IN THE middle of the clinic, a machine filled with colorful balls stood. Juan looked at them from a distance, hungrily, his mouth watered as he imagined eating them all. He ran towards it, panting in the process due to his protruding belly. Immediately, he dug his hand deep into his pocket and frantically searched for coins. He smiled in relief as he felt the metal chips from the confines of his pocket.

“Juan, the doctor’s now available!” his mother called.

Juan looked at his mother and pouted, giving emphasis to his fat cheeks.

He knew he was going to be checked by the physician and get lectured about his weight again.

“Juan, you’re already ten years old, you should know that being overweight is sure to cause you some trouble, like maybe in getting some girls, yeah? Surely you wouldn’t want staying this large, now, would you?”

Juan shook his head, ignoring the physician’s request. He just wanted the sole responsibility of deciding how many meals he’d have in a day and then what dessert he’d have every time he’d finish one. He’d then also be able to have a ten-course breakfast, which was one of his wildest fantasies.

“What is wrong with that?” he asked himself. He turned around and saw his mother looking at him, her mouth in a tense thin line.

Juan sighed. If only he had parents who would let him eat whenever and whatever he wanted, then maybe the money used to pay the doctor would’ve been for a box of donuts. He’d like that.

On their way home, the whole car ride annoyed him. His mother did nothing but lecture him throughout the drive. In order to control his temper, Juan secretly ate the small pack of gummy bears he hid in his pocket before they left for the clinic.

That night, his room emitted a faint yellowish glow due to the bulb nearing its lifespan. Under the lampshade, his digital clock gleamed. It’s twelve midnight. He felt his stomach grumble. Slowly, he tiptoed down the stairs.

As he entered his personal definition of heaven, he went straight for the motherlode of all things delectable. He opened the refrigerator door, felt the cool air that kept the food from spoilage, shivered and giggled his fat wobbly tummy as if it were strawberry gelatin.

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It was after a few leftover hotdogs and coleslaw ‘til he realized that the refrigerator isn’t the only thing open. From the kitchen window, he could see that somehow, their gate was, as well.

Knees shivered in the cold, and partly due to fear what could be lurking outside, he stepped outside. He felt the cold ground beneath his bare feet. He looked around, making sure that no one saw him. The sound of crickets filled the area. It made him calmer. With this, he braced himself. He went out of the gate, leaving the house completely without glancing back.

Out of the blue, he could sense only people of his calibre could—he could smell pie, freshly baked apple with all the ingredients used to make it. The cinnamon passed his nostrils and into his brain. The sudden injection of aroma felt as if the angels heard the grumbling of his tummy and flew down from the heavens just to hand it to him. He closed his eyes, followed the scent’s trail when suddenly, he bumped against a woman.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he apologized.

Beneath the soft moonlight, he saw the woman smile. It’s odd for a stranger to smile at you, let alone someone you would meet this late at night. What intrigued him most is the old woman was almost four-times his size. He could see the buttons of her shirt, all begged to be released.

“Are you lost my dear? Would you like to come with me?” she asked in a kind tone, flaunting the apple pie.

Juan felt a sudden feeling of nervousness, but the apple pie was just too much to resist.

The woman continued to invite him. Eventually, she brought out a box of cookies, as well. Freshly baked, as well, or so Juan’s nose told him.

Gluttony blinded his conscience. He immediately took the pie and the box. Ignoring all the possible consequences, he agreed toward the woman’s request.

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Soon after, sunlight greeted him the moment he woke up. He looked around and noticed that the room was quite different. He had a television in his room, this was certainly not his. Reality hit him when he remembered what happened the night before. He suddenly remembered his parents, he had to get home before his mother finds out he was missing or else his mother might give him one cup less of rice. But before he got up from the bed, right in the middle of the doorway stood the woman he’d met the night before. He knew he was supposed to be scared, but a tray filled with food laid ever so gently on her hands neutralized his fear. Though he needed to leave, he could feel his stomach grumble at the sight of such food: stacks of golden brown pancakes, creamy vanilla cream shake and chocolate pudding, all of these just for his breakfast.

“Why don’t you sit down on your bed so I can put these over there?” the woman requested, her smile wide.

The vanilla’s scent stung. The chocolate used to make the pudding was the brand he liked the most, without further hesitations, Juan ate all the food. He had never felt this strange sensation of satisfaction before. He had never eaten this many. He thought maybe it was not a bad idea to stay even just for awhile longer in this house.

The moment he finished, he felt his stomach bulge. He did not want to admit it but his stomach hurt a bit.

“I’ll prepare your morning snacks later, then lunch!” the woman said as she went out the door.

Juan couldn’t believe what he heard. His mother prevented him from eating his morning snacks. With this, he decided to explore the house. He is bound to discover where the food is kept.

A warm shade of sepia bathed the living the room. He has explored some parts of the house yet the living room is the best for him. Portraits of young kids aged eight to fourteen lined up the walls. All of them looked happy and healthy, but she was alone in the house, no husband, no son, no daughter.

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Juan had a sudden feeling of home. Maybe this woman wanted to make kids happy by inviting them to her home because she didn’t have any. Juan was more than happy to eat if it benefited someone.

“At least now someone earns bliss in seeing me eat,” he thought to himself.

The smell of cookies filled the place. Immediately, he ran towards the kitchen.

For the rest of the morning, he did nothing but eat. At first he felt satisfied, but as his intake increased, the pain in his stomach worsened.

It wasn’t even lunch time and his stomach already felt like bursting. He knew he needed to walk, to loosen up a bit. He tried but could feel the pain in his stomach wouldn’t let him. He breathed in and out. With a huge amount of force, he managed to stand up.

As he trudged towards the door, he realized that eating too much would slowly kill him. He had never felt so sleepy and pained in his whole life. He wondered if the food contained something.

Slowly, he exited the room. A dimly lit place greeted him as he stepped in the kitchen. The temperature is higher than normal. He could see pots everywhere. In the middle of the room, the old woman stood. The woman turned around and what appeared to be pig’s blood spread all over her apron. She stood ever so closely to the boiling pot, stirred the aromatic concoction of what probably would be lunch. He couldn’t tell. He came closer to catch a glimpse of what exactly it was that he was about to eat. It actually didn’t matter to him, as long as it was delicious. And as the woman put the finishing touches, she turned the stove off and wiped her hands with a size 16 t-shirt. MARIE DANIELLE L. MACALINO

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