Originally published March 21, 2016.
Contains: long-term weight gain.
Another idea that was swirling around in my head that I wanted to put to (metaphorical) paper. For someone who doesn’t have much patience for reading narrative-heavy gaining stories, I sure do like writing them. This one was a fun change of pace because I got to write from the perspective of a character observing others gaining weight around him.
Synopsis: Jake is a rookie cop starting out on the force on the same day a local doughnut shop, which is rumored to have mafia ties, starts offering their newest doughnuts to police officers for free. Jake doesn’t like sweets so he doesn’t think much of it, until his colleagues start ballooning up around him. Then he starts to wonder if there’s foul play involved, and if he could become a target.
Note, because I don’t know how global this is: where I live, the phone number for emergency services, including the police, is 911, hence the possibly-seemingly-random price in the beginning of the story.
It was Jake’s first day on the force, and he was doing patrol with Ben, an officer of ten years and his assigned mentor. Jake was a fresh, eager young face with a closely-shaven beard and a trim frame that his uniform draped around loosely. Ben, on the other hand, wore the decorations of years of service, both in his more relaxed demeanor as the two drove around the city, and on his waistline. Ben looked about 80 pounds heavier than Jake, looking like he’d enjoyed quite a few of the complimentary doughnuts that came with the job. His uniform’s shirt wrapped snugly around his abdomen, and his soft face gave him a disarming charm, one he put to good use while keeping the peace.
It was a good pairing. Ben had seen enough years of service to be able to temper Jake’s unfettered enthusiasm, but he still had enough of that enthusiasm himself to not smother it. He could teach Jake when to show that fervor and when to mellow out, and his calming presence meant he could actually get the anxious Jake to relax.
“You’ve picked a great day to start working, Jake,” Ben told him as they were driving down the busy street.
“Why is that?”
“Star Doughnuts–you know that place?”
“I do.” Jake lived near the local breakfast stop and frequently walked by it. The rumor was that it was a front for mob activities, and he believed it. He’d seen them cycle through different employees, but there was never a “help wanted” sign in the window. Though there was usually a customer or two inside when he walked by, it hardly seemed to get enough business to survive in the city. Not to mention that they didn’t open until 8:00 AM, oddly late for a breakfast spot.
“They’re unveiling a new doughnut in honor of the 100th anniversary of the official establishment of the city’s police force. It’s called the blue star doughnut, and rumor has it that it’s going to be their best doughnut yet. And the best part is, uniformed officers get them for free!”
“Yep! As many as we want!
“I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth,” Jake admitted.
“No? Your loss,” Ben teased.
Star Doughnuts had a banner in the window advertising the new blue star doughnuts, “in honor of our fine police force,” with a price of $9.11 listed. Looking inside, Jake could see a line about six people long, two of them uniformed officers. It was certainly more people than he’d seen in Star Doughnuts before, but given how Ben had been hyping up the debut, he’d expected a bigger turnout.
“Not as many people as I thought there would be.”
“Yeah, they could have done a better job advertising this. Oh well, more for us,” Ben noted jovially as they walked in.
Of the six customers ahead of them, five ordered a blue star doughnut, even given the price non-officers had to pay for it. But given the satisfied “Mmm”s Jake heard as the customers were walking out, maybe it was worth the price.
As they got closer to the front of the line, he could see the new doughnuts in two trays in the display, with one tray nearly empty. The trays only fit rows of three of the blue star doughnuts, while the other doughnuts all comfortably fit in rows of four. Jake thought they resembled cakes more than pastries, being so big that he could see needing a fork and knife to eat one. They were vaguely star shaped, with five bumps protruding out of the sides. They were topped with a blue icing resting on light brown dough. On the side of some, he could see where a white filling had been injected, though it seemed to be coming out of slits rather than holes, as if the center had been carved out and filled by hand. If that were the case, he could understand why they might cost so much.
“Morning, Brenda,” Ben greeted once they got to the front.
“Morning, Ben,” the older woman replied. “Blue star for you?”
“Actually, how about a box of a dozen for the station?”
“Mmm, only problem is they’re too big to fit a dozen in our usual boxes. But I could probably fit eight in a box and send you off with two boxes.”
“Works for me.”
As Brenda walked off to get the boxes, Jake leaned in towards Ben and quietly asked, “You’re on a first name basis with the employees here?”
“Mmhm,” Ben murmured back. “I always come here when it’s my turn to buy doughnuts for the team, and mine always disappear faster than anyone else’s,” he boasted.
Brenda came back with two flat, plain white boxes with clear tops and started stacking doughnuts in them, pulling out the nearly-empty tray and finishing it off. By zigzagging the rows of two, she was able to fit eight in each box, which she handed off to Ben. “There you go, dear.” Turning to Jake, she asked, “And what can I get for you?”
“Oh, nothing for me, thanks. I’m not much of a sweets person.”
“Maybe you just haven’t had the right sweets yet,” she wagered in gentle tones. “There’s no better time to try than now, while it’s free.”
“Thank you, but I already ate.”
Brenda seemed mildly annoyed at Jake’s refusal to take a doughnut, but there was now a line seven people long behind them, and she seemed aware she couldn’t keep him there forever. “Well, if you change your mind before the end of the day, feel free to come on back. I won’t hold it against you,” she assured as she turned to the next customer.
Giving Jake a nudge, Ben implored, “Come on, let’s go take these back.” Ben grabbed some napkins on the way out and the two walked back to the car.
Jake got in on the driver’s side while Ben put the boxes on the back seat. He came back to passenger’s side with one of the doughnuts in hand, held in a napkin. As Jake started the car and pulled out, Ben took a bite of the blue star and immediately moaned his approval. “Mmmm, this is so good,” he mumbled through a mouth full of dough. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
“I’ll take your word on that,” Jake replied coolly as he kept driving them back. Ben, meanwhile, dug into the doughnut eagerly with loud chewing and grunts of approval, occasionally muttering under his breath, “so good.” In only a few minutes, he’d finished the gargantuan pastry, leaving crumbs and a bit of the creaming filling on his lips before wiping the mess away with what was left of the napkin.
“Good?” Jake asked.
