Meredith Miley loved to eat. Spare ribs and steak, chicken wings and cake, muffins and ice cream and cole slaw and biscuits and sandwiches made from very white bread. Meredith’s palette was not discerning – if it had sugar or salt, she wanted it in her mouth. She ate a pre-breakfast and then breakfast and then a post-breakfast snack and then a pre-lunch snack and then lunch and so on and so forth, until she fell asleep at night mid-chew.
Meredith Miley was as thin as an uncooked spaghetti. No one knew where all the food went. They only knew where it started – in her mouth, which was always so full that no one had had a decent conversation with Meredith in a long while.
“Meredith!” yelled her mother. “You eat like a sow! Just shoveling food down your gullet like a half-starved dog. Can’t you ever stop eating or just…slow down?”
“Glargh,” said Meredith, which meant ‘no’, since her mouth was full of cupcake.
“Meredith!” said her best friend, Shari. “Do you really need four scoops of ice cream all in one go?”
“Geffgyply,” said Meredith, who was inhaling the pistachio, coconut, vanilla bean, strawberry mountain sat precariously atop a slim waffle cone.
“Meredith” said her 6-year old nephew, Barney. “Momma says you have worms. Do you have worms, Meredith?”
“Blagassple,” shrugged Meredith, as she tucked into a seafood lasagna, tomato sauce smeared across her mouth, cheeks, neck, fingers and décolletage.
Meredith wasn’t always this way. She used to eat like a normal person. That is to say, she used to eat one bite at a time and at regular intervals. She’d limited her intake of sugary treats and savoury snacks so she wouldn’t end up like Grandma Patsy, who’d had to be cut out of her house by a bunch of firemen after a dangerous gas leak.
But on her 23rd birthday a colleague had innocently told Meredith that she could eat anything she wanted that day because one cannot gain weight on one’s birthday, which is a well-known fact. And Meredith thought of all the potato chips and cheetos and fried chicken and cinnamon buns that she always wanted to indulge in but always denied herself for fear of getting fat. And she thought about how much she would love to be able to eat those deliciously unhealthy things all day every day and never gain an ounce of weight.
And so when it came time for her to blow out her birthday cake candle and make a wish, she wished that every day would be her birthday so she could stuff her face with crap without consequence.
Birthday wishes are hit or miss. Mostly they trail like smoke into the atmosphere where they dissolve into dew drops and melt back down to the earth, unfulfilled. But there are very special circumstances under which a birthday wish can come true and Meredith just so happened to have everything lined up just right.
First of all, her candle was made from the beeswax of a particular type of honey bee; the type of bee that produces honey almost exclusively for magical beings. How Meredith came to be in possession of this candle is a complete mystery, but sometimes the stars align just so.
Secondly, she blew the candle out at exactly 11:11am on the 11th of the 11th, 2011, which most anyone can agree is a supremely lucky and auspicious time, particularly if it is one’s birthday.
Thirdly, she had spritzed herself with lavender spray that morning instead of her usual perfume, which, as one knows, is a scent almost always guaranteed to bring the universe’s attention to focus on you.
So with everything in just the right place at just the right time, Meredith made her wish and the gods paid attention and granted it.
And the very next day was Meredith’s birthday again and she found herself with an insatiable appetite for grease and fried food and cream filled things. And so the next day and so the next day and so on and so forth. It was always November 11 for Meredith even though for everyone else time went on as usual. Who knows how this works, the universe operates in mysterious ways.
And each day Meredith found herself more and more hungry, incredibly hungry, starving, even, for all that was unhealthy. And she didn’t have to think twice before putting something fatty or sugary in her mouth because she never gained an ounce, although her thinking became quite cloudy and her motor skills deteriorated and her jaw became quite sore. But who can care about that when there’s chocolate on the menu every day?
Meredith went on like this for about six months. At first, it was a novelty and a delight to be able to indulge so freely. But with each passing bite, Meredith became more and more alarmed. She had lost the ability to eat like a civilized being, wolfing down her food until, after a while, she was barely tasting anything at all.
She’d eaten (literally) through her savings. She’d lost her job as a photographer because she couldn’t put her food down long enough to pick up her camera. All of her friends, besides Shari, had slowly disappeared from her life. And she was always jittery from the constant intake of sugar.
Eventually, after being thrown out of an upscale restaurant for eating spaghetti carbonara face down in the plate like a golden retriever, she thought she’d had enough and it was time to get things back to normal.
Except she found that she couldn’t stop.
She would try and leave half a piece of cake on her plate or only have a handful of chips, but the cravings would leave her shaking like a heroin junkie in the corner, and she would have to scarf the whole thing down and go out and buy more.
