January 19, 2008


There was a full-length mirror in the guest bathroom, and Andre Meyer stood in front of it without his shirt on. This wasn’t the sort of thing he usually did, of course, but this morning, as he pulled off the black t-shirt he used as a pajama top (just before putting on the black t-shirt he was going to wear that day), he’d happened to glance down at his chest and saw something surprising, something he’d wanted to check out in detail.

Andre stared at his gut. He took off his glasses and rubbed them on one of the guest towels and put them back on. It was no good: his belly was definitely getting bigger. Though his arms and legs were thin, Andre’s belly had been round and hard since before kindergarten. But now, as he looked at himself in the mirror, he realized that the fat had grown soft and was starting to droop down over the button of his black jeans. His baby fat was becoming adult fat.

There was a noise upstairs. Andre cocked his head and listened, even though he knew what he was going to hear: his dad shuffling from the bedroom to the bathroom, then to the kitchen, then back to the bedroom. Andre had left out a muffin and a few paperback science fiction novels; he guessed his dad found them. There wasn’t any more noise upstairs, and Andre went back to the examination of his belly.

For as long as Andre could remember, he’d been a little…well, not fat, really. And certainly not obese. Just chubby. Well-rounded. Voluptuous, even. But now, Jesus, even his A-cups seemed to have grown. Having passed up Josephine Brooks sometime last year, he wondered with a shudder if his chest was approaching Lillian’s yet.

Andre was just getting around to looking at his hairline when his cell phone beeped three times in his room. Suddenly there was a noise upstairs and Andre froze, listening. His father must have sat down heavily on the side of the bed or something, because there wasn’t another sound. Finally, Andre heard, or imagined he heard, the springs of his father’s mattress creak under his reclining weight. Andre pictured him upstairs, hair fuzzy from sleep, his glasses just a bit crooked, a Star Trek novel in one paw. He would be fighting with a pillow, trying to plump it up, already sweating and out-of-breath from the effort. The glass on the nightstand would be polka-dotted with condensation.

The text message just said “Call me – Robert” which Andre admired as a classic Robert move. It may have been minor, but the meaning was clear: Robert didn’t have to call you; you had to call Robert. Andre had been friends with him for over ten years, though, and it made him chuckle more than anything else. He started to call him back, then hung up quickly. Self-consciously, even laughing at himself a little, he put his shirt on. It would have been weird to talk to Robert while shirtless.

The phone rang ten or fifteen times. Andre assumed he was getting voicemail, but finally someone picked up. “This is Robert.”

Andre looked at the phone, then put it back to his ear. “Hello?”

“This is Robert.”


“Andre?” Robert said.

“That’s how you answer the phone now? ‘This is Robert?’”

Robert sighed. “I’m trying it out. A trial run.”

“Well, it sounds a bit douchey.”

“Noted. We’re meeting-”

Alexander sat down heavily behind his computer. “You know, Alexander Graham Bell never said ‘hello’ on the phone.”


“You know what he said? He said, ‘ahoy, ahoy.’ You should try that one.”

“I’ll take it under consideration. We’re meeting at David’s tonight.”

“What about?”

“About seven o’clock.”

“No, I meant-”

“I know what you meant.” (To us eavesdroppers, this makes Robert sound like kind of a dick. But the two of them have been best friends since grade school and had fallen into this well-worn routine years ago.) “We’re meeting because the twins left today.”

“Really? Today? I thought they were leaving…I don’t know, later.” Andre looked down at his socks. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

“I don’t think any of us did,” Robert said, his voice a bit softer.

Neither of them said anything for a second. An instant message popped up on Andre’s computer. It was just this guy he knew from another school, inviting him to play Scrabble online. Andre closed the window.

“So…seven o’clock?” Andre asked.

“Seven it is. Oh, and I don’t suppose you could call Josephine, could you? I’m terribly busy over here.”

“You asshole.”

“What? I can’t hear you. I get such terrible reception in the pantry…”

“You can hear me, you conniving fuck. Did your girlfriend put you up to this?” Andre asked. Suddenly, Robert began spitting and hissing into the phone. “What the…? Are you beatboxing?

A few seconds later, the sound stopped. “It was supposed to be static.”

“I’d work on that, if I were you.”


“Sure, I’ll see you at seven.”

“And call Josephine.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Andre said, and hung up. Then he said it again to himself: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

He looked around his room, at the clothes on the floor and the open pizza box on the dresser. It wasn’t quite a disaster, but it was getting there. Things were just out of place. He knew that upstairs was ten times worse, and his aunt would be there in exactly a week on her inspection tour. He’d have to spend at least that long getting everything in order before she got there, to prove to her that he had everything under control.

And now the twins were gone.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he muttered, dialing Josephine.