Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guest Writer: Harris Tobias


They’re after me. I haven’t much time to write but I’d like to get my story down before I’m caught, strapped to a table, and forced to surrender my precious fat.
Ever since passage of the Liposuction Act of 2012, it’s no longer safe to be a fat man in America. If you’re even 20 lbs overweight you must pay the fat tax. This is not a tax you pay with money, rather it’s forcible liposuction. Our fat is sucked from our bodies then turned into a bio fuel and sold back to us at the pump. Our government has marketed this unjust law to the people as a virtuous act. As if trampling on the rights of fat people was the right thing to do. Talk about spin. I have to admit, it is a win win situation for the state, it solves two of their big problems—obesity and our dependence on fossil fuels.
No one ever asked us fatties how we feel about it. Well I’ll tell you how I feel about it: it’s a violation of my civil rights not to mention a damn inconvenience. If you’re fat in America these days, you can be marched against your will to a suction station and your weight reduced by ten percent. For a guy my size, that’s thirty pounds. Sure, maybe I look better to you skinnies, but who gives a damn what you think? For months after, nothing fits right. Let’s face it; it’s a pain in the butt, literally.
Well they’re not getting any more of my fat. Not this time, not if I can help it. They caught me twice before. They got their pound of flesh and I don’t intend for them to get anymore. The suction reduced my waist size by several inches and a lot of skinny people remarked that I was "looking good”. Their idea of looking good looks like anorexia to me. What they don’t seem to realize is that I like the way I look. It takes me months to put the weight back on and feel myself again. You want to look undernourished, that’s your choice. Me, I like the well upholstered look, big. round, meaty. Another thing no one talks about is that liposuction hurts, and that sound, it sounds like fifty teenagers sucking up the last of their milk shakes from the bottoms of their glasses.
I’ve heard all the arguments about lipo-fuels being the patriotic thing to do; about it being for the common good, in the nation’s best interest and, as they’re only too happy to point out, in my best interest too. Well, the national interest be damned. What about a man’s right to look the way he wants to look? It’s my blubber and I intend to keep it. I’m not a national resource. I’m a thinking, feeling human being for God’s sake not some stinking oil well.
After the fat riots in 2013, things simmered down some. The National Fat People’s Alliance (NAFPA) succeeded in winning a few protections. The much heralded Fat Person’s Bill of Rights guarantees that fat folks cannot be subjected to more than two lipos a year and that no more than ten percent of body weight can be extracted. Even with these restrictions, 25% of the nation’s fuel comes from its fat citizens. I’m secretly proud of that fact despite my public statements to the contrary.
Our lipo-fuels program has become a model for other countries. I recently read that Brazilians have changed their national diet from rice and beans to Doritos and cookies. It’s estimated that America has the largest fat reserves on the planet and it’s a renewable resource. Most of the world envies us. Those skinny Arabs are eating their hearts out. They simply don’t have the long cultural tradition of unhealthy eating and sedentary living that we do, not to mention the poor snack infra-structure in much of the undeveloped world.

