Originally published October 8, 2016.
Contains: long-term weight gain and behind-the-scenes encouraging.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been working on this since August; on the other hand, it’s hard to believe it’s finally done. When I was in the middle of writing How the Dinner Tables Have Turned, I got the idea for this story, and started switching between the two to stave off writer’s block. As so often happens, this story went from being the fun diversion from my primary project to being the primary project I needed a diversion from, which is how we got The Swell Shake and Leftover Doughnuts. But now it’s finally done, and I’m happy to finally be able to share it.
Synopsis: After getting laid off from the construction firm he’s worked for all his adult life, Dave is at a loss for how he’s going to find work again. That is until he meets Colin, a wealthy bachelor who contracts him for a simple bathroom fix, offering far more time and pay than the job is worth and giving Dave free reign to raid his fridge. As Dave enjoys Colin’s delicious cooking, he find himself overindulging more than a few times, and the pounds start to add up. And once Colin offers Dave a full-time handyman position and keeps cooking for him, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop…
It was the first break Dave had caught in weeks.
After working for a construction firm for 17 years as a builder and all-around handyman, he’d been laid off when the firm fell on tough times. All his attempts to get a job elsewhere had been met with no success; everyone wanted to hire someone younger. Dave didn’t think 35 was old, but he seemed to be in a shrinking minority there. The fact that he only had a high school diploma wasn’t doing him any favors.
After weeks of searching, frustrated with his lack of success looking for a new position, Dave took a look at the odd jobs listings online in the hopes of finding something to help him put food on the table. It was there that he found a listing by someone who lived in one of the wealthier neighborhoods in town, looking for someone to fix their bathroom. It didn’t sound like a well-paying job, but Colin, the man who’d posted the listing, was the first person to give him a positive response when he called. Out of desperation, if nothing else, he loaded his truck with his baseline set of tools and headed out.
These kinds of rich neighborhoods always made Dave feel uneasy. Having grown up in a working-class family and neighborhood, he didn’t have much of an idea of how to act around well-to-do folks. He knew they had all sorts of rules that people like him and his family never even thought about, like setting a table with several forks and needing to know which one to use at which time. It all seemed so arbitrary.
But Dave needed the work, so he swallowed his nervousness and drove out. He wore something more formal than his usual construction outfit for meeting Colin and threw his work clothes in the back to change into once he’d made a good first impression.
Compared to all the mansions and sprawling vistas surrounding it, Colin’s house seemed almost quaint in comparison. It was certainly bigger than any house in the neighborhood where Dave grew up or where he lived now. But rather than a showy front lawn that Dave would have had to take into account when figuring out his travel time, he pulled into a half-circle driveway that brought him right in front of the house. The house itself was certainly bigger than anything Dave could afford in his lifetime, but he could at least imagine a family with several kids and perhaps an elderly relative living there and being able to fill the space.
Dave stepped out of his truck and straightened out his outfit one last time before he walked up to the door. He didn’t have a lot of formal clothes on hand due to simply not needing them for his job, but he’d managed to scrounge up an outfit of a light-blue button down shirt, khaki pants, and good quality boots. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d worn those clothes, but it must have been at least 30 pounds ago, he thought as he walked stiffly toward the door, worried about popping a button in front of the person who was giving him his first break.
For Dave was not a svelte man, nor a muscular type like some of his former coworkers. He’d always taken a very loose attitude toward his diet, since he figured he’d burn off whatever he ate as he worked. And when he started working, that was true. But all that eating meant his appetite was growing, and his job could only do so much to work it off. Dave had put on the weight slowly over the course of his 17 years in construction, so it snuck up on him until he tried on his old formal clothes and found they didn’t fit quite as well. He felt more comfortable in his work clothes, which he knew fit him, and looked forward to when he could change into them.
With one more quiet sigh, Dave rang the doorbell and hoped for the best. Before long, a thin man in clothes only slightly more formal than Dave’s answered the door.
“Hi, I’m Dave,” he greeted as he extended his hand.
“Dave, hello! Such a relief to see you. I’m Colin,” the man said as he shook Dave’s hand daintily. “Please, come in, come in.” Colin was a figure of grace who more wafted through the house than walked through it. He was decked out in pastels with a sweater draped over his shoulders, the sleeves tied in front of his chest. It was an outfit Dave wouldn’t even know where to buy, and would certainly never wear, though he also knew he wouldn’t be able to pull it off like Colin could. “Can I get you something to drink? Or perhaps some hors d’oeuvres?”
“Um, just some water for now, please,” Colin said, making a mental note to look up what “orderves” were when he got home. “I was hoping we could get right to looking at your bathroom, since it sounds like it’s going to be a big job.”
“Ah, yes, good thinking,” Colin chimed. “Oh Benson!”
A middle-aged man in a suit fancier than what either Colin or Dave were wearing rounded the corner. “Yes, Mr. Lennox?”
“This is Dave, the man who’ll be fixing the bathroom.”
“How do you do?” Dave asked.
“A pleasure,” Benson said flatly.
“If you could please fetch my new friend here some water with…“ Turning to Dave, he asked, “Ice? No ice?”
“Maybe just a few cubes.”
“With just a little bit of ice,” Colin continued as he turned back to Benson, “and bring it to the first floor west bathroom, I would be much obliged.
“Of course, sir.”
As Benson walked off toward the kitchen, Colin twirled in the other direction while proclaiming, “The problem bathroom is this way.”
Dave followed Colin, trying to take in all he saw. “So, uh… do you have many people working for you like Benson?”
“Oh, Benson’s the only one, if you can believe it. You’d be correct in assuming many of my neighbors have a veritable staff to run their house, but Benson is my only full-time help. I have a cleaning service who drops by once a week, or more often if I’m having company. And I do have someone who comes by once a week to mow the grass in the summer. But other than that, Benson is all the help I need. I prefer to work in the garden myself rather than hire gardeners, as I think that’s half the fun! Of course, if I had flower beds as big as some of my neighbors, I might be inclined to hire some help too,” he laughed. It made Dave feel relieved to hear that. If Colin was willing to get his hands dirty, maybe he wasn’t that kind of rich person.
“It helps that I live here on my own,” Colin continued. “No need to hire a nanny or anyone like that, and you only really need one hired hand to attend to one person, in spite of what my neighbors might tell you,” he giggled. “Many of my neighbors hire chefs too, but I love cooking. Benson has enough experience in the kitchen to serve as my sous-chef, and with his help, we more than manage. When we team up, we can cook up an entire meal for a party of twelve, and have done so,” he boasted.
Colin reached over and flipped the light switch, revealing a large bathroom with beige decor. “This is one of the lesser bathrooms, which is why it took us so long to notice this problem. I’m more inclined to use either the bathroom off of my bedroom or the one closer to the living room. If you would just look under the sink…”
Dave feared squatting down in his tight clothes, so he leaned to the side to open the cabinet door. Rather than the store of cleaning supplies he expected to see under a sink, he was greeted by an empty space with some mild water damage on the floor.
“It seems the pipe has a leak, you see, and I don’t think the wood underneath the leak is supposed to be a darker color than the rest when it’s dry.”
“Your intuition is correct,” said Dave. It was a minor problem, and he figured he could have it fixed within a day easily, even factoring time needed to go buy hardware.
“I trust you know what to do better than I do,” Colin laughed nervously. “Admittedly, this is all over my head.”
“It looks like it should be a straightforward fix, as long as I don’t run into any unpleasant surprises,” Dave said. In a way, it was almost disappointing. On some level, he was hoping it would be a more involved job so he could spend more time working for Colin and get more pay before needing to find the next odd job.
“That’s a relief,” Colin effused. “Now, I don’t want you to have to rush this. I’d like you to be able to take your time and make sure it’s done right. Would a week be enough to time to finish the job?”
After a pause, Dave put on a cool façade and answered. “I think so.”
“Oh good, I was worried it would take longer! Now, I was thinking $4,000 as payment for the week of labor, though I’m willing to negotiate.”
Thankfully for Dave, he was looking toward the sink when Colin suggested the payment, because his eyes went wide and his face went blank. He’d heard that rich people had no intuition for the value of things whose costs were under five digits, but he didn’t think it would be so blatant. On the one hand, he wondered if he should negotiate. If Colin was expecting $4,000 to be a low figure, it might tip him off for Dave to just accept it. On the other hand, he wondered if it was a test to see if Dave was willing to rip him off. A repair like that normally wouldn’t cost anywhere near $4,000 dollars. Surely even someone like Colin would know that. But Dave knew that $4,000 would sure go a long way toward tiding him over until he could find his next paying gig.
“That sounds… reasonable… However, if, uh, if the job takes longer than a week, we should talk about, uh, renegotiating the price.” At this point, Dave was pulling talking points out of thin air, having no idea how to navigate price negotiations at this range.
“Of course, of course,” agreed Colin. “Oh, I’m so glad to finally get this taken care of. You don’t know how much this has been weighing on my mind. But then again, this is your field of work. I’m sure you understand the necessity of a functional bathroom.”
“I think everyone in the civilized world understands that.”
Colin let out a high pitched titter unlike anything Dave had heard from a man before. In hindsight, he supposed it was exactly the kind of laugh he should have expected out of someone like Colin. “Oh, that’s good! I do suppose you’re right. Silly me.”
“The water, Mr. Lennox,” Dave heard Benson say behind them.
