Herman Schramm is what you would call a big man. Not in stature, but girth. Herman weighs 479 pounds without his sensible shoes on; you know the ones that offer good arch support. Those add at least six pounds to the scale. Fully undressed, he’d probably top off at around 475, but being naked was something Herman tries to avoid. Not because he’s ashamed of his body, but because Herman gets winded easily and taking his clothes off makes him wheeze something awful. Most times, he has his wife, Claire, dress him.
Claire Schramm is a saintly woman for taking care of Herman as she does. She’s his primary caretaker and does a terrific job. She turns him in bed when Herman needs it. She calls it “flipping the pancake.” Claire also has a lovely sense of humor, bless her heart. Claire does everything for Herman, including feed him anything he asks for. Claire knows she’s enabling Herman’s weight, but she just loves him so much and doesn’t want to deprive him of what he wants.
But like most people, Claire has her limits. Claire reached hers when Herman got to 450 pounds. He simply became too heavy for her to do things for. She was mad at him for being so obese, but also mad at herself for letting him get that way.
Today is Thursday and that means it’s pizza for dinner. Herman insists upon the same thing for dinner every week. Monday: meatloaf, cheesy mashed potatoes, broccoli and rice casserole, and a two liter bottle of orange pop. Tuesday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes with white gravy, macaroni and cheese, and a two liter of grape pop. Wednesday: hot roast beef sandwiches, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, baked beans with bacon, and a two liter of Coke. Thursday: two large meat lovers pizza, cheesy bread sticks, a dozen barbecue chicken wings, and a two liter of ginger ale. Friday: chicken burritos, refried beans, Spanish rice, tacos, and a two liter of Coke. Saturday: spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic cheese bread, fettucine alfredo, and a two liter of Mountain Dew. Sunday: roast turkey, baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, and Cheez Whiz, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a two liter of strawberry pop. Repeat weekly.
Earlier that day, Claire and Herman got into a little squabble about his weight. These spats have been occurring more often.
“Herman! Did you eat that cheesecake I made? That was for my bridge club ladies!” Claire cries from the kitchen. She spent all morning making a picture perfect cheesecake–not a crack in it!–and is about to garnish it with the fresh raspberries she got from the farmer’s market, but when she went into the fridge to get it, it is gone.
“I’m sorry, pumpkin. I couldn’t help it. It looked so dang good! If it makes you feel better, it was delicious. You’re a wonderful baker, my sweet,” Herman coos at his upset wife. Claire stands above him now as he sits in his Lay-Z-Boy recliner, her hands planted firmly on her hips. She sees crumbs from the graham cracker crust she crushed up by hand on his massive belly and her eyes well with tears.
“Oh, Hermie! I’m supposed to meet the girls in two hours and that isn’t enough time to bake another one!” Claire is near hysterics. Her bottom lip quivers and tears spill down her plump, pink cheeks.
“Honey pie, I’m so sorry. What can I do to make it up to you? I’ll do anything!” Herman says, trying to soothe her. “How about this? Since it was my own dumb fault, I’ll go to the store and pick up a nice cake for you to take, hmm? How about that? And the pizza place is right next door, so I’ll pick up dinner while I’m out, too. Claire, my angel, is that what you want me to do?” Herman is desperate to please his wife.
Claire stares down at Herman in his chair. He rarely leaves that spot, or the house, for that matter, but his offering to go do those things for her means he really does care and feels bad about eating the dessert.
“After today, we’re making a huge change, Herman Schramm. You’re going to start eating better, do you hear me? All of this food is going to kill you! I don’t want to be a widow at age 60! As for getting a new dessert…if you feel you’re up for it and can handle the adventure, I suppose that would be lovely. Thank you, sweetie.”
“Of course, my darling. Whatever you say. I just want to make you happy. If you’ll help me with my shoes, I’ll go out for you.”
