Originally published December 21, 2016.
Contains: instant weight gain.
It’s been a hell of a month for my writing. I got really excited about one story, before putting it on the back burner indefinitely due to losing interest in it. It was easy to write as I was establishing the concept, but toward the end, I was having trouble eking out even one or two hundred words a day when I tried to work on it. I then resurrected a story I’d given up on months ago and put in the trash in my Google docs, only to pull it out of the trash and finish a first draft of it. But that one’s in rough shape, due to how different my writing style was then and now (at least, it seems different to me), and due to some discrepancies between how I envisioned the story when I started it and where I ended up taking it. As such, I feel like I need to put some distance between me and that story before I try to edit it.
Complicating things further is the fact that I’m heading out to visit my parents for Christmas tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are great and I love visiting them. But visiting them tends to put a dent in how much time I spend on my writing, as I’m sure you can imagine. So I wanted to post something tonight before I go back to visit them, to get some rush of satisfaction of finishing something, before my week-long trip puts a delay on me finishing my in-progress stories. Thankfully, I’d had this idea for a story a few days ago, and knowing it would be one I could bang out in one night, I kept it in the back of my mind as something to come back to. Tonight ended up being the perfect time to come back to it.
Synopsis: Chad is a stylish, full-of-himself guy who gets invited to an ugly sweater party. Though he doesn’t think he owns any ugly clothes, he also doesn’t want to get shown up, so he goes shopping at a thrift store to find an ugly sweater. The only good one he finds is one that’s far too big for him, being twice as wide as he is, with a tag written in broken English that says, “All fit one size”. He laughs at how badly they messed up, “One size fits all”, but once he gets home and tries it on, he learns the tag is more prophetic than it seems.
Chad kept his head low as he browsed the shelves of the thrift store. Normally, he would never be caught dead buying clothes in a place like that. But when his friends decided they should celebrate Christmas with an ugly sweater party, he didn’t have much of a choice. After all, he certainly didn’t own any ugly clothing, and none of the places he would normally shop would sell such a thing. Visiting a thrift store seemed to be the only way he could play along.
But he knew he didn’t belong there. He walked the shelves in his statement scarf, tasteful brown sweater, and fashionably worn jeans that cost easily five times as much as the weathered jeans on sale there. He’d opted to leave his blazer in the car in the hopes of being at least a little inconspicuous. Conversely, he’d kept his designer sunglasses on in the hopes that they could obscure his identity.
Unfortunately, the shelves of the thrift store didn’t seem to have much for him. Every sweater he found was either plain or just plain tacky. He needed entertainingly tacky, or at least endearingly tacky. Even at something as silly as an ugly sweater party, Chad wasn’t going to let himself get shown up.
When Chad had exhausted the medium-size section, he moved on to large, telling himself that a loose fit would only make the sweater more endearingly ugly. When he hadn’t found anything in the larges, he winced as he moved up to the extra larges, knowing there was a limit to how much bigger of an article of clothing he could wear and still pull it off. But even the extra larges had nothing to offer him, and scarcely wanted to even glance at the bigger sizes.
That was, until he saw the red and green sleeve sticking out at the end of the shelf. That far down, the sizes were no longer individually categorizes, merely labeled “3XL+”. Even among those sizes, the sweater seemed large in comparison to the other tops, though that was true of the sweaters in the previous sections as well. Either way, he immediately bounded over to give it a look.
Chad grabbed the sleeve, which had a red bottom half and a green top half, and pulled the sweater out from the other clothes. That color scheme was mirrored on the body of the sweater too, with snowflakes and gingerbread men stitched poorly on the front. The snowflakes had four-way symmetry instead of the proper six, and the gingerbread men reminded him of those bootleg toys his friends were always sharing photos of. Around the chest, christmas lights were stitched such that they looked like they ran under his armpits. With a nod, Chad pulled the sweater and its hanger off the shelf.
