***Read Love vs Sex 91 and 92 sequentially prior to moving forward with this passage.
The setting: Our fat woman from the stands at Arty’s show has returned the next day and is waiting in his tent, prior to his show, in hopes that he will help her as he had previously stated he would. Arty’s sister (the narrator) finds her sitting in the tent waiting for the next show.
I sat down next to her and watched the heat rash on the insides of her elbows and the backs of her knees and in the folds of her chins as she talked. She had got herself into a terrible jam, she said, and it had made her realize…..She was from Warren, Ohio, and her mother was a schoolteacher but had died last year. She took a photo out of the shopping bag and showed me a picture of a fat old woman.
“What kind of a jam are you in?” I pushed. If she had strangled her old mother I was going to have her escorted to the gate, heat rash and all.
“It’s a man,” she said coyly. I couldn’t help looking at her with suspicion. She bubbled into tears right away. I looked at the photo album in her lap. She had drawn pink daisies on the cover. I figured she was the type who would doodle LOVE in big, loopy letters and dot her i’s with hearts. Her name was Alma Witherspoon. She was twenty-two riding hard on fifty-five. It seems she was a pen pal. She’d always been a pen pal. Seem’s she’d got the address of a twenty-to-life bank blaster a year or so before. He was up the road in the Earlville Federal Pen. She’d sent him a photo of one of the cheerleaders in school. After her mother died she moved down here so she could send him fresh cakes and cookies.
“We’re in love,” she said. It sounded like L♥ve. “He wants to marry me!” she moaned. “And the warden has agreed! But I thought we’d do it by telephone and now the warden says I have to go out there and do it in his office and Gregory will see how I really look!” So she needed to see the Aqua Man. She didn’t know anybody in this town. She had no relatives left to turn to. Her heat rash looked contagious. I gave her a show ticket and got away from her. “You just wait here for the show. Nobody will bother you.”
I took the cash bag to the safe and went over to help Arty get ready. I told him about Alma Witherspoon while I greased him. He lay on the massage bench and nodded. His eyes were eager. He had a funny half smile the whole time.
“She’s probably been spinning whoppers to her pen pals for years about being beautiful and popular.”
“No relatives? No friends?” he asked.
“So she says.”
“Good,” grinned Arty. He stretched and rolled his back under my kneading fingers.
Katherine Dunn 1983