I'm a freak. My name's Earl Dawes and I weigh 726 pounds honest weight, and I'm billed as the Fattest Man in the World. I don't think that's true, really, but that billing sure used to draw the crowds, especially around the small towns, and down South. It's what Brodie wrote on the truck, anyways.

Me and Brodie, we had ourselves a little tent show. We played at carnivals, fairs, amusement parks, the usual thing. We'd been doing it for almost 7 years, and I guess people like to see freaks like me, because we made us some pretty good money at it.

I been this way since I was a kid. Some kind of thyroid gland condition. The docs never could do much about it, and I sure couldn't either. So me and Brodie did the next best thing and started to make some money out of it. Brodie was good at figuring ways to make money. But he won't be making no more money off me. Brodie's dead.

I weighed nearly 350 by the time I met him. and I was gaining weight all the time. I was always a chubby kid. I been pointed out and picked on most of my life. I was chunky in Kindergarten, flabby in first grade, and by about 6th grade I was just a big, fat old boy, around 200 pounds, then. My family -- Papa and Ma and Lila, my sister-- sounded like ten people yelling at each other when they'd get into it. Lila was always sniffing around the loser guys who'd blow through town. Papa called her "... an asshole magnet". She was cute but mean. She left one day with some guy she met at the diner where she worked and married him somewhere near Louisville. I hear she's on husband number three, now.

Papa was a truck driver. He got killed in an accident out near Phoenix. The insurance company said the doctors found meth in his system, so they wouldn't pay Ma nothing. Ma just sorta gave up. She started drinking a lot, and died when she fell down the steps one night. I'd stopped going to school by then, because Mama didn't make me. The church helped bury her. After Ma's funeral I didn't know what I was gonna do.

The city sent these people from the Child Welfare to see me. They said that Ma'd used up all our savings, and had been spending borrowed money for a while. I couldn't stay in the house by myself. There wasn't no relatives to take me in, and no money for me to use to pay for stuff. There wasn't no trust fund or a will or nothing like that.The Welfare folks said I'd have to go into a foster home until I was 18. I couldn't figure who'd want to have a big ass, fat old teenager hanging around their house for three years, and I didn't want to live with no strangers, anyway.

A family from our church took me in. Don't get me wrong now; Mr. and Mrs. Wyland were nice people, but they were too old to be any fun. They almost never smiled. I don't know what they wanted with me, unless it was the money the Welfare paid them. I hated living there. She put doilies on everything, and the house was full of little, tiny, breakable things-- porcelain teacups and little figurines and stuff, and I felt like I had to hold my breath just to walk through a room. He wore a sweater all the time-- even in the Summer-- and made the whole place smell like denture paste and old cigar smoke. They made me go to church and made me pray and do chores and stuff like that. One afternoon, after I'd been there for several months, I got so fed up I threw some clothes in a pillowcase and I just up and left. I had no idea where to go, but I knew I couldn't stay there no more. I set off walking out of town

That's when I first met Brodie. He was driving a truck, and he pulled over to give me a ride. "Hey there, Big Boy! Where you headed? Need a lift?" he asked me. "Yes, Sir," I said. "I'm trying to get to Gibbsville." I figured I could maybe get some kind of job over there. I didn't have no plan or nothing.
"Hop in. Well... I guess you don't hop too well; climb in, and let's talk. I'm Brodie; Jake Brodie. "
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Brodie. I'm Earl Dawes, and thanks for the ride. My feet hurt."

A little ways down the road he asked me, "You got a job?"
"No, Sir. I got no job", I said..
"You know how to wrestle, buddy? You sure are big enough. I can teach you. Wanna try it?" I'd never played sports or anything. I didn't know nothing about wrestling. Brodie told me he was in show business, and told me how I could throw in with him, and be in his show and make money being a wrestler. I went for it. We drove out of town and I never looked back. That's how we met. Never did make it to Gibbsville

Brodie taught me some stuff about wrestling. It's all a show. There are good guys and bad guys, like in a Western. You use holds and fancy moves and go bouncing off people and knocking each other over and stuff. You practiced it all first. It was hard. The other fellows in the show were much better at it than me. He set me up with a costume and everything, got us bookings here and there. He billed me as "Big Bobby Blubber". I was usually the bad guy. I didn't mind the name, but I wasn't really a good wrestler. I was afraid of getting hurt. You break a bone and it's hard to set it with all that fat on you. So we cut out the wrestling after about a year. I didn't mind that. We'd got to travel a lot, and I saw stuff and met people, and Brodie gave me some money to spend, and fed me pretty good.

