First-Year Slump

Originally published March 2, 2018.
Contains: long-term weight gain.

Yet another suggestion from ZBot316. It’s awesome when I’m contacted by a reader whose ideas line up with my own writing interests so well. It doesn’t happen often, so I cherish it when it does. Not much more to say about this story, so onto the…

Synopsis: It’s George’s first year as coach for Downeaster University’s football team, the Bandits. Previously unbeatable, the team falls into a slump as soon as George joins, becoming the laughing stock of the league. No one knows what to make of it, especially George, who starts putting on weight from the pressure he’s under. But he finds that the chubbier he becomes, the better his team does, and remembers an old DEU superstition that the fatter the football team’s coach is, the better the team will do. He doesn’t believe it at first, but still finds himself eating more than he used to, unable to convince himself it’s all a myth…

George knew there was a lot of pressure on him. As the new coach of Downeaster University’s renowned football team, the Bandits, he was now responsible for a team that had become a force to be reckoned with under the leadership of their previous coach, coach Marino. Marino was a larger-than-life man in more ways than one, and George knew he had big shoes to fill. But his players were some of the best in the league, and surely Marino’s effect wouldn’t be lost as soon as George took over. That, he figured, could at least keep the team going at their current level of dominance until he got the hang of things.

But that wasn’t how George’s first few months of coaching turned out. Although his team always impressed him during practice, game days turned out to be a different story. In spite of maintaining many of their best players and using the same plays and strategies they’d used under Marino, the Bandits had gone from the team to beat to an easy victory. In George’s first semester as coach, they didn’t win a single game.

Everyone was baffled, but no one more so than George himself. He’d seen these same players lead DEU to dominance in the league, watched them practice under Marino’s guidance and his own. As far as he could tell, nothing had changed other than his presence. Was he just bad luck?

That seemed to be the narrative that traveled around college sports circles, about a team that had fallen from prominence to become the laughing stock of the league, all thanks to what must have been the incredible mismanagement of one coach. George’s players and colleagues, thankfully, were more forgiving of him. But it was hard for him to not take the press’s comments personally as he tried to fit in to his new role. Was he really dragging the Bandits down single-handedly?

And thanks to all that stress, he was starting the spring semester 40 pounds more the man than he was when he started in fall.

On the first day of the new semester, George stood in his bedroom looking in his full-length mirror with a frown on his face. He’d tried to put on his embroidered jacket, decorated with the Bandit’s once-feared bandana logo, only to find that he couldn’t get it to zip up unless he drastically sucked in his stomach. And even once he did, letting his muscles loose again caused his shirt-clad stomach to peek out from underneath the bottom. If it weren’t for the new khakis and button-down shirts George had gotten himself for Christmas, he’d be a truly sad sight indeed.

Looking himself up and down, George snarled when he saw what had become of his body due to all the work stress. Entire weeks spent without his feet ever touching a treadmill and his fair share of stress eating had caused his once passably-flat torso to pooch out into a pauch about as wide as the black-and-white ball kicked around by football players in the rest of the world. The features of his once angular face had softened like they’d swelled up after an injury, something his mustache only emphasized, as it hadn’t grown any wider. His arms were filling out his Bandits jacket and making the sleeves feel unusually tight. And his belt, the one thing he hadn’t replaced during his Christmas shopping, was feeling like a boa constrictor around his waist when he closed it on his usual notch.

George unzipped the Bandits jacket and found it looked okay enough to wear that way. However, he wasn’t sure what looked worse: a tight jacket showing off how much weight he’d put on, or a button-down shirt whose line of buttons accentuated how round his stomach had become. Ultimately, he decided on the one that fit him properly, unzipping his jacket and letting the too-small side of the jacket hang open. If it got too cold, he could swap it out for a regular jacket. After all, wearing branded outfits were only really an expectation during the big televised games, and with how his team was doing, he didn’t think they’d be playing any of those any time soon. With a sigh, George stepped out of his bedroom and braced himself to go back onto the field.