He walked up to one of the nearby mirrors and held the sweater in front of him. It was giant, at least twice as wide as him, with arms that looked like he could fit his legs comfortably inside. He knew it would be a stretch–in a purely figurative sense of the word–for him to wear it to the party, but maybe that would make it even better. Chad knew he wasn’t going to pull off a stylish outfit for the party, so he concluded the next best thing would be to go balls-to-the-wall ugly. A sweater that fit him that poorly would certainly do that.
As he stood at the mirror, Chad got curious just what size the sweater was. Turning it around, he looked at the tag inside, only to find it looked just as bootleg as the gingerbread men. All the washing instructions were written in garbled, broken English, with symbols that looked nothing like the ones Chad was used to on the tags of the clothes he bought. And the cherry on top, where the size was supposed to be listed, was written, “All fit one size.”
Ha!, Chad thought to himself. You have to try to get “one size fits all” wrong. With the sweater being as big as it was, Chad reasoned it wasn’t far from the truth. After all, the tag didn’t say one size fits all well.
Chad walked up to the register, hoping he could get out of there as quickly as possible now that he had what he’d come for. After waiting behind an older woman who took a bit too long taking the coins out of her purse for his liking, he walked up to the young man behind the counter. “Hello,” he greeted listlessly. Chad couldn’t help but notice that it was a much less enthusiastic greeting than the old woman had gotten.
“Hi. Just this, please,” Chad said quietly, hoping to speed things up.
The man behind the register looked at Chad with his mouth flat and his eyes closed just a little bit. “Looks kinda big for you. We have dressing rooms you can use to try it on.”
“I’d like to just buy it, please.”
He looked at Chad a bit longer before he scanned the tag on the sweater, bringing up the total: $3. It was easily the least Chad had paid for a piece of clothing in a long time. “Someone who this actually fits probably could have used it,” he grumbled.
With a titter, Chad replied, “If that’s the case, I’m saving them from themselves.”
“So why are you buying it, then?”
Chad was taken aback. He didn’t expect this much pushback for buying a damn sweater. He nearly started to argue, but knowing there was a line forming behind him made him even more eager to get out of there. “Look, I can bring it back tomorrow and donate it, and you can put it back on the shelves. That way, it goes to someone who can… use it…“ he said like he had to force all the words off of his tongue, “… and you’ll get to profit from it twice. Deal?”
The man behind the counter didn’t look convinced, but he apparently also decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. “Make sure you dry clean it, sir,” he said flatly. “This kind of material doesn’t hold up in the washer.”
“Oh, uh, yeah, I’ll totally do that,” Chad told him. On his way to the car, he pondered whether to bring it back unwashed or just throw it away.
“Yeah, dude, I’m totally gonna be there,” Chad told Stephan over the phone as he parked in front of his apartment. “I just didn’t want to give you a definite answer before because I didn’t have a sweater. I just got one, and man, it’s wild. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.”
“Cutting it that close, huh? Well I gotta see this thing now. Don’t miss it tonight, man.”
“I would never, dude. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Chad stashed his phone in his pocket and grabbed the sweater to bring inside. He left his shoes by the door, emptied his pockets in the kitchen, and brought the sweater in his bedroom. Holding it by the shoulders, he let the hanger fall out, only to discover it had matching pants hanging on it. They were green on their top half and red on the bottom, like the sweater. How he hadn’t noticed them before, he didn’t know, but he thought they would make a great addition to his outfit.
Chad grabbed the pants and walked up to his full-length mirror. Holding them in front of himself, he saw that they too were twice as wide as him. At that, he was disappointed. Wearing a sweater that oversized for him, he might be able to get away with. But once he wrapped his belt around the pants, they’d make him look like MC Hammer. With a sigh, he tossed the pants on his bed along with his blazer and sweater. He left his undershirt on, figuring it couldn’t hurt in case his new sweater was itchy.
