But Such a Pretty Face

by Dee Nelson

When Margie goes on her smoke break I open the rotating pie case, breathing in tart and meringue and cinnamon, and I run my hands down my apron and across my withered stomach, over the ridges of my jutting pelvis, and sink them between my narrowed thighs. 

Margie’s gone by 10, and then it’s just me and Viktor, who sweats over the grill while he chars burger patties and chicken fingers for a few phoned-in orders. A couple frat boys with cocked ball caps stagger in and order some potato and onion  and cheese with their deep-fried grease. They stumble through their flirtation with me, and the girl with them sways too much in her seat to notice. I swoop my narrowed hips around the counter as I deliver their calorie-laden platefuls, and I scowl at the bulging spare tire barely contained under the drunk girl’s spaghetti strap top.

By midnight, after he’s scraped the grill clean, Viktor makes another heavily-accented advance at me, as he’s always done, only now he tells me I’m so pretty instead of I’d be so pretty if…

I run my hands down my willowy sides and smile at him and tell him he’d better get home to his pregnant wife. Better rub her swollen feet, stop off at the Safeway first for pickles and ice cream.

He grumbles under his breath in Russian and the bell jangles; a minute later his Volkwagen strains and finally turns over.

I hit the switch and kill the overhead fluorescence, and the rotating display case glows like the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m floating toward it, but then in the run-off gleam I can see, hung on the wall, the employee softball photo from two summers ago. We’re all in game poses and there I am, cute dimpled cheeks and pretty eyes, but otherwise tented in the strained seams of a double-XL Southside Grille team T-shirt, my fingers like sausage links wrapped around an aluminum bat even though I was too fat to run the bases and only twice stepped to the plate, instead spending the season faking injury or illness on the bench, guzzling PBRs and plowing through peanuts and sunflower seeds and black licorice ropes.

So I pluck the photo off its nail and set it face-down on the tile. I carefully remove a cherry and a blackberry and a key lime and a banana crème. I lower all the blinds and slide into the booth, a place where once I could barely fit but now can look down at a cavernous space between my concave stomach and the table’s edge.

I don’t even taste the first one, the cherry. It’s gone before I have a single thought, and I exist outside of time; I am mouth and I am tongue and I am stomach and I am nothing more. I lick my fingers clean and devour the key lime, thoughts trickling in again as I feel my stomach swell up; looking down I can see a tiny pooch pressing against the apron. I scoop and stuff and barely chew and swallow. I am an inflating balloon.

Gathering up the hollowed out tins, I stagger into the kitchen as though drugged and I scour the tins clean. I deposit all my tips into the till and I walk into the bathroom and examine my profile in the mirror. Such a pretty face. I rub my swollen gut and feel a moment’s contentment, like an expectant mother.  And then it all turns, the crust and crème and berry filling pressing at my insides, within me a parasite engorging.

But I now know to abort this spawn. I rush to the stall, shove three fingers down my throat, and paint the porcelain with an acrid rainbow.


Dee Nelson can no longer fit into her favorite pair of jeans. She’s OK with this.
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