The Pork Run
Short Story by: Steve Balsky
The Pork Run
“You’re repulsive, you know that?” Elliot commented as he walked around the new contestant. “Like seriously..how do you live with yourself?”
“Like what are you? 225? 250?”
“285 pounds , sir.”
“285!” Elliot proclaimed. “Wow. So, do you have a military background?”
“Sir?” the contestant replied.
“You heard me, “ Elliot said, running a hand down his paisley Trump signature tie.
“Sir, no sir.”
“Okay, then quit calling me ‘sir’. The name’s Elliot. Elliot Rosenthal.”
“Okay Mr. Rosenthal, Sir.”
Rosenthal sighed. “Okay, so, why do you want to be on the show?”
“Well sir,” the contestant said, shifting in his Nike Airs, “The ad said ‘looking for an overweight man that wants to lose weight’. That’s me I guess.” He chuckled.
Rosenthal ran a hand through his thinning brown hair. “Right..right.. so what’s your name again, kid?”
“Senior? What’s your dad’s name?”
“Junior? So Junior named you Senior? Why didn’t he name you ‘Slim’ while he was at it?”
“Never mind. You been laid Senior?”
“Laid? Like, been with a woman sexually?”
“Don’t worry about. It’s irrelevant. Um.. any criminal record?”
“Sir, no sir.”
“Okay, quit with the ‘sir’ shit okay? Just call me Elliot.”
“Good. Educational background?”
Senior swayed in his position for a moment. “Um, yeah, high school.”
“With honors? Scratch that..so you working now?”
Senior coughed and said, “Yeah at ’3 Little Pigs’.”
Elliot’s eyebrows raised. “3 Little Pigs? The fast food joint?”
“Yes sir. Best pork in the U.S. of A.”
Elliot chuckled heartily at the revelation. “Yes, yes I’m sure it is.” His keen eyes scanned Senior up and down. “So Junior, I mean Senior..you really want to be on this show, huh?”
“Yes sir, I do.”
“Make a statement for your country?”
“It’s ‘Elliot’ by the way and don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that. Okay Senior, we’ve seen enough and you’re free to go.”
Senior’s eyes lit up with excitement. “So I’m a contestant?”
Elliot cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “Well, not quite yet, buddy. Not quite yet. It looks promising, though. I think we can make great things with you. Seriously.”
Senior’s plump face brightened and he emphatically pumped Elliot’s right hand. “Well, that’s great! I can’t wait to tell Nana Mama,” as he tore out of the office.
After the door had closed, Elliot turned to Lynn Rutledge, the executive producer and said, “Nana Mama? What the fuck? Is this the Waltons? But I’m telling you this guy is it!”
“You think?” asked Lynn, sipping her Starbucks latte behind her oaken desk.
Rosenthal clapped his hands with glee. “Of course I’m sure. I smell it. I mean look, he’s big as a house, dumb as a post and he’s a minority for Chrissake. He’s a godsend! The American public will eat him up alive!”
Lynn cleared her throat and ruffled through some papers. “Let’s look at his health history.”
Rosenthal pulled up a chair and feverishly hoisted himself up to the producer’s desk.
She pointed a manicured fingernail at the PDF file that came up onscreen. “Okay so…mother died at 65..heart attack..father..recovering alcoholic..still alive…works as a mechanic..no known siblings…no military or crime record…yeah he seems okay.”
“Okay?” Elliot leapt out of his chair. “This is what ‘The Pork Run’ needs! I mean he’s fat, and he’s black! The youth of America will love him!”
Mr. Rosenthal drove his convertible Mercedes to the “3 little Pigs” franchise on the corner of 8th street and Olympic Blvd in downtown L.A. After parking his car and setting the alarm, Mr. Rosenthal slithered his way into the fast food joint. Upon entering he scanned the menu posted proudly on the racks above the servers.
