Chicanery discovered in Fats’ household
Strings of wild grass had spread up from the cracks of the broken sidewalk that led to the rickety old porch. Each wooden stepped moaned under the weight of my feet and the water-worn wood that led up to the front door was dark in color and smelled of rot. The screen door was hanging by one hinge and made a loud creek when I pulled it open to knock.
“Enter,” said a loud baritone voice from inside, so I turned the rusty knob and walked into the home of Saturated Fats, prognosticator extraordinaire, but on this day the object of my derision.
I walked through the narrow hallway adorned with pictures of the Fat One in his younger days and made my way into the kitchen. Fats, all 400 (at least) pounds of him, was sitting at a table so old it might have been used at my grandmother’s wedding reception.
I sat on the chair across from him and placed my valise on the table.
“We have to talk, Fats.”
The big guy was in mid-bite of what appeared to be a super burger of some sort and the special sauce seeped from the corner of each side of his mouth.
“You know what,” I said, pulling last Thursday’s edition of the Observer-Reporter from the valise and flipping it in front of him.
“Oh, yeah,” Fats said, picking up the paper and perusing the Pick The Winners section for Week 1 of the football season. “I see that I got off to my usual great start.”
A slight smile crossed his face.
“What did you do?” I said in an accusatory tone.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean, Fats. Jason’s picks. What did you do?”
Fats put down the burger, wiped his mouth and said, “I’d like to talk about marching bands. The changing of the seasons and colors of leaves. Pep rallies. Hot dogs with mustard and onions. Female sideline reporters. Alison Riske at the U.S. Open. The new fall TV season.
“Heck, I’d like to talk about anything but my ole friend Jason Mackey, that poor soul. He had a tough week. 7-12, I believe it was.”
Fats squirmed in his seat, a move I saw as either him becoming uncomfortable with my line of questioning or the onset of his usual case of gastric distress.
“Tough week? Is that what you think? He doesn’t remember anything about the picks. When he saw them in the newspaper, he ran off into the woods, yelling ‘McGuffey? McGuffey? Over South Fayette?’ We’re still looking for him. Got the hounds out, too. We had to recruit Mike Kovak out of the Old Pickers Home in Johnstown. It’s a mess.
“Now, I’m asking you again. What did you do?”
“Why, I’ve done nothing, nothing at all to that poor boy.”
I reached into the valise and retrieved another piece of paper. Unfolding it, I pressed it close to Fats’ face.
“This is our working agreement, Fats. Remember what it says?”
Again Fats squirmed.
“Of course, I do.”
“What are the three stipulations that keep you living in this palatial estate and allow you to continue to make your high school picks for the O-R each week of the football season? Do you remember?
Fats stared back at me, his slight smile now a scowl.
“No. 1” I said.
“No lizards as pets,” Fats said through clenched teeth.
“No playing my favorite opera tunes past 11 p.m.”
Fats hesitated for a moment, then softly said:
“No manipulating the O-R football picks of my opponents.”
I pulled out the third and final piece of paper in my valise and slapped it on the table with such noise that it startled Fats. For a moment, he stared at the paper, squinting his beady eyes while trying to make out the writing.
“It’s time to come clean Fats, and for you, that’s a gigantic task. What I have here is a petition signed by every fast food restaurant in the region banning you from their premises unless you are truthful with me.”
Fats let out a screech and bolted upright in his seat.
“Everyone?” he boomed.
“Everyone,” I said.
“Even Bronco Billy’s Binge and Barf Barn?”
“First one on the list,” I said.
Panic settled into Fats’ face, then a look of defeat. He rose from the table and slid the chair in.
“Come with me,” he said.
We walked down a corridor that led to a door that required a large push from his flabby arms to finally get it to open. We walked into a dusty room that had a night stand in one corner, a cello in another and a footlocker in the center of the room. Fats bent down and unhooked the lock on the footlocker. Lifting the top, he reached in and pulled out a tiny jar of liquid.
“Here,” he said, handing me the bottle.
“What is this?”
“It’s a mind-altering agent. I slipped it into Mackey’s bottle of Perrier water he takes to work every day. It allowed his common sense to be suspended but only for a few minutes. That was the beauty of it. It wore off half way through so the rest of the selections were not so outrageous.”
“But enough for me to become suspicious,” I said.
“Yeah, that was my one mistake in this plot. Now, you know, and you also have the liquid. Happy?”
Fats nodded, then said, “Tell Mackey I’m sorry.”
“I will,” I said, “if we ever find him.”
“And tell Mike he doesn’t have a chance against me.”