Hugh Laurie used to love the smell of french fries. Their crisp, buttery scent electrified the air, and the faint meaty scent of a great fry had the same effect on his senses that a desert dweller must have when they catch a whiff of ocean wind. But not anymore. The aroma of French fries no longer made Hugh Laurie’s mouth water. Just the opposite, it made him want to vomit. He couldn’t pinpoint exactly when things changed, but he knew what had caused the shift. It was the moment that he realized that his body now smelled permanently of fry grease. It was then that he realized that he was not the man he once was, whole and in control of his destiny. He was something else now. Half man, half grease. On a hot summer’s day he worried that he might disintegrate into a milky, yellowish puddle.
With two sausagey fingers, Hugh Laurie plucked at the oily flabs of skin that spilled over the sides of his shorts. He looked out his window at the limbs of a tree blowing in the wind, but his vision was partially blurred by thin rolls of fat under his eyebrows and above his cheekbones, crowding in. He rolled over onto his stomach, enjoying the sound of empty cup tops crunching under his massive weight. He could feel the gentle tickle of burger wrappers stuck to his back being picked up in the light breeze from the box fan he kept on a chair next to the bed to dry the seemingly constant viscous sweat that pooled in the concave recesses of his stunning body.
Hugh Laurie was hungry.
It would take him a few moments to generate the momentum necessary to sit his body up, and from there it would be hours until he could find a shirt under the piles of Burger King detritus, wrappers, fry boxes, souvenir Shrek cups, drink caddies, milkshake spoons, ketchup stained napkins, ketchup stained everything. He checked his watch. 4:30 PM. “Good morning, Mr. Laurie,” he said to himself, casually picking the remnants of a Spicy Chick’n Crisp sandwich from between his two front teeth with the broken tine of a syrup-stained fork.
He was careful maneuvering down the stairs, which were slick with barbecue sauce and the dangerously slippy grease-paper of so many BK Big Fishes. The contractor had promised him that the 30,000 square foot pool house he was building behind the mansion would be done by winter, and then a crew could start shoveling all this garbage out of here and into there. But until then he walked warily. He should have the pool drained as well, he thought to himself. It simply didn’t do to have a pool full of Ranch dressing. You can’t swim in it, and after a couple of weeks, you can no longer dip anything into it whatsoever for fear of Salmonella.
It wasn’t until he’d made it to the driveway that Hugh Laurie remembered his Jaguar was undriveable. For one, he no longer fit inside, but even if he did the rear of the vehicle dragged so badly from the spare burgers he kept in the trunk that the bumper created sparks on the roadway. He called a taxi and leaned against the car to wait. There was a gentle crunch, and he realized that his body had crushed the passenger side window, and he had glass sticking out of his back, not that he could feel it. Hugh Laurie sighed, and tasted pickle on his breath.
The cab driver asked Hugh Laurie if he wanted to be dropped off outside the restaurant, or if he’d rather be taken through the drive-thru. After numerous experiences of haggling with headset-wearing clerks who had no idea what a Gold Card meant, the kind of lifestyle a holder was entitled to, and eventually having to resort to heated arguments with frustrated managers, he knew it was best to simply order from the counter. He looked at his watch. 8:45 PM. Not bad, he thought. He wasn’t as spry as he used to be, but he could still get around. The woman at the register gave him a look he knew all too well from beneath her visor. It said “do I know you?” and then it said “no, I can’t possibly.” It had been years since Hugh Laurie was employable as an actor outside of Eddie Murphy fatsuit comedies, and even those rarely required an actual person of Laurie’s stature. “It’s just not as convincing,” a prop manager had once told him. He would show him convincing, Laurie had thought that night, as he swallowed dozens of Whoppers and Whoppers Jr. without even chewing.
“I would like one Whopper with cheese,” Hugh Laurie said, feeling the long path his voice had to travel up his strangled esophagus.
“Would you like any fries, or anything to drink?” the waitress asked.
“You know what, sure, let’s just make a meal of it.”
The waitress nodded and punched the order into her computer. “That will be 6.89,” she said.
“Oh I don’t think so,” Hugh Laurie said, brandishing his Gold Card. “Not today, young lady.”
The young woman looked at the card quizzically, shrugged, and swiped it through the magnetic reader. She shook her head and swiped it again. She put a hand on her hip and chewed at a nail. “I’m sorry, would you excuse me for a minute?” She disappeared into the back, and a moment later a man in a button down blue shirt with a hideous silk tie came out.
“How are you today, sir?” the man asked, straightening his ruddy mustache with his right index and forefinger.
“Fine. Just going to get my burger and be on my way.”
“Well, about that. It seems like there’s a problem with your card.”
“What do you mean a problem?”
“It seems like you’ve passed the limit on your card.”
“Impossible,” Hugh Laurie said, the first quiver of fear creeping into his voice. “I was promised unlimited burgers for life.”
“You were promised almost unlimited burgers,” the manager said. “And it turns out that limit is four billion. After that, you have to pay for them.”
Hugh Laurie couldn’t pay for them. He was squeezed so tightly into his pants that there was no way to put money in his pocket (he kept a running tab with the cab service.) He thought of calling Jay Leno and asking him to come over and comp him with his own Gold Card, but where there was no room for cash there was certainly no room for a phone. Besides, he remembered, Jay Leno had recently died of retardation. A single tear of liquid grease rolled down his sloppy face. “Isn’t there anything you can do, kind sir?” he asked.
The Burger King manager looked on Hugh Laurie with pity. He slid the Whopper across the counter. “I can’t give you the whole meal, but here. Take the sandwich. But I can’t do this again. This is a one time courtesy.”
Hugh Laurie took the still warm Whopper out into the parking lot and sat on a plastic bench under the hot summer sun. He took one bite, still shaking with horrified sadness. Then he shoved the rest of the burger into his mouth, swallowed, and waited for death.