Sweet Dreams

Originally published March 5, 2017.
Contains: long-term weight gain.

The original idea for this story came from atamekia. I initially thought it wasn’t one of my best works, but Joe (atamekia) told me he enjoyed it and had a lot of good things to say about it. Maybe I’m just being my own harshest critic. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

When I posted my latest story, I mentioned this story in the description, and ruddiw made a good point: posting this story will give me a sense of closure after spending so much time on it. And if Joe enjoyed it more than I thought he would, maybe my other readers will too.

Synopsis: Clark lands what should be a dream job when he becomes a market analyst for Candy Connectors, a company known as one of the best companies to work for, period. He arrives to find himself by far the skinniest person at the company, and learns why: the employees are allowed free reign to snack on as much of the company’s candy as they like. Clark doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, making things awkward around the office at first. Things get more difficult when he accepts a gig as a part-time taste tester to test candies meant to appeal to people without a sweet tooth, only to find he likes the company’s candy. Once he starts buying their candy outside of work to satisfy his cravings, he soon finds himself blending right in with his heftier coworkers.

Clark could not have been more excited to start his new job. He’d recently been hired as a market analyst for Candy Connectors, a brand that consistently made “100 best places to work” lists, touting impressive starting salaries and unrivaled employee satisfaction. Rounding out their great reputation was their humane and sustainable practices in sourcing their ingredients and the several charities they ran. It was such a great job to land that some of Clark’s friends didn’t even believe him when he told them. “Right,” he remembered his friend Dale saying. “Are you leaving your job at Google to work there?”

The one downside to the job change was that Clark had to move states for it, but he was happy to do that if it meant he got to work for a company like Candy Connectors. Due to that distance, all of his interviews had been over the phone, so his first day was also his first time seeing the office and his new coworkers in person.

Clark was sure to dress appropriately for his first day on the job. His coordinated navy blue suit jacket and pants fit snugly over his lean body. A lavender tie hung down his crisp, white button-down shirt that he’d gotten tailored to suit his toned frame even more flatteringly. Though his understanding was that Candy Connectors had a fairly casual standard of dress in comparison to other companies, he preferred to risk being overdressed for his first day rather than underdressed. To top off his look, he’d shaved his sharply-angled chin that morning before he left, intent on making the best impression he possibly could. With a commute that only took him 15 minutes, it was easy for him to fit all his preparations in before he left.

Clark pulled into the parking lot at 8:45 AM sharp, wanting to make sure he got in a little early for his first day, but not so early that he looked over-eager. The lot circled the building rather than jutting out on one side, which meant Clark wouldn’t have to arrive early to get a spot close to the door. In the summer and winter months, that would be a blessing. The spots closest to the doors were marked with signs that denoted reserved parking. In addition to the usual handicapped spots, the next-closest spots were lined with signs that read, “Reserved for qualified laden employees,” with just as much space between them as the handicapped spots. It was a strange sign, one Clark hadn’t seen the likes of before. He supposed those spaces could have been for employees with a lot to carry in, though it seemed strange that there were so many of them. He made a mental note to ask about them.

The lobby of the Candy Connectors building was as tastefully decorated as Clark would have expected from any company, but there were subtle hints of the company’s nature in the design. The columns that rose from the floor to the second-story ceiling had wavy edges, like candy coated chocolate pieces that had been stacked on top of one another. The floor tiles bore a rectangular design that reminded Clark of chocolate bars that could be broken apart into smaller bar-shaped pieces. All around the lobby, plaques told the history of the company in text written in the same deep brown as dark chocolate.

After taking a moment to take it all in, Clark approached the front desk. Behind the desk sat a voluptuous woman in a burgundy sweater that matched her maroon lipstick. Her hair was done up in a perfectly round, squat bun. She reminded Clark of a dollop of frosting that one might find squeezed onto a cupcake, the kind that spiraled upward before ending with a perfect point, that was also dipped in pink sugar as an extra touch. “Good morning,” she called out as Clark came close. “How can I help you today?”

“Well, it’s my first day working here–”

“Oh congratulations, darling! Welcome aboard!”

“Thank you!” Clark replied, pleasantly caught a off guard by the woman’s demeanor. “Now, my boss is Douglas Broadwell, and he said he’d meet me in the lobby when I arrived. Could you call him and let him know I’m here?”

“Of course, dear. Go ahead and take a seat,” she said, pointing toward the couches with her outstretched hand.

Clark did as suggested and sat on the deep red couch, his palm feeling the velvet underneath him before he clasped his hands together. With no magazines on the table in front of him, he passed his time looking around the lobby, taking in the various architectural curiosities and eying his new coworkers.

Two men walked through engaged in animated conversation that Clark couldn’t quite make out. The more bottom-heavy one, with a torso that drooped into thick hips and thighs like a chocolate kiss, seemed to be dominating the conversation. He moved his hands assertively as the more top-heavy one, whose cheeks and chin merged to form a ring of fat around his face akin to a lollipop, listened attentively. Another man lumbered through the lobby from the other direction, maneuvering his body like he was used to effort it took. He wore a pastel lavender button down shirt that hugged his heft before disappearing into slacks that were pulled up over his wide stomach, looking like an upside-down cupcake. From the other direction walked a woman with short hair, wearing an angular pantsuit that made her hefty figure look like a chocolate bar.

Soon after, Clark heard the elevator go “ding” and open to reveal a man in a vibrantly green polo shirt that wrapped around his round abdomen like a candy coating. He walked up to the front desk and talked to the receptionist before she pointed Clark’s way. When she did, Clark stood up with a smile and walked toward the man. “You must be Clark,” he said in a cheery tone.

“And you must be Douglas. Good to finally meet you!”

“Doug, please,” he said as the two shook hands. Doug’s palm and fingers felt soft in Clark’s, a stark contrast against his own firm digits. Up close, Clark could see that Doug’s belly looked as perfectly rounded as a hollowed out chocolate ball, and his head wasn’t far from that shape either. His face bore a goatee wrapped tightly around the outline of his lips and chin, which only accentuated how far his fat cheeks stuck out from his face. His burly arms were pushing the limits of his polo’s sleeves, which wrapped tightly around his arms in a way that resembled chocolate covered Twinkies that had been dipped only half-way into the chocolate.

Doug started Clark out with a tour of the premises, showing him where the bathrooms and cafeteria were and where he’d be sitting, and introducing him to some of his new teammates. The receptionist’s enthusiasm seemed to be matched by everyone in the company, with every person Doug introduced him to being just as happy to have him on board. “You’re gonna love working here,” the woman who sat next to Clark told him.

What surprised Clark was how many of the people whom he and Doug passed in the halls gave him the same greeting. “You must be new here,” they would say, before congratulating him similarly. It certainly made Clark feel welcomed, and he concluded the workforce at Candy Connectors must have been very tight-knit for him to stand out so much as a new face. If that was the case, he knew he would indeed enjoy working there a lot.