My girlfriend Shirley and I are on our way to seek asylum in Mexico. We’ll miss the thousand calorie bacon burgers, but we value our freedom more. Besides, the easily available tacos, gringas, huaraches, and so forth provide plenty of high fat, high salt snacks and there are plenty of fat Mexicans who are free to live their lives as they see fit and are not forced to surrender their precious blubber to some misguided notion of public health and fuel economy.
It’s a long drive. We’re taking back roads to avoid roadblock weigh-ins. They’re another humiliation we fatties are forced to endure. They make us get out of our cars and get on a scale. If your weight doesn’t match their chart, you get a summons to report to a lipo center. If you don’t show up, they come and get you. It’s worse than a speeding ticket—it not only slows you down, it ruins your appetite for the entire day.
The trouble with taking back roads, though, is the limited eating choices they offer. But we are managing. We picnic often and eat at small restaurants only. The bigger places, especially the all-you-can-eat places are always watched by the fat-baggers, that’s what we call the lipo-cops. You can always tell a fat-bagger, they’re invariably thin with a wolfish look, like food was a personal affront rather than the pleasure it is.
My name, by the way, is Oliver Hardy, the same as the silent film star. Unfortunately, that’s where the resemblance ends as I weigh 308 pounds and stand fife feet five inches tall. Shirley is built the same. We’re both fat but it’s not our fault. I have a gland condition and Shirley was abused as a child. I love Shirley. I love her roundness, her acres of flesh and her unending plumpness. And I’m sure that she loves me. She calls me her ‘rolly polly’ and I call her ‘quivers’. All we want is to be left alone, preferably with a double cheeseburger and a large fries. It used to be that a man could be as fat as he wanted but those days, it seems, are gone for good. A man’s fat is his castle and no government should be able to take it from him. Revolutions have been fought for less reason.
Shirley has been driving while I write. She has one hand on the wheel and the other deep in a bag of potato chips. She points a greasy hand at the road ahead and sprays the windshield with soggy crumbs. Her arms are the size of Virginia Hams, I can see flecks of salt on her lips. It makes me hungry just to look at her. Shirley sees a Dairy Queen up ahead and wants to make a pit stop and maybe get a bite to eat. I think that’s a good idea and she pulls into the parking lot. I decide to wait in the car and write. The car along side of us is filled with skinny teenagers. I hear them hoot and jeer as Shirley makes her way toward the counter. “Hey, fatty, how about a fill up,” one of them yells. Rude and nasty skinnies. Don’t they realize that their hurtful remarks only add to Shirley's insecurity? If they mock us in Mexico, at least we won’t be able to understand them.
Shirley returns with a double cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake for each of us. It feels good to eat. It’s stressful being on the lam. I pull in to a filling station and get out to fill the tank with bio-fuel. I chew my burger and sip my shake while the gas pump ticks off the gallons. I wonder if I’ll like Mexico. I wonder if Shirley is going to finish her fries. I wonder what will happen at the border. It may cost me thirty pounds of lovely fat to be free. I snitch a couple of fries from Shirley's pack. She slaps my hand away and pulls out into traffic.

Grandma Bixby's Teeth

Everyone loved Grandma Bixby. You could tell by the big crowd at her funeral. There must have been a hundred mourners passing by her coffin. My Mom knew her and dragged me there and I have to say, the old bat never looked better. The funeral home did a swell job with the clothes and the makeup. I hardly recognized her as the line of mourners shuffled closer to the coffin. Her hair was neat and her teeth were polished. You never saw the old lady actually wearing her dentures. She always kept them soaking in a glass of water next to her bed.
The reason I know about the glass with the teeth in it is because I saw them first hand. She wasn't wearing them the last time I saw her, at least not so I noticed. She was walking down the street looking just as feisty and messy and old as always. She walked pretty good for an old lady. Sure she used a cane but she moved right along. I was standing on the corner drinking 40s with my man Shooter. We were just passing the bag back and forth when Shooter stopped her.
"Hey Grandma, where you goin'?" said Shooter. "You like a hit?" offering her the bag.
Grandma stopped and fixed us in a steely gaze and pointed her cane at me and said, "Norman Jefferson and Marcus James, why ain't you boys in school? Standin' on this corner, drinkin' and wastin' your life away. I knew both your daddy's and they was hard workin', god fearin' men. You boys get yourselves to school now, hear? Don't you want to amount to something?"
Me 'n Shooter just laughed and Grandma cast us an evil eye and walked off muttering to herself. I don't think she had her teeth in then, she hardly ever wore them but I really don't remember. But I do remember Shooter takin 'a good pull off the 40 and sayin', "I bet she's goin' to the bank to cash her social security check. I hear she takes that money home and hides it away. I bet she's got a shit load of money sittin' in a drawer somewhere."
Well. maybe it was the beer, but before we knew it we was climbin' the fire escape to Grandma's apartment not fifteen minutes later. I swear, it was a piece of cake. Shooter knew just where she lived on account of her being his momma's aunt and all. Her window wasn't open but it didn't take all that much to get inside. The place looked like it was a hundred years old which was probably not too far from the truth. Old black and white photographs in old fashioned frames hung on the walls. The furniture was old, the linoleum was old, even the refrigerator looked like it came from an antique store. Anyway, Shooter got right to work lookin' for the money. He was dumpin' stuff out of drawers and closets and makin' a tremendous mess. All he found was old lady hats and old lady underpants and funny shit that nobody wears anymore. But there was no damn money. Shooter was gettin;' angrier by the minute.
I was lookin' under Grandma's bed and checking out the mattress when I noticed the glass with Grandma's teeth in it. It gave me the creeps because those teeth were following Shooter around the room like they were watchin' him. I tore off Grandma's bedding while old Shooter began dumping out the kitchen out of pure meanness.
Just then, the door opened and Grandma walked in. She looked from Shooter to me and just shook her head from side to side. She never got to say a word before Shooter grabbed her cane and began beating her over the head with it. It was a good solid cane and it didn't take too many blows to drive the life right out of the old lady.
The whole time, the teeth in the glass fixed their gaze on Shooter and when he delivered the fifth or sixth blow, the teeth began to chatter. That's when I ran from the room and down the fire escape all the way home. I never saw what happened to Shooter. I heard they found his body in the alley. They say he must have been attacked by a pack of dogs, he was so chewed up. I don't know. I never saw any dogs when I was running home.
The line moves so slowly. Lots of people from the neighborhood crying and saying goodbye. The funeral people did a good job on her. You can't see her bloody head. She looks peaceful. A lot of people are putting flowers on the coffin. My mother is just ahead of me. She lays a rose on the wooden box. Now it's my turn. I put my rose on the coffin. I don't want to look at her face. I'm sorry for what I done. I try to say I'm sorry to Grandma but before I can open my mouth I see that grandma has opened hers. Her teeth look at me and chatter.