“Mmm,” Ben replied emphatically from behind his napkin. “Man, Star Doughnuts really outdid themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever had a doughnut with that much filling in it.”
“I think they carved out the middle to add more.”
“That would explain it,” Ben agreed. “The filling was also spectacular. I don’t know what they used–vanilla? Buttercream?–whatever it was, it was fantastic.” Ben licked his fingers a few more times and looked ahead before saying, “Stop the car for a second.”
Jake hit the brakes and pulled into a spot as best he could at his current speed. “What’s up?” he said, ready to jump into action.
“I want another one of those, and I can’t reach them from up here with that barrier in the way.”
Jake tried to not sigh audibly as Ben got out, instead rolling his eyes when his mentor was out of sight. When Ben got back in, Jake looked over and saw him sitting with a whole box in his lap. “I thought you said you wanted one.”
“Hey, this way I can save you from needing to stop again if I want another.”
“Are there going to be any left for everyone else when we get back to the station?” Jake asked only half jokingly, goading a laugh out of Ben.
“You’re overestimating me if you think I can finish all these.”
“I didn’t think you’d be able to finish more than one. I mean, they’re so big,” Jake marveled.
“Well, you’re right about that,” Ben admitted. “But they’re so good, I gotta have another.”
And have another he did, chomping down on the giant pastry with as much enthusiasm as the first one. This time he ate over the box, letting his hand get covered in the icing and grease, which he happily licked off when he finished the doughnut. That he finished it at all was astounding to Jake, never mind how enthusiastically he’d wolfed it down without slowing down at all.
But the biggest surprise came when Ben took a third doughnut and started eating it with just as much enjoyment as before, chewing loudly and regularly letting out “Mmm”s of approval. Given the rate Ben was able to keep up, Jake reckoned that he would have started a fourth one if they hadn’t gotten back to the station as he was finishing his third.
“Alright, let’s bring these in so everyone else can try them,” Jake teased.
“Ah, mmm, yes, let’s,” Ben stuttered, seemingly jolted back to awareness. He closed the box and turned out of the car, though not without some difficulty. Jake could hear him grunting as he struggled to slide out. When he was standing again, he leaned back in a way that resembled stretching, but he never relaxed and resumed normal standing. As Ben turned to the back seat to retrieve the other box, Jake observed Ben’s stomach protruding noticeably more than it had when they’d gotten in the car, the buttons of his shirt starting to strain to hold his belly in. Ben had to struggle against his new girth to bend over and pick up the other box, letting out a sigh of relief when he stood up again with the second box in hand, followed by an exhausted, high-pitched “Whoo!” With his free hand, he wiped the sweat off of his forehead.
“Need some help.”
Ben laughed a self-conscious laugh as they turned toward the station. “You know, I don’t know why it didn’t hit me how filling three doughnuts this big would be,” he admitted as he gently patted his protruding belly. “Well, let’s bring these in. Hopefully they don’t notice how many are missing.”
When Jake and Ben got into the station, two of their coworkers walked out of the break room with blue star doughnuts in hand, both taking a bite and marveling at how good they were. After exchanging glances, Ben and Jake walked into the break room and saw four boxes identical to the ones Ben was holding stacked on the table.
“Oh good! You brought more!” The chief walked past them to the table, where he took a napkin from a small stack near the boxes and took one of the doughnuts. When he turned around, Jake could see a little bit of blue staining the edges of his mouth, implying he’d had quite a few of the doughnuts already. “Put them with the pile. They’ll disappear soon enough,” he said with a chuckle.
Chief Sampson was a man of significant heft. He had spent the better part of his first decade on the force as an officer on the street before moving up in the ranks to become the chief. Now he had 22 years on the force under his belt, and a giant, bulging gut on top of it, the result of years spent working desk jobs after getting used to being able to eat a lot because he’d burn it off on patrol. His belly was about the size of a large beach ball, the kind concert goers sneak into shows and toss around. It probably would have been even bigger if his shirt were less constricting. He was always a little behind on swapping out his uniform for one of a bigger size, and that was especially true these days. His shirt ran snugly over his belly like a sail filling out in the wind, while the vertical hems billowed out between the buttons. All the doughnuts he’d evidently already eaten that day certainly couldn’t have helped.
Ben stepped ahead and put the boxes down next to the pile, not wanting to stack the flimsy containers too high. After Sampson left with his doughnut, Ben turned around, grabbed a napkin, and took another one from the box. “One for the road,” he explained sheepishly. Jake shook his head with a chuckle and walked out, Ben following after him to continue their patrol.
The next few days passed about as expected for Jake, spending more time on patrol with Ben and getting used to the demands of the job. A fair amount of his time was spent at the station filling out paperwork, and while obliging that part of his job, he overheard quite a few of his fellow officers talking about how good “those blue doughnuts” were. Some of them would talk about going back to buy one and how “It’s totally worth the $9.11.” A few remarked about how they felt like a stereotype, being a cop walking around eating a doughnut in the shape of a blue star, but that it was worth it. But other than his colleagues’ obsessing about these doughnuts, things were mostly normal around the station.
That was, until Ben’s day to buy doughnuts came around. As usual, Ben went to Star Doughnuts before work to get his haul. Jake was sipping coffee in the break room, waiting for Ben to arrive so they could start their patrol, when Ben arrived with a stack of six boxes, which he put on the table. Through the cellophane, Jake could see eight blue star doughnuts in the top box.
“How much did that cost you?” Jake asked.
“Not a penny.”
“I told the people at Star Doughnuts about how much we loved these, and they were so touched that they decided to extend the offer indefinitely: free blue star doughnuts for uniformed officers any day!”
Jake stared back at Ben with eyes wide and eyebrows raised. “How did you talk them into that?”
After a pause, Ben admitted, “You know, I didn’t really have to. They pretty much offered it to me.”
“So what’s the catch?”
“I think the catch is that they cost regular citizens nine dollars and eleven cents each. But hey, if we can get the people of this city to subsidize our doughnuts, that’s a win in my book,” Ben concluded before taking an enthusiastic bite from one of the doughnuts. “Come on, let’s go start our patrol before I eat a whole box of these.”