After a while, he left the other wrestlers and he got me some jobs as a carnival fat man. I liked it fine. It didn't pay as much as the wrestling, but it didn't tire me out and it was a lot safer. He took good care of me. I liked the show business. Sometimes we'd hire on with a traveling outfit, or get a job at a carnival or the circus sideshow when it came to some town we was near.

A year or so later, we sold the truck and got us a tent and we went out on our own. We bought ourselves a big trailer-- like a moving van, to keep our props and tent and stuff in. It had beds and a little stove and a couch and stuff in it. Brodie fixed it all up so's we could live in it on the road. I didn't have to do hardly nothing in the act, just tell the marks how I had a thyroid thing and how lucky they were to have their health and to always take good care of theirselves. I'd walk around the platform for a little bit and go up and down the steps to show how I had to move around and stuff like that. It went pretty good. All the time I kept getting fatter. 400 pounds; 500 pounds. I just kept packing it on.

Then maybe eight, nine months back, my weight went up to about 700 pounds. There was a lot of things I couldn't do for myself and Brodie was a big help to me. He knew how to do everything for me, even used to shave me because it tired me out to do it myself. So, we got along fine, me and Brodie.

Until Sylvia came along.

We were working with a big midway carnival near Pine Bluffs then, booked with the pitch just for the time it was playing there, because they were headed west and me and Brodie wanted to go on up the East Coast.

We met her the afternoon we opened. Brodie was talking the act on the raised platform outside in front of the tent and I was inside behind the canvas screen. Brodie'd been talking the show ever since we went on our own. We cut down expenses that way and besides, he was a real good talker; an old time pitchman, the kind the marks liked to hear.

"What you see up there on the poster is exactly what you're gonna see inside. That's the Fattest Man in the World-- more than seven hundred pounds of him. You think it's a fake? You think he's padded with pillows? Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to see is as real as you are-- a human bein' you will never forget-- an ordinary man like you and you and you, Sir, but with one difference. He is the Fattest Man in the World; you have to see him to believe it!"

I heard heard the thump of the heavy roll of tickets on the wooden counter in front of Brodie as he started his windup. "And what does it cost to see the Fattest Man in the World? A dollar! One dollar for you, and 50 cents for the kiddies! Take 'em inside and show them what happens if they eat too much candy!" Here, Brodie always leaned forward and winked at them. "I guarantee if you spend the 50 cents to show your kids the man inside this tent, you're sure to save yourself several bucks on peanuts, popcorn and candy today." This always got a laugh.

They started laying out their money, then. I could hear coins slapping down on the counter, and the rustle of paper money as Brodie told them I was something they couldn't afford to miss.

She was the first one in. She gave her ticket to the high school kid we hired and came around the canvas screen and stopped in front of me. She was tall, with red hair and green eyes. She was real pretty, with long legs and pale skin. She looked at me deadpan, looking me all over. I guess I was doing the same thing to her, but maybe not so deadpan. She was something to look at, all right. Made me feel all shaky inside.

I stopped looking at her then, and did a fast count. It was a good tip for the first day of the show. Maybe 35, 40 people. Brodie stopped his pitch and came in too. He looked over the tip fast, like he was lookin' for somebody. When he saw the girl, he grinned a little and nodded at me, and I began my talk.

When it was over, they started to drift out, some of them shaking their heads, all but the girl. She stood right where she was, still lookin' at me.

Brodie was giving her the once-over and I knew what he was thinkin'. I didn't blame him. Bein' fat didn't slow down my own thinkin' none either.

"You from around here?" Brodie asked her.

"The Dixie Darlings, the girlie show down the midway. Only I'm not from Dixie."

Brodie laughed. "You a dancer?"
She shrugged and it was a nice thing to watch. "They call it that."

"This is Earl Dawes, and I'm Jake Brodie. Call me Brodie," he said. The girl just nodded, and Brodie grinned at her. "What's your name?"


We all kind of just waited then, until Brodie said "Well, you saw our show; we'll come see yours. Earl here don't get around much, or he'd come along."

