I’m all alone now.
Nobody but me, this diary and all these cats.
My aunt Peggy always said a person all by themselves can never be alone as a person with a bunch of cats. I didn’t used to agree with that but boy, I sure do now! There must be twenty or thirty of those critters down here with me and they ain’t much for company. I never see ’em in the daytime but I hear ’em scampering around at night when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe the more cats you have the more lonesome you feel. If that’s true, there must be a million cats hiding around here.
Don’t get me wrong! I love it here, but it sure it would be nice to have someone to talk to. All I’ve got for human voices is me and the TV.
I saw on one of those daytime talk shows that writing things down can help someone feel less lonesome. There was a notebook and some pens in the supplies that the Little Gentleman left with me, so here goes. Not to sound ungrateful for all I have, but I guess this means I’m feeling lonesome!
My name is Becca Beckett. I grew up on a farm in Ketucky and lived in the same town my whole life. I used to weigh seven hundred pounds but I weigh thirteen-hundred pounds and I live in an decommissioned missile silo in central Kansas. My whole life in Kentucky ended when Quester kicked the bucket.
Oh Lord, I guess I’m going to cry again.
I miss him so stinking much!
I never figured between the two of us that Quester would go first. That man was so stick-thin I could wrap my fingers all the way around his arm. Come to think of it, I could damn near wrap both of my hands around his waist. Guess I got to thinking over the years that thin meant healthy, which is dumb. Dumb as a duck on drugs as Aunt Peggy used to say. I was too far the one way, he was to far the other. Only a matter of time before one of us went. God knows I didn’t want it to be him, but he went up and croaked anyway.
I could feel it in my bones when Quester went. Same way I felt aunt Peggy go. Same way I felt uncle Jack go. After all, in fifteen years, my Thursday bucket of chicken wasn’t never more than five minutes late. Ten minutes after six, when he still wasn’t home with my Thursday bucket of chicken, I knew. You don’t forget a feeling like that.
It took another four hours before the police showed up. When I saw lights coming through the front window I about lost my mind. I could see them even all the way from the back of the house. After I got too big to leave my bedroom, Quester had put some mirrors up for me so I could see pretty much the whole house. I wouldn’t have needed them mirrors with the lights and the sirens, though. Lit the whole house up like Christmas, all red and blue.
The cop hammered on the door for what felt like an hour before I could work up the courage to answer. I didn’t want to talk to him, you see. Even then, I didn’t talk to nobody but Quester. I only really said something because I was afraid he was going to kick down the door, which he ended up doing anyway. I guess that was inevitable. It’s not like I could have got up to unlock it for him.
“Hello?” I bleated.
I sounded just like a lost little lamb from Aunt Peggy’s farm, all quavering and small. God, isn’t that embarrassing? I was thirty-seven years old and I might as well have been a baby.
“Ma’am? Open the door. It’s the police,” the cop said.
It was a scary voice! All deep and macho! You know how cops talk in all the shows? It was like that. Not at all like my soft-spoken Quester. When that man screamed it hadn’t been nothing more than a whisper. Since it’s just me down here, I guess I can admit that he was quiet even in our passions together except for his breathing. I miss that sound more than any other. Lord, I’m blushing and crying now! Anyway, back to the cop.
Lord, Becca, what are people going to think when they read this! You’ve got to focus!
I couldn’t say anything again because that voice was too scary. My throat was all squeezed up like someone was choking me.
“Ma’am? Open the door please. We have some news,” the cop said again.
Like I said, I knew Quester was dead. It was one thing to know that, it was another thing to be confronted with the reality of it. Reality is about as vulgar a thing as I know exists. If I had any stomach for it, I probably wouldn’t have holed myself away in that bedroom for all those years. No matter how you build your castles in the sand and the tide comes just the same, I suppose. Took me a while to find the courage to speak again, but eventually I did.
“Go away, please,” I said.
I hadn’t blubbered like that since I was a little girl, and even thinking of it now brings a tear of shame to my eye.
I didn’t have much family. My parents runned off when I was just a girl and my Aunt Peggy raised me. She’d been dead for years and years by that point so the only person I’d had in the whole world was Quester and he’d been the only person to even glimpse me in over a decade. The last person other than him who had seen me was the cable man, and even he’d only had a glimpse. Quester had made sure to hang some sheets up to preserve my privacy, though. Such a sweet man.
I didn’t have anything like them sheets to protect my privacy from that dang cop! Since Quester stopped being able to find muumuus that fit me I was naked as a jay bird, sitting on my mattress for the whole world to see like Eve in the Garden. Lord, now I’m blushing so bad I can feel it!
“Ma’am, please open the door. This is the kind of news you want face to face. Will you please unlock the door?” even when the cop was trying to be kind I didn’t trust his voice at all. Too overpowering, too worldly. Like uncle Jack’s voice when he told me that I was digging my grave with a knife and fork.