Ben bounded for the car, doughnut in hand, while Jake shook his head before drinking the last of his coffee. Clearly his mentor was trying to avoid a repeat of last Monday, where he ended up eating six doughnuts by the end of the day, but it seemed like a futile task as long as they were free for all uniformed officers. Surely more of their colleagues would be bringing blue stars to work, even if it wasn’t their day to buy doughnuts. In Jake’s mind, either Ben would have to learn some self-control, or just accept that he was going to be eating a lot of these doughnuts.
“Oh my stars! Blue stars!” Chief Sampson interrupted Jake’s musings when he bounded into the break room and saw that day’s haul. He walked up next to Jake and reached up to one of the cabinets to open it. When he couldn’t reach what he was trying to grab, he lifted his belly up on top of the counter, giving him the extra reach he needed to grab a paper plate. Once he had it, he walked back to the boxes and piled up three of the gigantic doughnuts before grabbing a napkin and walking out of the room with a bounce in his step.
Shaken from his contemplations, Jake tilted his cup all the way up as he drank the last of his coffee, before tossing it in the trash and running off to catch up with his mentor.
Things changed around the station after news got out that Star Doughnuts was giving away blue stars to police officers. Soon everyone was getting blue stars on their days to buy doughnuts. Given how popular they were around the office and that they were free, it just made sense. It wasn’t long before people were bringing in blue stars even when it wasn’t their day to buy doughnuts. A number of Jake’s coworkers were stopping by Star Doughnuts on their way to work to pick up a blue star for themselves. And since they were free, why pick up one when they could pick up a whole box?
Before long, the tradition of workers taking turns bringing in doughnuts fell away. So many officers were stopping by Star Doughnuts in the morning to grab doughnuts for themselves and more for the office that no one had to be assigned to bring them in on any given day. There were always plenty to go around.
After a month, the station looked like a parody of a police station with how many boxes of doughnuts were strewn about. The break room reliably had a few dozen boxes on the table at any given time, and many of the workers and officers would take an entire box back to their desks. This might have seemed like a selfish gesture before, but now it hardly put a dent in the supply available to everyone else. A large stack of empty boxes stood next to the trash bin in the break room, growing throughout the day until the janitorial staff took it out at night, only to grow anew the next day.
If the boxes had a logo on them, Jake reckoned it would have been an unsettling sight, the symbol of Star Doughnuts being this omnipresent in the office. But something about the plain white boxes made them more innocuous. Even as the only person in the office who didn’t partake in the blue star doughnuts, he stopped giving it much thought after a couple of weeks. He’d heard the stereotype that cops love doughnuts enough times that this all seemed reasonable.
But no one, it seemed, was happier about the change than Chief Sampson. When Jake would pass by his office, he saw Sampson snacking on one of the blue stars more often than not. Throughout the day, Sampson acquired a small stack of empty boxes of his own next to his trash bin, often going through two or three boxes in one day. It reminded Jake a bit too much of the stack in the break room. It was never anywhere near as tall as that stack–Sampson was only one man, after all–but the fact that the man could go through that many of the gargantuan doughnuts in one day astounded Jake.
But for that first month, he only knew the half of it. As the police chief, Sampson was often the last one to leave the office other than the night staff, and it was after most of his force and staff had left that he really went to town on the doughnuts. A modicum of self-consciousness kept Sampson from making a total pig of himself during the day. But around 6:00, 6:30 each night, he’d amble into the break room, swaying side to side with a stomach already heavy with fried dough and creamy filling from the day behind him. He’d grab another box or two, depending on how many blue stars he had left in his office, and stagger back to his desk to wolf down his haul.
Jake didn’t discover these late-night trips of Sampson’s until one Friday night when he had to stay late to finish paperwork that he didn’t want to have to think about over the weekend. It was about 7:30 PM when he left, while most of the staff and force had left to get an early start on the weekend.
Unbeknownst to him, Sampson had enjoyed a particularly indulgent late-night snack that night, bringing two full boxes back to his office even though he had six doughnuts left on his desk, making for 22 of the giant treats he’d wolfed down that night, on top of three whole boxes and some extra during the day. He’d rationalized it as an extra pick-me-up to get him through his last batch of work before the weekend, but he’d finished that last batch at 6:30. The rest of his time in his office was spent leaning back in his chair, breathing heavily with mouth agape, stuffing down the doughnuts in spite of how full he was because they were too delicious to resist.
After Jake had filed the last of his paperwork, he walked past Sampson’s office on his way out, so tired and ready to leave that it didn’t occur to him to look inside. But just as he was about to pass, Sampson shoved the door open with a loud groan. He had six empty boxes under one arm and blue frosting crusted around his lips. His eyes hung half open, his mouth hanging agape.
When Sampson turned to face Jake and bid him good night, Jake could see the extent of the aftermath of his boss’s feast. Sampson’s belt swung unbuckled from his waist, and the button above his fly strained to hold against his extra girth. His shirt buttons looked ready give up the fight, so strained that Jake could make out the white undershirt that Sampson was wearing underneath.
“Jake! Staying late?” he asked, trying to put forth an image of alertness
“Yeah, just finished a load of paperwork,” Jake replied, not sure how to conduct himself. Police academy hadn’t prepared him for this.
“Great, great,” Sampson replied in a glutted stupor. If Jake didn’t know better, he might have assumed his boss was drunk. “Work ethic. That’s what’ll make you make it here,” he stammered. Wavering back and forth in a dazed state, Sampson leaned forward a bit too much, and several of his buttons came flying off his shirt. Thankfully he wasn’t facing Jake, and the buttons went whizzing by him. “Whoops, ha ha. Guess that means this shirt is history. I’ve been needing to switch to a bigger one anyway.” Beneath Sampson’s button-down, Jake could see that his undershirt had ridden up his belly, exposing his pale skin, scraggly hairs, and belly button. If that shirt had fit when he put it on, it was now a testament to how much Sampson had swelled up over the course of the day.
“Yeah. Well, I need to get going. Get home safe, sir,” Jake added, not sure what else he could say.
