Tony Thorne MBE
Published by Etcetera Press
Copyright 2010-16 Tony Thorne MBE
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This is the third EBook edition, October 2016
Chapter One – The Offer
Roger Haggerty loved eating, but it was also his worst problem. Mostly hard- up in his early years, he had to keep within the limits of his meager income as a clerk in a small supermarket office. For Roger, the one advantage of his occupation was the allowance for staff to take home anything from the food and drink lines that were due to reach their expiration dates. The manager of the supermarket was always trying out new and exciting cuisine, so Roger was able to sample a wide variety of culinary delights. Naturally, being exotic and tasty, it was also loaded with calories; and after a while, as Roger grew older, his food exploits began to show around his waistline.
One day, he found he had a problem walking uphill. He became breathless and had to keep taking a rest. This was unfortunate, because his modest apartment was in an old building near the top of a hill on a side of the town where he lived, and his regular bus didn’t go up that far, leaving Roger to forcibly trek the uphill journey on foot to reach his door. As the days went by, worrying about it made him feel even worse. After another month, his condition became so bad he decided to consult a doctor.
The medic took one look at him, made a few tests, then shrugged and exclaimed. “Your blood pressure is a bit up. You must take more exercise, and don’t eat so much! Otherwise, your heart is seriously going to be at risk.”
Easily said, he thought, panting uphill on his way home. His six-day-a-week job in the supermarket office was sedentary, and this uphill journey to and from the bus was getting him down. On Sundays, his only free days, he was always so exhausted that he spent most of the day in bed. He decided to give his problem some serious thought.
As to cutting back on his food, no way! He was a gourmet cook and lived alone, and with all the wonderful ingredients at his disposal from the leftovers at the supermarket, he thoroughly enjoyed indulging in all kinds of wonderful, but horribly fattening, delicacies.
He made up his mind to come to a more doable solution, and thereafter, he did manage to to cut out breakfast, other than coffee and an orange or some other fruit. Then, it still had to be the supermarket restaurant for lunch, but without the starter and the dessert. However, in Roger’s evenings, his hunger and his imagination knew no bounds. He continued to bring home food and create dishes that simply were not any good to him beyond his taste buds. So, he continued to put on weight, and soon became even more breathless.
Then one day, while glancing through a magazine, he found what had to be the answer to his problem—an interesting article all about a new kind of operation for treating obese patients, recently developed in Romania. He read that the procedure involved bypassing a patient’s stomach with a computer controlled device that automatically calculated what should be consumed and expelled anything in excess of a healthy diet. To achieve this, an aperture was opened up in a person’s gullet, low down in the chest area, and a special pipe was inserted so that the unwanted extras being consumed would be deposited in a removable plastic sack attached to a special lightweight harness fitting snugly to the chest.
At first, Roger was repelled by what he read; but he soon became enthralled at the idea, especially when, on reading further, he discovered that the clinic was seeking more volunteers – all expense paid, to boot. It seemed too good to be true, nevertheless, that very evening, he wrote a letter offering his services to the clinic and posted it on his way to work the next morning.
Ten days later, on his return from work, he found he had a reply. He opened it eagerly and discovered a two-page form to complete, with a lot of questions to answer. He decided to be honest about his weight and condition, so he had what he considered a hasty snack (though for most people, more of a meal), and began to fill in the paperwork.
Roger spent two nights filling in the extensive form. He worked out what he wanted to say on separate sheets of paper first and changed his mind several times, but was finally satisfied with his answers. He decided he really did want to be a volunteer to try out the new device. Apart from the benefits, there was an item on the questionnaire regarding his allowance to be featured in an extensive international publicity campaign, also all expenses paid. Apart from the basic benefits of the gizmo if it actually worked and helped him to lose weight, the prospect of publicity and an “extensive campaign” sounded quite promising – like a chance to get away from his humdrum job in the supermarket office. Roger had always fancied himself as some kind of presenter on TV, and maybe this was his chance.
He copied his best answers to all the questions onto the form and took it with him to the supermarket the following day. There, he used the office copy machine to make copies for himself to keep for security reasons and posted the form back to the clinic in Romania on his way home from work.
For three long weeks, anxious Roger heard nothing, as he became more breathless and had more trouble with that hill each and every progressing day. Then, the magic day he longed for finally came. A thick, heavy letter package was awaiting him on the front door mat when he arrived home. At first, he was too apprehensive to open it. He put it on his dining room table and gazed at it for several minutes before finally finding the courage to slit it open and remove the pile of things it contained.
