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The Brennan Family Curse
I hate funerals.|
Well, okay, that’s the understatement of the century, and I would suspect that not many in this world feel otherwise.
But there was always something special about my father’s side of the family, and the way they would arrange these mournful occasions.
In fact, these funerals weren’t sad at all.
We took our distant Scots/Irish heritage very seriously. We drank hard. We fought hard. We loved hard. We partied hard.
There wasn’t a Brennan in all of the state who wasn’t known for his (or her) way of livening up a situation. Our funerals weren’t much different.
Now, I’m not big on a lot of traditions brought over from our ancestral home, but even with my aversion to funeral services, I rather found these Brennan funerals to be rather fun.
We didn’t cry, weep, or throw ourselves on the casket. Instead, he laughed, told stories, looked through cheerful pictures, and remembered fond times.
And with this being my great-uncle Theodore’s funeral, I knew we were gonna be in for a hoot! My Uncle Teddy, as we all liked to call him, was by far the biggest, proudest, and happiest Brennan in the bunch. Being the youngest of his twelve siblings, he quickly made a name for himself as being the energetic child. Even when he grew to the burly size of six foot, seven inches, and weighing in at nearly 375 pounds, he was the biggest ball of energy anyone had ever seen. During our summer family reunions, he’d challenge some of the younger, heartier of my cousins to arm wrestling or horseshoes or some other masculine sport in which I never really took part in, and he would always win. Even one summer when he had taken ill with a bad case of the flu, he managed to not only win seventeen games of horseshoes in a row, but he did it with a temperature of 103.4.
Yes, my Uncle Teddy was something of an idol to me. But not because he was so good at physical activities, but because every night during our family reunions, he’d build this massive bonfire, grab armfuls of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, and make mounds of s’mores for all the kids. Then, if you were truly brave enough, you’d sit by and watch this great beast of a man tell some of the most horrifying ghost stories you ever heard. He was so animated, and with the flickering flames dancing shadows across his face, his expressions only added to the terror. And always at the end, he’d pick one of the kids sitting around the fire and single them out to make them the next victim. Every year, we sat on pins and needles to make sure that Uncle Teddy didn’t pick us to be the next one tormented by whatever ghastly fiend lurked in his stories.
And every time, I was ALWAYS picked to be next. But even though, it became something of a regular thing for me to be picked as the victim, each child cringed when his stubby, sausage-like finger traced the circle for the unlucky soul who would be deemed his prey.
As the years passed, my cousins and I grew up, and the newest members of the youngest generations would take our places at the campfire circle. Even Uncle Teddy grew up with the little tikes. His dark auburn hair would become grayer at the temples. His round, paunchy face would widened and soon would become covered with a thick beard as vividly colored as his hair. And each year, his six foot, seven inch frame would widen with another ten or twenty pounds, making his barrel chest (and keg belly) bigger in circumference.
But each year, even though I continued to grow into adolescence and eventually into my teenage years, I’d always sneak around and find my way to the circle. Even when I was nearing my twentieth birthday, I would wander up to the knob of the hill and crouch down behind some of my younger distant relatives and listen to the story. Each year the story was different, and each year the kids were still petrified. But always, I was the one that the monster would pick next.
Now I was twenty-nine and my great bear of an uncle had passed away. Luckily for me, even though this seemed to be a fond farewell, he didn’t die painfully. His wife, my great-aunt Sophia, had found him lying on his drawing room desk, pen in hand, sketching out the details of his next terrifying story. The family doctor had found nothing wrong with Uncle Teddy, but that he merely died of old age. Of course, the doctor went on to say it probably didn’t help that he was 408 pounds at nearly eighty-five years of age, but that his heart was strong and his body had simply given up the ghost.
I found the terminology the doctor used to be fitting.
But here I stood looking at pictures surrounding my Uncle Teddy, and even though the laughing and boisterous noises filled my ears, I found warm tears trickling down my cheeks.
