Someone Smart as God

January 2, 2017

My Tough Wisconsin Grandpa

January 16, 2017

I Call My Brother Fat Boy

January 9, 2017

I have almost reached my three year blogiversary. Not quite. But in honor of it, today I present the first post I ever published, and still one of my favorites, entitled “I Call My Brother Fat Boy.”

P.S. I seldom call him Fat Boy anymore. But I just did the other day, and yes, he still answers to it.


Actress Jennifer Lawrence said in an interview recently that calling people fat on television should be illegal. If calling people fat were illegal, I’d be serving jail time.

I call my brother Fat Boy.

There’s a second brother, whom I call Smart Boy, and a third one, whom I call Muskrat. That is, I christened them that once upon a time. Those names, having a less pleasing bounce against the roof of my mouth, slithered down a hole somewhere and disappeared. But the first one I call Fat Boy. He is not at all offended by that moniker. He’s about as fat as the last minute of yesterday. Fat Boy calls me Hunches of Bun−a twist on bunches of honey−and considers this humorous. You can see why Fat Boy is an appropriate name for him.

I tried it on my sister once. “Fat Girl, would you come here?”

She came. “Do you think I’m fat?”

She’s fat like a flamingo is fat.

“No, I just called you that for something to say. I don’t think you’re fat.”

“Yes, you do. You think I’m fat, don’t you?”

“You, fat! Are you kidding? You’re about as skinny as they come.”

“Then why did you call me that?”

“I don’t know. I was just being weird. I don’t think you’re fat.”

“But do you think of me as chubby?”

“No, not at all. I think of you as slim.”

“Are you sure you don’t think I’m fat?”

“I’m sure.”

“Do you promise?”

“I promise.”

I never called her Fat Girl again.

Fat Boy has much thicker skin. Literally. I know this because I’ve pinched it.

“Oh, that didn’t hurt,” he’ll say. “You can do better than that.”So I’ll try, grab a hunk of it and twist. He’ll stand there, arms folded, unflinching. “Doesn’t hurt at all.” So I’ll try harder, rubbing skin between my fingers, twisting it into a tight spiral, grinding. And finally−finally−he’ll jerk a little, wince.

“There, that hurt, didn’t it?”

“A little bit. Not much.”

Fat Boy came into the world red as a raspberry, squalling while the other babies in the hospital nursery lay quietly in their cribs. Dad told us about it, laughing−how he’d gone into the nursery and found him that way, crying for all he was worth. There were four other children in the family at the time, a cluster of big-eyed little girls who trailed quietly behind Dad and Mom down white-tiled hospital corridors. The hospital had the sharp clean smell of antiseptic, and we noticed it, the excitement of a new baby big within us. We’d been praying for it for months. “God bless Dad, Mom, Dora, Jennie, Luci, Kathy, and the next new baby,” we had said every night before we went to bed. And now the next new baby was here, and we could take it home.

A couple of nurses stopped Mom to ooh over it. “He looks like such a boy,” they said. I am not sure what a boy looks like, but probably the opposite of a quiet cluster of girls.

We used to think, when Fat Boy got older, that he was a terrible bully. He teased the younger ones unmercifully. He motored through games on turbo charge, his voice blaring like a bullhorn, his square head maddeningly stubborn. We protected the little ones as best we could, and tried to teach Fat Boy a thing or two about proper behavior.Looking back on old pictures, I find it hard to believe that that sweet, dimple-faced, spike-haired little creature was the “big bully” of our childhood.

He hated when Kathy and I sang “Little Black Sheep,” because it was such a sad song, about a little sheep who left the fold and was lost. While he covered his ears and hummed, we sang it louder and louder.

He loved hunting from an early age. When Dad and Mom got him a Beebe gun, he spent hours outside with it, shooting sparrows and starlings. On our farm, these numerous, corn-consuming birds are considered pests.  Once he shot a wren by mistake and cried heartbrokenly. As he got older, he spent all his extra minutes fishing, while Smart Boy chose to engage in more intellectual pursuits and Muskrat took up photography. When deer season rolled around, Fat Boy hunted with the gangs, thriving. The other two weren’t much interested. Last year at hunting season, when one of the gang shot a deer and wounded it, Fat Boy spent the rest of the day tracking it down so it wouldn’t have to suffer. He never did get a deer himself.

And such he is, the brother who goes out of his way to annoy you the same who would give his life to protect you. Stubborn and virtually uncaring when nagged; soft as toothpaste under a little discreetly-employed sweetness. I think you would call him essentially male. I call him Fat Boy.


  1. oh, reminds me of my dear brother (one and only in the midst of 5 girls). The nurses that gave him his first bath say he was so mad he was standing straight up on the table. As a toddler only Dad was good enough to take him out of his crib…he’d scream and shake his crib rails until Dad came to take him out. He is SO nice now…he is even a preacher!

  2. You can only get away calling your brother ‘fat boy’ because it’s an endearment, and he knows it. A brother/sister relationship can be so fabulous, and it works if neither is thin-skinned, and if both appreciate the other. I’m lucky like you are. We have the best bros, and in the most loving way, they’re both ‘fat boy.’

    1. I agree. I’m so glad for my brother relationships! I remember the 1st post I read of yours brought to life your complex but great relationship with your brother. The one about swimming. 🙂

  3. This gave me a good laugh in the middle of a tedious day at work. What would we ever do without brothers?! I call my next down brother “Tall Boy” (someone has to reach the items that we females are incapable of procuring ourselves) and the littlest is affectionately “Big Guy”.

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