The Diet and the Tree
Ms. Graben is on a new diet this month. It’s her third this year. I don’t know what this one entails but by her own admission she has so far dabbled with the Atkins diet, the Baby Food diet, the Blood Type diet, the Tapeworm diet – I shudder at the thought, The Cabbage Soup diet, the Grapefruit diet, the Maple Syrup diet – is that even possible? The Carbohydrate Addict’s diet, the Eat More Weigh Less diet, the Donate Your Duplicate Organs Diet (a kidney weighs 3 pounds). – The No Crave Diet, the South Beach Diet, and finally, the Beer and Ice Cream Diet – which, I believe, she has never left.
It’s my thighs, she moans. They keep getting bigger. Why don’t you try eating less? I suggested at lunch one day. All the women laughed scornfully. We diet because of men, Ms. Gupta said, shoveling another helping of curry into her mouth. You want us to have hourglass figures, Ms. Snickety sniffed. I don’t want anything of the sort, I said. I just wish I didn’t have to listen to this insane whining all day long. (Since the dismantling of our cubicles we can now hear one another breathing as well as any number of other bodily functions.)
Oh, Mr. Vinegar, you’re such a party pooper, Ms. Graben said. You want us to have hourglass figures, don’t you Mr. Chang? Is that where the bosom sticks out one way and the bottom sticks out another? Replied Mr. Chang. It looks like it would hurt. This was far too graphic for Ms. Snickety who quickly swallowed several spoonfuls of her carrot, bean and thistle soup.
In my culture, said Ms. Gupta, we celebrate a woman’s figure regardless of its shape or size. There was a strained silence. In the past six months Ms. Gupta had been packing on the pounds at such an alarming rate that I feared she might burst.
How do you feel about it Mr. Karl? Mr. Chang asked. Mr. Karl was staring at the half-eaten bowl of trail mix in front of him. I can’t feel a Goddamn thing, he replied. My doctor said my blood pressure’s too high and he’s got me eating squirrel food three times a day. I don’t know how the little buggers survive.
We sat silently for a moment and then Ms. Graben said, I have to eat every two hours because I have diabetes. She reached for her little flask and took a long healthy sip. And what’s that for? I said. To help me forget that I have it, she replied.
Ms. Gupta asked, What are you eating, Mr. Vinégar? – wiping some rice from her chin. I’m eating a bread, cheese and tomato sandwich, I replied. Whoo! Big spender, Ms. Graben said. Ms. Snickety giggled and snorted a thistle up her nose, which led to a lot of coughing and choking and back slapping before she regained her natural color. Time to go back to work, Mr. Karl said.
As we left the conference room, Mr. Chang said, About your thighs, Ms. Graben. Have you tried wearing bigger pants? That’s what I do. Ms. Graben fled into the rest room and that was the end of our lunch hour.
I should mention that Ms. Snickety insisted that Mr. Chang apologize to Ms. Graben, but Mr. Chang inadvertently made things worse when he tried to wipe the remaining thistle off of Ms. Snickety’s nose with his dirty napkin.
Mr. Chang spent the rest of the day in the stock room wondering what had just happened.
I guess I better give Jonesy his turn now…
One night I was up there and it was about the time when Mr.V usually calls me to come in. And I thought, I wonder if he loves me as much as he says he does. So before he could call me, I called him – thirty seconds of the longest saddest howls you’ve ever heard. They were so like, sad, I nearly made myself cry.
Then the door swung open and there stood Mr. V in his robe. I couldn’t tell if he was upset or pissed. So I howled even louder. He rushed down the stairs tripping over himself and ran across the street to the tree. The first thing he said when he got there was, Shhhh! For God’s sake! You’ll wake the neighbors! So that’s it, I thought, You’re more worried about the neighbors than you are about me! So naturally, I double tripled the yowling.
Oh my god! You should have seen him. He leapt up and down and waved his arms, and made promises – I could’ve had anything I wanted at that moment – and all the time frantically looking around in case one the dreaded neighbors came out. It was so funny. Then he pointed to different branches telling me the best way to get down, like I didn’t know.
I pretended to try and follow his directions but then I stopped as if I was scared. He tried to climb the tree! It was like an elephant trying to climb a bar stool. He slipped and scraped his knee. I thought, Well, I guess he is trying to get me down so when he wasn’t looking I ran down the tree, rubbed against his legs, and dashed up the steps and into the apartment. I could hear him thumping behind me cursing under his breath. I ran under the bed and stayed there for the rest of the night.
I don’t do this sort of thing very often but every now and again it’s necessary to make sure everyone knows who’s really in charge.
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