Short Story – Fat Chance!
This “coffee break” short story was first published in Take a Break in the summer of 1992. I’ve updated it so that the character can use email instead of a fax machine! Enjoy.
Myra Heptinstall was fat. Not “pleasantly plump” or “cuddly”, but lusciously, opulently fat.
Not that she minded, oh no. Myra positively liked being large. It was the most memorable thing about her. Without it she would be just a timid middle aged woman, blending into the background.
But people noticed her now. She smiled at her pale, round face in the mirror. How could they not when they had to stand back to let her pass, or squeeze into the quarter seat on the bus left beside her substantial rear?
“Myra! Where are you?” She struggled quickly to her feet as the front door slammed and Henry’s voice boomed along the hallway. Lumbering down the stairs as fast as her swollen legs would carry her, Myra joined her husband in the sitting room.
“Good evening, Dear,” she said breathlessly, sinking into an armchair.
“You’re the only person I know who gets out of breath coming down the stairs!” Henry snorted, his scowl deepening.
“Sorry, Dear,” Myra apologised automatically, her plump hands fluttering nervously in her wide lap. But Henry was not to be easily appeased. Myra’s heart sank as he launched into his familiar tirade.
“Look at you – you’re disgusting! I can’t be seen with you in public, you’re an embarrassment, an ugly mound of blubber…”
Myra let her mind wander as Henry ranted. There was beef stew and dumplings simmering in the oven for supper, with jam role-poly for afters, oozing wth strawberry jam… Myra’s tastebuds quivered in joyous anticipation. She glanced wearily at Henry. Henry was a schoolteacher. He was cleverer than her. It never crossed her mind to question him or tell him she disagreed with his opinion of her.
“Well let me tell you,” he continued, jabbing his forefinger at her, “I’ve had enough. You’re going on a diet!” He grinned nastily as he saw that he had caught her attention.
“Diet?” The horrible word came out as a strangled whisper.
“That’s right. And you’re starting right now. Go to your room, Myra, and don’t you dare come down those stairs again until I tell you you can.”
Dismayed, Myra stared into his red-rimmed eyes and realised with sick horror that he meant every word. Hot tears squeezed along the creases around her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She had no choice – she had to tell him she was perfectly happy with her body just as it was. “But Henry…” she ventured.
“Upstairs!” he roared, raising his hand as if to strike her, and she dared not say another word.
And so the nightmare began. Henry told the neighbours that Myra had gone to Whitby to look after her ailing mother, so no one missed her. He kept her locked in the house, curtains drawn and he emptied the cupboards of food. In the evenings when he cooked for himself, he locked Myra in her room where she sat, tortured by the smell of cooking, crying over her meal replacement shakes.
Slowly, Summer turned to Autumn, Winter came and went and Spring gave way to Summer again. Myra watched the seasons change from behind the net curtains in her bedroom as the flab dropped from her body, leaving the suddenly empty skin hanging in crestfallen folds around her middle.
Without her comforting cloak of flesh she felt naked. And as the weather grew warmer, so Myra’s heart grew cold, tightening into a hard, vengeful knot in her chest.
The day Henry finished work for the long Summer holiday, he gave Myra a new dress. He smiled almost approvingly at her as she tried it on. Her hair had grown long and returned to her natural brunette in the months of her imprisonment. She barely recognised the small face that stared back at her in the wardrobe mirror. It had visible cheekbones.
“There! I knew you could do it!” Henry told her, as if the diet had been her idea in the first place.
Eating normally was difficult at first, but Myra persevered, determined to regain her strength.
“Everyone thinks I’ve been at my mother’s all this time?” she asked Henry over breakfast a week later.
“That’s right – I think some of them feel a bit sorry for me!” he chuckled. “But I think you could ‘come home’ this weekend, don’t you?” Myra merely smiled.
That night, as Henry slept, Myra crept downstairs and opened his laptop. She emailed his resignation to his Head Teacher, telling her he was moving away over the Summer holidays. Jennie Wright wouldn’t bother to try to persuade him to stay – there was no love lost between them.
Then Myra went into the kitchen and put on the Marigolds. Henry always kept the knives sharp and clean. Dear, efficient Henry, she thought to herself as she took the carving knife upstairs to his room. It found its path as easily as if she were cutting through cheese.
No one took much notice of her as she slipped out of the house in her new dress the next morning. As she settled into her seat on the Whitby train, Myra took out a bag of cream buns she had bought from the M&S on the station and began to demolish them.
It was Christmas Eve when Inspector Deakin stepped off the train at Whitby and hailed a cab. He didn’t relish the forthcoming interview with Myra Heptinstall. It must have been a shock to hear that her husband had been murdered in his bed while she was looking after her mother. Especially when they reckoned he had been dead for six months or more. There had been no leads on the slender, brown haired woman who had been seen leaving the property, who might well have been the last person to see Henry Heptinstall alive.
As Myra answered his knock, the Inspector arranged his face into a suitably sorrowful expression. “Mrs Heptinstall?”
Myra nodded her neatly permed, blonde head and preceded him inside. The Inspector could not take his eyes off her huge behind as it swayed in front of him, slap, slap, slap against the walls of the narrow hallway.
“Damn,” he thought admiringly, ” but that woman is fat! Not pleasantly plump, or cuddly, but lusciously, flabbily and unashamedly FAT…”
© Jo Blackwell 2017 All Rights reserved
Please do not reproduce in any form without the prior permission of the author.
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