...

"The usual assortment of lunatic billionaires was running for president that year. No amount of trophy wives, supermodels, plastic surgery, 'access,'or grotesque buildings bearing their names could properly assuage their enormous egos, so they ran for president. Yet, all the candidates agreed with the bi-partisan solution that the fat had to be trimmed so taxes must be raised. Anyone whose weight exceeded ten percent of the Surgeon General's ideal body weight would be heavily taxed...."

fat city
fiction by bill carney


As the economic expansion of the information age spread across the country, the citizens of the United States surrendered to their shame. They gorged on banquets bigger than the Mammoth Caverns, bigger than Texas. When the government put a massive tariff on foie gras, the starving masses continued squeezing into one McDonald's after another, stuffing and supersizing themselves with the rich fatty goose and duck livers. It seemed that nothing could be done to curb the country's appetite.

Globalization had struck fear into even the Taliban, half a world away, but as the world grew smaller, Americans got bigger. They were the fat, rich kids in the cruel global high school, and they were teased mercilessly. It wasn't fun to be a nation of overfed Fauntleroys. The denizens of fair Columbia were Columbineish victims in the international slaughter ball games. Americans waddled forth to conquer the world each day, but it came at a terrific cost to their self-esteem. People sat at home eating ice cream and watching old movies, becoming dangerously isolationist. They were too embarrassed to leave the country except to go to Canada, a country with 83 words for "ice" but none for embarrassment.

Even the immigrants were becoming fat due to so-called "McDonaldsization," which did not refer only to McDonald's but was symbolic of some larger phenomenon. For instance, it was difficult for employers to find little Mexican guys to troll the overstuffed aisles of the 24-hour deluxe farm delis. Taxi seating capacity was limited to two as the driver, typically some bloated Bengali, consumed the entire front seat and no more than two passengers could wedge into the back. And there was no going home again for these new citizens. When they waddled back to their villages, their old friends laughed derisively at the "fat American."

The people had long ago renounced Big Government. Personal responsibility was now the national mantra, yet all agreed that it was time for the government to intercede. The fin de siecle cyberboom, like the Great Depression, brought its own perils. It was time again for Big Government to make the little man average-sized again, instead of enormous.

While it had once rolled in dough, the government itself was now doughy. The President was a doughy, silver-haired, Bob's Big Boy type of fella. Congress was an unprecedentedly large assortment of former fraternity house presidents and pep squad captains with pretty good hair. There had not been a lot of governing to do (except for the occasional "pork" project), but it was important to look good not doing it. They still laid on the invective, labeling the other guys (be they sigma elephant, kappa donkey, or even in the wrestlers' fraternity) morally corrupt, heartless, or subsumed in the ideology of the sixties. However, all had agreed that everything was more or less okay, until now. Now they had to do something. One party typically favored drastic cuts, while the other tended to go with higher taxes. The government plenipotentates and mandarins locked their brains before proposing uniformly that there would be drastic cuts through higher taxes, a bi-partisan solution that all endorsed.

The usual assortment of lunatic billionaires was running for president that year. No amount of trophy wives, supermodels, plastic surgery, "access," or grotesque buildings bearing their names could properly assuage their enormous egos, so they ran for president. Yet, all the candidates agreed with the bi-partisan solution that the fat had to be trimmed so taxes must be raised. Anyone whose weight exceeded ten percent of the Surgeon General's ideal body weight would be heavily taxed. The tax would be an incentive to get people to lose weight, to put their money where their mouths were.

It didn't take me long to see whose bread was being buttered and whose ox was being gored. It had been my personal tragedy to have stuffed all my assets into a Skim-Pee Dee-Lite franchise just as the country lost all interest in non-fat frozen yogurt, even if it tasted a lot like ice cream. I took my yogurt money, greased a few palms, and got a job at the Lipospection Barn, the state fat inspection center, on the edge of town. All citizens were required to report monthly for their fat inspection and fat tax assessment at the Lipospection Barn. The gloves were off in Fat City, and I was in the thick of it.

As I had hoped, the situation was bursting with opportunity. Rather than assess some fat cat with a high tax, we usually worked out an arrangement. I could do a little fat-trimming and liposuction work and lower their tax liability. Poor folks, on the other hand, tended just to pay their taxes. In the fullness of time, all the rich folks were getting as skinny as birds -- ugly, scarred birds.

I was the unseen hand of the free market system, slicing into the bloated jowls and quivering midriffs of the plutocracy. For this I had gone to college? I told myself "It's a living." My assistant, Lam Lek, did most of the prep work and demonstrated real enthusiasm for the work. He was a wee bit bughouse and some of the clients were a little scared of him. He possessed an artist's touch with the Lipoflayer, a surgical instrument (modified cheese slicer) which I had invented. My speciality was the high-tech stuff, the Liposucker 5000.

I enjoyed my work, but I had my dark moments. At maxisuction, amusing reconfigurations of the patient often resulted, such as being turned inside out silly putty-style. For the most part I recognized that my job carried a grave responsibility, and I tried not to abuse it. I wasn't as bad as Lek or what I imagined others did while the patients were sedated -- I knew what I was doing. Having mastered my instrument within the first couple of years through a rigorous trial and error method, I now knew most peoples' pain threshold. "No pain, no gain" was my unspoken motto. It's true that Lek tended to paw the patients when they were under sedation, which led to a rather embarrassing accusation by Mrs. Vanessa Plantagenet, the Whiskopalian minister in town and a fine figure of a woman. But who was responsible for her shapely silhouette? Lek and myself. "Me Lek-ee," he would say, as he happily trimmed and shaped with that vaguely disconcerting gleam in his narrow eyes.

