Me and Buddy

by Susan Tepper

Buddy put on so much weight he stays in bed all the time. He needs a bed pan which I have to supply. Which I also have to empty. Etc. I won't go into the...details. Trust me when I say life with Buddy has been a trial. He's pushing 60 come this December. If I had to guess his current weight I would say around 500 give or take a few pounds. Maybe it's 700. When you start observing that kind of poundage you can easily be a few hundred off. The docs have told Buddy his life span is shortened by some twenty years. He seems unconcerned. The bed sheets haven't been changed since last Christmas when I decided to move into the guest room. My sister Delia, a talented psychic, warned me. Way back in my twenties. Don't marry a fat man, she said.

When Buddy and I first met he was a little chubby. More like baby fat. Delia took one look and gave me her no-no frown. I ignored it. Buddy started packing on the pounds pretty fast. For our honeymoon, we did a package deal of air, room, food and sports in the Bahamas. He put the sport's vouchers inside the dresser drawer.

Barefoot, I stood on the coolness of terracotta tile. Gazed toward the sparkling ocean beyond the open sliders of our honeymoon suite. "I always wanted to learn to snorkel," I told him.

"There's nothing of interest down there. Just murky water and live fish."

"I brought a special yellow bikini. Snorkel yellow." That last part was a joke.

"It's very pretty," he said.

At meal times he grazed that mile-long buffet table dry. I remember it clearly—Buddy like a slow moving animal in a field of fresh grass. Meals lasted hours. We were the first in the dining room and the last to leave. It became a thing among the waiters.

I started really hating the waiters, those phony penguins in their tuxedo shirts with the clip-on bow ties. The waiters took Buddy's gluttony as a sign of high praise. The waiters identified with the food. If the food was complimented, the waiter would throw out his chest as if he were being knighted. A woman complained about her meal. She called the shrimp dreck. I thought the waiter was going to throw the plate in her face as he removed it.

One waiter in particular I really despised. The one bringing Buddy the extra treats every meal. Special desserts from the kitchen that were not on the buffet. Why? Why were they not on the buffet? Where were they going if not on the buffet? A personal gold box of Godiva chocolates was presented to Buddy. When I mentioned not noticing Godiva on the buffet, the waiter winked. He said they saved it for special guests. So where is my box of Godiva? I'd thought. At that point in our honeymoon I was hardly able to get a salad down. That week Buddy put on a ton of weight while my tropical clothes were beginning to bag.

By the time we boarded the plane to go home he needed a seat-belt extender. How embarrassing is that! The flight attendant made a little joke over it, she and Buddy having a little private laugh. How private? He overlapped into the seat next to him. It annoyed the hell out of the man on the other side. Buy two seats next time, the man told Buddy. Buddy said I did. One for me and one for my girl. He patted my knee.

I just nodded and felt like slipping under the seat. I was thin enough.

By the time the cocktail cart did its two rounds, Buddy and his seat-mate were exchanging war stories. They both liked the cross-words and Sudoku. The guy passed Buddy his unwanted items off the dinner tray.

Nobody gets it. Not even my shrink. "He's a good man," she says. "He does support you."

"Online poker from the bed," I say.

Her husband is a lawyer. He gets up and goes to court.

"If you think empting bedpans isn't work!" I tell her this almost at screech level. Why don't you try empting bedpans? Bitch. What's it to her? What's it to anyone? Nobody cares. They ask how's Buddy doing and they nod nod nod; act sympathetic; escape into their wine and weed.

These past thirty years have been lonely. People would not let him in their cars for fear of the seat collapsing. Ditto their furniture. It has made for a solitary lifestyle. Just me and Buddy. No kids. It's like having a tree crash through your roof and land in your bed.

BIO: Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her current title The Merrill Diaries (Pure Slush Books, 2013) is a Novel in Stories. Tepper writes the monthly columns "Let's Talk" at Black Heart Magazine and UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles. She's been listed on notable stories 2014 for story/South Million Writers Award, been nominated 9 times for the Puschart Prize, and one time for a Pulitzer in fiction for her novel What May Have Been (co-author Gary Percesepe, published by Cervena Barva Press, 2010. www.susantepper.com