Exit Music

Aware of the nearing end of the long, slow march, he nonetheless was surprised at a development that he had worked nearly his whole life to achieve: thinness. Not like some misguided runway model, puking her guts out in between lingerie shoots, sucking down seltzer water like it was really good booze, relishing every last bite of a stalk of celery, but like a prizefighter preparing for a big bout: watching everything going in for so long that it became almost second nature. Until that grew to be too depressing, and the call of the cheeseburger was loud enough to drown out the sound of oncoming trains.

The lifelong quest not to be overweight, which consumes most of the time, cognitive ability and money of more people than would fit in Central Park on a cloudy day, well that quest was a lot like Jason's, a lot like the guys sitting there hoping Godot would arrive shortly, and not so much like the one that Otis Redding made famous.

So the arrival of the wasting time, so long in coming (had it really been almost two years since he realized the scary truth?) filled him with a perverse sort of joy. At last, something, for all that he had accomplished, something that Mom would really be genuinely proud of: he would be thin. Just like Daddy was when he fell onto the floor of the dining room. Nearly skin and bones. But not exactly: no diabetes had burrowed into his insides, like Daddy. No, just something that was hungry. Hungry for all that extra weight: voracious, unyielding, incessant, demanding.

And for a great cook and avowed lover of food, there could have been no better news, no matter how Act III ended: he could eat most anything, and there would be no devil to pay at all, no regrets, no "fat clothes." Perfect. He would not leave a young corpse, like James Dean was able to do, but it would be a thin one, that was for sure. Thin. The word seemed so foreign that he had to repeat it, silently, on a regular basis to believe that it would apply to him.

He noticed too, that despite his considerable appetite, and his feeding of that beast, and a relatively light routine, day-in and day-out, that his strength was not what it used to be. The 37-pound filled propane tank for the gas grill seemed heavier that afternoon as he hoisted it into the trunk of the car. Once able to bench press 250, he doubted that he could manage 100 now, and he was still near 200 pounds. Muscle degeneration.

And so, with a good bottle of some sour mash, the question then became the proper exit music. He had always imagined that if there were any, if he did not die in a car crash or a hail of bullets, that it would be The Beatles. But suddenly, it seemed so far way, and he was torn between The Four Freshmen and Dinah Washington. Realizing that the boys would be boys, and that the testosterone would not be an appropriate coda, he opted for the swingin' Miss D, and set the machine on repeat. The rest, of course, is a mystery.

May 29, 2009.
Copyright © 2009, Ricky A. Pursley. All rights reserved.

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