"I wish you were dead!" David screamed.
"I wish you were dead too!"
But this was a relief. The desire was mutual. He wasn't alone.
Later, after the quiet time, he apologized. "I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't talk to you like that."
"I'm sorry," Alice said. "I hate fighting with you."
They held each other in the living room. It was evening now and there were no lights on in the apartment. For hours they'd been sitting separately in the dark.
His love for his wife was renewed. How could he think the things he'd thought? They took a shower together; it was one of their favorite things to do. He put his arms against the walls and she lathered his back, cleaned the cheeks of his ass and behind his ears. When she shaved his face, she unknowingly mimicked his expression. Afterward, she ran a bath.
"You know who I was thinking about today?" David said. Things between them still felt delicate, bruised, and he wanted to make conver-sation.
She glanced at him and smiled sadly. Whether it was the associations his name conjured up or how long ago it was that they'd sat in his class-it was where they'd first met-he couldn't be sure. At the moment, David was sitting on the edge of the tub, Alice's ankle in hand. He had soaped down her calf and was shaving it carefully. Hair grew in different directions in different spots.
"Have you spoken to him?"
"Not for years. I read in the quarterly that his wife passed away."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"I'm sure he's had a hard time."
"And who hasn't?" Alice said.
She completely filled up the bath. Her triceps swelled out separately, like a pair of dolphin fins; her breasts floated like twin islands. And she had the most beautiful face, the longest, finest chestnut- colored hair, and fabulous hazel-colored eyes. But she'd grown huge, and David didn't pity her, though he knew it was difficult for her to carry the weight. At her maximum this year she'd reached 288 pounds. She'd bought a digital scale (doctor's orders) that flashed bright red numbers. She'd weigh herself in the morning as soon as she woke up, her hair hanging over her face as she stared between her feet.
"I wish I were dead," Alice said.
And he wished her thin for her own happiness, but for himself he wished she remained fat. He loved the giganticness of her, loved to hold on to her mountain of ass. If he made love to her from behind, he imagined himself an X-rated Gulliver among the Brobdingnags. It was the difference in proportion that turned him on. Closing his eyes, he exaggerated her size, made himself extra small, David holding on, his arms outstretched, smashing into her rear for life, life, life. She was not his wife but a giant she-creature, an overlarge sex pet: his to screw, groom, and maintain. After they made love, she lay facedown on the bed, palms turned up toward the ceiling, eyes glazed open and body motionless (the weight had not deformed her, only intensified her curves, widened her like the Venus of Willendorf), Alice shot dead by David's potent love.
There were no children. In the end, it had been her choice.
"I was talking with Marnie the other day," Alice said.
David, working in his study, minimized the screen. "And?"
Alice waited. David waited too. He put his elbow on the desk and rested his chin in his hand.
"And they just found out that their second child is going to be a girl," Alice said.
"They only have a two-bedroom apartment."
"And the son, he can't share a bedroom with the daughter. But they can't afford a bigger place."
"So they're going to have to move out of the city."
David took off his glasses, gently placed them on the table, then got up, walked to their bedroom, and leaned on the jamb.
"Can you imagine?" Alice said. She was focused on the TV; The Man Who Knew Too Much was on A&E. They looked at each other, smiled knowingly, then she turned back to the screen. She was deep into her second sleeve of low-fat Ritz crackers, halfway through her second bottle of wine. Crumbs lay across her chest and stomach like snow. At the edge of her lips were two upturned, grape-colored tusks.
Excerpted from Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross Copyright © 2010 by Adam Ross. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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