David Gray awoke three days later and weighed 636 pounds. The hospital had placed him on a borrowed cattle scale. They zeroed it based on the mattress’s weight. Administrators had come from varying departments to check in on David. He had become their first, and only, famous patient. News organization from around the state, then the country, then the world, wanted to learn about David. The media named him “The Growing Man”.
He had not eaten food during the six days it took him to gain 450 pounds.

Tests were conducted on his blood, his urine, his fat cells, his flesh, and his semen. Research was done on similar cases up to the point where it was discovered no similar cases existed. David Gray, the Growing Man, was an anomaly of modern medical science. Psychologists flooded the talk show circuits offering opinions on David’s mental state. The President took the opportunity to commission a study on obesity. Speeches were made, pundits shouted, water coolers boiled amid heated debates on the Growing Man. Vegas gave odds on David’s weight when he finally died. Odds were in favor of a heart attack by month’s end.

David looked around the room. A maintenance man had removed the television. He was a bent man with gray hair and white knuckles. He’d helped with the cattle scale while listening to the television clamor about the Growing Man’s sexual habits, his high school experiences, and how the Growing Man is making a political statement against hunger by exposing the nation’s gluttony. The bent man yanked the television out the next night.

He stood at the foot of David’s bed as David slept.

I don’t know why they do that…hell with ‘em…

David watched his hands as they rose. His fingers were pale sausages, his hand the size of Cornish hen. He felt hungry. He felt disgusted. The wish for sleep came upon him. Though his dreams escaped him, he knew he was still thin within them. He gasped for air as fat continued to surround his lungs. A nurse came in.

You’re awake. She said.

She closed the door softly. Coming close to the bed she said,

This is my first shift with you. You have your own shift now.

David nodded. Can I get some water?

Of course. Whatever you want. She poured some water in small cup; put the straw to his mouth.

You’re famous, you know.

Thank you.

After I check your vitals…could I get an autograph?

What’s wrong with me? Why is this happening?

The nurse ran her hand across David’s chest. All the hair had fallen out.

Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re famous.

The door opened.

Nurse Watson. Oh, he’s awake. Wonderful. How are you doing Mr. Grow…Gray?

The doctor moved to the foot of David’s bed. He checked the chart then looked at the scale’s readout.

Six Thirty-Six. Holding steady.

I weigh six hundred thirty-six pounds? David said.

For the last…looks like the last two hours. Yes. Holding steady.

David closed his eyes.

Where’s my wife? David said.

You’re married? The doctor blurted. Of course, it says so here. She must be at lunch or something. I’m sure…

David looked at his left hand. The bloated skin of his third finger was scarred.

We had to cut it off, Mr. Gray. I’m sure it’s in your personal effects.

David kept his eyes closed and pictured an easel. A prairie of rolling hills with a warm breeze causing trees to sway surrounded him. He wasn’t thin, or fat. He was… The brush in his hand, the paint splotched on his shirt joined to stop time. Tomorrow was unseen canvas. Yesterday faded with a dab of paint thinner. He had no deadlines, no job, nothing to grasp. He was… Guilt crashed upon the rocks of his dream. David had no desire for home. No desire for Rachel. He knew she was gone from him. David sensed no feeling of loss at the knowledge. Something must exist in him. Anything that would show all he worked for, all he produced, was worthy of the effort. The voice he’d heard that night a few weeks back. The voice that reminded him of painting, of his love for Sinatra; it came to him now. It was his voice, but not his words. He felt the words permeate every part of his bloated self. You need room of your own.

The doctor spoke up.

Mr. Gray. We’ve tested you every way possible and have found no logical reason for your sudden weight gain. You’ve consumed no calories beyond sustainment. Surprisingly, your cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure…all normal. It’s as if, well, your body doesn’t realize it’s gotten larger. Your heart rate is normal, although your breathing is a bit irregular at times. Strictly speaking, except for your weight gain, you’re as healthy as any man your age.

David opened his eyes as the doctor was speaking. He kept the images, the calm, before him as he watched the man’s mouth move. This is real. He thought. Room of his own. A man must make room of his own. David chuckled.

Yes, the doctor said. It is odd isn’t it? We simply have no idea what has happened to you.

The doctor looked down.

Six thirty-six, he said. Holding steady. If there’s any change, let me know.

She moved towards the bed after the doctor left.

Don’t touch me, David said. Just don’t. And no I won’t give you an autograph. Just go.
She looked stunned and walked from the room.

David felt the sun’s warmth coming in the window. It rested on his arm. He tried to remember what his arm had looked like a week ago. It was lost to him. The memory of his body was gone.

Rachel was gone. She’d left him. He knew that as intimately as he knew the feel of the sun’s heat. His house was empty, waiting for his return. He breathed deep and held it. The exhalation lasted a full minute. David felt dizzy when it finished. For reasons David only glimpsed, The Growing Man had stopped growing. He was holding steady.

636.

David Gray looked at the mountain of flesh that hid his feet. It rose and fell with his breathing, but David observed it as if it were separate from him. It was more than an easel, he thought. It was more than paint. He knew it by experience, not definition.
The sun gave the room a golden hue. David smiled softly. He fell asleep.
The scale’s readout changed.

632.

629.

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