“Ha, will do, my boy. You get home safe too,” Sampson mumbled as he turned to walk down the hallway. Before he left, Jake watched Sampson put his stack of boxes on top of the one in the break room, like he didn’t want the janitorial staff to know he had his own stack. Jake sped out the door before his boss could catch him watching him. Getting in his car, Jake let out a sigh and sat in his seat for a while, pondering what had just happened, still not sure what to make of it. When he finally put his car in reverse, he resolved to put the events of that night out of his mind, as long as they didn’t happen again.
“Ben, honey? Are you coming to bed soon?”
“Be out in a minute!” Ben replied from behind the closed bathroom door, talking through the floss in his mouth. With all the doughnuts he was eating at the office, he was spending extra time taking care of his teeth to make sure they didn’t all fall out before he hit 40.
When Ben came into his bedroom, Yolanda looked up from her book to see him with his thumb in his boxers, pulling at the hem and not finding much give. “I think I’m going to have to go buy new underwear tomorrow. These are digging into my hips.” His stomach stuck out quite prominently over his boxers, whereas before he’d sported a stocky figure where his weight was distributed fairly evenly. It was something Yolanda couldn’t help but worry about.
“Mmm,” she agreed cautiously. “Ben… you know I love you know matter what, right?”
Looking up at Yolanda with a pensive look, Ben asked, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just that… you’ve put on a lot of weight in the past few months and I’m worried about your health. Now you know I think you’re handsome at any size—”
“Babe, babe,” Ben chuckled as he walked up to the bed and put his hands on his wife’s shoulders. “Believe me, I’ve noticed it too,” he assured her. “There’s this doughnut shop that’s been giving free doughnuts to uniformed officers, which people have been bringing into the station en masse, and I…” he trailed off with a high pitched, self-depicting tone. Putting one of his hands on his generous gut and shaking it up down, Ben continued, “I’ve been finding them pretty hard to resist, admittedly. But, hey, they can’t keep giving them away forever. It just isn’t good business sense!”
Ben was trying to put on his best husbandly reassuring tone, but he could tell Yolanda wasn’t buying it entirely. “Besides,” he added in a flirty tone, waving his abdomen back and forth, letting his belly sway in front of his wife’s gaze. “I think you like it more than you let on.”
Yolanda’s eyes were locked on Ben, following his belly like it was a field sobriety test. But none of the drunk drivers Ben had pulled over could ever follow him the way Yolana was now. “Hmmm, maybe,” she conceded before looking up at him coyly.
“All I’m saying is, not a lot of couples are making love more often this deep into their marriage than they were at the start.”
Yolanda let out a grunted giggle and let her hands wander to Ben’s belly. “What can I say?” she asked as she looked back at him as she ran her fingers over his newly added heft. “I just wish it was my cooking that put this on you,” she admitted, sounding a bit frustrated. “It’d be better for you than some sugary doughnuts.”
“Who said it can’t be both?” Ben replied playfully.
“You’ve gotten enough help from your literal sugar momma on that,” she replied half-sternly as she patted his belly. “When you stop eating so many of those doughnuts, maybe I’ll consider it.”
“Hm, alright, deal,” he agreed with a smile on his face. “Now come on,” he pleaded before letting out a yawn. “Let’s get some sleep.”
Jake was berating himself for not realizing earlier that there was something off about Star Doughnuts’ deal, but it was starting to look like there was nothing he could do about it. All his colleagues were ballooning up around him, all of them gorging on these delicious free doughnuts that the office always had plenty of. Buttons popping off of uniforms became a common occurrence, as guys who usually never had to think about replacing their uniforms were outgrowing them at alarming rates. Rather than concern, they treated the phenomenon with blithe indifference, sometimes even cheering when they got a button to pop.
Most police departments could discourage their officers from gaining too much weight by making it hard for them to get bigger uniforms, if not refusing them altogether. But given that Sampson needed to replace his uniform more often than anyone else in the office, he couldn’t reasonably deny any of them a larger size. Since the chief was still the biggest one in the office, no one ever had to worry about reaching a size where there wouldn’t be uniforms big enough to fit them. He would find a supplier who could do the job, if only for his own sake.
For Sampson was blowing up bigger than anyone else in the office. All his gorging had ballooned his belly to the size of a yoga ball. His face was flanked by so much pudge in his cheeks and chin that his head was the size of some of the officers’ pot bellies. At his new size, his walk more resembled a waddle as he maneuvered his new mass down the hall between his office and the break room and back. It was a wonder to Jake that he could find uniforms that fit him anymore. True to form, Sampson was always a little behind on upgrading to a bigger size, his tight shirt rounding out the contours of his gargantuan belly as the vertical hems strained to stay buttoned. Like those working for him, it usually took him blowing his shirt out before he’d replace it with a bigger one.
Sampson was about as on top of his force as he was on top of upgrading his shirts. As the months passed since the blue star deal debuted, Sampson went from an effective if sometimes lenient boss to something more like a monarch, behaving like Henry VIII but with as much power as a prince in the 21st century. He was more interested in stuffing his face with doughnuts, no longer shy about bringing two or three boxes at a time to his office, than he was in running an effective police unit. The pile of boxes in his office was starting to grow as tall as the stacks in the break room were when the blue star doughnut first became free for uniformed officers.
Not that he had an effective unit to run. Jake was all too familiar with the stories in the papers: “Growing Problem with Ineffective Police Force.” “Police Doughnut Know How to Do Their Job.” “Bellies and Badges.” “The Not-So-Thin Blue Line.” He seemed to be the only one who was. When he asked his colleagues if they’d seen the headlines, they tended to dismiss them, saying, “Newspapers just peddle sensationalism anyway,” or “Oh you know, I’m so busy in the morning, I just don’t have time,” or occasionally “Why read the news when we are the news?”
But Jake wasn’t sure what he could do about it. Everyone else in the office loved the doughnuts, and any time he suggested they cut back or replace them with healthier alternatives, he was quickly shot down. He, like Ben, had assumed that it was a temporary offer and Star Doughnuts couldn’t keep it up forever. But eight months in, there was no sign of them ending the deal.
Jake’s only potential ally seemed to be Ben, who he’d noticed was partaking in the doughnuts less and less, and by then had stopped eating them altogether. Jake took the opportunity to try to recruit his mentor to his side.
“Hey Ben,” Jake greeted one morning when he and Ben were the only ones in the break room.
