Permanent link to this page

Bookmark and Share

Seen and Not Seen


Lemondie LaRue was a pale and slight man.  For thirty-nine years, he walked through the world wearing a plain oval face; he was difficult to see. Inside his cubicle, his phone rarely rang. His bosses called him Jenkins or Smith. Lemondie got mad, and took longer lunches. He ate all the company snacks. As he packed on the pounds, he bulged from his pants, pushing around his clothes and his life.

Gently, at home, his wife held his hand, and searched for the thin man inside. As it turned out, he liked being a fat man.  It gave him a purpose in life. When an elevator stopped and the doors slid apart, people stepped aside to give him berth. During long meetings, he began to speak up. He shared insights that no one else had. When the secretary walked by, he’d shout, “Three sugars, double cream,” even if his coffee cup was full.

A couple years later, thin wisps of brown hair started nesting in clumps in his comb. In front of the mirror, he discovered his round head, with smooth pure skin stretched tight across his skull.  Not every head was as perfect as this. Not all men were meant to be bald. But this man was, Lemondie LaRue. His life began at 42. 

Then one day, Lemondie came home and saw his wife had cooked a roast and mashed potatoes. This dinner was Lemondie’ favorite, but she rationed it now, tucked between meals without gravy.  As he sat down, Lemondie spied a plate filled with broccoli, and a bowlful of salad on the table.

“Lemondie,” she said, holding her fork. She spoke in her sweetest dinner
voice. “I went to the doctor. He says we can’t wait. We’re at the end of our childbearing years.”

Lemondie stabbed a slice of roast and shoved it in his mouth.

“Are you ready?” she asked. “Should we try?”

Lemondie thought the question was too late. The time to have kids was when you’re malleable yourself. Once you were minted and stuck in your ways, there was no room for tiny fresh lives.

His wife asked again.

LaRue didn’t look up. His old life had never left him at home. His wife still saw him with a full head of hair and his skinny arms wrapped around her waist.

Lemondie’ wife kept asking once a week over roast. He smiled without saying a word. Then one day he saw beef without broccoli. The salad was nowhere in sight.

“I have news,” she said. “We’re expecting.”

“That’s great,” Lemondie said, trying to smile. More than anything in the world, he wanted to make his wife happy. So he bought her a blue minivan.

The baby was born – far, bald and red, squalling demands from the start.

Lemondie held his son and smiled. “Fat like me.”

His wife and the doctor said that would soon change, but Lemondie hoped he was a fat boy for life. He grew quiet as the boy learned to walk and his baby fat melted away. His wife brought home charts to track their son’ growth, but Lemondie never checked on the progress. Each night he lay awake and stared at the ceiling, worrying that his boy would become average. Lemondie feared the day his son would walk out of the house, step into a crowd and disappear.

Patti Jazanoski's fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Opium Magazine, Ghoti and elsewhere. She's currently at work on a collection of short stories.