The local discount store should have posted a weight limit for riding Patches, the one-cent-per-ride mechanical pony at the front of the store. I tried to ride Patches, so I guess it’s my fault that Patches is now sprawled on the tile floor with all four of his legs bent back like cheap paper clips. My attorney said I should pay for its replacement and issue a formal apology to all the traumatized children waiting in line at the time of the incident.

It’s too late to save Patches, but I think it is time I own up to the 15 pounds I’ve gained since the one/two punch of the pandemic shut-down and my recent retirement. Not that weight struggles are new to me. It’s a battle I’ve fought with varying success all my life. I know more about yo-yo-ing than the Duncan Yo-Yo Company.

We women are especially hard on ourselves in this regard. I think we’re born ashamed of our weight. Minutes after my birth, when the obstetrician placed my tiny body on that scale, I instinctively pressed my foot against the table and leaned slightly until the needle slid below seven pounds.

I refused to breastfeed because Mom didn’t dispense skim milk.

My first words were, “Does this diaper make my butt look big?

Since then, my life has been a battle between, “Let’s get this problem under control” and, “Hey, are there any brownies left in the kitchen?”

Years ago, when you renewed your driver’s license, you had to tell the clerk your weight in front of other customers and staff. The first time it happened to me, I stood in open-mouthed shock and wondered how difficult it might be to survive in the rural midwest without a driver’s license. I considered lying outrageously. I wondered if I got pulled over for a traffic offense, would the officer believe the number of pounds showing on the license? I eyed the clerk and tried to gauge her gullibility. She was getting impatient, as were the other customers.

“Just say something!” she said in irritation. “Pick a number so I can put something down.”

I picked up a pen and a scrap of paper, scratched down a random number that I hadn’t seen on a scale for decades, and slid it furtively across the desk to her. The number was at least “in the ballpark,” although somewhere in the bleacher seats over left field. After she rolled her eyes and wrote the number on the form, I snatched the scrap of paper back and swallowed it, lest one of the custodians see it in the trash can and pass it around.

At a recent physical, my doctor said my health was surprisingly good, in spite of the fact that I “sit a little too close to the table,” which is the most tactful way anybody has ever told me, “You’re too fat.” I considered blaming my excess weight on that old standby, “I’m just big-boned. Massive, mastodon-like bones that would impress an archaeologist.”

She did add, though, that I have a “slightly fatty liver”. I told her that I was just happy that any part of me was only slightly fatty. What was I supposed to do about that? How do you put your chubby internal organs on a diet? If she were to put her stethoscope to my abdomen, she might hear my svelte pancreas cruelly chanting at my corpulent liver, “Fatty, fatty, two-by-ten, crowding out the abdomen,” or perhaps, “Fatty, fatty, in a while, won’t produce your share of bile.” I guess I need to put on a fitness CD and get my flabby internal organs sweatin’ to the oldies.

We all know what needs to be done to lower our weight and get healthier: eat less and get more exercise. I decided to start with the exercise component first. I was determined to reach that “runner’s high” I’d heard about, so I set up a treadmill in my basement.

That first morning I bounded down the stairs, full of enthusiasm. I set the treadmill’s timer for 30 minutes at an angle of incline which, if this were a worksite, would require an extension ladder, a permit, and a safety net.

After a quarter of a mile, my chest was heaving and sweat poured down my furrowed brow and splashed onto the concrete floor, forming a puddle so deep that it could qualify as a saltwater aquarium. A half-mile later, I wondered if “runner’s high” is defined as the point at which you begin to curse and demand illicit drugs. At the two-mile mark, I began to hallucinate. The Pillsbury Doughboy was beckoning me seductively, with promises of a position as Cheesecake Judge at the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off.

I decided to stop at the two-mile mark, provided I wasn’t dead yet, which I felt was a distinct possibility. When I regained consciousness on the basement floor, I crawled up the steps, wheezing and sobbing, fell into bed, and slept for 14 hours.

Weeks later, in spite of tortuous exercise, I still hadn’t lost any weight, but I had the bulging calf muscles of a professional wrestler and could bench press a large SUV. If I’m ever a witness to a tragic accident in which a small child is pinned under a vehicle, call the press. I’m about to become a hero!

I decided to tackle part two of the program: eat less. I got rid of any sweets in the house since they’re my special weakness. It was tough. I slept fitfully and dreamt nightly of ice cream sundaes and chocolate fudge. Late one night, in desperation, I searched frantically for any bite of indulgence. My search yielded nothing but some dusty peanut butter smeared on a mousetrap behind the stove. The trap cut my tongue and left a metallic aftertaste, but it was still worth it.

Sometimes late at night, I thought I heard the leftovers in the refrigerator calling my name. It was never the broccoli or the radishes. Produce is voiceless in the night. I think produce has forgotten my name or lost my number.

After many weeks of gym workouts, long hikes, and gnawing hunger, I think I have come up with an easier way to lose weight: organ donation. I’ll bet a kidney weighs at least a pound or two, and I have a spare. People have been known to survive and function well even after the removal of their tonsils, appendix, adenoids, gallbladder, spleen, one lung, all four limbs, several yards of intestines, and the entire reproductive system. Not necessarily from the same person, although if it were, her nickname probably wouldn’t be “Lucky.”

Evidently, we have a lot of spare parts in there. Maybe the majority of our organs are in there solely to take up space and provide bulk, a function which could just as well be served by Styrofoam peanuts and crumpled newspaper, which would weigh a lot less. Maybe all we really need is a head and a torso.

I couldn’t find a doctor who would agree to this plan. Maybe I could perform the surgeries on myself, thus not only weighing less but gaining a skill that could earn some extra income. I feel I’m qualified because I’ve memorized every episode of every medical drama which has aired on TV since 1970. I currently am writing a book I’ll title, “Removing Your Own Appendix Using Common Household Implements.”

I got the idea after reading about an airline passenger who suffered a collapsed lung and was saved by a surgeon on board who operated on the man using the only tools available on the plane: a coat hanger, a table knife, and a fork sterilized in brandy. Who needs a decade of medical schooling and expensive operating rooms equipped with millions of dollars worth of specialized equipment?

Now that I’ve acquired all this knowledge, why stop at just operating on myself? I’ve equipped myself to handle any medical emergency with my collection of do-it-yourself surgical tools consisting of the following, packed into a flowered pillowcase: jumper cables, WD-40, duct tape, PCV pipe, a steak knife, a staple gun, a drinking straw, a plumber’s snake, Draino, and a glue gun.

Recently, while dining out, I witnessed a woman suffering a coronary incident. I sprang into action and performed emergency surgery in which I replaced her faulty heart with the rebuilt fuel pump from a 1976 Chevy Nova. She survived, but she now has an unfortunate tendency to emit billowing clouds of white smoke from her tailpipe whenever she has gas or when a new Pope is elected.

Now if you’ll excuse me, one of my neighbors is suffering from an impacted colon and I need to grab my pillowcase full of tools and run over there pronto. Maybe the run will burn off a few calories.

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