"You won't like it," Sylvia said.

"Can't be that bad-- if the others look like you," Brodie said, looking her up and down. She smiled a little then, and she was really gorgeous.

She left then, and Brodie said "She ain't too happy with that Dixie Dollies outfit, huh?"
"Darlin'... uh... Dixie Darlin's, is what..."
"What'd you think about using her in the act, Earl?"

I was pretty surprised. "A girl? What'd we use her for?"

"She'd be a good draw for us. She could get up on the platform with me, help to draw a crowd. I might even let her help you in the act a little. A shape like that babe's got on her, she'd bring 'em in all right."

I saw he wasn't kiddin'. I was sort of uneasy about gettin' someone else though. It'd always been just me and Brodie. "Maybe she won't wanna come," I said.

"She'll come. If she doesn't like what she's doing now, she'll take a job with us if I ask her nice."

By the end of that week, Sylvia was with us. Brodie got her some pretty clothes-- shorts and tight sweaters and little skirts and stuff- to use in the act. She looked great, and she knew it, the way she strutted around. She was good for business, all right. Real good.

She'd stand up on the platform and look like she was all surprised and happy about Brodie's talk, she'd jump up and down and squeal a little when he talked about me bein' such a wonder. The marks practically climbed over each other to get up front. Inside, she'd hurry around me lookin' busy but not actually doin' much. She'd fluff my pillows and fix my shirt collar and comb my hair and stuff, makin' sure the marks got a good look at her while she bent over. I don't know if they came to see her or me, but as long as we were pullin' in that kind of a tip almost every show, I didn't care.

The only thing that bothered me was Sylvia. When she was around me or touched me like she did, it kind of got me. I liked it. After the act was over, she'd be like she was that first day. Kinda quiet and deadpan. When she was with Brodie, it was different. They were pretty friendly, and Brodie was spendin' a lot of time with her after the shows. We'd got her a little trailer of her own, and they'd spend a lot of time in there. One night, about a month or so after she joined us, Brodie stayed there all night. I could hardly sleep that night, thinkin' about what was going on. I guess I kind of had a thing for Sylvia, myself. I felt pretty miserable.

In the morning when Brodie came in to help me shave, we argued about it. "You been shackin' up with Sylvia! What the hell do you think you're doin'?" I asked him.
"That's my business, Earl", and he winked. "Maybe she thinks it's the only way she can keep her job here, buddy."
"You punk! You told her that?"

"Don't you talk to me like that, Earl," he said, and his face got real sorta frozen up. We just glared at each other for a minute and then he said, "Ahh, the hell with it. I gotta go get some stuff. I'll be back later."

It took me a while to dress myself, because I had to stop every few minutes and rest. I knew there was no way to get my shoes and socks on, and I wished I'd kept my mouth shut and not pissed off Brodie. Sylvia came out of her trailer and walked by our door. I waved at her, and she stuck her head in.
"Hiya, Fat Stuff," she said. She was so pretty I didn't mind her callin' me that.

I asked her to come in, and told her Brodie'd gone to the store and forgot to put my shoes on.
"Can you maybe help me with that?" I asked.

She shrugged like she always did and came in. She sat on the edge of my bed.
As she worked the socks over my feet, I said "Sylvia, I-- I know Brodie stayed in your trailer last night."
"So?" she said.
"Well, you don't have to do that. Really, you don't, honey", I said
"Do what?" she asked, tying one of my shoes,
"Uh... Brodie told me about how you were afraid of losin' the job, and I just--"
"Brodie said I let him stay because of that? My job?" She laughed and it made me feel uneasy.
"I don't need this damn job. I do what I want to when I want to and with whoever I want to do it with. Last night it was Brodie. So what?"

"Please, Sylvia-- I don't want to hear about it." I touched her shoulder. "I just thought that if--"
"You thought wrong. And Brodie better learn to keep his big frickin' mouth shut."
She was getting mad now and I didn't want that. I wanted to, I don't know... protect her, I guess.

"Sorry, Sylvia. It's gonna be all right."
"Damn straight it's gonna be all right. Nobody tells me what to do!"

She leaned over to get the other shoe, and her breast brushed against my arm. It was like a shock went through me. It was warm and soft, and I could smell her shampoo. I put my arms around her and pulled her to me. I closed my eyes and smelled her perfume.

