The grad student

Chapter 1

I peered around the classroom as the professor began his first lecture of the fall semester.  The class was Econ 101, the room filled with about seventy disinterested freshmen.  It was my first year as a grad assistant at Georgia State University , I was there working on my thesis for my PhD in Economics.

This was my first exposure to "the South", having grown up in eastern Pennsylvania .  My first impression was that the girls down here sure were nice-looking.  I kept reminding myself I wasn't down here for romance, but nice bodies, gorgeous faces, and dazzling smiles kept attacking my resolve.

I waved idly to the class as the professor introduced me as the "young man who will help you with your questions and any concepts you find to be particularly difficult to comprehend."  Observing the already glazed eyes, I figured that I would have no shortage of clueless freshmen looking for assistance.

When I had waved to the class, several of them actually waved back.  One in particular caught my eye.  She was sitting in the second row, shoulder-length blonde hair framing a very cute face.  She smiled when she waved to me, and I caught myself foolishly grinning back for a moment before coming to my senses. 

During the lecture I found my gaze being drawn to her every few moments.  Not only was she very pretty, she was one of the few students actually paying attention and taking notes.  Wonder of all wonders, she actually came up to me after class was over.

"Hi, I'm Traci Lynn, but most of my friends call me Trace," she introduced herself with a warm Southern drawl.  "Your name is Jeff, right?" 

"Uh, hi.  Yes, yes it is."

"Well Jeff, you might be seeing a lot of me this semester."

"Can't wait," I smiled.  "Excited about studying economics?"

"Actually, I'm a culinary arts major," she replied.  "I'm only taking this class because of my boyfriend Bobby.  He's a football player."

I tried not to let my disappointment show.  I gave her a sheet of paper with my office hours and contact info and said goodbye.  Then I walked over to the dining hall for lunch before my next class.  I was pleasantly surprised by the food, it was much more edible than than my previous school's fare.  Also, those stories about Southern comfort food were certainly correct, I don't think there was a single low-cal item available.  I didn't think too much of it as I didn't anticipate visiting the cafeteria too often. 

After my afternoon class, I went up to my "office".  It was a small windowless room on the fifth floor of one of the smaller academic buildings.  It had just enough room for my desk, a bookshelf, and a chalkboard.  Call me old-fashioned, but I just can't live without a chalkboard.  I spent a little while up there getting my things in order and checking e-mails before finally going home.

On my two block walk to my apartment, I passed a small diner.  My stomach growled as I passed, reminding me that lunch was several hours behind me.  I decided to stop for a quick bite to eat before several hours of research tonight. 

"Hey shuga, jus' set y'self down anywheres," a buxom waitress greeted me as I entered.

The diner was small and cozy, but well kept and clean.  After a rather heavy lunch, I had planned on ordering a salad for dinner.  However, once the waitress (Sandy) had heard my Northern accent, she insisted I try a chicken fried steak.  Twenty minutes later she set a massive platter in front of me, also including mashed potatoes, fresh rolls, and cole slaw. 

"There ya go hun," said Sandy .  "Guaranteed deeelicious!"

She certainly wasn't lying.  As I tucked it I was introduced to a whole new world of delightful flavors.  I ate heartily, washing it down with sweet tea (another new experience).  Before I knew it my plate was clean and my belt felt like it had grown two notches tighter.

"Well, nice to see you had an appetite," Sandy tittered as she cleared away the dishes.  "Hope you saved some room for dessert.  We got a wonderful strawberry pie today."

"No thank you," I groaned, patting a too-full stomach.  "I don't think I could eat another bite."

"How 'bout a slice to go?  I promise you won't regret it."

I let her talk me into it, but was sure I wouldn't be able to force down a single crumb.  Once I got back into my apartment, I changed into a pair of sweats and sat down at the computer.  Four hours later my eyes were feeling grainy, and I didn't think I could read another single word about the effects of foreign aid on the agricultural communities of third world nations. 

Just as I was ready to head to bed, I was reminded of the slice of strawberry pie sitting down in the fridge.  It turned out to be quite a large piece, and I needed two full glasses of milk to wash it all down.  Falling asleep with the warm glow of a fully belly, I briefly wondered if my time here would have an effect on my waistline.  I was pulled down into deep sleep before that question could take firm root in my consciousness.


The semester progressed, I put in a lot of hours tutoring hapless freshmen, and my thesis work was slow but steady.  Also steady was my rising weight, something the scale was happy to remind me each morning.  Every morning for breakfast I ate reasonably – a bowl of cereal, or oatmeal, or toast and grapefruit, or even just toast sometimes. 

However, every day I would be drawn inexorably to the cafeteria for lunch, my stomach growling as it anticipated fried chicken, pork roast, beef tenderloin, ribs, four different kinds of potatoes, fried zucchini, pasta, and more.  Fortunately I only had one early afternoon class, on Tuesday.  I would struggle to stay awake, rubbing my overfull stomach as it protruded over my belt, taut and tender. 

Most dinners were eaten at the small diner near my apartment.  Once the waitresses found out I was single with no woman to cook for me, they practically force fed huge heavy meals each night.  I guess that's what they call Southern hospitality. 

Whatever they called it, in October I was down to my two largest pairs of slacks.  I finally broke down and went clothes shopping, rather taken aback when 34's were also rather snug around the waist.  I choked down my pride and invested in some 36's.  When I returned home I stripped down and took a long look in the full length mirror on the bedroom closet door.

Most of my body looked the same, if maybe a little softer.  Most, unfortunately, does not mean all.  I may never have had a six pack, but my stomach at least used to be flat.  Now I had acquired some very obvious padding, a gathering of flesh at my waistline.  I was now sporting an actual pot belly.  My softened midsection even wrapped around a bit to the side, resulting in slight love handles.

I sighed.  Between classes, tutoring, and working on my thesis I didn't really have the time or energy to start a vigorous workout routine.  I resolved to cut back a bit on the food and told myself that I would do whatever it took to not go above a 36.  Besides, a few pounds was no reason to freak out, right?
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Littleextra 13 years
A brilliant story!! Very nicely done smiley
Td0057 13 years
Another great story with humor, wit, and feeling. Really enjoy how you build your characters and let them develop as the story progresses. Thanks!
Csmith 13 years
Excellent work
Snr6424 13 years
Thanks all. That's all I wrote, you'll have to imagine what comes next. smiley
Biggzv 13 years
Very well written. If there is more, Looking forward to the readsmiley