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July 1, 2010

The Fat Man Singeth (Short Short Story)

I have an affection for what’s come to be known as the short short story. In May 2006 I was inspired by a relationship I observed and wrote this story. I hope you enjoy it.

Maggie couldn’t remember when she finally really saw Alfred. They had been acquainted for so many years that when they finally did connect on a more intimate level the experience seemed natural, a logical progression. And while it’s true that Maggie never imagined for a minute that she might end up marrying a man like Alfred, she never questioned her decision. Alfred was a good man. Alfred was good to Maggie. Alfred was fat.

Yes, fat. A kinder description might be hefty, stocky, or some other euphemism for fat, but Alfred was quite clearly fat. He wasn’t always that way, but as long as Maggie had known him he’d never been what you would call thin.

When they initially met, during their last year of high school, their social lives kept them in separate camps. Maggie was the beautiful, popular girl with just enough brains to appease the more academically inclined around her. She managed to deftly walk that thin line between cool and nerdy. Alfred was never cool. Sure, classmates had stopped openly kidding him by that time in his life, but he was still the last to get picked for dodge ball during gym and his close friends proved to be small in number. His weight was the reason.

Friends kept telling Maggie how crazy she was when they first learned that she had dated Alfred. How could she date a man that looked like that? She was beautiful. What could she see in him? At first, she listened to them and canceled her second date with Alfred. Then he called and left that sweet message. Short, honest, gentle words that touched Maggie’s heart. So she went out with him again.

More pressure from her friends brought about the cancellation of her fourth date. Then came the candy, and flowers, and the nicest card she’d ever received from a guy. By the fifth date Maggie just couldn’t resist the charms of Alfred’s rather plain, unaffected manner. All the guys she’d dated before couldn’t hold a candle to Alfred when it came to sensitivity and caring. And he truly loved her in a way no guy had before.

Then there was that voice.

Alfred could sing, really sing. So soulful and beautiful was his voice that when he sang men and women alike were swept away in sonic bliss from the first note to the last.

Maggie didn’t know Alfred could sing right away. They dated for a long time before Alfred had the courage to ask Maggie to one of his concerts. On that night Alfred fretted backstage, wondering what Maggie might think of him once she’d seen him sing. Maggie sat in the audience quietly wondering if what she was about to see would change her perceptions of this new man in her life. As the crowd hushed and the lights dimmed, Maggie took a deep breath, bracing herself for any reaction she might have to Alfred’s singing. The curtain finally rose and Alfred stepped out on to the small concert hall stage.

There was Alfred, standing alone on the stage in a follow spot halo. Music began to rise from the orchestra pit and Alfred sang. Maggie didn’t really remember anything after that. The beauty of Alfred’s voice held her captive and suspended time. Such perfection wafted from Alfred’s mouth that the audience collectively held their breath during the more moving passages. Finally, the concert ended and a burst of applause erupted as the audience rose to its feet.

That was the turning point for Maggie. It was during that concert that her affections were cemented. Prior to that moment Maggie would never have believed that she might end up with a man like Alfred. But the fates are strange creatures that prod and cajole us with their constant twisting of future outcomes. This relationship was clearly an example of how destiny can turn on a dime.

Maggie looked towards the door as she heard Alfred’s key jangle on its key ring. Alfred was home. His concert must have finished up early, she thought. She looked at the clock and realized that a lot of time had passed while she was reflecting on the start of her relationship with Alfred. It was late.

The door closed and Maggie could hear Alfred’s familiar footsteps walk to the entryway side table. The keys once again rang out with a familiar tune as they were dropped casually on the table. More footsteps. Maggie looked at the mirror in front of her. Behind her was Alfred, standing quite still, with a bunch of carnations in his hand. He was looking at Maggie’s reflection and smiling broadly. Maggie smiled back. And in that moment, her destiny shifted slightly yet again, because at that moment Maggie Strombach fell a bit more in love with a fat man who could sing.

2 Comments on “The Fat Man Singeth (Short Short Story)

A Fat Man
July 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

It must be interesting to live to the age of 50 and be so diluted to even say something like that publicly. The only time anything like that ever happened was when the Fat Man was substantially wealthier than the girl and even with that she’d only stay with him if he had a rock solid prenup agreement that left her high and dry if she left.

Especially girls from Evanston to Lake Bluff. Even if the guy was dreamy athletic, but his father was a mechanic from Elmwood Park … hang it up buddy. I remember over hearing a conversation among some old high school chums at a restaurant in Highwood. “What are you talking about me getting off the pill, can you imagine what detestable children he would father? He’s got enough so I won’t need children to take care of me in old age. Every time he looks at a piece of cake I tell him ‘go ahead darling, you only live once’, with any luck he’ll smother under his own weight and I’ll be set. ”

Race Bannon
September 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Perhaps my story is very romantic, but I actually do know situations much like I portrayed in the story. Maybe it’s not the norm, but it happens.

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