But something strange happened that semester. After a fall of losing every single game they played, the Bandits started having better luck, winning about a third of their matches. Even the games they lost, they were losing by much narrower margins of points than they were in the fall. Of course, it was too little too late for them to have a shot at making the playoffs that year. But the change George was seeing in his players on the field was pronounced enough that he had to wonder what was going on. After all, he was working with the same players, using many of the same strategies and plays, against teams that were previously wiping the floor with them. And it didn’t seem like those teams were going easy on them. What was happening?

It was about a month into the semester that George found his answer. He was sitting in his office after a tense meeting with the Dean of Student Activities that had gone better than he expected, which said more about his expectations than it did about the meeting itself. As he sat back in his chair, he looked at the framed photos of past coaches and their teams with their various trophies, and wondered if he’d ever lead the Bandits to a similar victory, or if they’d be better off if he resigned.

But as he looked over the photos, something jumped out at him about all of the coaches that had lead the Bandits to victory, Marino included: for lack of a more sensitive way to word it, they were all fat. Really fat. George had gotten down on himself for the weight he’d put on recently, but compared to the coaches whose photos surrounded him, he looked like a defensive back. Although their properly fitting team jackets somewhat masked the full extent of their heft, it was clear to see that they could give their biggest offensive linemen a run for their money. Marino himself had to weigh nearly 350 pounds, George surmised, while some of the coaches looked like they’d cleared 400 with room to spare.

It was then that George remembered the old myth he’d heard around the halls of DEU, one no one had dared repeat to him since he’d taken on the role. The superstition claimed that the fatter the Bandits’ coach was, the better the team would play. George had never given any serious thought to the idea, but looking at the photos around him had him wondering.

“There must be something else at play,” he muttered. “I bet they only celebrate that coaches that feed into that superstition.” And then he remembered how his own team seemed to be doing better after he’d put on some weight, with no rational explanation. “The other teams are probably going easy on us after the poor show we put in last semester.” But George had seen the headlines. “The Bandits’ are getting their mojo back” they said, never mentioning the other teams putting in a poor performance. No, it seemed the team was genuinely getting better. But why?

The superstition nagged at George like an earworm he couldn’t stop his brain from singing. He caught himself looking down at his stomach, wondering, what if?, before he looked up. No, it was ridiculous, he told himself. There was no way his weight could have an effect on how well his players played. The superstition was just that: superstition. There was no reason to put any stock in some ridiculous myth… right?

George told himself over and over that night, it was ridiculous, it didn’t mean anything, it was just a myth. He had to tell himself over and over because he never quite convinced himself it was actually true. Even on his drive home, as he pulled into the drive through of a fast food joint rather than the sandwich shop where he usually got dinner, he was telling himself, “This is stupid. There’s no way it can be true.”

And on some level, he believed that. Even as he ordered a double cheeseburger with fries and a large Coke to drink. Even as he snacked on his fries and his burger while washing them down with his Coke as he drove. Even as he ate the meal fast enough that by the time he got home, he had finished the whole thing.

As he pulled into his driveway, George picked up the bag of trash he’d accumulated while eating his meal and shook his head side to side. “That was pointless. There’s no way this superstition is true. Next meal, I’ll eat extra healthy to make up for that. I’m not going to put on weight just because some people think it’ll make the team ‘play better’,” he concluded in a mocking tone. As he got ready for bed that night, he was sure that was what he was going to do the next day.

And yet, the next morning, as he ate his usual granola bar on the drive into work, George found himself making a pitstop at the local doughnut shop to pick up a strawberry jam-filled doughnut to fill himself up a little more. The monologue proclaiming “it’s ridiculous” and “it’s just a myth” had halted by then, leaving George staring at the strawberry jam doughnut for a moment before he pulled away, wondering what he was honestly doing, before he squashed the question and gobbled the doughnut down.

