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Fat Girl, Terrestrial

A Novel

Kellie Wells

Publication Year: 2012

Not only the story of a colossus of a woman living in Kansas, Fat Girl, Terrestrial is also a meditation on God, treachery, and blind love.
In Kingdom Come, Kansas, a town from which children once mysteriously disappeared, there lives a giant woman. Wallis Armstrong is not a pituitary mutant or a person battling a rare medical condition; she’s just an improbably large woman ill at ease in a world built for shrimps. Paradoxically, Wallis builds miniatures of crime scenes, and her specialty is staged suicides. She constructed her first diorama as a child when a boy in her fourth-grade class went suddenly missing. Wallis’s brother, Obie, believes the only explanation for his sister’s amplitude is that she is the incarnation of God on Earth, and he is her one true ardent disciple. Until he too disappears.
Kellie Wells’s story of Wallis’s odyssey through this tight-fitting world is a churlish meditation on the existence and nature of God as well as an exploration of the treachery of childhood and the destructive nature of the most blindly abiding kind of love: that of a love-struck brother for a big sister, a disciple for an unwilling prophet, and a bone-weary god for a savage and disappointing flock.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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One: Goliath Girl

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pp. 1-14

I didn’t know I’d killed him until the next day, when the paper reported the death of this man, Hazard Planet, that was his name. He was found at 34th and Strong, right where we’d parted. The paper said the police were investigating “the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.” As an architect of crime scene miniatures, I couldn’t imagine...

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Two: Moon River

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pp. 15-20

This is what I remember first as I think about pain and love and air travel and the history of this body, this body of evidence, mapped with clues:
My brother, Obadiah, and I are sitting in a boat on the moon. The water is a silvery green, and when we stick our hands in it, they shimmer with phosphorescence, drip moon-glow...

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Three: Daring Truth to Bare Her Bosom

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pp. 21-24

When Hazard Planet turned ten years old, growing so snailishly he thought he’d never be tall enough to slip into the burlap sack and slide down the giant rippling slide in the Save-On parking lot by himself, barely a quarter of an inch taller than he’d been at nine, his hopeful parents gave him a poplin jacket a size too big and a green canvas tent ...

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Four: Walrus Disgrace

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pp. 25-32

Tonight I, Wallis Grace Armstrong, am dusting off my two left feet and knock-about knees and am going for my fourth ballroom dance lesson at the Arthur Murray studio in Kingdom Come, a gift from my parents who had high hopes for the steering power of a middle name and who are...

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Five: Rudy in the Park

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pp. 33-40

When I was a young child, never small exactly but budding, proportionately, at roughly the same languorous rate (all right, in mind if not body) as the runtiest in the world’s litter, I dreamed of being kidnapped. I longed to be darling and vulnerable, the kind of child a parent would never dare leave alone, the kind of incandescent, wide-eyed moppet that...

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Six: Child of the American Revolution

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pp. 41-46

My mother has always longed to be a member of the DAR, beloved Daughter of the American Revolution, but there’s a crook in her lineage that makes her more distant, disowned cousin by common-law marriage than direct descendant. Nevertheless, she continues to hold out hope that she’ll find a crack in the rules in which she can wedge...

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Seven: The Ungainly Appetite of Wallis G. Armstrong

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pp. 47-54

As I was growing up, in an attempt to stanch the flow of my thickening flesh, my swelling haunches and belly and breasts, slow the ballooning of my avoirdupois (my dress size seeming to double each month), my mother carefully meted out to me tiny servings of the starchy foods with which she tried to fatten Obie: scalloped potatoes, macaroni, creamed...

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Eight: Die-O-Rama

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pp. 55-62

Once when I was a girl, one of my classmates invited me to a birthday celebration. Lynette Saunders had long, fine, silvery-blonde hair and eyelashes the color of moonlight that made her eyes, when she blinked, look like summer moths fluttering. Lynette herself was a smiling daisy, slender and sweet and sun-loving, a must for any cheerful floral...

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Nine: The Hazard of Love

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pp. 63-68

As I walked into Vivica’s surprisingly modest house, my skeptic’s eyes switched on and I couldn’t help but subtly canvass her digs, couldn’t prevent myself from picturing her roost as a crime scene, bow-tied in yellow tape. My work re-creating the death throes of the unwilling dead has forever altered my first-time experience of rooms in this way,...

