I never wanted to be paired up with Eckhart. He reminded me of the Fat Lazy Cop stereotype and I hated him for it — I’d made up my mind that if I ever came to outrank him I’d raise the fitness requirements for his position till he was knocked down to desk duty instead of being out on the streets and an embarrassment to the force.

“He’s good with the K-9s, though,” the chief said, one day I’d complained about the smell of him as he came into the precinct with his morning dozen donuts.

That much was true — the dogs he was paired with lasted a lot longer than his partners. But then, that wasn’t surprising — I’d never seen a dog be picky about a scent.

“Well,” the chief went on, “We’ll see what you can do with him.”

On our first patrol together, it didn’t take even ten minutes before we hit friction: the first topic Eckhart decided to start conversation with was “You know what’s wrong with you, man? You’re too uptight.”

I didn’t even know where to start with that. If ‘uptight’ is the difference between me and you, I’ll stay uptight, thank you, I thought. Instead, very slowly, I said “Excuse me?”

“I mean, look at you,” he said. “Here it’s just some regular Monday and you’re all pressed and primped like it’s picture day at church.”

“We’re in uniform. The whole point of a uniform is for us to look like professionals.”

(He was in uniform himself, but to judge by the food stains it was clearly the same unwashed uniform he’d been wearing the week before.)

“Professionals don’t have to have their hair all dolled up and shine like they’ve just been polished. Professionals are out there gettin’ the job done, gettin’ their hands dirty.”

“Not with jelly donuts,” I sighed, watching him slurp powdered sugar from his fingers.

He lowered his hands. “You tryin’ to say somethin’, rookie?”

I pulled the car over. “Yeah. Cops like you are why they call us pigs. You’re a disgrace. You never stop eating, you stink like the zoo, you’ve got to be at least three times fatter than anyone else on the force — ” He was watching me mildly, unaffected. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Eckhart shrugged. “Yeah, but I don’t really care what you think, kid. You’ll have room to talk once you see what this job does to you.”

At first I scoffed at the officer’s naïveté. The job wasn’t making him fat. It was his steadfast refusal to ever quit eating. If he’d just eat right and exercise on a daily basis like I did, then — well, there are no instant results in the world, but at least he’d be on the right track.

But then, maybe the job did start conspiring against you.

It started right that afternoon. I normally went straight off to the gym to work up a good appetite for dinner, but after dealing with Eckhart all day, the very idea was exhausting, and I was already hungry.

I figured a day of lax discipline couldn’t hurt. After all, compared to my partner, I could let myself go for a year and still look good. There was a little supermarket on the drive home from work and I roamed it idly, picking up snacks mostly by instinct before taking my haul back home.

The couch called for the imprint of my tired rump, and I sat down between two bags of groceries, opening a pack of powdered donuts and going to town on them as I let the TV calm my nerves.

Fuckin’ Eckhart.

The night dragged on. As the TV programming got less and less interesting with each passing hour, I relied more and more on the snacks to keep my attention away from my ever-filling gut.

I knew it was happening. I mean, wrappers were already peppering the ground and the coffee table. I was finishing off a package of Milano cookies when I realized just how uncomfortable my shirt was getting.

I pulled it off. Yep — just the hint of a paunch growing. Doesn’t mean anything, I thought. I’m full of junk food. It’ll subside once I get it out of my system.

I tore into a bag of chocolates. It was late, I was tired, but the hunger just would not go away.

I woke up to my cell phone’s alarm with hardly any memory of how I’d ended the night — somehow I’d managed to cart my overstuffed gut into bed, and to judge from the empty bags strewn about, I may even have gone on eating in my sleep.

It was a struggle to sit up. That bit of belly I’d put on during the night, well, it was bigger than it had been before, rounding me out like I’d been growing a pot belly all summer.

I wanted to freak out about this, but I was already late for work.