The night George ate a double cheeseburger on the way home wasn’t the last time he tried to convince himself it was just a ridiculous superstition. It was also far from the last night he found himself eating a little extra at meal times, or changing his destination entirely. Trips to the local organic supermarket’s salad bar were replaced by walks to the nearby pizza place, where George would pick up a slice for lunch, which soon became two slices. By the end of the semester, he was picking up twice slices, a small side to eat at lunch, and a large side to take with him to snack on during the afternoon: fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, onion rings, cheese-stuffed breadsticks, always mixing it up. Though he knew it wasn’t as healthy as a salad, he couldn’t deny, it was a lot less boring.

Dinner was given a similar treatment, with his trips to healthier venues replaced with any location in the way back that had a drive through. He knew the food wasn’t as good for him, but at the end of a long day of coaching, it was nice to be able to sit back in his car, rather than have to park and get out to get his food. And eating in his car gave him more time to himself when he got home. Overall, George was happy with his decisions.

He was also happy with how his team was doing. In the second half of the spring semester, the Bandits won just as many games as they lost, with many of those wins coming at the end of the season. By the time the semester ended, team morale was improving, the Dean of Student Activities was happier with him, and headlines talked about the Bandits being poised to make a comeback in the next year.

By then, George had stopped telling himself the old superstition about the coach’s weight had to be ridiculous. Not that he was entirely convinced it was true. Maybe he and the team were finally developing a mutual understanding. Maybe it was because they’d moved on from Marino’s plays to plays that made sense for the opponents they were up against now. It didn’t have to be because he was ending out the semester with a stomach that was approaching the size of the beach balls the Bandits’ fans were sneaking into games those days.

But George was curious. After giving his team one last locker room pep talk before finals started, he stayed in the locker room until all of his players had left. He listened intently to make sure no one was coming back. Once he was certain he wouldn’t be interrupted, he emptied his pockets on the counter, took off his shoes and belt, and stepped onto the locker room scale. Once he leaned forward to look over his belly, he saw the display read 282.3 pounds. About 40 more than he weighed at the start of the semester.

George stepped off the scale and stared into the mirror. Looking back at him was a face with pudgy cheeks that from which hung a distinct double chin, something George had never had before. All his widened features made his mustache look even smaller, something he supposed couldn’t be helped. Or maybe, he thought, the non-widening mustache was only emphasizing how much the rest of his face had grown.

Looking down, George thought the latter was more likely to be the case, seeing how much the rest of his body had plumped up too. In his button-down shirt and khakis, his standard summer work wardrobe, that was even easier to see, considering those were the clothes he’d bought himself for Christmas. They’d fit him back then, but that deep into the semester, not so much.

No, by the time the spring semester had come to an end, those clothes were all fitting George a bit more snuggly. Underneath his button-down shirts, the tops of his arms filled out the sleeves, threatening to rip the seams at any moment. His chest stuck out perceptibly from behind the buttons, before giving way to a belly that pushed out far enough to cause the sides of his shirt to push apart between the buttons. Thankfully, they didn’t push apart far enough to show skin, as those last few days of the semester were hot, and George didn’t want to have to wear an undershirt as well.

His pants were a similar story. The beltlines were tight enough that he didn’t have to wear a belt at all to keep them up, finding that their tight pull on his waist did the job more than adequately. And while the legs weren’t as tight as his shirt was, they definitely hugged his thighs a bit more tightly those days, a constant reminder to not bend over too far, lest he rip his pants open. Taking off his pants had become by far his favorite part of the end of the day.

Yes, it seemed George was in need of a new wardrobe yet again. But for now, he only planned to buy the tee shirts and cargo shorts he’d be wearing to coach the community youth soccer team over the summer. Those, he would certainly buy in a size up. But his next set of work clothes? Those, he reasoned, might need to be two sizes bigger. After all, coaching those kids wasn’t the only plan he had for the summer.

Looking down at his belly, George gave it a pat and sighed. “Looks like there might be something to the superstition after all.” Giving his belly a gentle rub, he continued, “You’ve got a lot of people to make proud. Don’t let them down.”