“Hey Jake, what’s up?” Ben returned as he turned around to face his colleague. In spite of cutting back on the doughnuts, the damage had already been done, as Ben’s hefty belly swung around with him, seeming to move like it was on a time delay with the rest of his body. Or maybe it was his body that was being delayed by his belly. He now looked to be at least 150 pounds heavier than Jake, a growth not unrivaled by their colleagues.
“It’s just these doughnuts, man. Something’s odd about it. Don’t you think the bakery would have gone out of business giving out this many doughnuts from free?”
“It is odd,” Ben agreed after finishing a sip of coffee. “I’ll give you that.”
“I mean, you don’t seem to be eating them lately.”
“Nope,” he confirmed while shaking his head side to side. “None for me.”
“So surely you think something’s fishy about them too.”
Ben gave Jake a quizzical look before letting out a chuckle. “Nah, it’s simple, Jake. Police and doughnuts go together like…” After taking another sip, he concluded, “Like coffee and cream.”
“Then why did you stop eating them?”
Ben chuckled again and looked at Jake with a smile and raised eyebrows. “Would you believe it was because my old lady was jealous of them?” Jake wasn’t sure what to make of that, furrowing his brows and staring at Ben some more. “She liked that I was getting bigger; she admitted so herself. But she was worried about my health, and she said that she could have put this much weight on me without me having to eat so many sweets. So we came to an agreement: I stop eating the doughnuts, and she’ll cook more hearty meals for me.” Ben looked down at his generous midsection with a placid smile and gently patted it with his free hand.
“I tell ya,” Ben continued, “as good as those doughnuts are, there’s nothing like some good home cooking from someone who really knows how to do it. I’ve tried sneaking one during the day, but man, she’s got superhuman smell or something. She’ll give me a kiss when I come home and she can tell if I’ve had a doughnut during the day, and then it’s a normal-sized dinner for me. But when I’ve been good that day, and she goes all out,” he paused with a chuckle, shaking his head back and forth. “Man, it’s like Thanksgiving every night. Course after course, dish after dish, entree after entree, and her encouraging me, goading me the entire time. No matter how full I get, she can always convince me to scarf down more of her delicious cooking, until I’ve cleaned not just my plate, but all the serving dishes too.” By this point, Ben was absentminded rubbing his generous belly as he described he and his wife’s nightly routine. “Totally worth skipping out on the doughnuts for.”
Jake gave Ben a nod and bade him good day, hanging his head as he rounded the corner. If Ben wasn’t on his side, he didn’t have much of a chance of convincing anyone else. Looking into his still-half-full cup of coffee, he sighed and threw it in the garbage before heading out for the day.
It turned out Ben wasn’t the only one who wanted to do something about the police department’s hefty problem. Peter Caine was an investigator working for the city who’d been charged with finding the cause of the police department’s growing profiles. Of course, it didn’t take him long; one look around the station was all he needed to size up the problem.
Peter came into the station unannounced one day, draped in a black suit with a tailored light-blue shirt hugging his trim frame. His chiseled face contorted into a look of shock when he entered the break room. “Who’s paying for all these doughnuts?” He asked incredulously.
“Oh, we don’t pay for them,” one of Jake’s colleagues explained. “Star Doughnuts gives them to us for free.”
“And that doesn’t seem at all… suspicious to you?”
The portly officer had already picked up one of the doughnuts and taken a big bite of it, letting the filling spill out. “Nah,” he said through a mouthful of dough.
Peter walked through the station some more, asking other officers and workers about their day-to-day without revealing why he was there, lest they have reason to lie to him. It didn’t take him long to become certain that Star Doughnuts was the problem. Taking matters into his own hands, he paid them a visit and threatened them with charges of bribing an officer if they kept giving out doughnuts for free, to which they relented.
It seemed like it was settled. Now that uniformed officers had to pay the usual $9.11 for each doughnut, the blue stars stopped showing up around the station. Officers had to start taking turns buying doughnuts again, and most of them didn’t do it from Star Doughnuts. When they did, they certainly didn’t buy a dozen of the blue stars and put themselves out of $110 plus tax. The station was back down to a box or two a day.
But things didn’t improve. Without the never-ending stream of doughnuts to sustain them, the officers and workers alike were sluggish and tired, deprived of the source of energy they’d grown to depend on. Sometimes the force didn’t even finish the doughnuts that were brought in on any given day, and they had to be thrown out. Everyone had grown so accustomed to the decadence of the blue stars that a box of any other doughnuts might as well have been a plate of plain crackers. But Jake was still optimistic. Once everyone adjusted to things getting back to normal in the office, he assumed they could resume business as usual and restore their image.
But things didn’t quite work out that way. Not long after Peter’s initial investigation, news got out that he’d gone missing, and not long after that, the blue stars started showing up at the station again. Word got around quickly that Star Doughnuts had resumed their deal of free blue stars for uniformed officers, and after only a few more days, the office was back to how it had been before.
If Jake had been suspicious before, he was convinced now that this had to be deliberate. Someone at Star Doughnuts wanted to fatten up the police force, and they’d gotten Peter out of the way to keep doing it.
Jake kept his head low for the next few weeks. As much as he wanted to put a stop to all this, he feared that if he made himself too conspicuous, he’d suffer the same fate that Peter did. And for those next few weeks, no one was quite sure what that fate was.
That was until news got out that Peter had reappeared, only to quit his job with City Hall unceremoniously, only showing up at the office to put in his resignation. It was barely an item in the paper, relegated to the back pages as a follow-up to the initial stories. But Jake knew there had to be more to it.
And one morning, on his walk to work, he got his answer. Passing near Star Doughnuts, he saw Peter walking away from the location with a box of doughnuts in hand and a smile on his face. Through the top of the box, Jake could see the unmistakable blue frosting that topped the blue stars.
Peter was nearly unrecognizable walking down the street opposite of Jake. Instead of the suit ensemble he’d been wearing when Jake saw him at the station, he was wearing a worn-out tee-shirt and jeans. His previously clean-shaven face was now covered with short, just-over-stubble-length hair. He looked like he’d shaven recently, but seemed to have fallen out of the habit of doing it every day. In the tight shirt Peter was wearing, Jake could clearly see the most telling change of all: his previously trim frame now bore a prominent pot belly, riding his body with no bounce. His abdomen was round and firm, like it had been regularly stretched to capacity and grew the same way.
