A few days later, he was sticking foreign objects down his throat. He wasn't getting decent results from the toothbrush, because it wouldn't bend, but he couldn't stand to have vomit on his hand. He was intrigued that there were other, more exotic ways of inducing vomiting.
He had a beautiful polished stone pendant that he wore around his neck every once in a while. The stone was about the size and shape of a large tablet. Rather than being set in a metal cap with a hole on top, there was a hole drilled through the stone itself. That way, the pendant wouldn't come off if someone yanked on it, unless, of course, the chain broke. That was unlikely, as it was a very strong, very expensive chain, not one of those dime-store affairs that would come apart if you looked at it too long. It was incredibly supple, and despite it's strength, very thin, almost thread like in appearance.
He fished the pendant and chain out of its hiding place and put the whole thing in a pot of boiling water to sterilize it. Then he poured the water off and covered the jewelry in rubbing alcohol. He waited two minutes, then poured the alcohol off, and replaced it with hydrogen peroxide. He waited one minute, poured that off and put the sterilized chain on a piece of sterile gauze that sat on a boiled plate. He took the plate and a glassful of water to the bathroom. Assuming his position in front of the bathtub, he moistened his throat with the water, then put the stone in his mouth. He held on loosely to the end of the chain and, with incredible effort, swallowed the pendant. He waited for the lump to go down a bit, past his neck, then opened his mouth and yanked hard on the chain.
He choked silently on the pendant and the glassful of water burst from his gaping mouth almost instantaneously, splashing on the wall and dribbling into the bathtub. Then the retching became more vocal and less productive, as he hadn't had anything else to drink for at least two hours previously, and nothing to eat for more than 57 hours. He recovered after a few moments and went back to his stair stepper, making a mental note to always drink a little water before puking - it looked a little yellow to him, so something needed to come out.
He adjusted his gutfuck accordingly, forgoing the toothbrush in favor of the pendant and water. Eventually, he started slamming himself on the edge of the kitchen sink instead of the bathtub. That way, the pain from kneeling wouldn't stop him from pummeling his bruised abdomen for the duration of the ritual.
The second month of vacation ended with Steve on his back using a cast iron skillet to beat his inflamed belly so hard he couldn't keep water down for two days. He was still 86 fucking pounds.
He received a letter from his mother a week later. It said she was worried about him, as he hadn't been answering his phone since his birthday, none of his friends could tell her where he'd disappeared to, and he hadn't called for her birthday. He skimmed the letter irritably, wondering why every fucking body had to interfere. Then he got to the scary part.
She was coming.
He started to shake, morbidly afraid of what she would have to say about his weight. She was the only one that didn't think he should have been as thin as he was when he was a kid, and used to do everything in her power to fatten him up. When something was wrong she force-fed him and told him he was too skinny. His father would always make her stop because he didn't want his son to get fat and ugly, but she always made it clear that if it weren't for him, she'd make Stevie eat till he exploded. Everything in the world was an excuse to feed him. If it wasn't a reward for a job well done, it was a cure for his childhood cuts and scrapes, slings and arrows. Even the time he came back crying from that awful sleep-over when he was seven she stuffed him with food.
He never bothered to tell her about the older sister that lured him all alone to the attic for a game Cowboys and Indians, tied him down, ripped his pants off, and licked his privates for hours. He figured his mother would just give him some apple pie and pat his head. She certainly wouldn't believe that anyone could honestly think his tummy stuck out. The perverted pre-teen seemed to think just that, declaring angrily she was leaving his shirt on because he looked like he swallowed a basketball. She slapped the fleshy part around his navel and said it looked sick. Then she went back to sucking his member, pushing a heavy hand on his tummy, scratching him up. The next morning, his mother was rubbing the same place while he threw up every delectable morsel she offered him to keep the ever flowing tears at bay.
Steve shoved the memory from his mind, dismissing it as a silly incident that meant nothing. He looked at the letter in his trembling hands and tried to dismiss the panic that rose in his throat. He had to find something to keep his mind occupied, something other than mere exercise, if he was going to maintain control.
He ran to the kitchen and grabbed the year supply of vienna sausage from the cabinet. He ran outside and dumped all nine cans in the trash, lest he have another binge episode. He still felt wild and crazy, so he ran back in the house and opened the liqueur cabinet. He grabbed the expensive bottles of whisky and brandy and ran back to the trash with them. He went back through the house, tearing out every little item that could possibly double as a food source and hurling them in the trash with a vengeance.
When he finished, he felt a little better, having done something he needed to do ever since he first got off tour. But his mother's threat picked at him still, making him pace, making him wish he had more clothes he could hide under. Finally, in a desperate act, he went outside to find a payphone and call his parents. He was relieved to hear his father's voice, to know they hadn't left yet. His relief turned to mortification when his father explained he was staying behind on the farm, that his mother was going to be alone.
Steve hung up without saying good-bye, too stunned by the latest turn of events. Not only was his mother coming to see about him, she would be all alone. Just the two of them... and a kitchen stuffed full of food. His father had told him she was on the bus early that morning, that she should be at his doorstep before nightfall. That meant he only had a couple of hours at most to skip town. He ran back home and packed a bag, set it by the backdoor and went through the house to be sure he wasn't leaving anything important.
He knew he couldn't leave when he saw the personal gym. He touched the state-of-the-art treadmill and sighed. He unpacked his bag and returned to the treadmill to get back on track.