When Doug stopped to show Clark one of the breakrooms, Clark noticed a contraption next to the water bubbler and coffee machine unlike any he’d seen in a breakroom before. It was like a dispensers at a high-end supermarket, where the customer could pull down a handle to pour coffee or nuts or loose grain in exactly the quantity they wanted and pay by the pound. But these dispensers were free to everyone in the office, and they didn’t seem to contain nuts and grains.

“So we have the usual water bubbler and coffee machine, and a fridge for you to store your lunch if you’re so inclined. Though our cafeteria is so great that most people get lunch there. But you can also find milk and cream for your coffee in there. This table is where people leave food that’s free for all to take. And finally–and I really saved the best for last,” Doug commented, sounding downright giddy.

“This… is the candy dispenser. A selection of treats that the company makes ourselves, offered to employees complimentarily. You might notice the bias toward bite size candy, to encourage slow but steady eating throughout the day to help keep employees on track and productive. Of course, unlike the individually wrapped candy sold to customers, these come unwrapped, to cut down on waste. And then there’s the small candies that are sold in one big bag,” Doug said as he pointed to some candy-coated chocolate pieces and other similarly sized treats. “These are popular among the office’s high achievers.”

“I… I’m sorry, Dougla–Doug. You said this is meant to boost office productivity?”

“You sound suspicious,” Doug chuckled. “Don’t you know that glucose is what ultimately fuels the brain? It’s literal brain food! Give the brain more of it, and you’d be surprised what it can do. Now, we have some paper bowls here you can use to dispense your candy, like the cups by the bubbler and coffee machine, but most people bring in their own bowls to fill up. After all, that way, you can get a bowl bigger than these puny paper ones,” Doug concluded with a chuckle.

“Oh, uh, I’m sure you can. I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, though.”

Without changing his cheery expression, Doug blinked and cocked his head to the side. “Really,” he asked in a tone more common of a statement than a question.

“Yeah, I’ve just never been into candy.”

“And yet you ended up working here?” Doug asked, retaining his smile but now sounding genuinely surprised.

“Isn’t that how it always goes?” Clark asked with a chuckle. “Irony has a way of sneaking up on you like that.”

“Doncha think?” Doug asked, laughing along with Clark. “You know, I didn’t think I had much of a sweet tooth before I started working here. Then Connectors proved me wrong. I guess that’s how I got this,” Doug mused before breaking out into a belly laugh as he patted his laugh’s namesake. His gut was firm and unyielding under his slaps, remaining in place with only a little wave through his shirt indicating his belly had been struck at all. “Anyway, it’s there if you want it, but you work however works for you.”

As Doug finished his truism, the sound of a vibration emanated from his pocket and he pulled out his phone. “Ooh, I forgot about that meeting. Can you find your way back to your desk?”

“I think so.”

“Great. Assuming this meeting doesn’t run over schedule, I’ll touch base with you in an hour. For now, check your email and read through all of the stuff they send out to new employees.”

“Will do,” Clark assured Doug as they went their separate ways, with Doug walking off to his meeting while Clark got a cup of coffee, black with no cream or sugar.

As Clark walked back to his desk, he took his time passing each desk and glanced near the employees’ keyboards. Indeed, it seemed everyone had a bowl of candy on hand and was snacking as they worked. Some had several bowls, with different candies in each one. Some had bowls that looked more like mixing bowls for baking than serving bowls, and they were still filled with candy. In the back of Clark’s mind, he wondered if this was why so many of his coworkers were so much more… was “heavyset” the professional word for it?… than he was. He felt judgemental for coming to that kind of conclusion, but Doug had freely admitted it was true of him. Maybe he wasn’t the only one.

Clark was thankful to find the cafeteria had more health-conscious options than the breakroom, including a salad bar that he ended up taking his lunch from. Along with the other food stations, there was also a shelf that boasted an impressive selection of Candy Connectors’ confections, this time in full-sized bars and packages. They seemed to be on sale at a dramatic markdown for employees, with none of the candy costing more than a dollar, in spite of many being king-sized. And they were flying off of the shelves, in spite of all the complimentary candy available in the breakrooms.

And the breakrooms weren’t the only source of free candy. When Clark was invited to his first meeting, the table in the center of the meeting room boasted a selection of Candy Connectors products, this time in standard sizes, stacked up in neat piles all around the table to make them easy to reach. Between those piles were large glass bowls of bite-size candies like the ones in the breakroom dispenser. As the meeting was underway, the employees in attendance would pass the bowls around the table and toss each other candy bars from the pile closest to them.

It didn’t take long for the other employees to notice that Clark wasn’t asking for any candy. “Say Clark,” one of them said, “don’t feel shy about taking some candy for yourself just because you’re new.”

“Yeah,” another one concurred. “You’re just as welcome to it as anyone else.”

“Oh, thanks, everyone, but I don’t really eat candy.”

A mixture of sounds emanated through the room, including a few giggles, one person saying, “No?”, and another asking, “How’d you end up working here?”

“Because they offered me the job,” Clark chuckled.

“Ah, that’s a fair point,” one of them commented, before the meeting continued as it had previously, with everyone but Clark partaking liberally of the candy on the table.

It wasn’t the last time Clark had to have a conversation like that with his coworkers, but once he made some quip about the irony of him working at a candy company when he didn’t really like candy, no one pushed the matter. One of his coworkers who sat closest to Clark had joked with him, “I hope they’re paying you well, because they’re going to save a lot of money on you if you’re not eating any candy.” He was a squat man with a rotund torso like one of the miniature peanut butter cups in the dispenser and a face wide like a candy coated chocolate morsel resting on top of a desk, who looked like he’d enjoyed quite a bit of the candy himself. Clark supposed it only made sense that they enjoyed the candy as much as they did; they were getting it for free, after all.

What surprised Clark was how much reverence there was for Candy Connectors’ sweets outside of the company too. Any convenience store he went to in town had a whole shelf of their candy aisle dedicated to Candy Connectors goods. Even the supermarket had a Candy Connectors shelf, which was floor-to-ceiling the same candy he saw at work every day. Of course, those candies weren’t flying off the shelves the same way they did at work, since outside of the office, people had to pay full price for them. But it was still a bit of culture shock that Clark hadn’t anticipated when he moved. Sure, he recognized some Candy Connectors products from the shelves of stores in places where he’d lived before, but there weren’t so many of them.

Clark found some clarity that weekend as he went to a coffeeshop near his new apartment, the first shop where he hadn’t found Candy Connectors products since he moved. After making friends with another customer, and older man by the name of Larry, they got to talking about the move. “It’s been a pretty smooth adjustment so far, although seeing how much Candy Connectors there is on the shelves of damn near everywhere I go was a surprise.”