The soccer field where George was going to be coaching the kids was a half-hour’s drive away from his house, which was enough time for him to eat a half-dozen doughnuts on the drive over. After having a more nutritious breakfast at home, he drove to his nearby doughnut shop for “supplies” for the road, and came away with a nice, fattening selection of treats. As he looked down at the box before turning out of the drivethrough, the thought ran through his head one more time as to whether this was a good idea. Should he really make an effort to get that big on purpose when all he had was the circumstantial evidence that maybe the superstition was true?

When he had the chance to turn out of the lot, he hit the accelerator, before answering his own question by taking a bite of a brownie batter doughnut. He smiled when he tasted the rich, chocolatey filling, and immediately took another bite. After all, any he didn’t finish, he’d have to bring with him onto the field to snack on during practice. And he knew the kids would never let him live that down.

Thankfully, George was able to finish all six doughnuts by the time he pulled into the parking lot. He’d arrived early, so he and the program coordinator could have a chance to set everything up before the kids arrived. After putting his car in park, he opened the door and pushed himself out and up into a standing position. At that point, he could feel all the doughnuts in his stomach pushing back against him as he bent forward to move out. Once he stood up, he let his stomach stick out to give his breakfast the room it needed. He could feel just how much his stomach had stretched out, and pulled down at his shirt to make sure it hadn’t ridden up. If he could make those doughnuts a daily thing, he’d pack on the pounds in no time.

“George, hey!” the coordinator called out as she approached from the nearby school. “Glad you could make it out so early.”

“Of course! Let’s get this equipment set up before the kids get here.”

“Yes, let’s! It’s this way,” she beckoned with her clipboard as she turned back toward the school. She walked at a pace that George had to consciously try to keep up with, but he supposed a little power walk would be good for him.

“So, question,” George began.


“Where does the staff usually go for lunch around here?”

“Well, most of them bring lunch and eat with the kids.”

“Ah…” George sighed, lamenting his lack foresight.

“You didn’t bring one?” the coordinator asked sympathetically.

“‘Fraid not.”

“Well, there are a few shops within driving distance where you can pick something up. They’re not that great, thought. I’d recommend bringing your own.”

So every day after that, George brought his own lunch to the practice: a meat and cheese club stacked high with slices of both meat and cheese, and just enough veggies so it could pass as a regular sandwich. It was both fattening and filling, and kept him satisfied until the program ended at 3:30, and he could head home. That was when the real feasting took place.

It started the first day, when George’s lunch of an unsatisfying sub from a local market had him calling a pizza place near his house to place an order for pickup. His order included a small meat lover’s pizza with extra cheese, chicken finger and fries in the dinner size, and a meatball sub. When he realized how much food he was ordering, he nearly added a diet soda to his order, before realizing it wouldn’t make a difference and ordering a regular instead. When he arrived to pick up his food, he walked out with the pizza box, a giant bag, and a large drink. He looked like he could have easily been carrying food for two people. And yet, once he got home, it was all going in his belly and his alone.

To George’s relief, his summer job didn’t require him to keep working beyond his couching hours. Having never had that much free time before, however, he wasn’t sure how to spend it. That night after his first day ended up setting the precedent. Once he got home, he brought his huge dinner into the living room, reclined on his couch and kicked up his feet, turned on the TV, and set it to the sports network, so he could watch someone else do the work for once. With a satisfied sigh, he opened his pizza box and started on his massive dinner.

It took an hour-and-a-half of sports programming for George to finish everything he’d bought for himself. By the time he was done, he’d built up a nice, sizeable mound of food in his stomach, leaving him feeling satisfied as he sat back on the couch, fingers interlocked as his hands lay on his belly. It was firmer than usual under his touch, his hands barely sinking in before his full stomach pushed back at them. With a smile on his face, he lay back to let his dinner digest a bit before he got ready for bed.

