Byron Strueth had lost almost sixty kilograms in a twelve-month stretch. It was a marvellous achievement. In less than a year, Byron had completely transformed himself. Through a strict regime of exercise, meditation and healthy choice eating, he had shed the weight, dropping from a hefty 130kgs down to a lithe 72kgs. A brave new world lay before Byron, but someone had forgotten to tell the previous incarnation of Byron; the fat one.
His new body, with its narrower dimensions, perplexed and confounded Byron. He was ill at ease in it and captained it with an inept but slimmer hand. Byron was at a loss, and nothing anybody said made an ounce of difference.
Often, he overcompensated for his illusionary size by making room where none needed to be made or by apologising for imposing his girth into an environment deemed too small for him: - an elevator, a stairwell, or a corridor.
Byron was trying to shed a lifetime of apologetics that had been instilled into him since he was an overweight child. Thin life had brought with it an equal number of problems and it would take more than a Stair Master to climb the arduous road to happiness.
The purchase of clothing turned out to be the most challenging endeavour he undertook in his new, thinner guise. With his dramatic loss of weight, his old clothes no longer fitted him and hung like limp sails from his frame.
For Byron, shopping had been an onerous activity, but one completed out of necessity. He was fortunate to have had a gentlemen’s plus-sized clothing store nearby, which had made the ordeal of shopping bearable. Each year he had brought the same selection of shirts, trousers, underwear, singlets, socks, and sweaters that he wore to work. He would augment this with bespoke purchases for seasonal requirements, like the odd coat, hat, or scarf.
But with his body, his discomfort had changed shape too. Now he was plagued with choice; an awkward, uninformed choice that he was ill at ease engaging with.
His friend, Styles, had accompanied him on his initial foray into the fashion market. The excursion had been an exhausting affair, in which he had only managed to acquire a three-pack of underwear and a smart cobalt-blue tracksuit. It was a poor showing for six hours on high street and too many dressing rooms to mention. He had only purchased the jacket when he could see that Styles began to exhibit signs of exasperation.
“Christ Ron, it’s not rocket science,” Styles bemoaned.
It had not been an enjoyable experience and one that he did not want to repeat.
His next outing was virtual in nature. Taking another suggestion from Styles, he ventured on to the web for a less interpersonal endeavour. This turned out to be no more successful than his previous foray. Although he no longer had to contend with dressing rooms and personal affronts by the shop staff, he now was faced with the lack of such facilities as he could not recognize his size and ended up selecting, buying, and then returning most of what he had purchased because it had been the incorrect size or shape. Shopping had turned out to be a truly exasperating and disheartening affair.
"You look fine the way you are, Bubs," consoled his mother.
"Clothes maketh the man," his father, Ham, chimed in, casting a look of disapproval at Byron.
He had turned up for dinner in his new blue tracksuit, having nothing else to wear.
When they were called to the table, Byron tried to tidy himself up by tucking his t-shirt into his pants. His father huffed behind him. Byron placed his new tracksuit top over the back of his chair.
"Don't trouble yourself, Ronny," Ham said.
Ronny was the name his father addressed him with. Byron, he had said, was a poofter’s name.
“Not my choice,” he told everyone.
Byron's mum, Bree, came in from the kitchen carrying a leg of lamb on a large serving tray and placed it in the centre of the table. She accompanied this up with roast potatoes and pumpkin, butter peas and a thick brown gravy in a white bone china jug. The jug was shaped like a pig, sat on its haunches, smiling.
"A very fine spread," Ham gleefully trumpeted. He looked at Byron.
"You won't find this kind of tucker at your Jenny Craig," he sneered and roared with laughter. Bree smiled nervously, looking from Byron to Ham and back again.
"Well, eat up boys. Don’t let it get cold," she said meekly. She returned to the kitchen, reappearing moments later without her pinny.
Ham had already started to slice the lamb, his eyes hungrily devouring the meat before his mouth had the chance. He cleaved generous parcels of lamb from the bone, collecting the nicest morsels on his plate, adding a spew of rich gravy, that issued from the mouth of the fragile porcine figurine. He looked up at Byron with a grin.