“I can’t. I can’t unlock the door. I… I can’t move,” I confessed.
There was some yelling after I said that, but I blocked most of it out. Got to be too intense, so I just cried and shut my eyes and listened to him kick in the door. I heard the cop curse, flicking every light switch he could find trying to get enough light to see, except of course Quester had taken out the bulbs so that I could be left in my peaceful dark. Too much light is a vulgar thing, too. I’m fine with only the gentle glow of a television, and that’s what I had on me, just the frozen light coming from the paused show I’d been watching. Then that damn cop’s flashlight bobbed all over the place like the dog gone sun was having a stroke. Shined it right in my face and then he said all the things I knew he’d say.
Gag, what the flipping frick (he was more vulgar than that), are you okay, what the heck (he was less professional) is going on here? Can you hear me? Your husband is dead. Oh God, are you okay? What’s wrong?
Not everyday he sees an seven-hundred pound woman, I guess.
The cop started coughing, and then he seemed like he wanted to puke, which made me cry even more. Quester washed me every third day but even then I knew there was still a smell. Sometimes when I first woke up in the morning I could smell it too, like sour milk and weewee, although I’d long since grown accustomed to it and Quester hadn’t minded none. The cop made a big production of it though and I felt all ashamed. Even though I was naked I might as well have been wearing a red blanket I was so ashamed. Only time in my life I blushed so bad it burned.
“Don’t look at me,” I begged, “please God, don’t look at me like that.”
He tried to be so nice after I begged. That was the worst thing. The way he pitied me. The way he felt so bad for me being in there, as if being there hadn’t been my choice and as if it hadn’t been the life I wanted to live. As if I wasn’t exactly who I wanted to be. As if I was crazy for not wanting to go to the hospital and get poked and prodded and talked down to by a bunch of busy-body doctors.
I couldn’t speak to stop any of it, of course. Not with Quester dead of a brain aneurysm, and his body growing colder by the minute right where he’d been standing in the production line at the factory. Not with all those cops and paramedics around me trying to get me to stop crying. Not with me slapping away their hands and screaming every time they tried to get close with their needles.
It took half an hour for one of them to find someway to knock me out. I think they put a rag over my mouth but I don’t remember it too well. I woke up in a hospital and I bet I would have had to have stayed there if it hadn’t been for that nice young gentleman and his offer for this amazing job.
Anyway, I’m tired of writing. Makes my wrist hurt like the dickens. I’ve got Netflix down here and between this diary and that, it’s about all the company I can stand. Even with all those goddamn cats living in the walls of this place.
I wonder if I might be able to tame one.
Might be nice to watch a critter walking around down here.
Good night. I’m going to go eat some chicken.
The cats are getting curious about me! Only took a week! I left some chicken bones out and they were gone this morning when I woke up. Maybe they’ll want to be friends after all? I think I could be friends with a cat. Not like they take a lot of energy, or so I’ve heard.
Lord I feel like I can already feel one snuggled up against me, purring!
Enough of that, though. I guess I should talk more about how I ended up in this place in case anyone finds this after I die.
I was in a pretty bad mood when I woke up in the hospital, as you’d probably guess. I had doctors poking and prodding me and trying to ask me how long I’d been at such and such a weight, and what I ate most of the time and so on and so forth.
Everyone eager to “help” in other words.
No one would do what I wanted, which was leave me the heck alone and take me back to my house or get me some darn food. Turns out the hospital nutritionist took up a personal interest in my case, and that witch wouldn’t let me eat hardly nothing. I kept seeing all kinds of awards for her being employee of the month but she didn’t fool me any. That woman had a cold and cruel heart.
I also found out later that no one could have even taken me back to my room because some dang fireman went overkill and cut a hole in the side of my bedroom with a chainsaw to get me out.
So, no food, no house, and no Quester.
I’d never felt as safe in my whole life as I felt in that little room. In that room I’d been a perfect little ship in a bottle, the product of Quester’s infinite love and inestimable patience. I ripened and grew in that room from the fruit of his labors and he treasured me like I was gold. Laying in that hospital bed I felt like nothing more than a bundle of gull dang wood dashed on the rocks. Like a bunch of wreckage.
What else? Hard to think of specifics because there was so dang much going on! That hospital was so busy. Everyone wanted to talk to me every minute.
A team of surgeons wanted to perform emergency liposuction. Then they wanted to give me one of those dang bands around my stomach. What they wanted was for me to make a bunch of decisions when the love of my life was dead. They wanted me to undo the beautiful creation he’d made out of me. What did they expect with so much going on? The only choice I’d been able to make was to accept the county’s offer to cremate Quester and other than that all I’d wanted was quiet and a bucket of chicken, which no would oblige.