For the rest of the summer, those TV dinner feasts became a tradition George looked forward to every night. Though he’d mix it up with where he got his food from and what he ordered, the end result was the same: George plopped down on his couch, surrounded by takeout boxes and bags, and ate and ate and ate until all the food around him was gone. Some nights he had to push harder than usual to finish everything he’d brought home, but he never left leftovers for the next day.

It didn’t take long for George to increase his summer eating habits. His six doughnuts in the morning became a dozen that he’d eat as many of as he could on the drive over, before finishing the rest on the drive back. The fact that his car was starting to smell like doughnuts was the furthest thing from a problem in his mind. The one sandwich that he brought for lunch became two, both filled with enough meat and cheese to pack his growing belly nice and full. Then he would make his drive home, the remaining doughnuts placating his hunger until he could pick up a bounty of takeout.

And the effect was showing, faster than it did during either the fall or spring semester. With every passing week, when George did laundry, he wondered if his clothes were shrinking or if he was genuinely getting bigger that fast. With each week, his shirts were fitting a little more snugly, hardly ideal for the heat and humidity of summer. Around the Fourth of July, he went out and bought himself clothes a size up, which fit him less baggily than he expected. But it didn’t matter much to him; he was just glad he wouldn’t be sweating to death on the field each day. And now, he had new clothes to grow into.

And grow into them he did. By mid-August, George’s new clothes were already fitting him snuggly enough that he wanted to replace them. So he went on a trip to buy both new work clothes and new casual clothes. As he checked out with his bigger shirts and pants, he smiled with satisfaction from having skipped a whole size in just one summer.

On the last day of the kids’ soccer practice, George decided to see the summer out with a bang. From his favorite pizza place, he ordered a large meat-lovers pizza and a large supreme pizza, both with extra cheese; a chicken finger dinner and a steak tips dinner and a pork ribs dinner, giving him plenty of fries to snack on; and a cheeseburger and bacon hamburger, because no meal for a guy like him was complete without a few burgers.

George hobbled into his living room carrying his grand bounty in several bags, while holding the pizzas with his other arm. After sitting down, he spread his various entrées around him, like a feast fit for a king. With his pizzas on the table in front of him, his meals to his sides, and his burgers next to his meals, he felt like royalty. And when he pressed his remote to turn the TV on, it was like summoning the court jesters to entertain him.

He certainly looked the part of a king, at least back when kings and other wealthy folks were the only ones who could afford enough food to get fat. George wasn’t sure how much he weighed then–he hadn’t weighed himself since mid-august–but he had to be heavier than the 347.6 pounds his scale had read back then. As for how much heavier, he supposed he’d have to wait until the next morning after all his food had digested to find out.

But in the meantime, he sat on the couch and snacked on the fries to whet his appetite, before he took a slice of pizza. Leaning forward to reach for the meat lovers, his belly bunched up in his lap like several pillows stacked on top of each other, before springing out into a spherical ball of flab that put his end-of-the-semester belly to shame. It had to have expanded three or four inches in every direction, the souvenir of a summer spent stuffing himself every night. And now, he was facing down his biggest feast yet.

But George had no reservations about the amount of food he’d bought. As the last of the pizza slice went in his mouth, followed by some fries, he had a placid smile on his face, confident he could eat all of the food he’d bought. That smile was framed by two cheeks that stuck out like cheese bubbles on the pizza, with a double chin hanging down from them, round and smooth, like a giant sausage. In all the time that he’d been growing, George maintained the mustache that he’d grown during the fall semester. And since the patch of facial hair didn’t grow wider with his face like a beard, it only emphasized just how wide his cheeks had grown as they pushed out away from it on either side.

George reached for the bacon burger next, his brawny, flabby arm extending until he had it in the grasp of his pudgy fingers. He managed to unwrap the greasy treat before he’d finished chewing, so he settled farther down into the couch and put it on top of his belly, still in the wrapper. As a result, his tree trunk legs, swollen wide with fat and muscle from carrying his weight every day, crept out farther from under his belly. Even with all that muscle, George knew he’d have trouble standing up when the feast was done.

