Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“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.
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