When the new secretary began to chew ice, Savich thought she was trying to give up cigarettes. Made a vow, he figured, to stop smoking if she got a job. Ice crunching was her way of not stuffing herself with nicotine.
She wasn’t his secretary, not exactly. She worked for five of them, and Savich hadn’t hired her. But she was attractive. Not exactly slim, but close to it. Thirty years old, he guessed. His daughter’s age. Her third day on the job, she brought a snow cone machine to work.
“I have one at home too,” she said. “I can’t get enough of snow cones. I guess it’s no different than chewing gum.”
“Did you use to smoke?”
“No.” She looked surprised, and then she laughed. “I get it. My nerves and all. No, this is more like wanting potato chips or cookies, you know, oral gratification or whatever they call it.”
Savich couldn’t take his eyes off the machine.
“Here, try one,” she said. “I have vanilla today.”
He invited her to lunch. He invited her to dinner. And when he ended up in her apartment, he touched her body as if he was worshipping it, even the zipper-like scar near her belly button that she said was from a recent surgery.
“You make yourself at home,” she said afterward. “Watch television for a while. I like to spend some time in the bathtub.” She smiled and made herself a cherry snow cone from her home machine.
In the living room was a small-screen TV like the ones in cheap motels. Savich half-expected it to be clamped to the table by a thick security cable.
She didn’t seem to subscribe to magazines or even a newspaper. He heard her shift in the water, imagined her reaching for the snow cone cup. He walked into what seemed to be a spare room she used for storage. The closet was full of clothes—huge sizes—he imagined a roommate leaving.
A box full of unframed, curling photographs was pushed underneath the dangling dresses. In almost every one, a fat woman. For a moment he thought she had a sister, then he knew the pictures were her in a different life. The clothes were hers. She must have weighed 250 pounds, probably more.
In a few pictures, she was young, standing with a man and woman who had to be her parents and a brother, who was heavy too, but not like her. Even as a teenager she was enormous.
He thought of her eating ice to keep from gorging herself on pizza or candy or whatever she craved. Her scar, undoubtedly from gastric bypass surgery. She’d shrunk so quickly she didn’t know she could say “No” yet. Savich had a few weeks, maybe only a few days, before she’d trade up for someone her age who had never seen her fat. She’d use the time to throw all the clothes and photos away.
“Hey you,” she called. “Make yourself a snow cone and come on in.”
The bathroom was warm, the thermostat set at 80. Savich felt clammy within seconds. “Do you like looking at me like this?” she said. The water was so deep it half covered her breasts.
“I love sitting in hot water,” she said. “I’m always so cold.” She reached behind her and picked up her cup of cherry ice. Savich chewed his and swallowed. He examined her body, filled his mouth, and began to chew again.