Originally published April 1, 2018.
Contains: accelerated weight gain.
Just a little something different I wrote for the holiday. Enjoy!
Max Mondo was a handsome man by any conventional standards. He stood six feet tall with a naturally athletic build, a chiseled face adorned with a goatee, and striking brown eyes that pierced from behind flawless brown skin. He did some regular gym workouts to keep his frame in good condition, but by-and-large, he could maintain a reasonably muscular build with minimal effort. There were only a few other guys at the gym like him, and most of them also liked to eat big in addition to lifting big. To them, it was just another way to show off. And after all, it would all turn into more muscle, as that was just how their metabolism worked.
Max knew better. He kept cold cuts in a cooler in his car to snack on on the way home from the gym, lean protein to fill him up before he got back, where he met the rest of his nutritional needs with vegetables and some more meat. He always let himself enjoy an indulgence from time to time: a piece of candy here, a free cookie from a batch someone else had brought into the office there, and so on. While he intended to maintain his muscular frame, he knew a treat here and there wouldn’t cause him to balloon. He also knew it would keep him from feeling so deprived that one day he would snap and eat a whole bunch of those junk foods. That was a risk he couldn’t afford to take.
Diet wasn’t the only way that Max differed from those guys at the gym. While those guys liked to show off their definition by wearing tank tops and shorts when the weather allowed, Max didn’t like to wear those kinds of clothes outside of the gym. He was fond of more unconventional fashion choices. He liked to wear unbuttoned short-sleeve button-down shirts over tee shirts in the summer, long-sleeve button-downs with suspenders in the fall, and argyle sweaters in the winter. His gym-mates had told him on several occasions that he dressed for someone twice his weight, and not twice his weight in muscle. But he didn’t pay them much mind; that was just how he liked to dress.
They weren’t the only ones that had made such comments to Max before. He’d dipped his toes into the gaining scene online before; as someone who liked bigger guys, it was only inevitable. And when he ended up on those sites, inevitably some skinny little thing would message him and tell him, “You’d look great if you put on a few pounds. Or a few hundred.”
Those comments bothered Max at first, for he’d never proclaimed any interest in getting bigger himself. But having read a few of the stories that community produced had clarified a few things. After all, the clues were right there in his name: Maximilian, shortened to Max early on in his American upbringing, and Mondo, from the word for “pure” in his parents’ homeland, reduced to a slang term for “large” by the immigration.
All the way down to his name, the evidence was clear: Max was the protagonist in a gaining story.
And as someone who didn’t want to get bigger himself, Max had a vested interest in researching common inciting incidents in gaining stories so he could avoid them. He’d read a lot of gaining stories, though he’d finished very few, as what primarily interested him was learning the mistakes the protagonists made that started them on the path to gaining, so he could avoid repeating them. The life he lead as a result looked strange to many from the outside, but he knew it was the best life for him.
It was November 1st, and Max had spent the previous night staying inside with his lights off, not wanting to attract any mischief that might come his way from such a holiday. Christmas and Halloween were always the time of year he was most on his toes. Thanksgiving, surprisingly, was not such a risky holiday, though he still kept an eye out. But Halloween was the riskiest of all, and he’d turned down every Halloween party invitation he got, declined to participate in trick-or-treating from either side, and just stayed in. It was safest that way.
Around lunchtime, Max’s teammate Frank came by and asked, “Hey Max! Me and some of the other folks are getting together to go grab lunch. You want to come?”
“Sure,” Max replied before turning away from his computer screen. He knew business lunches were risky, but as long as he kept an eye out for signs, he knew he could navigate them without ending up any worse for wear. As he turned away from his computer, he saw that Frank’s shirt seemed to be fitting rather tightly around a decently sized paunch that had definitely not been there the day before. “Ooh. You, uh, feeling alright there, Frank?”
“Heh, yeah, I think that’s just bloating from some of the candy I ate last night.”
“Oh yeah? Allergic reaction?”
“Must be. Ever since I…” Frank halted with a sigh, before continuing with a tone of voice that seemed to admit what he’d done was wrong. “Ever since I snunk a Twix bar from my daughter’s Halloween haul, I’ve been feeling like this.”
“All that from a Twix bar?” Max asked disbelievingly.
“Okay, a few Twix bars,” Frank admitted. “But come on, don’t tell me you haven’t snuck candy from your kid’s Halloween haul before. It’s not like they can eat it all.”
“I don’t have kids, Frank. Even if I did, I wouldn’t steal candy from them. Anyway, weren’t we talking about lunch?”
“Oh yeah! Come on, we’re about to head out.”
Soon Max, Shawna, Chip, and Beth had all piled into Frank’s van. As Frank drove the five of them out of the parking lot, he asked, “So where are we headed?”
“You didn’t decide on a place beforehand?” Max asked.
“Don’t tell me that’s one of your neuroses too,” Chip griped.
“Aw, leave him alone,” Beth told him. “We all have our own little things.”
“And he has more than the rest of us put together.”
“I can hear you, you know,” Max announced as he turned around to look at Chip.
