The Wave Group
“What a blimp.”
“We’re goin’ to need another two guys just to lift her up.”
“The cop said she’s got a couple of kids. Can you imagine making love to that?”
“Looks like she ate herself to death.”
The voices, young, male, insensitive, fell silent. The command came from their boss, the chief of the rescue unit. He looked pointedly toward the doorway. There, on the threshold, stood twelve-year old Cate holding her five- year old sister Sam by the hand. They watched as the ambulance men squatted around the body of their mother lying dead on the kitchen linoleum.
“Toss me that blanket,” snapped the chief.
“A blanket ain’t goin’ do it. We’re gonna need a parachute,” whispered a pimply youth.
“How about a tent?” another shot back under his breath.
“I told you to put a lid on it,” the chief ordered, his voice like ice. But his eyes, as they met Cate’s large frightened ones, were warm and compassionate.
The snickering stopped. They crowded in, blocking her view. All Cate saw was a dark blue fence of uniforms. All she heard was the crunch of boots on broken cookies and the soft sucking sound when they stepped into the puddle of melting chocolate and marshmallow ice cream.
“Easy,” directed the chief. “All together now, on the count of three. One. Two. Three. Lift.” A choked-off curse, a last muffled grunt, and they were gone.
Cate looked at what was left of her mother. Just cookie crumbs, ice cream stains, an overturned bowl of cold spaghetti, and hundreds of diet books that had toppled from their shelves as her mother clutched at them to break her fall. But they didn’t save her.
Cate knew deep inside herself that the men spoke the truth. Her mother did eat herself to death. Something in her heart hardened against her mother. Standing there in the mess of junk food her mother couldn’t resist, and the ruined promise of so many diet books, Cate whispered a vow under her breath. “I will never be fat.”
Sam looked up at her older sister and solemnly repeated Cate’s vow in her small child’s voice.
The promise, I will never be fat, vibrated through every fiber of Cate’s being, even as the lady from children’s services came and took her and Sam away.
Cate hated her body, her fat and herself.
“How could I have gained almost ninety pounds in just one year?” she asked her reflection in the darkened window. “How could I have gone from one-hundred-and- fifteen pounds and a size six to two hundred pounds in this plus size?”
She looked down at her swollen and shapeless body and remembered another kitchen twenty years before and another body bloated with fat.
“How could I have turned into my mother?”
But nobody answered. Cate was completely alone.
It was almost midnight. An October wind blew the first leaves of fall down the deserted street. The neighborhood was quiet. The houses slept.
“I’ve still got you, don’t I?” she asked the fridge. “You won’t leave me, will you?”
She opened the freezer compartment and pulled out her second pint of chocolate chip ice cream.
She had already finished off half a loaf of white bread and most of a jar of strawberry jam. But it wasn’t enough. She needed more. She had to have more.
Because this was the night Cate had decided to finally end it all, and eat herself to death.