And had it not been for the thudding of the footsteps behind me, I would have nearly been jolted out of my skin when one of my cousins slapped me on the shoulder. His big slab of an arm slung heavily over my wide, yet lean shoulders, and I felt my heels dig deeper into my dress shoes.
"Yep,” my cousin had said simply, his mouth wide in a smile, "Uncle Teddy was a great guy.”
"Yeah,” I replied as eloquently, "he was.”
My cousin Davis had taken after the bulky side of the family, resembling what Uncle Teddy might have looked like as a twenty-something himself, minus the sandy blonde hair. "So, tell me, Joshy,” Davis addressed me in my child-hood nickname, "when are you gonna fill out like the rest of us?”
It was true, that since I had moved away from family to pursue a career in writing in another city, I hadn’t seen my family, much less some of my fellow cousins, who were around the same age bracket as me. And it was also true that most of the men (and a few of the women) had followed in my Uncle Teddy’s massive shoes. Like his brothers, Davis stood over six feet tall and probably weighed 250 pounds if he hadn’t eaten that day. But unlike Uncle Teddy, Davis was mostly fat and his weight had settled around his gut.
"I dunno, Davey,” I returned his pat with a gentle elbow to his midsection, "I think if I stick around here for too long I might end up ballooning up like you did.”
Davis massaged the area above his navel and chuckled a bit. He didn’t respond immediately, but he ushered me forcefully down the center aisle towards his brothers. "Just remember the curse, Joshy,” Davis chortled.
"You gotta remember Uncle Teddy’s family curse story!” Davis exclaimed loudly.
"No,” I had to admit. I hadn’t heard of a curse. Quickly, I tried to scan my memory banks for some kind of story. With almost twenty-five years worth of ghost stories, I had quickly began a mental count. I remembered the stories about the wailing banshees, the witches, the goblins, the numerous stories of the ghosts and poltergeists, the children eaters (that one kept me up at night as a child), the pompsies, the seductive nymphs, and so on. But to no avail could I remember a story about a family curse.
Then, it hit me. There was one summer I was unable to attend our family reunion because I had to have my wisdom teeth taken out. I was seventeen, and I remember because I silently hoped that the dentist would cancel my appointment so I could attend the reunion.
But now, I remembered. That had to have been the one story I missed.
"When did Uncle Teddy tell that story?” I inquired.
"I think it was the ’97 reunion,” Davis said as he brought me over to my cousins.
I was so lost in thought I was speaking on autopilot. I was saying hi’s and hello’s while recessing deep within my mind. The 1997 reunion was the year I had my wisdom teeth removed. I had missed this story! And now, with Uncle Teddy gone, I would never hear it again. My heart sunk considerably, and I slowly resurfaced to participate in the conversation going on around me.
"—so it looks like Joshy here missed the curse,” one of Davis’ brothers had said in a deep gravely voice. He was the shortest, and the hairiest of the seven brothers. He probably barely scraped by at six feet tall, and his dark head of hair matched his thick mat of chest hair and facial stubble. He had gotten his bulk from our family, but his mother’s Italian genes had won over his appearance, unlike me with my light brown hair and nearly hairless body.
"So what was the story like?” I found my curiosity piqued, and my ears honed in on the details. These guys lacked the finesse of Uncle Teddy, but I hoped that they would be able to flesh out the major plot points.
Davis began the story and slowly he spoke as he tried to remember the tale, "So the story was that long ago the Brennan men were cursed by some sea hag—"
"—No!” one of the brothers interjected, "it wasn’t a sea hag! It was a witch that lived deep in the forest.”
"Whatever!” Davis puffed up to his brother, challenging him to interrupt again, and began a new, "Some crazy lady, gypsy, Houdini’s wife. I don’t know, some bitch, found a Brennan boy. She thought he was great and fell in love, or something. Anyway, the Brennan was spoken for, or she was just too ugly to fuck—"
The guys all broke into a fit of laughter for a second, and Davis continued.