And oh Lord, the doctor they assigned to me! Worse than the nutritionist! Speeching at me all the time. Here’s a speech. There’s a speech. Everywhere a speech speech! I can still remember the one she gave before my little gentleman showed up and saved me.
“Miss Beckett, you must understand you’re not going to have any quality of life if you leave this hospital without treatment. Cases of extreme obesity like yours only arise in situations of similarly extreme co-dependence. To be blunt, your feeder is dead and you don’t have another one. It’s time for a life change. Several brilliant surgeons have offered to waive their fees to give you another chance at life. The hospital will cover the rest of the cost. It might be several months before you walk out of this hospital, but you would be walking. Under your own power. Do you understand? You could walk again. How long has it been since you’ve been able to do that?”
I looked at her and said the only thing I cared about at that point, gritting my teeth so hard I thought they’d split.
“Family size, thirty-six piece bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw. One mega gulp orange soda. One mega gulp grape soda.”
One sec. Typing that out makes it sound good. I’ll be right back.
Yep! It was good! Licking my fingers so they don’t stain the page!
Anyway, the doctor, some young Mexican girl who would blow away in a breeze like all the other doctors in the hospital, clucked at me like I wasn’t ten years older than her and hadn’t seen every season of ER and Grays Anatomy three dang times. Heck, I’d watched enough House I probably knew more about medicine than she did. I already knew I wasn’t healthy. I’d made my choice. I didn’t need her to tell me. Don’t let doctors fool you. Nothing but a pack of busy-bodies putting their noses where they haven’t been invited.
“Miss Beckett, we’ve been over this before. The hospital will not enable your food addiction. Our nutritionist has worked very carefully to ensure you’re having all of your dietary needs met.”
My stomach gurgled. I swear if someone had put food near it that my belly button would have opened up and swallowed whatever was there just to get some darn calories. God I’d never been so hungry as in that hospital. I would probably have eaten that Mexican doctor if she had been a bit closer.
One sec, I’m going to grab some burritos.
Cheese and steak burritos! Makes me shuffle around a bit, like dancing. I’m so happy here. Man I’ve got to explain this gizmo to you that makes all this stuff. But if I talk about it now it’s going to get all out of order.
Gosh, I must be lonely writing all this out. All in a mad jumble! Hello me! How are you doing yourself? We’re all good down here! Eating a couple of nice big burritos from that box that nice young gentleman gave to me. Sounds lovely!
I make me laugh.
So, back to that witch of a doctor. It’s less upsetting now that everything’s worked out okay. I could almost even forgive her these burritos are soooo good! They’re just like the ones from that place Quester used to go to behind the gas station. The exact same! But Lord that doctor. She was a piece of work, like I said. She was standing there with her witch face probably angry because she was hungry. Almost as thin as Quester, waiting for a breeze to blow her away to Oz and put a house on top of her.
“I can have everything but a smile on my face, in other words,” I said.
Which I knew was smart as all get out because that doctor didn’t say nothing for a while after that. Right as I was grinning the witch lady got all judge jury and executioner again.
“Do you really think you’re happy this way?” she asked.
Golly she reminded me so much of uncle Jack then! All of his admonitions about don’t do this and don’t do that and Becca you’re not hurting anyone more than you hurt yourself when you eat like that. Becca how can you expect to find a husband when you weigh five hundred pounds? Becca what about what this does to the people in your life?
Made me red hot mad thinking of her and my uncle Jack.
I did the only thing I could really do and threw my bedpan across the room. That made some kind of mess and I felt sorry for the nurse who had to come and clean it but I got some on the witch and that made me happy as a clam. The witch even teared-up because the splatter had got into her hair! Teared up and shut her tootin-mouth and didn’t say nothing!
Serves her right.
Some orderlies threatened to take me to some kind of isolation room, and then I just laughed and asked them how big the door was to that room and they got real quiet and then they just left me alone after that. I won!
After a bit, a nurse came in with some carrots and the tiniest bit of meatloaf you ever saw and some thin jello that didn’t even have nothing in it or any whipped cream on it. I wished I’d had the dignity to throw it away. Except I didn’t. I ate it all in about a second and then I started bawling about how hungry I was.
The hospital decided to give me the silent treatment then.
I cried some more. Begging anyone who might be listening just to get me another couple of portions. Just four or five more, please? I felt so alone there, knowing my Quester was dead, that there was no one in the whole world who would go to fetch me by Thursday chicken and give it to me with a big loving smile. There was nobody in the whole world whole world who was ever going to love me again like Quester and I cried and cried and I’d probably still be crying to this day if my little gentleman hadn’t appeared there at the foot of my bed. Never saw him come in, he was just there one second.
