The Chubby Author's Story


Written in 1978 as part of a series of author's stories.


The author is sitting on the pot. She has been sitting there longer than necessary, thumbing through the pages of a thick brown book and stopping now and then to read a passage and think about it.

She is inventing an author. Thus far she has made her author cute and chubby. She has given her curly hair and freckles and endowed her with a better than average intelligence. She has made her teeth straight and given her a toothpaste smile.

Now she is giving her an incurable disease.

From the Merck Manual:

Psychomotor epilepsy: psychomotor attacks are characterized by loss of contact with the environment. The patient does not fall, but may stagger and rock, performing automatic, purposeless movements and uttering unintelligible sounds. He does not understand what is said and may resist aid. Mental confusion persists for another 1-2 minutes. Psychomotor attacks may develop at any age...

“What you are saying then," the author says, addressing herself to the silver circle on the doctor's forehead, "is that the disease is incurable?”
“That is correct.”
“But it can be controlled?”
“It can be controlled.”
“Diphenylhydanton or phenobarbital?”
“Alone or in combination.”

The author can see Nurse's reflection in the silver circle. Nurse is holding up cue cards for the doctor to read.
“And in-between attacks the patient is perfectly normal?”
PERFECTLY, the cue card reads.
“Perfectly,” the doctor says.
“Thank you, doctor.”
“Not at all. Nurse will show you out.”

Nurse replaces the cue cards in the filing cabinet and shows the author out. At the door she hands the author a bill. “Thanks for dropping by, sweetie,” she says.

The author is still on the pot. Her jeans and panties are bunched up around her knees. A vaguely guilty gloom has settled over her. She is frowning at the brown book.

“Look,” she says in a soft, conciliatory voice, “I'm sorry, but these things happen. Really, they do...”
“Happen!” The chubby author is incredulous.
“...and there's not very much you can do about them. So why not try to reconcile yourself...”
“Reconcile?” The chubby author beats her forehead with her fist.
“Yes, damn it, reconcile. There's no reason, for instance, why you can't turn your disability to some good use, such as...”
“Such as?” the chubby author challenges.
“I don't like the way this conversation is going,” the author says. She brings it to an end.

The author gives her author a desk and a chair. She gives her a Manhattan phone book, paper and a pen. She gives her a vanilla milkshake.

The author's author sits on the Manhattan phone book. She swings her legs back and forth under the desk. She alternately chews on the end of the ball point pen and sips on the vanilla milkshake. She writes a story.

Randy, the authoritarian male figure, she writes, is trying to patch up a quarrel with his girlfriend June. He has already given June what he judges to be the requisite number of kisses and caresses. Now he takes her to bed, flips her over and applies himself to a more satisfying objective.

June counts. Whenever Randy humps, June counts. She is counting now. One, two, three, she counts. It has never occurred to June to question her counting.

The chubby author nibbles at her pen and for a minute or two before applying it to paper again, rocks back and forth on the telephone book.

The author grins. NORMAL, she thinks with relief. PERFECTLY NORMAL.

The author adjusts her cheeks on the toilet seat, then leans back against the lid. Her jeans and panties slip down around her ankles. The guilt she has felt about her author begins to lift. She looks over the child's shoulder. Four, five, six, she reads. Not the most brilliant beginning, but then, when I was a child...

The author tries to picture herself as a child. She sees a chubby, curly-headed youngster. She sees bright eyes and a quick smile.

The chubby author snickers.
“Write,” the author says.

The chubby author writes. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, the chubby author writes. June is bored. She wishes Randy would pump faster. Eight, nine, ten, the author reads, and suddenly the chubby author's numbers and her own efforts to visualize her young self coalesce and she finds herself remembering, of all things, jump rope. She laughs. She was so awkward, so unbelievably awkward at it. It's extraordinary she should think of it, and yet there it is and she can actually picture herself jumping rope, stumbling, falling. Not every time to be sure. There had been a couple of times, well, one time when she had done it well.
The chubby author writes furiously. Fifteen, sixteen, she writes. June's thoughts drift away. She begins to remember herself as a child. She begins to remember...

Nineteen, jump. Twenty. Twenty-one, jump. Twenty-two. The author remembers the afternoon it came easily, the one afternoon she really believed she might jump forever. Twenty-three, jump. Twenty-four. She sees herself on one foot and then the other. She sees herself rock back and forth, easily, without conscious effort. She watches herself twist.

