CHAPTER 9 Stan July 29, 2012 Stan marveled at the thick green oak trees perfectly manicured along the suburban streets of West Fargo. Reaching for the air conditioner he realized it was already blasting as much cold air as possible. The long, humid summer days almost made him forget last winter. And to think that he thought Iowa winters were tough. Franny took the car most days, driving Stan to and from work. Exactly what she did during the day he wasn't sure. She was always running errands, going to the grocery store, mostly. And she always seemed extremely busy. As if she tried to do whatever she could to avoid working on her writing. On the days when Franny didn't have the car, he knew what he'd find when he got home. Franny would be on the couch with the TV tuned to some Food Network show or maybe Top Chef, but she wouldn't really be watching. Instead she would be scanning through Tumblrs or browsing through Tweets or doing some other mindless social media task. Stan worried that she got just enough free time at home that she never got sufficiently bored to start back on her writing. He tried sometimes to make up excuses to take the car in the hope of motivating her to get back to work, but she always had an excuse of her own to drive. And honestly, Stan was never good at saying no to Franny anyway. He was pretty sure Franny hadn't written anything longer than an Instagram caption since they moved to West Fargo last year. Every once in a while he'd ask about her writing and try to sound cheerful. He just knew how happy writing made her, and he hated to see his wife anything less than 100% happy. She was so good at the Iowa writing program. Everyone loved her stuff, and Stan expected she'd get a big book deal within a year of graduating. But to get a book deal requires an author to send in a manuscript. And Franny never seemed to finish anything, at least never anything that lived up to her own outrageously high standards. The windshield wipers wiped away the first drops of the rain shower everyone had been saying would come for the past few days. Maybe the rain will cut down on all this oppressive humidity, he thought to himself. He thought again about Franny's writing, or lack thereof. She did some writing for the two classes she taught at the community college. Sure, she only wrote emails to students and brief explanations for the grades she gave. But at least it was something. Stan was glad that Franny had something in her life that related to writing, even if it didn't require her to do much of her own work. When they first moved to Fargo, Franny talked a lot about getting a job in addition to her part-time teaching. But Stan talked her out of it for two reasons. First, he wanted her to have time to write, and second, because he got a big raise with the move so they didn't need the additional income. Franny was happy to comply, full of the best intentions of realizing her dream of becoming a professional writer. Stan turned onto the street where they lived which looked pretty much the same as the dozen or so other streets in the subdivision. He didn't mind the new construction homes that all looked nearly identical. Each one was full of drywall between rooms with a wet bar in the basement. Franny found the suburban homes lacking in character. Stan had to admit that suburban life took some getting used to. There was no sound at night other than the crickets, and the neighbors seemed nice but not friendly. The door to the garage creaked as Stan entered the house, and as usual he headed straight to Franny. As predicted she was lounging on the couch with her laptop. Stan loved coming home to Franny every night. He never took for granted the heavenly body in his midst. Franny sat with a computer perched atop her bulging belly. Stan always loved his wife's wide hips and fat legs, but as she grew heavier, he appreciated the subtle changes to her shape. The belly, for example, was a relatively new development. It hung over the edge of the stretched out elastic waistband of her underwear. The only other piece of clothing she wore was a triple XL t-shirt made of distressed cotton. Through the thin fabric Stan saw the curve of her breasts as they hung to the sides of the upper curve of her belly. Stan felt the cold central air, and knew they had to blast the air conditioner to keep Franny from feeling overheated. Her natural insulation kept her warm in winter but overheated in the summer. His eyes quickly traced the contours of her lovely legs that rested naked and fully extended out from beneath her stomach. Franny's hips spread out to her sides and formed lovely curves that blended to the flowing fat that clung to her heavy thighs. Stan paid particular attention to a fold of fat that hung on the outside of Franny's lower thigh and rested on her upper calf. He had noticed it before, but it looked bigger than he remembered. Stan knew Franny had gained almost exactly thirty pounds since they moved last year to the Fargo suburbs. He was now able to track his wife's weight thanks to a new scale they bought right before they moved. The purchase made sense since the old scale maxed out at 500 pounds. Stan suggested the one they bought. He wasn't sure if Franny even knew the scale had a small memory card that stored the last few weights. Every once in a while he'd check the scale and keep tabs on Franny's growth. She weighed herself surprisingly often, so these days Stan always knew his wife's weight within a few pounds. At 520 pounds Franny still got around pretty well, and given the large amounts she ate, he figured that her active lifestyle probably kept her from gaining even more. Seeing his wife made him immediately excited, but he knew to bide his time. Their nightly ritual was always sensuous and fulfilling to both partners. "How was your day, baby?" Stan kissed his wife on the top of her head. Not taking her eyes off the laptop she replied, "Not too bad...uneventful." Franny then closed the laptop and set it aside. She held out her hands, waiting for her husband to help pull her off the sofa. Instead Stan asked, "Can I get you anything, baby?" Franny smiled and reached for her laptop. "Can I get some chips to tide me over until dinner?" "You got it." Stan walked over to the open plan kitchen and retrieved a large bag of Ruffles. "We're having spaghetti tonight," he called out. Stan opened the bag and handed it to his wife. "Spaghetti sounds good to me," she said while crunching on a potato chip. The pasta was quick to cook, and the meatballs and marinara Stan had prepared the weekend before. In a short time Stan joined Franny on the couch, handing her a large bowl of food. He noticed that the bag of Ruffles was already empty yet Franny dug into the spaghetti with her customary vigor. Stan had barely eaten a few small bites before Franny asked for more, and he was happy to comply.