"And the lady got pissed. She said that the men of our family were cursed with some kind of affliction—"
"If it’s bad breath, Davey’s got it bad,” the thinnest and tallest brother smirked, and the boys laughed again, reminding me that even though some of us were in our late twenties and early thirties, brothers will still be brothers.
"Shut it, Malcolm,” Davis hissed, and then drew in a deep breath, "So we’ve been cursed with this spell that each Brennan man would grow up and out until the day we die. The end.”
I raised an eyebrow, being severely disappointed by the lack of ingenuity. "That’s it?”
The brothers looked at me, and quietly chuckled to each other.
"What were you expecting, Joshy?” Davis shrugged, "I didn’t tell the story. I just remembered the gist of it.”
"But Uncle Teddy’s stories always ended with someone being pointed out in the crowd as the next to be attacked by the story’s monster,” I reminded them.
"Yeah,” one of the brothers shoved Davis playfully, "I remember that part. ‘Cause that year, he pointed to each of the guys around the fire and said, ‘Eat up, boys, you might as well enjoy it.’ And then he rubbed his gut and laughed so hard he farted.”
The brothers seemed to remember this slowly and as each plucked that funny memory from the deep recesses of their minds, they began to laugh and rib each other again.
Davis looked at me, and sighed, "Yeah, Josh, so I guess it wasn’t so much a ghost story that year, but a prediction we’d all get fat.” Davis laughed to himself, and I noticed that he absentmindedly rubbed the underside of his belly. I heard a brief growl from within, and he moved to my other side, "E’scuse me, Cuz, but I’m craving some of the food from the buffet.”
And with a few semi-waddling steps, Davis moved through the crowd and disappeared down the hall.
I was let down by the story, expecting to hear Uncle Teddy in Davis’ voice, I guess. I wanted to know more, and to hear the story as if the originator of the prose piece was retelling it. But I knew that would never be. Even though Uncle Teddy wrote his ideas down, once he finished the story he’d return to the campfire after everyone was asleep and shove his pieces of paper into the glowing embers of the fire pit, ending the story permanently. I remember he did this because the night of the child eater story, I couldn’t sleep and I watched Uncle Teddy go to the fire, shove wad after wad of paper into the pit and his face temporarily brightened as the paper caught fire and was turned to ash.
I stayed for the rest of the service, talking with family I hadn’t seen in years, answered question after question (the prominent question seemed to be when was I getting married, and I never had the heart to tell them I was gay), and hugged and watched as the people moved onto other family members.
By late evening, the last few members were clearing out, the free food having been decimated and the casket being closed. I was all but ready to leave when I heard a soft sobbing coming from behind a closed door in the hall. Concerned for the person inside, I knocked on the door, asked if they were all right, and was shocked to see my frail, thin Aunt Sophia emerge, nose red and swollen, eyes blood shot and tear filled.
"Aunt Sophia,” I said gingerly as I stooped to hug her. Being six and a half feet tall sucks when you have to bend over to hug a woman nearly a foot and a half shorter than you. With her drawn body covered in a black dress, gray hair covered in a 1950’s hat and a veil, she dabbed at her cheeks with a white handkerchief and steadied her sobs.
"I couldn’t bear everyone to see me cry,” she stated softly.
"I think they would have understood,” I reassured her.
She smiled and patted my hands, which cradled one of hers.
She and I spoke for a few minutes until her daughter came looking for her, and as we parted she motioned for another hug and a kiss on the cheek. I obliged, and saw her smile tenderly. As she and her daughter walked down the hall, the funeral director passed them, nodded to me, and entered the memorial room. The burial service was tomorrow at two, and unfortunately, I had to return home to my house in the boroughs of the city so I could finish my editorial piece by my deadline.
But just as I was about to leave I heard my Aunt Sophia call back to me.
"Your uncle wrote those stories for you.”
