With all the moving, Covid 19 and in and out of work, my timing is off so instead of calling this Short Story Thursday I will stick with Short Stories either up until I can get my schedule back on track or maybe I will keep it this way that way not to limit when the stories go up.
This story came to me before Easter with a machine at the place I work called Bertha and she is big. Hope you all are being safe in these strange times.
“Hey there! Mind if I sit opposite you?”
The lack of response from the woman sitting at the booth did not indicate whether or not he should sit down. Shrugging, he sat and watched the woman. She was young, probably late teens early twenties. She was already a heavy set girl for her age, a life of doctors telling her to lose weight or face the grim reaper was before her. He noticed a young boy dressed in a red shirt, and black trouser-pants walking towards her. A red plastic tray held in his hands loaded with what looked to be a meal for two. The restaurant set in a red and white theme tried to keep up with the modern trend but still felt out-dated.
“Here is your order Candice, two extra-large cokes, plus your sixteen-piece meal with four large sides and eight biscuits. Is there anything else I can get for you?”
Candice shook her head, her mouth was already being fed a second drumstick. The name on the young boy’s tag said, Todd. Either he knows her personally or she is a regular, he figured. A few people sat in other booths across the room, none sat alone as Candice had.
“So Candice, how are you today?”
Her eyes focused on the chips that her large fingers were edging towards one of the two large potato wedges containers, after grabbing a handful she dunked them into the large plastic bowl of gravy that sat next to the final large side, mash potato and gravy.
“Okay, you seem too busy to respond. How about I just tell you a story and you can just eat.”
The sound of her clogging her mouth with another handful of wedges confirmed to him that she wasn’t going to object, or she wasn’t going to stop eating to try and reject his offer.
“By the way my name is Peter, nice to meet you Candice.”
The booth shifted and creaked as Candice moved around in her seat, a loud moaning noise could be heard coming from under her, the sound was similar to someone trying to squeeze through a tight hole, but it wasn’t someone it was just hot air. The smell followed the noise as patrons complained, with disgust, looking directly at her and throwing insults, she looked down, embarrassment could be seen on her face if you looked past the gravy trail that covered her lips, cheeks, and chins
The smell must have been bad as customers after customers left. The managers consulted with each other behind the counter, each wanting to rid the store of Candice but none wanted to do it directly, eventually, one manager walked over to the air conditioner control panel and turned the fan up with the cool air blasting out the smell, they hoped.
“It is okay, I do not have a good sense of smell anymore. So where was I, oh yes. There was this woman I once knew. You remind me of her, she was also a heavyset woman. She used to be an escort. I say used to because well, she recently died. I will get to that part later, anyhoo this woman had an ad in the local papers ‘round here. It used to read, “Big beautiful woman ready for a good time. Call” ah I can not recall the number but it was signed “Big Bertha.” Now I know you are probably wondering why I am talking to you about a prostitute, I mean look at you, just chowing down on that drumstick like it is a life and death situation. But it is a good story, so I will continue.”
Candice coughed and sputtered as a hardened piece of thigh meat wedged itself in her throat.
“According to my time with Big Bertha, this place here is where it all began. Her love of chicken dipped in all the herbs and spices and then dunked in hot oil to create the perfect blend of crunch and taste. She needed a job that could keep her addiction going, her parents were no longer going to fulfill her eating desires. No office job could keep her, most could not keep up the repairs or replacements of chairs that her ever-growing body kept breaking, and physical labor well you could tell she just was not the type of gal who could do that kind of work.”
The door opened and another customer walked into the room, their nose scrunched up as the smell of chicken mixed with Candice’s exhaust fumes still floating around. They made their way hastily over to the counter to order. Something told him they were not planning to stay. Candice looked up to see the person staring back at her, she then returned her glance down at her food, she was nearing the halfway mark. The mash potato and gravy still untouched, her clothes now stained with gravy, potato, and chicken crumbing.
“By the time Big Bertha met me she was already a seasoned professional in her chosen field. I was lonely, a break-up, gone bad left me with some deep-seated issues about my self-esteem, the cost of some of the higher class or so they call themselves escorts were way above my pay grade, and, well, I succumbed to the offer.”
Peter sighed, he watched Candice for a moment, waiting to see if she would look up or even take a breath.
“I wanted to go out first, not just do the deed, you know?” He didn’t wait to see if she would respond.
“I ain’t no rich guy, but I wanted to get a nice meal, the restaurant we went to was not like this one, it was fancy, low hanging lights dimmed to add a sense of romance to the room. Music played in the background – Vivaldi I think. Candles lit on each table divided the table for the customers. Wine, corked, and placed in a bucket of ice sat in a stand next to the table for the waiters to replenish the glass. I let Bertha order first, and I am glad I did. She ordered a full meal. Meat and seafood platters, dessert, and starters. As I was paying for the evening I ended up having a starter salad. The bill tallied over five-hundred dollars alone. Not once while ordering did she look at me and ask if it were okay. I just knew that my food supply for the next week or so was gonna be scarce as she ate into my savings on that night. When it was time to leave and go back to my place for the evening she offered up an apology and I accepted it. I asked why she didn’t touch the chicken in the meat platter she ordered, and she told me that on her Twenty-first birthday she became deathly allergic to chicken. Doctors called it a late-onset or something or rather but she could no longer eat her favorite food – Hot wings from this restaurant. Crazy right?”
Peter looked around the room, it was just them two again the managers and staff had hidden out the back, hoping that only the drive-through would be the only customers until Candice had left. He looked back at Candice who seemed to be holding in another gas leak.
“It’s okay.” He said, trying to make eye contact.
