The Big Pants: part two
“And why not?” Toby finished his dialogue with John, whose passion was “helping kids”. Yes, a youth camp. John would have to buy a piece of land somewhere. He had run out of steam, mumbling about crowd funding.
“Please?” Toby said.
“Um…” Tom answered. “I kinda wanna have one of those pictures…you know. Like when I can get into a thirty-two waist…you know, put on the jeans I’m wearing now…like on my Facebook page. A big pants picture.”
“Yes. Tom, is it? We do, in fact, post our success stories on our own website.”
This was dismissal. Toby rustled. He found Luisa.
“Toby, I want a good place to live. You know, I live in a trailer right now. I mean the kind that pops up to a tent. With five of us, my husband and my daughter and my two grandchildren, even though…we only have to sleep there. Most of the time I’m at my job…”
“Well. Luisa. I think we have gone a bit astray.” Toby fell silent. The silence went on. Tom, feeling this suspension to be what it seemed, a penance, and the fault considered his, asked himself if he had a passion.
“My family,” Luisa said. “They are my passion.”
Jackie was having a number of unworthy feelings. She had caught herself a moment ago, standing by, waiting for Luisa, realizing she expected Luisa to take the lead. She didn’t know what Luisa did for a living.
“Now, I suppose,” Luisa asked her, “we each pick from one of the cages?”
Latch hooks were holding the lids tight.
“Do you get deer?” Jackie had asked this of Toby, when, sparing a minute, he’d trotted down to direct them.
“Ah. Why the cage? Well, I’ll tell you.”
But saying so, he’d gone off, seeing Perry come through the double doors supported by the arms of Gerda Messerman and one of the Messerman sons, equally tall and muscular. Jackie found herself bending over lettuces.
Of all things, lettuces made a puzzle. Tomatoes, peppers…carrots or beans…those you could pick only one way.
“Leaves? Or should I root out the whole head?”
“I can’t do it.”
Luisa straightened from her own cage. This was planted in beets, on the greens of which she’d tried an exploratory tug. She rubbed her fingertips against her tee shirt. “I don’t have gloves.”
They were far down the slope of Toby’s garden…the Community’s garden. Toby, helping his wife settle Perry on a cushioned bench, stood at the hilltop, under corrugated shadow thrown by the roof tiles of the compound’s Teaching Center.
His words, now the women had paused all movement, came to them from on high.
“Within a year’s time, what had been our woodland grove would sprout again—nature is very efficient in that way…but you would see no more of the lady’s slippers, the trilliums, the hart’s tongue ferns…”
Gerda mowed across the ferns. “So it’s the same with antibiotics. You have killed off everything that ought to be there…and something else will grow in its place. Junk.”
“Most people,” Toby said, “have it backwards. As you see, Perry. You have to restore your health before you will ever lose weight, rather than lose weight to restore your health.”
Luisa shaded her eyes and stared up at Toby. Tom, trug over his arm, came to stand with them, third in line. Sixteen other conscripted laborers downed tools and rose, drawn onto the grid of crushed stone.
(Local stone, not to unbalance the soil’s mineral profile. Some irresponsible people put down pine straw or bark mulch, Toby had told them. “Burns like tinder. Which, of course, it is.”)
“You hear?” Luisa whispered.
Tom cleared his throat, and Jackie, looking over her shoulder, saw something eager light his eye. He was going to make a wisecrack.
“He’s wonderful, isn’t he?”
She said this, moving to block, making her voice quiet, if perhaps not awed. Jackie had an indiscreet question for Luisa. Whether or not she liked Tom…by and large she did…she didn’t want to laugh along with him. Not at Toby’s expense.
Toby, of Perry, took his courteous leave. Gerda was already coming down the steps. She spoke, in her ringing exercise instructor’s voice, many paces before coming close enough to join them.
“I am going to surprise you. I think you see that I am lean and fit?”
“How many calories do I eat each day? Let me tell you. Three thousand. Yes, three thousand! That is five hundred above what is meant to be the limit. So the experts would say I will gain a pound every week. Now. I have something to say to you about the body. Why does the body make fat?”
John answered, from six feet away, on the other side of the double row of cages. “So we don’t starve to death. And I think maybe it regulates temperature, too.”
The Big Pants
(2017, Stephanie Foster)