That was it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Later that year, there was no family reunion, as I had hoped there would be. Too many people were too busy, and the elder members who always planned the event were unable to do so anymore. As July came, I noticed that the Fourth of July weekend was approaching, and I had subconsciously marked the date for the reunion in eager anticipation. As the days moved closer to the holiday, I sighed to myself and resolved to make new plans since I had already requested the time off. A few days before the impending vacation season, I got a package in the mail. I checked the address and felt my heart melt when I saw the return address of my Aunt Sophia. The box was small, and filled with packing peanuts. When I stuck my hand deep within, I found a neatly packaged basket filled with graham cracker boxes, marshmallows, and two large Hershey bars. I wanted to call, but I realized I didn’t have her number. I placed the box on my hardly used dining room table where it sat for the remainder of the week.
Eventually the bustle at work had thrown me for a loop, and I found myself off for six days with nothing to do. All my friends had plans either with their families or their significant others, and I was left in my two bedroom house with nothing but time.
The first night of my vacation I was bored. With nothing on television, but constant re-runs of Independence Day and for some reason Field of Dreams, I found myself staring at my computer screen with my hand placed absentmindedly on the mouse. I opened a blank writing document, and decided to see where my mind took me.
I had frequent attacks of writer’s block, but I had never had a sense of urgency behind a block before. It was as if I had something to write, but I didn’t know how.
So there I sat. The cursor blinking back at me, and my hands poised at the keyboard. In the living room, the clock on the wall ticked the seconds away. It was the holidays so the distant sounds of the neighborhood were quiet as everyone was probably somewhere else.
I scratched my chin ruefully and found that I needed to shave. I must have forgotten to do so a few days ago, as I was apt to do. Not having very much body hair, I had to shave, at the maximum, three times a week. I heard the bristles scratch like sandpaper on my face, and for a brief second I could almost hear the crackle of the reunion campfire.
Before I could write anything I sprung up from my desk chair, and walked into my dining room. There sat Aunt Sophia’s care package, and once again my heart liquefied. I tore into the cellophane wrapping, and shoved a few makeshift s’mores into the microwave, pushed a few numbers, and within seconds, I had some tasty treats.
Now, they weren’t campfire grade, but they did in a pinch. Returning to my desk with a beer and a stack of s’mores beside me, I began to type.
The first story I wrote was the story of the child eaters. I remembered as much as I could, laughing at myself when the hairs on the back of my neck stood out. Within a few hours, I was finished with this delightfully terrifying tale of these grandmotherly women who would sneak into homes, smuggle children out, and whisk them away to their underground homes where spiders and snakes resided.
Admittedly, I was no Uncle Teddy, but I think I would have done him proud. Before I knew it, the window in my office was brightening as the morning sun rose to illuminate the world. My red eyes were sore from being transfixed on the neon screen for so long. I rolled my chair back, as the clinking of empty beer bottles jerked my mind into focus. There had to be at least twelve bottles there, and the plate of s’mores, which had been refilled periodically throughout the night, especially when I needed inspiration, sat with one remaining morsel. I gobbled it up, and stretched my pained back. I staggered into my bed, sloughing off my clothes down my boxers, and ambled into my bed. I barely had time to register that I had to adjust my hardening dick before I was fast asleep.
The next morning (or should I say early afternoon) I awoke to my stomach growling angrily. The morning wood was tenting the sheets in front of me; I smirked and shifted my body. I told myself I’d take care of that situation once I showered. I shuffled into the kitchen, fetched from frozen waffles, and made a breakfast, which I was more eager to eat than to prepare. Slapping mounds of butter on each individual waffle, I smothered the stack of six in maple syrup, leaned against the counter and devoured them. I had finished the meal, and proceeded to open the fridge door, open the top of the jug of milk, and chug mouthful after mouthful until my thirst was sated.
My slim stomach pooched out in an almost exaggerated look, and I noticed that small bits of stubble lined my underbelly. I shrugged and walked to my bathroom. Once the hot water splashed onto my body, my eyes shot open and I was fully aware of my surroundings.