Claire fetchs Herman’s sensible arch support shoes and jams them on his swollen feet and adjusts the velcro straps. She stands up and grabs both of Herman’s giant ham hands and helps heave him up from the chair, both of them red-faced and puffing at the exertion. Claire lets go of him and stumbles backwards onto the coffee table and sits down with a surprised “ooft!” Herman grabs his cane and slowly walks to help her up. Claire hugs him tightly, trying to wrap her arms around her husband, but she only got about halfway around.
“I love you, Herman Schramm. Please be careful. Oh, goodness, I’m so nervous letting you out alone!” Claire clucks.
“Don’t you worry, my turtledove. I’ll be just fine. I’ll only get one pizza today to prove to you I’m up for the change. And no chicken wings…well, maybe a few. Let’s not get too carried away just yet,” he chuckles. And with that, Herman makes his way to the front door, down the handicap ramp to the driveway, and climbs slowly into their mini van. Herman’s belly presses up firmly against the steering wheel, but he is in. Claire stands in the picture window in the living room and waves at Herman. He salutes her in return and backs slowly out of the drive on to the street.
On his way to the grocery store, Herman calls the pizza place from his cell phone and places his order. They know him by name and say they’ll have everything ready in thirty minutes or less, guaranteed, Herman.
He pulls into the parking lot and finds a space near the front, lucky him. He struggles a bit getting out, but he makes it and walks into the store. He finds one of those motorized scooters and shuttles off to the bakery, looking to find the perfect cake for his perfect bride. Herman stares at the rows of assorted cakes: white, chocolate, marble, German chocolate, carrot, lemon with raspberry ganache…he eyeballs them all carefully and decides on the lemon and places it carefully into the basket on the front of the scooter. He buzzes to the floral section and picks up a bouquet of fresh pink daisies, Claire’s favorite. Proud of himself, he scoots through the check out line and pays for his items.
“Looks like someone’s going to be a lucky woman,” the cashier says as she waits for Herman to slide his credit card through the machine.
“I’m the lucky one, miss,” says Herman and he winks at her. “Say, I have a question for you. I ordered a pizza next door; do you mind terribly if I borrow this here hot rod to pick it up? It’d save me a trip.”
“Certainly! Not a problem at all, sir.”
“Excellent. Thank you, miss. And have a good night.”
Herman zooms out the sliding doors of the market and makes his way down the sidewalk to the pizza place. A college guy is coming out as Herman approaches and holds the door open for him. Herman is greeted much like Norm from Cheers was, with an enthusiastic “Herman!” from all the workers behind the counter and kitchen. Herman beams at them and flexes a beefy arm at them. Dougie, one of the kids behind the counter, fetches Herman’s order and places it in the basket of the scooter for him. Herman pays with cash this time and hands the young man a crisp twenty-dollar bill as a tip.
“Keep the change, you filthy animal,” Herman grunts.
“Wow, hey thanks, Herman! See you next week!”
Herman maneuvers the scooter around and out the door. He unloads his purchases into the side of the van and scoots back into the store to return the wheels, and waddles back to the vehicle.
Herman finds his favorite classic rock station on the radio and whistles along as he drives back home, tapping the steering wheel to the beat. The smell of the pizza is making his stomach growl something awful, and he contemplates reaching for a slice to tide him over before he gets home. The gnawing in his belly gets the best of him and he reaches blindly behind him for the pizza box. His fingers graze it, so he turns around to face the backseat to find the pizza. In his attempt at doing so, he took his eyes off the road, which is unfortunate for Herman, because if he hadn’t, he would see the garbage truck approaching from the opposite direction. Herman jerks the steering wheel as he reaches for the pizza and the mini van drifts into the other lane. He hears a loud, frantic honk from a vehicle and in what is probably the fastest Herman has moved in twenty years, jerks himself toward the front just in time to see his van colliding head-first into the massive truck in front of him.
The impact of the crash shoves the front end of the van into the interior of the van, crushing Herman and killing him instantly. He didn’t have a chance, really. When rescue workers arrive at the scene and use the Jaws of Life to pry Herman out of his van, they see that the steering column pierced Herman through his belly and is stuck in the seat. Everyone at the scene said it’s the first time they have ever seen anything like it.
Claire was right, bless her heart. She told Herman food would kill him, and it did.