“My little Billy is not fat!” Mrs. Watts bellowed at the lady doctor.
“I didn’t say he was fat. I said he’s overweight for his age to the point he’s at risk for serious health complications.”
“But he loves his snacks and his treats. He’ll be heartbroken!”
“Just make healthier choices for him at snack time. It doesn’t have to be the end of snacking. Just give him something other than candies and cakes, okay?”
Mrs. Watts folded her arms and looked at a corner of the room, shaking her head.
“You want real misery? Let him develop Diabetes. You’ll have your hands full for the rest of his life. So, better choices. Carrots. Fruit. Anything. Okay?”
Mrs. Watts didn’t answer. She walked out of the office.
“See you in six months,” the doctor said as she shut the door.
There Billy sat in the waiting room looking blankly at the television. If he had long hair, he’d be a miniature version of his mother. Round. Round-headed. A lipless crease for a mouth. Squinting eyes. Apple cheeks.
“Let’s go home, Billy.”
“Ma! Can we get snacks? I want snacks!”
“Sure we can! Let’s get a lil something, Precious.”
She had him wait in the car at the grocery store so that the snacks could be ‘a surprise.’
Mrs. Watts presented her son with a children’s snack tray of fresh vegetables. Baby carrots, celery, broccoli, and some sort of dressing for dip.
Billy looked appalled. Then he looked betrayed. Then just plain mad.
He wailed like a baby horse being tasered.
“Billy, the doctor said you have to eat healthier so you don’t get sick.”
“I want my snacks! I want my real snacks!”
“But this is a real snack. It tastes really good. Yummy and delicious!”
She pretended to breathe in the aroma of the cold vegetables. Billy didn’t buy it. He sent the offering into orbit with one flabby paw.
He did four or five heavy-footed laps around the kitchen barking, “I want my snacks! I want my favorite snacks! I want real snacks!” before finally going out the back door to chant his grievances to the whole neighborhood.
Anger turned into grief. His march turned into a shuffle.
He truly felt like he had lost a friend. Several friends. Cupcakes. Twinkies. Donuts. Nutty Buddies. Oreo-brownie Snak-Stak (TM) cakes.
Hell, he felt like he had lost a family.
This level of sadness was usually medicated with Jello. But that option was off the table. Literally.
Before the tears could finally break ground, he turned a corner of the sidewalk to see a large man looking out his open window. Resting on the windowsill was a broad plate of jolly, jiggly, strawberry Jello. And Sweet Wiggly Toes of Baby Jesus, there was a dollop of whipped cream on top. He was about to take the first bite when the phone rang. He left the Jello. He left the fork.
All nine years of Billy’s moral upbringing fled him in that moment. He jogged up to the window. The house was plain and boxy, made of brick. It was older and musty, surrounded by empty lots. This man very much lived alone. Which meant he had more Jello to himself.
Which meant there was more Jello to steal.
Billy took up the fork with a snikt. Oh, it was a beautiful Jello. Formed from a mould, quivering with the prospect of losing its virginity to a nine-year-old gourmet.
The first bite was from the top with some of the whipped cream.
Bite 1: Oh God, yes.
Bite 2: Oh God Almighty, yes.
Bite 3: Jesus and mustard with sanctified bacon bits, yes-yes-YESSS.
Billy wasn’t even trying to be stealthy anymore. He was in full-on slurp, smack, gulp and gorge.
This… this was what sin felt like. Doing something wrong, feeling good about it, and feeling even better about it because you knew you were doing something wrong.
The fun has a way of ending when you get caught. Billy got caught.
A large hairy hand arrested his wrist. He was lifted off his feet and pulled through the window, squealing like a stuck pig. He was anchored on a grimy sofa that smelled much like the large man: Terrible.
One paw of a hand covered his mouth.
“Ho-dee-ho, I have a jello burglar!” he growled. He was either grinning or grimacing. Billy couldn’t tell. It simply hurt to be alive right then.
The man put an inch between his nose and Billy’s. His stubble looked like cactus needles. “Do you like Jello as much as I do, little piggy boy? I like it so much, I make my own. Every single day. All kinds of flavours!” The man’s eyes were getting wider and wider before he exploded.
“LET’S EAT SOME JELLO!!!”
Billy was taken down into the basement where a damp cold crawled all over his skin. He was strapped down to a chair with only the freedom of his arms.
His aggressively hospitable host skipped to a far door in the shadows, leaving Billy in an island of dull yellow light under a single light bulb.
He returned with several plastic tubs.
“Today’s Jellos arrrrrreeee….” — He set them down — “Amanda Jello, Paul Jello, Molly Jello, and oh, I’ll be sad when it runs out… Danny Jello!!”
He slid a plate and fork in front of Billy and another on the opposite side for himself. He tore the lids off and pulled an ice cream scoop from somewhere in his overalls and…
Four dancing blobs of rainbow colors on Billy’s plate.
The man clapped his hands like an overgrown baby.
He only scooped a couple for himself.
“Dig in!” he said… or… directed.
Billy obeyed. And he was surprised that the Jello was good. Actually… it was fantastic.
There was some mystery flavor in all four plops he couldn’t place, the bits of fruit were impossible for him to identify, but these were small candles amidst a forest fire of tastes. He ate faster and faster until he had finished ahead of the man.
“Good, good, eh?”
“Great Guttersnaps, You eat like you haven’t had Jello in years.”
Don’t talk to strangers, Billy. That’s the first thing that he thought of. But this was a stranger with Jello. So, what the hey. Billy told his story as tragically as he could. Him. On a diet. Free of Jello.
The man scratched at his whiskers.
“I make a specialty Diet Jello that melts the pounds right off a person.”
Billy’s eyes got huge. As much from surprise as hope.
“W-will you show me how to make it?”
“Oh certainly, certainly, anything for my new Jello friend!”
He stood up and picked up Billy — chair and all — and hauled him over to the shadowed door.
“I make it in here, secretly. Can’t have anyone stealing my recipes.”
A light clicked on and the smallest, most miserable kitchen Billy had ever seen was revealed.
“Wait here while I get a few things, if you’d be so kind.” And with that, the man left chairbound Billy behind, shutting the door.
And locking it.
Time passed. Billy couldn’t tell if time was dragging along or if he had been down there for a very long time. It didn’t help when he had to use the bathroom. A hefty turd was knocking and the ‘door’ was boarded up by the chair. Billy began fighting his bonds when the cramps set in.
The adrenaline was barely more than the worn leather straps could hold, but he did it. He beelined for the only other door, praying it was a bathroom.
It wasn’t. It was a narrow walkway lined with glass vats slightly taller than Billy. Full of Jello. All colors. Most with bits of fruit. They were all labeled with personal names.
And so forth. A very acrid and biting mix of smells came from two rusty barrels at the far end of the walkway.
Do I dare use the bathroom in one of these things? Will I even be able to keep my balance?
He didn’t have to answer those questions because he relieved himself on the spot when a slippery hand reached out of the nearest vat and grabbed his wrist. Resisting pulled the hand off of whatever it was attached to. From the surface of the Jello emerged something about Billy’s height, terribly human, only the skin was gone. The eyelids and the lips and the nose — gone. Dissolving muscle tissue twitched and shivered. One of the two eyes was suspended in the Jello. So… that wasn’t fruit suspended in the rest of the vats.
Billy threw himself against the locked door in the kitchen, wailing. Squealing. But his voice wasn’t loud enough to drown out the voice in his head that repeated over and over:
I make a specialty Diet Jello that melts the pounds right off a person.