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Well Fed by Burt Kempner
 

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  • If he wasn’t sitting on top of the world, he was comfortably perched on the rung just below. He was promotions manager of a major radio station in Chicago, he was hauling in big bucks, his wife was a popular fashion model and three-martini lunches were his everyday fare. And then it all went away, seemingly overnight, and he was an unemployable bum with a crippling mortgage, an estranged spouse and a worsening drinking problem.

    No one returned his calls anymore, so he was surprised one day to get a message on his answering machine from a friend. A friend of a friend, actually. Would he be willing to appear in a TV commercial?

    He showed up at Mott’s Market, where the spot was going to be filmed. The director told him he was to be the Mott’s Butcher Boy and his part was simplicity itself: he was to open the sliding door to the meat counter, twirl a package of strip steaks in the air, catch it, smile at the camera and wink. It seemed easy enough, and after the fourth take the director pronounced himself satisfied.

    A week or two later he saw the spot on the air. He had never heard the jingle that went along with it, and as he watched himself twirl, catch, smile and wink and listened to the accompanying tune, his heart sank. “For yummy meats, we’re Number One/Mott’s makes being hungry fun!” He was in trouble and he knew it.

    Sure enough, a few days later he was stopped on the street by a ragged, angry man who seized him by the sleeve. “Hey! Hey, you! I know you! You’re the fat little turd who thinks being hungry is fun!”

    After two more similar incidents, he knew his time in Chicago was over. He moved to Philadelphia, where no one knew his name or, even more important, his face.

    He pounded the streets of his the city, looking for work, any kind of work. He gave up meat. He grew gaunt.

    He found a job. He rediscovered how to be charming. He grew a beard so he no longer had to look in the bathroom mirror to shave. No matter how skeletal his face became, all he could see was the chubby-cheeked Mott’s Butcher Boy smiling and winking back because being hungry was just so God damned fun.

    He was dancing on the lip of suicide when he met his soul mate. She was decades younger and a gifted artist. She pulled him back from the brink and created for him a loving outpost in an uncaring world. He gave up booze and despair. He joined a church and taught himself jazz guitar. And when he looks in the mirror these days he sees someone whose holdings are few but whose soul is exceedingly well fed.
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