Dorthy LaVern McCarthy, pen name, LaVern Spencer McCarthy, has written and published nine books, five of poetry and four of fiction.
Her work has appeared in Writers and Readers Magazine, Meadowlark Reader, Agape Review, Fenechty Publications Anthologies Of Short Stories, From The Shadows, An Anthology Of Short Stories, Visions International, Fresh Words Magazine and others.She is a life member of The Poetry Society Of Texas and National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Inc.
She resides in Blair Oklahoma where she is currently writing her fifth book of short stories.
Regimen at Mojave Run
The last time Gilbert Duc weighed himself on an industrial scale at the local feedlot he topped out at three-hundred-and-eighty-nine pounds. He was disgusted that he had allowed himself to become that heavy. It was from plain gluttony. Anyone who can eat a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, seven or eight slices of buttered toast and a whole sack of hash browns in one sitting deserves to be fat.
Gilbert could polish off a whole pie all by himself. It was a good thing he was single. Anyone around him would be starved out while Gilbert devoured his or her food.
One day Gilbert saw a commercial on television advertising a weight loss clinic. Results were guaranteed or your money back. Gilbert put the slice of pizza he was gnawing aside as he watched and listened.
On Monday morning he contacted the weight loss clinic. The receptionist made an appointment for him for the following day. It took him over two hours to arrive at Johnson’s Weight Loss Clinic. Gilbert had decided to walk instead of taking a cab. He might as well get started if he was going to diet and exercise.
Halfway to his appointment he heard several small boys laughing as he passed them on the sidewalk. One shouted,
“Hey, mister, your pants are split!” Gilbert managed to feel his behind. Sure enough, his corduroy trousers were ripped all the way down the seam.He could feel his boxer shorts blooming through the hole. Oh, my word, he thought. I should have known these old pants would not hold up. Fortunately, he had spare trousers in a paper sack. He slipped into a convenience store bathroom and changed.
Reaching the clinic, Gilbert was exhausted, hot and sticky. The clinic’s waiting room was not very cool.
“Cheapskates won’t use the AC on such a hot day,” he muttered. Ms. Philpot, the receptionist, gave him a form to fill out stating his name, address, marital status, age, etc. After that, a nurse called him. She took his vitals, and then weighed him on an oversized scale. The scale had a limit of four hundred pounds. Gilbert barely made it.
“Let’s see,” said the nurse. “Your blood pressure is two-twenty over one-hundred. Your weight is three-hundred-and ninety-pounds. You are in danger of death if something is not done.”
“Three ninety!” he squawked. “Just last week it was three eighty-nine. Your scales are wrong.”
“I think not,” answered the nurse. “Those scales were calibrated just last week. Gilbert hated that he had gained another pound. He had thought his exertions to reach the clinic on foot would help him shed a pound or two.
The nurse ushered him into another room where he met the administrator of the clinic, Ms. Hamm. She certainly looked like a ham. Her body was meaty, and her arms were enormous.
She stood from her desk when Gilbert entered, and they shook hands. Gilbert wondered why she did not follow the clinic’s diet plan. Ms. Hamm returned to her seat behind the desk and told Gilbert to sit in the chair in front of it. Gilbert eyed the chair warily.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “That chair has been reinforced to hold our heaviest clients.” Gilbert sat. Ms. Hamm looked at the papers he had brought from the nurse.
“What can we do for you today, Mr. Duc?”
“I want to diet, exercise and lose some weight.”
“You have come to the right place.” She assured him. She shuffled the papers he had brought and studied the information they held.
“We have three diet and exercise plans to offer,” she told him.
“Number one is the Deluxe Package. It costs $375. If you choose number one, you will have an escort all the way through your run. Mr. Picklebriner, one of our employees, will follow alongside you with a Land Rover. We have food stations set up along the course. There are plastic boxes installed on poles with a choice of fattening foods on the left and low-calorie foods on the right. The food is kept cool by battery power. Mr. Picklebriner will gently encourage you to eat the low-calorie foods. Any time you choose, if you should become overheated, or just need rest, you will be allowed to sit in his air-conditioned car. Of course, you must not sit too long, as there is a time limit on your regimen. One minute over your allotted time, and you will be charged double the fee you would ordinarily pay. We have to keep the line moving for those behind you.”
“We have the Elite package priced at $250. Mr. Picklebriner will accompany you with his Land Rover also, but there will be no cool rest for you if you become overheated. He will make sure you stay on course, and if something unforeseen should occur, he will escort you from Mojave Run. Of course, you will have to pay double with this package too if you do not finish the course, or are late finishing it. We have a bright yellow-green line to guide your way as well as Mr. Picklebriner’s presence.”