“Oh, perfect, thank you, Benson,” Colin chimed as Benson walked in to hand Dave the water. It came in a thin, perfectly vertical glass he wouldn’t have expected to see outside of a restaurant he couldn’t afford to go to, and had two black cocktail straws. Dave sipped the water out of the straws and could taste that it definitely wasn’t tap water.
“Now, unfortunately, I can’t stick around today, as work needs me in the office, and I expect I’ll be staying late. However, Benson will be around if you need anything, including being let back in if you need to leave for any reason. You can use the bathroom on the other side of the first floor or in the middle of the second floor if you need go. Benson can show you where they are if you have trouble finding them. Have you already eaten breakfast?”
“I have, yes.”
“I see. Well, when lunch and dinner time roll around, feel free to help yourself to anything in the refrigerator. I’m not preparing for a dinner or anything right now, so it’s all fair game.”
“Anything in the fridge?”
“That’s what I said,” Colin replied with a smile.
“Wow, uh… thanks.”
“Of course! And, uh, good luck?” Colin wished him hesitantly, like he was unsure whether it was an appropriate thing to say.
“Thank you,” Dave replied earnestly. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m, uh, going to go change into something less formal before I get my hands dirty.”
“Oh, of course, please don’t let me stop you,” Colin giggled as he stepped out of the bathroom doorway. “I will be heading out soon, but thank you for doing this.”
“Of course,” Dave said, pausing briefly when he realized Colin’s mannerisms might have been rubbing off on him already.
Colin soon left for work, while Dave went back to his truck to retrieve his work clothes. He’d forgone a tank top in favor of a plain, dark green tee shirt and one of his newer, nicer pairs of jeans. Though he wasn’t working on a site, he’d also brought his reflective vest, in hopes that it would help him look the part.
Dave walked back to the bathroom with his change of clothes in hand, along with some measuring tools so he could know what kind of materials he’d need to fix the pipe. After closing the bathroom door behind him, he tore off his formalwear to change into his much more comfortable outfit.
Once Dave had removed his button-down shirt and undone his belt, he stopped sucking in his stomach and let his paunch advance over his open pants. With a sigh, he gently rubbed his gut, relieved at no longer needing to suck it in for fear of bursting a shirt button in front of his new client.
Looking in the mirror, Dave saw himself with his modest but round belly hanging out between the open edges of his shirt, framed on the bottom by the flaps of his pants as his belt lay unlatched on either side. He looked like a sorry sight in clothes that didn’t fit, but he just laughed, gave his belly a few pats, and took off the ill-fitting formalwear to put on more loose clothes. Once he’d changed into a tee shirt, jeans, and his vest, he looked more the part, and beheld himself in the mirror with a smile framed by his goatee. His gut, still a basketball-sized accessory he carried on his waist, suited him better when covered with a green tee shirt and framed by his open reflective vest than when bare and flanked by an open shirt. With a nod, he grabbed his tools and got to work.
When lunch time came around, Dave had already finished replacing the leaky pipe. Even with a trip to the hardware store to buy the replacement and a trip home to grab a tool he didn’t think he’d need, it was such an easy job that he feared he’d finish it too quickly. Though Colin had already promised him $4,000 for the week, he feared how it would reflect on him if he finished the job in a fifth of the time he’d told Colin it would take. So he promised himself he’d take it more slowly when fixing the floor. In the meantime, he decided to see what he could find for lunch.
Colin’s kitchen was far bigger than any Dave had seen in person, definitely big enough to cook a meal for twelve like Colin had boasted. The fridge was large enough to match, having two doors Dave had to open to look inside. Inside, he could see plenty of ingredients for making courses, as well as several dishes that looked like leftovers or pre-prepared meals. There were several tupperware containers Dave couldn’t see into, and even though Colin had told him to eat anything in the fridge that he wanted, he still felt nosey looking in them. So he took a sub sandwich he found wrapped in cling wrap and closed the doors.
“Um, Benson? You around?”
Colin heard some sharp footsteps approach the kitchen before he saw Benson. “What can I help you with?”
“Um, a plate to eat this sandwich on? I don’t want to go rummaging through Colin’s cabinets. That feels… intrusive.”
“Of course,” Benson said before he reached into one of the cabinets to pull out a pastel teal ceramic plate. Dave took a seat at the table in the middle before Benson put the plate down in front of him. “Anything else?”
“Uh… no thank you.”
With a nod, Benson bade him, “Have a good lunch,” before he walked into the other room.
Dave usually preferred his subs hot, but the sandwich he’d pulled out had a mix of meats and cheeses and condiments he couldn’t identify all of, but that he had no issue eating cold. It was a hefty sandwich too, over a foot long, wider than his hand, and nearly as thick as it was wide. Whatever else he might have said about Colin, Dave thought, he sure knew how to feed a handyman.
Dave put his plate in the sink, not sure what the protocol for dirty dishes was in a house like this, but figuring that if he left it there, it would at least be put in the correct place. Once he got back to work, he slowed down his pace to a degree that felt comical. With the bathroom door closed, he let the sink run for 45 minutes to make damn sure the leak was fixed as he went on his phone. He knew he would get fired for this kind of slacking off if he were working at the firm, but here, it might have saved his pay, not cost him it.
Once he was damn sure that the sink was sealed tight, he went to work on the wood underneath it. In order to try to stave off boredom, rather than just take a long time to do it, Dave removed the wood with as careful of a hand as he could muster, trying to remove as little as possible while still getting rid of all the damage. He put so much care and attention into it that before he had finished removing all the damaged wood, he looked at his phone and saw that it was 5:45. He’d impressed himself, and was comfortable leaving the rest of the work to be continued at the same pace the next day.
Dave had planned to go right home after finishing his work and make dinner there, but then he remembered what Colin had said: “when lunch and dinner time roll around…” Colin had given him explicit permission to raid his fridge for dinner. And given how delicious the sandwich was, Dave expected whatever he chose for dinner would be better than anything he could make.
So Dave sauntered back into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and browsed. Under one of the tupperware containers, he saw a 9”x13” glass baking dish with a plastic top. Looking through it, he saw what was unmistakably lasagna. It looked quite appetizing, but Dave a wasn’t sure about taking something so big from the fridge for himself, even with Colin’s blessing.
As if on cue, Dave heard Benson say, “Choosing dinner?” behind him.
“Trying to,” Dave answered before closing the fridge to look back at Benson. “The lasagna looks really good, but when Colin said I could help myself to anything in the fridge, I feel like he didn’t mean that.”
With a chuckle, Benson told Dave, “I assure you, Mr. Lennox is a man of his word. If he really did say that you can help yourself to anything in the fridge…”
“Then you really can help yourself to anything in the fridge.” With a smile, Benson strolled to one of the drawers and opened it to reveal several sizes of forks. After taking one of the biggest ones that weren’t serving forks, he handed it to Dave and said, “I imagine you’ll need this.”
Dave wasn’t quite yet convinced. “How can you be so sure he’ll be okay with me taking some lasagna?”
“Because I have just as much to lose if I misjudge Mr. Lennox’s words as you do, Mister…”
“Dave is fine.”
After a pause, like the words wouldn’t naturally leave his mouth, Benson finished, “…as you do, Dave.”
With a nod, Dave walked over to the oven and set it to 350. “Might as well warm it up first.”
“Of course,” Benson said before he walked off.
Dave waited until the oven reached 350 and put the lasagna in until he saw the cheese on top start to bubble. Grabbing some pot holders off the counter, he pulled it out and put it on top of the stove, letting out an audible “Mmm” when he smelled the sauce and cheese together. Grabbing a spatula from a crock next to the sink and a plate from the cabinet now that he knew where they were, he scooped out a nice heaping piece for himself and sat down to enjoy it.
Upon taking the first bite, Dave was struck by how perfectly balanced all the flavors were. The sauce was just spicy enough, the cheese just gooey enough, and the pasta just firm enough, that it was better than he could have imagined. After he ate the first bite, the rest of the piece followed shortly, until his plate was entirely clean. Not wanting to waste time getting up again, Dave grabbed another pot holder to put on the table and put the lasagna on top of it, allowing him to scoop out piece after piece for himself without having to get up.
Which was convenient, because by the end of the meal, Dave felt like he couldn’t get up. The lasagna had been so good that he’d eaten it with abandon until there was none left in the dish. Laying back in the chair, he felt like his stuffed stomach was pushing his chest and pelvis apart, preventing him from bending to getting up. All he could do was lie there, breathing heavily, and rubbing the top of his swollen belly through his tee shirt. It felt firm underneath his hand, with little give to let his fingers sink into the skin.
Soon Dave heard the front door open and Colin humming a tune. That snapped him back to attention, and with a grunt, he managed to get out of the chair, feeling a sense of relief when he stood up and his stuffed gut could expand forward into the open air. He also realized with shock and embarrassment that he’d eaten all of the lasagna. He wanted to try to sneak out before Colin could see him, to at least avoid having to deal with the aftermath in person.
But it was too late. With a pep in his step, Colin strolled into the kitchen. “Ah, Dave! Glad to see you got yourself some dinner. How’s the repair going?”
“It’s, uh…” Colin was caught off guard yet again, but he figured he’d ride out Colin’s good mood as long as he could. “It’s going well. The pipe beneath the sink is repaired, so you won’t have to worry about the damage getting worse. I removed a lot of the damaged wood today, trying to minimize how much I take out to make for a clean replacement, and I’m hopeful I can make a lot of progress on that tomorrow.” As much as he tried to sell his delaying as attention to detail, he wished he’d finished the job that day like he knew he could, if only so he wouldn’t have to look Colin in the eye again after making a pig of himself in Colin’s kitchen.
