Pounds across America — 1990
Meg Pokrass

On Tuesday afternoon I line up with other petite brunette actresses, silently, our eyes underlined with dark liner. When it's my turn to walk on stage, the assistant casting director asks me to smile, inspects my teeth for flaws. She has purple hair, a nose ring, and a T-Shirt that says '2nd Butch Bitch.' She looks me over — back to front to back. Says they'll call if I make the cut.

I work in the fringes of mid-town Manhattan on the night shift, which allows me days to audition. My co-workers are mainly out-of-work actors. Our job is calling people who've ordered our diet product from a TV infomercial.

The floor manager creates a sales contest to motivate us, calls it 'POUNDS ACROSS AMERICA!' We're all nervous, fluttering and bullying each other. I pile Three Musketeers bars next to my coffee. A bite, then a sip, then a call. I wave at Jeremy who's been on the night shift the last month.

The prize is Broadway show tickets for two. I dial, opening my Three Musketeers.

Yep? a tired female voice says.

Hi. Is this Janet?

It depends, she says.

This is Martha Tiffany with Dr. Feldman's weight loss system! Congratulations, Janet! We've shipped your trial order and you should be receiving it any time!

Jingle-jangle-jesus, says Janet D. Higgins, 190 pounds, in Racine.

Janet, Dr. Feldman is having us call every customer individually so we can design your unique program. How many pounds do you need to lose?

I can't help reaching for my Three Musketeers bar. I hear the pop of a fart from the young recruit behind me.

Fifty, she says, followed by a puff of air.

Great. How fast would you like to do that, Janet? I ask, tonguing the caramel nougat.

Three weeks? Heh!

Let's see, I'm just looking at the chart, I say.

I turn to see what's happening. Dawn (who started when I did) is doing her shtick for a group in the back, saying "Pee – niss" in a Mickey Mouse voice. "Pee-niss, pee-niss, pee-niss!"

Janet screams, Mommy needs a little time-out too honey.

Janet, we're looking at... (here the script suggests improvising)... two to three to four months if you follow the easy step system!

I look over at Jeremy, his new haircut. He just did a national soda commercial — knows he's hot. He's rolling a joint under his desk, not really caring if he gets caught.

I got to try something, Janet says. I hear a child yelling.

Let me get to the other reason I called... and this has to do with what we just talked about. We care about your success as much as you do, Janet, and we don't want you to have a gap in your continuationan important concept in weight loss. We're real backed up here, Janet! People are waiting for months to receive orders because of the success they're achieving.

The script says, WAIT NOW FOR REACTION.

Oh, she says. I guess that's good then. Was your name Martha Tif-ney?

Martha Tiffany Reynolds, I say.

I wave at Jeremy near the window grid flipping me off like he always does. I stick out my tongue and he gives me his rat face. We spent last weekend in bed and he's probably bored already.

Janet tells me in a hushed tone that I sound like a "super, no B.S. gal."

You do too, sweetheartwe love you here, I say.

She says she's a waitress. Her husband died on the way home from work one-and-a-half years ago, crushed by a semi. She has a toddler named Trevor. He's a handful, and needs a good preschool. She hopes to be able to afford one soon.

Sweat is forming under my breasts and pits even though the air conditioning is blasting. I say the last line of the script a bit early, feeling my full bladder, pressing it with my hand to make it worse. You. Deserve. Success.

She gives me her credit card number, saying Shit yes! to the Supreme Success Package (the most expensive).

I bet you're pretty and thin, Martha Tifney, she says before she hangs up.


After work I bring Janet's order sheet home under my shirt. I read off each name as I tear the sheets into bits: Kelly, Nita, Jen, Marla, Iris, Nancy, and Janet. They will be mystified when there's no charge on their statements and they receive nothing else.

I take off my clothes and stand naked in front of the bathroom mirror. Look at myself from different angles. The way a casting director would.

Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FRiGG, Dogzplot, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, elimae, SmokeLong Quarterly, Pindeldyboz, and others.

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200811pounds.htm

Photo detail on main page courtesy of Dreamsjung.

w i g · l e a F               11-07-08                                [home]