She punched at me and twisted, getting to her feet. "You fat piece of shit! Don't you ever touch me, you bloated, miserable creep! It's bad enough to have to be around you without having you paw me! Do that again and I'll claw your goddam face off!" Her eyes were wild and she looked like she might spit at me. I felt sick and ashamed. "You make me wanna puke, Earl!" She still had the shoe in her hand and she bounced it off my chest and walked out.

I sat there; I could feel my heart beatin' fast and I had trouble breathing. The shoe didn't hurt me. It was how fast she turned angry and mean to me. I'd gone and done it now. I'd embarrassed myself and made Sylvia mad. It hurt me to have things like that said to me. People made fat jokes all the time, and I knew how I looked, all right. Nobody'd ever talked to me like this before, and the fact that it was a pretty woman like Sylvia sayin' it just made it worse. After I got to thinkin' about it, though, I started to get mad. First at myself, because it figured a guy like me who's never had a woman around him much would maybe fall for the first woman that stayed around for a while and was halfway nice to him. With a woman who looked like Sylvia, it was even easier to think that.

But all of a sudden it didn't feel like that any more. It was like somethin' smolderin' in me, and I began to change, to get mad. After seein' it over and over in my mind, I was beginnin' to really hate Sylvia for bein' so angry and mean. It was almost like she'd been savin' it up, and let it all go at once. The ache in my heart went away, and I got a cold fire in my belly.

I sat and calmed myself down and cooled off 'til Brodie came back. He put some groceries down on the table. "I'll put some of this stuff in Sylvia's fridge in her trailer," he said.
"Brodie, I think we oughta get rid of her," I told him.
He looked surprised. "Why, Earl?"
"I don't like her. I think she's gonna be trouble to us."
Brodie laughed. "Don't like her? Don't gimme that! I see how you look at her. She's good for business, buddy."
"Listen, Brodie," I said, "me and you been together almost seven years. We never had no girl in the act before and we don't need one now. We got us a fifty-fifty partnership here, and I want her out. Pay her off, let her keep the clothes, pay her a couple weeks ahead and let's us just get her the hell out of here."

Brodie looked at me kind of funny. "O. K., Earl. If that's how you feel. We'll let her work out the week here, and then we'll find a way to let her go."
I felt a lot better all of a sudden. I wondered if Sylvia would tell Brodie what happened that mornin', and I hope she wouldn't, but I didn't really care.

That afternoon we did our show, and Sylvia wiggled all around for the marks, but she didn't actually touch me like she usually did. That was O. K. with me. I didn't even look at her unless I had to, and then I wondered how I could've ever felt anythin' for her. I really hated her.

We had a pretty good day, and the night shows were even better. When we finished, Brodie helped me back to our trailer and helped me undress and get into bed. He said "I'm gonna go over to Sylvia's for a while, Earl. Yell if you need me."

"You tell her yet, Brodie? She know she's all done after Sunday?"
"I'm gonna tell her tonight, Earl. You rest up, now. Get some sleep, buddy."

He left, and I guess I dropped off pretty soon after that. I usually sleep seven or eight hours at a stretch, so I was surprised to see that it was only about an hour later. Brodie's bunk was empty, so I figured he was still in Sylvia's trailer. I wondered what was goin' on over there. I could hear laughter coming from over there, but I couldn't make out their words. I got my pants from the foot of the bed and put them on. It took about ten minutes to do that by myself, and I thought to hell with the shirt and stuff. I grabbed my jacket off the rack. I couldn't do my shoes and socks, so I went barefoot. I got down from the trailer real careful. I walk slow, so it took me a little while to go the 50 or 60 feet to Sylvia's place-- especially barefoot.

I came up to the back of the trailer, and heard Brodie say "No wonder he told me to fire you! What the hell did he think he was gonna do?"
"What do you think?" Sylvia asked. "The same thing you been doing for the past few weeks, Brodie."