Jake kept walking, averting his gaze from Peter and trying to avoid being recognized. If he was going to save the police the force, he couldn’t risk being associated with Peter, especially not this close to Star Doughnuts where someone might see him. Clearly Peter didn’t do this to himself, and Jake didn’t want to get noticed by someone who might ensure he suffered the same fate.
Months passed, and Jake felt powerless to do anything to halt his colleagues’ expanding waistbands. If a city investigator couldn’t put a stop to Star Doughnut’s machinations, what could he, a lowly officer, do? Meanwhile the doughnuts kept coming in, and the officers kept piling on the pounds. Things slowed to a crawl in the station as everything seemed to take twice as long with everyone’s leisurely attitude towards work and lackadaisical demeanors brought about by their recent weight gain.
Maybe it was due to everyone’s blithe attitude toward their jobs that no one noticed Sampson’s growth into nothing more than a figurehead. His expansion had slowed down somewhat, as a man could only eat so many doughnuts in one day. He seemed to be approaching a plateau, though not before his gut had expanded about six inches in all directions past yoga ball size. He had long ago outgrown his shirt, but no one seemed to raise a fuss about his waddling around the police station with his shirt unbuttoned two or three buttons above his belt, his undershirt too small to cover his gut, leaving a window open to his belly button and plenty of gut around it.
Not that any of the people underneath him were in a position to fault him for it, except for Jake, who was now easily the odd one out on the force. It had him worried that he would stick out as a target for whoever was trying to fatten the department up. At first some of the officers were growing more slowly than others, allowing Jake to blend in among the late bloomers. But this long after Star Doughnuts’ promotional offer, Jake was sticking out for how much he wasn’t sticking out. With Jake as the only exception, everyone in the office now had at least a respectable pot belly, with many of them having grown even bigger. Some were rivaling Sampson’s previous size before the free doughnuts.
Ben was one of them. In spite of having given up the doughnuts, his wife’s cooking was more than enough to make up the difference, and had helped him pack on the pounds even faster than most of his coworkers. But he seemed more energized and alert than his colleagues, walking around proudly, almost briskly, as his rotund stomach lead the way, walking with purpose instead of the dopey glee of the other officers. Unfortunately, he never seemed to see anything worrisome about their coworkers’ more listless attitudes, no matter how many times Jake tried to call his attention to it.
Jake had all but given up on his mentor being of any help in stopping Star Doughnuts, in spite of him being the only one left in the office who could carry out an entertaining conversation anymore. In spite of them not seeing eye to eye on the doughnuts, Jake and Ben had remained on good terms even after Jake didn’t need Ben as a mentor anymore. Leading to one day…
“Hey Jake,” Ben greeted as he bounded up to his former mentee, belly bouncing with just as much gusto.
“My wife, Yolanda, and I were talking last night. I’ve been telling her about you–only good things, of course–and she’d like to have you over for dinner to meet the ‘nice young man I’ve been mentoring’.”
“Oh,” Jake replied with surprise, not having expected that when Ben came up to him.
“Don’t worry, she’ll make you a normal-sized dinner,” Ben reassured, laughing as he patted his protruding gut.
“Well, I’d love to,” Jake said with a smile.
“Great! When are you free?”
The two negotiated a time, and later that week, Jake followed Ben back home after they both got out of work, with Jake changing out of his uniform into something more formal before they left. They arrived at a modest one-floor home in one of the more well-to-do parts of town. It was one of the smaller houses in the neighborhood, but Jake figured the two must enjoy an idyllic life there. The two were able to fit both of their cars in the driveway along with a third one, assumedly Yolanda’s, and they walked to the door together. “We’re here!” Ben shouted as he opened the door.
“Welcome!” Jake heard Yolanda reply as he smelled all the cumen coming out of the kitchen. Before long, she came out of the kitchen wearing an apron over a tee shirt and jeans. “You must be Jake!” she exclaimed.
“And you must be Yolanda! Nice to meet you!” Jake greeted as he took her extended hand and shook it.
“Normally I’d give you a hug hello, but I’d hate to get your nice clothes dirty,” she said, motioning down to her apron. Turning to Ben, she greeted him with a more subdued, “Welcome home, dear,” and a kiss on the cheek. “I hope you like Tex Mex, Jake!” she called out as she walked back into this kitchen.
“Love it!” he called back.
“Tell you what,” Ben said to Jake, “I’m going to go change out of my uniform. You can wait in the living room if you like.”
“I think I’ll go see if I can help your wife in the kitchen,” Jake replied.
A smile grew across Ben’s face. “I think you two will get along just fine,” he reassured Jake, patting him in the shoulder before he went into their bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Jake walked into the kitchen to find Yolanda hard at work in a culinary flurry. Clearly she wasn’t making a feast as big as Ben had described her making for him, but it seemed she wanted to give them a memorable meal regardless.
“Ben said he’ll join us after he changes out of his uniform. Can I help with anything?”
“Oh,” Yolanda exclaimed as she looked back at Ben with raised eyebrows. “Bless you for offering, but I’d hate for you to get anything on your nice clothes. It tends to get messy in here, you might have noticed.”
With a chuckle, Jake replied, “Hey, like my mom always said, presentation is for the dining room. Do you have an extra apron?”
Yolanda pointed to one of the cabinets with her free hand. “In there. I hope you don’t feel obligated.”
“Not at all,” Jake reassured her as he pulled a bulky apron out of the cabinet and draped it around himself.
With Jake’s help, the meal came together in no time, and the three were soon enjoying their feast, with many compliments from Jake. Ben wolfed down his first few bites out of habit, before seeming to remember that he wasn’t getting his usual feast, and that he ought to have more decorum in front of company. He seemed to consciously restrain himself from taking seconds until Yolanda and Jake had a chance too, and it wasn’t until Jake and Yolanda had both proclaimed they’d had plenty before he finished off the rest, giving the two time to get to know each other.
“So how did you and Ben meet?”