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Ten: Reigning Planet

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pp. 69-76

Hazard stood over Vivica as she reclined on the green and white webbed mesh of the chaise longue, in her red bikini top and a plaid, hip-slung scooter skirt, the collop of flesh above the waistband white and silken as…a subterranean grub he made himself think. Two of the woven bands across the chair were broken, and her butt sagged nearly to...

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Eleven: Godmine

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pp. 77-82

The night our neighbors’ house was swallowed by the earth, we were coming home from the circus when it happened. Obie was in a solemn mood. He had hated the circus: the trained antics of the unicycling bears; the swayed backs of the horses that shivered beneath the caparisons and the capering feet of the gymnastic riders; the fat, apple-cheeked...

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Twelve: Diviner of the Electrons

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pp. 83-98

Today I’m riding on a city bus with Vivica (she parks where she pleases, and her van has been booted). She’s taking me out of Kingdom Come and into the city, to the laboratory where she examines renegade cells under a million-dollar electron microscope that can magnify a dust particle—no, the dust a dust particle collects when it neglects its housekeeping—...

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Thirteen: Darren Crenshaw Disappears

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pp. 99-106

When the children began disappearing from Kingdom Come, I was only a child myself. The second one, Darren Crenshaw, was my fourth-grade classmate. He brought a Super Ball to school every day and sent it ricocheting through the classroom whenever Mrs. Roach stepped out. Somehow, the ball always ended its erratic bouncing by beaning Ronnie...

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Fourteen: Darren Crenshaw Has a Sister

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pp. 107-116

That night at dinner, my mother talked about the PTA meeting that had been devoted to discussing Darren Crenshaw’s disappearance. We had a hearty meal, the product of my mother’s gratitude that tragedy had struck someone else: country fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, baby peas, Parker House rolls, and apple slump for dessert, and ...

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Fifteen: Vivica, Off Her Axis

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pp. 117-128

When Vivica was a toddler, her father dandled her, his sizable first-born, on his knee, and she loved to nuzzle his neck and breathe in his smell, a manly bouquet equal parts Old Spice and Aqua Velva, Tres Flores brilliantine, cherry blend pipe tobacco, loved the chafe of his stubbled chin against her cheek, the feel of his large, clean hands, but by...

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Sixteen: Fishy Felo-de-se in Goodland, Kansas

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pp. 129-146

Q. How did she do it?
A woman is found hanging from a ceiling beam in the center of a bare room in, say, a once stately Victorian, no chair or table kicked to the side, just a large puddle of what appears to be water below the body. Let’s suppose the woman is wearing fur-lined boots, seamed stockings, and a tailored dress, navy blue dotted swiss. It’s the middle of June,...

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Seventeen: Couvade

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pp. 147-164

On the day Obie disappeared, the last child to go missing from Kingdom Come, Kansas, I came home from school in a prickly humor. I had gotten my period while playing basketball in PE, felt the blood spurt as I sprang for a jump shot, launched myself forward and upward, into the stratosphere of the gymnasium, looked down at the shrinking hoop like...

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Eighteen: The Curious Case of the Capacious Death Investigator

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pp. 165-186

Two-car garage with a fresh oil stain on one side, the leaking Oldsmobile 88 parked in the driveway outside the closed door; Toro riding lawnmower circa 1982, hedge clippers, pump can for pesticide; workbench with vice, hacksaw, power drill and bits, three-tiered tool chest open and spilling forth an assortment of wrenches and hammers and ratchets and...

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Nineteen: Oxtrot

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pp. 187-200

Mr. Mundrawala, Mateen, asked me one night after a class I spent bungling the fox-trot (forward, forward, side, er, ow!, pardon me, ow, er…) if I would do him the honor of breaking bread with him one evening (no doubt imagining a sizable country loaf as he eyed my breadbasket and pondered its capacity), so we met the next week in the West...

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Twenty: Three Trinitarians

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pp. 201-208

There are, as I see it, from my Olympian view, when I wave away the clouds wooling my gaze, many advantages to having a humanly height and bearing. The taller you are, the more things you feel compelled to clean (particularly true of those tidy-as-a-pin suck-ups trying to sidle up to His Cleanliness...

