As it’s been a little while since we had a fictional piece, New Year, in fact, I thought I would bring this short story. This is a fictional works, the characters, events and location are not based on reality:
It’s not Fair I’m Fat!
Pelagia thinks to herself, she’s getting chatted up again, this is all that happens every time I am on shift with her, I spend eight hours listening to all the men that come in trying it on with her. Nobody ever looks at me twice or looks at me at all when she’s here, or even when she isn’t here, everyone just asks about where she is and what she’s doing. It’s just all ‘Hi there love’ and ‘I dropped the mail in for you’ off the Post Man, followed by special smiles and well-defined nods as I sit here: the unseen woman, concealed by the layers of fat which encircle my body. She loves it, laps it up, always laughing, joking and smiling, flaunting herself, never worried about looking fat as she never does. And her skin always looks good, only ever a few minor spots or blemishes that never amount to anything. Hair short, a pixie Esk crop but equally feminine, full of bounce and plucked on top of her supermodel body.
God, I wish someone would chat her up, Sal thinks to herself. This happens every shift, some of its just normal things like the Post Man dropping in, but then she assumes there’s more going on when there’s not. Then I don’t know who will come along, but it’s all fairly normal for a reception job, the men have a tendency to chat you up, all part of the course. Pelagia never seems to get chatted up, I’ve heard her complaining to Julian about it and I think this whole situation is making her feel even worse. I don’t want to have to ask someone try it on with her, she has a way of noticing things like that and it will make things worse if she realises what I’ve done.
Pelagia, only in her early twenties is an example of a very unattractive girl. She has escalating weight gain problems and seemed to have been increasing in mass at the rate of one or two stone per year since puberty. Although she makes attempts to kerb her increasing obesity her dieting plans amounted to allowing herself ‘Only one item of Junk food per day’. However, the one item of junk food didn’t amount to one bag of crisps or a slice of pizza, it consisted of a full multi pack of crisps of a family-sized fully-loaded pizza. Some attempts at exercise are made, however, the height of activity seemed to be putting on a track suit and walking on a treadmill. This was combined with bad skin, large almost hive like collections of spots clustered around her jaw line. Topping off her look with a bedraggled mop of poorly kept and falsely achieved curls, some attempts to improve her locks with midway red hair dye and the use of hair creams common with people from the black-British community made very little difference. To finish off we have the poor choice of clothing: only ever opting for black or brown, combining them with bags meant for drab women of retirement age, not for girls in their early twenties. Any attempts at weight loss had proven to be to no avail, this combined with her ignorance to general patterns of healthy eating and physical routine, poor skin, failed attempts at hair styling topped off with detrimental choices in terms of clothing left her bitter and resentful towards women who were slim and athletic.
Sal was also in her early twenties, but she was tall and slim. She could wear anything but she preferred bright, bold colours combining them with interesting prints. In the winter she liked neatly fitting jumpers mixed with smart high boots. In the summer she would opt for flowery skirts and dresses, going for pretty fabrics but avoiding anything to short or low cut. She tried to go to the gym at least three times a week, sessions where she would push herself and measure her success by the amount of perspiration she created. Although a smoker and a drinker, the adverse effects were virtually eliminated by a diet packed with chicken, fish and vegetables. Sal had tried to talk to Pelagia about her dieting regime, had she suggested one of the slimming groups or a calorie counting healthy eating plan? Tactfully, she had tried to suggest that ‘One item of junk food’ might amount to one bag of crisps, not the full multi-pack, had she considered just popping into Boots instead of Tesco’s and purchasing a single bag on her way to work? Sal was thinking about suggesting they ordered pizza later and she had been to the gym earlier and was starving, but if she was trying to loose weight maybe she shouldn’t be putting temptation in her face. She directed Julian to ask her quietly if she would prefer it if she didn’t suggest they ordered pizza. Pelagia said no, she wanted Pizza, in a last ditch attempt Sal had asked if she wanted a side salad to go with the meal, but she declined the suggestion. A shift of late junk food indulgence had followed and the same happened in the majority of shifts to follow.