“Well, that all sounds like great progress,” Colin replied, still chipper as always. “So, do you think you’ll be able to finish within the week?”
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Dave answered without hesitation.
“Oh that’s great to hear. After the day I’ve had, it feels so good to hear someone say they’ll be able to follow up on their promise,” Colin said, sounding genuinely relieved. “Now, just as important: how was the lasagna?”
“Oh, uh…“ Dave was confused. There didn’t seem to be any anger or judgement in Colin’s voice; just genuine inquiry. “It… was delicious. Great balance of the flavors.”
“Mmm, splendid. I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m planning the menu for an event. Although, the recipe said it was enough to feed six to eight. I guess they were wrong about that. They really need more oversight in their publishing process so mistakes like that don’t go to print,” he groused.
It all seemed so surreal to Dave. There was no sense of irony in his voice, no sarcasm, no annoyance or disappointment or anger. Just a genuine belief that the cookbook had lied about how many people the recipe was intended to feed. “Um… I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” he said nervously. “After a… hard day of work, I’d worked up quite an appetite. I think any other time, a portion like that would feed six to eight just fine…”
“Hmm… well, you would know better than I would,” Colin admitted. “Anyhow, I trust you’ll be here tomorrow to keep working on the bathroom?”
“Wonderful! Consider stopping by for breakfast,” Colin offered. “Say, around 8:00? I’d be happy to provide.”
With a relieved smile on his face, Dave answered, “I think I will,” before he started hobbling back to his truck. All the lasagna in his stomach made it hard for him to walk, but the relief he felt at the fact that Colin didn’t seem angry with him gave him enough of a mood boost to carry him to his vehicle.
When Dave got home, he headed for his own bathroom to wash up from the day. But when he looked in the mirror and saw what he looked like, he felt nervous again. Though his face wasn’t a mess of sauce and cheese like he’d feared, his shirt had ridden noticeably up his stomach compared to how it had fit when he started. He could see an inch or two of abdomen underneath the edge of the cloth, and trying to pull it down didn’t budge it. Colin had definitely seen him like this, he thought. Not only had he made a pig of himself with the food Colin had provided him, but he’d done so visibly too. The fact that Colin had been so calm and cool didn’t provide Dave much comfort. With a sigh, he took off his shirt and tried to go about his nightly routine without worrying about it too much.
When Dave got to Colin’s house at 8:00 the next morning, Benson was at the door to greet him. “Good morning, Dave,” he said stiffly, like he still wasn’t used to calling someone by their first name. “Mr. Lennox is waiting for you in the kitchen.”
Benson lead Dave to the kitchen, and inside he saw Colin managing the stove like the chefs Dave sometimes saw in diners where he could see into the kitchen, tending to two griddles and two frying pans all at once. “Dave! You came at just the right time. Breakfast is almost ready.” The table was already set with three place settings, with two forks and two knives each. On the stove, Colin was cooking scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and pancakes, all of which looked perfectly cooked. “Please, have a seat. Breakfast will be ready soon.”
Dave sat by one of the two outside place settings, fidgeting his fingers until Colin put all of the food on serving plates and brought it to the table with Benson’s help. Everything was portioned in helpings bigger than what Colin thought three people would be able to finish. Perhaps he’d be eating breakfast leftovers for dinner, he thought, concluding it certainly wasn’t the worst dinner one could have.
Colin and Benson sat at the other two place settings and started passing around the dishes. Given how much food Colin had made, Dave didn’t feel self conscious about filling up his plate. Though he took almost twice as much as either Colin or Benson, it barely accounted for a third of everything Colin had made. That was a fair proportion, he thought, though a part of him worried Colin wouldn’t feel the same way. That might be one of those rules of eating with the rich that he wasn’t privy to.
“I do hope you’ll have seconds, Dave.”
Again a pause, this time while Dave’s fork was halfway from the plate to his mouth.
“I have to run after I finish this course, and I don’t imagine Benson will be able to finish all this on his own,” he laughed.
“I think I shall be content after one plate. You’ve made a delicious and satisfying breakfast as always, sir.”
“There you go. It’s up to you to ensure there aren’t any leftovers,” Colin said with a smile before he ate a bite of bacon.
“Well, I’ll, uh, I’ll see what I can do,” Dave said with a hesitant optimism before he took a bite of the pancakes. The syrup had an earthy taste to it and a smoother feel that he wasn’t used to, but he liked it. He wondered if that was what real maple syrup tasted like, and wanted to spread it over everything.
So he did, much to Colin’s delight. “There you go! Enjoy yourself!”
After another nervous giggle, Colin took a bite of bacon and found it tasted even better. He let out an audible “Mmm” and dug in, eating even more enthusiastically.
“You know what I like about you, Dave? You eat like it’s supposed to be fun.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Dave replied, “Thank you,” not sure if the comment was meant to be a compliment or not.
Colin and Benson talked over breakfast as Dave kept wolfing down all the delicious dishes Colin had cooked, made even more delicious with the addition of the syrup. To Dave’s surprise, he managed to finish everything left on the serving dishes by the time Colin and Benson had finished their first courses. Once the surprise wore off, he was struck by the sensation of fullness in his stomach. Compared to the previous night, it was a pleasant fullness, a satisfying sense of satiation, though still a heavy one.
“Hey hey, I knew you’d come through,” Colin enthused as he stood up. “Well, I’m off to work. Good luck with the bathroom today, Dave.”
“Thank you,” Dave said quietly, starting to feel the food coma settle in. As Benson started clearing plates off the table to put in the dishwasher, Dave stayed in his seat, fearful his shirt wouldn’t cover his stuffed belly. When he had the chance to slip out with Benson’s back to him, he got up and walked toward the door. “I need to, uh, go get some more supplies. Can you let me back inside in an hour or two, Benson?”
“Of course, Dave,” he replied, the words not sounding quite so unnatural falling from his tongue.
“Great, thank you,” Dave mumbled, walking out to go home and take a nap.
It was Friday afternoon. With a combination of excessive attention to detail and flat-out stalling, Dave had managed to stretch the job out to take the entire week that Colin had promised to pay him for. But even with all his stalling, he was proud of his results, the attention to detail having paid off with a job well done. It was admittedly a simple fix, but he was happy with his work.
The day Dave finished the job, Colin came home from work to find him having just put on the finishing touches. “Hey! Good timing,” Dave greeted. “The bathroom’s done, and I think you’ll be quite happy with the results.”
“Ooh, let’s take a look!” Colin said as he jaunted toward the bathroom. Dave ambled over at his own pace, hearing a gasp come from the bathroom before he reached it. “Oh it’s splendid!” Colin beamed. “You can’t even tell there was ever a leak!”
“Then I did my job right,” Dave said proudly as he reached the bathroom. Colin turned on the faucet and crouched down again to look under the sink, the smile on his face growing wider as he watched the water go through the pipe without escaping. “Now that that’s done, I’ll write up an invoice for you.”
“Oh, I suppose if you need to for record keeping or something,” Colin said, standing up and reaching into his pocket. “But I already had this ready for you,” he told Dave as he pulled out an envelope.
“Oh… well, I will write one for my records, but thank you,” he said as he opened the envelope. Looking inside, he saw the check with a rustic forest background made out to him, for the amount of $4,000. It was a bit of a surprise. Though he didn’t want to think Colin would be the type to stiff him, the possibility had remained in the back of his mind that it might all be too good to be true. Yet here it was, enough money to get him through a couple months until he found his next odd job. With a smile, he looked up to Colin and extended his hand. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
“Likewise a dozen times over,” Colin replied with a smile as he daintily shook Dave’s hand.
“Let me know if you run into any problems with the sink and I’ll be back to have a look,” Dave said as he turned to walk toward the door.
“Oh, are you leaving already?” Colin asked with a pang of disappointment in his voice.
“Well, I mean, the job is done. You don’t really need me here anymore, do you?”
“I was hoping you’d stay for dinner tonight. One last chance to show my gratitude.”
It seemed almost gratuitous to Dave. In addition to paying him far more than the job was worth, Colin had also kept him well-fed the entire week. Dave hadn’t bought any groceries since he started working for Colin because he was getting all three of his meals at the house. When Colin wasn’t around to cook, he kept the refrigerator well-stocked with prepared meals that were better than anything Dave could have made for himself.
And Dave had taken full advantage of being able to raid the fridge of someone far more gifted in the culinary arts than himself, taking hefty portions for himself for breakfast and lunch and stuffing himself silly at dinner time. He felt like he couldn’t help himself, enjoying the taste of Colin’s cooking so much that he’d lose track of how much he’d eaten. He figured it couldn’t hurt to enjoy himself so much when it was only for a week, but his pants did feel a little tighter when he got dressed that morning.
But he knew that could be his last chance to enjoy Colin’s cooking, and he didn’t want to pass that up. “I’d be honored.”
Over the course of the next hour, Colin and Benson were a flurry in the kitchen as they prepared dinner for the three of them. Dave expected that kind of finesse from Colin, but it was a surprise for him to see the normally stately and stoic Benson rushing around with just as much culinary expertise. For him to do so in his formal clothes was even more impressive.
