I am an independent writer, which is code for someone who can't get an agent. But you know what? Agents are annoying. All they want is a bunch...read more of YA and sexually confused zombies.
My work has been published in Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Bookslut, Atticus Review, Perversion Mag, The East Bay Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and Word Riot.
After my show I poured a whiskey-cola, premixed in the two-liter Dr. Bob bottle, and ate a two-and-a-half-pound block of cheese. I started out cutting sensible slices, nibbling on them as I paced the house. Then I discovered that if you cut three pieces of cheese you can pile them on top of each other and create a carb-free cheese sandwich, not that I’m a low-carb guy. The sandwich thing helped for a while, let me keep up the illusion that I wasn’t going to start gnawing on the dwindling cheese block like a zombie on a pile of entrails, attacking it as if it was going to melt if I didn’t eat it fast enough. It’s a little quirk of mine. I eat when I’m nervous. Also when I’m sad, angry, depressed, happy, excited, or awake.
There’s a name for this. It used to be I was just a fucking fatty. Turns out I suffer from binge-eating disorder, or BED—at least according to an ad I saw on stupid Facebook. I got no idea how Mark Fuckerberg knows about my eating disorder, unless his minions have been tracking how much I spend at Aldi’s. At least they don’t know about the GERD and sleep apnea. Yes, I’m going to die but at least I’ll die unhappy.
I had to lie on the floor a spell. Your stomach don’t settle when it’s full up of generic cheese and bottom-shelf, plastic-jug whiskey. You’ll throw up or die but if you lie on your back you can buy yourself some time. In my case it was enough to allow me to get up, waddle to the computer, and press the button that allowed my computer and the Internet to work their magic and birth the latest edition of my podcast, The Viscous Cycle, out into the world.
Nothing like a proper hurl to work up the appetite, so I decided to make macaroni. I don’t mean this as a slur against Kraft, but there was a mouse turd in my Kraft macaroni. I stared at the box for about ten minutes. I would not be deterred. I am fat and vulgar, kind of whiny and very lazy, but I ain’t no quitter. I’m a perseverer. The macaroni may have been tainted but the cheese packet was still secure. I heated a slab of butter on the stove, then mixed in the powdered cheese product along with some milk, stirred until it was thick and creamy, and made nachos. It was too early to check for comments so I finished the whiskey-cola, chugging straight from the bottle, and went to bed.
I’m not an alcoholic or a drunk, just an alcohol enthusiast. Drinking is a hobby, like target shooting or stamp collecting. It’s a much cheaper hobby than target shooting, especially with the cost of ammunition these days. And it’s convenient. I can do it anywhere. Yes, it’s bad for me, but no one criticizes rock climbers, even though their hobby is extremely dangerous. Having your skull crushed or your back broke is as bad for you as drinking, maybe even worse.
Sunlight streamed through the window blinds like an evil mist in a horror movie, but what woke me up was the pounding on my front door. I thought it was a SWAT team invading the wrong house again. That happened here a while back. We just have one cop in town and he’s part time and only got the job through nepotism so they had to bring the big guns in from the city. They had the right address but the wrong town so Bob Peterson’s house got busted all to hell for nothing. He deserved it anyway so I guess I shouldn’t be outraged. The only illicit substance they found was some expired pills. Raymond Chandler wrote, in The Lady in the Lake, the best thing anyone ever wrote about the pigs: “Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get.” Round here we don’t get much. If you think the cops are dumb where you live, come to Purgatory. I’d catch hell from my momma if she heard me call them pigs. We respect the police in these parts (long as they only hassle black folks and Mexicans).
But that pounding—it was like to knock my door down and the rest of the house with it. I looked at the clock. It was too damn early for Franklin to be here with my groceries. He knew not to come by before noon, yet when I extricated myself from my bed, plodded through the front room, and peeped through the peephole, it was his ugly mug I saw, all pockmarked and defeated.
“Franklin, you ugly devil, you know what fucking time it is?”
“Sit down, Amos. Your momma’s dead.”
That old bitch.
“God damn it, Franklin, you got to give a man time to sit down if you warn him to sit down preparatory to laying that type of news on him. Not that I give a fuck.” And for some reason I begun to blubber.
My momma was the fucking devil. She’d’ve lit into me for dropping the f-word. Saying “fuck” was a sin but it wasn’t a sin to smack your baby boy upside the head with a rolled-up Highlights magazine or drag him by the ear out the toy section of Wal-Marts.
“You been to Aldi’s yet?” After I’d got control of my emotions and moved back into the safety of my front room, pacing the room with a bag of powdered doughnuts. “Food’s running low.”
I swallowed. “I said the damn food’s running low. I need supplies.”
“I’ll be by later with your supplies. Right now we got to talk about the arrangements.”