Thank God he came to me then! I’d never needed a friend so bad in my whole life as I did right then and God knows I wasn’t able to go anywhere to find one. So, I’m glad he found me. My little gentleman with his little suit and his fine little hands. Even thinking of him makes me smile.
Suppose I should explain him before I go to sleep.
He’s an odd duck and hard to describe. Looks like a teenager but, well, I know now of course that’s he’s a grown man. He has to be. I mean, how else could he afford this place and all the wonderful gizmos here? He’s got to have a mind in him like Einstein to make all of this stuff around me work the way it does and he’s got pockets deeper than Bill Gates.
He was just standing very quietly at the foot of the hospital beds they’d smooshed together to accommodate me. I remember he was very pale. Pale as vanilla ice cream. And his lips were red as strawberries and his eyes were dark as Oreo cookies.
Me being a big silly goose, I gasped because for some reason he made me afraid.
“You’re awe-full to behold,” he said.
I blushed because even though we’d just met, I could tell he meant that I caused him to feel awe. He bowed to me with a flourish.
“You won’t let anyone here help you. Why do you send them all away?” he walked around the beds till he was close to my face and looked at me very closely. He has such smooth skin. I couldn’t even see a single pore on his face.
“I’m perfect the way I am!” I said, proud as could be, “I don’t need them trying to change who I am! That isn’t help! Help would be getting me a bucket of chicken and sending me back to my dang home!” I was crying again by the last sentence, but these were better tears. Tears of healing. It felt good to have someone listen to me.
The little gentleman smiled at me and wiped a tear from the corner of my eye with his thumb. That thumb felt as cold as an otter pop, but what do you expect with the winter? He put the thumb to his perfect red lips and sucked on it. He grinned at me and for some dumb reason I felt scared again.
“You are terror-ific!” he said, and it felt funnier when he said that than when he said I was awful. I didn’t know him that well at all, then. I didn’t know he was going to be taking me to a nice place seeing as how we’d just met.
Aunt Peggy said you should never talk to someone more than a minute and let them stay a stranger so I finally asked:
“Who are you?”
My little gentleman bowed. I would have put his age at thirteen, but he dressed like someone from olden times. He even had a big thing of ribbon tied at his throat.
“A dangerous question. Yet I must not lie to you if you are to be my monument. What a fantastic monument you would make, Miss Beckett. Your fantasies make you fantastic. Grandmother Ella insists we state our intentions plainly, you see. My true name is the Harm Inflicted as Affection, but you may call me Nephew Byron. Or, even Byron if you wish.”
This time he bowed with a little flourish of both his hands and even tipped a little hat I hadn’t seen until just then. You’ve got to forgive his eccentricities. I think he must have had a weird childhood or something. I promise you he’s never been nothing but kind to me. Granted, he’s a weird little fella but he’s good to me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
He walked over to the window of my room and shut the blinds. That left us alone in the hospital room without even the stars to witness.
“Why, I want nothing more than to leave you alone! Splendidly, spectacularly alone! In fact, I wish to offer you a job. The job of your life! And, as there is a bit of my uncle Silas in me, I wish to give you everything you could possibly want.
“I can give you a room, a room better than the one from which you were plucked so cruelly. It is a perfect room where no one will bother you and the outside world will not trouble you. And you will be safe there, in that room, and nothing will ever hurt or challenge you. Is that not kind? To be kept safe away from harm where nothing will hurt or challenge you?”
I nodded, but even as empty and tired as I felt I knew it was too good to be true.
“Listen mister, I didn’t even graduate from high school. I can’t even type. I’m not going to be of any use to you. All I know how to do is-” I couldn’t even finish because I was crying too hard.
The little gentleman cooed and took my hand and pet me oh so gently.
“My dear woman, you need only do what you wish to do! In fact, I wish to keep from you anything you might think of as work. Perish the thought of work! Away with challenges! Be done with struggle! You will be provided a comfortable place to sit. You will be as clean as you wish to be. Consider your job to be a product tester of sorts!
“There is a box in my possession. In this box, at any time, is anything you wish to eat. Any food you wish for, merely open the box and it will be there for you. And further, this food will not harm you in anyway you might consider harm. You will continue your terrific expanse, unimpeded, but your heart will stay strong and your mind clear as crystal. There is but one qualification! Simply one!”
I sniffled, wanting to believe and wanting to hope but still too scared to do much but sit there. Lord I was hungry. Hungry as a cannibal.
“What is it?” I asked.
His face was all scary again and for a second I thought his teeth were sharp, but like I said I was in a weird state of mind. I couldn’t see my savior right in front of me, which is what he was.
“Would you sell me your soul if I gave you a bucket of chicken right now?” he asked with a laugh.
Didn’t even take me a second to say yes.
Author’s Note: I’m also posting this story to reddit’s nosleep as aapeterson, in case any super sleuthing detectives find this