The third package was Basic at $125.There would be no escort at all. Gilbert would be fitted with a GPS bracelet so that he could be tracked if he became lost. Ms. Hamm informed him that several clients had become lost in the Mojave Desert. There had been too many lawsuits in the past for the company to take a chance on losing anyone else.
Gilbert chose the Basic Package priced at $125. He was on a fixed income and also a cheapskate. He had to sign a disclaimer that the clinic was not responsible for any discomfort incurred on the Run. Ms. Hamm informed him that Mr. Picklebriner would pick him up in the Land Rover at 6:00 a.m. sharp the following morning. That way Gilbert could get an early start and make progress before the day became hot.
He would be given a large canteen of water to take with him. More water would be provided at each station. The six stations were five miles apart. Gilbert had exactly thirty-five hours to complete the run. He was eager to begin. He barely slept that night.
Mr. Picklebriner, a dour old man whose expression made one think he had been eating lemons, picked Gilbert up the next morning, as promised. He used the time while driving Gilbert to his
destination to lecture Gilbert on what should or should not be done.
Gilbert, being advised to wear a hat to protect his bald hat from the sun, wore a ball cap. His sneakers were new and sturdy.
Mr. Picklebriner told him that if he had any heart problems, he should have brought his medication, as this was a rather rough regimen. Gilbert was not worried about any health problems. He wanted to get going.
After Mr. Picklebriner told him not to eat his way through the whole Run, as other people behind him more than likely needed food too, Gilbert was left at the beginning of the Run. The yellow green line stretched as far as he could see. There was no food station at the start, but Gilbert was only a little hungry. It was dawn, but the weather was bearable. He took a big swig of his water and headed into the desert.
The trouble started when he had gone about two-and-one-half miles. He developed a blister on his right heel. The shoes he wore were new, and he had not bothered to check them for comfort. He began to limp. The sun grew warmer. There was no shade anywhere.
He sweated in his armpits. He flapped his arms to freshen his under parts, but there was too much fat there for any relief. His other heel began to burn with a new blister. He could not take his shoes off and walk in his socks since the sand was growing hot.
After what seemed like hours, Gilbert arrived at the first feeding station. He had already used his canteen of water a few miles back. He was thankful to see four new canteens propped against the food station pole. He hobbled toward them. after taking a long, albeit warm, pull from a fresh canteen, Gilbert looked at the food station which stood about four feet high.
Sighing, he looked through the box on the left. It held all kinds of goodies. He saw pizza slices, chocolate cake, and crème pie—all the things a fat person craves.
He looked to the right and saw raw turnips, some kind of shredded meat wrapped in lettuce leaves and rice cakes. Gilbert made a face. Surely the idiots who planned this didn’t expect him to travel on such little nourishment. Nevertheless, he was hungry and devoured some diet food. He left several portions for whoever else might need food. He had been told that some clients went on strength runs and ate the fattening foods to build stamina. He had a sudden vision of some skinny fool racing through the Run and eating all that good food.
Reluctantly he left the first station and continued to follow the yellow-green line. The sun became unbearably hot. He might find shade such as sitting beneath a Joshua tree or perhaps hole up for a while in the shadows of a boulder, but knew he only had a certain amount of time to make this run, lose weight and continue his cheap ways.
By the time Gilbert reached the second station he was beyond caring about a stupid diet plan. The blisters on his heels had broken, leaving him to hobble in agony. He had emptied his canteen miles back, and he was incredibly thirsty. He grabbed a new canteen and gulped half its contents. At this rate water could become scarce. Maybe he could find a water hole somewhere or steal an extra canteen.
He looked at the box of food on the left, with its enticing goodies, then the right. Surely no one would notice if he took just one item from the forbidden box. He looked in all directions, saw
no one watching and raised the lid. And there it sat—the most luscious looking cupcake he had ever seen.
Gilbert removed the treat from the box. As he opened his mouth to take a bite, a scorpion crawled from beneath the cupcake and stung him on his lower lip. He dropped the cupcake. It landed upside down on the ground.
At first, Gilbert was in too much agony to howl, but eventually he did. He howled because of the injustice. He bellowed about his predicament. Didn’t those people know a person could die out here? Yes, they did, he answered himself
Even though he had signed a disclaimer not to hold the diet company responsible if things went wrong, Gilbert promised himself that when or if he survived this horrible excuse for a diet program, he was going to the authorities, the media and anyone else who would listen. He would make sure everyone knew about this travesty.
At last, the scorpion sting became a dull throb. Gilbert’s lip, when he touched it, felt as big as an apple. My allergies have kicked in, he decided. He left the second station without eating anything. He wondered how many miles he had already gone.
The sun beat down cruelly. By the time Gilbert reached the third station he could barely move. He needed food to keep going. Even if he ate all of it at the next station, he felt he might collapse. He chastised himself for being stupid. He wanted to lose weight, but not like this.