The first thing he noticed was an airline ticket. With trembling fingers, he opened it and discovered it was for an economy flight to Bucharest, just five days away. Then, he noticed that the ticket was for one-way only. This appeared a bit strange, at first, but Roger decided that could only mean that the clinic was not sure how long he’d need to stay there after the operation, and he would have to sort things out fast. He had his annual holiday time to come from the supermarket, but it was only for two weeks. How long would he need, anyway?
He opened the letter that came with the ticket. It was written in excellent, perfectly articulate English, informing him that he had been accepted as a volunteer patient for the new treatment. He scanned down the page rapidly, but was unable to find anything about how long the whole thing would take. There was nothing either about a hotel or what other kind of accommodation would be provided, so he assumed his stay would be directly on-site at the clinic.
At the end of the letter, there was a note stating that if he had any questions, they would be answered when he arrived. Meanwhile, he should read carefully the attached document, which would probably answer anything he was not sure about.
It took him over a half-hour to read the pages, which he then perused twice more to be sure he hadn’t missed anything. Most of it was highly technical, with diagrams showing how the human digestive system worked. Still, much to his disappointment, he could find nothing about how long the operation or recovery time would take.
He thought about writing a letter to ask them, but he realized he’d never get a reply before he had to leave. He looked at the letter again, and was surprised to find there was no telephone number, or even an address for the place. He turned the sheet over and saw some small print on the back of it. It read…
Chapter Two – A Long Journey
Roger’s curiosity finally persuaded him. He decided to go ahead and see what the clinic could do for him; but he knew that if he ran into the slightest disagreeable problem, he’d demand to return right away…and worry about the cost of the return ticket later.
He explained everything to his Chief at the supermarket, who was not happy to be given such short notice of Roger’s absence, especially as he knew he’d have to fill in a lot of extra time himself to keep all the records in order. There was nobody else he could trust to do the work. Nevertheless, he gave his overweight employee a reassuring smile. “Roger, maybe we could discuss a small increase in your salary when you return.”
It was his way of reacting to a nagging thought he had. He didn’t like the way Roger became vague when asked about his return flight details. Eventually, he had to accept the fact that Roger didn’t know when he’d return, but he truly hoped he would need his job more than ever when he did get back, especially with a raise in the works.
The fateful day came, and Roger arrived early at the airport by taxi. It was expensive, but it was the only way he could be sure of catching the plane on time. Perhaps I’ll be able to claim some extra expenses, he hoped, as he sat back in his window seat.
For the most part, his flight was relaxing and enjoyable, especially as the seat next to him was unoccupied. In the aisle seat, there was very thin, cantankerous old lady, who regarded his bulk with distaste, but she said nothing in reply when he bade her good morning, so he thereafter he ignored her. The hot meal the stewardess served him was not as bad as he had feared it would be, what with all the rumors about airline meals. He ate it all quite eagerly, but he couldn’t help wondering what and when his next one would be like. Apart from occasional turbulence, the flight was uneventful.
When he landed, after all the formalities, he found his luggage waiting for him in the baggage hall; just the one suitcase which he’d hoped would be enough. There was nothing much in the documents from the clinic to indicate what he should bring with him beyond a warm overcoat and two changes of clothes.
After the rest of the formalities, he emerged into the arrival hall and began looking around. There were several men and women holding up cards with names on them, but none were holding his. Then, he noticed a small elderly lady with a large card that had several names on it. He went over towards her and saw that the third name from the top was his. He greeted her apprehensively. “Hallo, I’m Roger Haggerty.”
The woman eyed him up and down, then gave him a stern look. “Please wait here; there are some others to come.’‘
Sure enough, there were others, and he could already tell who they were – two other men and one woman, all definitely overweight and gazing around as if lost. He waved and called to them. “Over here!”
With looks of relief, they came over to him. The girl spoke first. “Hallo, I’m Lucy Summers.” She exclaimed cheerfully. “What’s your name?”
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A chilling account of what happens when a small group of overweight people decide to accept an offer they cannot refuse. A free surgical operation in a foreign clinic guaranteed to cure their eating problem once and for all. Does it work? Will it really be free? You need to read and will enjoy this medical SciFi tale about a group of desperate obese people to find out what happens to them, and why the operation is for free.