They both laughed. I stood there wishin' I had something to lean on, but not touchin' the trailer. My feet and legs hurt from standin' there, but I wanted to hear it.
"So what about Sunday, Brodie? What're you gonna tell him?"
"I'll string him along, tell him you're leaving. By then I'll have managed to change his mind for him. I think it might be a good idea, baby, if you sort of play up to him a little. Maybe give him a look every now and then. Maybe even apologize to him for what you said. That might help make him want to keep you around. The fat bastard's sweet on you, I know he is. Whattaya say?"
"He makes me sick, Brodie. All that damned fat, and the way he wheezes..."
"Dammit, Sylvia! It's not gonna be forever. If you can stick it out with me for maybe a year, we can cash in."

What did he mean by that, I wondered? I found out right away.
"You think it'll take him that long to die? A year?" Sylvia asked.

"Maybe less. The way he's gaining weight, he's lucky to last that long. I'll keep him going, work him hard, tire him out and let Mother Nature do the rest. It'll be a natural thing. A guy with the weight Earl has to lug around, his heart can't take it too much longer. I've worked like a damned dog for that fat slob. Dress him, shave him, help him around. More than six damn years of it, now. I mean to get what's coming to me. It's cost me plenty to do it, too."
"You mean the insurance?" Sylvia said.
"Yeah. I took out the policy a while back. Earl doesn't know about it. One of those quickie things that'll insure anybody if you pay a high enough premium No physical required, thank God."

I was shakin' all over and I felt like I was gonna fall down. I kept thinkin' they might hear me wheezin' inside the trailer.

"Then there's our joint bank account," Brodie said. "That was my idea, too. We split everything. He's got no family, so when he goes, I get the whole thing, nice and legal."
"Where do I fit in?" Sylvia asked him.
"You just stick around and be sweet and make the fat boy's heart beat faster. That'll help. Then it's just me and you and a nice chunk of cash. We'll go somewhere nice. Maybe take us a cruise. You like fruity rum drinks with little umbrellas in 'em, baby?." Brodie laughed again.

I couldn't wait to hear any more of it. I made my way back to the trailer, prayin' they wouldn't see me or hear me. I almost fell going up the step, and I managed to wrestle my pants off and get in bed-- but there wasn't gonna be any sleep for a while. It took a while to sink in. That's what Brodie had been doin' all this time-- waitin'. He was waitin' for me to die! I wasn't foolin' myself, neither. I wasn't livin' to no ripe old age. There was plenty in that bank account. We'd made a pretty good deal out of the act these past years. The insurance thing threw me. I'd always liked Brodie; trusted him with everything. Nobody else ever looked out for me like he had. The son of a bitch, I thought; he wanted me to die. Hoped for it. When did he start plannin' on it? Before or after that bitch come along?

And that's when I made up my mind...

That night, after the show, both Brodie and Sylvia helped me back to the trailer, and then Brodie took off right away sayin' somethin' about a light fixture in the tent. Sylvia stuck around, wanderin' all over inside the trailer like she was interested in everything in it, just sort of putterin' around. She was twitching her behind and sticking her chest out like I was just some stupid mark. I waited her out.

"Earl? I just wanted to say I'm sorry for the stuff I said before. I didn't mean it." she said.
"Forget it, Sylvia; it's O. K." I told her. "I couldn't stay mad at you anyway." Yes I could. Bitch.

"You're a good guy, Earl. Brodie said you wanted me to leave. Do I have to, honey? You said I was helping you boys do some pretty good business. And I like you guys. Can't I stay? Pretty please, Fat Stuff?" she asked me. "Fat Stuff" burned like a lit cigarette in my ear, this time. She got real close and patted my cheek and batted her long eyelashes at me. If I didn't weigh so much, she coulda blown me right on outta that trailer with the breeze she was makin'. She rested her hand on my leg for a moment.
"You won't be sorry if you let me stay, Earl."
I figured I oughta be excited by her touchin' me, but I didn't feel a thing.
"Well, maybe we can work something out," I said.

She squealed, hammin' it up like a little high school girl then, and she kissed me on the cheek.
"I'll go tell Brodie," she said, and ran out. I waited a minute and wiped the wetness from her kiss off my face. It felt like... poison.

So, for the next couple months, it went along like that; Sylvia playing me like a mark and playin' all sexy for me-- but playing-- and me making believe I liked it, but not doing anything but looking at her. We got rid of her little trailer and she moved into the big one with me and Brodie. Real cozy like.

