THE CASE OF THE INFLATED MAN

18 Jul

He sat there like a great bloated thing, his wispy hair brushed with almost elegant precision over his vast youthful but balding pate and the expression on his rubbery lips like one of obsessed narcissism as a drool of spittle lowered itself from one corner of those lips as if he were turning from human into oil well.

Yet it was his stomach and those limbs that obsessed me. All were huge, massive and unwieldy slabs of flesh, scabbed and furrowed where I could see them, and yet he seemed at ease with them. His tidy collar … it must have been tailored specially for that neck … was fastened with a huge scarlet tie that was considerably too short for such meat, and to top it all off, dribble and grossness were betrayed by that smile.

I blame medical science,” he said, and his voice came out almost muted and strangely effeminate, as though the flesh it fought its way through was some kind of silencer.

You do?” I asked, still taking in the apparition in front of me.

We were in my office, which is really a small spare room or second bedroom in my flat, which, lucky for my visitor was on the first floor and serviced by a newfangled lift, or elevator. I doubt he could have mastered stairs, what with the almost unimaginable weight his every step must convey as he walked along.

Watson stirred in his seat as he heard those words. His interest in medical science went back to his war years when he had been an army surgeon and healed enough ruined and mutilated young soldiers to have earned his pension ten times over.

My visitor nodded. “I was, you might not believe but I’ll tell you anyway, a five stone weakling once,” he began.

At what age?” put in Watson, and I silenced him with a brisk wave of one hand. I was already fascinated by my visitor, if only to see how one so unimaginably vast could manage to live and breathe without his own weight squashing the air out of his lungs.

But a year ago,” murmured my visitor. “Allow me to introduce myself. You may have heard of me. I am Cardew Williams and I was a cox.”

I’d heard this name but could hardly be expected to associate it with the fellow who sat, almost oozing out of the oversized chair I’d provided for him to sit in, in front of me.

You mean, the Cardew Williams, son of Lord Ponsonby Williams and grandson of Prince David the Dai Williams of Pontepridd?” I asked. The name was familiar to me as it would have been to any good Edwardian fellow who followed the water sports of our great Universities.

Watson, silenced by my wave, nodded his head knowingly.

The famous cox who coaxed his team to victory less than a year ago?” he asked.

My visitor nodded his huge head. “And look at me now,” he almost wept. “I would sink any boat that I tried to climb into! There has not been a moment during the past six months when I haven’t wished myself dead, Mr Holmes,” he added, and I could tell by the very snub of his nose that he meant every syllable.

So what has happened?” I asked.

I sought medical help for an unrelated problem,” he said. “Mr Holmes, I have always believed myself to be very much a man. You cannot doubt that despite the small frame that still resides within the mass of flesh that you see before you, but as a much smaller man I had a problem of a highly personal nature, one that became painfully obvious last year when I married…”

“… the Princess Egana,” I put in. I couldn’t help it. The wedding had been a vast social event, what with the thousand royal guests that were fed most lavishly until their favourite morsel, the Columbine Duck, was declared extinct by the Royal Society as a consequence of that feast having consumed every last living specimen of its species.

He nodded. “What I must mention next, in no great detail you will understand due to the sensitive nature of my information, must be considered as vitally sacrosanct as a state secret! But my new bride and I honeymooned in Paris en route to Rome, and when it came to personal matters…” his voice trailed off.

You mean, bedroom matters?” asked Watson.

He nodded. “It was then that I discovered my biggest weakness. Mr Holmes, you must understand, I was born into a great family of first class stock. I can trace my ancestors back to William the Bastard and beyond, and always we have been beyond reproach. Why, my Uncle, the Great Colonel Barnabus Williams, slaughtered a dozen single-handed when he strode through the Boers like a scythe in the African campaign! And here was me, on my wedding night and raring to go only to make the worst discovery any man could make.”

You mean?” asked Watson.

Yes,” he confirmed, “In my innocence and total disregard for matters of the flesh, having spent my entire boyhood and well into my adult years amongst boys and then men, brave men and cowards, large men and small, I had always assumed I was their equal.”

But…?” asked Watson eagerly, and I waved that hand at him for a second time. I wanted to hear the story in this gross creature’s own words.

I discovered on my wedding night that, far from being a handsome and virile man, I myself was a girl,” he wept. And his tears were as copious as his flesh and threatened to flood my office.

For the first time?” gasped Watson, ignoring my flailing hand.

I had lived amongst boys,” he wept, “I had been brought up as a boy. I was even equipped with boy’s underwear! Why, I urinated standing up, though I will confess it was never easy. And I believed myself to be a boy despite the rather girly squeak of my voice. You might think that ought to have been a clue, but it wasn’t!. Anyway, my bride was horrified. How can we propagate? she asked, how can one girl lie with another girl and make a baby?”

There’s no answer to that,” mumbled Watson.

There is, and they can’t!” I rapped out, silently cursing Watson for his straightforward honesty. “So what did you do next?” I asked, unable to see how I could be of any assistance to the poor creature, male or female, it didn’t matter to me, who sat like a bloated pig before me.

I sought medical advice,” he said slowly, “and that’s the nub of my problem. An eminent man from Harley Street, the most expensive to be sure, took my problem on and prescribed a tonic that I must take daily. He pointed out that I wasn’t so much a girl but an undeveloped boy, and what was so minuscule that it can hardly be seen, that part that defines gender, might become acceptable and possibly even large if tackled by a new discovery of his. So I accepted his advice and his tonic … and look at what it did to me!”

You are certainly no five stone weakling,” I murmured.

You can say that again!” he snapped.

All right. You are certainly no five stone weakling,” I repeated.

So I have come to you, Mr Holmes. I have come to see if the greatest mind in this wonderful nation of ours can find a solution to my wretched problem. I am gross. Even I can see that! I can barely walk, and my thighs so rub together with every step that I blister! Have you any cure for my wretchedness, or must I depart your office and seek my peace in the graveyard?”

I wouldn’t do that!” said Watson brightly.

And what do you know?” I asked him, my voice dripping sarcasm. “After all, you are nought but a medical man yourself!”

Ah, but I do know gases,” he grinned like a moustachioed loon.

And there and then he removed a pin from his tie, walked up to my huge and monstrous guest, and stuck that pin into him.

There never was such a hissing and a blowing as vast quantities of a gas that my nose suggested might be methane filled the air and the man shrivelled before me by the moment.

You were inflated,” Watson told him, “and now you are deflated. May I suggest a divorce, and find yourself a pretty frock and a husband? Then your life may well go back on track and your glorious family blood flow into the future…?

And Watson,” I said, “I know you like reporting on my genius, but this time the credit is yours, and I, with your approval, will record the incident of the case of the inflated man myself…”

© Peter Rogerson 15.07.17

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