Paula Bomer Inside Madeleine

ISBN 13: 9781616953096

Inside Madeleine

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9781616953096: Inside Madeleine

"With surgical insight, Inside Madeline delves into the most complex female territory imaginable and dissects until every honest bone is revealed. Bomer's prose doesn't flinch, doesn't filter—the bravery of these stories left me breathless.”
—Alissa Nutting, author of Tampa

From the author of Nine Months and Baby comes a daring new collection that seethes with alienation, lust and rage. Bomer takes us from hospitals, halfway houses, and alleyways, to boarding schools and Park Avenue penthouses, exploring the complex relationships girls have with their bodies, with other girls, and with boys. The title novella tracks the ins and outs of an outsider’s life: her childhood obesity and kinky sex life, her toxic relationships, whether familial or erotic, and her various disappearing acts, of body and mind.

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About the Author:

Paula Bomer is the author of a novel, Nine Months (Soho Press), and a story collection, Baby (Word Riot Press). Her writing has appeared in The Mississippi Review, Open City, Fiction, Nerve, and Best American Erotica. She is the publisher of Sententia Books and a contributor to the literary blog, Big Other. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Inside Madeleine  
 
1
 
            Her name was Madeleine. She ate french toast for breakfast every school-day morning. Or waffles or pancakes. Her mother's back to her, broad and strong, mixing the dough and frying the eggy bread until it was hot and golden brown. She stacked up a pile of five or six pieces and greased them slick with butter, careful to put butter on each piece, lifting the hot bread with her fingers, steam burning up from the stack. She poured on huge dollops of syrup, preferably a colorful blueberry or strawberry syrup, occasionally using brown maple syrup. If, for some strange reason, her mom didn't cook, then she ate three bowls of Captain Crunch or Booberrry or Count Chocula, letting the milk turn thick with the sugar and starch, drinking the milk down when there were no bites left. She spread raspberry jam on slices of toast already dripping with butter. Large chunks of jam, the seeds of the berries sticking between her teeth. She ate in a breathless stupor, staring at the cereal box or syrup bottle, reading the ingredients over and over to herself, her back hunched over the food protectively. Breakfast was her favorite. She often had trouble sleeping at night because hot, buttery pancakes raced through her head and the excitement she felt at the prospect of eating kept her up late into the night.
            At lunchtime she came home to eat. Most kids ate cafeteria meals of microwaved meat and vegetables, a small carton of milk and a piece of cake in the perfect sized squares of the styrofoam trays. Other children ate sandwiches packed in brown bags with a chips and a twinkie. But Maddy raced the two blocks home and her mother's back would face her again, as she stirred pots of chicken soup with dumplings and fried potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce. She ate sausages cooked in the pan and split down the middle slathered with a mustard that brought tears to her eyes. She ate stews with meat and potatoes and carrots. Everything she ate she washed down with large glasses of milk, pushing down chunks of barely chewed food, food she swallowed so quickly her throat was often scratched. Then she ran back to school, her stomach as tight as a basketball, her belly pushing against the snap of her jeans. She ran the two blocks back so as not to miss the next class, the food hard and painful in her stomach.
            After school she had a snack. Her mother's face would be in the paper, her feet up on a chair as she sat in the living room. She would throw her books on the kitchen table and open the refrigerator and then open the cupboards. There was peanut butter on crackers and boxes of moist raisins. There were bags of pretzels and cheese wrapped in individual plastic slices. She ate fruit flavored yogurts and candy bars and homemade cookies left in a tin. She ate slices of luncheon meats rolled up in a tube shape, her fingers holding on to the greasy meat, sliding it down the root of my tongue, swallowing it whole. She ate until she couldn't eat anymore and her stomach felt as tight as it did after lunch, stretched and hurting and she'd lay down in the living room or on her bed, the blood flowing away from her mind, flowing straight to her stomach, leaving her sleepy and digesting.
            She grew. She grew three and a half inches between the age of ten and eleven. Her shoe size went up two sizes. Her clothes bound her body uncomfortably. Her mother began standing behind her on the scale, watching the needle shake up and up as she continued to gain weight. Her mother took her shopping and bought her loose sweaters and shirts with matching elastic waist pants and new white underwear from the women's section of Goldblatt's department store. She wasn't allowed to wear prints, because they would draw attention to her girth. The matching outfits were in solid colors only, no whites or bright yellows, rather colors her mother thought were slimming, such as dark purple and dark blue. She bought a new winter coat and new fluffy, red mittens. She weighed well over two hundred pounds by the end of the sixth grade.
            Her schoolmates called her fatty, fat girl, fatso, jiggle butt, jelly butt, big ass, big titties, piggy, cow, lard ass. They called her Maddy the fatty, Moo moo Maddy.
            For dinner her mother cooked whole stuffed chickens and baked potatoes and steamed broccoli with hollandaise sauce. She ate beef Wellington and pork chops and baked fruit pies for dessert. There was cheese fondue and meatloaf and homemade pizzas with onions and sausage. They rarely went out to eat. Her mother's back, sturdy and industrious, preferred to stand guard at the counter in the kitchen. After dinner she snacked while she watched TV. She ate donuts and bags of red licorice. She ate oatmeal cookie sandwiches that were filled with icing. Her stomach ached, stuffed hard, packed down with a shovel.
            Her father stopped looking at her. He looked at the air next to her instead when he addressed her. Her mother cooked. Her sister Amanda was a teenager and didn't notice anything. She ate and ate and ate. Her breasts grew but so did the rest of her body so they almost didn't seem like breasts, just an extension of the layers of fat and flesh that surrounded her. She grew hips that hid in the lumps of fat that accumulated above and below them. She grew pubic hair, strangely dark and prickly, under her arms and between her legs. Folds of peach colored flesh hid the brown patches of fur. But they were there, dark and alarming, underneath all the layers.
