Isabel Cristina Legarda


Betsy’s lunches, which she always ate with a spoon, were variations on a theme: boiled rice, as sticky as she could make it, topped with something saucy – pork loin sautéed in shrimp paste, creamed broccoli, or some sea creature braised in coconut milk. She couldn’t heat them up when anyone was around, because people couldn’t stomach the smell. She wondered what it said about her that she loved the way her food stank, when everyone else seemed to find the mere spectre of it abominable.


They had always found her abominable in some way. Their voices echoed from decades before, loud as ever: Hey there, Chubs. Or, in her white parka, Big Betty’s a yeti! And perhaps worst of all,


Betsy Blubber

has no lubber

‘cause she kissed him

then she squished him.


She burned the white parka when she graduated from high school. Her mother was furious. “Good winter coats are expensive!” Then the furrowed brow, the sickly worm of guilt in Betsy’s chest, the tut of irritation, the subsequent pain just under her sternum.


In college, though her roommate didn’t (openly) judge her, she hid food and ate it when no one was around. Twix bars in the sock drawer. Doritos in the closet. She would whisper to her round face in the mirror, “Hey there, Chubs.”


After college, she lost eighty-five pounds. She started dating. She shopped for new clothes. “Good winter clothes are expensive!” said her mother’s voice, a ghost in her ear.


Betsy’s lover invited her on top of him one night. Betsy acquiesced, but her invisible chorus crescendoed. ‘Cause she kissed him, then she squished him. She tried to put them out of her mind, but the phantom voices were relentless. Betsy Blubber. Betsy Blubber. She pressed herself against his body and wept.




ISABEL CRISTINA LEGARDA was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to the U.S. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Legarda’s work has appeared in America, Ruminate, Smartish Pace, FOLIO, The Dewdrop, HeartWood, The Lowestoft Chronicle, West Trestle Review, ­Qu, and others.


The art that appears alongside this piece is by AMY RENEE WEBB.