Tabby had reached her limit. She had put up with Brad's stupidity for long enough and then some. The argument sounded like the final blows of a blacksmith's hammmer; the ending strokes to shape the work, not the heavy blows that began the task of forming.
For his part, Brad hardly cared any more one way or the other. He had withdrawn into his own universe, one which no longer included his wife as a celestial object of any import.
The relationship had been conventional enough. Brad and Tabitha had been attracted, started dating, became engaged, and married just like most of their contemporaries. They had been absorbed in each other, investigating the mysteries of the opposite sex. It had been an enjoyable exploration.
The problem had arisen when Brad's business had failed. He had inherited the business, a travel agency, from his father. He had worked in the business for years though not in an inspired fashion. The travel agency business had undergone a sea change with the advent of the internet. Now instead of relying on the services of an agency hordes of travelers booked their own travel online. The change was price driven in large part and people would take the risks of booking their own travel to save a few dollars. It didn't matter that a seasoned agent could help forestall many travel disasters, offer sound advice, and become an advocate for their clients. The dollar rules, and people had adopted a 'Wal-Mart' philosophy, throwing what they considered frills overboard.
Brad had taken the failure badly. He had also failed to change with the times. It took hustle to survive in the brave new world of travel, and Brad wasn't much of a hustler. He stayed with the status quo until it was too late. The business that had once been like a vine that produced money had become a wizened bunch of grapes, then dried into raisins. As the money slowed, the strife increased. It wasn't that Tabby was money driven, but with the flow of money drying up so had Brad's emotional flow. It became a struggle trying to stay involved in the relationship. It still took two to tango and Brad was thrown out his dancing shoes and planted himself on the sofa. The sofa and the TV with its attendant remote had become Brad's best buddies. That and the kitchen, another source of increased interest to her husband. The business had starved and Brad had ballooned. He had gone from the 180 lb. man of her dreams to a frumpy and lumpy 295 lbs. in the last year. The flow of food into his mouth was like the Amazon River, never ceasing in its inexorable current.
This was it for her, one last attempt to get him to realize the cost of his neglect. She wouldn't divorce and ask for any money or any of the other assets they still owned. Brad had owned the home when they met and he was welcome to it. What she wanted was a life and if she couldn't have it with Brad, then so be it. She would have a life, not be a support unit for an ever increasing appetite.
"Brad, we have to talk." Her opening was direct, no beating around the bush.
"Why? What is there to say? Hey, is there any of that roast beef left from dinner? How about making me a sandwich?"
"You don't need a sandwich, Brad. You need a therapist, someone to get through to you. I've tried and I've failed. I'm tired, Brad. Tired of this marriage, tired of never having any fun. What happened to you? What happened to us? I don't want to live like this anymore, Brad. I just can't. I love you, you know that. I need a husband, Brad."
"Yeah? Well, if you love me so much, where's that sandwich?"
"That's it, Brad. I know when I'm banging my head against a wall. I'm beat, and you win. I'll have my stuff out of your way in just a little bit. I wouldn't want you to have to walk around my things on your way to the kitchen."
"Hey, Tabs, is there anything else you want to bitch about while you're on a roll?
"No Brad, I don't have anything else to say to you. Nothing at all."
Tabitha walked away and began assembling the things she wanted to take. The list wasn't very long and she'd rehearsed it in her mind for several days. She worked efficiently, methodically, a woman on a mission. She created a small mountain of possessions, then moved the mountain to her car. When she was finished she took a last look about the apartment she had shared with her husband. He had changed the channel to 'Bridezillas'. He was probably trying to make a final point.
"Way to go, stud. I just love your passive aggressive crap, too. My attorney will be in touch."
She walked out, pulled the door closed behind her, got in the car and drove away. She accomplished her escape completely dry eyed. She was quite proud of herself for not becoming emotional. She realized her love was more of a memory, a concept, akin to the trigonometry she'd taken in school. It was something she had once been involved with but now had scant use for. Maybe Brad had eaten it. God knew, he had eaten everything else.
Brad settled in a little deeper om the sofa.
"Good, now maybe I can watch some tube in peace."
Ricky Ricardo was telling his wife "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!" Brad didn't have any need for 'splainin'. He heaved himself up from the sofa and made a kitchen run.
On the way to the kitchen he was hit by inspiration. If he moved everything into the living room he wouldn't have to get up, except for the necessary trips to the bathroom. He could cut down on the travel considerably. "Travel, my big behind."
