey said when I reached the booth.
“Leave him alone,” Carl said, “he was probably in there vomiting from listening to your story.”
I noticed, in my place, a large slice of Apple Cobbler. The vanilla ice cream on top had started to melt and was forming rivulets of sweetness between the various mountain ranges in the pastry.
“Your girlfriend decided to order dessert for you,” Tim/Tom said.
I moved the plate toward me and noticed that a slip of pink stationery had been placed underneath. Opening it, I got to see a neatly penned phone number penned over the words CALL ANYTIME. It was only after I folded the note back up, that I realized all my lunch companions were staring at me.
“I guess she likes me,” I stammered.
“You should give her a number too,” Carl said, “the number for Weight Watchers!”
Unsurprisingly, this triggered hilarity from Tim/Tom. I glanced across the room and noticed that Crucificia was taking orders at another table. She sensed my stare and turned to look at me. With exaggerated motion, I slipped her phone number into my shirt pocket and gave it a pat. She smiled when she saw what I’d done.
“Weight Watchers,” Tim/Tom repeated. “That’s a really good one!”
I pondered the expression. Weight Watchers. Wasn’t I a weight watcher? Watching women’s weight was what intrigued me, fascinated me, enthralled me. From my perspective, odd though it might be, watching Crucificia’s weight was something that could keep me interested for a very long time indeed.