But for now, that didn’t matter. As the players on TV passed the ball back and forth, he picked up the burger and took a big bite. It didn’t take long for him to wolf down the whole thing, making him wish he’d gotten a few more. So he took a slice of the supreme pizza and folded it over until it resembled the shape of a bacon burger. In that way, he got quite a few more slices of pizza down before he moved on to one of the dinners.

Placing the chicken finger and fries dinner on top of his stomach, George nibbled on the meal as the TV droned on, getting down the chicken fingers and whatever fries remained. At that point, the courses were starting to run together, as George stuffed his belly with one fast food dish after the other. The slices of pizza became just as much a snack as the fries, something to mindlessly much on as the meal progressed. The steak tip and pork ribs dinners lay open next to him, allowing him to much on his dinners as mindlessly as he did the fries. Only the sensation of fullness in his stomach provided any indication of how much he’d eaten.

By the time the courses started running together, George was already noticeably full, his stomach packed just enough to bring a smile to his face when he dwelled on it. But with so much food left to eat, he couldn’t dwell on it for long, or he might not finish his meal. So he shifted his attention to the TV instead, watching the game go on as his arms kept reaching around him for more food. He’d finished about two thirds of the food by the time he decided he was in the mood for the cheese burger.

A meal that big wasn’t exactly out of character for George, but it was big enough that it would have been easier with a friend. Not to share the food with, but to distract him from how much he was eating. As he stared the cheeseburger down, he couldn’t help but wonder if he’d really be able to finish everything he’d ordered. The burger looked delicious, he couldn’t deny that, but with the mound of food in his stomach having become a mountain, it just didn’t look as appetizing as it would normally.

For George’s belly was now stretched out enough to vaguely hurt. It was far from a new experience for him, but he was used to it coming at the end of a meal, perhaps after one last stretch of heavy eating. By then, he was happy to feel his stomach stretching out to make room for all the food inside of it, as his belly pushed out to give his stomach the room it needed. By then, he didn’t mind knowing he’d be walking with a waddle after he got up to avoid disturbing the contents of his stomach. But he couldn’t get up yet, because he still had so much to eat.

George grabbed the remote and started flipping through the channels, until he landed on an action movie that was already well underway with its first fight scene. As he watched the fists and bullets fly, his eyes remained locked on the screen as his hands absentmindedly brought the cheeseburger to his mouth for him to chew. With his attention fixated on the screen, he kept eating though the fullness, gobbling down the burger before moving on to what remained of the courses around him.

With the exploits of the grizzled hero captivating George, he ate without taking his eyes off the screen, constantly shoving in fries, meaty fingerfood, and the remaining slices of pizza with little regard for how much he’d already eaten or how quickly he devoured what remained. The more he ate, the more he had to feel around him to find where the remaining food lay, for the action movie so captivated him that he didn’t even think to close his empty containers and push them to the side.

It wasn’t until the end of a particularly climactic fight scene that George realized he’d been running his hands through the containers around him for several moments without picking up anything to eat. As the action took a break and the film took a breather, he looked down around him and discovered that every single container was empty. The pizza boxes only bore stains, the plastic boxes only held crumbs, and the wrappers from both of his burgers were crumpled up among the refuse. He’d finished his meal.

In his momentary break from having his attention focused solely on the action movie, George became aware of just how full he was. At once, he let out an elongated groan and slid his legs forward on the couch, allowing his ballooned belly to take all the room it needed to expand out in front of him. He was sufficiently full that his entire stomach ached as it stretched out around all the food he’d devoured. Any attempt he made to sit forward was met by a sharp shot of pain from his stomach, pushing him right back into a reclining position.