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Twenty-One: Gaythal Dethloff, Mother of Murder

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pp. 209-234

I have not seen Vivica Planet for six weeks now, not since she took me to her laboratory and revealed to me the ylem of her brother, man I killed, accidentally, magnified for me a particle of that heart that no longer beats with desire, the cell whose soul we gazed into perhaps the very one that blazed with regret as he clutched his throat, the last sentiment to ...

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Twenty-Two: Rabbit Catcher of Kingdom Come

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pp. 235-268

One sudden spring, when trees and flowers, bamboozled by warmth, began budding in January, the prematurely honeyed air flatly refusing to chill again until late December, the town of Kingdom Come, Kansas, was beset by a plague of black-tailed jackrabbits that were not only many but jumbo, bigger than great danes they were, gargantuan rabbits, suspiciously...

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Twenty-Three: Husband of Mary Alice

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pp. 269-284

The summer before the first child went missing from Kingdom Come, my next-door neighbor, Mary Alice Mc- Guinness, corkscrew curls the color of strawberry jam and cheeks so crowded with red freckles the pale skin showing through made her look like a speckled apple—forever bringing to mind fruit and flowers ripe and ruddy Mary Alice—she ...

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Twenty-Four: The Inoculation of Mateen Mundrawala

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pp. 285-290

I hadn’t seen or heard from Mateen in a week, not since I’d followed the feet of the fox-trot into his bedroom, and when I arrived for my final dance lesson, I passed my eyes over the cars in the lot but spotted no battered beetle among them. Then a yellow smear, bright as a flashbulb, across the...

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Twenty-Five: Egg of Eden, Sperm of Fate

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pp. 291-300

Not so long ago, the hard-noodled thinkers of the day believed that human beings are preformed, each of us a passing idea God has and then stores in the egg, in the sperm—well, naturally there was some disagreement about this, about which sanctum we hunker patiently inside like an enchanted princess waiting to be kissed ...

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Twenty-Six: Lady Maximus and the Bantam Universe

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pp. 301-314

I’d been working for a month on reducing that allegedly fateful barn in Goodland, Kansas, to the size of a breadbox when Ursula Lehmkuhl called to ask if I’d come to any conclusions. What I was unable to make her understand, what I was unable to make anyone understand, is that compacting every atom of an object into its smaller, more essential self so ...

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Twenty-Seven: The Soft-Footed Phantom Speaks

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pp. 315-322

A spectre is haunting Heaven—the spectre of communion. In that saint alliance is an old European, spying on pope and tsar alike, the benched radicals, the germ of their pleas infecting the calvary of fought wars. Does not the opposition party always condemn that which matches its strength? Does not the statistical enemy commune with blame, oppose the luminary?...

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Twenty-Eight: Hazard, a Guess

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pp. 323-330

One thing you oughta know about Vivica is’t she ain’t half the warrior princess she thinks she is. Sure, she’s big and prickly as a goddamned Douglas fir, but her roots, they’re shallow, which means she can be toppled by a stiff and pigheaded breeze that refuses to curb its blustering, and from ...

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Twenty-Nine: Planet Suicide

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pp. 331-342

Captive anvil, vain evil pact, vile vacant pi, live-panic vat, a name containing evil and pelvic and vice and plaint, vain and pain and lava and cave, an l short of villain, a t shy of taint, a name big enough to gird a planet, viva la pain, Vivica Planet....

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Thirty: Deliver My Darling From the Power of the Dog

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pp. 343-352

The man tried to shift his weight (were there still bones in his body that could be commanded to move?) so that the nails would not tear so at his feet and hands, igniting knifepoints of fire that stabbed his legs, sliced his arms, but the shifting was more thought than action, as so many things are, more like a nagging memory of something he ...

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Thirty-One: Kansas She Says Is the Name of the Star

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pp. 353-372

Vivica and I are traveling together to the Garden of Eden, two cramped spars straining at the halyards, two footloose lady longshanks fishtailing forward on a slippery highway in a truck, one in search of prophecy, the other along for the ride, an unseasonal snow falling silently upon the prairie, the tracks of our taxed tires disappearing beneath the white....

Illustration Credits

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pp. 373-374


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pp. 375-376

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781573668330
E-ISBN-10: 1573668338
Print-ISBN-13: 9781573661706
Print-ISBN-10: 1573661708

Page Count: 390
Illustrations: 6 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1st ed.