It took twice as long to reach the fourth station as it did to reach the third. When he got there, Gilbert looked wearily at the food. The right box held the same old junk, but—was that a slice of lemon meringue pie in the other box? Gilbert looked closer. It certainly looked like meringue pie. He drooled. Ignoring the other goodies, he raised the box lid.
A whirl of hot wind knocked him sideways. The pie sailed away. Gilbert found himself being sun-blasted. The sandstorm pushed him several feet into a stand of prickly pear cactus. His cap disappeared. All he could do was lie there until the storm had passed and then try to pick the cactus needles from his flesh. His body felt violated and raw. His inner thighs were chafed from sweat and heat.
He wondered if there would be an end to this nightmare. He began to blubber salty tears. He finally decided to keep going. He had given up on finishing his ordeal in time. It would be fine with him if he made it through the desert without succumbing.
It was late afternoon when Gilbert reached the fourth feeding station. He cast dull eyes on the contents of the two boxes. The box on the right held radishes, carrot and celery sticks and another despised rice cake.
Gilbert decided to try for the box of forbidden goodies again. He felt the sandstorm and scorpion had been flukes. He raised the lid of the left box and grabbed a handful of chocolate chip cookies and potato chips. He opened his mouth and crammed the entire mess in.
A giant shadow blocked the sun as he munched. A vulture flapped its wings and sat on his right shoulder. It pecked his bald, sunburned head. Gilbert grabbed his head, and the vulture pecked his hands. Blood ran down the sides of Gilbert’s head.
He fought his attacker off the best he could. It did not leave until Gilbert’s scalp was nearly pulverized. He crawled to a low place beneath a bush and lay down.
Night arrived as he lay there, and it began to grow cold. Gilbert chastised himself for not bringing a blanket. All he could do was wrap his arms around himself and endure. Perhaps his fat would keep him warm.
Gilbert was snoring when the coyotes appeared. He had heard them earlier before he had fallen into a troubled sleep. The coyotes formed a moving, silent circle around him. He awoke to see their eyes glinting in the moonlight.
“Don’t worry,” he told them. “I don’t want that old food you are guarding.” I know you were sent to make sure I starve to death.” The coyotes sat watching. When he awoke next morning, they were gone.
Gilbert arose from his sleeping place faster than he thought possible. He had wondered what that strange sensation was that surrounded his body as he slept. He was horrified to find that several desert rattlesnakes had coiled themselves around him for warmth from the night’s chill. He slung one off his neck and staggered backward. The disturbed snakes began rattling. Gilbert slowly limped away, thankful to be unbitten.
As the sun rose, and the day’s heat began to build, Gilbert lost all hope of escaping this personal hell. His heels shot streaks of fire. His burned, pecked head made him wish for a shot of morphine. He itched all over. Sand fleas must have been at work on him as he slept.
He had never been so hungry in his life. He hobbled to the feeding station and greedily ate the low-calorie food. After eating, he stumbled away. About a mile from station four Gilbert
realized he could never finish this nightmare some sadist had dreamed up to punish fat people. He holed up beneath a creosote tree. He had taken all the extra canteens at station three. If someone came along behind him and there was no water, that was just tough!
Gilbert felt that Picklebriner would eventually show up to take him out of Hades. Gilbert lay beneath the bush, scratched and drank water.
Around dawn the following day he heard a familiar sound, the whine of a motor. The Land Rover came into view. He stopped the vehicle beside Gilbert, got out and looked at him. Gilbert’s gaze was baleful.
“I see you must be having a problem,” Picklebriner told Gilbert.
“Take me to the emergency room!” Gilbert demanded.
“I will. Get in the car.”
“I can’t,” Gilbert whined. Picklebriner walked closer and looked down at him.
“Why can’t you get up?” he inquired.
“Because I don’t want to,” Gilbert wailed. Picklebriner returned to his vehicle and spoke on the car phone.
“Please send transportation to mile seventeen of Mojave Run” He put the squawking radio into its receiver. Thirty minutes later they heard the growl of a motor and a front loader appeared.
With Gilbert protesting and cursing, the driver of the front loader scooped him up with the bucket, taking a substantial chunk of his behind as it did so. Gilbert’s screams were drowned by the front loader’s motor. After a bumpy, painful ride, Gilbert was dumped to the
sidewalk in front of the diet clinic. He managed to stand, somehow. His entire backside looked as though a bull had gored it.
Ms. Hamm saw him through the clinic window and hurried out to meet him.
“What happened to you?” she gasped.
“Call the EMTS, he replied.
“I will,” she promised,” but let’s weigh you first.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the clinic.
“Oh, my,” she gushed, “you’ve lost forty-five pounds.!”
“Would you like to try our diet and exercise plan again?” Maybe today?”
“No, thanks,” he answered. “I said I wanted to diet, not DIE!”