“Ha, yeah, I’ve lived here long enough that sometimes I forget that it’s not like that everywhere else.”

“So why is it like that here? I mean, far be it from me to judge the candy tastes of others when I don’t eat candy myself, but–”

“You don’t eat…” Larry interrupted with a surprised tone, before his face relaxed and he continued, “Actually, that doesn’t surprise me much. My wife works in a card store and is one of the least sentimental people I know. But to answer your question: Candy Connectors are about as close to local heroes here as a company can get. It started with all of the jobs they brought in with their headquarters, and the fact that they employ so many local people in their factory too. There’s a joke that working in the Candy Connectors factory is as much of a rite of passage for the teens here as taking their standardized tests. It’s either that or the grocery stores, and Candy Connectors pay far better.

“On top of that, there’s all the charities they run, including one that provides nutritious meals to local low-income families, and the many more charities that they support. Basically, around here, buying Candy Connectors candy is seen as supporting a good cause. And I mean, the reputation they have as a place to work is the cherry on top. When people know they’re supporting a company that isn’t evil, it sweetens the deal even more,” Larry chuckled.

“Well, it’s, uh, it’s been an interesting place to work, that’s for sure. I’m optimistic about it, but I don’t want to call it too early on whether it lives up to its reputation.”

“‘Interesting,’ huh?”

“Yeah. I mean, everyone’s really nice,” Clark assured Larry. “I have never felt more welcomed after starting a new job than I have here. But the weird part is that the company lets the employees have practically free reign of however much candy they want, and everyone’s snacking on it all the time.”

“Well, I can’t say I blame them. I would too if I could get it for free.”

“If I ate candy, I would too.”

“Ah, right. How’s, uh… how’s that going for ya?”

“You know, it’s not too bad so far. No one pushes it on me once I tell them I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’ve had a few people encourage me to take some because they thought I was to shy to take it or something. But they respect me not liking the candy, even if they don’t seem to understand it.”

“That’s probably the best you could hope for. Do you ever feel tempted to take some?”

“If I liked candy, I might be,” Clark chuckled. “But I’ve never really liked candy much, even as a kid. So I don’t see that happening any time soon.”

It was about four months into Clark’s new job when he was approached by the testing department. A woman in an olive green suit and hair cut close to her head like chocolate shavings sprinkled on a truffle came to talk to him at his desk one Monday morning, not long after he’d arrived. “Hi, Clark?” she greeted. “My name’s Nancy,” she said as she shook his hand. “I’m in charge of taste-testing here, and I was wondering if I might talk to you about doing some work for us.”

It was a request that caught Clark off guard. He hadn’t had to tell anyone he didn’t have much of a sweet tooth for at least a month previously, as it seemed he’d already earned a reputation in the company as “the guy who doesn’t eat candy.” “Well, that’s very kind of you, but I’m afraid I won’t be of much use to you–”

“Because you don’t have much of a sweet tooth? Yes, I’ve heard. Give me some credit, Clark,” she said with a deep but quiet chuckle. “That’s actually why I’m talking to you.”

After lowering his eyelids and eyebrows in an intrigued expression, Clark turned his rolling chair to face Nancy and clasped his hands together on his lap. “Oh?”

“I don’t know if you heard, but your report on the value of getting a foothold in untapped markets caught quite a few people’s attention.”

“Oh really!” Clark asked, pleasantly surprised. “That’s great! And here I thought I was just shouting into the void.”

“Well, your shouts were definitely heard. In spite of what many people here might think, there are plenty of people out there like you who don’t like candy, and if we can make them like our candy, that’s a bunch of new customers in the bag. So we’re trying to make candy that appeals to people who don’t usually eat candy.”

“And this is where I come in?”

With a nod, Nancy continued, “Suffice it to say that all of our taste testers generally like sweets, so they’re a great representation how of our usual customers would feel about our products, but they can’t give us much insight into attracting new ones. For that, we need someone without a sweet tooth. Now, right now the company isn’t really interested in hiring a full-time taste tester who doesn’t like candy, at least not as long as this is still in the experimental phase. They’d rather hire part-time within the company, and you’re… basically the only qualified person.”

“So I’d be doing two jobs?”

“Technically, yes. However, considering that this is still in the developmental stages, we don’t anticipate it taking more than an hour of your time each week. Probably less if you’re quick with writing your reports, and given your position, I have to assume you are. And you’d of course be compensated. HR is willing to offer $2,000 on top of your yearly salary if you take the position.”

A bit of quick mental math told Clark that as long as the job in fact only took him an hour each week, that would be nearly $40 per hour. “That’s quite tempting. Perhaps I could see some of the taste testers in action to see what I’d be getting into?”

“Of course! If you have a moment, I could show you now.”

Clark followed Nancy to another part of the office that looked much like his own. He’d expected the taste testing department to resemble some sort of laboratory setting, but instead he found several people sitting at desks with trays with labeled compartments next to them. As they tried a piece of candy from each compartment, they’d stare off pensively as they chewed, before spitting into a tiny trash can that each one had on their desk. After taking some notes on their computers, they’d eat what seemed to be a palate cleanser, either apple slices or small pieces of bread. They’d then take a sip of water, swish with it, swallow, and try the next piece of candy.

It seemed like a good gig to Clark. Knowing he wouldn’t have to eat the candy he was given made him less leery of the job, and it seemed like an easy enough way to make some extra money. “Alright,” he told Nancy. “I’ll do it.”

“Splendid! I’ll get in contact with HR about making it official.”

Things were slow to get going from there, which Clark expected from a corporate setting. It wasn’t until Wednesday that week that he got a visit from an intern from HR, a college-aged young man with a mostly slender frame, minus a belly like a malted milk ball. It seemed the freshman 15 had been exceptionally generous to him. Clark thought his visit meant things were going to get underway, but he’d just shown up to ask Clark to sign a waver saying he wasn’t allergic to anything in Candy Connectors’ recipes.

It was Monday of the next week that Clark got his email welcoming him to the taste tester team, which laid out guidelines for his reports, where he could access things like spit bins and palate cleansers, and other such information. It was an impressively detailed guide, which was followed up by an email from Nancy with information unique to him as a part-time employee, like how to file his time spent testing to ensure he got paid properly. Later that day, around 2:00, he came back from the bathroom to find that his first batch of samples arrived at his desk.

Unlike the large trays Clark had seen at the desks of the full-time testers, Clark’s tray only had eight samples on it. Various pieces of candy in different shapes and shades, most of them chocolate of some kind. Also waiting for Clark was an email from Nancy, with the subject, “Round 1”.