            Her hands grew big and round, dimpling in the palms. They perspired a thin wetness while pulling meat off of a chicken leg and grabbing handfuls of peanuts. Sweat came out of the pores in her chin and the many hidden folds of her flesh. Her armpits and inner thighs began smelling musty like a dirty drain in a bathtub. They stunk like brown hay, like a sink full of dirty pots. Her crotch smelled of lukewarm shrimp, salty and damp. The skin where her breasts met was covered with a film of mildewy sweat; her cleavage grew red and splotchy from the heat and damp and the rubbing against itself.
            She bathed at night, filling the tub only halfway, sinking her huge body down and watching the water rise to the edges of the bath. She scrubbed herself with a washcloth, a bar of Ivory soap, rubbing herself until she turned pink and raw. She scrubbed her armpits and her breasts and feet and neck. She washed behind her ears and behind her knees. She rubbed the bar of soap between the lips of her crotch, sliding it down to the groove of her asshole. She rubbed it back and forth until her arms ached from reaching around her body and her crotch burned. And as soon as she stood up, the milky water now cool dripping off her, she began to sweat again. As she vigorously rubbed a bath towel against her back and around her neck, her skin became damp again, her own fluids free to cover her body once more. By the time she lay down to sleep, she could smell herself strongly, smell a musty animal smell emanating from the secret parts of her ever expanding body.
            Her schoolmates called her Stinky and Funky and Sweaty and PU and you smell like shit. They plugged their noses with their hands when she sat down in the desks next to them. They called her Maddy the Fatty you smell like hell. They called her FatShitStink. She used prescription creme deodorant that came in a jar and a medicated body powder. Her mother washed her clothes separately from the rest of the family's with a scented detergent made for tough grease stains.
            Her mother took her to a doctor. A specialist. A tall gray haired man with a red, veiny face and bad breath. They drove two hours south of South Bend to see him. She undressed and put on a pale, flowered robe. He weighed her. He made her raise her arms. He made her try and touch her toes. He looked inside her mouth with a tongue depressor. He asked her why she ate so much. He felt her breasts and underneath her arms and asked her to breathe while he listened to her heart. She lay back on an examining table and he prodded and asked and prodded some more. He gave her mother a strict diet for Maddy to follow and a prescription medicine to reduce appetite. He asked her if she would like them to put a ball in her stomach. He said this sternly, his eyes hooded by dark drooping lids. He said, with a clammy hand on her bare shoulder, that it would be a serious operation. For six months the ball would remain inside of her, he said, sewn up into her gut so that she would fill up easily and not eat much at all. They drove home and looking at the road ahead of her, her mother cried. The operation would be expensive.
            Every morning and every night she stepped on the scale and her mother stood behind her and watched the needle dance. Every morning and every night she took two red prescription capsules that left her head jittery and hollow. She ate dry toast for breakfast and drank a diet chocolate shake that came in a can. She came home for lunch and was given a bowl of fruit. She drank glasses and glasses of water with squeezed lemon. Endless ice cubes rattled against her teeth. She ate specially prepared chicken for dinner, grilled with herbs and served with white rice. She had a pink book with the words My Little Food Book on it where her mother and she wrote down everything she ate and how many calories it contained. Her mother bought her exercise clothes and new sneakers. Sweat suits and rubber sweat clothes. She jumped rope in the kitchen while her mother cooked, counting the turns of the rope out loud, twenty three, twenty four, twenty five. She ran around their neighborhood block five times with her mother every night. The neighbors looked out of their windows at first. Small, featureless faces peering sideways out windows. Parents and children walking from their cars to their front doors, stopping momentarily, necks turning to watch the woman pull her daughter down the block. Sweat poured out of Maddy faster than before, more watery than ever, staining her bright athletic clothes with dark, damp patches.
            At night she dreamt of the breakfast of her past, she dreamt the hot sweet odor of pancakes and bowls of sticky cereal. She dreamt dishes of delicious food were in front of her and her hands were larger than ever; so thick were her fingers that they could not hold onto a spoon or a fork.  As she tried to grasp them, the utensils would fall out of her useless swollen hands, clanging to the floor. She dreamt of thick stews and double hamburgers. Sometimes in her dreams she could eat and she would. In these dreams she ate and ate and ate and when she woke, her stomach burned with acidic juices cruelly aroused for no real purpose.
            She menstruated deep, brown blood that flowed for ten days straight. Soon after that her mother drove her to see the special doctor again. He weighed her, wrapped up in the same flowered robe. He made her touch her toes and reach for the ceiling and he poked his clammy finger under her arms and in the small of her back. He looked at the inside of her mouth. He asked her how she felt, his brow wrinkled, his malodorous breath in her face. She told him fine.
            But she felt like a deflated balloon, a neglected doll, a stuffed animal attacked by a dog. She felt small and see through, less protected, less herself. She had been MaddyFatty, StinkyCow, Pigface. She had been Jiggly Jelly Butt. She had been round and soft, her eyes hidden behind folds, the shape of her chin and nose lost behind flesh.
            But now all of her came out in sharp relief. She looked at herself in the mirror in the doctor's office, wrapped up in the flowered robe. Her breasts had become their own shapes, separate from the rest of her body, large tuberous things, protruding outward from her newly slenderer waist. Her hips flared out like fans, swinging side to side as she walked. Her eyes came out, big and visible to the world, wet and round and white. Her nose became thin and angled and her chin pointed outward, a lonely exposed bone. She had lost sixty pounds and lost her names, her flesh pillows, her body as she knew it. Her mother beamed as she stared at the road in front of her on the drive home, her eyes shining glossy and her mouth curled with joy. No ball would be surgically implanted in her daughter's stomach. No more expensive doctor visits. Maddy would just stick to her routine. Everything would be just fine.          
            
