Literary as hell.

“Phat Man,” a short story by Patricia Trentacoste

Before
Personal Blog, Entry 1 Open to Public

Everybody’s fat, phat, obese, stout, plump, a lard ass weighed down by excess. Here’s how it works: some, me for instance, carry our metal on the outside. Fat is armor. We’re like knights. Some days I can’t turn around in the saddle. My bulk starts in the gut, plates over my ass, and widens in my shoes. Get the picture? Lifting all that weight 24/7 makes me strong as hell. Think about that. Think about this too: Fat cells store energy. I’ve got lots of it. It’d take an eon to starve a dude like me. I’m like the sun. I got billions of years left.

Low weight people? They think they’re not fat. But they aren’t skinny either. Fact is, they wear their poundage where you can’t see it. I feel for them—having to haul it around, getting no sympathy. Food has a weird vibe for them. The vibe is guilt. Look at their guts, tight with self-loathing. No one spends more time thinking about pork-grease and butter than they do. Salmon and hard-boiled eggs only go so far. Paleo is for Neanderthals and we ain’t them no more. Get it? Least I’m not.

How do I know this? I used to be spare. Raw boned, as they say. I ate my fill. Cut to me in the john puking. Men can’t be bulimic? Sure we can. Not many of us, I’ll admit, but I’m evidence that some of us do it. I did it from middle school on. Eventually, I couldn’t take it—holding my immensity inside like that. No one knew how gorged I was, how much pressure I put on myself to look like the “Bieb,” hair and all. After college, I got sane again. By that I mean I transplanted my pounds to the light of day. Got it all out, pushed it out through my cells, packed it on in plain sight, the real stuff, physical, not mental crap. I added tangibleness till I was gargantuan … insulated.

Okay, so now you know. I’m big. I’m inundated with adipose tissue. But you should also know other things. One: I can dance. Two, I can roll over in bed easy enough. (I know you had to wonder.) Of course, I’m still young, twenty-seven. Just wait, they tell me, your heart’s gonna turn to suet. People I love tell me that. They call it, big love. Ha, ha, ha. They text me links for pills and gyms that make you piss all day and work out in front of mirrors. They want me to watch TV’s The Biggest Loser with them, pretending not to notice the ambiguity of the title while they trade me my Buds for fat-burners.

Three: I like classical music. You might think that’s a non-sequitur, to jump to classical music like that. It is and it isn’t. I like music with gravitas, heavy instrumentation, like parts of Beethoven’s 7th, or Berlioz—sometimes he’d use 1000 musicians. That’s what I mean. Ponderousness is the right answer for the world today. Flutes can’t handle me, you know? I’ve gotta have bassoons, oboes, tubas, double basses. I’m the Phat Man. I’m a freakin’ nuclear weapon. Anybody out there?
The Phat Man


~
Dear Phat Man,
Wow, I never met anyone with your candor. It’s refreshing! I have to log off and just enjoy your honesty for a couple hours.
Molly in Detroit
~

Dear Phat Man,
I’m back. Yeah, you’re honest beyond belief. As long as we’re truth-telling here, I confess. I logged off to eat power greens and a fruit-smoothie I made in my own blender. They satisfy me so much. I recommend them for you. If you want, I can send you a couple good recipes.
Molly
~

Dear Dense One,
Didn’t you read a thing I said? If you don’t have something substantial to tell me about who you are really, (not who you’re carving flesh to be), don’t write back!
Phat Man
~

Dear PM
Sorry, sorry you’re right. I’m a twit. I didn’t see I was doing the thing you ranted about. You asked about me. I’ll give you a glimpse. I’m 5’8”. I’m Retro-Emo. Do you know Emo?
Molly
~

Dear M
No. Not sure I want to.
~

Dear PM
Anyway…. Emo was/is a way of life. Tight wool sweaters, tightest ever jeans, itchy scarves all year round. My glasses are black, square-rimmed and I don’t wash my hair. It’s my brand. Love the way my bangs hang oily over one eye and cheek. Well I wash it, but then I add grease. It’s an emotional channel.
Molly
~

Dear Molly,
You’re an idiot. Don’t write back.
PM
~

Dear Phat Man
You’re one phat phony! You write stuff about how you deal with your EXCESS!, how you used to binge and purge and then you get superior on me when I tell you how I do that for myself. You’re bogus, dude. So much for two people being real with each other.
Disappointed in you,
Molly
~
Dear Molly,
I didn’t think of it like that. You’re right. I judged. Let’s get back to music. I looked into Emo. Sounds underwhelming. What do you see in it?
PM
~
Dear PM,
I don’t like the music, all that pink-punk and soft-singing, then screaming, half-hearted guitar riffs. I just like the clothes and the way people look twice at me. No one ever did that before I started dressing by punk rules. You want honesty? Here goes, dude. If you want to know the truth, we’re poor. Have always been poor. We wear church donations and dead people’s stuff from thrift shops. It’s hard to have any cool in your style that way. Once I found my brand, a way I could make other people’s clothes look like I wore them out of season and the wrong size on purpose, I felt better. CRY—(that’s EMO for it made me feel sad, but all right).
Moll
~