He got the chips and snacks all set up on the coffee table then lugged a small efficiency fridge from the basement. He was wheezing like an accordion when he got through. His last task was to move the perishables from the big kitchen fridge to the new and more intimately convenient location. He rewarded himself by making a huge submarine sandwich from a whole loaf of Italian bread and the left over roast beef. He washed it down with a cold beer. He had filled all the odd nooks with his favorite adult beverage and put a good supply alongside. He could rotate warm bodies into the fridge as the cold ones were consumed.
Brad spent the rest of that day watching the TV and eating, the later in a rather unthinking manner. His hand traveled like a steam shovel moving fill into a pit. He took in thousands of calories and had little memory of the act.
Next morning Brad awoke on the sofa. He had drifted off while watching a late horror flick. He loved horror movies, the grosser the better.
Brad felt a discomfort down below his abdomen. The crease where his legs joined his body were sore. He rubbed them but got little relief, and that only temporary. He distracted himself with a jar of salsa and a bag of tortilla chips. Finishing them off with a grunt, Brad settled down for another little nap to bolster his energy.
He awoke with a burning pain down below. As he tried to sit up, get into position to survey whatever damage must exist, he felt something wet down there. Looking down, he saw his right leg had separated from his trunk. Lurching in surprise caused its companion to part company with his body. Strangely he felt relief with the seperation rather than the expected agonizing pain.
Brad paused, trying to think of a plan of action. Then he started to giggle, his folds and flab jiggling at the idea of 'action', sitting there with no legs.
"Man, this is too much!"
Tears started to stream down his full cheeks. The tears tasted starchy instead of the expected salt taste.
"Well hell, when in doubt have a snack!"
Brad ripped into a Slim Jim. Actually, he ripped into six of them and had another beer. He belched contentedly and picked up the remote, forgetting his legs entirely.
During the commercials Brad noticed another change. His skin was darker, not the pasty indoor shade he'd become accustomed to in the last several months. He remembered that Tabby had gotten on his case about that too, calling him a slab of sushi. He thought it was a shame he didn't have any sushi within reach.
His skin was darkening as he watched and becoming rough. He felt something lumpy under his tee shirt and absently reached underneath to inspect this new revelation. It was a growth of some sort, feeling fleshy and firm, extending a couple inches from his darkened skin. He scratched at it absently and it broke off, leaking a thin whitish ichor from the stump. There was no pain despite the obvious damage done by his scratching. He located several others and scratched them too, breaking them off in the process.
He dropped the remote in the floor and tried to retrieve it but failed in the attempt. He almost made it but was interrupted by the sight of his arm breaking away at the shoulder. Brad managed to right himself and reached to get a beer. Everything would look bettter after a frosty long neck. His other arm seperated from the shoulder under its own weight.
"Where there's a will, there's a way, stud." Brad shifted himself, lying down over the arm of the sofa and snuffled through the available snacks. He got a few mouthfuls but gave it up as too much work. he gave one final lurch and righted himself. On the TV he saw Paula Dean frying catfish in a corn meal coating.
"That looks good, Paula. Where have you been all my life?"
His perspective changed, noticing Paula getting taller. No, wrong idea, she wasn't getting taller, he was getting shorter. His neck had simply folded and stopped supporting his head. His large fleshy head settled into his shoulders like a turtle pulling his head into his shell. He lost sight of Paula as his eyes were covered by his flesh, his entire head settling downward.
It was four days later when the apartment management called the police. The other tenants had called, complaining of a particularly foul stench emanating from the apartment. It didn't smell like rotting flesh though. It smelled like a huge sack of rotten potatoes.
Upon entering the apartment the apartment manager and the police were almost overcome by the smell. Everyone gagged at the overpowering pervasive odor.
Looking through the apartment for occupants proved a fruitless pursuit. The source of the smell was obvious though. On the sofa sitting amidst a debris field of empty bottles and food wrappers was a huge rotting potato. The smell was unmistakeably that of decaying tuber. The potato in question had turned black, a vile fluid leaking into the fabric of the sofa. No one had ever seen a potato that size before. The neighbors would be glad to have that mess carted away, the room cleansed and deodorized.
The apartment manager left after finding no sign of foul play. His next move was to see if he had an alternate address for the tenants. They were going to be the pleased recipient of a sizable cleaning invoice to set things right.
"As for the deposit, you can kiss that baby goodbye. God, I may never eat french fries again."
The Night's Plutonian Shore: 2007 Halloween Horrorquest