Author: Ella Peters
Ella lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her partner and two cats. She spends 85% of her time reading and writing, and 15% working as a Customer Service Goddess.
Fat Girl Slim
Forty-five years ago I must have been born a miracle baby. I weighed a whopping 200 pounds! Mom will tell you my birth weight was 7 pounds 4 ounces, but I’ll swear it’s a tale. I’ve always thought of myself as 200 pounds.
I remember being three. That was the year mom had someone take pictures of me at our house. “What a goofball,” I thought at the time. “He must be half my size and he’s trying to get me to smile at a bird on a stick!” The thought brought on an exaggerated Mona Lisa grin that he captured with success. It still holds a place of pride on my parents’ mantle, faded from years in the sunlight, warped from the heat of winter fires.
When I started school, all the other kids were like munchkins from Oz to me. They would nimbly hop and skip on the playground while I trudged and clomped through the grass, my shoes creating gargantuan craters. The kids didn’t treat me like the giant I was; they acted as though I was the same as them. I didn’t buy it.
Some nights my father would come to my bedroom to tell me bedtime stories. They were good stories, with actions to accompany the tales of the Wicked Witch and her nemesis, Googly Bear (my favorite stuffed toy). The stories felt good being acted out on my lightly covered body. If I wasn’t sick in the morning (which was often the case), I would get a special breakfast of pancakes or French toast and fruit. I liked it so much I’d have an after-school treat as well—ice cream, cake, or chocolate. I had a giant’s appetite.
My family knew I was a giant, even if the kids at school pretended otherwise. When I was 10, my older brother and sister started calling me “Fatty.” My parents thought this was such a good idea that the whole family joined in. I never complained—not really. It was a true likeness to who I was, so I went along with it. Because I was 200 pounds.
When I finished school, I got a job and moved into an apartment. I enjoyed being on my own; it was great not to have to clean the apartment, and I could eat whatever I wanted, or not even eat at all. I spent my extra money on nice clothes instead of food. With my parents inviting me to dinner every Sunday, I would eat a week’s worth that night so I could eat one meal a day and still afford the things I wanted.
One particular Sunday, a year or two ago, I went to my parents’ for dinner. My brother and sister were there with their spouses and kids (whom I adored). I played with the children and pretended I was little, like them. The whole family sat around the living room that night, laughing and joking. It was fun … until after dessert when my sister’s five-year-old daughter, sitting on my lap, looked at me and said, “Andy Semenda?” (her way of saying Aunty Samantha), “Why dey call you Faddy?”
I laughed and said, “Because that’s who I’ve always been!”
She appeared confused, and poked my belly. “You’re not fad!” she said, lower lip extended in a pout. “You skinny like mommy!” She looked worried that my family referred to something that wasn’t real. I was used to it; it was the way things were in that house. I was "Fatty" there, so my family could imagine the world searching for my extra flesh. It was safer that people looked at me
instead of the family as a whole.
“Don’t worry about it, Kendra,” I said. “I like who I am, even if they call me Fatty.”
My sister and her family were staying the night. They didn’t want to make the long drive home as it was a holiday weekend. All the bedrooms still had beds everyone could sleep in. After I’d read Kendra and her little brothers a book from my old collection, my father offered to tell Kendra one of his special stories from a long time ago. About the Wicked Witch and Googly Bear. A chill ran up my spine as I felt the sweat forming under my arms and on my forehead. “Why don’t you tell the story to all of us?” I asked. My father blushed, looking at everyone in the room.
I heard my brother’s voice from behind his three-month-old son’s head. “Why can’t we all hear the tale of the Wicked Witch?” He looked at me and winked. My sister, however, sat next to her husband in silence, looking at the floral pattern of her Laura Ashley skirt.
“Oh, it’s a bedtime story that can only be told once a sleepy girl is in bed for the night,” my father said, his blush changing from pink to deep red. He stopped speaking and walked to the kitchen, ostensibly to help mom with the dishes. I knew better.
I stayed later than usual that night, tucking the kids into their beds. I was still there after my sister and brother-in-law were settled in their rooms. Before I went home for the night, I climbed the familiar stairs with as much stealth as my 200-pound frame could muster. Standing outside my old bedroom was dear old Dad in his bathrobe, reaching for the doorknob.
By the light of the moon through the windows of my childhood, I saw the shadow of his hand reaching forward like the talon of a bird of prey, with saliva glistening and starting to drip off his canines, into the hairs of his greying beard. His eyes were luminous in the darkened hallway; when he glanced in my direction, it was like seeing a deer caught in the headlights of my car. “Heh, heh,” he chuckled. “Just going to give my little Kendra a bedtime kiss,” he said.
I stood at the top of the stairs and glared at him. I didn’t move. I didn’t think. “Why are you here so late tonight?” he asked. As I looked at him, his countenance changed. The spittle I’d seen before was still in his beard, but his teeth were no longer bared, eyes no longer gleaming like an animal’s.
I want to be Googly Bear, the good guy against the Wicked Witch, I thought, but only said, “I wanted to check on the kids.”
We both went into my old bedroom. I stood by as my father bent to kiss the top of Kendra’s little blonde head. In her innocence, she wrapped her small arms around his neck and lightly kissed him on the cheek, giggling at the whiskers tickling her face. He didn’t say anything, just walked from the room as I went to sit beside her. Stroking her cheek, I gazed down at her sleeping face. “I love you, Kendra,” I said.
Looking down the hallway toward my parents’ room, I closed the door so that not even a click could be heard. There were no sounds anywhere in the house as I glided down the stairs. He wouldn’t return. He realized that I’d seen his true face again, his nature. Once you see past the surface of things, you take away the mystery and remove the power that they have.
I went home that night and stepped on my bathroom scale. The needle steadied on 125. I knew it wasn’t lying. It had never lied. Scales don’t lie, only people do. I sat at my own small kitchen table, littered with junk mail, an unwashed breakfast bowl and a half cup of cold coffee. The Haagen-Dazs never tasted so good.