Dear Moll,
How old are you?
PM
~

PM
I’m twenty. We’re not that far apart in age, you and me. Stay loose. So, you’re into music. Heavy music. That’s a name of a Bob Seger tune my aunt loves. (I would write LOL but that expression makes me puke.) We’re going round and round about who isn’t a poseur, but we both are. That’s for sure, so let’s just get to know each other. You’re fat. I’m poor and I eat vegetables and smoothies because I can’t afford anything else. If I look like I’m urban punk and starving on purpose, I can keep some dignity. That’s all. Forgive?
Molly
~

Dear Molly,
This shit between us got complicated in a hurry. I like it better this way, self-revelation. You see through the stuff I don’t think is real, but is. Now we’re getting somewhere. Do you read? I mean literature or at least books, not just bullet points and tweets.
The Man
~

Dear Man,
I don’t know whether to say yes or no. You’re not going to assign homework, are you? You already sound smart. I don’t mean that as an insult. I admire it. I just may not be up to your level. I might disappoint. Yes. I read. I try to learn something about an idea out in left field as often as I can.
M
~
M
Why? Like what? You might be more interesting than either of us thinks.
PM
~

PM
Thanks, maybe…. First, the like what? part. Like quicksand. Geological stuff like that. As for why, well, let’s start with quicksand–my mom used to take us to the beach. Me and my brother made sand pools and dragged our action figures through them, made them crawl out on their bellies. Just thinking about it makes me feel happy. I like to study things that help me escape the suck.
Molly
~

Dear Molly
What would you do if you got caught in quicksand at night with nobody around?
Phat Man
~

PM
Hey now. I don’t like that question.
Mol
~

Hey, Mol
With this way of talking you can get misunderstood real easy. I wasn’t imagining anything ugly about you. I guess I was testing you to see if you really know about quicksand. And, about your own fear threshold.
PM
~

PM
What does a person have to do to get you to lighten up? Can you? I’m serious. Why are you testing me? You’re playing games, dude. Besides, nobody really gets swallowed up by the stuff. That’s movie myth. You can go up to your waste maybe and get stuck so you get sunburned, bug-bites, snake bites. But you don’t sink all the way because it’s liquefied soil. It constantly changes density from motion and pressure, goes from soup to solid. It can hold your mass up. Well maybe not your mass. Can I say something like that about your mass?
Molly Chloe
~

Hey, Molly Chloe,
Two first names ending in ee. I ate a large pizza today and drank a couple liters of Mountain Dew. I went through a bag of chips and another one of Oreos. And when I got all done, I thought of my new skinny Emo friend named Molly, so, I ate a raw carrot.

Yeah, you can talk about my size. I already told you I’m not sensitive about it. The bigger the mass, the more powerful the suck hole? Maybe. Who knows? You mean, it wouldn’t scare you to get stuck in one? Is that what you’re saying?
P
~
Dear whatever-your-real-name is,
I don’t get many chances to control my destiny. That takes money. The frightening part about being in quicksand isn’t risking death, it’s losing control. Losing the ground under your feet.
Moll
~

Moll,
Real sensual to have clay or muck clinging to you, pounds per square inch like that. I might like it. It could be like swimming naked. Lakes or the ocean. That’s where I’m weightless. I might like to feel the sands of time shifting beneath me, rearranging my immensity. Am I freaking you?
PM
~

Dude,
If you just said that to me at a party, I’d run. You can find chicks into freaky body high’s, but not me. Like I said, I’m in it for the clothes, not the kinky closet vibe. So, I’m trusting you to not be getting off on these threads. I’m trusting you to be the Phat Man you say you are, the real deal, up front. If you’ve got other body issues, the sick kind, just don’t log onto me, get it?
Chloe
~

Hey Miss Molly Chloe,
I respect that. I’m not pulling you into any darkness other than what’s already available between us on a voluntary basis. You’re turning out to be a thinker, awake. This is good. Curiosity takes me to the edges of things, like I wanna know where a thing starts and stops. We can talk about quicksand or any other marvel you want. We’re stretching. Right?

What do you think of the following? Last night I went to an Indy-music Afro-Latino jam. I know, not my usual venue. The percussionists were outa their minds on the groove. Women started dancing in front of the band with that same dream running in their heads. One woman, she was old, in a Tina Turner wig, danced with a scarf. Her bones and joints were stiff but she got going like oil in a fry pan till she was smoking hot, to the point of sliding around on the floor on her back like a charmed snake.

