after Raymond Carver
A slow Wednesday when Herb seats the fat man
at my station. He’s the fattest person I’ve ever
seen, though he’s well-dressed enough. It’s
the fingers I remember best—long, thick, three
times the size of a normal person’s fingers. I see
to my other tables, give him plenty of time to
make up his mind. He has this way of speaking—
he makes little puffing sounds every so often.
I think we will begin with a Caesar, he says.
Then a bowl of soup and some extra bread and
butter, please. The lamb chops, he says, and
a baked potato with sour cream. And we’ll see
about dessert later. Thank you, he says, and
hands me the menu. I turn in the order to Rudy,
and go make the salad there at the fat man’s table,
him watching me while buttering pieces of bread
and laying them off to one side, all the time with
his puffing noise. I’m so keyed up I knock over
his glass. I’m so sorry, I say. It’s nothing, he says,
and puffs. Don’t worry about it. A little later I
bring him more bread, and he says, This bread
is marvelous. When I serve his soup, I see the bread
has disappeared again. I put down another basket.
Is it warm in here, or is it just me? he says. No,
it’s warm, I say. The place starts emptying out.
By the time I serve his chops and potato, along
with more bread, he’s the only one left. I drop
lots of sour cream onto his potato. I sprinkle
bacon and chives over it. Everything all right?
I say. Fine he says and then puffs. Excellent,
he says, then puffs again. For dessert, I say,
there’s the Green Lantern special, which is
a pudding cake with sauce, or there’s cheese-
cake, or vanilla ice cream, or pineapple sherbet.
We’re not making you late, are we? he says,
looking concerned. Of course not, I say. Take
your time. We’ll be honest, he says. We would
like the Special, but also a dish of ice cream, just
a drop of chocolate syrup please. I go off
to the kitchen, and Rudy says, Some fatty. Rudy,
I say. He’s fat, but that’s not the whole story.
Rudy just laughs. I put the Special in front of
the fat man and a big bowl of ice cream with
syrup on the side. Thank you, he says. You
are very welcome, I say. Believe it or not,
he says. We have not always eaten like this.
Me, I eat and eat and can’t gain, I say. I’d like to.
No, he says, if we had our choice, no. Then
he picks up his spoon and eats and that’s it.
Nothing else. He leaves and we go home,
Rudy and me. I knew a fat guy, he says,
a couple of fat guys, really fat. Fat, he says.
That’s the only name this one kid had. We
called him Fat. I can’t think of anything to say.
Later when we get into bed, he begins. I turn
and relax some, though it’s against my will.
But here’s the thing. When he gets on me,
I feel terrifically fat, so fat that he’s a tiny thing,
hardly there at all. It’s August. I feel it. My life
is going to change.