She tried buying healthier options like salads and fruits, thinking if she couldn’t stop eating then at least she could put something good in her body. But spinach scorched her tongue immediately upon contact and bananas made the inside of her mouth blister. The only thing she could do was keep on eating pommes frites and chocolate eclairs and candy and the like.
Meredith was distraught. She texted Shari to meet her at the all-you-can-eat buffet on Halston Street to try and figure out how the hell to get out of this predicament.
Shari wasn’t particularly thrilled about having to watch Meredith stuff her face; she had the worst cold just now and would rather drink some hot soup and laze around in bed. But she could sense the desperation in Meredith’s texts, especially that last one that read please fo luv god must stip eatn tis is horror help me!!!!
“Well, can’t you just, not eat?” asked Shari, once they were settled in a booth and Meredith had explained the situation through a series of hastily written notes as she ate one-handed.
“Gaughaadh,” said Meredith desperately, her mouth full of crème brulee, which was also dribbling down her chin.
“Or how about just ignoring the cravings and distracting yourself with something else, like, I dunno, working out or something?” said Shari as she violently blew her red and raw nose.
“DeblegahdaGAH!” cried Meredith, slamming her one free hand on the table, her eyes wet with tears.
“Alright alright,” Shari sighed. “There must be a way – (and here she interrupted herself to have a hacking coughing fit) – there must be a way to reverse the wish. Oh and Happy Birthday, by the way.”
Meredith gave Shari a death glare as she viciously chewed her corndog.
“Okay okay, what about if you just wish the wish away?” Shari sniffled.
Meredith shook her head; she’d already tried that and, not knowing what it was that had made the wish work the first time, she hadn’t been successful.
“Gosh Mer, isn’t there anything you can think of to just put you off eating? Like, maybe watching one of those ads about starving kids or, oh! Could you maybe try Overeaters’ Anonymous? Or hypnosis?!”
But Meredith had tried it all. She wasn’t welcome back at the Overeater’s meeting because she couldn’t stop eating the donuts she’d brought with her long enough to tell her story and it really distracted the other patrons.
The psychologist couldn’t hypnotise her because she was too focused on scarfing down an entire extra-large peperoni pizza to be put under. And she’d watched a marathon of infomercials about starving children around the world, which made her weep while she tucked into a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s.
“Garghawaelelargh,” sobbed Meredith, shaking her head as she raised a forkful of rice pudding to her already full mouth.
Just then, Shari sneezed a great, heaving sneeze and blew a stream of snot all over Meredith’s pudding. It was green and gelatinous and sat quivering right on the top of the soggy rice. The sight of it slowly soaking into her pudding made Meredith spit her mouthful right out.
“EW!” screamed Meredith. “That’s disgusting, Shar!”
Shari looked up at her friend in surprise. It was the first coherent thing she had heard Meredith say in a whole year.
Even Meredith was shocked. She was looking down at the ruined bowl of rice pudding, with its great big glob and her previously chewed up bits all mushed around and she knew she could not take another bite. For the first time since she’d made the wish, Meredith had lost her appetite.
The two friends looked at each other in silence for a minute.
“I think,” said Meredith, finally. “I think…it’s okay now.”
“Well,” said Shari, wiping her nose. “I don’t know if I should say ‘excuse me’ or ‘you’re welcome’.”
Meredith left Shari at the table for a moment while she gathered a heap of goodies from the buffet. Back at the table, she lay them all out before her. She stared at the pastries and cookies and tarts for a while but she felt nothing. She had no cravings at all. She was finally full.
She decided to take one last bite anyway. After being a slave to eating for so long, she couldn’t quite believe it was over just like that. Shari watched in anticipation as Meredith tore off a hefty piece of marzipan croissant and stuffed it into her mouth. She barely chewed the buttery pastry, instead swallowing it down as she had become used to doing.
Which is why she was quite surprised when it became lodged in her throat.
She dry heaved, she tried to cough, she scrabbled at her throat. She beat her chest and flung her head about as her face started to turn first red then blue. She looked frantically at Shari and pointed to her neck and flopped around like a fish out of water, but Shari just sat there wide-eyed and shocked, her mouth slightly open and her nose silently dribbling.
Nothing Meredith did would dislodge the croissant and finally, with a barely audible ‘huk’, she flopped face forward onto the table, dead as a doornail.
Shari contemplated the back of her freshly dead friend’s head and blew her nose again.
I guess, she thought, you should be careful what you wish for.
And then she yelled “check, please!” as she wiped her streaming nose.