Friday, February 12, 2010

Jackie DeBuff's Ultimate Makeover


Jackie DeBuff's Ultimate Makeover

Although every one of us regulars In Carl’s Coffee Shop tried to tell Jackie DeBuff that he was a fine fellow just as he was, his sensitivity about being short and skinny gradually grew into obsession. Of course, there was no denying that he was either the skinniest little shrimp in town, or close to it. He stood a mere 5 foot 3 and weighed about 110 pounds.

As the librarian of the Waverly Public Library, I felt it my duty to steer Jackie away from this sensitivity about his lack of height and weight. I gave him books like, “How to Live a Fulfilled Life,” and “Hone Your Inner Man,” I even drew on some history and added stories about a few famous shorties like Napoleon and Alan Ladd.

Nevertheless, his attempts to look bigger became increasingly bizarre. He wore oversized shirts, which flapped around his thin body, giving him the appearance of a scrawny scarecrow in a windy field. He combed his blonde hair into high spikes that were held in place with Super Hold spray. Jake Jackson said,

“You couldn’t budge that hair with a maul,’ and Myrtle, the Coffee Shop waitress, commented that,

“Jackie looks like someone who has just been told his mother-in-law is moving in--tomorrow.”

He even tried elevator shoes, but for some reason they affected his balance and he listed to the left. Harry Simpson, owner of Harry’s Handy-Dandy Hardware where Jackie worked, said.

“Jackie looks like a short version of that Pizza tower in Italy.”

Meanwhile, Jackie decided to take drastic action.

“I’m going to gain weight and do body-building exercises.” He said. He stocked up on meat, cheese, ice cream, and pasta from Hilda’s One-Stop grocery store. He also polished off several donuts at each visit to Carl’s.

“You’re gonna get fat enough to butcher.” said Sheriff Langston, taking a gulp from his own special mug that read “I Kick Ass in Arkansas” on the side.

“Nah,” said Jackie, “the exercise will keep me from that.”

He got an iron rod, which he laid across two beams under his back porch ceiling. He tied two bricks to each shoe, struggled onto a chair, grasped the rod, and then kicked the chair away. He tried to hang from the rod for five minutes each day, sweating and gasping in an effort to increase the strength in his arms. He figured the weight would stretch his body.

He also put some rocks in a gunnysack and tried lifting them off the ground several times a day for added strength, but the exertion only made him tired.

The first thing we noticed was the weight gain. Right before our eyes Jackie turned from a thin, short fellow into fat, short fellow. He decided to increase the number of rocks in the gunnysack.

One day he showed up with the left side of his face swollen and bruised.

“What happened?” asked Myrtle, pouring him a cup of coffee strong enough to strip the Formica off the coffee shop tables.

“I lost my balance and fell over on the gunnysack. “ explained Jackie. “ Those rocks are hard!”

Two days later a concerned Harry came into Carl’s.

“Anybody seen Jackie?”

“No, why?”

“He didn’t show up for work this morning. I been calling his house, but no answer. It aint like Jackie to miss work and not call.”

The Sheriff sighed and put down his coffee cup.

“I knew no good would come of all this eating and exercise nonsense. I better get over there and check on him.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Harry. They climbed in the patrol car and drove away.

We went through three pots of coffee at Carl’s before they pulled back into the gravel parking lot.

“Is he o.k? asked Myrtle.

“Well,” said the Sheriff. “We found him on his back porch. He was lying with his right leg and arm all bent outta shape. He’s so fat now that when he grabbed the rod and kicked the chair away he couldn’t hold himself up there. He fell and landed on a couple of cement blocks he planned to use in his garden. Broke his leg and arm. We took him to the hospital.”

A few days later several of us went to visit Jackie. On the way, Jake said,

“Well, I just hope he’s learned something from this and will get on with his life.”

We entered the hospital room where a contrite and resigned Jackie lay in bed. The left side of his face was swollen and bruised, his right arm was in a sling, and his right leg in traction. The spray had given way and his hair pooled on his head in flat splotches like dabs of melted butter.

Jackie looked at the healthy, whole people standing around his bed, smiled ruefully and said,

“I‘ve learned my lesson.” We all smiled.

“That’s great, Jackie!” said Carl.

“Yup,” Jackie went on. “No more of this self-help stuff. As soon as I get well I’m sending off for ‘Harry the Hunk’s Total Body Building Course!’”


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Lucile McKenzie is an oral historian/writer who has published several historical articles and short stories. Her work has appeared in Powder Burn Flash, Armchair aesthete, Logbook Magazine, Dogwood Tales and others. She enjoys writing flash fiction due to a short attention span.


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