It was far more than Dave could do, and he knew it. Watching the two dart across the kitchen, coordinating several recipes at once, he knew he’d just get in the way if he tried to help. But he still felt bad about just sitting at the table, making conversation as the two of them worked at the counter and the stove. “Is there anything at all that I can do to help?”
“Dave, you’ve already done more than enough to help with your work in the bathroom this week,” Colin said sternly. “Please, relax.”
So Dave continued making small talk until dinner was ready, as Colin and Dave brought course after course to the table for the three of them to share. A baked chicken that Colin had started beforehand, grilled seasoned potatoes, cornbread, and sauted vegetables came to the table. It was a hefty meal, but Dave knew he’d be eating as much of it as Colin wanted him to.
And of course, he did. Colin and Benson ate as much as Dave expected them to, or rather, as little: a slice of breast meat each, a modest portion of potatoes, a single piece of cornbread, and a handful of vegetables. The rest of the food disappeared down Dave’s gullet over the course of the meal, including both chicken legs and an entire breast, most of the cornbread, enough potatoes to fill most of his plate, and enough vegetables to fill the entire plate.
Leaning back in his chair, Dave rubbed the sides of his swollen stomach under the table, trying not to bring any attention to it. He could feel that his shirt had ridden up again, something that was a familiar experience in Colin’s house by then. He figured Colin had to know to expect it by then, and if he had a problem with it, he would have stopped cooking such big meals and encouraging Dave to eat most of them, or stopped inviting Dave for breakfast or dinner altogether.
“Well, I’m glad to see you enjoyed yourself Dave,” Colin said as he surveyed the empty serving dishes.
“How could I not? It was delicious,” Dave said with a slight mumble in his voice. By now, he was adjusted enough to eating these kinds of portions at Colin’s that they didn’t immediately send him into a food coma, but he certainly felt more weighed down than before.
“How about we take a dip in the hot tub? Might help aid that digestion of yours,” Colin said with a friendly chuckle.
“Oh, uh, I don’t have a bathing suit, so–”
“Are you wearing underwear?”
“Just wear that,” Colin said with a downward wave and a smile. “We’re not fussy here.”
Colin wasn’t sure how much he believed that, but a dip in a hot tub and a chance to digest before he had to get himself home certainly sounded appealing. “Alright… thanks,” he said, at a loss for what else he could say.
“Follow me,” Colin said as he got up from the table. “Benson, I trust you can handle the dishes.”
“Of course, sir.”
With a few grunts, Dave pushed himself up from his chair and into a standing position. Trying to pull his shirt down, he could feel it stop at his belly button, the fabric refusing to stretch any farther. With a sigh, he followed Colin out of the kitchen, figuring it wouldn’t be much of an issue if their shirts were going to come off soon anyway.
Colin brought Dave into a large, glass-enclosed room with both an indoor pool and a hot tub. The lights were dim enough that he didn’t worry about any of Colin’s neighbors being able to see inside, but he could still see around him just fine. “Here it is,” Colin beamed. “I’m going to go change into a bathing suit, but please, make yourself at home. Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Oh, I’ll be fine, thanks,” Dave assured him, not wanting to impose on his host any more.
“You sure? Perhaps a beer?”
“… you know, a beer does sound good right now.”
With a smile, Colin stepped forward and turned on the jets. “I’ll be right back,” he promised before he left the room.
Once Colin was out of sight, Dave started the tenuous task of disrobing in a stranger’s house. He was glad he’d worn boxers that day, which would pass off as a bathing suit better than briefs would. He struggled to step out of his boots while bending over as little as possible, his stuffed stomach protesting when he did so, before stepping out of his pants too. The shirt came off last, and once it did, he stepped into the hot tub.
The warm water was a shock to Dave’s body at first, but once he got acclimated to it, it gave him exactly the kind of relaxation he was hoping for. Leaning back against the hot tub wall, he straightened out his back, allowing his swollen belly to stretch out even more. But it was still entirely submerged in the water, and the relief the warm water provided was palpable.
Just as Dave’s eyes were starting to feel heavy, he head Colin’s footsteps approach and looked back to see him enter the room. He was wearing a bright red bathing suit and had a green bottle in one hand and a glass of what looked like champagne in the other. “Glad to see you’ve made yourself comfortable,” he enthused. After stepping daintily into the hot tub, he handed Dave his beer and took a sip of his own drink. Dave sipped the beer slowly as Colin got comfortable. As full as he was, he couldn’t drink it any faster.
“So, Dave,” Colin said, putting his glass aside. “I wonder if we might talk business for a bit.”
At that, Dave did his best to shake off his lethargy and be more attentive. “Is it something about the repair job?”
“No, no, the job went great,” Colin said happily. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you about possibly more work.”
After a pause, Dave took a drink of his beer and repeated, “More?”
With a nod, Colin elaborated, “You know, good help isn’t as hard to come by as they say. But personable help? Help you enjoy spending time with and having around your house, who will also get the job done well? That’s worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately, I can’t pay you your weight in gold, much as I might like too,” he giggled before taking a sip of his drink.
“Now, here’s what I’m thinking,” Colin continued. “I need someone who can help out with odd jobs and basic repairs around the house. Someone I can count on so I don’t have to keep hiring new people when something goes amiss. I might even want to do some expansion in the future. And, well…“ he stalled, taking another sip of his bubbly. “It was great having you work on the bathroom, and I was wondering if you might be willing to take on the position.”
“Well, that… certainly sounds like something I’d be interested in.”
“Oh wonderful,” said Colin. “Now, I wouldn’t need you to work as much each week as you did this week,” he told Dave, much to Dave’s amusement. “But I would hope that I could have you ‘on call’, if you will, whenever I might need you. Within reason, of course. I wouldn’t ask you to come here at 2:00 AM to repair a broken cabinet,” he clarified before taking another sip of his drink. “That said, since you’d effectively be a full-time employee, I would definitely pay you as such. And now that I know I can trust your work, I’d definitely pay you more per week than I payed for your services this week. Perhaps… $6,000 a week?”
It was all so much for Dave to take in. Between the warmth and the food and the beer, he found himself feeling light-headed at the suggestion and seriously wondering whether it was really just a dream. At the very least, it seemed too good to be true.
“Of course, the pay wouldn’t be the only benefit. Like Benson, you’d be free to stay in the house if you please, and even if not, it would be yours as much as it is his and mine. You could help by keeping an eye out for where repairs might need to be made in places that I might miss, and beyond that, my amenities would be yours. You could come by to use the pool or hot tub any time, and my fridge would be open to you like it was this week. The only exception is when I have guests over for dinner, but I’ll give you a heads up before that happens.”
Now it definitely felt like a dream, but it was one Dave was going to ride out for as long as he could. “You make it sound very appealing, Colin,” he said before he took another drink of his beer. “I think you’ve got yourself a deal,” he proclaimed as he extended his wet hand.
With a gleeful smile, Colin shook Dave’s hand enthusiastically. “Wonderful! Oh fabulous! We’ll get all the legal business sorted out next week, but this is fantastic news.” Colin lifted his drink toward Dave, prompting Dave to bring up his bottle and clink it with Colin’s glass, before he finished the last of his beer.
“Let me get you another,” Colin insisted. Before Dave could protest, Colin was out of the tub, leaning into the next room and calling out for Benson to bring them refills on both of their beverages. Dave was initially going to protest, but if Benson was having another drink too, he didn’t mind so much.
Before long, Benson had brought another opened bottle of beer and a bottle of bubbly to top off Colin’s glass. The two chatted as they kept sipping their drinks, the night passing by until Dave had finished his second bottle of beer. Between the meal, the drinks, and the warm water, he felt quite pleasantly swollen.
“Well, this has been fun, Colin, but I should get going.”
“Are you fine to drive?” Colin asked. “You can stay the night, if you want.”
“I’ll be fine,” Dave insisted. Trying to lean forward, he immediately fell back with a muffled, “Oof.” Looking down, he could see that his swollen belly had risen above the surface of the water, and now wouldn’t let him bend forward enough to sit up.
“You sure about that?” Colin asked.
Dave tried to lean forward again, but had no more luck than he did before. His stomach was not only sticking out farther than he’d seen it before, but it was keeping him from bending forward. “It’s my stomach, man. I can’t get up.”
“Hmm… something tells me it’s the carbonation having built up in there,” Colin theorized as he reached over to pat Dave’s belly, producing a hollow echo. “The heat certainly wouldn’t help matters.” After turning off the jets, Colin asked, “Can you turn over? Try lying on your stomach.”
It took Dave some exertion and some grunting, but he managed to turn to lie on his side in the hot tub. Once he got that far, he could turn so his stomach stuck into the seat, as he lay with his arms on the edge of the hot tub and his chin propped up on his hands. In that position, the first belch came out easily, followed by several more as all the gas that had wanted to escape before finally seized its chance. “Excuse me,” he mumbled when his stomach finally let up.
“Of course,” Colin said as he patted Dave’s shoulder. “How do you feel now?”
With a push, Dave was able to stand up. His belly had definitely perked out more from all the beer he’d drunk, but with the carbonation finally free, he could move around again. “Better,” he answered, rubbing his swollen gut without a care about whether Colin saw him do it.
Colin let a smirk show through briefly before he said, “I’ll go get some towels.”
