The International Writers Magazine:

Christopher Parrish

James was a large twelve-year old boy. In fact he was so large he was called Fatty by the jeering kids at school. James didn’t know why he was so big. Or when it started.
‘I’ve always been like this,’ he concluded, staring at his baby photos on the mantelpiece.
‘I really hate it’. Tears flowed down his cheek.

James did not know what to do. He tried discussing it with his Mum and Dad, but all Mum said was:
‘So what’s wrong with enjoying your food? That’s the trouble with people today; they just don’t know how to enjoy themselves. That’s why there’s so much fighting everywhere.’
All Dad could add was:
‘So what’s wrong with sitting down? That’s the trouble with people today; they rush round everywhere and have forgotten how to sit still. That’s why the world’s getting hotter, all this blooming rushing.’
James looked at his parents. They were both very big. They struggled to walk and he feared they wouldn’t last very long.
‘Why don’t we try to eat healthier?’ he kept asking Mum, and ‘Why can’t you take me for walks or play football?’ he kept asking Dad. But the reply was always the same.
‘We’re quite happy as we are son.’
‘So what am I supposed to do?’ thought James.

It was a new term at school, and James was petrified about starting. He was scared of being teased and bullied by the boys, and laughed at and sneered at by the girls. His fears came true, and he endured a miserable Monday.
Tuesday came, and he realised to his horror that he had a PE lesson in the afternoon. A new lady PE teacher had started. James was sure she would be an Amazon. But to his surprise Miss Roughsedge didn’t give him nasty looks like his last teacher, but instead smiled at him. She wanted him to join in a game of football. He had never been picked before. The team captain said ‘OK James, you’d be good in goal. They’ll never get a ball past you!’
James felt strangely flattered.

Their team was winning 1-0.The game was nearly over. James had not done much, but now a boy had broken loose with the ball and was bearing down on his goal at a tremendous speed.
‘Omigod’ thought James, ‘I’m going to let every one down. They’ll hate me’.
The boy let fly a thunderbolt kick, straight towards the top right corner of the goal. James felt a strange force charge through his body. He threw himself up as high as he could with arms outstretched. The next thing he knew he was lying on the hard ground hurting. But he could hear cheering.
‘I’ve got the ball. I saved it. I saved it’ James repeated to himself.
The final whistle went. Fellow players came and patted him on his back.
‘That was such a brilliant save’ the captain enthused. ‘Why didn’t you tell us last term that you were a goalie?’
James had never felt this way in his life.

‘I’m a somebody at last’ he thought. He glowed with pride. A smiling Miss Roughsedge walked towards him.
‘Could you stay on for a quick chat after the lesson?’
James thought she was so pretty, and could not stop looking at her smiling blue eyes. Of course he would stay on. He had never had so much friendly attention in his whole life.
‘James, there’s no easy way to ask this’ she started.
James felt panicky.
‘It’s just that, well, I don’t think you are happy being so…’ she fumbled for the word, ‘ large, are you? I mean, would you feel better if you lost some weight?’
James nodded shyly.
‘What I want to do,’ she continued ‘ is to start a school get-fit club. I’m working with the new cook on a diet and exercise plan. What we need is a volunteer Fitness Monitor.’
James, who had been busy looking at his feet, glanced up and met her eyes.
Miss Roughsedge smiled.
‘Well, you know what I’m going to ask, don’t you? '
James twitched.
‘You’d make a great Fitness Monitor. Will you do it?’
James had never been anything, let alone a monitor. Now he could be a goalie and a monitor. He really wanted to get fit and lose weight, but he had never believed until then that these possibilities applied to him. Maybe it was gazing into her pretty eyes that decided it. He blushed.
‘OK, I’ll do it’
‘Great!’ she replied.

After school, James rushed home for the first time ever. He burst through the door, breathless. Mum was in the steamy kitchen cooking fish and chips. Dad was laying back on the sofa watching a TV game show.
‘Guess what happened today,’ he spluttered. ‘ I was made goalie and saved a goal and everyone said I was great, then the new lady PE teacher wants me to be Fitness Monitor!’
There was a complete silence. James looked at Mum and then at Dad. Simultaneously they burst out laughing.
‘You,’ Mum said, ‘A fitness monitor! I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous in all my born days.’
He turned to Dad.
‘A goalie. You!’ he guffawed ‘ you can’t even hold a dumpling on your fork without dropping it.’
‘But she said I’d be a great Fitness Monitor,’ pleaded James.’ If I get fit I could be a good goalie.’
‘Tomorrow you can tell your teacher that you can’t be monitor. We’re quite happy as we are,’ Dad snapped.
‘But…’ James began.
‘And let that be the end of it, ‘ Dad snarled. ‘You’re interrupting my TV.’
‘Yes James,’ Mum added, ‘Now wash hands and I’ll give you your tea. Did you want bread and butter with the fish and chips? We’ve got your favourite ice cream for afters.’
James rushed to his room in tears. ‘Why are they so horrible to me?’ he sobbed. ‘I’m not going to listen to them, whatever they say.’

At breakfast James pretended that he had forgotten all about the matter. He was polite, and kissed his Mum and Dad before he went to school.
‘Hiya James!’ a smiling girl shouted as he entered the school gates. ‘Yo, goalie!’ another boy yelled.
James had started a new life. Nothing would stop him now. He had meetings with Miss Roughsedge and Mrs Oliver, the school cook, who was determined to serve only healthy food from now on. Chips, crisps and turkey-twizzlers were strictly banned. Miss Roughsedge, meanwhile, had started a weekly ‘SweatClub’ in the gym. She and James had worked on a plan to attract students. Slowly but surely, more and more youngsters came to the club. They were learning to run, dance, and play sports. It was not easy, there were many tears, but slowly getting fit seemed possible. The new diet helped too, after early complaints, and the pounds were being shed. James thought his new friends were already looking slimmer.
Then the strangest thing happened. One day at lunchtime, a band of very large mums came marching up to the school gates.
‘Who wants chips from the shop? ’ they yelled.
To James’ horror, his Mum was amongst them. They were protesting at the new school menu, complaining that their kids were being deprived.
’But that’s the food she wants me to eat.’ James thought. ‘I just want to get fit.’
James was not the only one to say ‘No thanks Mum. I’m fine.

For ages afterwards James’s parents seemed sulky and irritable. James, however, stuck doggedly to his purpose. He was actually happy at school. He just wished he were as happy at home.
Then, one day, James came home from school to find Dad laying the table. The TV was off. Mum gave him a big smile.
‘We’ve got you a special tea today, James. Chicken salad. Then strawberry ice sorbet for afters.’
James stood wide-eyed.
‘Ahem. H-How about we go to the park afterwards son?’ Dad added. ‘Maybe you could teach me some football?’
© Chris Parrish November 2006
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