We were workin' an amusement park up in New England when the end of the season rolled around. A cold snap came along around the middle of October, and some of the smaller pitches folded up for winter. By the third week in October, most of 'em were gone. Some of the larger rides stayed, but nobody was makin' much money. We did our last shows in that park on the last Saturday of the month. The Starlight Ballroom had its last dance of the season that night, too, and by Sunday noon it was all swept out and cleaned up. I watched Hurley, the manager of the place, walk around lookin' at the shuttered windows. He saw me sittin' in the trailer and came over.

"Well, another season down," he said.
"You closin' it all up now?"
"I was going to, but that damned padlock don't work any more. I got another one at home. I'll bring it back tomorrow and lock up. Too much hassle to come out here again today, and there ain't nothin' worth stealin' in the big ol' empty ballroom anyway. It'll be all right for the night."
Hurley looked around. "Well, looks like you and Brodie and FunBuns'll be about the last ones on this side of the lake," he said, nodding towards the little lake in the center of the park. "Well, take it easy, Earl. Good luck to you."

I said thanks and he went and got in his car. He waved and drove off. I looked over at the Starlight. It wasn't too far from where we was parked, and I used to like to sit and listen to the dance music comin' from there. I remembered the night the cold snap hit and they closed the doors and windows and I couldn't hardly hear the music of the big band they had in there that night. I was thinkin' about that when I got it... It'd be about the easiest thing in the world.

Hurley said he'd padlock the place tomorrow, so that meant I had to do it sometime today. I sat there and shook and sweated until I calmed myself down. Then I got a real break. Brodie and Sylvia came to the trailer around two o'clock. "Well, Earl, you ready for some good ol' Florida sunshine, buddy?" Brodie asked, grinnin' like a kid.
"I sure am. When do we leave?"
"Tuesday. I got some stuff I got to take care of around here and then we'll drive the trailer on down Tuesday evening. We're not due in Orlando until November 15th, but I'm sending Sylvia on ahead this afternoon. She'll be like advance publicity for us, you know? She's all packed and ready, so I was gonna take her down to the train. Okay by you, buddy?"

Was it O. K. by me? It was perfect! Sylvia was my one big worry, and with her out of the way it'd be that much easier. "Sure," I said. "That's a good idea."
"I'll be back in an hour or so, then," Brodie said.
"Take your time," I said. I threw a big ol' fake grin at Sylvia. "Well, have a good trip, hon; me and Brodie'll see you in Orlando in a couple weeks." The hell we would.

She turned on her big smile. "O. K. Earl. You and Brodie have a good trip, too, sweetie. See you later."

She blew us a kiss and turned and started away. Brodie watched her for a minute and shook his head and grinned. She was givin' us the rear view of that showgirl walk of hers. Brodie winked at me and laughed and then took her two beat up suitcases and headed on after her. I watched them head down the empty midway, lookin' at Sylvia mostly. I knew I'd never see her again. I hated them both.

About three o'clock, Brodie came back.
"Well, she's on her way," he said. "I'm gonna miss that kid 'til we get to Florida, buddy."
"Yeah. By the way, Hurley stopped by to say there's some stuff in the Starlight we might be able to use. Good lumber and stuff. We can have it for nothin' if we just haul it away, he says. How 'bout we look it over? Place is open now." I felt nervous. I wanted to get this over with.

"Sure. I'll go in and check it out," Brodie said.
"I'll go with you. I ain't hardly been outta the trailer all day," I said.

"Want a little exercise, huh? Good idea. C'mon, buddy." He helped me down from the trailer and we walked slowly over to the Starlight, me tellin' him about the stuff inside, making it all up as we went along.

Brodie pushed the big door open and we went in. I eased through and closed it behind me. It was a pretty big place with the bandstand at the far end, and two stairways that went up to a sort of narrow balcony that ran around three sides of the place, held up by four-by-four beams about every twenty feet. The windows were shuttered but there was plenty of light from a big ol' skylight in the roof.

"Where is this stuff?" Brodie asked.
"Supposed to be behind the bandstand," I said. I started around the left side toward the edge of the bandstand at the far end of the ballroom. "I'm gonna stay near the wall, Brodie," I said.
"Yeah, that's good" he said, and walked slowly with me. I was sweating hard by that time. My mouth was dry and my heart was hammering away in my chest. We kept walking, me trying to get up my nerve, and when we got to the side of the bandstand I thought I better not wait no longer. I eased behind the bandstand into the shadows there. Brodie stopped a couple yards behind me.
"I don't see nothin' Earl," he said, coming closer. "You sure about this?"
I went completely still then. Calm. I didn't feel the sweat or the shakes any more. Even my heart seemed to calm down.