Pelagia was Black-British, although her parents were born in the region and she had some white quasi- friends she felt more comfortable with Black-British groupings and had never fully integrated into to the local community. Most of her friends and associates were family members, cousins and mates of cousins. Two often visited her at weekends, they were also overweight and when they would gather their favourite topics of conversation were about how ‘They weren’t Fat’ and ‘If you work-out at the gym you will gain weight in muscle’. Although she had been at Uni similar patterns had followed and in reality, she had only really made a few Black friends and there had been no real boyfriends of any form.
Sal was in complete contrast to this existence, although her parents had moved to the area only shortly before she was born she had always been keen to make new acquaintances. Tall and fair skinned, but unlike Pelagia she had lots of Black friends. At Uni she was the centre of attention, at all the parties, there had been many friends and perhaps a few too many boyfriends. Although she seemed to keep her distance from some members of her family, her eldest brother, in particular, she was the was in the middle of everything going on where ever she went and whatever was done.
Pelagia was in fact very particular in the way her name was pronounced, she would except no shortened versions such as ‘Pel’ or ‘Gia’ and would snap an immediate correction at anyone who attempted any friendly gestures of this nature. She, in fact, often shortened others names in this way: insisting in calling one of the workers ‘Belly’ when he had asked her not too she had continued to do so anyway. She was what is termed ‘Rather Difficult’ in terms of one-sided negotiations. Sal was completely different to this, throughout childhood and into her adult years she had collected numerous nicknames and her Christian name was frequently shortened. She was comfortable with this and saw it as a form of endearment.
It was on one such shift when Pelagia had insisted in calling one of the other workers ‘Belly’ again, then snapped at him when he called her ‘Pelly’ in response that Sal began to get a little tired of her mannerisms. Earlier in the shift, she had overheard her trying to gain sympathy for Julian again along the lines of ‘It’s not fair I’m Fat’ and ‘I never get chatted up’. Although she had made lots of attempts to encourage her with her dieting plans that had been to no avail, Pelagia was beeing unreasonable expecting everyone to treat her like a child and even things up in what she claimed was not fair. Pelagia had then tried to imply that Sal should have been wearing a different shirt from the day before, although it had not been hot and hadn’t needed to be changed. She then tried a further attempt to gain some kind of superiority; when Sal had slightly adjusted the waistband of her trousers, Pelagia transformed her persona into that of an eight-year-old girl:
‘Why do you always scratch around that area?’
She plucked out, trying to look like she had just finished sucking a lolly-Pop from a bag of penny sweets. Sal then became fed up, she was implying that she had been standing there in full vision of all around scratching her genital region, she then addresses Pelagia:
‘Where exactly did you pick up that really annoying habit of pretending to be a child, when really you are just being plain rude?
Taken aback by the coarseness of the response Pelagia then tried looking around her with her mock childlike expression, for someone to take her side. She looked towards Phylis, like Pelagia she was black-British, however, like Sal she was tall and slim. In fact, she had even less time for Pelagia eating a family multi-pack of crisps then whining about being fat, she looked away from Pelagia’s gaze. ‘It’s not a Black alley, it’s a fat alley I need’ Pelagia thinks to herself, she looks towards Jill. Jill, although her kids were now at secondary school she had never quite lost all the weight she had put on during pregnancy and had gained more since. However, she was not resentful towards Sal for being slim, she had always encouraged her in her dieting attempts. Sal had explained if you are exercising for weight loss it is better to go in the morning as your metabolism works faster all day when she had been bored of branding slimming meals after a New Year diet push Sal had suggested fresh noodles with a little soy sauce. She had really enjoyed the meal and overall she thought her weight loss plans went better with Sal around, she looked away from Pelagia’s pleading glance. Nobody rose to the occasion and laughter could be overheard from so-called ‘Belly’ from the co-corridor. Sal soon forgot the incident, although she tried further attempts at gaining sympathy from Julian, Pelagia realised not the overstep the mark again. Boundaries had been put in place, Sal forgot the incident almost immediately putting it in the Past.