“What about that new buffet that opened up across town?” Shawna suggested.
“Truly Bottomless? That could be good,” Frank said.
“Why is it called that?” Max asked, the tinge of nervousness coming up in his chest.
“Most buffets have a limit on the books of how much you can eat, so they can kick a customer out before they lose a profit. Your average eater will never run into that limit, but the fact is it’s still there. Truly Bottomless? No such limit,” Shawna explained, almost as if she was selling the place.
Immediately Max knew it would be a bad idea for him to go there. Thankfully, by then, he was good at coming up with excuse. “Oh come on, guys, do you really think the food could be any good with a premise like that?”
“Yeah, I’m with Max,” Beth concured. “Let’s go some place where the food will actually be worth paying for.”
“Let’s just go to Chuckie’s,” Chip chimed in.
“Yeah, there’s a reason it’s our staple,” Frank concurred, before murmurs of agreement filled the van. Max, meanwhile, let out a quiet sigh of relief, sure that he’d just dodged a bullet, before saying, “I could go for a good steak.”
When the group got to Chuckie’s, they all sat around a round table and barely browsed the menus; at that point, they didn’t have to. Shawna, however, did, and found something that piqued her interest quite a bit. “Hey, look at this: the Pork Belly Buster Challenge.”
“Come again?” Beth asked.
“‘Bring out the hog in you with this pork belly challenge,’” Shawna started reading. “‘If you can eat two full racks of pork belly ribs in under an hour, you get both racks for free. Comes with fries and coleslaw to cleanse your pallet, but you get no points for eating those.’ Max, you should try that!”
Max froze as his glass of water was halfway to his mouth. “Pardon?”
“You like meat, and you’re competitive. I bet you could do it.”
“I said I was in the mood for steak, and that’s what I intend to order: a nice, reasonably-sized portion of steak.”
“You’re no fun,” Shawna complained as she went back to browsing. Max, meanwhile, pulled out his phone and put Shawna’s name down in his list of likely instigators. He knew that in his story, there were those who were meant to push him over the edge and start his downward spiral of getting bigger, to disrupt his healthy habits and get him to make himself fatter. Thankfully, they were never subtle about it, making them easy to spot. They also never gave up. And while Max didn’t resent them for playing the role they were meant to play, he did have to distance himself from all of them. He regretted that one of his own teammates was someone he had to maintain that distance from; he knew it might have been time for him to consider switching jobs again.
But in the meantime, everyone put in their order and enjoyed their meal, without any interruption or hijinks. At least, not at their own table; as lunch was nearing its end, Frank couldn’t take his eyes off of another table not too far from the group.
“Frank,” Chip finally chimed in. “What are you staring at so intensely, man?”
“I just… I can’t shake the feeling that the guy at that table over there,” he said, before subtly swinging his fork in the direction of his gaze, “Was smaller when we came in.”
“What are you going on about?”
“Like he’s… gained weight.”
“He did order the Pork Belly Buster,” Max commented, knowing exactly which man Frank was talking about. He’d watched the plate go to the man’s table, and made an exact mental note of what he looked like before he started eating. Sure enough, if Max hadn’t remembered making that note, he wouldn’t have thought there was anything strange about the man either.
But the man was definitely fatter, and very noticeably so. His once flat midsection now sported a beach-ball-sized belly that his shirt seemed to have grown to fit around, with chubby cheeks, a dangling double chin, and brawny arms to match. It seemed the dish had given him a belly to bust. As he sat back in his chair, absentmindedly rubbing the distended growth, no one at his table, including him, seemed to think anything was at all amiss. It seemed whatever force had put Pork Belly Buster Challenge into the restaurant that day also had a flair for bending reality. The fact that Frank had noticed it at all left Max absolutely sure that his recent growth wasn’t simple bloat, but that he’d had his own run in with a gaining story.
“See? Easy, then: it’s just a food baby,” Chip insisted.
“No, something’s… different about him…“ Frank muttered, before he turned to Max. “Max, you see it too, right? I’m not just making things up, right?”
“You’re not. He is fatter, by quite a wide margin” Max told Frank quietly. “But you won’t convince them of that. Come on, let’s get the check settled and head out.”
Frank gave Max one last pleading look, before seeming to accept that one person believing him was better than none. Once they got the check, Beth split the total up between the five of them based on what they’d ordered so the waiter wouldn’t have to print five separate checks.
With the check settled, all five got up to leave, around the same time the man who’d ordered the Pork Belly Buster did. He struggled to push himself up, holding onto the back of his chair as he did so, before standing up with his back arched and his newly rounded belly pushing out even farther. He could barely stay still once he stood, swaying from side to side with a sway that was only enhanced as he walked. Max could hear one of his tablemates say, “Earl, are you alright? You’re walking like you’re drunk.”
“I only had two glasses of wine,” the man insisted.
“Maybe it’s better if you only have one at lunch,” his acquaintance suggested, causing the man to grumble.