I breathed deep a few times and squared my shoulders. I didn't say nothin' then. Just looked at Brodie.
"What is it Earl?" he asked me.
"Oh, yeah. I'm sure, Brodie. Real damn sure. Sure as I'll ever be."
"Whattaya mean? What's wrong, buddy?" he said.

He was close enough that I reached out and grabbed his forearm and held onto it, tight. Seven hundred twenty-six pounds makes a pretty damn good anchor. He yanked at me, but he wasn't going nowhere. "What the hell's wrong with you, buddy? C'mon; knock it off. This hurts. Is there something here for us or not?"

"Naahh, Brodie. Ain't nothing left for us-- here or anyplace else. Tell me, you got an insurance policy on yourself, too, or just the one on me? Does yours cover stuff like this?" I asked, and I yanked down hard and twisted on his arm. I heard a crunch and a snap, and he screamed real high, like a teenage girl at a pop concert or something. The fear in his eyes was something to see. He was panting like a dog, making little whistling noises through his nose. His arm was goin' in a funny way it was never supposed to. Bent funny like a bird's wing.

"That hurt, Brodie? Bet it does. I just wanted to give you a little taste of the kind of pain I been livin' with since I heard you and that bitch talkin' about waitin' for me to die! You two-faced bastard! I trusted you! I TRUSTED YOU!" His eyes got huge and he started shaking his head.
"No, Earl! No! You don't understand, buddy-- I..."

And I hugged him to me and fell forward. He tried to move out of the way, but I just smashed down on top of him. His head hit the plank floor with a thunk like dropping a watermelon on a picnic table. I heard the air go out of him in one long breath. After one twitch, he didn't move under me, and he was real quiet. I held him down there a long time, making sure he couldn't breathe with me on top of him, and then I eased myself to one side. I saw that I wouldn't of had to hold him down like that. By the way his head was turned, I knew his neck was broke. "Oops. Sorry 'bout that... buddy," I told him.

So, it was over, and I felt completely safe. I was unsteady on my feet; everybody knew it, so what happened was I fell on Brodie and he died. Easy. Anybody'd believe it was an accident. Maybe his insurance policy wasn't no good now, but that joint bank account thing worked both ways. I couldn't wait to cash it in and go off somewheres nice. Maybe take me a cruise. Figured I'd maybe try one of them umbrella drinks.

I was sitting on the floor beside one of them four-by-four support beams and I grabbed it to help pull myself up. And that's when it happened-- when I was about halfway to my feet. The Starlight was an old place, and I guess the beam must've been weak. My weight tore it right out from under the balcony and I fell on my back, right next to Brodie. Something hit my legs and knocked me down, and something slammed into my head, and that's all I knew for a while. When I came to, I saw that a section of the balcony had fallen when the beam came loose. That's what hit me in the head and knocked me out. That's what pinned my legs down, too, so I couldn't move, couldn't lift it offa myself.

If I've figured it right, that was four days ago. I can tell that my right leg is broken. The left one I can't even feel no more. For a while the pain was so bad that I kept passing out all the time. When I come to I'd scream and yell, but it didn't do no damn good. Nobody could hear me with the Starlight closed up tight like it was. Hurley must of come and padlocked the place, maybe one of the times when I was passed out. It would of taken him a couple seconds to do it, and I'm sure he never even looked inside before he left.

The way this park is located, kinda out in the sticks, there ain't likely to be nobody coming around. They say there's too much snow in the winter to get through these roads out here, and they don't keep a caretaker here or nothing.

I remember seeing the sign at the entrance to the park when we first got here. Open May 1st to November 1st, it says. Next May when they open the park up again, they'll see our trailer parked over there a little ways. "The Fattest Man In The World" it says on the sides of it. But they won't find me in there. Nope. I'll be right here with Brodie in the Starlight, and I won't know about it when they find us.

And I would hate like hell to be the guy who does it.

(From a story by my father, Wayne Hyde, 1959)

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