“Like the funeral? The burial? Dump her ass in the woods. She always hated coyotes. Let them have their revenge.”
“Now, Amos, I know you don’t mean that.”
“Do you ever feel so, not sad but I guess empty and meaningless, that you ain’t even hungry but you keep stuffing your face anyway because it’s the only thing you know to do?”
He acted like he couldn’t understand me again which was a fucking put-on.
“We can do it later, but you got to make some decisions. Like do you want the house or do you want to sell it?”
“Sell it. I’ll have this place paid off in another year.” That’s the advantage of haggling the greedy fucking bank that owns the house you want to buy down from $5,000 to $4,500. The place had no sewer, water, or electric when I bought it, and the floor in the front room had fallen into the flooded, snake-infested basement, is why the asking price was so low. And because it was in Purgatory. “Give the money to some gay charity just to piss her off. How the fuck she die anyway?”
“I got to run, cousin. Be back later with some groceries. I’ll bring you some clothes, too. What size you up to now?”
“I got clothes. What I need’s food. Food, food, and lots of it. And alcohol.”
“You got to have a nice outfit for the funeral. This is on me. It won’t come out of your budget.” Which was tighter than a seized bolt in the belly of a Subaru engine since I was living, while I waited for the sponsors to come calling, on a high-interest personal loan from the greedy-ass bank. Employment opportunities is scarce enough in Purgatory. Recluses are pretty much locked out of the traditional job market.
“Get the hell out my house you fucking Judas.” I had to holler out the door at him to add some of them frosted oatmeal cookies to the list and some kiwi because what I like to do sometimes is take a couple slices of kiwi and stick them between two frosted oatmeal cookies and have a healthy but still delicious kiwi-and-oatmeal-cookie sandwich.
“And ask them ungrateful bastards down at the Aldi’s if they’re ready to sponsor my podcast yet. It’s the opportunity of a fucking lifetime. Use those exact words, Frankie. And if they still got them jars of pickled pig’s feet on sale I’ll take double my usual order.”
I fucking bulldozed my way into the kitchen, fighting against gravity like a fullback dragging three defenders into the end zone, and put my last two frozen waffles in the toaster. I heated up some Jimmy Dean. When the waffles popped up I slathered them in peanut butter and syrup and made a sausage-waffle sandwich. I like sandwiches. That backstabber asked what size I was up to because I’d been getting fatter and fatter because I was trying to eat myself to death. It’s like Leaving Las Vegas but with food instead of liquor and unprecedented feats of chub-clubbing instead of sex. It was a natural way for me to go because I’ll eat anything—tofu, chicken neck. If they sell it at Aldi’s I’ll fucking eat it. I ought to sue them for back advertising royalties or whatever you’d call it, all the times I’ve plugged them motherfuckers on my show.
There was more than twenty new comments, plus a whole mess of emails. The first comment, from HenryFondler363, writing from his bunker somewhere in Nebraska, was the one I chose to read on the special edition surprise bonus podcast I decided to do in honor of my dead fucking momma: “Hey Amos . . . I’m worried about you, man.” I’m correcting the spelling. It’s pretty sad when you’re being corrected by an ignorant inbred fatass shut-in from Purgatory, Missouri, with bad grammar. I guess bad grammar’s relative. Mr. Spezia, my high school English teacher, would probably kill for a student with my grammar now, when back in the day he wanted to kill me because of my grammar. “It seems like every time you post a new photo you’ve gotten fatter. It’s not like you had a lot of room to grow to begin with. I’m not talking shit, brother, just voicing my concern.”
“Thanks for your concern, HenryFondler,” I said into the mike. “He’s right, everyone. I am getting fatter. I’m trying to grow my man-breasts out until they reach my dick so I can tittyfuck myself.” I paused, to let the tension build, to choke down the lump in my throat. “It’s a special day, my friends,” I said. “And to my enemies, y’all fucking philistines can talk shit about me till you get E. coli infections—won’t bring me down today. My fucking momma’s dead.”
Momma, she weren’t too bright. She’s the one that come up, unwittingly, with the name of my podcast. This is my viscous cycle: I’m tired because I’m fat. I need to work out so I won’t be fat no more but I’m too tired to work out because I’m so goddamn fat. And I’m miserable because I’m fat so I eat because I’m so miserable and then I get fatter because I overeat and then I just get more goddamn miserable. Momma meant something different (and not just “vicious”) when she talked about a viscous cycle: I’d act up, maybe just start crying for no reason because I was a miserable and terrified little kid, and then she’d get mad, which’d make me cry harder, which’d make her madder, on an on, usually culminating in a whooping. But if she really lost her temper she’d run a hot bath, make it hotter with boiled water, and then dump me in. “That’ll give you something to cry about,” she’d say. I don’t remember how often she did that. It wasn’t all the time but it was often enough that I still got burn scars on my ball-sack. I never could tell the difference between a whooping and a beating but a whooping was something a good parent did and a beating was something a bad parent did. Since momma was a good parent, she called it a whooping.