Later that shift both girls leave together, due to the summers evening Sal is wearing three-quarter length trousers, a red polka dot top with a V neck but nothing too low cut as she doesn’t like people looking at her breasts. This was finished off with a light black cardigan and a rather upbeat white leather handbag with a collection of decorative but probably unnecessary straps and buckles. Pelagia was wearing size 20 black trousers tailored to the waist in jam pot fashion intended for plus sized clothing. This was combined with a full length brown sleeved top and a black padded jacket intended to disguise her body shape. As the girls go their separate ways Sal decided to walk home as it is a nice evening. She considers stopping off at Pizza Hut to get take out from their salad bar but decides against it as she is still full from the pizza they had shared earlier on shift. She then considers getting a few beers from one of the shops on the way home but realises that she doesn’t have enough money left after paying for half the Pizza. Instead of stopping off at the bank she leaves it and decides to get up early in the morning to go to the gym.
Pelagia responds to a text message she has got from the Police Station to go into the station. She had been working for them in an undercover capacity since she was a teenager, taking on to fill some kind of ‘Bossy Fat Girl’ role which she was ideally suited. One of the Officers was really glad to see her and asked her to call through after she had written her report. In sitting down at the desk she eats the last two bags of crisps from the multi-pack she had purchased earlier in the day. She then thinks about how she will fry some bacon and add some cheese when she gets in, do some oven chips with them as they’re not as fatty. Although only living a mile away, she decided to get a taxi home as she had been at work all day.
She puts on her badly shaped reading glasses and begins to think to herself again, it’s not fair, Sals always getting chatted up and then begins to the three-quarter length trouser she had been wearing as ‘Hot Pants’ and the polka dot top as ‘Plunging’ down into her bosom, finishing off with how she doesn’t cover-up with her cardigan. She then goes into great detail about she encourages all the attention, then an in-depth brake-down of how she stands around with her hand in her pants scratching her privates and she is expected to witness these vile acts. Pelagia remembers how no-one had backed her up, usually one of the other fat girls would have agreed then they could have criticised her uncleanliness together, even Julian seemed to have lost patients for her cries of ‘It’s not Fair’.
Oh yes, she remembers Police training: If people say they know a celebrity then they don’t and they are in fact a fantasist. Some paperwork had come in and the name had been ‘Ben Shepperd’, the same as the presenter off the telly, Sal had said the name sounds familiar. Julian had pointed out that there was a TV presenter called ‘Ben Shepperd’ that had been presenting on some of the children’s TV shows. Julian had young children and shows of this nature were often being watched in his house, Sal had not heard of the celebrity, she did, in fact, know the older sister of the ‘Ben Shepperd’ in question. She had been at school with his older sister, their mother had moved the siblings back from Scotland as the father had become abusive, in this, they had been put on the public protection register. It’s was clear to Pelagia that it was, in fact, a different ‘Ben Shepperd’, however, they wouldn’t know that at the Police Station, so she adds more material about Sal being a ‘Celebrity’ name dropper and a ‘Fantasist’ all with the effect of making herself feel superior.
Pelagia, then remembers the Pizza she had been called up for last week, she had claimed the Police expenses when Sal had actually paid for it on her debit card. They had somebody working in the finance department of Domino’s and it had been checked. In being confronted over the matter her response had been that Sal had paid on her card, but she had in fact given her cash for the order which she mast have needed, possibly to buy ‘Drugs’. A bit of quick thinking to get them off the trail. This time, she had ordered Pizza from the same Domino’s and Sal had given her cash for her half of the pizza. Pelagia insured that the statement read that she had paid in full on card, which she knew could be checked, then filled in the expenses claim form.
The Officer from earlier then comes into the room and explains that there is someone from the National Rape Squad who is waiting to see her. There are several Officers they’re and they begin to talk Pelagia through what they need her to do: get Sal on a day out into London. A day of shopping, suggest Camden she will like that, they a session in a gym, try and get her in the steam room on her own. Finish off by getting her to a bar, get plenty of wine down her and get her talking, try and find out what happened as there is a serious rape case under investigation. The Officers are all dead enthusiastic to find out what will happen, how Sal will react and what account she gives of what has happened. They were convinced that this is a serious rape case and Sal wouldn’t over react from earlier investigations, this would be their way of proving she was genuine. Pelagia’ first thought was that she has received a free ‘Refer a Friend’ gym pass in the post and she would be able to claim the Police expenses without paying anything out.
