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Richard Osgood

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Redefining All-You-Can-Eat: Our 14 Hour Challenge to Ryan's Steakhouse, pt. 4
Blake Butler

Blake Butler was a very obese middle schooler. He lost 80 pounds between 10th and 11th grade and suddenly people would speak to him. He likes gummy candy and most forms of ice cream but often forces himself to eat salad. He always wants want you ordered at dinner because he still has a fat-kid-on-a-diet brain. Check out more of his writing at

(read part 1 here)
(read part 2 here)
(read part 3 here)

(read complete here)

It was in the midst of my third plate of banana pudding, though, that something near to magic happened. A snap. A spark. Literally in mid-bite, I felt my brain twist and I fell out, as witnessed by my seatmate Tom in the form of what looked like I'd fallen asleep while sitting up. I had not fallen asleep. What it was more was a juncture, a spastic thrust resulting from the birth of a new consciousness. At that point I literally felt myself become not a human ingesting food to sustain life, but a mere entity, a blob. I was taking on mass like any entity subject to physical law - I was attracting nearby matter. This sudden brain-blip (something like the clipping of too high volumes) caused me to enter a state of delirium akin to death. I mean my human stomach died. As evidenced by a sudden switch to irrational optimism (I overspoke Tom in midsentence as he poopoo'd how long it seemed we'd been there to say that No, it didn't feel so long, in fact it seemed like no time at all), I'd reached the point of supersaturation and had bypassed the moment of morality that just moments before had me questioning that what I was doing there was wrongâ€"it was no longer a question of gluttony, but now just a procedure, an act on par with breathing.

You might imagine how this brain trajectory might be the result of a hallucination from overeating. Indeed this claim would be supported by my sudden urge to run across the street to the Sonic fast-food restaurant just across the street outside our window and order a cheeseburger value meal to sacrifice to my stomach's flames, an urge only suppressed in fear that leaving Ryan's property would negate my claim to All I Could Eat. From that point forward, I swooped upon the great larders of subpar food with a new ravenousness. I had become a thing. A fat, fat thing that like a massive planet, wanted to absorb all that came near me.

My tiny, near illegible note on the page following the most recent rant clearly demonstrates my succumbing to the New State: "Okay. Let's eat."

Significant occurrences from our dinner hours:

- A woman ladling melted nacho cheese onto an already quite cheesy pile of mac and cheese for her Sunday-suited son who danced a jig while waiting.

- A child crying while shitting in the men's room.

- A family of 8, five of which were young boys all who looked exactly the same, with a mother who had on a midriff shirt that showed her love handles and pierced navel, and whose decorum took an odd turn when the only daughter, maybe three, cried over her ice cream and was taken away by her father, in reference to which when one of the clone sons asked where she was, the mother said, "Your father is teaching her a lesson."

- A repugnant casserole made of only peas, shredded cheddar cheese and mayo, which for some reason Lee took a dollop of.

- Our sixth hair in the food somehow threaded through the middle of Farbod's steak, which he tugged out and continued eating.

Dizzy for entertainment, we began prank calling any phone number we could read off of billboards through the window, including a five minute call to a Carl Black car dealership, who hung on me after I asked the manager of internet sales something lewd about his girlfriend.

Finally we were picked up by a new waitress, a young Brazilian by the name of Angel. The only ethnicity represented all day other than white and blacks and Farbod were a single trio of Koreans at 7:12 PM, so Angel was somewhat of a rarity. She seemed to like me. She flirted in her broken English, explaining her love of "hip-hop" (her favorites being Beyonce and Mariah Carey) and mentioned that she'd like it very much if I'd bring her a tape of Tupac so she could hear him. I did my best to play along with Angel as she'd become our new source of fresh drinks and clear space on the table. For a few hours, conversation amongst the group leveled off to a kind-of delirious spit-and-spat, the four of us all more focused now on the science happening in our bodies than corresponding with one another.

At 7:24, we had our first run-in with the management. He was a large but fit black man who comes to stand at the end of our table. He was not smiling.

"I know ya'll been eatin' since this mornin'," he said, as if he didn't quite understand the words as they came out.

Everyone at the table was nervous; we didn't know what to say. Finally, feeling some kind of impending sense of buffet apocalypse, I spoke up and said vaguely, as if drunk, that we were there in the name of gastrointestinal research. The manager continued looking at us, his face glazed, half-smiling. After a moment of funny hesitation, he shook his head incredulously, without the premonition of a smile, and told us to keep it up.

From here on we coasted. We slowed down a bit in pace through the last hour, though we still continued always eating, now sticking with cookies and plates of our favorite items from the day such as the fried shrimp and the mac and cheese, which by now were less like food and more like things to play with as we put them in our mouths.

We breached our final goal of 100 plates via the aforementioned group steak just before nine o'clock and Farbod and Tom, now accomplished, sat back in a caloric daze. At 9:05 PM, Lee came back from the bathroom to announced he'd shat blood. He and I then went back for a victory lap: what must have been at least my 8th bowl of banana pudding and ice cream stacked with cookies for Lee, putting us at the final plate tally of 102.

As she realized what we'd done ("You bin heah aw day? Weawy?"), Angel started bragging on us to nearby tables. Families gawked in confusion on hearing the news. A jovial mother of two began interviewing us with random questions while her husband gnawed a chicken leg and stared at me with a look that said only, I do not understand. The couple in the booth behind us confirmed again that yes, we've been here since 7:30 in the morning. They couldn't seem to figure out whether to laugh or spit. Angel made us promise more than a few times that when we're on NBC we'll say her name, which I promised her we would.

When it was finally time to leave, I felt nothing as I stood up from the table. We did not jump up and down in celebration. We did not high-five. We huddled in the direction of the door, beyond dazed.

On our way out, we hugged Angel and shook hands with another manager who kind of stood there looking at us with his arms crossed like a weird uncle, who listened with an air of distracted interest, nodding, while other workers explained to him what we'd done.

Why? he said, looking at me like the object I'd become. Why did we do this? What's the reason? What's the point?

Standing there with his confused eyes on us, I had no idea what to say. People had been asking us all day, and days before, in explaining the event to our friends. The only answer that seemed apparent was the one we'd offered each time with a shrug: to see if we could. Even then, as we repeated it, it didn't seem completely true. If we could spend a Sunday at a backwoods Ryan's eating until our brains are about to bust instead of sitting around all afternoon and ending up in some dumb bar, then what other reason could we need? Made sense to me. Maybe it made sense to them also as a couple smiling waitresses followed to let us out through the now locked front doors, pausing only to take our picture with a ribboned bouquet under a trellis laced with plastic kudzu, inexplicably set up in the lobby like some tiny chapel in case any of Hiram's All-You-Can-Eaters felt like tying the knot on a full stomach. We drove home happy, if newly blubbered, with a sense of having done something, not quite sure what. When we split it was in silence, our brains overheated with digestion.

And yes, now 14 hours and 102 plates of food later, somehow I really feel in a way a different person. Now, the morning after, I can still smell the cooking oil in my hair though I've had a shower. Though I ran 3 miles when I got home (the guilty ex-fatty in me coming out), I still feel impregnated with lard. And now just a few hours after I'm actually sort of (help me) hungry. When I breathe in, I swear to God, I can taste the sugar-free cake I ate at least five bowls of during our merry morning, afternoon and eve.

Though I've always dreamed of breathing cake, right now it's beyond nauseating.