She’d feel bad eventually and soothe my wounds with Cheetos and chocolate bars.
Momma was a petite thing. I don’t know how I came out of her. She was a smoker. Two packs a day for fifty years. Instead of sending me to Harvard she smoked. I took up smoking for a while because it’s supposed to help you stay thin. It didn’t work. All it did was make me even more out of shape. I got winded just sitting on the toilet.
“My lifelong dream,” I said to my loyal listeners, “is to go to Nevada and make it with a prostitute. I’m terrified to do it, though. One look at me and all them sex workers will decide to quit whoring and go to college.”
Franklin came back with a load of groceries and a bunch of nonsense about the funeral and I had to take a break. Too bad. I was on a roll. I’d never done a spontaneous show before. Usually I planned it out all week and worked up my courage all day with cheap whiskey and hate food. He’d done a real nice job with the shopping, come in under budget without leaving anything off my list. He even got my pig’s feet.
“Seventeen years and I can still taste her.” This is from part two of “Dead Momma,” which I recorded after the funeral. That was an ordeal. When people see your face for the first time in ten years they act like it’s the grossest thing they’ve seen since the Evil Dead remake. It was the first time I’d left my house since I moved in more than ten years before, and I didn’t see much reason to leave my seclusion again for at least another ten. The funeral was a big nothing. There wasn’t any speeches. I wanted to get up there at the front of the church and tell the world what I thought of her. They might like to hear some of the things she let Darren Willoughby do to me, the things she let him make me do to him. He was her live-in boyfriend for about eight years and the town hero because he coached the football team, and actually most of the people wouldn’t like to hear about it. I got a ton of hate mail and someone tried to burn down my house after I talked about it on my podcast. So I just twiddled my thumbs and daydreamed about the lunch. Even that was disappointing, cold fried chicken, cold mashed taters, coleslaw, pork and beans, banana pudding. In retrospect it was pretty fucking great. I nodded to some folks but I kept to myself. “I’m talking about her pussy—in case that wasn’t clear. Part of it is that she was really that special, but mostly it’s that I ain’t got near a vagina since then. I was seventeen at the time. Here I am, thirty-four years old and never had sex with a woman. She wanted to, but I wanted to wait, said I was saving myself for marriage. There was some fondling, some heavy petting, but nothing very dirty, by which I mean messy. Nothing was brought quite to fruition if you catch my meaning. Who is she? I ain’t saying out of respect. Goddamn. Amos Fucking Adcock. Amos the Anus. The Four-Hundred-Pound Virgin. You fuckers only like me because I make you feel better about your own shitty lives.”
“Why you want to talk about yourself like that to the whole world?” people ask me. I say people, but I only mean Franklin since he’s the only one I talk to.
“It ain’t the whole world, just about a thousand people on a good week.”
“A thousand strangers.”
“With the occasional exception of yourself, Frankie, strangers is the only people that’s ever showed me any kindness. Look . . .” I had to dig down in the nether regions of the couch to find what I was looking for and I hoped after I flicked them to him that he wouldn’t notice the spunk crusts all over the insides. I think he did but, being a gentleman, he didn’t say nothing. “Some girl, some stranger, sent me her panties.”
I don’t get a lot of real mail, and I ain’t what you’d call a celebrity or rock star, so imagine my surprise when I opened a padded yellow envelope sent by an anonymous person somewhere in central Texas and pulled out a pair of flowery woman’s underpants. One of the more puzzling aspects, of the many puzzling aspects, of these underpants is that they wasn’t the underpants of a bigger lady. If anyone was going to send me their underpants, I’d have expected it to be a bigger lady, given that I am a bigger fellow, significantly bigger. They wasn’t the underpants of one of your bony, malnourished underwear models, and that is good. I have tried many times and can’t even imagine engaging in carnal relations with a waifish woman without accidentally smothering her. These were size twelve Fruit of the Loom underpants, worn but not skidmarked or malodorous. Odorous, yes, not that I’m, as a general practice, a pantysniffer, but when someone sends you some ladies’ underpants your natural inclination, you could almost call it a reflex, is to bury your nose in them.
“You got to make your peace, Amos. You can’t live with all this hatred.”
“I been doing it thirty years.”
“She’s your momma. She wasn’t perfect, but she loved you. She told me so many times. It killed her that you wouldn’t talk to her all these years. Broke her heart, you might say. You got to forgive her. Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t everyone slap your face and call you a degenerate when you tell them their boyfriend molested you.”
