Short Story written by Thalia Bonas for Writers' Seminar
Painting by Athena
The threat of cholesterol didn’t bother Brenden. Fat was his fuel, his passion and obsession. He beamed with pride as he observed the growing mountain that stretched his pale blue shirt enough to see explosions of dry skin sprout in between each gray plastic button. His hand was clamped around a metal fork; bright, hairy and hot from the extenuating effort of lifting and chewing, placing and cutting. Each nail on every finger was barely visible, encumbered by gold rings with coloured gems that he had bought at Johnny’s Diamonds down the road on Corporation Street. He burped then puffed, unable to do anything with civility and gazed blankly at the dark velvet ceiling of his dining room. His wife glared at him from across the table. Her body, a long and rigid pole with eyes that bulged out of her face and lurched towards him. They resembled decaying wood, squishy, moist and inert. Her mousy, thin oleaginous hair was anchored at the bottom end of her skull in a bun, which brushed the edge of her white collared shirt. All of the oil, sweat and dandruff was contained under this shirt, barred by a thick black wool sweater that she wore regardless of the weather. She cleared her throat. Eugh, hm. And continued to stare, jaw set, brows pinched. Her indignation was clear. She loathed Brenden, his ambitions, his demeanor and even the 5 feet of air around him that was polluted by his aura. But Brenden didn’t care. He had a goal and nothing, no one, no law, or wife or rules was ever going to get in his way. He was going to win, no, he was going to break the world record for the Manchester’s meat eating competition. This was not for amateurs. It was for the elite. 58 kinds of meat consumed in under 60 minutes. Each piece was at least 100 oz. Some were raw others were filled, sauteed, fried, char grilled, vacuumed, you name it and it was there. And the crowning challenge, no vomiting for at least an hour after the competition or you were disqualified. Last time, a bricklayer named Daniel Morris choked after 15 minutes on his fried duck breast and nearly died. After that, they made the competition quadrennial instead of annual, to give the contestants a chance to recover and prepare. Thus, every meal was, a practice, preparing him for the big race. Each stretching his limits, his cheeks, neck, arms and stomach. The latest challenge was finding that he could no longer curve over his stomach long enough to tie his shoes. Brenden's wife, who remained completely unsupportive of his efforts, forced him to switch to velcro because she refused to tie his laces for him. All the lads at work mocked his extra wide brown suede Geox that she had ordered specially from their factory in Latvia. But the joke was on them. When Brenden's wife recounted his mammoth, barbaric goal to Geox customer services, they were so intrigued that they offered to be his sponsor. They gave him nylon shorts, socks and even a headband that said “Big Brenden number 1”, like the headband from Nike Djokovic wears at Wimbledon. That day Brenden strolled into the office, dressed in his spanking new gear, gleaming from ear to ear. He bellowed in triumph: “Fuck you, you losers who go home and give up after a 28 ounce rib eye on a Sunday lunch and spend the rest of the day belching and complaining in front of the telly. G-d get some fucking ambition. Lazy Bollocks.” So anyways, Brenden was about half way through his 7th steak of the evening. He had decided to eat them in order of rawness, starting with well done and progressing until he got to frozen, straight out of the freezer. Each steak was accompanied by a cold lager with lime, mustard and jalapeno ketchup. Even from the other end of the room, Brenden's wife could see the beer, steak, mustard and ketchup mound in his mouth all at once. The mixture smelled like wet dog and looked like what happens when you mix raspberries, candle wax and wool. She could barely stand to look at him. He repulsed her. They continued like this. Throwing insults across the room when they had the energy and glaring at each other when they didn’t. That evening was worse than it had been in a while. Brenden was in a bad mood because he had run out of Corona’s and had to switch to drinking Stella’s after steak no 5. He sat burping and brooding on the other end of the oak table. It vibrated slightly each time, knocking the bottom of her ribcage. She perched silently, twiddling her sterling silver Jesus necklace that her mother had given her on her wedding day with the stern advice that “the Almighty sees everything”. It was the constant cold reminder that divorce was not an option. She kept trying to find a way out, mentally flipping through the Bible in her head. She stopped at Psalm 46: “G-d is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble”. Well, where the devil was he now? When she needed him most? Of course there is famine, war, disease and many other prevalent global issues, but none were as pressing as her happiness!!!! To her, Brenden was the ultimate symbol of everything she loathed. The father of gluttony, the messiah of sloth. For years she had endeavored to search for a breach in their marriage, anything that could deem it unsanctified in the eyes of the Lord. But her efforts had been in vain. She and Brenden were tied together for better or worse. She was shackled to 268 kg of blubber and 10 brain cells for the rest of her life. For 13 years she had tried without success to improve the brute. It was hopeless. There was no detering Brenden from his goal. He had no fear of hell, as she did. The spitting fires that lurked below the earth, inevitably licking at his heels, were absorbed by the smoking ambition that rumbled his stomach and the rolls of flab that made him sweat. While she saw his demise, to Brenden, the heat was all the same. The noise, the crackling high pitch fire, the incessant yapping of his wife was nigh. In his head all he heard was a voice. It mumbled and hummed, strumming against the click of his metal fork on the china plate that loomed below his chest. “Eat, eat, eat”. More more more. And so Brenden continued, gorging on his desires, battling for success as his wife sat prudent and martyr like, praying for his death or drastic reformation, whichever came first.