A crowd has begun to collect. She recognizes the faces of friends and neighbors. They're smiling, cheering her on. Thirty-three, jump. Thirty-four...

Thirty-five, the chubby author writes. The vein in Randy's temple is throbbing. His face is red; its twisted into a funny smile. “June,” he says, trying to keep his voice quiet, “Baby?...”

June nibbles at his ear. She lifts her pelvis to meet his. But her thoughts are elsewhere . She is remembering jump rope. The thought of it makes her giggle. She had been good at it. It had come so automatically, been so much a part of her...thirty-eight, thirty-nine...Forty.

The author is beginning to feel vaguely ridiculous. Sitting on the toilet thinking jump rope, thinking forty-three, jump. Forty-four. She laughs, she can't help it; the memory is so vivid, so real. She jumps twice on her left foot and once on her right. Forty-five, jump. Forty-six...

The child has a very red face, who said that? Someone's mother? Her own? Or was it the doctor? The author doesn't know. She's getting a little upset. She wishes she could stand outside of her thinking and take a good look at herself. But she can't seem to do it. She's caught up. Is it bad, she wonders childishly...Forty-eight, jump. Forty-nine...Is it bad to have a red face when you're jumping rope? Does it mean something's wrong? She looks anxiously to the crowd. Nurse flashes a cue card. NORMAL, it reads. PERFECTLY NORMAL.

The chubby author snorts.

The author feels better. She does a small shuffle between jumps. “Sixty,” she says aloud. “Sixty-one, sixty-two...”

The crowd roars its approval.

The chubby author is in a sweat. She writes feverishly. Sixty-five, sixty-six, she writes. Randy's face is mottled; the veins are popping out of his neck; there's a roar in his ears. Over-exertion, he thinks. He's sure its over-exertion. Except that now and then he hears things that sound like numbers. He thinks they're coming from somewhere else. He thinks they're coming from the street, but he's not sure. He wants to ask June; he wants to be sure they're not just in his ears...

“June,” he pleads faintly.

June's heart swells. Caught up in her fantasy she rocks, she twists, she shimmies. Sixty-five, jump. Sixty-six. Sixty-seven, jump. Sixty-eight.She's never enjoyed it so much, never done it so well.
The chubby author grins and for a minute pauses to enjoy the picture of Randy and June—Randy's body half lifted above June—June, smiling, suspended in a young girl's world, comfortable with her body, excited by its abilities...

Suddenly she heightens the tempo. Policeman, policeman, do your duty. Here comes June, the American beauty. She can wiggle. She can waggle. She can do the twist. But she can't go to heaven when we turn like this: Seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven...
A peel of pure laughter escapes June's lips. “Faster,” she cries, “Faster!”

Randy groans.

The author grits her teeth.

Seventy-nine, eighty...The turner's arms spin in the sunlight. The rope skims the ground. Faster, the crowd yells. Eighty-one eighty-two eighty-three eighty-four eighty-five...The author is breathless; her heart thuds against her chest. She wants to stop. She wants to get out. But she can't. It's as if someone else has taken over, as if someone else is moving her through a series of ever more exhausting moments. Her temples throb...NORMAL, NORMAL, the cue cards flash. The child has a very red face. NORMAL, NORMAL, a very red face.

“Faster, oh faster” June cries.

She can't keep up. It was always this way. She's too awkward, too heavy and uncoordinated for jump rope. She stumbles...ninety-eight, ninety-nine...and falls.

The author stares at her feet for a long time. The afternoon sun has moved on; a cool breeze blows on her bare thighs. She sighs heavily. It was an exhausting memory and she's tired, very tired...

"You over-did it, young lady," the doctor says.

The author looks up. She looks up into the dark hole at the middle of the silver circle.

“The card says a fit,” Nurse says.
“Exhaustion,” the doctor says.
“Well it should have been a fit.”

The author is confused. She tries to get up.
“Stay still!” the Doctor commands.
Nurse's starched uniform cracks. “Stay still. Do as he says. Accept the inevitable. Resign yourself. Be a good girl. Do as you're told. Here, hold the cue cards yourself.”

The author reaches for the cards. A FIT, she reads. A REAL FIT.
In the background she can hear a child laughing. She can hear the beginning of a fit of giggles. Seated on the Manhattan phone book, her face streaming with tears, the chubby author is giggling. Giggling and rocking, giggling and rocking...



© Helen Thorington, 2004