Once the two had dried off, Colin went about trying to get his clothes back on. He’d resigned himself to slipping on his boots without tying them back up, as he didn’t even want to try to bend over to tie them. But his shirt and pants had also let him down. The beer had given him just enough extra heft that he couldn’t pull his shirt down even to his belly button, and he couldn’t button up his jeans, resigning himself to pulling the belt as tight as he comfortably could without buttoning them.
“Sure you don’t want to stay the night? You could sleep in one of the spare bedrooms.”
“I’m sure. I’d rather sleep in my own bed tonight.”
“Your call. Get home safe. I’ll be in touch about the proper employment agreement.”
“Yes! That. Sounds good,” Dave replied before he turned to walk out to his truck. Thankfully for him, Benson was nowhere to be seen, so only Colin saw him in his enlarged state, with his midriff showing under his ill-fitting shirt and his pants unbuttoned around his waist. At the start of his job, that was a nightmare to him, but now Colin had seen him that way and still offered him a full-time job. He figured he must have been doing something right.
Colin proved to be as prompt as he was hospitable, and by the end of the day Saturday, Dave had signed the papers and was officially his employee. That same Saturday, Dave had to threw out all the spoiled food in his fridge after he hadn’t opened it since the Monday before. He shopped lightly for groceries that day, having already gotten word of the contract before he drove out. He wanted to be able to cook for himself on weekends, but during the weekdays, during his “working hours”, he had every intention of taking Colin up on his open-kitchen policy. Maybe he could learn a thing or two about cooking in the process.
The first week was even more surreal than the week Dave had spent working on Colin’s bathroom. In between three hearty meals that were either raided from Colin’s fridge or cooked by Colin himself, Dave swam in the pool and relaxed in the hot tub; took casual strolls around Colin’s huge, painfully-well-coordinated house and his comparatively-modest but still impressive garden; and kept an eye out for places where his services could be of use. At the end of the day, he always left with his stomach pleasantly stuffed, and usually with his shirt having ridden up a bit to expose underside of his belly. He was better about not making a total pig of himself in front of Colin and Benson, although only by so much.
At the end of the week, Dave had done exactly zero work. And yet, on Friday, that direct deposit appeared in Dave’s bank account, exactly as much as Colin had promised. Dave chuckled when he saw the alert, feeling like he hadn’t earned it in the slightest, but happy to get paid all the same.
That weekend, after upgrading some of his tools and buying himself some formal clothes that actually fit, Dave did some introspection about his new position. As cushy as his new gig seemed, he knew he’d get unbearably bored if he was so unengaged at “work”. He also worried about his skills deteriorating if they weren’t used. If Colin was only providing pay, Dave intended to find work on his own.
So Dave printed up some fliers and hung them in areas around his neighborhood that he knew would be frequented by those in need. They offered handyman and repair services to low-income families at only the cost of supplies, with even that being negotiable based on the household’s means. It was far less than any other handyman would charge, and Dave felt it would be an appropriate way to pay his good fortune forward.
Dave’s schedule filled up by the end of that Monday. It was mostly simple household repairs that many wouldn’t think twice about calling someone to do, but for families struggling to make ends meet, they had to take a backseat to the real necessities. One benefit of their simplicity was that Dave had time to visit Colin’s for breakfast, take a break from his volunteering to drive to his house for lunch, and be done in time to visit for dinner, while still getting his charitable odd jobs done in between meals. Sometimes he could to finish two jobs in one day, much to the appreciation of both families he’d helped.
Dave kept this up for the next several months, living off of Colin’s salary and spending his weekdays doing free repairs. He never found himself without work to do, and became so involved in his volunteering that he sometimes forgot he was primarily an employee for Colin. He didn’t get a real reminder until several months into his new gig, when Colin asked him to come by for a “very important job” one Tuesday afternoon, without giving any details. Dave couldn’t help but wonder what “very important job” Colin thought would only take one afternoon when he thought fixing a leaky faucet and water damage would take a whole week.
After rescheduling with the family he was going to work for that afternoon, Dave picked out his best plain tee shirt to wear to Colin’s. He didn’t think Colin would expect him to dress up if he was coming to do work, but he did want to put a little bit of effort into his outfit. As he looked in the mirror, it was clear that the spoils of his raids on Colin’s fridge and Colin spoiling him with his cooking were starting to show on Dave’s waistline. Dave hadn’t thought much of the fact that he’d bought 3XL shirts the last time he went clothing shopping when all the shirts he owned were 2XL. All he cared about was that they fit better.
Now that 3XL shirt was draping over a belly that had grown several inches in all directions. Dave’s once basketball-sized gut had grown to the size of a beach ball, and was starting to impact his work. When Dave started working for Colin, he had no issue moving his belly around when he had to squeeze into a tight space or bend over to reach a low spot. But as the pounds piled on and his gut grew out, it didn’t submit to his whims quite so easily. Kneeling down and standing back up took enough energy that Dave planned them out over the course of a job, whereas before he would do it without a second thought.
But Dave couldn’t stick around for long to ponder his swelling belly, for he didn’t want to keep Colin waiting. After throwing on a nice pair of jeans and his reflective vest, he put a standard set of tools into his truck and drove to Colin’s house, not knowing what to expect when he arrived.
As Dave pulled into the driveway, Benson opened the front door to greet him, wearing an apron over his suit. “Good afternoon, Dave,” he said, the words flowing as naturally as they could given Benson’s formal way of speaking. “Mr. Lennox is waiting for you in the kitchen.” Dave followed Benson as he strode ahead, seeming eager to return to his post. When Dave turned the corner into the kitchen, he saw that Benson had already resumed helping Colin cook.
And what a sight it was to see what the two were working on. Though Dave had seen Colin and Benson cooks some impressive meals together, this one topped all of them, with food strewn all over the stove and the counter, as well as the table. Also on the table was a single place setting.
“Dave! I’m glad you’re here,” Colin called out as he kept darting to and fro between the in-progress dishes. “I have something very important for you to do.”
“Alright, well, I’m here. What is it?”
“I’m going to be throwing a dinner party for some potential clients, and I need you to taste test the menu I have planned and let me know what you think.”
Dave had to contain his chuckling. “I’m sorry, run that by me again?”
Turning around with a concerned expression, Colin asked, “Do you think you won’t be able to do that?”
“No!, no, I can certainly do it. It’s just… is that the important job you needed me to come here for?”
“Of course!” Colin exclaimed as he tended to the stove. “These are very important clients, and I need to make sure they enjoy what I serve them.”
“Okay, but… why me?”
“Well…“ After slowly coming to a pause, Colin turned around to face Dave and leaned against the counter as Benson continued tending to the stove. “You see, Dave, these clients come from more… humble beginnings than most of the people I work with. I don’t want to serve them something that seems standard to me but might be unappealingly unfamiliar to their tastes. So… to be blunt, I need someone who doesn’t come from wealth to give me their perspective on the mail. Out of everyone I know, that makes you the most qualified person for the job.”
It seemed reasonable to Dave, though he still wasn’t sure where Colin’s doubt in his own cooking would come from. “Well, I’ve never had a bad meal here, so I’m sure it’ll go just fine.”
“I appreciate that vote of confidence, Dave, but I am pulling out some new recipes for the dinner, and I’d also like to get your opinion on the presentation and sequencing of the meal.”
After a dumbfounded pause, Dave gave Colin a resigned smile and said, “Alright, let’s do it.”
A grin spread across Colin’s face as he clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Wonderful. You’re helping me out immensely here, you really are. Take a seat and we’ll take care of the rest.” As Colin turned back to the stove, Dave shrugged and strolled over to the one place setting, pulling up a chair and taking a seat.
Over the next hour and a half, Colin brought Dave plate after plate of exquisitely prepared dishes, only some of which he recognized. Most of it was delectable as usual, but a few made Dave grimace before he advised Colin to drop them from the menu. Dave couldn’t help but wonder what kind of meal Colin had in store for these clients, because though the dishes did seem to progress naturally from snacks to appetizers to main courses, they also never seemed to stop.
The amount of food on each plate wasn’t making things easier for Dave. Each course featured several different items served in the kind of portions he would expect at the kind of restaurants that he could see someone like Colin eating at. Of course, at those restaurants, he would only get one item per course. Colin was passing Dave four or five every round. Though the portions weren’t quite sample size, they were small enough that Dave was willing to believe that Colin couldn’t cook the dishes any smaller and still have them come out presentable.
He also supposed that he didn’t have to finish each one. But the time it took Colin to bring out another round of items was about the same amount of time it took Dave to eat all of the food that he’d laid out previously. This left him with the choice to either sample each dish and leave unfinished food in front of him as he sat twiddling his thumbs, or eat everything on his plate. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make.
But it was becoming an increasingly difficult choice to follow through on. The danger in each dish being so small was that Dave didn’t account for how they’d add up as he ate. By the time he was on his sixth course, he felt as full as he did those nights he made a total pig of himself while he was working on Colin’s sink. His stomach was stretched tight in front of him, forcing him to lean back in his chair to give it space. There was no doubt in his mind that his shirt had ridden up under the table, and from the side, Colin and Benson could probably see a stripe of skin between his shirt and jeans. He’d managed to avoid being that gratuitous about his eating since then, but Colin’s procession of smaller dishes made it hard for Dave to keep tabs on his appetite.