So George sat back and let his stomach have its way, lifting his arms up to place his hands on top of his rock-solid belly. They could barely sink into the layer of flab that he’d built up around his gut before they hit his crammed stomach. So he let his hands glide gently over the newly expanded mound of blubber that lay on top of him, jutting from his midsection like all the coaches sticking out against their players in the photos in his office. He could barely reach around the entire ball of fat, and as long as he was too full to suck it in, reaching the bottom of his belly was a lost cause. So he rubbed as much of it as he could, trying to relieve the pain felt by the truck-tire-sized bulge that weighed him down.

As the night went on and George didn’t feel like moving, he started to resign himself to falling asleep on the couch, surrounded by the leftover detritus of his meal. With what little energy he had left, he shoved the empty boxes to the side, clearing as much space as possible for himself to sleep. By the time he’d made enough space to be equivalent to a twin bed, he could barely expend the energy to reach for the remote to turn the TV off. The last thing he remembered was his finger falling on the off button, and the ensuing silence, before the weight of his food coma pulled him down into the land of dreams.

George made sure to order a new jacket embroidered with the Bandits’ logo before the fall semester started, in time for him to wear it his first day. He was also sure to order it three sizes up from his old one, allowing him to make the most dignified return to the field possible. Though he had no shame about his new size, he still worried about how his players would take to the change.

The scale had read 361.8 that morning. As George looked at himself in the mirror on the morning of his first day, he remembered what he looked like that the end of the spring semester. Comparing the two imagines, the only obvious commonality was his mustache, now dwarfed even more by the round cheeks that flanked his face. As he considered his mustache, he ran his finger and thumb along it, and supposed it was a good thing he hadn’t decided to shave over the summer. That would have likely made him completely unrecognizable.

But George couldn’t spend the whole morning pondering his appearance when he had a team to coach. With a determined nod, he put on one of his new button downs shirt and a new pair of khakis, from the set he’d bought in the middle of August, and slipped his jacket on over it. To his relief, the jacket fit just fine, with room to grow into before he’d have to replace it again. And if his team did better that fall than they did the previous spring, he had every intention of growing big enough to have to replace it again.

Of course, maintaining a size like that couldn’t be done on granola bars and coffee, so George kept up his summer routine of stopping by the nearest doughnut shop to pick up a dozen from the ride. Whichever ones he didn’t finish in the car, he’d finish in the office, before going out for the first day of the new semester. He ended up eating seven by the time he pulled into the parking lot, bringing the box and his briefcase with him as he walked into the facilities.

In all his worry about his team’s reaction, George hadn’t considered how his weight would change the rest of his workday. Entering his office with both his briefcase and the box of doughnuts in hand was made challenging not just by everything he was carrying, but also by his size. Holding the box and his briefcase with one hand was easy, but sliding into the room sideways, while his hands were too full for him to walk in forwards, was made more difficult by a belly that bumped into the door. After George watched the door close more the closer he got, pushed by his belly, he stopped, reached out with his free hand, and opened the door again, this time as wide as it would go. In his little hallway, that wasn’t very wide, but it allowed him to slip into the office and close the door behind himself.

After putting his briefcase and the box down, George hobbled around his desk and sat in the chair, which thankfully had no arms that he had to worry about fitting between. What he did worry about was how it creaked when he sat down in it. Once he was sure it would hold his weight, he let his legs relax and leaned back in the chair, before opening the box of doughnuts to shovel down all the rest.

As George opened his briefcase to start his day, he looked at the photos around him. He looked at all the larger-than-life coaches who’d lead their teams to victory, and the pride they clearly had. After all, they’d earned it. He was certainly closer to their size than he had been at the end of the previous academic year, let alone when he started the job. If the superstition was true, then his team would have a real shot at the playoffs that year. But he still had a ways to grow before he matched them, and he intended to do just that.

Soon George’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. From the blurred figure visible through his translucent window, he could tell it was a student. “Coach Harris?” the youthful voice called out.

“Come in, come in,” he replied.

Sure enough, Miguel came in, dressed in his workout clothes like most of the guys did for regular practice. “Hey, sir, me and some of the guys were won… der… ing…”

Miguel stuttered his words once he laid eyes on George. The young man’s eyes grow wide like George’s belly had over the summer. But George took it in good humor, leaning back in his chair to push his hefty belly out farther and putting his arms behind his head. With a smile, he asked, “Yes, son?”

