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The Fat Lady

By Devi Snively
Published in ART TIMES March 2014

I suppose I owe you all an apology. You see, I’d been told it would not be over until the Fat Lady sings, so you can imagine my surprise when she showed up on my doorstep. She pretended to be the Avon Lady, but I saw through her flimsy charade and did what anybody in my position would have done. I bound her to a chair and gagged her. It sounds harsh, I know, but she’d left me no alternative. I was not ready to go gentle into that good night. Instead, I dragged her downstairs and hid her in the cellar.

I went on about my day-to-day business and—no longer living under the threat of her unwanted appearance—forgot all about her. I forgot about a lot of things, truth be told. Time, now endless, lost all purpose without an impending deadline. And in time's absence, I lost all perspective. Without it, I gave up whatever it was I used to do (I can no longer recall) and adopted a life of leisure—or as some might call it, sloth.

Had it not been for the big storm, she might be there yet. The rain came down so hard, I felt compelled to check for flooding in the cellar. I never had gotten around to replacing that broken storm window downstairs. I mean, it wasn’t like not doing so was gonna kill me, right? But having nothing better to occupy my time, I hankered for the opportunity to feel useful for a change—or relieve the tedium at any rate. That’s when I saw her, still tied to the chair.

At least, I think it was her.

The Fat Lady was no longer fat. With no food or water, she’d become little more than shriveled flesh and brittle bones. I had to look away. She was ghastly. I, nevertheless, took a modicum of comfort in her pitiable state. I’d heard nothing about what happens when the Malnourished Lady sings. I chanced a bold move. I let her go.

The Fat Lady rose, teetering, to her wobbly feet. I offered my arm to steady her when she pushed me back and opened wide to sing. I flew at her trying to cup my hands over her mouth, but before I could reach her, a sound escaped her lips.

It wasn’t a song. It was a shallow gasp like a dying breath. She coughed and tried once more. I sighed relief.

The Fat Lady must have lost her voice due to severe dehydration. Even if she did gain back the weight, she would never sing again. She sighed and offered me a solemn shrug. I helped her out the door and handed her money for the bus.

That was 5,000 years ago.

I don't look so well myself anymore and I smell even worse. I can barely move for the crippling arthritis and that's just as well—there’s no more room in which to move. Since the disappearance of the Fat Lady, the world has become so overpopulated I don't dare budge for fear of losing the 1 X 1 square foot of space I’ve held onto all of these years. It’s all I have left. Well, that and endless time and my single remaining hope— that somehow, someday the Fat Lady will find her way back and sing her song for me.

(Devi Snively, former ballerina, writer, filmmaker, and teacher, lives in Mishawaka, IN)