Travelling backwards with a fat man
I loathe to travel backwards. This morning, however, I had no choice. You see, I woke up late, my slumber disturbed by a disquieting dream that I am still, now that I’m at work, trying to shake from my consciousness.
I was at a rock concert, but it was hours until the show began, and I was inspecting the special effects – long black ropes that hung from the ceiling, providing the illusion of levitation for anyone game enough to attach themselves and launch their body out over the seats. Suddenly all hell broke loose, and my partner appeared, complaining loudly that she had been cheated by a crooked gaming table in a casino downstairs.
It was during the ensuing investigation that I met the owners of the casino – two well-dressed young men and their father, a stately old gent of Mediterranean extraction with a sharp eye for business. His only blind spot was a scrofulous little dog that he allowed to stagger along the tables and bars where he sat, talking business.
As he effusively promised to return the lost funds to our pockets, the dog – I never did catch its name – began to drool, its saliva turning gradually opaque – it left marks on my shirt, which upon closer examination turned out to be blood. The dog’s advanced age had obviously caught up with it, and the strands of bloody spittle became great ropy gouts of gore, and it became apparent that the dog, in its final stages of life, was divesting itself of all internal organs. Appalled by the smell, the other patrons began to run for the doors, as the ichor dripped from the bar too the floor.
The casino owner could do nothing but watch in horror, a cry escaping his lips as his beloved pet collapsed, shuddering with its heart trapped in its jaws.
A commotion behind me alerted me to further danger, as the other punters had begun to fight to leave the casino. Failing to understand the principles behind an orderly exit, the mob had formed an ebullient wedge at the doors, which quickly turned bad. Fights had broken out, and people were injured.
I turned and saw that a young man had perched himself upon the chest of an elderly lady. He was prying out her eyes with a screwdriver, and stabbing randomly at her flabby, fleshy, freshly-rouged cheeks, tugging madly at her handbag that was spilling small golden coins upon the floor. Both were laughing hysterically… dear god, what madness is this?
“… and it’s 7:30 in the morning! Rise and shine all you sleepy heads! The weather outside may not be that nice, but you’ve STILL GOTTA GO TO WORK! He he he… of course, we’ve been at work since 5am, but you don’t hear us complaining, do you Marty?
“No Phil! We LOOOOVE to come to work!!!”
That’s because being a breakfast announcer is, arguably, a job that should be reserved for the socially retarded and developmentally arrested one percent of the population that find driving a bus or scrubbing a toilet just that little bit too challenging.
“…and if you’re travelling along King St this morning, watch out! There’s traffic about! We have a report of a taxi colliding with a power pole, and there are cars backed up aaalllll the waaayyyy to Stanmore! Thanks to the NRMA Sky-Tracker Traffic Chopper – more traffic reports in fifteen minutes!”
A quick look out the window tells me it’s raining. For once. But I still hate it.
“Do you suffer from headache, backache or muscle pain?”
“No…”, and with that the clock radio is switched off. Get dressed, swear loudly, get undressed, shower, get dressed again, drop two spoons of ground tuna into a bowl for Pablo and Hunter and I’m out the door.
The bus arrives, and because of the rain, it’s busy. I don’t understand it – are these people that normally walk to work? Because I know that they’re all going to still be on the bus when I get off. I can see the sprinkle of usual faces I see most mornings on the 8:28am Limited Stops – but today they’re packed in between the gormless facades of strangers.
One seat left – the backward-facing seat at the front. Lowering myself gingerly into its comfortless embrace, I find myself face to face with him.
He is, of course, enormously obese. It’s a mild morning – the rain has finally calmed the raging heat that has gripped my city of Sydney these past few days. Yet still he sweats, pit-stains forming circular patches of filth on a deep khaki button-down shirt.
He’s wearing shorts, which reveal his ferociously hairy legs, which sport twin knee-surgery scars. His enormous bulk has clearly sounded the death-knell for his over-worked anterior cruciate ligaments, requiring reconstruction.
His shorts are too short – loose in the waist to accommodate his waistline, which appears to be expanding even as I watch. The legs of the shorts are too tight – his scrotum bulges beneath strained material on his left inner thigh, like a poorly-hidden weapon.
Even over the sounds of the bus – the hissing of the tyres on wet blacktop and the muted strains of a dozen iPods feeding tunes to the ears of their owners, who remain oblivious to the aural annoyance they’re causing – I can hear him breathe.
Tfffffffffft! goes the intake. A minute pause, before the strain of oxygen exchange takes its toll, and the air is expelled – Phuuuuuuuh. Beads of sweat appear on his brow.
Tffffffffft! Phuuuuuuuh… Tffffffffft! Phuuuuuuuh… Tffffffffft! Phuuuuuuuh… Occasionally punctuated by a rattle in his adenoids, suggesting an incoming dose of influenza.
He stares morosely out the window, his breath forming a fog on the glass, adding to the general fug of a government bus packed with damp commuters. He lunges for the bell, spotting familiar surrounds, standing as the bus begins to brake.
His weight and momentum threaten to deposit him upon me as the bus slows dramatically – his right arm swings forward, missing me by millimetres as he grabs the back of the seat behind me, juddering and jarring me uncomfortably.
He lumbered off the bus at that point, and as the driver made change for an inbound passenger, I saw through the window that he opened a small gate and entered the front yard of a house at the bus stop, fumbling deep in his pockets for the keys to the door.
“I know where you live, fatty. I’ll be by later – armed with weight-loss pamphlets and free gym membership offers and complimentary satchels of powdered diet-shakes. They’ll be stuffed in your letterbox and under your door – stuck to your windows with sugar-free chewing gum. I WILL be back.”
But I probably won’t. I almost as lazy as he is.
The now-spare seat in front of me has been occupied by an old woman. Her face is an almost exact replica of the woman I saw maimed in my dream.
Closing my eyes, I lean back in my seat – the morning has come full circle, and all that is left for me is to wait for the work-day to consume me, extract what nuggets of professional nutrients it can and expel me, as waste, upon the bus ride home.
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