Nothing like a steamy hot shower to help you realize your cock has been completely ignored. After a few minutes of lathery pleasure, I finished cleaning myself, ignoring the need to shave, and toweled off. In the mirror, I noticed my belly hadn’t recessed back to its flat state even though it had been a good fifteen minutes since I ate.
I resigned myself to the office once again, and sat back down in the chair. I opened another writing document, and watched as the cursor blinked at me again. I knew what I had to write. So I began to type another campfire tale, only to find that I could hardly remember the plot.
After failure after failure, I erased the entire thing, and started again. Nothing seemed to flow right, and I beginning to become more and more frustrated. I thought that it might have been just a brilliant idea that passed me by, a veritable lightning in a bottle situation. But then I remember the s’mores. So I jostled myself to the dining room, to find the basket empty. I looked in the kitchen and saw the wrappers lying there helplessly and vacant.
I contemplated doing something else, but a nagging voice in the back of my head said that the s’mores were my muse. They would allow me to write more, and possibly better. Getting my shoes on and gathering my wallet, I sped to the nearest grocery store. I walked down the dessert and cake aisle and noticed a display section had been set up for Independence Day with graham crackers and Hershey bars galore. I went back to the front of the store, grabbed a hand basket, and began to stockpile the ingredients for my food of creation. I refused to acknowledge the odd looks I was receiving from the cashier, and simply smiled, remarked how it was the season for s’mores, paid, and left. Once home, I dumped the bags onto the counter and began my feverish dash to make my snack of choice.
Once I had gathered my mountainous stash of food, I practically jogged into the office only making a minor pit stop at the fridge to pull the milk jug out with my free hand.
There I sat for hours, just writing away. Story after story filled the screen and took up space on my hard drive. Only stopping for bathroom breaks and to refill my snack plate, I had developed something of a mad quest to write down my Uncle’s stories.
By the end of my small vacation, I sat looking at my poor printer as it shot out page after page of summer reunion lore. I leaned back in my chair, hands on the armrests while I watched my uncle’s legacy appear on paper. I felt a small itch on my cheek and when my fingers went to scratch the nuisance, I felt more sandpaper stubble had grown in. Even though I was still bathing regularly (although you couldn’t tell from the fact that I hardly left the office), I continually put off my shaving.
I remembered the one story I had missed.
The supposed family curse.
I had wondered whether I should write about it or not. It was more of fantasy story than a horror story. As the last few pages filled the tray, I stood up, and thought about what I needed to do for work the following day. It was only then that I noticed my shirt had become a tad bit snug. I ran my hands over my chest and then my stomach to find that the slightest bit of my stomach was exposed. I walked to my bathroom to see that the shirt I wore had been stretched taut over my rounded abdomen. The whole time I had feasted on junk food and the occasional full dinner meal, and the lazy vacation had shown up on my stomach. Nothing a few days of running wouldn’t cure, but then I thought back.
The family curse.
I smiled at the notion of Uncle Teddy’s stories being true. I thought of the child eaters, the pompsies, the banshees, and smiled. Maybe in some people’s minds these ghouls and ghosts are true, but curses? There couldn’t be.
"No,” I told myself, "I was just lazy.”
But then I thought of Uncle Teddy, who was such a massive man, even at eighty-five. I remembered my cousins, and my other uncles. They were all large. Even my own father who had passed away years ago in a car accident was over six and half feet tall weighing more than 300 pounds.
Maybe it was just our genetics.
Or maybe it was our habits. I looked down the hall into my office at the two small towers of plates crusted with marshmallow goo and chocolate residue.
Or maybe, just maybe there was a curse. Almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you look for an answer (in this case a curse), you’ll find one.
The ding from my computer snapped me out of my reverie, and I noticed the small forest that had been turned into a chronological history of summers passed. I punched holes in them while I stewed on the chance that maybe my Uncle had been onto something.