In spite of how much Dave had already eaten, Colin kept bringing out course after course, and Dave kept putting away every single one. The variety and constant change kept his tastebuds interested in what was coming next, and his stomach could only do so much to protest when everything tasted so good. Soon he was forced to unbuckle his belt and unbutton his pants, and implored himself to remember to re-buckle it before he got up.
But as the number of courses Dave ate threatened to reach the double digits, he had a hard time even remembering to give feedback as he ate. The buildup of food in his stomach would have hurt immensely if he weren’t too tired to give it any thought. With the food piling up, all he could do was think about how good it would have felt to fall asleep. But he couldn’t do that when he had an important job to do for Colin, as tempting as it was.
“I hope you saved room for dessert!”
Dave could scarcely lift his head to look Colin in the eye, or do more than mutter a reply, so he just gave Colin a thumbs up. He then let his arm fall beside himself as he leaned back in his chair, trying to give his distended gut as much room to stretch out as possible. As Dave awaited what he hoped would be his last course, he groggily reached toward the bottom of his shirt to pull it down, finding that it had ridden up enough to expose his belly button and the rest of his gut beneath it. Pulling his shirt down only managed to cover his belly button, leaving a large swath of his stomach exposed. He plopped his arms back on top of the table, knowing that all his pulling wouldn’t get his shirt down any farther.
Colin and Benson placed an assortment of sweet goodies in front of Dave as he simply sat back and watched. After they’d put down six items with more still coming, Dave threw decorum to the wind and started eating. Though every dish the two had brought him had been delicious, the sweetness of the desserts gave Dave an extra burst of motivation to keep eating. That burst soon waned, though, as he groggily stuffed himself with chocolate and fruit and pastries and creams of various consistencies, not bothering to keep track of how many he ate.
The rest of the night passed in a haze for Dave. He remembered continuing to eat dessert until there wasn’t any left in front of him. He remembered a sharp pain in his stomach, followed by Colin and Benson leading him forward with his arms draped over their shoulders. He remembered struggling up some stairs, and not long after he got to the top, he found himself lying down.
Once Dave was on his back, he became briefly more cognizant of his surroundings. He could feel his stomach jutting out far above his chest and waist, rising and falling with his shallow breaths. When he opened his eyes wider, he could see Benson and Colin standing over him on either side of a large bed covered with a thick, soft comforter. “How did I do?” he mumbled.
“Great,” Colin said softly, patting Dave on the shoulder. A small smile spread across Dave’s face before he succumbed to all the food he’d eaten, letting his eyes shut and falling asleep.
Dave woke up the next morning to find the lights in the room turned off, and only a little bit of sunlight creeping in through the shades. After rubbing his eyes with a groan, he scooched to the side of the bed, flopped his legs down, and sat up. He saw his shirt still bunched up high on his belly and his belt still undone. With a sigh, he pulled his shirt down, thankful it could now cover his gut again. Once he stood up, he buttoned his pants and fastened his belt. He pulled out his phone and saw that it was 5:54 AM on Wednesday morning.
After doing a double take at the time, Dave shook his head and hobbled out of a room. He had yet to shake off the fatigue of a restless sleep, and his eyes remained only half-open. Looking out of the bedroom door, he saw a hallway whose left side opened into the foyer, with the stairs jutting off farther down. He made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen, hoping he could figure out how to make himself some coffee.
But Colin was already awake, and a pot of coffee sat on the stove. Upon hearing Dave walking toward the kitchen, Colin looked up from his tablet with a smile. “Morning, Dave,” he greeted chipperly.
“Morning,” Dave mumbled.
Without skipping a beat, Colin put down his device and sprung up from the chair. He grabbed a mug from the cabinet and filled it as Dave pulled out a chair and sat down with an audible thud. “How’d you sleep?” Colin asked in a tone lacking inquisitiveness.
Colin nodded as he brought the mug to the table. “This should help,” he stated before putting the mug down on a coaster.
Dave picked it up and took a sip, and was pleasantly surprised to find it had cooled to a drinkable temperature. After taking a bigger gulp of the coffee, he put it down with a satisfied sigh. The flavor alone had him feeling more awake.
“I haven’t started breakfast yet because I didn’t know if you’d be awake this early, but I can start it once I finish this article.”
Once Dave finished sipping the coffee, he shook his head side to side with an, “Mm-mm.” After swallowing, he continued, “Don’t worry about it. I still have to shower, at the very least.”
“Pardon the assumption, but you don’t seem like the type who takes an hour to shower.”
“Well, I still have to drive home and back.”
“You think I won’t let you use one of my showers? Gosh, Dave, how high-strung do you think I am?” Colin asked with a giggle.
“Well… okay, I guess.”
After giving Dave a smile and a nod, Colin rose from his chair and sashayed out of the room, soon coming back with a single towel. Dave sipped his coffee a while longer while he and Colin sat in silence, broken only when Colin occasionally hummed a quick tune to himself.
As Dave was nearing the end of his coffee, he looked up and said, “Hey Colin?”
Colin looked up with eyes slightly wider,
“How, um… how did I do last night?”
“Great,” Colin beamed before looking back down at his tablet. “I got exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for, and the dinner will be better for it.”
While still looking over the table, not wanting to look Colin in the eye, Dave continued, “Even when I passed out?”
“Hmm?” Colin asked quietly, not looking up from his tablet.
“Was I giving great feedback when I passed out?”
Colin let out a good-natured chuckle as he kept scrolling. “Of course you were. Now I know I shouldn’t serve my guests as much food as I served you.”
Dave was used to these kinds of glib answers from Colin, but it seemed especially flippant when he’d damn near fallen asleep at Colin’s table. But Dave supposed he wasn’t the one to be making that call when he’d committed the faux pax. With a shake of his head, he lifted his mug for another sip of coffee.
After the first few months, Dave’s volunteering gigs started slowing down. It seemed word of his services had spread as far as it was going to, and he’d helped all the low-income families in the immediate area with long-standing issues with their homes. Now the jobs were coming in more occasionally, about two or three a week. While he still got his fair share of massive, long-standing problems, more and more of his calls were for fixes for issues that had come up more recently. And since those problems hadn’t been neglected for months or years, they were generally simpler to fix.
Dave welcomed the change. As happy as he was to lend his services to those in need, the first few months had been quite hectic for him, trying to fit in as many families as he could in a week. Now he had more time for himself, though he wasn’t sure how to fill it if not with volunteering. After all, the volunteering was meant to give him a way to fill his quiet weeks.
So he ended up spending more time at Colin’s house again. Quite a few of his days were reminiscent of that first week he spent as Colin’s employee, though now punctuated by his volunteering gigs. When Dave had the whole day to spend at Colin’s house, it wasn’t unusual for him to eat four meals a day, all of them as big as his usual three. With the house thoroughly explored and no repairs to do, it gave him a way fill his days other than more swimming.
Things were starting to get dull until Colin had to prepare for another dinner party. Colin took the whole week off from work to prepare for the Friday night event, and he and Benson spent most of that time in the kitchen preparing food. The pace wasn’t quite so flurried as Dave had seen the two be under a more immediate deadline, though watching the two work was still an impressive sight.
“So who’s the party for?” Dave asked as he sat at the kitchen table. He knew better than to try to help out, for he’d just get in Colin’s way.
“It’s a big family get-together. We’re not sure how many people are coming, so I’m erring on the side of planning for more visitors rather than fewer. I’d rather have leftovers than run out mid-dinner.”
“Makes sense. How many do you think?”
“At least eight. Could be up to 20 depending on how many guests they bring along and whether certain commitment-phobic individuals show up or not.”
Turning to face Dave withan exacerbated look on his face, Colin explained, “The kind who don’t like to say for certain whether they’re coming or not. A party planner’s worst nightmare.” After turning back toward the stove, he continued, “Anyway, I’m going to cook for 20 and hope for the best.”
Dave spent much of that week watching in amazement as Dave cooked up dish after dish of a feast that, as it came together, looked like it could definitely feed 20. And in spite of that, he still found time to cook him, Benson, and Dave breakfast all five days that week, and dinner the first four.
Unlike the feast that Dave had taste tested, the feast Colin cooked for the family gathering was all food that Dave recognized: two hefty smoked chickens, lobster rolls, deviled eggs, baked macaroni and cheese, clam chowder, a homemade chocolate cake and cannolis for dessert, and a tray of Colin’s lasagna, possibly Dave’s favorite dish he’d had in Colin’s house. Watching it all come together was quite a sight, albeit a bittersweet one for Dave. As Colin’s refrigerator filled up with pre-prepared food, Dave had a harder time finding food he could eat for lunch among the dishes for the party. As the week passed, more and more of the most delicious looking items were off-limits.
At Colin’s request, Dave left Colin’s house after lunch on Friday so he could spend that time putting on the finishing touches on the meal. “I have to say,” Dave said as he walked out of the kitchen, “I’m quite envious of your relatives.”
“The food they get to eat, of course!”
After laughing with his arms folded in front of his chest like an expression of modesty, Colin smiled at Dave and said, “Look on the bright side: after tonight, you get first dibs on the leftovers.”
“Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow, then,” Dave beamed. “Anyway, good luck tonight.”
“Thanks,” Colin replied with an exhausted gasp. “Much as I love to cook, it’ll be a relief when this is all over.”
Dave stepped into his truck and backed out to drive to the local big-and-tall store. His 3XL shirts had served him well enough for the previous few months, but those were starting to get tight, and he knew he’d need to start wearing 4XLs soon. Rather than wait until the 3XLs were riding up his belly, he decided to be proactive and buy them before he needed them.
