When she was born, the doctor took a look at her and said, "That’s a fine, big beautiful girl!" He meant it as a positive statement, but he unintentionally stressed the word ‘big’ as he said it. The truth was that the baby was really not much bigger than any other baby the doctor had delivered, but he was glad that it looked healthy for he had had an unfortunate string of births lately that had produced some rather scrawny, sickly looking babies who gave the impression that they had either been born much too soon, or that somehow they had contracted anorexia while still in the womb. Her mother was horrified, however, for the word ‘big’ was the only word she had heard, and the rest of the doctor’s sentence was lost.

Ned and Irma Walsh didn’t have much say over how much formula was given to baby Angela (when asked, Irma flatly refused to breast feed her, saying "I think she’s had quite enough help from me already"), but as soon as they could get her home and assume full control, they put her on a strict diet. Even as the baby cried constantly out of hunger, her mother would shout, "I will not have a fat child!" Ned and Irma were by no means slim themselves, but it was too late for them; they still had a chance to make sure their daughter was model-thin.

Despite everything they did, Angela grew bigger and more round each year. They tried every diet that existed, and as new diets were invented, they tried those too. The story was always the same. Angela would lose a few pounds, and then suddenly balloon up bigger than before. From the start poor little Angela’s body had yearned for food and took every opportunity to store whatever it possibly could in the form of new inches of fat.

Though Angela swore she didn’t cheat on the diets, her mother called her a liar and did everything she could to monitor Angela’s eating habits twenty-four hours a day. She was sure that Angela had some secret stash of food and would often perform surprise room searches, turning Angela’s entire bedroom upside-down, but there was never any clandestine food to be found, neither a ding dong nor even a carrot stick.

Angela would have killed for an extra carrot stick, even just an extra crumb of stale bread. She was hungry all the time, and continuously looked forward to the next meager meal, whether it be a watery cup of leek soup, or else a dab of unflavored no-fat yoghurt on a lettuce leaf. But she did not want to be fat either, and though she had no reason to trust her parent’s dietary judgements, she allowed them to control every facet of her young life in the hopes that they would stumble onto some miracle remedy that would make her a normal size girl instead of the leviathan she had become.

Irma cried at night, ashamed of her inability to cure her daughter of her immensity. All she had wanted was a cute little girl that she could show off to family and friends, and instead god had given her a baby behemoth. Her desperation grew as Angela grew, and she became convinced that her child would never be married, probably would never leave the house in fact, and thus would be a permanent anchor around Irma’s neck. She envisioned her daughter reaching the proportions where she could no longer fit through the doorways of the house, forcing Irma to stay home and take care of her because she would be too immensely fat to do anything other than lie in bed and get fatter.

One day, in the summer before Angela was to start high school, Irma clutched Ned by the collar of his shirt and said with a wild gleam in her eyes, "I know, we’ll starve her! No food at all!"

"Already tried that, remember? We got her as close to starvation as we could, but as soon as we were forced to start feeding her again, she almost immediately grew to twice her original size."

"But what if we didn’t stop? Maybe she can’t starve. We should see if it is possible for her to starve at all." Her voice came out in excited rasps of breath, and Ned could see through her dilated pupils the first stages of madness. He felt it was time to put an end to this mess.

"It’s over," her said. "We’ve done everything we can do, and you are starting to scare me with the things you are contemplating." Irma started to argue, but Ned shut her up with an icy look. "We are not going to let our daughter starve to death. If we were to do that, I have no doubt that as her parents we would be found guilty of some ‘don’t starve your children to death’ law or something like that and then we would be put away for a very long time. No, the only thing left to do is leave her to her own devices. In other words, we should feed her, but otherwise ignore her very existence. In fact, I think we should give her whatever she wants to eat. Who knows, maybe she’ll eat so much that she explodes or something and then we’ll be rid of the problem for good. Either that or we could sell her picture to the National Inquirer and make a nice buck. You could get those fancy french shoes you’ve had your eye on for so long."

Irma just stood there, obviously running all this through her mind. She swallowed hard, and then looked up at Ned and just nodded. Then she went in the kitchen and started to make breakfast.

When they told Angela that the dieting was over, she went to her room, broke open her piggy bank, and then ran to the corner convenience store and asked for one of every kind of candy they had. It was the most joyous moment of her entire life.

Chapter 21


Chapter 20 was first written November 25, 2001

It was last edited December 29, 2001