Once I began to bind the individual stories, I had completely convinced myself that my Uncle had been nothing more than a great storyteller and that the curse was his own jovial way of explaining away his girth.
"Still…,” I paused to think. But I shook my head quickly, and gathered up the stories.
A few months later, my editor and I had a little chat about my Uncle’s stories. By this time I had gained a full thirty pounds, and was forced to buy a new wardrobe to clothe my 200 pound body. My stomach had blossomed into a full belly, round and firm like my Uncle’s, even though I hardly worked out. My chest, even with the added fat, simply seemed to charge outward into a thick torso. The weight gathered on my arms and legs, making them look more massive and heavy. My ass had widened, but more noticeably became more bubble in shape. I had given up on the stubble for the most part, just keeping a neatly trimmed goatee on my chin. I grew my hair out a bit and the chestnut brown color rested gently above my ears and brushed my brow.
"Josh,” my editor smiled, "I talked to my buddy over at Breyer Ridge Publishings, and they thought your stories were fantastic. They said that they were looking to fill the void since a few of their other more popular fantasy stories have finished, and they’re looking to purchase your series.”
"Series?” I said with a bit of shock in my voice. My mouth gaped, and I felt the roll of a double chin forming, "But these were the only stories.”
"Seriously?” my editor gestured with the contract in the manila folder, "I think once you see this contract, you’ll want to start cranking a few more of these babies out.”
I tossed the folder toward me as it skittered across his highly polished oak desk. I opened the cover to see a beginning salary and a few stipulations.
"We can get our lawyers up here to see if it’s legit,” my boss said as he propped up his feet, "but I think it is. And I’d understand if you wanted to bolt after an offer that generous.”
"No,” I shook my head, "I mean if I take it, I’ll probably just do a weekend column or something simple. But the paper’s my home, and besides—"
"Look, Josh, if you wanna stay on, that’s fine by me, but let me tell you, if you write anything half as good as this, you’ll be hitting the big bucks.” He leaned closer toward me; "They’re talking about doing a series of television shows if you sign on.” He held up his hands nonchalantly, "But you didn’t hear that from me.”
After a meeting of the minds with the paper’s lawyers, I signed on, and began my road toward publication.
Roughly, by the beginning of the following June, I was a published author with a noticeable bankroll coming in from Breyer Ridge. I had taken keeping a stock of s’mores products in the house, and by the time the beginning of July rolled around, I was pushing the scales at around 295. I was a glorious mountain of fat and heft. I looked nothing like I did nearly a year ago, and I loved every pound of it. My formerly lanky frame had ballooned into something that would have made my cousin Davis look like a beanstalk. My shoulders were rounded and my neck practically disappeared into them. My chin, or now chins, had grown and my cheeks plumped. My former barrel-esque chest had begun to droop a bit with my tits fattening up considerably. My arms barely grew larger, but they were forced outward by the widening of my tubby chest. My legs grew larger, but mostly from the forced muscle growth they had to endure to carry my new bulk. My ass had exploded into two watermelon globes. But the most spectacular was my stomach. The circumference of it was probably close to a firm, bouncy sixty inches with a very soft underbelly. I had gotten a few numbers from a few men who began to find my newly fattened physique arousing. And I have to admit I found it to be rather tasty as well, if I do say so myself.
But the most surprising of all was when I received a phone call from none other than my own Aunt Sophia telling me that we would have our usual family reunion. My heart fluttered a bit at the thought of everyone seeing how fat I had gotten, but then she laughed sweetly into my ear and said, "Would you delight us in some of your new stories this year? I think you Uncle Teddy would have enjoyed that. He loved telling these stories so much.”
And that was when I realized I had been passed Uncle Teddy’s torch of storytelling, and I overjoyed at the concept. Within hours I had booked a flight, and was conjuring up new story ideas for this years campfire.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even talk about the family curse?
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