Dave picked out several 4XL shirts of varying degrees of casualness and formality and took them into the changing room to try on. They were all loose on him, which he expected given that he hadn’t quite yet grown to a size where he needed them. What surprised him was that they weren’t that loose as they draped over his spherical gut. He turned to the side and saw the bottom hem of the shirt slanting downward as it descended from the bottom of his belly to his back. It had more than enough slack to cover his gut, but he had expected the shirts to be so loose that he wouldn’t feel like they were presentable enough to wear to Colin’s house. As it was, Dave felt like he could wear the tee shirt the next day when he went to enjoy some leftovers.
With a pensive look on his face, Dave pulled off the shirt and stared at his rotund frame in the changing room mirror. He wasn’t surprised to see that he looked bigger than he was when he’d started the gig. That much was a given. What surprised him was that his gut had grown past beach ball size to nearly the diameter of a car tire. He stood on his toes before coming back down on his ankles as fast as he could. His belly bounce in front of him, jiggling up and down as it gradually came to a stop. He rubbed his hand over the girth of his gut and felt its firm expanse underneath his palm. Though he’d been lugging it around with him every day up until that moment, it wasn’t until now that he pondered just how big he’d gotten.
“Everything alright in there?”
“Fine, fine,” Dave assured the employee before putting his old shirt back on and piling up the rest to buy.
Dave took care of some more errands that afternoon before heading home to put away his new shirts, make dinner, kick back with a beer, and watch some TV. His dinner wasn’t as good as the meals he’d been enjoying at Colin’s house, and it was a disappointment to end his week so unremarkably. But he didn’t think much on it after he’d eaten, settling in for the night to watch some cooking shows.
It was around 8:30 that Dave’s cell phone rang, with Colin’s name flashing across the screen. “Hello?”
“Dave! I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Hah!, nah. What’s up?”
“Listen, I normally would ask this of you outside of ‘working hours,’ but I need you over here if you can make it,” Colin said, his voice trembling with urgency.
“Yeah, sure, I’ll be right over,” Dave assured him before hopping in his truck and driving right back to Colin’s place. In all his time working for Colin, he’s never heard his normally-poised employer sound so worried. While he didn’t discount the possibility that this would be another non-fix like the taste testing, he did wonder what could make Colin sound so worried.
As Dave pulled into Colin’s driveway, he saw Benson waiting at the door. “Mr. Lennox awaits you in the kitchen,” he told Dave before Dave walked past him.
“Colin! What’s going on?”
“Dave! Thank goodness you’re here,” Colin exclaimed with palpable relief. In front of him, the kitchen table was covered with the leftovers of Colin’s family feast, many of the dishes looking barely half eaten.
“Did something happen at the party?”
“Oh Dave, I’m in a real jam. It’s… a bit a of a long story. Please, sit down. Start eating,” he implored as he motioned toward the food.
Don’t mind if I do, Dave thought as he walked toward a chair.
“We have certain provisions in this neighborhood, you see,” Colin started as Dave munched on a chicken leg. “You get one trash barrel per household, and you can only throw away as much trash a week as can fit in it.”
“We have the same thing,” Dave said, his voice muffled by a mouth full of chicken. “But you can buy extra bags if you have to throw more stuff away.”
“Oh, we can too, technically. But it’s just… not what you do around here,” Colin insisted, his voice modulating like he was trying to make the prospect of buying extra bags sound more illicit than it was. “You put out those purple bags and you’re the talk of the neighborhood. Everyone talks about how wasteful you are, wondering who you think you are to throw away so much.”
“Sounds awful,” Dave replied flippantly before taking a cannoli.
“And that’s where my problem comes in. I’ve already filled my barrel for the week preparing for this feast, and the food isn’t going to keep long enough to save it. That’s where you come in, because I know you can help me get rid of it.”
“So you want me to take it home and throw it away in my barrel?”
Colin lost his eager expression when Dave mentioned throwing the food away. “No!, no, I don’t want it to go to waste like that. I asked you here because I know you can eat it all before it goes bad.”
Dave stopped mid-chew, mouth full of macaroni and cheese, and looked out over the table. Colin had said the feast could feed 20, and looking over what was left on the table from only eight people having eaten, he believed it. “On my own?” he mumbled through his full mouth.
“Oh, Dave, please say you will. You’re my only hope right now.”
Dave stared at Colin before looking out over the leftover food packed on the kitchen table. “W-when does it all need to be gone by?”
“The end of the weekend, I think. But the sooner the better.”
Dave stared at the feast laid out before him and pondered his seemingly impossible task. There was enough food to feed at least twelve people, and Colin expected him to eat all of it on his own. He wished he’d changed into one of his 4XLs before driving over. The 3XL wasn’t going to fit him at all by the time he was done eating.
Without another word, Dave stuck his fork in the macaroni and cheese and started wolfing it down again. In the shock of realizing the scope of what he’d been tasked with doing, he’d forgotten how delicious Colin’s cooking was. That bite went down easily, as did the one that followed, and the one after that.
Across the table, Colin stood with his hands clasped together, and a relieved smile spread across his face as Dave started eating again. “Thank you, Dave,” he said quietly, as if he were still tired from all the fretting he’d done. “From the bottom of my heart.”
Dave gave Colin an enthusiastic thumbs up with his free hand as he picked up a deviled egg with his other hand. When Colin remained standing in place, Dave mumbled through a mouth full of egg, “I can take it from here.” With a nod, Colin slipped out of the kitchen, leaving Dave to scarf down the food as enthusiastically as he pleased.
And Dave did just that, taking food in turn from all of the platters laid out in front of him. When he started to get bored of one dish, he’d swap it out for another, gobbling up the food as fast as he could while still enjoying every bite. It struck him that he’d never gotten to eat a feast this big in Colin’s house without Colin and Benson there to watch and share the food. With all of it to himself, and no one to judge him for how he ate it, Dave could pig out as greedily as he pleased. And when it was Colin’s cooking he was pigging out on, he didn’t hold back.
As the night wore on, the bites started to blur together, as did all the dishes Dave was sampling. Tiredness and food coma came together to make it harder for him to keep his eyes open, even as his mouth did it just fine. With all his attention focused on staying awake, he lost the presence of mind to chew with his mouth closed. He ate hunched over the table with his eyes mostly closed and his mouth totally open. As long as he could stay awake, he kept eating.
Dave wasn’t sure exactly when he fell asleep, but the next morning, he was awakened by the sound of Colin’s footsteps in the kitchen. He’d dozed off with his gut propping him up by pushing against the table. The bottom of his belly was sore from being pushed against the wood, while the top was sore from how full he’d been the night before.
“Morning,” Colin greeted nervously.
Dave hadn’t managed to fully wake up, so he looked at Colin with half-open eyes and gave him a tired wave. When he looked over the table, he saw that he’d put a noticeable dent in Colin’s leftovers. “Hey.”
“How’s it going.”
“Fine,” Dave replied groggily, not awake enough to come up with a genuine reply.
With a nod, Dave, slumped back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. The previous night was coming back to him in waves. He remembered Colin calling him saying he needed him at the house. He also remembered going to town on the leftovers from Colin’s family feast. He felt like these two were related, as hard as it was to believe without the full story.
As Colin was brewing the coffee, Dave got a pensive look on his face as one particular detail from the night before came back to him. “Colin?”
“…Did you ask me to eat all this food before the end of the weekend, or did I dream that?”
“You did not dream that,” Colin admitted. After he turned from his coffeemaker to look at the table, he commented, “But it looks like you’re making good progress.”
“Yeah,” Dave concurred before rubbing his eyes. “Maybe I’ll have some of that coffee later too.”
“I can make that happen,” Colin replied chipperly.
Dave did not moved from his chair at the kitchen table other than to use the restroom. Except for first thing in the morning, he usually needed Colin’s help to rise from his chair, but he could make it to the bathroom on his own. Once he’d managed to waddle his stuffed self to the toilet, taking care of his business with a swollen belly in the way was more difficult than he was used to. But he managed, and once he’d emptied one part of his body, he shuffled back to the kitchen to resume filling up another.
It was 3:45 on that Sunday afternoon. The previous few hours had passed in a haze for Dave similar to how Friday and Saturday night had ended. With the end of his feast in sight, he’d gotten a burst of enthusiasm so potent that he turned down another cup of coffee from Colin. That had been a mistake. As Dave tried to wolf down the last of the remaining dishes, food coma was starting to set in again. It was so powerful that he felt like it was too late for coffee to do any good.
But in spite of his tiredness, Dave managed to finish the entire feast. After nibbling the remaining bit of chicken, he dropped the bone in the tray and slumped back in his chair. Opening his eyes as wide as he could, he beheld a kitchen table covered with empty platters and scraps of whatever wasn’t edible. He’d done it.
Dave felt the pressure build up in his stomach and opened his mouth to let out a belch, but as the muscles in his throat tensed up, nothing came out. He was too full to even burp. As he tiredly slumped his head over, he saw that his shirt had bunched up around the top of his bulbous belly. As full as he was, his arms felt too heavy to lift up in order to pull it down. He let out a quiet moan at the tension in his stomach, which had long ago given up on getting him to stop eating by feeling full.
“Hey,” Colin greeted quietly. Dave wasn’t sure when Colin had entered the kitchen, but he groggily opened his eyes halfway and saw him leaning down, face close to Dave’s. “You did it.”