“I don’t care, make yourself comfortable.”
With a quick look around the room she did just that. The commotion coming from out the back let them know that they had heard and possibly caught a whiff of her latest trumpet call.
“Bertha wasn’t gonna give up on those hot wings though, she tried multiple times to have them each time she ended up in the emergency ward, looking like death, or so she said. We caught a cab back to her place, the cab driver was not overly impressed with having us as customers, I think it was due to the car suspension having to work extra hard just to hold her weight. I must admit though the angle the car leaned on made it easier to cuddle into her. Like I said I was lonely when she unlocked the door to her place it was a mess, clothing was scattered everywhere, newspaper clippings of missing persons covered the dining table and flour and spices sprayed across the kitchen island. She said she had a fascination for missing people reports and her clothes were due to the recent influx of customers. The food though – she had found an almost identical recipe of her favored hot wings. It was a work in progress though and she pulled out the latest batch she had made from the fridge and reheated it in the microwave. I was starving. A salad does not go very far. I grabbed a few off of the tray before she took the rest. They tasted just like the original recipes, but that could have been because I did not care for what they tasted like I just needed food. I asked about the meat and she said she got it fresh from an online butcher, I lost interest after that. I was there to get my needs met.”
Candice stopped eating for a minute, he thought she might look at him or say something. Her fingers traced the outline of the extra-large coke cup before picking it up and slurping the liquid through the straw; loudly.
“I can not say she gave me the best night of my life, to be quite honest with you it was horrible. After she pushed me on her mattress, one that the springs had worn out and the mattress itself had never been cleaned. She climbed on top of me, her limited oral interactions felt more like a taste tester than a pleasurable experience. But once she got on top the weight bearing down upon me was horrendous I felt my legs losing circulation, pins, and needles were shooting up and down them. I cannot recall even finding the honey pot if memory serves me right, I think the friction from one of her many folds meant money was badly spent. I know, how can I even admit that?”
Peter chuckled while Candice continued her way through the feast.
“You see Candice it isn’t always about the final destination but more about the journey. This though was not one of those times. I tried to get up after she budged over, satisfied in her effort if she were a smoker I am sure this is where she would have had one. I couldn’t move my legs, and they were not returning to normal. I reacted like any normal scared person would in those circumstances. I yelled at her for breaking my legs. She didn’t seem to care, she just lay next to me eating popcorn from a bucket that she grabbed from beside her bed. I was feeling uneasy, let me tell you. She was watching me eating her snack like I was a movie, no offer to help get me up, no talking – nothing.”
He looked towards the exit, some people were starting to come towards the door, afternoon snack time.
“I tried to crawl out of bed but Bertha wouldn’t let me, she rolled over on top of me. The air in my lungs squeezed out. I tried to fight her off of me, her eyes dead of emotions. It didn’t take long before I could only see darkness. So now you see I am dead, awkward right?”
He looked towards her while she finished up the last of her mash potato and gravy. She looked towards where he sat, her eyes looking straight through him.
“The thing is I didn’t die right away, I only blacked out. When I came to, I was on a big cold old stainless steel table in what looked like her basement. I yelled for help while noticing my arms and legs were strapped down by leather belts, stained with droplets of dark maroon colors. Big Bertha wandered down the stairs each one bending under the weight. I yelled again, louder and with more height to my pitch. She told me it was useless many men have tried before and failed. The walls soundproofed, the old owner used to have a rock band and that is where they practiced. She knew him when they were younger and they fell for each other and she had a kid with him. She was much more talkative again, unlike the moment in the bedroom. What happened to him and the kid I asked her. The kid had left a few years earlier, a rebel teen missing her father. What happened to him I asked again. He committed suicide in the basement when their daughter was six, they had no money or food and she had a craving for hot wings. Not knowing what to do she cut him up and experimented with his body parts to recreate her favorite meal.”
Todd had approached Candice as she was wiping her face with the supplied wet cloth.
“Would you like a dessert now Candice?”
“Yes, I would like three chocolate chip cakes please.”
“Sure thing, I will bring them out to you.” As he raced off behind the counter. He couldn’t have been more than a few years younger than her. Maybe he liked her.
“Over the years since her first trial with her deceased partner, she found prostitution as a way to make money. But not only that she was able to take some of those customers and refine her recipe. No-one suspected her of a thing. No soul would dare brag that they paid money to sleep with Big Bertha now, would they?”
Todd returned with the desserts, Candice didn’t waste time digging into them.
“I met some of those victims right here in this restaurant. They all turn up here before they eventually let go of the hope of being avenged, that someone would not believe the story that they had just gone missing. I, though, have searched for you. I have traveled the country looking for you Candice. You see Candice, this woman, Big Bertha, she had just been discovered by police after they were called to investigate a bad smell coming from the home. They found her skewered by the stairs heading into the basement, the weight was finally too much for them and she fell onto the sharp wooden edges remaining. Her blood drained from her slowly, a painful way to die is what the medical examiner had said. A man’s body lay on the table his arms and legs removed.”
Candice put the last piece of cake in her mouth and started to fumble through her purse for the tip money. Todd had come back to collect on his wage and clean up the table before she had even finished her dessert.
“There is a reason I needed to find you Candice.”
Candice’s license fell out onto the table with her details in clear view. The date of birth showed tomorrow would be her twenty-first birthday.
“The reason Candice, is that Big Bertha was your mother.”
Candice looked at Todd, a smile wide on her face.
“Would you like to come to my place tonight?” she asked.
Disclaimer* This piece is merely just a story, I am not out there to intentionally body shame anyone.