Some of the audience split. Too much for them. Women calling up the spirits like that. But the band? They never hesitated. They played for her and for the rest of us. They had something to say and a way to say it. Even Emo-Molly could have come out and done her punk-half-assed bored outa-her-mind dancing to it. Everybody’s legit.
Phat Man
~

What’s your real name, Phat Man?
Here’s my idea. I’d like to be a fly on a window looking into that dance hall but instead of seeing old ladies getting it on, I’d like to see us, Molly and the Huge One dancing free in a place like that with musicians who’ve seen it all. What do you know about flies? Could I do it, theoretically? Be one on the window of time?
Kafka
~
Dearest Kafka,
You’re getting better by the minute. You, Emo-girl, could never be a fly on a window. Your eyes would have to be as big as your head. You’d have trouble fitting your ugly sweaters over your thorax and your skinny legs wouldn’t hold your jeans up. And how could you comb your hair over one eye like you do? Plus, you’d have to stop dancing. But there is something we could do…. Interested?
PM
~

Skinny, Clever, Emo girl,
Didn’t hear back. Anyhow, here’s my idea: we should meet.
PM
~

Hey, Molly, I didn’t hear back. AGAIN. Did you get my last message? The one about meeting?
Eager to hear from you.
~

Molly Molly Mo Molly,
Are you out there? It’s been days. Don’t go dark on me!
PM
~

Sweet Little Molly,
WTF! Write back, even if you don’t like the idea. Just say so. We’ll go on writing from behind the veil. Okay?
PM
~

M
I’m despondent. Seriously. Write me.
~

Dear Despondent One
Yeah, yeah, I’m here. Don’t freak out. I’m sorry. I had to start a new job and couldn’t get to the library to use a computer. I can’t afford a smart phone or iPad or nothing, remember? And truth is, I did freak out a little about meeting. IF we do, what city? What place? What time? What then?
Molly Chloe
~
MC
At last. No worries. I’ll come to you. In case you don’t have bus fare. So, you tell me. We can recreate the Molly Ringwald and Hanks scene, where they finally meet up. I’ll wear a black and white neck scarf, so you don’t mistake me for a parked car.
PM
~

Hey,
That’s really nice of you to offer to come to me from wherever you are. It means you’re not in prison. But what if you hate what you see? What if appearances mean more to you than you say? You don’t know everything. For instance, it was Meg Ryan, not Molly Ringwald. But cute, you have Molly on your mind. And, what if I want you to buy my smoothie? They’re expensive you know.

Detroit, The Renaissance Center, Level A Food Court, 4 PM Thursday, the 19th. The place is so big you’ll feel small and that should make us both fine with your size. I’ll be wearing my uniform. Look for a white shirt with a hot pink neck tie. Don’t mess up. I won’t have a phone. You better be there. This is a big step. Into the quicksand we go.
Molly
~
___________________________________________________________________________________
After

Dear Person-formerly-known-as, Molly,
It’s been months. Took me a while to recover after the Ren Cen. I understand if you aren’t ready to start up again.
Paul
~

Dear Paul,
I was curious about how you handled it too. Like you said once, this shit between us got complicated in a hurry. Understatement of the century. Taking it slow.
My real name is Mark
~

Hey,
You wrote back. Decent of you. So, “Mark” it is. I did enjoy our thread. Sorry I bolted like that. I just wasn’t prepared, know what I mean? BTW: I Googled the RenCen after I got home. That place is fuckin’ awesome. They say it’s the tallest building in Michigan. It’s the second tallest hotel in the Western hemisphere. Just makin’ conversation here. I’m from Calumet, in the U.P. Never got around to telling you that. Which means, as you’ve probably guessed, I made most of that shit up about the Afro-Latino jam along with the rest. There’s no Detroit waterfront here. You were right to suggest meeting there. We needed the space.
Paul
~

He, Mark,
Me again. Like I say, can’t blame you if you want to stop writing. I blame myself. I should have walked over to you. But, dude, I was so confused by what I saw, you know? It wasn’t just me fucking with your mind. You’re a master at it. So now we know about quicksand. What a sight. You. That white shirt and pink tie. Jesus, there’s no way around it. You’re the one who’s gargantuan. And I mean that with all due respect. Considering… How do you want to proceed?
Paul
~

Mark (Kafka, Molly Chloe),
Maybe you don’t, want to proceed? Ever? Listen, you’re a prodigious dude and I’m a runt. So what? All my life I’ve been shoved in somebody’s locker. I just wanted to know what it was like to be different. So what? Here’s the thing. You’re the best cyber time I’ve ever had. Let’s go where we go. Friends?
Paul

18 Months Later

Dear Paul,
You there? I’m at the library, so hafta make this quick. We got evicted, moved in with relatives. I share a room with three cousins and their dad. Lo-Fi music freaks. They’re into analog synthesizers and space age pop. I know what you’re gonna say. They’re too young for cultural nostalgia. Right?
Mark

 


After teaching philosophy at Metro Detroit universities, Patricia Trentacoste now lives near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and writes fiction about quirky characters who transform emotionally after experiencing small but singular events. Having contributed to literary journals; academic philosophy forums, Women’s Day Magazine, and a tri-county bi-weekly paper, Patricia currently serves on the board of Michigan Writers, Inc. (FB, Twitter, Instagram.)

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