The two girls stand at the train station ticket office on a Sunday morning. Pelagia offers to pay for both tickets on card and Sal gives her £10, as the fair was less than this she offers change but Sal tells her not to worry. So that’s a £20 expense claim so for Pelagia. They chat on the train then get the Tube over to Camden Pelagia remembers she had been instructed to ask about Kings Cross and to get her talking. About eight months ago Sal had been out drinking and feeling a little reckless, in fact very reckless, she had ended up having sex with a man she was not really interested in. The next morning in regretting what had happened she had just wanted to leave, he had insisted on coming with her as she walked to Kings Cross Tube and then wanted to kiss her goodbye, in this, she had said she had to go and hurried off. The man she had been with had turned out to be working for the Police, although she had not been rude or obnoxious she had just made it clear she didn’t want to see him again, he had then gone and written a lengthy report about how she must be Bi-Polar. When Pelagia mentioned Kings Cross, Sal had said that last time she was there she had wanted to get away from someone. Pelagia didn’t ask any further questions or try to find out exactly what had happened.
Arriving at Camden, they decide to have lunch first, Pelagia pays for her own and leaves Sal to get whatever she wants, she can claim £30 without a receipt ass it’s a market cafe. As the Police imaged Sal would be keen to look around the Art Market, full of enthusiasm she brought a hand-painted light bulb her mother. Pelagia looked bored so Sal suggested they look around some of the clothes stalls, in beginning to look around she mentioned that no of the clothes would fit her. Although there were loads of clothes she liked and she could spend the entire day here, Sal decided to try and look for a bag stall, Pelagia might be overweight but she could brighten herself up by buying a nice bag.
She finally found a bag stall, over one of the bridges above one of the canals. She tried to encourage Pelagia to go for a bright colourful one with a removable corsage, Pelagia explained that she prefers darker colours. Sal spotted a slick black bag with and interesting type of clip form buckle. Pelagia does like that one either, then she spots one she like herself. It was made from a dull black leather, portrait rectangular in shape finished off with a matt mini twist toggle. It was similar to what Clacks the Shoe shop had been selling on mass two decades before. The bag was cleared meant for drab women of retirement age, the stall holder had an excited look on her face, she had obviously brought in a carton of bags were there was very little option of selection and been left with a bag she thought she would never sell, especially from Camden market. Pelagia decided to purchase the bag, Sal and the stall holder both looked at each other, each thinking how would anyone have gone for that choice. Pelagia was happy with what she had consumed, it had cost her £10, she would put £20 through her expenses as market stall holders never give receipts, then she would write a Police report about how the stall holder might be charging some customers more than others to cover herself.
They made their way to the gym they had planned to go to earlier in the week. Pelagia sorted out the forms for her ‘Refer a Friend’ pass, another £10 she could claim through her expenses. They got changed into their workout gear, Sal putting on running leggings a sports bra and an impact minimising vest top. It was a warm summer day, although the gym was air conditioned it was still warm and this would intensify when they started working out. Pelagia put on a pair of baggy tracksuit bottoms, and a large black T-Shirt, in this she was trying to disguise the fact she was overweight, the result being she looked even larger in mass. Sal suggested trying leggings for working out in and they were in fact much better for treadmill work.
After warming up on the fixed bikes they went on treadmills next to each other: Pelagie was only interested in walking so Sal left out her usual efforts and jogged slowly as she didn’t want to intimidate her. The next machines were a rower and a cross trainer, as they were positioned in different directions Sal went at her usual speed as she thought Pelagia wouldn’t notice. But Pelagia did notice, she kept glancing out the corner of her eye, resentment bubbling up inside rising from her heart to her head. Onto the weights, when Pelagia went on after Sal she realised that she had set the weight measure to half way, more resentment bubbles rose from her heart as she could only use them on the lightest of settings. In realising this, after the next weights, she knocked the setting back down so as she wouldn’t notice she was working out at a higher intensity than herself. When they had finished in the gym they went back through to the changing room, the Police had directed Pelagia to try and get Sal in the steam room by herself, so Pelagia said she had forgotten her swimming costume and directed Sal to go in alone. Sal felt a bit rude leaving her hanging around by herself so she said she’d leave it for today.