But once Chad slipped the sweater on, he was surprised to find it was incredibly soft, even cozy. It wasn’t a sensation he was used to getting from his clothes, but it was surprisingly nice. Wondering if the pants would feel similar, Chad dropped his own pants down to around his feet before he kicked them onto the bed. Putting the new pants on, he found they were just as soft as the sweater, and had drawstrings around the waist he could use to make sure they didn’t fall off. With all the air around him adding an insulating layer, the getup proved to be remarkably warm too.
“Ah, this is nice,” Chad said to himself as he walked around his bedroom. Looking at himself in the mirror, he was surprised to see the pants didn’t look as ridiculous as he thought they would, with the loose sweater merging seamlessly with the added volume. Of course, he still looked ridiculous, but if he could dress for the party and feel that comfortable, he considered that a win-win.
Without much else to do before he left for the party, Chad sauntered out of his bedroom to enjoy the comfort of his outfit. Walking with the sweater and pants sagging around him felt unusual in comparison to his usually well-fitting outfits. He was used to his clothes moving seamlessly with him, not having their own inertia and dragging him down, slowing his movements. He was also accustomed to not needing to think about where his clothes were when he moved, but now he felt like he would trip if he walked too quickly. But he put up with it, for he knew they would make a great costume for the party.
Once Chad got to the living room, he plopped down on the couch, feeling the excess cloth come to rest around him. It was like a blanket, but one he got to take with him wherever he went. Reaching for the remote, he turned on the TV to watch something on Netflix. He browsed through the recommendations, with nothing really jumping out at him. He wanted something more novel than all his old favorites, but he wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to give a new show a try. The hours dragged on as he browsed, never committing to one show for longer than a single episode, if that.
Though time passed by slowly, Chad was still caught off guard when he looked at the clock and saw that it was already past 6:00. He’d have to leave soon if he wanted to arrive at the party fashionably late and not just late. It was totally dark outside, and he hadn’t moved from his spot to turn on a light, leaving him with only the light of the TV illuminating the room. With a sigh, he turned off the TV and leaned forward to get up…
Only to fall right back onto the couch. Chad bent forward again, only fall back unceremoniously. It was strange. He knew the bagginess of the sweater and pants made moving harder, but he didn’t think they would make getting up that difficult. With a lot of pushing and a lot of grunting, he finally managed to lean forward and stay that way. Pushing himself up to a standing position felt needlessly difficult too. Once he was up, he found himself panting from all the effort and hoping he wouldn’t sweat enough to make the outfit stink before he even got to the party.
With a sigh, Chad started walking toward the kitchen to get his stuff before he headed out, only to find walking unusually difficult too. He moved with a lot of inertia, like he was being dragged down by some kind of weight. Of course, that made sense given the outfit he was wearing, but something about it felt different. Not just heavier, but also less flowy. Unlike the billowing pleats of his oversized sweater, he felt like he was being dragged down by something firm, something that didn’t waver with his movements.
So Chad headed to his bedroom instead. Whatever change had made the outfit feel that way, he wanted to see it before he headed out. With a sigh of relief, he stepped over the threshold and turned on the lights. He squinted once they turned on, but made his way to his full-length mirror regardless. Once his eyes adjusted to the light, he opened them fully.
Chad couldn’t believe what he was seeing at first. It was like his brain refused to register the sight it saw, refused to believe the man looking back in the mirror was him. He moved his arms slowly, expecting the reflection wouldn’t match them perfectly and that would reveal it wasn’t him, and yet it did. As unbelievable as it was, it seemed the sweater and pants hadn’t changed at all. All that had changed was that they fit him now.
In the mirror, Chad beheld a man who only vaguely resembled him. He guessed he must have weighed 400 pounds, though he couldn’t be sure, having no frame of reference for the weight of guys as big as he was now. All he was sure of was that he was easily bigger than anyone he knew. Even the guys he used to party with in college, who looked like they’d drunk a whole keg of beer by themselves, weren’t as big as he was now.