© Harris Tobias 2010

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.


  1. Fill 'er up - what a great job you did sustaining your story of Oliver and Shirley - and what an original, yucky idea it was too - horribly believable in many ways, and NOT good to read straight after breakfast.
    Grandma's teeth were equally unsettling, with a slow twist to take one by chattering surprise at the very end.
    A good job, Harris.

  2. G'Ma and her teeth is a hoot with wonderful pacing and prose, just an endearing tale and wild ride. Very fun.

  3. FILL ‘ER UP - I love Oliver and your portrayal of Americans and their obsession with fat issues. I would tighten the part with Shirley a bit since she is his "partner in crime" and he loves her so. A great article for print...!! Perhaps NY Times? (Also, as some feedback - and I hope you don't mind, the story may be stronger by eliminating how "they" are after him and the part of him writing while Shirley drives. (Distracting) Beginning at "Ever since passage of the Liposuction Act of 2012," just a suggestion? Looking forward to reading about G'Ma.

  4. Harris Tobias has a new fan... I love the dark humor.

  5. These are both great pieces; well paced, authentic voice and sprinkled with a brilliant dark humour.
    Adam B

  6. I just read your Fill'er Up. I could hardly read this for laughing. Great fun.

  7. There he is at the border, running to save his hide, and he wonders whether Shirley is going to finish those fries! Hahahahahaha!
    I like that this piece juggles plausibility and excess (which are separated by a very fine membrane). I mean, no, the government is not harvesting our fat but yes, the government could very well soon harvest our fat. Liked this.

  8. The story about the Fat tax was freaking hilarious! I so needed that after the week of hell I've been through.

    And God, please don't ever let me run into Gran's teeth man, my grandma's teeth used to scare the crap out of me. I would avoid the bathroom on the main floor whenever I stayed the night at her house...

  9. Grandma's teeth, made me sad. But you did a great job on the story.

  10. "A man's fat is his castle" might be the best line ever. I didn't know whether to laugh hysterically at the tongue-in-cheek manner of this or to grab my flag and go protest in horror. It's a brilliant idea. I do wonder, though, since fat would be fuel, why fat people aren't housed and fed like kings, treated like royalty, and encouraged to eat and gain weight in exchange for their fat.

  11. Harris, thanks for letting MuDJoB post these two wacky tales, one with the most improbable plot and one where violence begets a certain comedic retribution. These were so different from the MuDJoB standard and the site is all the better for having explored strange avenues. I especially enjoyed FILL 'ER UP's tie-in with Mexico, my adopted home. Anytime you feel like venturing this way again, you're more than welcome.

  12. LIPO: psst-- i'll email you a big'n'tall clothing place in an alley, and the special knock to get in, etc This was other-worldly good! Fabulous'est line for me, "...poor snack infra-structure," which just put me away.
    CHOPPERS: funny + macabre. And teeth in the glass following one around the room? Perfection.

  13. As a writer I thrive on your comments. Thank you all so much for posting such encouraging words. I am pleased and proud that you liked my stories.


  14. Harris is a fun writer. I highly recommend his novel, The Greer Agency.

  15. Harris, your story has me shaking in my fat boots! Pray God they never make obesity a crime!

  16. Harris, as usual, a brilliant mix of humor and darkness. And to all those readers above who agree, get Harris's recent book The Greer Agency -- you'll love it.


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