Dave could only groan in reply at first. After he worked up the energy to open his eyes more, he mumbled, “I should go.” He had no idea how he was going to get up out of the chair, or how he expected to drive himself home in his current state, but he knew he work was done.
“Oh no,” Colin told him with a concerned tone. “You’re in no state to drive.”
“I can’t stay here,” Dave sleepily insisted.
“Well…” Colin stalled before letting out a sigh. “Come on, we’ll figure something out.”
Colin helped Dave stand up again, this time needed to do most of the work as Dave could barely push himself up. Dave groaned as his stomach made it clear it did not want to be moved, but with Colin’s assistance, he managed to get back into a standing position.
“I can take it from here,” Dave mumbled.
“I got it,” Dave insisted before he hobbled ahead. He could feel that his legs were barely bending as he walked, but it was all he could do to propel him and his bulging gut forward. He had it in his mind to make his way out of the kitchen, out to his truck, and figure out what to do from there.
But as he stumbled through the kitchen door, he realized he wouldn’t make it even that far. Instead he pushed his way over to one of the bigger couches in the living room. Once he was in range, he let himself fall back onto the couch with a thud, groaning from the impact. His limp arms could barely lift his hands high enough to rub his sore stomach, but he still tried, running his fingers across the taut skin of his swollen midsection as he let out a quiet, satisfied “Mmm.”
Dave had every intention of getting back off that couch as soon as he could and getting back on the road, but he knew he needed to rest a while before he’d be able to drive. Pulled down by food coma but bolstered by his desire to get home, he fell back and forth between napping and lying lazily on the couch, rubbing his sore stomach all the way. He spent most of that time in a half-awake state where he wasn’t sure how much time was passing, but was sure it couldn’t be that long.
When Dave felt ready to leave, he made several unsuccessful attempts to push himself into a sitting position before he heard a different familiar voice say, “Perhaps you could use some help?”
Dave looked up and saw Benson standing in front of him, offering his hand. “Sure,” he grunted. With Benson’s assistance, Dave maneuvered himself into a sitting position, letting out a loud belch once upright. With another groan, he started to rub his stomach before he realized his hand was moving over bare skin. He tried to pull his shirt down, to no avail, as he could barely get it half way down his distended gut. When he tried to pull one side down, the other rode right back up.
“Save yourself the effort, sir. I have seen it before, after all.”
“Right… Could you help me stand up too?”
Dave took Benson’s hand and pushed himself into a standing position. He had to lean back to balance the weight of his still-heavy gut, and found himself wavering back and forth from fullness. He was impressed that his pants didn’t feel tighter, until he felt under his belly and found this he’d unlatched his belt at some point during the weekend and his button had come undone. So he stood in front of his employer’s butler with his shirt bunched up around the top of his belly and his pants open, as Benson had insisted he’d “seen it before.” Even after being employed by Colin for this long, the strangeness of the situation was not lost on him.
Dave pulled out his phone and saw that it was about 5:30. “I, uh… I suppose I better get going,” he said before slowly turning toward the front door.
Benson followed Dave as he hobbled toward the exit, opening it for him and closing it behind them. Dave looked across the property and was thankful no one was around to see him leaving. “Will you be alright driving, sir?”
“Oh yeah,” Dave assured him, trying to convince himself more than anyone else. He figured that once he could sit down, he’d have an easier time of things. “Well, have a good one, Benson.”
Dave made it all the way to his truck before he heard Benson blurt out, “Dave…” Turning around with his back to his truck, Dave saw Benson stride over the driveway toward him, a worried expression on his face. “There’s… something I think you should know. I’ve tried to keep this to myself. I thought it wasn’t my business to intervene. But, given the effect your employment here has had on your, erm… figure…” Dave looked down at his big, round belly hanging out of his shirt and was glad Benson had stopped him when his truck was between him and any possible passers-by. “I can’t shake the feeling that Mr. Lennox didn’t hire you for your handiwork.”
“What do you mean?”
After letting out a sigh, Benson continued, “You’re not the first handiman Mr. Lennox has employed full-time. Each of them was also hired for a job that they were given a surplus of time to fix. Let’s be honest with each other, Dave: you and I both know it doesn’t take a week to fix a leaky faucet. All of the handymen before you left because they felt unengaged with how little real work Mr. Lennox gave them. And each of them left the position… heftier than they were when they started.
“I must admit,” Benson continued sheepishly, “none of them… filled out quite as quickly as you have, which is why I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. I don’t want you to become an unwitting victim of… whatever motivates Mr. Lennox.”
Dave was silent for a long time. Only the sound of his heavy breathing, belabored by the massive mound of food in his stomach, broke the stillness of the evening. That didn’t make it any easier for him to process what Benson had told him. “So I’m not the first?”
Benson shook his head, a worried expression still adorning his face.
“What do you think he gets out of it?”
Shaking his head side to side, Benson replied, “I don’t know, Dave; I don’t know. Mr. Lennox comes across very unreserved, but he’s quite guarded about what makes him tick. Truly, I don’t feel at liberty to speculate. But I do know what’s going to happen if you keep working here. And if you’re going to walk into that, I don’t want you do it with your eyes closed.”
Dave’s looked off to the side as Benson kept looking right in his eyes, eyebrows still raised in apprehension. At the very least, Dave was relieved to know Benson wasn’t looking at his gut as it bulged out of his clothes. As Dave took in what he’d just learned, he rubbed his belly the way he might scratch his head in thought. It was warm and gave way gently under his touch, his fingers sinking in gently until they reached his solid stomach. “Alright,” Dave finally said before looking Benson in the eyes. “Thanks for telling me.”
Benson gave Dave a nod. His face started to relax, his expression showing a measure of relief.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Benson’s eyebrows popped up. As he stared back with eyes wide, he remained frozen in place, before he took a formal, neutral expression again and he gave Dave another nod. “As you wish, sir.”
As Benson turned to walk back into the house, Dave opened the driver-side door to his truck and slid in. He had never been more thankful that the seat of his truck was just the right height that he could slip in without needing to bend down. His gut bulged into the steering wheel, but he didn’t want to adjust the seat for fear of upsetting his stomach. So he put up with it for the length of the drive home, deciding to put off sliding his seat back until that girth became a permanent fixture.
It was 5:45 on a Tuesday afternoon and Dave had just finished his fifth meal of the day. Having proactively changed into his bathing suit before he started eating, he waddled over to the pool room to sit in the hot tub and help his massive meal digest. The few stairs down were a challenge, but it was one Dave was used to, having acclimated to the new difficulty with every pound he added.
Dave didn’t own a scale that could measure him at his current weight, but he did know that his 6XL shirts were starting to get snug after his meals. And these days, when he was full more often than not, that meant he’d effectively outgrown them. When he first woke up in the morning, he could still fit a 6XL over his rotund belly. But as he spent the day stuffing himself, his swelling belly hung farther out of the bottom of his shirt, until several inches of skin were exposed.
Dave always told himself that he had to buy new shirt before taking another volunteer job, but those jobs had become few and far between. And Dave didn’t mind, as his size made those jobs harder than they were worth. Whereas once he could slide into tighter spaces with ease, now his globular gut, nearly the size of a yoga ball, made that impossible. Whereas once he had no problem going to different floors of a house to get a job done, now climbing stairs became something he needed to plan around. With the scope of projects he could take on getting more and more limited with time, he decided to focus on the one project that was only getting easier: the one at Colin’s house.
Dave dropped his shirt on a table by the side of the pool and stepped out of his flip flops. He leaned back to counter the added weight of all the food in his stomach, something that came second nature to him now. With an exhausted sigh, he hobbled over to the hot tub’s stairs and stepped down. The railing shook in his grip as he tried to keep his balance, but he soon made it to the bottom and sat down.
Dave’s stuffed belly stuck out over his thighs and was encroaching on his knees. With the water jets already going, the water lapped at his gut like waves crashing against a seaside cliff. After sticking his hands under the surface of the water on either side, he brought them toward his belly to make the water flow over it. These days, it was the only way he could get the hot water on top of his stomach.
As Dave was relaxing in the tub, he heard the front door open, followed by Colin announcing, “I’m home!”
“Welcome back!” Dave turned to face the entrance to the pool room, sitting such that his belly stuck out perpendicular to the line between him and the door. Soon Colin stood in the doorway, looking at Dave with his mouth curled into a smile and his eyes half closed. “How was work today?”
“Oh great, just great. So great I had to sit in the hot tub for a while to relax.”
“Mmm, glad to hear it. Did you eat already?”
“Five times,” Dave answered, looking at Colin with a proud smile. Colin’s eyes opens wider and his eyebrows rose. “I don’t suppose you left room for another meal…”
“That’s why I’m in here: to make room for dinner,” Dave answered with a smirk.
After clapping his hands together Colin proclaimed, “I’ll get started!” before rushing off to the kitchen.
Dave turned back toward the center of the tub and laid back, letting his voluminous belly swell out even more. With the added buoyancy of the water, it was easy for him to scooch forward as his back reclined against the concrete. He let out a satisfied sigh as he folded his hands and rested them on the firm top of his gut.
“Can I get you a beer, Dave?” Benson asked from the doorway.
“That’s a tempting offer, Benson, but if I’m going to eat another meal, I better not fill up anymore.”
“As you wish, sir.”