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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: Fat and Thin
By Gregory Kane


Isabela took an immediate dislike to the girl. Her hair was too short, her nose too pointed, her lips too narrow, and as for her waist – Isabela had seen egg-timers with more flesh on them than this emaciated excuse for a woman. Roberto had said much the same thing. After the first boisterous exchange of hugs and kisses, he had confided to Isabela in a whisper that it felt like he was embracing a garden rake. “There isn’t enough meat on those bones,” he opined, slapping his wife affectionately on her ample behind. “A man needs something to grab on to!”

Tomé of course was oblivious to his parents’ grunts of disapproval. As far as he was concerned, Helen was as beautiful as her mythical namesake, whose loveliness had launched a thousand ships and inspired the epics of Homer and Virgil. Were he a poet, Tomé would have laboured long and hard to write verse worthy of his betrothed. Instead his meagre contribution to the world of romantic literature consisted of a handful of flowery posts on blogspot.com

Isabela cared neither for long-dead poets nor for the banalities of the Internet. She saw herself as a down-to-earth wife and mother who understood a woman’s role in society. Wives should keep their husbands fat and contented with good home-cooking. They should also provide them with healthy, chubby offspring (preferably sons) every second year or so. But Isabela had serious doubts about Helen’s ability to bear her precious Tomé a son and heir – how could such narrow hips open wide enough to let a baby through? And even if the child did manage to squeeze and shuffle its way out, there was no way that such scrawny breasts could possibly produce enough milk to feed a hungry baby.

The solution was obvious: Helen needed to be fattened up before the wedding. But her future daughter-in-law had disgusting, modern ideas about what she and Tomé should eat. Cakes were to be consumed only on weekends. Meat was similarly rationed to twice a week. Isabela bought a new bottle of cooking oil every Thursday whereas Helen made hers last the whole month. It was obvious that the weight was falling off Tomé but the love-sick fool was too distracted even to notice. On the occasions when she condescended to dine at Isabella’s, the little sparrow would push her plate away after only a few mouthfuls. The situation was even worse in reverse, with Roberto insisting on eating a hearty meal at home before they even got to Helen’s.

“For better, for worse … in sickness and in health.” The priest intoned the words but Isabela found them laughable. What hope did her son have of being happy? He would be condemned to a life of near starvation, prey to every passing cough and sniffle. How Isabela had tried to persuade him. She had lovingly pointed out Helen’s many faults and urged Tomé to look for a hardier woman. But her words had fallen on deaf ears. After one particularly noisy squabble at an expensive restaurant, Helen had stormed out, vowing never to speak with her future mother-in-law again. And, rather than give his parents the filial respect they deserved, Tomé had charged off after her.

It was an ending and a beginning that finally brought reconciliation. Roberto collapsed one day at work. Death was instantaneous, the result of a massive heart attack. The doctor took one look at Isabela’s well-rounded figure and told her that she could do with losing a few pounds. The regrets and sadness of the funeral were offset by the arrival of Luís Roberto São Paulo. It was a penitent Isabela who attended her daughter-in-law’s bedside and gathered up her grandson into her arms. The boy had weighed in at 8 pounds 5 ounces after a mere five hours of labour and Helen hadn’t needed any medical intervention.

By the time a second grandchild was well on his or her way, Isabela was a shadow of her former self. Cooking for one, the meals had become less elaborate and it hadn’t proved that difficult to drop a few pounds here and there. What’s more, she couldn’t help but notice – although she had finally learned to keep her opinions to herself – that her beautiful daughter-in-law was growing plumper by the day. The demands of motherhood made for a more pragmatic approach to cuisine.

Now all Isabela had to do was find a suitable wife for her other son, Mário.

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This article has been read 722 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
I enjoyed this delightful story of an Italian mother-in-law.
Kristen Hester05/17/08
This is cute. It was nice to see the transition. I'm glad they ended up as friends.
Joanne Sher 05/17/08
I love love LOVE the voice of this! This was an absolutely enjoyable piece, with such a fun transformation, slow though it was. Delightful.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/17/08
I can relate to this more than I would like to! If this was fiction for the author, you sure fooled me. Great job of telling an age-old story ... which is why my brother is still single at 56.
Lynda Schultz 05/19/08
Given time, and opportunity, all kinds of opinions can be changed. Great story.
Joanne Sher 05/23/08
Congratulations, Gregory, on placing 35th overall. Great job!
Joanne Sher 05/23/08
Congratulations, Gregory, on placing 35th overall. Great job!
Cheri Hardaway 05/27/08
"On the occasions when she condescended to dine at Isabella’s, the little sparrow would push her plate away after only a few mouthfuls." - I loved this line. Great description.

I also loved how how you painted such a real picture of how obtuse the mother-in-law was ("rather than give his parents the filial respect they deserved, Tomé had charged off after her.") and then how she changed.

Though it took a great loss in Isabela's life to trigger her change of heart, that's what made the piece believable - often God has to really get our attention before He can help us to grow.

Nice work, Cheri