If you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering, “What is it that makes this bread so damn crazy?” Well, buddy, your guess is as good as mine. Bread ain’t crazy; people are crazy. These folks just put cheese inside bread. That’s damn near the sanest thing I’ve ever heard. Were I consulted in naming this product (or if the manager at the Little Caesars down the street would just read my slash fiction) I’d have called it “Crazy Good Bread Now Featuring Cheese (I Would Be Remiss Not To Express To You That The Cheese Is Actually Inside Of The Bread As Opposed To Outside Of The Bread (Which Is Generally The Case)).” He keeps throwing them out but I just keep plugging away, because I’d do anything for Crazy Bread. CB was there for me when I needed it, I tried to do what I could. Sorry I let you down, Cray-Bray, after everything you did for me. When things were the darkest they had ever been. After I lost Rebecca.
Finding Rebecca’s body carved into thousands of tiny curly fries kind of bummed me out for awhile. I felt like a ghost down at the station. Almost everyone tried to avoid conversation with me and the ones that engaged kept it so light I might as well have been talking to Becky (sorry, inside joke: everybody at work hates her because she’s unattractive). Most people didn’t even meet my eyes. It was just like back when I was a kid and they found out what was going on in the toolshed with Mr. Johansen. It wasn’t their fault, I understood. They didn’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know if I’d do anything different in their shoes. I requested a leave of absence after what happened at Rebecca’s funeral, or at least that’s the reason I gave them. It had a lot more to do with what happened the night of the funeral. They told me to take as much time as I needed.
On the night of Rebecca’s funeral, as I was driving home, I passed a Little Caesars. I’d heard of this new experimentation with cheese inside of bread and I had to see it with my own eyes. When I went into the restaurant I had no intention of actually purchasing anything but once I smelled that delicious combination of garlic, butter, garlic butter and garlic sprinkles all topped on a garlic flavored bread and injected with a garlic cheese that’s so delicious they surely must be losing money on each and every bite, I couldn’t resist. I purchased seven orders and ate them all on the ride home. Once I was home, I called in an order to be delivered. I wouldn’t leave the house again for almost a year.
As most doctors and many geologists will tell you, eating nothing but Crazy Bread for ten months isn’t going to do your body any favors. I didn’t expect it to get this out of hand. I just kept telling myself, “Okay, Jack, it’s fine this week but next week you have to take at least one shower.” Then when next week came I’d tell myself, “Okay, maybe that was too much for now. How about you just eat a tic tac?” Eventually I would do nothing but lie naked on the floor and call Little Caesars delivery. I left the door unlocked so the delivery guy, usually Mitch, could just walk in. After the first few months Mitch was the only one that would deliver to me anymore. I tipped him well. After six months I didn’t even have the energy to sit up anymore, let alone operate a telephone, but that was fine; apparently Little Caesars got worried after I missed my fourth order for the day and they sent Mitch out to check on me. We arranged for him to come at specific times every day so I wouldn’t have to move. I gave him an extra twenty to feed me on the floor and another fifty to keep this between me, him and the doorman I (very rarely) payed to wipe me down with a wad of wet toilet paper on the end of broom handle. Mitch was a nice guy, had a wife, a couple kids and not a lot of money to go around. I was glad I could help.
In the ten months I was off the force I put on 714 lbs. I had Mitch play my voicemails every few weeks for me for an extra ten bucks. I’d ran out of cash a long time ago but I told him where my checkbook was and had him just write himself some checks. The kid could have cleaned me out, I’d never had known, but to my surprise not only was he not ripping me off, he never even cashed them and I found almost all of the extra money I’d given him stuffed under my mattress when I moved. Like I said; good guy. It’s too bad what happened to him later that year. Nobody could have seen it coming. Not Mitch, not the guy working at the pie store and especially not that fresh litter of puppies. It was a bloodbath. There were chunks of pie and the most adorable little basset hounds you’d ever seen everywhere. I never even got to tell him thanks.
I knew I had a problem, how could I not? I just didn’t know what to do about it or if I even cared enough to do anything. Why bother? What did I have to live for? My life was such a mess that the best thing I had going for me was bread with cheese inside of it. Of course I mean no disrespect to Little Caesars, it truly is the best cheese bread I’ve ever had but it’s still just cheese bread. A man needs more than cheese bread but cheese bread was all I had. I wasn’t about to let the world take this away from me too. Not without a fight. I needed help but I didn’t want it. In the end, help found me. Most of the time I wish they hadn’t but sometimes? Sometimes I’m glad they did. I may hate my life and, so far, haven’t enjoyed a second of the extra time they’ve given me, but I did finish that Darth Vader puzzle I was working on. I even got some of that puzzle glue and framed it. It looks great. I felt nothing when I finished it and I feel even less when I look at it now. Luke may as well have stayed home and let Darth keep his damn… what’s that thing called? The not-a-moon planet-destroying thing-y? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. What was I saying? Oh, right, I wanted to die and cheesy bread was slowly (quickly) killing me.
After about nine months I started getting voicemails from the station asking me if I was ready to come back. I didn’t answer them. How could I? I weighed over eight hundred pounds and I was pretty sure they were going to notice. I couldn’t even sit up so I’m not sure how much I could have really gotten done. But Mitch wouldn’t let me give up. He took it upon himself to call Murphy and Spakowski and let them into my apartment. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter; they just carried me out and six or seven montages later, I was back down to my normal weight, give or take 80 pounds. Ready to get back to work.
This time around, everyone went out of their way to try to act normal around me. I get the feeling Murphy told people a lot of the stuff I was saying between sobs at the gym. The gesture was nice but it was hollow. You can’t just ask people to feel differently, but I appreciated the effort. It took awhile but I got back into the swing of things. Before long I was back on the streets, solving murders, eating at Perkins and beating the shit out of kids to make myself feel big. It did make me feel big, if only for awhile, because those kids would eventually heal, grow up, have wives that aren’t murdered and win in the end. It wasn’t long before I started cheesing again.
I started by sneaking a few sticks a day. I’d cut three up into nine pieces each and hide them in a Kleenex box on my desk. At first, I made a deal with myself that I would only get to eat a piece when a solved a murder. Then it was a felony. Then a misdemeanor. By the end of the month I was eating six sticks as a reward for making it to the bathroom. The worst part was that I thought I was fooling everyone. Nobody’s that stupid, between the grease stains, the garlic breathe and the fact that I when we ran out of butter I opened a wrist to butter my toast, they were onto me. The problem, I thought, was that I never conquered my addiction, I only avoided it. If i wanted to beat this thing, I was going to have to face my fears and I would have to face them alone. I was going to have to burn Little Caesars to the ground.
Watching Little Caesars burn wasn’t easy, but I stayed strong. If I could go back I probably wouldn’t have done it at 4 PM and I definitely wouldn’t have let some of those witnesses live but I still think back on that day as an important turning point for me. I overcame my addiction, not with cheesy bread, but with letting things go. I loved that cheesy bread like I loved Rebecca but, like with Rebecca, it just wasn’t working out. I needed a go-to snack food that was healthier and I needed a wife that was alive. I wasn’t just going to settle anymore. I was going to spin around, throw my hat into the air and have it all. I was going to have my bread and cheese it too.*
Goodbye, cheesy bread. Quitting you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I hope you find someone that treats you right. I’ll send all my friends your way.
*Except, you know, specifically not that.