Archive for August, 2008

The Six-Pound Cheeseburger

August 26, 2008

The Six-Pound Cheeseburger

 My nine-year old son, Gardner, rifled through his new Ripley’s Believe It or Not book I’d bought him at Borders with one of my 30% off coupons they send me every other day. In the last two months, I’ve bought enough books to last me through the Chelsea Clinton Administration.

 I was driving the van toward somewhere, don’t remember where.

 He said, “Hey, Dad, listen to this one!”

 “Go ahead.”

 He read a story about some restaurant in Pennsylvania that specializes in the biggest cheeseburger on earth. “Look at this,” Gardner said, pointing to the picture of this luscious burger ladled with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and melted cheese. “It says it weighs six pounds,” Gardner said. “And it says no one has ever been able to eat one. Never. Not once.” 

I nodded, rather amazed. “Six pounds is a big burger.”

 Gardner looked over at me. “But I bet you could eat it, Dad!”

 I gazed at him, incredulous. “What?”

 “You could. You can eat anything. You should go there. If you eat the whole thing, they don’t make you pay for it.”

 What a deal! I should fly out this afternoon. Get a limo right to the place. I mean, this involves big money.

 I had to ask, “What makes you think I could eat that thing?”

 “You eat everything, Dad. I’ve seen you. Mom makes spaghetti or that rice and sausage stuff we all love. You eat like eight plates of it.”

 “I do not.”

 “Four.”

 “Gardner, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten more than two or three.”

 “Yeah, but the plates are piled like a foot high.”

 I drove along, a little astonished at these revelations. “Gardner, do you think I’m fat?”

 There was a long silence. “Will you kill me if I tell you?”

 I laughed. “I guess that’s my answer.”

 “It’s okay, Dad. At school we’re supposed to respect everyone, even fat people.”

 How glad in that moment I was for the multicultural emphasis these days. I guess I didn’t realize they also had a multi-fat-ural element there too. “So you think I’m fat?”

 He frowned and looked worried. “There are lots of fatter people. All kinds. Some with behinds so big they can’t even fit in a regular chair.”

 I wondered if he had pictures.

 “But I don’t know if they could eat this cheeseburger like you could,” he added.

 “Why not?”

 “Cause I don’t know whether they’re fat from eating too much, or fat from a gland problem. We learned that, too.”

 Hmmmm. So all us fatties could be divided into two groups. People who eat too much. And people with gland problems. Naturally, a gland problem was better, because it meant your fatness was not really your fault, in contrast to people like me who were fat because of our own lack of self-control, lust for food, and sheer gluttony.

 “So which group am I in?”

 He nodded, his eyes big. “I don’t think yours is a gland problem, Dad. I mean, I’m not a doctor, but people with gland problems, well –“

 “Well, what?”

 “Well, they don’t look healthy. Their skin is kind of –“

 “Splotchy? Rash-y? Crusty?”

 “Yeah, kind of.”

 “And my skin isn’t that way?”

 He looked me over. “A little. But not that much.”

 I considered right then whether to just crash my car into an overpass, or wait till I had my final giant cheeseburger or sixth plate of Mom’s spaghetti.

 “So my problem is sheer gluttony?”

 “What’s gluttony?”

 “That’s a person who eats and eats and eats, and keeps on eating, and really never stops hardly at all, except to sleep, or go to the bathroom.”

 He nodded thoughtfully. “Well, you eat a lot. But not that much, I don’t think.”

 “Thanks, Gardner. You have certainly refreshed me today.”

 “But that’s not why I really think you’re fat.”

 Should I ask him the question? Should I take this all the way till I slid into total depression and suicidal feelings? Or should I just end this now, and believe the best somehow, despite these august truths?

 I couldn’t resist. “Why?”

 “I’ve seen you eat. Every night at dinner.”

 “And you think I could eat a six-pound cheeseburger, just like that?”

 “Sure.”

 “Do you know how much a Big Mac has on it, meat-wise?”

 He crinkled his brow. “A couple of pounds?”

 “In that case, how many Big Macs would fit into a six-pound cheeseburger?”

 He thought again. Hard. Steam came out of his ears. “A hundred?”

 He never was that good at math. Deep down, I wanted to slap him, just slap him. But I had to be patient, to wait on God for the great truth that had to come out of this somewhere. After all, I was the mature one here, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?

 “Actually, a Big Mac has about a quarter pound of meat in it. So how many quarter pounds would fit into a six pound burger?”

 He shook his head. “We haven’t learned fractions yet.”

 Naturally. “Okay, let’s say there are four Big Macs in a one-pound cheeseburger. How many would be in a six-pound cheeseburger?”

 He snapped his fingers. “That’s six times four, right?”

 “Right.”

 “Twenty-four.”

 “Very good.”

 He smiled. “I’m good at math.”

 As I have confirmed.

 “Great. So have you ever seen me eat twenty-four Big Macs?”

 “No way.”

 “But you think I could still eat this six-pound burger?”

 “Yeah, but Dad, if you ate twenty-four Big Macs, you’d have to pay for all of them. That would be like a hundred dollars. But if you eat the six-pound burger, you’d get it for free. That’s why I think you could eat it.”

 When we got home, I would put him in the bathtub and make him stay underwater for a couple of hours.

 “So you’re not only saying I’m fat, but I’m also cheap?”

 He thought about it again. “If I tell you, you won’t kill me, will you?”

 I thought about it. “If you say it out loud, I’m going to stop the car, let you off here, go up fifty yards, turn around, and run you down at a hundred miles an hour.”

 He nodded. “Guess I won’t answer that one then.”

 “Good idea.”