“College sweethearts,” she replied, looking at Ben with a smile as he grinned back, cheeks full of chicken fajita. “We were waiting for a shuttle bus and he noticed my economics books and asked me if I thought Intro to Economics would make a good elective. And from there, things progressed about as you’d expect them to.”
“You work in economics?”
“Kinda,” she admitted. “I’m a secretary at a finance firm now. Seeing the kind of stress my boss is under, I don’t envy him his position.”
“Plus,” Ben interjected through a mouthful of enchilada before he swallowed. “It gives you more time to cook. Couldn’t make the kind of feasts you make every night if you worked my hours.”
“And I couldn’t afford all that food if you were the only one working,” she quipped back. Yolanda looked from Ben to Jake with trepidation and asked, “Has he told you about…”
Jake nodded and smiled. “Having tried your cooking now, I must admit I’m a bit jealous.”
“Well, we’d be happy to have you again,” she assured Jake.
“Indeed,” Ben agreed as he got up from his chair, moving with a deliberateness that demonstrated his fullness. “I’ll get started on the dishes, hun,” he told her, giving her a kiss on the cheek before grabbing some plates to take into the kitchen. He walked with a pep in his step, showing that as full as he was, he was used to leaving the table a lot more stuffed.
“Why don’t we go into the living room and talk there?” Yolanda asked Ben.
“I don’t know, I feel bad letting him do the dishes by himself,” Jake admitted, prompting a laugh from Yolanda.
“You already helped me cook,” she assured him. “You’ve more than done your part.” Getting up from her chair, she asked him, “Do you drink wine?”
“White, if you have it,” Jake replied, before getting up and moving into the living room, sitting on the long, white couch that faced the television. Yolanda soon joined him, glass in hand.
“Ben will be in when the dishes are done,” she told him as she handed him a glass before taking a seat in the big, plush chair next to the couch.
“Does he usually do the dishes?”
“Yep, even… well, since you already know…” she said hesitantly. “Even given that most nights he’s so full after dinner that he doesn’t want to do anything but go lay down,” she admitted before taking a sip of her own wine. “It’s a balancing act. I want to give him enough to satisfy him, but not so much that he’s knocked out after dinner. Definitely took some trial and error to get there.”
“Mmm,” Jake replied as he took a sip himself. “I can imagine,” he lied, truthfully unable to imagine what a relationship like that would be like, but glad it seemed to make them both happy.
“I just hated seeing how sluggish the doughnuts were making him,” she lamented. “I certainly didn’t mind having more of him to love, but I knew I could put it on him without making him so tired… except for the food coma, of course,” she giggled.
“Yeah,” Jake affirmed in a more serious tone. “I’ve noticed the doughnuts seem to be having that effect on everyone else at the precinct.”
“They still have them there?”
Yolanda shook her head side to side. “I don’t know how that bakery affords it.”
“Well…” Jake started hesitantly, wondering if he should reveal his suspicions to Yolanda.
“Hey, you don’t have to tell me anything that’s for police ears only,” she assured Jake before taking another sip.
“It’s not like that. More of a suspicion of mine. Rumor has it that the bakery that’s doing the deal is a front for the mob, and… I have my suspicions that they’re trying to fatten up the police force. To make us more inneffective.”
Yolanda looked concerned, though not altogether surprised. “That would explain how they pay for it. If it’s mafia-affiliated, can’t they just shut it down on the basis of that?”
“I wish it were that simple,” Jake admitted. “Sadly, that’s out of our control. Or I guess I should say my control, as I’m the only one who seems to think it’s a problem. Everyone else loves their free doughnuts,” he sighed before reclining back in his chair. “I’ve been trying to figure out how I can do something about it without making myself a target–”
Jake nodded. “Some investigator for the city looked into it and threatened the bakery with charges of bribing an officer. Then he goes missing for a few weeks, quits his job as soon as he shows up again, and the next time I saw him on the street, he had a new belly.”
“You don’t think….”
Yolanda’s eyebrows rose as she sat back in her chair.
“And now I’m worried because I’m the only one on the force who’s still thin. That alone makes me stand out.”
Yolanda nodded and took a long, slow sip of her wine, still staring ahead with eyes open wide.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t be worrying you with all this.”
Waving her hand like she was waving away his apology, she asked, “Have you ever tried the doughnuts?”
Jake shook his head side-to-side. “Never had much of a sweet tooth.”
Still staring ahead, Yolanda had a pensive look in her eyes. “I have an idea, but I’ll need to try one of the doughnuts first. They sell them to the public, right?”
Nodding with a curious look, Jake told her, “The bakery is Star Doughnuts. It’s the blue star doughnut. It costs $9.11 for people who aren’t in uniform.”
She let out a short sigh and closed her eyes. “Well, I’ll only need one, anyway.”
“What are you thinking?”
She waved her hands at Jake again, this time dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. Not for now, anyway.”
Before long, Ben came in with a glass of wine of his own. “Dishes all done!” he announced as he entered.
“Great, dear!” Yolanda replied, putting on a happy tone. “I was just telling Jake that I’d love to have him for dinner again some time soon, maybe next week?”
Raising his eyebrows and nodding, Ben looked at him and asked, “You up for that, Jake?”
“Uh, yeah,” Jake replied, catching up just in time to play along. “That’d be great.”
Early the next week, Jake came over for dinner at Ben and Yolanda’s again, and the night went much the same way the previous dinner did. This time Yolanda made even more food for them to feast on, giving her husband more to finish off when she and Jake had both had their fill. And finish it off her did, eating with abandon when Jake and Yolanda had both finished. It was astounding to Jake just how much food his former mentor could put away. He wasn’t eating it particularly quickly, working his way through the food at a steady pace with just enough time to appreciate each dish before scarfing it down.
When Ben got up from the dinner table, he let out a punctuated sigh and wiped his forehead as his distended stomach stuck out in front of him. As he arched his back to stretch, the short-sleeve button-down he’d changed into lifted past his pants and exposed the bottom of his pale stomach. When he relaxed, his shirt was stuck in a raised position until he slowly pulled it down. Leaning over with a grunt, he picked up some dishes to take them in the kitchen, wavering side to side as he walked. Yolanda and Jake absconded to the living room, skipping the wine this time.