Chad’s sweater now wrapped around a humongous belly that was as wide as the snow tires he’d just gotten put on his car. The previously loose, billowing cloth now fit snugly around the curves of his rounded abdomen, sticking out in front of him like the kegs he’d carried into parties before. And like when he moved those kegs, he was forced to lean back in order to counteract the weight he now carried in front of him.
Looking down, Chad saw that his once svelte legs now filled out his pants, giving them no chance of falling down now. His arms filled out the sleeves of his sweater, and even moving them to confirm that his reflection was really him took more effort that he expected. Looking up, he saw that his once chiseled face had flabbed out too, with a thick ring of fat surrounding his cheeks and jaw. The goatee that he’d once considered a good fashion choice now emphasized how much he’d grown, as his chubby cheeks bulged out farther from beyond its edge.
Chad’s observations were interrupted when he heard his phone vibrate on the kitchen counter. He rushed in there as fast as he could, which didn’t objectively qualify as rushing at all. As he waddled his new mass down the hall, he was now increasingly aware of how his newly enlarged body moved. He had to spread his legs apart farther than usual as he walked, for his thighs were so wide that they pushed apart when he tried to walk like he used to. His arms swung widely at his side, trying to counterbalance all his extra weight. And with each step, his belly bounced just a little once his foot hit the ground.
Thanks to living in a smallish apartment, he managed to reach the phone just before it went to voicemail. It was Stephan again. “Hello?”
“Hey dude, just wondering, what kind of beer are you bringing to the party?”
“Oh, uh… listen, bro, I’m not feeling so well. I don’t think I can make it.”
“What!? Dude, you said you would never miss it. You can’t go back on that!”
“Look, I just… just trust me, man, I can’t go out. I’m in no state to go anywhere.”
“…Oh, I get it,” Stephan said in a knowing voice. “You pregamed a bit too hard and now you’re in no state to drive. I can hear it in your voice, it’s got that heaviness. Dude, don’t sweat it, I’ll be by your place to pick you up in a few.”
“Stephan, no–” Chad heard the tone that meant the call had ended. He put the phone back on the counter and contemplated what to do. Out of habit, he walked over and turned on the lights for the kitchen. Normally he would have paced around it as he thought, but just walking to turn on the lights made pacing seem like more effort that it was worth.
As he pondered, he found himself rubbing his belly, feeling the firm, fleshy mass beneath the previously baggy sweater. It was out of disbelief at first, but soon Chad found himself rubbing it absentmindedly as he tried to think about what to do. When he caught himself rubbing his gut pensively, he’d stop, not wanting to be reminded of his new growth, and also interrupting his thought process.
All this meant Chad didn’t come to a conclusion before he heard a knock on his door. “Dude, it’s me! Let’s go!”
“I told you, I can’t! I’m not drunk, I just… got really sick all of a sudden!”
“Aw, man, don’t be such a buzzkill. It’ll be great, I swear.”
“I just can’t, bro,” Chad called out, starting to feel out of breath from all the yelling.
Chad could hear Stephan sigh from the other side of the door. “At least let me see your sweater. You owe me that much after hyping it up like that.”
At that point, Chad barely had the energy left to argue anymore. After shuffling to the door, he opened it slowly, leaning his head down and to the side so he wouldn’t have to look Stephan in the eye.
Out of his peripheral vision, Chad could see that Stephan was wearing a tacky sweater of his own, a clashing of a maroonish red and a yellowish green that Chad wouldn’t have expected him to be so bold as to wear. He was also silent, which was about the best that Chad could expect, though the tense quiet lasted for far longer than Chad cared for.
After a lengthy sigh, Chad looked up and simply said, “Yeah.” There wasn’t much else to say.
Stephan’s eyelids were about as far apart as they could probably get. “You were right, man,” he finally commented.
“That sweater does look wild.”
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