This was a sore spot for old Franklin, the former star running back for the Purgatory Panthers, though not as sore as my spot had been. And people say you can’t joke about rape.
After the show about my momma, which turned out to be my most popular—it didn’t go quite viral, more like bacterial—I ate a jar of pig’s feet and a bag of cheese curls and went to bed for sixteen hours. When I woke up I ate a box of waffles and checked my comments. There was one from a fat activist who wanted me to take more pride in my body. Be body positive. Actually, after mingling with the good people of Purgatory for a few hours I did feel better about my body. A fat activist. Kind of an oxymoron, like being a warrior pacifist. How active can these people be? I shouldn’t joke. Fat-shaming is a thing. So is exercise. But seriously, fat-shaming is stupid. We don’t need skinny people to shame us. We already fucking do it to ourselves. I decided to work out, just to show her and everyone else, the self-righteous fat-shamers, the self-delusional fat activists, but I fell asleep on the toilet instead.
“I wish I used to be a man. I always wished I could switch back and forth, still be a man but be able to turn into a woman from time to time so I could play with myself and stare at my tits. Instead I sort of did that. I grew a big pair of tits. But they’re not very sexy. I still stare at them all the time. Anyway I wish I was a transsexual, a former man but now a woman. I’m sure it’s a very painful experience, growing up in the wrong body, being ostracized by a lot of people, but it’s a comedy gold mine. Do you have any idea how many jokes I could start with ‘When I still had a dick’? The actual joke don’t have to be about my dick or my change, but when you got a punchline built into your set-up you know you got a winning formula. I guess I can still use that set-up, just with a slight variation: When I could still see my dick.”
It was more than a week since the funeral but I still had my momma on my mind: “‘It’s a viscous cycle, Amos,’ my momma used to say, back when she could still talk which she can’t now on account of she’s dead, back when I would still talk to her, way back when I could still see my dick. ‘You bring it on yourself. Ain’t no one responsible for you but you.’”
I don’t normally drink while I’m doing a show, but I had to stop and have a drink. When my hands were steady I got back on: “It’s always the biggest whiners, the shittiest people, the ones who blame all their problems on everyone else, who say that. Who to hate most was another viscous cycle. Momma was the devil but at least she was there. She bought me food and secondhand clothes. My dad was missing in action. Of course, I could sympathize with him because who would want to live with that old hag? But the more I did that the madder I got that he didn’t take me with him so then my allegiance would swing back to my vicious tormentor. Sometimes I feel like a coma patient. I have consciousness, I am aware and thoughtful, but I ain’t really alive, at least most of the time. I have flashes of awakening, where I am present in my body and surroundings, but mostly I’m just in my head. It can be a scary place. The more I eat the easier it is. I ain’t hungry but I’m hungry. Thanks for listening all these last couple years. If all goes as planned this is my last episode.”
I laid it all on the table—Twinkies, doughnuts, pig neck, tofu, Jimmy Dean, Frito Lay Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese Dip, potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips, kiwi, frosted oatmeal cookies, the works. This was it. Eat until you die. I ate until I threw up, in the sink, and then I ate until I threw up again. This wasn’t bulimia. I wasn’t throwing up on purpose. My body was doing it on its own. I took a picture of myself, my face bloated and flecked with bits of vomit and cheese dip, and posted it on my website. I ate until I shit myself, and then I threw up again. Talk about a viscous fucking cycle. I was leaking out of every orifice, snotting, shitting, puking, crying. I guess I didn’t piss myself or bleed from the ears. Thank God for small blessings. I took a shower, then cried myself to sleep on the bathroom floor.
They make it look easy in that movie Seven, but it’s damn near impossible to eat yourself to death in one go. Food’s going to kill me, but on its own schedule. Still, I might die at any moment, as might you. And then what? Hell, purgatory? It’s kind of a funny thing about Missouri that we got a unincorporated village called Purgatory and a Hell Hole Hollow but not a Heaven. I’ve been in Purgatory nearly thirty-five years. I call that a head start.
The mail was early. Just one padded envelope. I opened it. Inside was a plane ticket to Reno, Nevada. Also a business card for a cathouse in Elko whose name I was asked not to reveal. And a coupon, printed on high-quality stiff and creamy card stock, for one complimentary roll in the hay. There was a line drawing of a naked blond woman. Her hair was an actual piece of hay. I didn’t know what to do first, cry or jerk off, so I did both.
The flight was in one week. I put on my workout clothes, did twelve jumping jacks, four sit-ups, half a pushup, and speed-waddled around the block two times. If you’ve ever seen them videos of football players running up a hill pulling a tractor tire behind them it was a lot like that, except it was like I had the football player and the tractor tire built into me. It was hard as shit but I done it.
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