"Meat, Ronny?" he asked.
"Yes. Thanks, Dad. Just a small piece," said Byron.
Ham sorted through the cut and produced a juicy piece with a thick layer of fat on it.
"Have this piece, my boy," said Ham with a sinful smile, smacking the fatty piece of lamb onto Byron's plate.
"Cheers," moaned Byron.
The slab of glistening cook flesh dominated his plate. A thick crown of slightly translucent, off-white fat adorned the upper two-thirds of the slice. Rose-tinted juices flowed from the pink meat and encircled the plate, pooling in its centre.
Byron added to his plate a small portion of vegetables but ignored the smiling pig.
Byron picked up his fork and slowly grazed his plate. The room fell into silence with the odd slurp or groan issuing from Ham, as he enthusiastically wolfed down his meal.
Byron looked up from his scantily prospected plate. The table was the same one he had eaten from for thirty years. This room, this house, had not changed for all this time. His parents were the same man and woman that he had grown up with, just a little stouter and greyer. Byron pushed away his plate. He had been eating the same meal for thirty years.
"Finished already, Ronny?" said his dad.
Byron said nothing. He screwed up his napkin and put it on his plate.
"You've barely touched your meal," said Ham. "No wonder you lost weight."
He looked across the table to his wife, lifted his fork and stabbed it in the air at Byron.
"Barely touched his meal," Ham huffed. "What a waste."
"I had enough," said Byron. "Thanks, Mum." His Mum smiled weakly.
"That's okay," she said. She extended her hand and patted Byron on the arm.
"Don't encourage him. There'll be nothing left of him soon," said Ham.
Ham started to clean his plate, using a crust of bread to collect up the leftover gravy. He dropped it into his mouth. Brown gravy dripped onto his shirt from his open mouth.
"Agghh! Damn it," he exclaimed.
Ham stared at Byron like it was his fault. Byron shrugged. He lifted his plate and, rising from the table, he took it to the kitchen.
As Byron entered the kitchen, he could not suppress a smile as his father raged about the stain on his shirt, looking to blame anyone but himself.
"Hey Dad, do you need some wet wipes?" he yelled out from the kitchen.
"Go to hell," his father replied.
“Ham,” said Bree sternly. "Mind your manners. You’re at the table.”
Byron returned from the kitchen with the wet wipes in his hand and placed them on the table in front of his dad but remained standing. His Mum withdrew a wipe and started to fuss over Ham’s shirt. Ham twisted and groaned, but he knew better than to dismiss Mrs Strueth’s offer of help.
Byron considered his irate father, seated at the table, stained shirt, and servile wife.
He grabbed his new blue jacket from the back of the chair and slipped his arm into the sleeve and pulled it on. He was pleased it fitted him so well.
“I’m going now,” he promptly announced.
Bree and Ham looked up from their engagement.
“You going somewhere, Ronny?” said Ham, his eyebrows raised.
“But there’s dessert,” said his Mum. She hastened to clear away the dishes and removed them to the kitchen.
“Viennetta slice. It’s your fav, Bubs,” she called.
“Not today, Mum,” he said.
“Where you going, aye?” said Ham. He glared at Byron and lodged his thick greasy hands on the table.
“There’s dessert. Didn’t you hear your Mum?”
Byron made his way around the table towards the front door.
“You’re a lost cause, mate,” his father bellowed.
His mum came out of the kitchen and rushed over as he swung open the door.
“Oh Sweet, you’re not mad, are you?” she fretted.
Byron smiled at his Mum and gently put his hand on her shoulder.
“Thanks so much for lunch, Mum.”
“Don’t go, son.”
“To be honest Mum, the lamb was a little dry,” he stated bluntly. “Goodbye.”
He gently pushed past his mum and out of the front door.
The door closed behind Byron as he made his way down the steps. He could dimly discern a raised voice, bellowing from inside the house.
Byron watched his feet as he traversed each step until he made it down to the footpath. He looked left and right along the street, and then chose the right, long way home.