2
 
            When Madeleine turned twelve she was five nine and a hundred and seventy pounds. That September she started the seventh grade and she felt nervous, fat, and ashamed. She worried about the clothes she wore to the extent that she didn’t sleep well at night and her breath came short and fast in the mornings, or sometimes all day, depending on what she was wearing. Lunch time was the hardest because she no longer could run home, the junior high was too far away, so she had to eat at the cafeteria. After a few humiliating days of eating alone, she sat at a table with a handful of girls that looked around at each other with irritated and vulnerable eyes. It was a table that soon disappeared altogether, the girls sitting together only so as not to be alone, and as quickly as possible, they migrated to real, defined groups -the preps, the jocks or the nerds. Madeleine knew some of the preppie kids from her elementary school but her view of them changed drastically in the first few weeks of seventh grade (she had once thought them important) and eventually they fell from her vision altogether, becoming vague, uninteresting phantoms that roamed the school in Izod shirts and cableknit sweaters. Instead, she found herself mysteriously drawn to the freaks, and without realizing it, she began following them around, especially a small, wiry girl named Jennifer.
            The freaks, of which Jennifer was a kind of queen, were generally from the south side of South Bend, and the boys had long, stringy hair and wore heavy metal T-shirts; their shoulders were slumped and they didn’t look people in the eye. The girls dressed in ti...

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