It was Christmas Eve, and as one of the few people in the office without a significant other or children, Max was at his desk. Sure, he had family he would visit, but they lived close enough that it made the most sense to drive to visit them on Christmas Day itself. So he was in the office, saving his vacation days and doing what little work remained to do with so few folks not on vacation. Once he’d finished his own duties, he found other ways to stay busy, as he knew boredom was an invitation for way too many inciting incidents for weight gain. Thankfully, he managed to keep himself occupied until the clock on lower-right corner of his computer said 5:00, and he shut it down to go home.
On his way out, Max spotted a strange sight on the communal food table: a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Curious, he came closer and found a note next to them that said, “For Santa.” Though the cookies looked good, he knew better than to take a bite or sip of either item.
“Hey, look at that!” Max heard his coworker Al should. “Someone left cookies for us workaholics… ‘For Santa’? Weird note, but hey, I think I’m close enough,” Al mused. Indeed, he’d recently played Santa for the company’s family Christmas party, and while he required a fake beard, his own belly had proved more than adequate to play the part.
“Ah–I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Max stammered out, wanting to save Al from becoming yet more collateral damage of the fate intended for Max.
“I mean, think about how long that milk’s been out. It’s probably lukewarm by now. Does that sound appetizing to you.”
“Not particularly… and, you know, I guess I should be watching my weight a bit more,” Al admitted, giving his ample stomach some reluctant pats. “I’ll go pour out the milk. Thanks for keeping me from making a bad decision, Max.”
“Sure thing,” Max chuckled, though he knew Al had no clue just how bad of a decision Max had just saved him from. After letting out a muted sigh, Max zipped up his coat and headed out.
Max didn’t want to go home immediately, so he drove to a bar called Half Full. He’d only been there a few times before, but it was one of the few places around town that wasn’t closing early on Christmas Eve, giving him a place to decompress before he went to his parents’ house the next day. Usually Max was fairly social when he visited bars, but Half Full couldn’t even live up to its name in terms of the number of customers. So Max took a seat at the bar with both seats next to him empty, before the bartender moseyed on over.
“What’ll it be, dear?” she asked.
“Just a vodka soda, please. Not too heavy on the pour; I need to myself drive home.”
“You got it,” she promised before walking off to mix Max’s drink.
As he waited, Max pulled out his phone and opened his “dating” apps to see if there were any other lonely guys looking for a bit of company on Christmas Eve. While he browsed, a notification popped up that he’d gotten a message: “Is ‘no cooks or bakers’ a metaphor for something?” Not an uncommon question, so Max pulled up the app to answer it. By the time he did, the man had sent another message: “Like how some guys say no chocolate or rice to mean no black or Asian guys.”
“No, nothing like that, I’m not some racist piece of trash, lol.”
“It means exactly what it says: no cooks or bakers.”
“Basically no one who makes food for a living.”
“Or even an enthusiastic hobby.”
“Definitely one of the more unique things I’ve seen on here lol.”
“Anyway I was just curious. Not really looking to meet up.”
Max knew that was bullshit–why else would the guy be on the app–but he wasn’t going to push the issue. “Alright. Have a good night.”
With a sigh, Max closed the app. When he looked up, he saw the bartender approach with a brown drink with foam on top served in a stein. “Uh, this isn’t a vodka soda,” he objected before she could put it down.
“No, it’s not. It’s an Irish coffee. The gentleman over there wanted to buy you a drink and sent this over. Figured I’d offer it before making you pay for a drink, especially since you need to be good to drive.”
Looking across the bar, Max saw a man not altogether unlike himself. He had a chiseled face and obviously worked out a lot, though he kept his face clean-shaven, showing off his strong definition. He looked at Max with a smile somewhat resembling a smirk, but it was his eyes that Max noticed most. They had this piercing gaze to them that seemed to penetrate right through Max and reach down to the man he could become. These weren’t eyes of longing; they were eyes of determination.
At that, Max looked back to the drink and asked, “Isn’t an Irish coffee made with heavy cream?”
Max had a feeling the drink wasn’t supposed to be as light as it was in the bartenders hand, indicating extra cream had been added. “Tell him I’m lactose intolerant.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Max could see the man’s determined smile crumble into a disappointed frown as the bartender walked away with the drink still in his hand. Watche her carefully, he saw her bring the drink back to the man, before offering it to another man at the bar, who accepted it. It seemed Max had managed to push his fate onto someone else yet again. While he never relished knowing someone else would get fatter because he’d avoided it, he’d long ago stopped feeling responsible for the choices of strangers in his midst, or like he had to save all of them as well as himself. Some nights, keeping himself from getting fattened was the best he could do.
Once the bartender finally brought Max his vodka soda, he asked for the check immediately and headed out when he was done with the drink. While it seemed he’d managed to divert his destiny onto someone else, he didn’t want to push his luck by staying in the bar any longer than he had to. After his one drink, he got in his car and started the drive home. On the way home, he passed a locally owned candy shop that advertised they were having a blowout sale, with all candy up to 75% off. He promptly kept his finger off the turn signal and kept driving.