Larry couldn’t remember when it occurred to him that his life simply didn’t include enough marshmallows. He only knew that the bag was in his backpack one day, and after that, he was never without them. It was an occasional reach-in every so often at first, just a few here and there. The miniature kind, of course. Much easier to munch on than their more corpulent counterparts. Cramming those into his mouth on the sly was like trying to devour a snowman one lobe at a time. The little ones were like sneaking snowballs.
He didn’t eat them in full view of anyone, and yet he didn’t know why there was a need to keep it such a secret. Somehow it just felt…dangerous. Exciting. Like he was getting away with something. Maybe people saw his cheeks suddenly bulging with mysterious cargo, or heard his voice go foggy and cluttered with melting sugar, or found tell-tale streaks of corn starch littering his mustache. Maybe they wondered how any or all of that came to be, and he would know in his secret heart that it was from the cellophane cache in his satchel, the one that carried his hidden passion in tiny white clouds of confectionary passion.
The sugar also tended to make him just a touch melodramatic.
In actuality, those around him knew full well what he was getting into, because he was incredibly bad at being sneaky; the plastic always crinkled loudly when he reached into his bag, and he was never quite quick or stealthy enough at shoving them into his mouth as he liked to believe. And it wasn’t as if his fetish posed any real concern. He wasn’t smoking or drinking or snorting anything up his nose (although the corn-starch-on-the-mustache issue raised a few questions at first). No intervention was needed. Not at first anyway.
It wasn’t until he reached a three bag a day habit that things took a more notably unfortunate turn.
His friends and family began to see changes: his skin became pasty white and powdery, and anything that might have resembled an angle on him—his elbows, say, or his nose—became doughy and indistinct. And he began to emit a smell, a vague scent that wasn’t quite vanilla, and wasn’t exactly coconut, and wasn’t simply sugary, but suggested that if he stood near an open flame holding a chocolate bar and a box of graham crackers, he might find himself in serious peril from anyone who wandered by while even the least bit hungry.
Larry’s friends suggested he see a doctor about this.
“Humor us,” they said. “If he says you’re fine, you’ll never hear another word about it.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“We’ll expect some changes.”
“You’re covering my co-pay,” was his final answer. They gladly kicked in for it.
He couldn’t exactly see his family doctor in this strange yet unadmitted condition. So he found someone new, a doctor who had no reservations about documenting his myriad novel findings. For instance, he discovered that when he pressed his stethoscope to Larry’s chest to listen to his heartbeat, the metal disk left a distinct impression in the surface of him…a dent that didn’t pop back out when the doctor removed the instrument. And when he kneaded his belly to search for sinister lumps, there was a definite crackling, as if small pockets of air were being broken open beneath his skin. “Very strange,” the doctor said.
“I’ll take that as a good sign,” Larry said. It was difficult to tell if the excessive sugar had made him oblivious to his own state of being, or if he was just very, very good at being stupid.
And then, there was the matter of his bloodwork.
“I think we have a problem,” the doctor said when he read the paperwork. “You, my friend, eat entirely too many marshmallows.” There was really no need to say it aloud at that point, but the man was nothing if not a lover of obvious pronouncements.
“And how are we defining ‘too many’ these days?” Larry asked with more than a hint of condescension.
The doctor was sober and staid. “However many you’ve been eating? Divide that in half. That would be too many. You’re well past the danger zone.”
“You doctors and your fancy math,” Larry laughed. “I suppose if you think having marshmallows with every meal is too much, then I can cut down to just two bags a day.”
“Two bags a day? How many are you eating now?”
“Three,” he said proudly.
“You do realize they contain zero nutrients, right?”
Larry snickered. “I guess…if ‘happiness’ isn’t considered to be nutritious.”
“It isn’t generally thought of in that way, no.”
“Well, you are the doctor. So why don’t you enlighten me as to why eating marshmallows is such a ‘bad thing.’”
“Let’s see…where to begin? Your skin has gone gushy, you have cornstarch rising out of your pores, your breath smells like cupcake batter—”
“Some women really like that in a man,” Larry said indignantly.
The doctor went on. “Your heartbeat is nearly inaudible under all the goo that used to be your flesh, you appear to have lost any semblance of joints you ever might have had, and you’ve turned the color of craft glue. You, sir, are well on your way to becoming an actual marshmallow…though most of these findings indicate that you likely already have.”
He scoffed. “Pffft. Like that’s possible, even if I ate SIX bags a day. Which I wouldn’t. Because I can stop whenever I want to.” He found himself wondering if he had any strays stuck in his pockets that he could sneak off and pop in his mouth.
“And then, there’s the matter of your blood.”
Larry couldn’t roll his eyes high enough. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that smells like cupcake batter, too?”
“Actually, it pretty much is cupcake batter. The lab found that you no longer qualify as any of the known blood types. You’re not A, not B, not AB, not O—neither positive nor negative for any of those.”
He folded his squishy arms and shoved his gooshy hands under his mushy armpits. “Well, what do I qualify as, then?”
“They had to make up an entirely new blood type for you. Congratulations…you’re the first known human being with the blood type CS positive.”
“And the CS stands for…what, exactly?”
The doctor folded his hands calmly on the desk. “Corn syrup.”
Larry might have been compulsive when it came to eating his sugary treats, but he wasn’t a fool. He was only willing to risk his health so much before realizing he had to make a change—a definite, concerted effort to reverse whatever damage might have been done before it was too late. And so, it was the very next day when Larry appeared at his office with a bag of carrots, a box of apples, a cooler of salad, a gallon of green tea, a small pot of fresh herbs for his desk, and a case of bottled water.
And, because change is hard, and Larry wasn’t about to quit cold turkey when his happiness was at stake, there were also two bags of miniature marshmallows stuffed into his backpack.
But at least there weren’t three.