There was a plethora to choose from: The “Big Piggy”; a quarter pound pork cutlet on a sesame seed bun, The “Light Piggy”; a char-grilled pork cutlet with just lettuce and tomato and of course the “Big Bad Wolf”.. three layers of prime choice Canadian back bacon on a Kaiser topped with their special sauce which was bacon/ranch dressing. All of the aforementioned came with “hooves” which were deep fried potatoes in the shape of pig’s hooves replete with a plush pink pig toy for the kiddies.
Rosenthal felt his stomach rumble at the thought.
“Hi sir, may I help you?” asked the delightful girl at the counter.
Rosenthal coughed into his left hand and said..”Do you have anything other than..pork here?”
“No!” she empathically shook her head, ponytail whizzing by her. “Our motto is ‘Where’s the beef? Somewhere else!’”
“I see,” said Rosenthal hiding his embarrassment. “Does Senior Washington work here?”
The girl thought for a moment. “Senior? Nah, he’s down at 4th and Main – Woody Guthrie Square. He’s a great guy.”
“I know he is,” smiled Rosenthal and quickly exited the establishment.
The day following the great news that he had been a contestant on “The Pork Run”, Senior Washington made his way up to the offices of Fox Entertainment. There he was, same room, same people. Lynn Rutledge and executive producer Elliot Rosenthal staring at his rotund frame as he sweated and puffed from his ascend up the elevator to the 32nd floor.
“Hey buddy, have a seat, “Elliot invited, producing a bottle of water for his contestant. “Let’s sit, let’s talk, let’s kibbitz..”
Senior chuckled, placing his large frame onto the leather seat and gulping down a large portion of the water provided.
Rosenthal emerged from his position behind the desk and went down the threads from a series of printed pages from their computer.
“Okay, Senior, the way I see it is like this, you have to go on screen and do a one hour run on the treadmill…1 hour…no b.s. for a prime-time special that is gonna be televised nationwide. I’m serious by the way.”
Senior nodded in appreciation.
“And the idea is,” Elliot continued, “That if you can do 1 hour of sustained (meaning no breaks) cardiovascular exercise you will get many things.”
“Such as?” Senior queried.
“Okay,” Rosenthal cleared his throat, “How about this, big guy? Your show and workout aired on nationwide TV with advanced WiFi access such that people can actually listen to what you are listening to on your iPod while exercising…and you get one million bucks cash and get this.. a night alone at the Hilton with Chevy DeRonde to do whatever you want….if you last the full hour.”
Chevy DeRonde was the latest blonde bombshell, a Pam Anderson of the current day with 90’s image, porn star breast implants and nasty media coverage to boot. She had released a contraband video with her and Justin Timberlake on the Internet called “Drive My Chevy” with thousands of hits. The girl was hot. And he had her. If he won.
Senior took a large swig of water after which he said, “I won’t let you down Mr. Rosenthal. This offer is too good to pass up.”
85 pounds , sir."225? 250?"ive with yourself?"nt. "
The day of the run was chaos. Rosenthal was marching up and down the backstage, barking orders at make-up technicians, camera techs and scripting personnel. The show was to be hosted and commentated by Hulk Hogan, of all people who had shown up with a bad hangover and no work ethic to boot.
Senior was in full work regalia, his red nylon shorts and matching Nike tanktop included. He had done breathing exercises with a coach beforehand, but this still didn’t seem to abate his typical labored breathing given his immense girth.
Rosenthal had gone over the contract what seemed like a thousand times making sure they (meaning Fox Entertainment) had no liability in the event of heart attack or in the event of seizure /stroke.
When air time came, the dancing girls rhythmically rhymed off “One, Two, Three” after their dance routine and Senior was off and running on the Cybex treadmill provided by the studio with all cameras fixated on his struggling frame.
Cynthia Dennis, mother of two was driving her Volkswagen minivan tuned into Mr. Washington’s current hits through Serius XM as he huffed and puffed on the treadmill. The sounds of Starship’s “We Built This City” emanated through her stereo as she thought, “This guy listens to this?”
Stuart Foxman was taking bets in downtown L.A, saying shit like, “My boy Senior..he’s gonna go the distance. What’s your wager? 12:1 for him completing the contest.”
