Readers, I’d like to share one of my original short stories of ghosts and other strange things, from Rest in Fleece. Enjoy it below:
The enemy lurked in the bathroom. Doctor’s orders: she had to weigh in every day, without fail. But Amy had such difficulty with self esteem, all going back to the perception that she was too fat as a child. Family had chided her in such a way that her sensitivity had quite exaggerated the intent: she felt like a beached whale.
She was overweight, a little. Not much by the standards of today’s culture, which weaned so many fat babies and force-fed its children fast food, pushing them into obesity.
Amy had envied the popular, thin girls who could seemingly eat anything. She gained weight, she felt, by just breathing. She hated eating Jello for dessert while others at table had sundaes or cake. She cringed when someone suggested she go easy on the potatoes, or raised an eyebrow if she buttered a roll.
She had been so careful. She walked a good four miles a day. She swam. She ate salads and drank water and took her coffee black. Everything she ate was Lite, for God’s sake.
She had done so well. She was down to 132, which for her build and height was not bad at all. But then one day she was just . . . heavier. There was no accounting for it. Suddenly, very suddenly, she weighed fourteen pounds more.
Amy obtained this news the hard way. She was being weighed in by Lyza, that bitchy nurse at the doctor’s clinic. The one that always bellowed her weight in a tone so voluble (and judgmental) it could be heard in the lobby. In a small town, there are no secrets. “ONE FORTY SIX, that’s for AMY Anderson!” She felt crushed and demoralized by the time of her appointment.
Amy had been tested, poked prodded. All her tests results were normal. She had hoped to blame her thyroid, but it was not to be. Dr. Malprac Tice, her physician, honestly thought she’d been sneaking Chunky Monkey or Hershey bars. There could be no other explanation, he said, furrowing his unibrow. And he was the final authority, per her Health Maintenance Organization. She was not allowed to see a specialist unless Dr. Mal referred her. (And he would never admit he might have overlooked something).
Naturally, Dr. Mal was reed-slender. He was clue-free as to what she endured. He couldn’t know what a struggle it was to diet endlessly, to eat nothing but calorie controlled portions and weigh everything so (heaven forbid) you didn’t get an extra gram of carbohydrate. Or worse, the F word: fat.
Amy had noticed this weight: she had literally almost fallen down when she arose that morning. She was not used to the extra poundage and had overbalanced. The oddest thing, though, was that her clothes did not bind. Indeed, they felt the same as always. As they had at fourteen pounds less. And she looked the same. Her face had not got rounder. Her thighs had not pressed the seams of her jeans. Quite strange, that. She had tried to explain this, but Dr. Mal had been rushed and as usual, he accused her of making excuses. She didn’t know if he’d even heard a word she’d said.
Leaving his office, Amy felt depressed. She was overwhelmed by her future: she saw a life awash in a sea of Lite cottage cheese and sugar-free Jello, sitting at table with people who could eat whatever.
And dammit, this just was not her doing. Something was wrong. Maybe they had skipped some tests in the name of economy, it wouldn’t be the first time. The doctor had been rude and insufferable, she decided. She would find help elsewhere.
Amy asked around at work. Everyone had a different suggestion: this specialist, that herbalist, this naturopath, that acupuncturist. It was confusing. Too many choices, none of them exactly what she sought.
One day Amy was sitting on a bench at the park, drinking her latte as usual with nonfat dry milk instead of the real thing, and barely nibbling a piece of melba toast, trying to make it last. She was scanning a newspaper which she’d found there. She was perusing the horoscopes and the advice columns when she saw it.
An advert for a weight loss clinic, the banner read: “We understand.” That would be a change-up. She read on: “Results guaranteed.” It was not a company she’d heard of. But it was quite nearby. Although she was generally a skeptic when it came to any commercial enterprise of this kind, something pushed her to go see. Had she anything to lose? Only weight, she told herself.
She finished her coffee and took what turned out to be a short walk to the address in the ad. It was nice-enough looking: a rather elegant brownstone townhouse, she thought Victorian. She went up the steps and opened the tall, paneled door. She found herself standing in a well-appointed if somewhat dated foyer. So dated that she might have stepped back in time, but of course she didn’t buy into that kind of nonsense.
“Good morning. May I help you?” A woman had slipped into the room, so quietly that she was quite startled.
“Yes. I read about your weight loss program in the paper. I’d like to know more. I’ve tried everything, you see. I quite suddenly put on fourteen pounds I cannot account for. My doctor won’t give me the time of day and thinks I’m binge-eating.”
Thoughtfully, the woman nodded. You will want to speak with our specialist, Dr. Jude. Would you come this way, please?” The woman smiled and ushered down a wallpapered hallway with quaint, antique-looking light sconces. At the end of the hall was a large office.
