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“Fat Man and Little Boy” by Gary Braunbeck
Card picked: Seven of Clubs – a wild card.
From: Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, ed. by Sam Weller and Mort Castle
Review: Short and very Bradbury in tone. This is a snapshot from a future in which the overweight and obese are exiled to their homes until they become “aesthetically agreeable.” The story is told from the perspective of a little boy who illicitly brings food to a very fat man. The fat man doesn’t care to ever rejoin society. While we’re not given specifics, the little boy is an outcast too, perhaps too intelligent and too quiet for his peers to tolerate. The fat man, on the verge of his last meal, tries to impress upon the little boy the importance of striving forward and being unique. Upon the fat man’s death (he commits self-euthanasia), he gives the little boy the financial means to do so.
Two things that I really enjoyed about this story: First, while morbidly obese and bed-ridden, the fat man doesn’t seem to regret his actions. Instead of warning the little boy, “don’t become like me,” the fat man’s message is more like “be yourself and don’t apologize.” Despite society’s impositions, the fat man lives and ultimately dies on his own terms. Second, every time the fat man speaks of food, it is in the context of something in the world outside his house.
“The crunch of pizza crust sounds like the crackle of distant lightning in the middle of a summer’s night, when you were still young enough to dream that Martian spaceships were hiding up there.”
In this way, Braunbeck give the fat man history and shows that though food has effectively imprisoned the fat man, it’s also his freedom. Not bad for a six page story.
About the Author: I mostly know Gary Braunbeck as a horror writer and was expecting a story more along those lines. The cool thing about Ray Bradbury, and therefore an anthology of Bradbury inspired stories, is that there are so many ways to go. Fantastical Martian landscapes? Check. Creeping horrors just around the corner of your imagination? Check. Nostalgic tales of childhood? Check. Thought experiment dystopias? Check. I expected creepy from Braunbeck and got something a little more along the lines of a nostalgic tales of childhood, set in a dystopia. I’m not complaining. It was very deftly done.
Is This Your Card?
12 thoughts on “Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ Fat Man and Little Boy”
I have this collection on hold from my library. As I’m getting reacquainted with Bradbury, a tribute to him sounds pretty cool. This story will be the first one I read.
It’s a good anthology. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time savoring it.
I agree – that sounds very impressive for such a short story.
It’s interesting to see this topic approached in this manner. I like that it doesn’t sound like the story was necessarily about weight but rather about self-determination.
But as the number of people (at least in the US) who are overweight or obese are the majority (69.2% of Americans 20 and over when you count both “overweight” and “obese”, according to the CDC – http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm,) I wonder if it is more likely that in such a future those of either “height-weight proportionate” or “underweight” build would find themselves told to bulk up to be more like the now-average citizen.
Being of a not-thin metabolism myself, a change like that seems nearly impossible. Not saying that the attitude would be a good one either. “Are you happy and healthy?” would be a much better way of approaching the issue.
Oh, I agree with you regarding the seemingly-impossible nature of such a change. I am also of a “not-thin metabolism.” I was just musing down science-fictional avenues regarding the direction of current trends and statistics.
Wouldn’t it be nice if health stats actually went off of individualized “happy and healthy” status as opposed to BMI charts as a single-minded indicator? But I suppose it’s silly for anyone to wish to not just sort people into neat, easy boxes with easily-understood check-boxes for researchers to tick off. 😉
That story certainly does sound Bradbury-esque. I must also find that collection. I’ve also often thought that the overweight are one “class” of people that it still seems almost “socially acceptable” to discriminate against. In the media, e.g., or on those ads for online dating sites. Where are all the “fat” people? I remember when I was younger and watching MTV’s “The Real World” thinking, “if this were really the real world, half of this cast would be overweight. I think Candiss makes an interesting observation in her comment as well. Great post!
Oh, I forgot to say that I love the card trick too. The seven of clubs was my “Lazarus” story this year. He’s still haunting me…
I finally read this story. As morbid and dystopian as the story portrays the world, I couldn’t help find a part of it rather pleasant. Maybe it had to do with the unlikely friendship between the two title characters?