Hi Clark, I trust the samples found their way to your desk just fine. Samples 1 through 6 are some of the candies we’ve been experimenting with to appeal to untapped demographics. 7 and 8 are both regular products already sold by Candy Connectors. Please fill out the usual report for the first six samples. As for the other two, please try them and, along with your report, write up a quick paragraph explaining what makes them unappealing to you. The goal is that this will help the research team develop candies more appealing new customers. Looking forward to finding out what you think! Thanks, Nancy

After reading the email, Clark opened up a Word document and copy-pasted the report form six times. Underneath it, he wrote the header, “Thoughts on #7 and #8.” He nearly took his first bite before he stopped himself to fetch an apple, a glass of water, and a spit bin. Once he had everything he needed, he picked up the first piece of candy and popped it in his mouth.

Clark wasn’t sure what to expect when he ate the first piece of candy. It had been years since he’d tried anything remotely candy-like, and he wasn’t sure how he’d even describe the taste without a frame of reference. The report format helped give him an outline, but even filling it in seemed intimidating. And most confusing of all, as he chewed the crunchy sample he’d been given, he found himself liking it.

It was hard for Clark to pin down what he enjoyed about the candy. Of the flavors that combined to make the morsel, most were unfamiliar to him, other than the taste of chocolate that was so ubiquitous that even he recognized it. The combination of curiosity and confusion kept him chewing as he tried to pin down what he liked about it. He kept munching away until there was nothing left between his teeth.

Clark eyed his spit bin and realized it was too late to use it. He supposed there wouldn’t be much harm in him swallowing one of the candies, especially one as small as the sample. As he dwelled on the aftertaste, he turned to his empty report and filled in the various fields as best he could. Once they were done, he took a bite of the apple and chased it with some water to clear his tongue.

With his confusion still lingering, Clark decided to skip to sample 7. He hoped that by reminding himself why he didn’t usually like candy, he could give more useful feedback on the other five experimental samples. Sample 7 seemed to be a basic bite-size chocolate morsel, a simple treat that would be perfect for getting reacquainted with what he didn’t like about candy.

The only problem was that he enjoyed sample 7 too. To his disbelief, as he chewed the morsel, he found himself enjoying the taste of the chocolate melting over his tongue. He couldn’t point to anything outstanding about it that would have changed his mind. Enjoying it came very easily, which was how he imagined eating chocolate must have been for other people.

Clark popped sample 8 in his mouth soon after, finding it to be a peanut butter cup. He’d always thought those were especially overrated, as peanuts were a savory food that didn’t go well with the sweetness of chocolate. But it seemed Candy Connectors had converted him, because he enjoyed the peanut butter cup even more than the pure chocolate.

Clark sat dumbfounded. Of all of the potential challenges of his new position, this was not one that he’d anticipated. As he took another bite of the apple and followed it it was some water, he stared at his report with no idea what to type. He eventually filled the “Thoughts on #7 and #8” section with what he could remember being his usual objections to candy back when he would try it: the sweetness was too overpowering, the taste seemed phony in some intangible way, the peanut butter was sweeter than real peanut butter, whatever he could come up with to fill a paragraph.

With that out of the way, Clark moved on to trying the other five experimental samples. Those, he found, were easier to provide feedback on, as there were definitely some ideas tried out that worked better in theory than practice. And true to Nancy’s word, he was able to finish the whole exercise in about 45 minutes before he attached the finished report to an email and hit “Send”.

Clark got an email back from Nancy soon after sending out his report:

Hi Clark, Great feedback! I’ve passed your report along to the researchers and I’m sure they’ll be hard at work soon. My one request is that while your reports were perfectly detailed, your summary of why you didn’t like the market chocolate was a bit generic. We’ll probably be including some non-experimental candies in the next few rounds of samples too so we can get some more specific feedback from you. Other than that, good job for your first round of taste testing. Happy to have you on the team! You can keep your spit bin on your desk if you like; just be sure to tie the miniature bag closed and toss it. Chewed candy starts to smell bad a lot faster than you’d think! Thanks, Nancy

As he finished reading Nancy’s email, Clark was feeling even more nervous about his new position, more nervous than he thought it was possible to feel about a taste testing job. Was this a fluke, or would he keep enjoying candies brought to him? Could he make up some more specific feedback for the market candies, or would his continued generic descriptions give him away? And if they found out he’d enjoyed Candy Connector’s chocolate, would his feedback no longer be valuable?

In the midst of all his worry, he nearly forgot to empty his spit bin. He picked up the miniature garbage bag inside to tie it closed, only to pick up a perfectly clean and dry plastic bag. He had not spat once during his testing, having eaten every piece of chocolate presented to him. With a sigh, he put the bag back in the bin. There was no sense in throwing it away when it wasn’t dirty.

Clark went into work the day after his first round of taste testing expecting it to be a normal workday. He grabbed his mug from his desk and brought it to the breakroom for his usual morning cup of coffee. There he ran into a coworker from a different department, a tall woman whose apple-shaped body filled out the top of her pencil dress like a marshmallow. She greeted him, “Good morning,” cheerily as she filled a pastel blue bowl with miniature peanut butter cups.

“Good morning,” Clark returned as he watched his mug fill up. His attention was soon drawn from the coffee machine to the dispenser as he remembered how much he’d enjoyed his peanut butter cup the previous day. He watched them pile up in the woman’s bowl and, against all his better judgement, wanted to take one for himself.

Clark gazed at the bowl until he saw her pick it up, at which point he snapped his focus back to his coffee. “Would you like one?” he heard her say. It seemed he hadn’t looked away soon enough to avoid being caught. “Sharing is caring, after all–oh, wait a second! You’re the guy from market without a sweet tooth, aren’t you?”

“That’s me,” Clark replied, putting on his best fake casual smile.

“Alright, more for me!” she exclaimed as she turned to walk out of the room. As she walked away, Clark heard the coffee machine finish filling his mug and grabbed it to go back to his desk, not wanting to stand near the dispensers any longer.

When Clark finished his cup of coffee, he went back to the breakroom to clean his mug and fill his bottle with water. While there, he eyed the dispenser and saw that a single peanut butter cup had been left behind underneath its respective spout. Looking around, he couldn’t see anyone looking or coming his way, so he crept over to the dispenser to pick up the stray piece.

“Whoa, Clark, are you… actually eating candy?”

Clark looked behind him to see Doug staring at him, looking genuinely dumbfounded. “No,” Clark stalled, drawing out the word until he eyed the trash barrel nearby and tossed the peanut butter cup in it. “I was just helping to keep things clean around here, you know?”

“Ah, of course,” Doug said with audible relief, walking past Clark to use the coffee machine while Clark filled his water bottle. “Between you and me,” Doug whispered, prompting Clark to look at him as he felt his eyelids open just a bit wider. “I would have eaten that peanut butter cup. Better to give it a good home than throw it away, you know?” he said with a smile before he took his mug and walked away.