“Huh?” Miguel asked, looking up from George’s midsection but not picking his jaw up off the floor.

“You and some of the guys were wondering…”

“Oh… um, we… we were just wondering if it would be a problem if we went on the field before practice starts to get an early start.”

“Oh, by all means! We have the field all day, anyway. Go right on ahead, and I’ll see you out there when practice formally starts.”

“Yeah… um, uh, thanks, coach,” Miguel stuttered before he left George’s office.

Once the door was closed, George chuckled to himself. He hoped Miguel would spread the news that he’d grown a lot bigger to the other students, so George wouldn’t have to take the time to humor their shocked responses. After all, they had a lot of training to do if they were going to do better than the previous year.

It was nearing the end of the academic year, and the Bandits were getting ready to post with their championship trophy. It was the comeback story of the year, from the top of the world to laughing stock of the league to back on top. And while the sports press surmised as to what their secret might have been, George could only smile and laugh to himself. Both he and a few of his players had been asked what the secret to their success was, but all of them seemed to silently agree they were better off making vague references to more hours spent practicing and new plays. After all, if they told the truth, would anyone believe them?

It was those speculative articles that George thought about when he and his team were getting ready to post with their championship trophy. The photo would be framed and added to George’s office, and he’d get to join the pantheon of successful, grand coaches that came before him. An eternal reminder that he’d taken the Bandits from underdogs to undefeated that year.

And George would fit right in with the other coaches canonized on that wall. The last time he’d weighed himself, the scale read 450.6, and that was probably pretty close to how much he weighed that day, he reckoned. So when it came time for everyone to pose for the photos, he shuffled over with the most dignified waddle he could manage as he lugged his massive, game-winning belly over to stand in line with his players.

The players formed two lines, one kneeling in front of the other, while George stood with the trophy between him and them. Usually when he posted for photos, he put his hands together in front of him, but those days, it was easier for him to bring them together behind him. As he did so, his belly stuck out a little farther, and he smirked to himself. He looked in the camera with a proud smile on his face, and the photographer took their photos.

George got his framed print a week later to hang in his office or put on his desk, whatever he pleased as long as he was coach. After unwrapping it, he picked it up and looked at all of his players, beaming with pride at all their hard work that year. And then he looked at himself.

George knew what he looked like, of course, but to see his fat figure portrayed in a photo like that, to know that was how his players and colleagues and friends and strangers on the street saw him… that was somehow even more thrilling. His slightly snug team jacket wrapped around his massive belly as it revealed all the curves, volume, and heft of the giant globe of fat. Having expanded a solid six inches in all direction since the start of the year, possibly even more on the sides, his belly was now the undeniable centerpiece of his body, the part anyone looked at first when they first saw him. Only after reckoning with the giant ball of fat he carried around on his stomach could people get to know his face.

Not that his face presented all that different of a picture. His pudgy cheeks had grown so expansive that they could connect with the thick, tire-like double chin that hung from his jaw. The result was a ring of fat that framed his face like the wood around the photo framed their victory. But the ring of fat around his face instead framed George’s beaming, jolly smile, a constant show of pride and joy at what his team had become.

The rest of George’s features had plumped up in proportion, of course. His khakis from the big and tall store managed to obfuscate just how hefty his legs were those days, widened with both fat and the muscle required for him to stand on the field all day. His chest had swollen out to the point that each lobe was nearly the size of his belly just when he started putting on weight. And though his arms weren’t visible in the photo, he could look down at their flabby length as he held the frame and smile.

George started to feel a bit too much like Narcissus as he stared at the photo. With a smile, he put it down on his desk on a corner where it would be out of the way, but still always visible as he worked, a reminder of his accomplishments. It wasn’t the last such trophy photo he and the Bandits earned in his tenure as coach. But that first one always held a special place in his heart.

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