“So, did you try the blue star doughnut?” Jake asked in hushed tones.
“I did,” Yolanda replied with a grimace on her face. “Not very impressed. They just overloaded it with sweet flavors to make it as overwhelmingly appealing as possible. No wonder they can’t help themselves at the station. They don’t know what a satisfying dessert is.”
“What do you mean?”
“A dessert where you can say you’ve had enough when you’re done. Where you actually feel satisfied when you finish it, instead of just craving more. I tell you, give any of those officers a pastry like that, and they’ll never go back for those doughnuts again.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Yolanda’s face softened as she seemed to calm down from her indignant frustration. “Because,” she started assuredly, “I tested it out on Ben.”
“I have a friend, Sofia. She runs a bakery not too far from the police station, and I took this… “blue star” to her and challenged her to make a doughnut that tasted like it, but could blow their hack-job dough balls out of the water and leave them satisfied when they finish it. Then I gave one to Ben on Monday morning and asked him to compare it to the doughnuts at the station. When he came home, he told me there was no comparison: Sofia’s doughnut had left him as lukewarm on the blue stars as the blue stars left the rest of them on regular doughnuts. Now she’s selling them in her shop.”
“So we get everyone to try these doughnuts instead, they stop eating the blue stars, and the mob loses their grip on the police.”
“And hopefully you’ll all be able to do your job again.”
“But how do we get them to pay for doughnuts when they’ve been getting them for free?”
“Get them to try it. They’ll pay when they taste the difference.”
“You think so?”
“Ben said it was totally worth the price,” she told him as she leaned back in her chair. “I just hope the rest of them have tastes as good as his.”
“So when do we find out?”
“Next Monday. Ben’s going to bring in a bunch of boxes when there aren’t any left from the previous day, since everyone’s gone home for the weekend.”
Jake nodded, hopeful for the first time in months. “Let’s hope it works.”
They talked more as Ben finished up his extra large load of dishes, before coming into the living room to join them. “Phew, okay,” he announced as he came in, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. “All done.”
“Um, Ben, honey,” Yolanda started hesitantly. “You’ve popped a button of your shirt.”
Feeling the front of his stomach, Ben felt the gap between the vertical edges of his shirt and realized there was indeed a button missing. “So I did.” His stomach was still rounded out from dinner, sticking out over his belt even more noticeably than usual. Letting his hand linger on his gut a bit longer, Ben added, “Blame your delicious cooking, love. I’ll go change.”
Yolanda’s plan worked better than expected. Ben got in early Monday morning to leave a half-dozen boxes of Sofia’s blue cream doughnuts, brought in clearly labeled boxes so everyone knew where they came from, and left them in the break room before anyone brought in blue stars. Though the blue stars did come in as usual, as people got curious and tried the blue cream doughnuts, word spread around the office of how good they were.
And they seemed to work as intended; at the end of the day, only half of the boxes of blue stars had been emptied. The next day, though some employees brought in blue stars out of habit, more were curious about the blue creams everyone was talking about. One of the officers even brought in a box, telling his coworkers that he’d pick up the cost this time, but they owed him one. And they made good on that debt, once again developing a rotation of who bought and brought in doughnuts every day.
Some of the officers and office workers were slower to catch on than others, but after a few weeks, no one seemed interested in the blue stars anymore, not even chief Sampson. The last box of blue star doughnuts was thrown away by the janitorial staff Friday night of the second week after Ben had first brought in the blue creams, with seven blue stars left in it. Along with the blue stars, the grotesquely tall stacks of boxes disappeared as well, with the employees all finding the blue creams plenty satisfying after having just one. With doughnut eating habits back to how they were before the blue creams, things finally returned to normal around the office.
At least, as close to normal as they could be. With how much weight everyone had put on, there was bound to be some awkwardness as everyone came out of the stupor their doughnut binging had left them in. Some were able to laugh it off. Some became extremely vocal about their intention to lose all the weight they’d put on. Some just kept quiet about it. When Jake was around, they nearly all kept quiet about it.
Regardless of the attitude they put forward, everyone seemed self-conscious about their new heft. With their blithe attitude gone, everyone seemed hyper-aware of how much they weighed, and walked around like they didn’t know how to move it all around. They moved like they hadn’t been growing to that size gradually for the past year or so, but instead woken up that big one day. There was a lot of slow, deliberate walking around the station, with swollen bellies either swinging wildly side to side or gliding forward as the officer or worker behind them strode forward with careful consideration.
Ben was the only one who could confidently move around at his new size. He became the only person Jake could walk briskly with down the hall as they talked about their days, passing their colleagues left and right as they awkwardly stumbled to their next stop.
Aside from Ben, Chief Sampson seemed most comfortable with his new size, which was remarkable given how gargantuan he was now. His gut must have been over a hundred inches around now, Jake estimated. Given his size, it wasn’t surprising that he couldn’t walk much faster than any of the other employees. But he moved with confidence and a slow grace as he started taking a more active role in leading the station again. When he walked, his arms swung at his sides quite deliberately, almost daintily, counteracting the momentum of his mammoth stomach. His belly itself bounced quite noticeably with every step, even now that he’d finally upgraded to a shirt that fit him. Though he could finally button his shirt down again, it still hugged the curves of his frame rather snuggly, making the vibrations that went through his belly still plainly visible.
But the office seemed to go back to business as usual. Star Doughnuts never showed any signs of trying to reclaim their stranglehold over the police force. Many of the officers eventually lost weight now that they were no longer eating a dozen decadent doughnuts every day. Some didn’t lose as much, but they seemed at peace with their size, taking an example from Ben’s book and learning to move their extra weight confidently. Things were back to normal.
Mostly. Sampson no longer made regular trips from the break room to his office to bring back a haul of doughnuts, instead taking only one or sometimes two at the end of the day. But when Jake came in extra early one morning, the only time he’d arrived at the office before Sampson, he watched the chief walk into the station with a box of a dozen doughnuts from Sofia’s bakery. Through the cellophane lid, Jake could see the unmistakable hue of the blue creams. Sampson snuck his box into his office before emerging again to get coffee, bidding Jake good morning.