That was the last time Clark tried to eat any of the free candy at work that day. Nearly getting caught eating candy by his own boss was all the motivation he needed to keep his hands clean. Even when he had a meeting that afternoon and was the last one out of the room, he knew better than to take one of the candy bars. They’d surely take so long to eat that he would be asking to be caught.

But Clark couldn’t get the candy off of his mind. He kept thinking back to the previous day, and how much he’d enjoyed the samples he’d tried. He wanted to know whether it had been a fluke, or if, against all odds, Candy Connectors’ confections were so good that they’d changed his mind about sweets. It wasn’t until the afternoon that Clark realized he could go to the store and buy some Candy Connectors candy just like anyone else. He chuckled to himself when he realized how simple it would be, before steeling himself to spend the rest of the day anticipating the chance to finally try their chocolate.

At the end of the day, Clark sped from work to the nearest convenience store. Thankfully, the staff there were never chatty, and thus had no idea he worked for Candy Connectors or that he claimed to not like candy much. To them, he was just another customer buying Candy Connectors chocolate, probably the least remarkable thing they encountered all day. Clark ducked into the convenience store, picking up some candy-coated chocolate pieces, a package of full-size peanut butter cups, and a chocolate bar with cream filling, all of them Cady Connectors products. He asked for a bag as the clerk rung him up, paranoid that once he got outside, one of his coworkers might catch him with his goodies.

Once Clark got home, he brought the candy to his desk in his bedroom and closed the shades. He knew he was being ridiculous by being so paranoid, but he couldn’t convince himself to not be. He laid out all three packages on his desk to try them in turn, opening each one with the intention of trying a bite of all three. A part of him knew it wasn’t healthy, but he told himself he wouldn’t eat all of the chocolate laid out in front of him, just enough to sample each one. He poured out a few of the candy-coated pieces, snapped off a segment of the cream-filled bar, and broke off a piece of the peanut butter cup. He considered getting an apple to serve as a palate cleanser, before he decided it wasn’t that serious.

Clark started with the candy coated pieces, which had a satisfying crunch that reminded him of granola. He braced for the disgustingly sweet taste, but found he enjoyed it as the chocolate melted across his tongue. Dumbfounded, he threw a few more in his mouth, only to have the same results. This continued until he’d emptied the whole bag, enjoying it all the way through but thoroughly confused by his enjoyment.

Hoping the cream-filled bar would give him some more clarity, Clark picked up the piece he’d snapped off previously and tossed it in his mouth. It instinctively reminded him of the times he’d tried chocolate in the past, when the waxy texture put him off. But this piece was different, more creamy and smooth, in a way that reminded him of cheese. The filling only accentuated the creaminess, which confused Clark even more, as he remembered fillings being one of his least favorite things about candy. Like the candy coated pieces, he was so dumbfounded that he kept snapping more pieces off the bar and eating them, trying in vain to make sense of why he was enjoying them, until he finished the whole thing.

Clark was left with the peanut butter cups. At that point, he’d been so surprised by his enjoyment of the candies thus far that he fully expected to enjoy the cups too. Tossing the piece he’d broken off in his mouth, he found that to be exactly the case. Just like sample 8 the day before, he enjoyed it thoroughly in spite of his philosophical objections to sullying savory tastes with sweet ones. Now that he had more than a small sample, though, he intended to keep eating until he could figure out what was different. Had his tastes changed? Did Candy Connectors just make better chocolate than anyone else?

Clark didn’t get his answer, as he finished the last peanut butter cup before he could find any clarity on why he enjoyed them so much. He was left simultaneously satisfied by all the chocolate he’d eaten and confused as to why it was suddenly so delicious. As he looked down at the wrappers pensively, he licked the rim of melted chocolate around his mouth, enjoying even the debris of his snack.

It was then that Clark realized that he’d eaten all of the candy he’d bought that day, exactly what he promised himself he wouldn’t do. With a nervous laugh, Clark threw the wrappers away and went into his kitchen to make an extra healthy dinner to compensate, with plenty of protein to counteract all the sugar he’d eaten. “It’s okay, buddy, one bad day won’t send you off the rails,” he told himself as he started rummaging through his cupboards. “Just don’t make a habit of it.”

Clark made a habit of it.

His taste testing the next Monday went mostly like it had the week before, except that he enjoyed the experimental samples even more. It seemed the research team was doing their job in making their candies more appealing to people who didn’t like candy, although Clark wasn’t sure he fit that description anymore. As he wrote his report on the experimental samples, he had to come up with different excuses for why he supposedly didn’t like the market candy. Truth was, he only liked them more.

That Friday, Clark bought himself one candy bar on the way home, to reward himself for resisting the temptation to eat candy at work. He thought it would give him enough satisfaction to tide him over for at least the next week, but when he finished the bar of chocolate with crunchy bits inside, he only wanted more. But he kept to his usual dietary habits, knowing that any amount of candy wasn’t healthy, and eating more certainly wouldn’t help things.

Clark kept trying different candies every Friday, hoping he could find one kind delicious enough that he could be satisfied eating it just once a week. He tried buying the king size packages when the regular ones weren’t enough, but they were barely more satisfying. It wasn’t long before he started buying two packages of candy each week instead of one, reasoning that it was just as much candy as one king size package, and the variety might make it more satisfying. He was correct, but it still wasn’t quite satisfying enough. Two soon became three, which in turn became four. It was only once a week, after all, and surely he couldn’t eat more in a day than he would eat in a week if he let himself eat the candy at work As long as Clark could continue abstaining in the office, he considered it a net gain.

It wasn’t his only gain, however. Like the candy wrapper accumulating in his rarely-emptied desk-side trash bin, Clark found all of his candy treats building up on his waistline. It was a slow change at first, barely noticeable aside from his clothes getting a little tighter, which he chalked up to them shrinking in the wash. But around the time he started bringing home at least a half-dozen of the treats each week, piling anything that struck his fancy in his cart, he had to face the fact that it wasn’t his clothes that were changing size.

But Clark brushed it off. It wasn’t his fault he was getting bigger, he told himself, when he spent so much time each day around such hefty people. He knew people naturally became more like those they spent the most time around, and he’d been the skinniest guy in the office for as long as he’d been working there. Even as he shopped for new clothes a size up to fit his recently softened body, he reasoned that was probably still true.

After all, he wasn’t precisely fat; all that had really changed was that his once firm frame now felt more like a marshmallow. His once toned stomach was soft to the touch, letting his finger dip in when he poked it. Though he’d never really noticed his chest before, it now had a bit of heft to it, sinking in when he crossed his arms against his torso. In close-up photos, he could see that his face had expanded just a bit wider than it was before. But in terms of size, he hadn’t changed that much. The regions of his body were just a bit more distinct.