Georgia Lake, a senior resident of California’s elder community had her radio tuned in until Senior’s music choice turned to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. She turned to her friends at the poolside in her condominium and said, “What’s a nice boy like him doing listening to music like that?”
Ann Levin, a Whitely Heights teenager was with her boyfriend Paul making out in the back of his old beat-up Chevy van to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” when she said, “I hope he makes it, I really do.” Paul shrugged. He hoped he made it tonight.
Elliot Rosenthal was in heaven. The ratings were insane and he loved the feedback he got online. Senior was a local hero and he was reaping the benefits of his labor. Let’s hope he doesn't stroke out and ruin the whole shebang, he thought. He bit his nails as he watched the streaming video before him of Senior on the treadmill.
Senior was struggling. No two ways about it. The sweat was pouring off him like a waterfall, staining his shirt and shorts. His face seemed focused as he ran, although his breathing was undeniably labored.
His iPod earphones had fallen out a couple of times courtesy of the sweat accumulated, but nonetheless, he soldiered forth like a man possessed. He looked as though he could stop at any moment, his breathing so forced and his body so strained.
At the 30 minute mark, he motioned as if to want some water. Rosenthal came over with a canister but he did not accept it. He grasped Rosenthal’s hand and said, “I’m gonna do it,” through harsh breaths.
Rosenthal smiled and patted him gently on the back.
In front of him, Senior was able to see various videos on a mounted plasma TV screen including current news coverage, rock songs, etc if he wished. At one point, Chevy DeRonde came onscreen licking her botox-injected lips saying, “I always liked dark meat", in the hope that this would make Senior go faster. Or something.
As time went on and people blogged, either grooving to or bashing his musical tastes, Senior approached the end of his one hour marathon. He was drenched with sweat, gasping for breath for what seemed like an eternity. He was clutching his chest, his step was uneasy, as if he were liable to fall off the treadmill at any time..but people had faith. The public had faith. Hell, he had faith.
At the 58 minute mark, Senior was showing signs of failure. His cadence had dropped considerably and he was grasping both sides of the treadmill just to retain upright posture. Then he collapsed.
The camera focused on his father in the crowd, Junior Washington who showed creases in his bald forehead for the plight of his one and only.
Senior plummeted to the bottom on the treadmill which passively pushed him to the end, allowing his big frame to accumulate of the floor behind.
The entire crowd sighed.
In a rush, press agents ran to his inert form while Rosenthal violently shoved them all away saying that his protégé needed time to rest, time to regain his composure.
Rosenthal placed a cold, wet towel around Senior’s forehead and helped him to his feet. The two marched their way backstage despite the flash of the cameras and probing microphones of the media.
“Ya did good kid, but ya didn’t win," Rosenthal said impassionately.
Senior lowered his large neck, “I know.”
“You could have gone the distance, right?” Elliot asked.
“So..what the hell?”
Senior looked Rosenthal right in the eyes and said, “You know what? I have no interest in sleeping with that slut on T.V. I could use the million dollars, sure…but I could get just the same with endorsements and advertisements.”
Rosenthal smiled but didn’t say anything.
“And furthermore,” Senior continued..”I want you to be my Godfather.”
Rosenthal’s mouth dropped open. “Your..your what?”
Senior nodded. “That’s right, Mr. Rosenthal…Elliot..I want you to be my Godfather.”
Rosenthal rolled his shoulders and cleared his throat. “Why kid, why?” he asked.
“Well,” said Senior through labored breaths, “You the nicest man in my life. I want you to be part of my family.”
Rosenthal nearly vomited. He stood upright and pulled at the collar of his white shirt. “Well..I’m honored, but kid..I treated you like shit from day one.”
“No matter,” Senior said, head in his hands. “Everybody done treat me like shit my entire life.”
Rosenthal sat down bedside him on the wooden bench and put his arms around his thick shoulders. “You know what?’ Rosenthal asked.
“I’d be honored.”
And that was that.
© Copyright 2017 Steve Balsky. All rights reserved.