“Dr. Jude? This is Amy.” She gestured, smiled and left. (She knew my name! Amy noted).
A kind looking, older man came to greet her. “Please, come in, sit down,” he said. I understand you had a case of very sudden weight gain. This is precisely our area of expertise. I feel sure we can help you.”
“I’ve tried all the diets, you see, and I already count carbs, and my doctor ran tests but they were all within normal range,” Amy began.
“Of course they were, he replied. “You haven’t actually gained physical weight at all. You have a hitchhiker.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“A hitchhiker. It is a kind of spiritual parasite which attaches itself to the souls of the living. It has no effect on your actual size, but it adds ten to fifteen pounds of actual physical weight. No, we don’t know why. This is just something we’ve observed.”
“Why me?” Amy asked, trying to absorb this surprising info.
“It’s not so much about you personally,” he replied. Wrong place, wrong time is more like it. However, you have been dieting. Someone trying to lose weight has less resistance: it’s a weak spot, an entry point. Plus, they can smell the Jello from ten miles downwind.”
“I hate Jello,” she remarked. Dr. Jude smiled, commiserating.
“You’ll be pleased to know, there’s no need to eat any. I suspect your weight gain has all along, since your childhood (when you were perhaps taunted), has been spiritual and not physical. While you experience no physical symptoms, these tag-alongs can be a drag on your emotions and psyche. I recommend extraction.”
“Extraction?” Amy exclaimed. “They’re not molars.”
“No, of course not. But if you want to be rid of them, they will need to be removed.”
“But how? I can hardly credit their existence!”
“It is quite simple. We have a system for eliminating hitchhikers from your system. They will be placed elsewhere and you shouldn’t be bothered again. It will be a quick procedure: you will experience it like a meditation session. At the end you will feel refreshed, relaxed . . . and lighter.”
“How much will all this run me?” She expected the sales pitch now.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. We’re here to serve.”
“But you must make money somehow,” she posed.
“Indeed. But we never charge the victims of hitchhikers. You all have been through enough as it is. We have private funding, you see.”
She nodded. Dr. Jude asked whom he might contact to obtain her medical records, then asked her to please wait in the foyer. When he received them, he saw Dr. Mal’s name and shook his head. That charlatan! He treated his patients so badly. This young woman must have been through countless ‘blame the victim’ sessions with this creep. He thought a moment, and made a decision.
After a short time, the woman came out and said
“We were able to get your history, as the clinic was open today. Would you like to come on back?”
Amy thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” She followed the woman to a room like a psychiatrist’s office with books, a desk and a couch. Just like those New Yorker cartoons, she thought. She sat back and soon the doctor returned.
“We can begin now,” he said. “Would you please drink this? It’s just water but you’ll be more comfortable.” Amy took the glass (she was indeed thirsty), draining it.
The doctor said he would now suggest an image and asked her to mentally picture it. He described a beach, with a calm tide on a warm, pleasant day. She lost herself there and apparently nodded off. After what seemed like a few seconds, the doctor tapped her shoulder and said she could wake up now.
“Oh, how long have I been out?” gasped Amy.
“About half an hour. It is rather like hypnosis. People relax so! How do you feel?”
She thought and said “Actually, much better. I can’t account for it but I do. And lighter, somehow.” The doctor invited her to try the scale in the corner and politely turned away. When she did, she was stunned:
“But Doctor! I’ve lost fourteen pounds since this morning!” Amy was dumbstruck, but in a good way.
“Excellent. I’m so pleased,” said Dr. Jude.
The woman showed her out, and she went back to the park, where she’d left her car. On the way home, she marveled at the events of the morning. But her delight outnumbered her questions by a long shot. Once home, she weighed in again. Her home scale indicated a fourteen pound loss. She was over the moon.
Dr. Mal sat down for a break. It had been a long day. He was a crotchety guy for someone under forty. He had a good job, a great income and a vintage Jaguar. Yet he was forever taking out his dissatisfaction on his patients. He got so annoyed when all they had to do was follow a simple diet or exercise regimen: yet clearly, no matter what they said, they hadn’t. (Patients lied like rugs, he told himself). But the scales told the truth.
The next morning, he nearly fell getting out of bed. He felt heavier, somehow. He weighed in as he always did. But what was this? Where had these fourteen pounds come from? He was in shock.
Later that day, he received a notice from some weight loss clinic:
Weight extraction, $2,000 per pound avoirdupois.
For a mere $28,000 we can make that new, unwanted fourteen pound weight gain disappear.
Or, we can add another fourteen.
Have a nice day.