Clark told himself that right up until the end of his tenure as an experimental taste tester. By then, even his new clothes were getting tight, though denial had him wearing shirts with strained buttons and pants that dug into his softening waistline. Occasionally, he forgot to wear a belt, as it was no longer required to keep his tight pants up. His meaty thighs did that well enough on their own, assuming he could tug his pants over them.

What made Clark final buy some new clothes was a meeting with Nancy and the research team. It was planned as a sort of send off for their project. Clark didn’t know much about it, but it seemed the candies he’d been taste testing were ready to go through quality control, marketing, and all of the usual steps before it could go to market. Of course, he wasn’t going to be privy to that part of the process, but it seemed he’d done well enough in his part.

But celebrating that meant meeting with people in the company that he didn’t usually see. While Clark didn’t relish acknowledging that he’d grown even bigger, he knew it wouldn’t be a good look for him to show up to the meeting with clothes that didn’t fit. So he found himself spending his Saturday afternoon at the clothing store to buy a looser-fitting outfit. It felt like he’s just been there to upgrade his previous wardrobe, but that didn’t matter much; he had to do it again.

Clark brought two pairs of pants with him into the changing room: one with a 44-inch waist and one with a 46, not sure how much more room he needed. He’d also brought in a 2XL shirt thinking that surely he couldn’t need to go up two sizes. He was right about that much, as the 2XL buttoned comfortably over his newly pudged-out torso. He stepped into the 46-waist pants and found them just as comfortable, deciding to skip the 44s and get more pairs of 46s.

Clark had a smile on his face from the relief of wearing clothes that didn’t squeeze him or dig into his flab. It was a short-lived smile, as he looked in the mirror and it dawned on him just how much weight he’d gained due to his candy habit. He was no longer merely a pudgy version of his previous frame; he was now undeniably fat.

It started up high, with a face that had lost its angular definition, buried under a layer of fat like a chocolate coating on top of a nut bar, softening the contours between the nuts underneath. His chest and stomach, once seemless when hidden under a shirt, now had an undeniable divot between them like pieces of a chocolate bar meant to be snapped apart. The divot was visible even from under the cloth of a shirt that fit him comfortably. His chest in particular hung down like two bags of candy filled with enough air that all the candy pieces pooled at the bottom.

Farther down, he could feel his thighs touching, the cloth of his pants the only thing keeping them apart. This was a new experience for him, and one he tried to put out of his mind as he walked. But there in the changing room, as his new pants hanged loosely around his legs, it was hard to ignore that the cloth inside his legs didn’t have so much mobility. As he hesitantly felt over the fit of his new clothes, he saw that even his hands had softened, the skin around them having swelled out like those bags that got filled with so much air.

Clark couldn’t stand to think about it anymore. Looking away from the mirror, he took of his clothes, returned the 44-waist pants to the employee, and picked up some more clothes in the same size to round out his wardrobe.

When the day of the big meeting came, Clark went in mostly confident about it. He wasn’t thrilled about how he looked, but he knew wearing clothes that fit properly helped make any weight look better. As he walked in, he was greeted by Nancy and four people whose names he didn’t know, though he’d seen at least two of them around the office. He was still the skinniest person in the room, but unlike him, that gap was shrinking.

“Clark, so glad you could join us,” Nancy started. “These are the researchers who used your input: Stacy, Gwen, and Earl. And this is Keith from marketing.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Clark greeted.

“Likewise.” “Ditto.” “You as well.” “Good to finally put a face to the name.”

“Wait, Keith, you didn’t know who Clark was?” Stacy asked. “The guy who doesn’t like candy?”

“Well, of course I’d heard of him,” Keith clarified. “I just didn’t know who he was specifically.”

“That’s fair,” Clark replied.

“So, Clark,” Nancy piped in, “this kind of project-end meeting is done to tie up any loose ends, as well as look at what could have been done better over the course of the project so we can improve as a company. Since Keith is here too, I’d like to also use this time to talk about how we might advertise this candy to its target audience.”

“Sure, sure,” Clark said, trying to project an air of confidence.

The meeting went exactly as Nancy described, with Clark having to pretend to not like the candy one more time to give Keith the advice he was looking for. He did his best, though he felt less convincing as the meeting went on. As the other five people there snacked on the candy bars and bite-sized pieces on the table, Clark found being left out of the fun harder to handle. By the end of the meeting, he felt like he was about to crack, when he got an idea.

“But you know,” he started, “the longer I tested for you folks, the less I disliked the market candy samples you were sending me. It’s like your experimental samples were actually doing their job and making me like candy more,” he chuckled, pretending to be joking.

“Oh, that would be fascinating!” Gwen exclaimed. “Hey, maybe you could try some of the candy on the table here and tell us if you like it.”

Clark put on a pensive expression, pretending to consider it carefully before shrugging his shoulders and picking up one of the bars closest to him. It was the cream-filled chocolate bar. He knew he liked those.

“Oh, I don’t think you’d like that,” Nancy warned. “Those are especially sweet.”

“I guess that would make it the ultimate test, then,” Clark snarked as he opened the package, snapped a piece off the bar, and popped it in his mouth. “Hmm,” he said as he pretended to not be sure how he felt about it. “Hmm!” he said again, raising his eyebrows. “Hmm!” he repeated once more, to clinch the performance. “This is,” he started to say with his mouth full, before covering it and swallowing. “This is delicious,” he said with a surprised affectation.

“Well I’ll be,” Earl remarked.

“Holy shit,” Stacy muttered.

“Clark, do you… Do you really like it?” Nancy asked cautiously, like asking too eagerly might make Clark change his mind.

“I…” Popping another piece of the bar in his mouth, Clark put on the façade of careful consideration as he chewed again. Once he swallowed, he finished. “I think I do.” What probably sounded like satisfaction to the other five was in fact audible relief, as Clark was happy he didn’t have to keep up the act anymore.

With a loud push off her chair, Gwen rose quickly enough to surprise Clark. “You have to try more,” she insisted. “For science. Come on! Let’s go to the breakroom!” None of the other five people in the room seemed to disagree, rising from their chairs with just as much enthusiasm, though they couldn’t all match Gwen’s surprising speed.

Clark rose cautiously from his own chair, as if bracing for impact when the crowd of his coworkers reached him. The group made their way out of the meeting room, with Clark walking in front of everyone else. He felt as if he were being pushed ahead, even though no one had put their hands on him. He wasn’t sure what would happen when they finally got to the dispensers.

As Clark’s group passed two other people in the hallway, both of whom Clark had seen around the office but neither of whom he’d been introduced to, one of them asked, “Where are you all going in such a hurry?”

“Clark tried one of the creme bars and liked it!” Stacy exclaimed.


“We’re going to go see what else he likes.”

By the time the group reached the break room, about a dozen people were following behind them. Clark wasn’t sure how their little group had grown into such a crowd, but when he turned around to see so many faces looking at him eagerly, he felt less than thrilled about his decision to let the cat out of the bag about his candy eating habits.