A few drinks in a local bar was what was called for a day of shopping followed by a gym session. Pelagia only wanted a coke so Sal said she would get them and told her to take a seat. As she sat their Pelagia remembered how she had been told to get plenty of wine down her to get her talking, another £10 she could put through her expenses. As they began drinking Pelagia texted through to the Police Station to say they were in the bar. A short while after this Sal decided she needed the ladies when she looked over she noticed an undercover Police Officer hanging waiting to barge in on her went she went inside. This had been going on for years, she had originally thought it was genuine and someone to be fearful of, then she had realised it was just Police testing her. Pelagia remembers that she is supposed to be getting Sal talking about what had happened. Although Sal felt like a few drinks it wasn’t much fun with someone only drinking coke so she suggested left and then she could use the busy toilets at Marylebone where the Police wouldn’t be able to send someone to barge in. On the train on the way home Pelagia began to add up what she had spent: £30, then she added up what she could claim through Police expenses: £80, a clear profit of £50, not bad. Sal began to think about-about what had happened, why the Police were sending men to barge into the ladies when she was in there, then she stopped herself, changed her line of thought, she didn’t want to spoil the day and delayed anymore left them to return at the death of night when she was trying to sleep.
Pelagia made her way to the Police Station eager to submit her £80 expenses claim. She thinks back to earlier in the day when Sal had actually jogged on a treadmill, the resentment bubbled out from her heart. The bubbles intensified as she remembers the weights were she had used the settings at the half way point, then she thought back to the clothes stalls they had looked at where the clothes were too small for her and would have fitted Sal perfectly, in this the fluids in her heart boiled over, bubbles of resentment spurting out everywhere filling the aura which surrounded her overindulged body. To her Police report she gave a detailed account of how Sal had made her feel fat, finishing off with:
Women that aren’t fat make women that are fat feel even fatter and it’s not fair there fat.
The officers from the National Rape Squad were a little knocked back, so were the others who had been dealing with Sal, they had wanted to know about the rape case and Pelagia could tell them nothing and hadn’t managed to get Sal in the right place for any of the checks. The report then went through to the other Police. All the overweight Policewomen read the report, then in unison they all stood up, held their hands up, connecting like a chain of paper dolls and sang out:
She shouldn’t have made her feel fat, let’s forget about doing anything about a sex attacker……
…let’s forget about doing anything about a sex attacker.
It’s not fair were fat.
Oh, it’s not fair were fat.
Their hands connected they sang out the chorus again and again at full volume as they dance around the Office.
‘It’s not fair I’m Fat’ is clearly fictional works the narrative raises serious questions in regards to Policing in today’s Britain.
In the two characters, we are presented with the heroine: Sal who is in stark contracts to the protagonist; Pelagia. In Pelagia we have a very resentful girl, in Sal, we have someone who tries to assist her in many ways, including her dieting plans. We look at Pelagia’s lack of racial integration in opposition to Sal who embracing racial differences. The motivation behind this seems to lie with Pelagia’s difficult nature, her insistence over the correct pronunciation of her name and adopting the characteristics of a child when manipulation was her intent. The flaws of the protagonist are presented through her exaggeration of Sal’s attire to make her appear promiscuous in combination with the claim of disillusionment in regards to celebrities. In false Police expenses, we see the misfortune of a rape victim being exploited for the financial gain of a corrupt Police Officer, economic greed extinguishes any desire to convict a sex attacker.
Resentment toward women of the correct body mass index is allowed to take precedence over sexual violence, the Police Office achieves her goal of self-acclaimed victimhood. She is then backed by all the other overweight women employed at the Police Station, no Police management structure is in place to tackle abuse of the position of law enforcement Officers though the resentment of these obese individuals. We see a victim who is let down, a rapist allowed to stay at large and an Organisation incapable of dealing with criminal justice due to phenomenal staff failings.
We do not see justice, we do not see humanity and we do not see a Police Force worthy of investigation sex crimes.
We need change…………….