Fat Man

by John Holland

“There’s a fat man in the bath tub,” I call out. 

She appears from the bedroom in her dark blue dressing gown. 

“You’re home,” she says. 

“Who’s the guy in there? How did he get here?” I say. 

“Not sure,” she says. 

“Well, did he just wander off the streets into our bathroom or do you know him?” 

“Something like that,” she says. 

There’s a call from the bathroom. “Can I have a towel?” 

We look at each other. 

“I’ll take him one,” she says. 

“No, you won’t—he’s naked.” I say. “And very unsightly.” 

I grab a towel from the banister. Hand it to him in the bath. He says thanks. 

“Who are you?” I ask. 

“I might ask you the same,” he says. 

I can feel my face turning red. “I live here. This is my home.” 

“I see,” he says. “I picked up that woman who lives here. You know, June or Julie or whatever. The one that says she’s an actress. In the Cross Keys.” 

“Do you mean my wife, Juniper?” 

There’s a pause. 

“No, I don’t think so,” he stutters, and stands with a Niagara of water flowing from his bloated, pink body. “I’m going now,” he says. 

I leave the bathroom. 

Juniper is still on the landing. She has the face of a pensioner sucking a mint. 

“He was in the pub, and I kind of felt sorry for him. Said he was down on his luck.” 

“What? How often do you do this kind of thing?” 

“Well,” she says rolling her mouth round the word, prolonging the time before her answer emerges. “Occasionally.” 

I can barely take it in. 

“Is it always a fat man?” 

“Of course not!” 

“He said he picked you up. What else happened besides the bath?” 

Looking down, she shakes her head. 

The bathroom door opens. Dressed in grubby combats, his dark hair lank and dripping, he pushes himself through the bathroom door, passes us without looking, his bulk pressing against my arm as he squeezes by. We watch him walk down the stairs and out the door, closing it quietly behind him. 

“Anyone else here? In the spare room perhaps, or in the cupboard under the sink?” 

She doesn’t answer. Walks towards the bathroom. I follow her. 

The bath is half full of rusty-brown water, frothy coffee-coloured scum crawling up the sides. There’s a sickly, musty smell. 

“I told him not to empty it,” she says, dropping her dressing gown and stepping into the water.

John Holland is a prize-winning UK short fiction writer from Gloucestershire. He’s also the organiser of the twice-yearly short story event Stroud Short Stories. www.johnhollandwrites.com
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