While I lacked any formal scientific or medical training, there are things that a keen and self-made intellect can observe on its own. For instance, I was able to discover that a number of my clients were developing strange responses to the weekly liposuction sessions. Their bodies were compensating for the complete absence of fat by manufacturing unsightly balls of blubber that would pop up in unusual places. Indeed, a few clients actually complained about these bizarre accumulations (although the new found clumps occasionally appeared in quite useful places). I assured them that it was indeed "perfectly natural" and not a cause for concern.

For example, a certain lady minister in town whom I shall refer to as "P." had developed little tree-stump fingers, something akin to a turn-of-the-century baseball mitt. A more healthy mind might have welcomed this innovation, but P. insisted on their removal. Was the whole world now devoid of a sense of adventure, of beneficial mutation? I found that I could re-inject fat into other areas of the body. This discovery amounted to a veritable renaissance of enthusiasm for the work, just as I feared I was on the verge of "burnout." I spent untold hours injecting the sleeping patients with globs of fat and molding them like life-sized claymation figures, reluctantly making them fat-free in their boring, scarred skins before they awoke.

All of the excess fat was classified as surgical waste, biohazard material. I stored the fat in the back of the Barn because it was now the subject of so much government regulation that disposal was nearly impossible. Proper disposal would ruin my business -- even the mob guys were charging an arm and leg to get rid of it. So I was left with a twenty-foot diameter ball of fat, like one of those geeks in Iowa with a gigantic ball of string, only grosser. By the time I decided to take action, the lard was so big I couldn't roll it out the door. While fresh fat is fairly flexible, after it has aged it becomes like tungsten steel. I whacked at the fat ball with my chainsaw and damn near set the place on fire with all the flying sparks. Yet it was also rotting and completely disgusting. When Lek suggested we add some hot spices and marinade to it and sell it as "kim chee," I was not amused.

Necessity being what it is, I had a brainstorm. I decided to put it all back. Meanwhile, as I continued to remove the usual assortment of spare tires, saddlebags and turkey wattles, I surreptitiously employed the Liposucker 5000's injection mode to place fat in some place where my clients could not see it. I even began shooting suctioned fat and little blobs from my big ball of fat (painstakingly removed with a borrowed "jaws of life") into my patients' skulls where, with any luck, no one would notice. A whole town of fatheads -- that was normal. What were the chances of being found out? There wasn't infinite room for re-injection, but it seemed everyone could handle a little more. The new fat was kept in place by the skull acting as a sort of girdle or corset.

The plan was not completely foolproof. Although there seemed to be no end to rich people's wealth or their capacity to consume, there were physical limitations on how much fat you could jam into their skulls. The fat layer, pressing into different areas of the brain, created aberrant behavior. Occasionally it was beneficial -- like the day one local skinflint handed me a wad of money. But there were also sorry episodes of murder and arson sprees, a veritable Armageddon. I began to realize that essentially I bore responsibility for the legions of maniacs tearing up our town.

While many were killed, raped, or tortured, I felt it was worse for me than anyone else. I lived in constant fear that my role in the "fathead" injections would be discovered, and I began to have trouble sleeping at night. I did not like the way Lek was looking at me, and was relieved when he left town with a newly carefree Rev. Plantagenet. It was well nigh impossible to undo the damage, because no one showed up for their regular appointments -- just my luck to have a bunch of irresponsible maniacs as patients. That's what I mean when I say that I got the worst end of the whole deal. It was as though I was throwing away perfectly serviceable rich people who could have kept me in business for years. I began to question my own sanity and judgment.

One of my fatheaded Frankenstein lunatics had gone and blown up the town heating plant. It was going to be a cold winter, and the situation seemed to be getting worse. I tried see things clearly, hoping to demystify the whole crazy artificial deal. I had to stop these issues from becoming fetishes; the thin obsession and the money obsession. Why do Eskimos like fat? Because it keeps them warm. It's real basic with primitives. There are good reasons why they are blubber mongers.

I realized that fat had its place. It was good when used properly. I called the city -- not to report my role in the big crisis, but to solve it. I told them about my vast ball of fat in the back of the Liposuction Barn, and that I would sell it to them at a fair price. The city did the rest. They came by with their "jaws of life" guys and started snipping off hunks of fat and distributing it to all the folks in town (except the crazies, who were being rounded up and killed). People could burn it at home in their stoves. Suddenly, everyone was warm and living off the fat of the rich. Life was beautiful in Fat City.


Bill Carney is a founding member and contributing editor to Lurch Magazine. He is also the leader of not one but two renowned New York City bands: Les Sans Culottes (http://www.lessansculottes.com) and Bill Carney's Jug Addicts. In addition to his many literary and musical endeavors, he maintains membership in several secret societies and is a master when it comes to cooking with curry.

This article originally appeared in Lurch Magazine:


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