He hadn't noticed when his front door opened. He was too busy running. He wasn't aware of a person staring confusedly at the lack of decent furnishing in the living room. He had to get to the five mile mark before he could stop long enough to reward himself. He had no idea the person was in his kitchen, completely dumbfounded by the presence of a treadmill where a refrigerator should have been. He was searching for the remote control to the VCR. He was in the dark about the person opening his barren cabinets, and the reaction to such a sight. He had to set his stationary bike to the highest setting possible. He certainly wasn't ready when the person opened the door to his makeshift gym. He was too busy peddling like a madman, watching the actress on the television screen pretend to vomit her lunch in a plastic grocery store bag.
By the time he realized his mother had been standing in the doorway, she was already halfway to the garage, his car keys in hand. He started after her, but she took off in his shiny, expensive sports car. He scratched his head confusedly and went back to his exercise machines. A few hours later she returned with a trunk load of groceries, a dormitory refrigerator, a box of pots and pans, a set of dishes, a set of cheap silverware, and a handful of invoices for a sofa, loveseat, coffee table and refrigerator. He stared at the trunk of his car, overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged meats and loaves of freshly baked bread. He didn't object when she put the mini-fridge on his countertop, nor did he complain when she plugged it in and started to bring in the other groceries. He didn't even protest when she chastened him for staring at her like she was from another planet and demanded his assistance.
But he put his foot down when she told him to go wash up for supper. He screamed that she had no right to barge into his private space and start rearranging it to her liking. He told her she was not invited to his home and she could damn well wait for an invitation just like everyone else. He told her he didn't need her fucking interference. He told her she was not going to succeed in making him into the disgusting pig she always wanted for a son, and that she'd better get used to the idea.
She just opened a can of chicken broth and told him that she knew there was something wrong, but she was here now, and she was going to fix it, just like always. She put the broth on the fire and began setting the table. Steve ran to his bedroom and shoved the bed against the door, effectively locking her out. He stayed there for an hour, jogging in place, determined not to give in to the delicious aroma of chicken broth. When he figured it might be safe, he let himself out of the room, tiptoeing down the hall to his gym.
She was sitting on the bike, holding a mug full of steaming broth. She held it out to him, and begged him to take just a sip, for his mama. He took the cup and tipped it to his closed lips. He waited a beat, then passed the cup back to her. She smiled, drank some of the hot broth, then offered the mug again.
He was far more reluctant to take it this time. He could taste the broth on his lips, and feared he might weaken and drink the whole mugful. When she got up and put the mug in his hand, he knew it was all over. He drank the still steaming liquid in one gulp, not even noticing the awful burn. He wasn't at all surprised when his mother gave him another cupful of the broth, and he gulped that too. Before long, he was sitting on the kitchen floor, up against the stove, pouring the rest of the too-hot broth down his throat. His mother stood nearby, stroking the top of his head, telling him everything would be fine.
He let her have her fantasy for the moment, though he knew he had to come up with a solution to his current predicament. This was the second time in as many months that he'd given in to a hunger craving, and it disturbed him. It didn't help that his mother was making all those loving noises, the ones he never heard from another soul. He wanted to please her, but the only way he knew how was to eat everything she gave him, and that just couldn't happen.
When she took the empty pot from his hands, he knew he had to eliminate the high-calorie fluid sloshing around in his gut. Staggering to his feet, he thanked her for the oh-so-delicious soup and went to his bedroom. He grabbed his pajamas and a portable radio and went to the bathroom, declaring that he was going to take a shower. Closing the bathroom door, he turned the radio on and turned it up skyhigh. They were playing one of his songs. Cute. He turned the water on in the shower and went to the toilet. He looked back at the closed door, knowing that wouldn't be enough to keep his mother out. If he did it in the shower, that would afford him a bit more privacy.
He stepped in the hot shower, barely registering the scalding water. He opened his mouth and guzzled the hot spray. When he thought he had enough, he fingered his pendant absently, then took the chain off his neck. He rubbed his flooded belly, then got a brilliant idea. He drank more water, filling himself to capacity and beyond. He didn't stop when the water started to back up in his throat. He didn't stop when he could hardly breathe. He didn't stop when he was so full of water he looked as if he were with child. He didn't stop until his stomach hurt so much he knew it would burst if he took another sip. When he touched his glutted belly it was rock hard and stuck out round and high. It was tender to the touch, the skin on his belly pulled so taut it started to crack.
He put the pendant in his mouth and forced himself to swallow one more time. He counted to five and yanked the stone out of his throat.
The water quite literally exploded from his gorged belly, a long, heavy deluge rushing from his gaping mouth like a geyser. The flood hit the walls of the shower and smacked against his fragile body like the sting of fire hose water. When he finished, the chicken broth could be seen floating on top of the puddled mess, golden slime covering the shower floor. The sight was so disgusting, the idea that the yellowish goop could have been absorbed by his was body so revolting, he had to repeat the process three times before he was convinced that his stomach was completely barren of any chicken remnants.
When he finished coughing and sputtering the last drops of chicken water and bile, he stepped out of the shower to grab his loofah and body wash. He washed himself down, paying special attention to his feet, where his regurgitated mess had collected. He washed four times, scrubbing his thin, tender skin until it almost fell off. After more than twenty minutes of furious washing, he rinsed in super-hot water, gritting his teeth to withstand the heat. Finally, he stepped out of the shower and toweled off, put on his pajamas, and headed down the hall to bed.