As everyone else stood by expectantly, Gwen walked past Clark and grabbed one of the paper bowls next to the dispenser. She placed it under the leftmost spout and pulled the handle just long enough for a few of the miniature candy bars inside to fall in the plate. There couldn’t have been more than four, although Clark didn’t have a chance to get a good count. As soon as Gwen had dumped some candy from one of the dispensers, she was on to the next one, drawing out a similarly sample-sized portion of the candy before letting the handle go. She moved down the row with remarkable efficiency, until she had a bowl filled near to the top from all two dozen columns.

“Here,” she said brusquely as she shoved the bowl at Clark. As quickly as it had moved, he was amazed all the candy had stayed inside. “Try some.”

“How am I supposed to know what they are?”

“Everyone here but you can tell them apart. Now come on! Try one!”

Clark looked around nervously. Whereas before he was trying to put on an air of not being sure whether he’d like the candy, now he felt genuinely uncomfortable with so many people waiting eagerly for his reaction. He decided the best thing to do was to get it over with as fast as possible. With that in mind, he picked up one of the candies at random and tossed it in his mouth.

“Peanut butter cup,” Gwen said. “What do you think.”

After chewing expressionlessly, Clark swallowed the treat. “It’s good!” he said, trying to feign some amount of surprise.

It seemed to work, as all of the coworkers who’d tagged along with the original group murmured excitedly amongst themselves. Gwen, Nancy, Stacy, Earl, and Keith all looked less surprised, smiling but remaining more reserved. “Try some more,” Gwen encouraged.

Clark kept making his way through the bowl as Gwen identified the candies he was eating. He only found himself disliking a few of the candies, none more so than the chocolate covered raisins. But as he expected, most of what he ate, he liked.

The crowd was less excited after Clark finished his bowl, the initial shock having worn off. They were more flabbergasted than anything, as unsure what to make of Clark’s newfound enjoyment of candy as he was. As much as he didn’t want to be the one to break the silence, he also wanted to go back to his desk and be left alone, though he doubted he’d be getting much of that for the next few weeks. “Well, good job, folks,” Clark said as he motioned the mostly-empty bowl toward the research team.

“Us?” Earl asked.

“Well, yeah. If I’m not mistaken, the goal of that candy you had me sampling was to turn people who don’t like candy into new customers. And hey, it worked!”

At that, crowd that had followed the group to the breakroom turned their attention to Stacy, Gwen, and Earl, congratulating the team on getting someone without a sweet tooth to like their candy. As the three modestly took in the attention, Carl tossed the bowl in the trash and stepped aside, sneaking back to his desk while the crowd was still focused on the researchers.

If it weren’t so early in the day, Clark would have taken the opportunity to duck out, not wanted to deal with the flurry of attention that was bound to be coming his way. But he looked at his clock and saw that it was 11:27, too early for him to leave without an explanation. With a sigh, he leaned back in his chair and started wondering how early he could take his lunch break, which he would definitely be spending elsewhere.

As Clark was in the middle of his contemplations, he heard footsteps approaching his desk and tried to keep in the sigh and eye-roll he was feeling. “Too much attention for you?” he heard Nancy’s familiar voice ask.

Clark turned around and was thankful to see Nancy standing on her own, no longer surrounded by the crowd that had accompanied them earlier. “Yes, actually.”

Nodding, Nancy continued, “You’re a good sport. Anyway, I’m here because I think I might have more work for you as a tester.”


“Now that you like the kind of candy we normally make here, there’s a lot more good you could do as a member of the taste-testing team. And your reports were really quite good. I got great comments on your feedback from the research team. It would be the same setup like it was before, with you working for us for an hour a week on top of your usual work. What do you think?”

After a few weeks, things settled back into a routine for Clark. Once news had spread across the company that the guy without a sweet tooth liked candy now, his coworkers stopped pestering him except for genuinely job-related matters. All he got was a few knowing looks and smirks when he went to take some candy from the breakroom or reached for something to snack on in a meeting, but even those stopped after a few months. Just like everyone else he worked with, he could finally snack on the candy around him without a second thought.

And snack he did. On Monday mornings, he’d come in and get his taste testing done as quickly as possible so he didn’t have to worry about ruining his palate with his snacking. Once that was done, he’d bring his bowl to the breakroom. He usually filled it with peanut butter cups, but sometimes he’d change it up to keep himself from getting sick of his favorite candy. He kept his coffee mug on his desk, but more and more, it was just gathering dust. With all the candy he was eating, he didn’t need the caffeine to wake him up in the morning anymore.

Once Clark started eating candy at work, he wasn’t the skinniest person in the office for long. What Doug had told him about candy being brain food turned out to not be far off, as he felt even more productive when he ate candy than he did when he drank coffee. Any desire to moderate his candy intake disappeared as soon as he started getting more work done in a day than he could before.

Like his moderation, Clark’s lap kept disappearing under his steadily advancing belly. His wardrobe became a steady stream of shirts and pants that he kept outgrowing. At first, he kept his smaller clothes around in case they ever fit again, but running out of space for his outgrown outfits brought home the reality that he wasn’t going to stop getting fatter any time soon. A quick trip to a clothing donation box took care of his space problem. He kept only his most recently outgrown wardrobe, in case his weight ever trended downward just long enough to make him feel silly for not keeping any of his smaller clothes.

By the time Clark had decided to not keep his outgrown outfits around any longer, he’d grown into a frame reminiscent of a chocolate kiss. His ample body sloped outward underneath a shirt that hung down tightly before rounding the bottom rim of his belly and being tucked into his pants. His arms hung out at an angle as he walked, for now they simply couldn’t hang straight down at his side. His legs had also grown, especially his thighs, wide and puffy like snack cakes and worthy of carrying a man of his heft. When he sat down, his belly rolled across his legs to rest on them like an industrial-sized bag of snack-sized treats. Resting his elbows on his belly had become the new norm when he sat at his desk.

One Friday, while he was sitting at his desk with his belly spilling over like an open bag of candy tossed on a countertop, Nancy approached him with a proposition. “Clark! Got a minute?”

“Sure thing,” he said, spinning slowly in his chair to face her.

“I have a testing request from marketing, and I don’t think I can give it to one of my full-time testers. Which makes you perfect for the job, if you’ll take it.”

“Why can’t a full-timer do it?”

“Well, you see,” Nancy stalled, tapping the tips of her fingers together. “It’s a… strange request. They’ve asked us to give a tester one of the jumbo snack cakes and… have them try to eat the whole thing in one go.”

“…come again?”

“Something to do with how they advertise it, I guess. I guess whether it’s feasible for one person to eat it on their own will affect how they target their advertising. I don’t know. What I do know is that I need someone to do it. And if one of my regular tasters does it, that’ll put them out of commission the rest of the day.”

“Why? Food coma?”

“No, no,” Nancy laughed. “I just don’t imagine they’ll want to eat anything sweet for the rest of the day. So how would you feel if, on Monday, instead of your usual samples, you tried to eat one of those cakes?”

Clark looked down and pulled one side of his lips in, before raising his eyebrows and looking back up at Nancy. “Sure.”

“Oh bless,” Nancy sighed. “You’re really doing me a huge favor here.”

That was the last Clark heard of his task until Monday, when he got into work and found the snack cake left on his desk, still in its market packaging. On top of it was a post-it note written in purple pen:

Don’t bother with a report. Just let me know how much you can eat. -Nancy

Beneath the post-it note was a chocolate pastry that looked as big as Clark’s head. Through the side, he found a hole where cream filling seemed to have been injected, before oozing out just a bit, where it smeared on the side of the packaging. The center of the pastry was so thick he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get his jaw around it. As he considered the treat’s girth, he had some serious doubts about whether he’d be able to finish it.

But there was only one way to find out.

Clark ripped one end of the package open and held the snack cake within the plastic to keep his fingers free of crumbs. He started with the end where cream filling was seeping out, hoping to keep the mess to a minimum by not giving it another hole to escape out of. With a shrug, he took a bite off the end.

The snack cake tasted better than Clark expected. While he remembered most snack cakes having a sort of plasticine taste, this one reminded him more of some chocolate cake that he’d eat at a birthday party to be polite. He thought the same thing of the filling, which reminded him of dense, creamy and flavorful cake frosting, not the greasy, cottage-cheese-esque filling he expected from mass-produced snack cakes.

With a smile, Clark swallowed his first bite and dug in for another. When he did, he could see that there seemed to be more frosting inside than he initially expected. Rather than the filling being injected into a solid pastry, it seemed the cake had been hollowed out with a chamber to allow for as much cream to fit inside as possible. Clark estimated that there was enough filling inside to fill a supermarket frosting tin. At that, he really had his doubts about whether he could finish the whole thing.

But his nervousness was soon placated when he looked back to the post-it note. Nancy wasn’t expecting him to finish the whole thing. She just wanted to know how much he could eat. So he promised himself he’d stop eating when it wasn’t enjoyable anymore.

Half-way through the snack cake, that hadn’t happened. Clark was still enjoying every bite just as much as the first. Even when he got to the center, where each bite seemed to have more cream filling than cake, he still enjoyed the jumbo-sized treat.

At least, his mouth was enjoying it. His stomach seemed to feel differently, for he could feel a growing heaviness inside it. He wasn’t quite full, as the portion of the cake that he’d eaten didn’t take up that much volume. Rather, his stomach felt dense, as if burdened by a heavy weight. It felt like he’d swallowed a rock. But there was still room, and as long as the snack cake still tasted good, he intended to fill that room.

Clark reclined in his chair and started checking his emails to give himself something else to do. As much as he enjoyed the snack cake, eating it wasn’t exactly his idea of a thrilling way to pass the time. The emails let him take his mind off of the growing feeling of tension in his stomach, although they also distracted him from how delicious the cake tasted. Whether the trade-off was worth it, he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t give it much thought as he kept munching and typing.

But as Clark stared down the second half of the chocolate treat, he found it harder to keep his mind on his email. With every bite he swallowed, his stomach reminded him just how much he’d eaten. Every bit of pastry made a noticeable expansion on the mass of food in his gut. Small bites just made smaller expansions. Every bit of cake and filling added to his stomach pushed out against its boundaries once it reached its destination. It was as if the contents of his stomach had to move around to make room for what was coming in.

Whatever his stomach was doing, it made enough room that he could keep eating. He kept it up until he looked down and saw that there wasn’t much frosting left. It was mostly just a rounded layer of cake, which made him optimistic about finishing it.

What made him pessimistic was the feeling of just how much cake had built up in his stomach. It had a certain kind of warmth, countered with just how much weight he felt in his gut. With a quiet groan, he brought his hand to the top of his soft belly and stroked it gently, trying to give it some kind of relief as he finished the last bite of the snack cake.

With a frustrated groan, Clark opened his email and started typing a new one as he chewed the last bits of cake. His jaw moved lazily, exerting just enough power to crush the moist, soft pastry. As he swallowed the last bite, he let out a groan of relief, trying to keep himself quiet so no one would start asking questions. With a sigh, he hit send.

Nancy, I finished the snack cake. I doubt many of our customers could, though. Clark

Clark parked his car in one of the spots reserved for qualified laden employees, now that he was plenty heavy enough to qualify, before hobbling into the building and taking the elevator up to his floor. As he waddled out, he took up much of the width of the elevator door, his body extending out toward both sides of the frame. He wore a deep blue suit that he’d had to order specially made for himself, but thankfully, his salary prevented expenditures like that from making too deep a dent in his pocket.

Which was a blessing for Clark, because he’d had to replace his professional wardrobe more than a few times, and custom-made clothes weren’t cheap. But they were worth it, because they looked better on his body than generic “big and tall” clothes ever could. Those always looked like regular clothes that had just been blown up in all dimensions, which didn’t suit a guy like him who hadn’t grown like that. Hell, Clark would think, no one grew like that. So he was happy to get his shirts, pants, and suit jacket tailored to fit his frame.

At his new weight, his frame was like a cupcake with as much frosting on top as cake in the base, expanding outward in all directions until it made a rim over the hem his pants, which he now held up with suspenders. His arms were wide enough that he’d ordered his jackets to be specially made with an extra wide hole connecting the sleeve with the trunk, so it didn’t dig into his armpits. His tie extended barely half way down the outward slope of his gut. Underneath, so much of his thighs rubbed together as he walked that they likely would have bored holes in his pants if he weren’t outgrowing them so quickly.

All this made walking more of an ordeal for Clark than it had been before, and lumbering his way down the office halls made up a not insignificant part of his day. He was thankful the halls were wide enough to accommodate him, but it wasn’t always easy. That morning, Clark came upon Doug in the hall and had to turn sideways so he could pass. Doug brought his arms in close as he slipped by, bidding, “Morning, big guy.”

It was far from the only time Clark got comments like that, but they were all good-natured. Even though he was probably the heftiest person in the office, he never felt singled out. In fact, Candy Connectors might have been the only place where he could work where he didn’t feel like he stood out.

It was one of the things Clark really liked about his job. He was thankful to work for a company that was so accommodating of his weight. He liked his coworkers, and enjoyed spending eight hours a day with him. And he especially liked all the free candy he got to eat, along with snack cakes now that Nancy had gotten him testing those.

Before Clark had started working at Candy Connectors, he’d heard that any job there was a dream job. He agreed with that assessment, and it was a sweet dream indeed.

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