I tried to get dressed, and found my shirt hugged me like the casing on a plump sausage. This has got to be at least three sizes too small — what did Eckhart do? I pulled it off to check if maybe I’d picked up an old uniform instead — steady workouts had moved me from a medium to a large to make room for my arms — but when I saw the letters XXL printed inside the collar, it finally registered in me that something was seriously fucked up.

I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and looked myself over properly. When I woke up, I’d thought ‘pot belly’ because that would’ve been at least an understandable outcome from a night’s indulgence. But no — I was obese. My belly was soft and hung down to cover my groin. My arms had hanging flab. My thighs pressed against each other all the way down to my knees.

I stepped on my scale to measure the damage.

‘Err’, it said.

It was impossible. But Eckhart had something to do with this, I knew it.

I found some sweats I could still squeeze into and headed down to the station.

“I told you this job’d do a number on you.”

You did this!”

“That’s nonsense,” Eckhart said, leaning back at his desk. “You’re eating right now. You’ve never been able to stop, have you?”

I coughed as he brought attention to the fact that somehow, despite all my intentions, I was eating a bagel and had a couple more on a plate in my free hand.

“I’ll tell you what you need,” he added. “Just a bit of discipline. I can help with that.”

Discipline? From a fat slob like you?

He chuckled darkly. “Pot, kettle, black, son. You do see that you’re the biggest officer on the force, don’t you?”

“What — How — ” I knew when I’d left home that my belly had been hanging down to cover my crotch. Now it was halfway to my knees, and truth be told I was having trouble standing on my feet for so long. I sank down into the chair opposite Eckhart’s desk, panting hard as I spread cream cheese on my next bagel. “What are you doing to me?”

Eckhart shut the door to his office and stood in front of his desk. “Just making sure you learn a few lessons, pup.”

“‘Pup’?” I said. “‘Lessons’?”

“You’ve disrespected me. As repayment, you found yourself drawn to make a beast of yourself,” he said. “And all the beasts in this department belong to me.”

“Just what do you think you’re — ” I struggled to get out of my chair — but at this weight, it was so difficult to get up.

“Sit. Stay.”

I couldn’t move from the chair at all. Was I still getting bigger? I whimpered as the sturdy arms pincered into the sides of my gut. “Hey — help — ” I tried to fight it, but how on earth do you fight evil magic? And even my will to resist was fading…

He reached behind my head, pulling me down by the collar till my hands touched the floor. “Off the furniture, pup.” I felt like an absolute blob as I cleared the chair, my belly spreading across the floor as I sank to my hands and knees.

“I hope you realize what an ugly dog you are,” he said as he sat down, his fingers stroking down my back in a vaguely uncomfortable way that only felt weirder once I noticed the cause — hadn’t I been wearing clothes? I mean, he’d just grabbed my collar, hadn’t he?

I moved my head to try and look myself over and felt its reassuring presence — no, I still had my collar. Nothing to worry about there.

“Nothing we can’t take care of, though. C’mere, pup, let’s get that fur brushed out.”

I put my head in the officer’s lap, but found myself wincing as the bristles started working down my flank.

“That hurt, pup? Bet you can’t remember the last time anyone brushed you down.”

He was right — but that was so wrong, wasn’t it? Something at the back of my mind was trying to tell me I didn’t even have fur before, it wasn’t even sure I had fur now, but the brush pulling out tangles was an experience I didn’t really know how to deny. Of course I have fur. I’m a dog.

A big dog.

A big fluffy dog.

Such a good dog.

The words were no longer mine now, but the master’s, as he brushed over every inch of my body, making sure all my fur was in place.

I loved the master, didn’t I? Yes, I did! I loved the way he smelled and I loved to lick his paw as he tried to brush my muzzle, trying to make sure it was the right shape and not just a little too short.

Soon I’d be a good dog, nothing to be tense or anxious or uptight about, just living in the moment and being free and enjoying doing the police work and helping out all the humans and especially the master and I was just so excited I could barely sit still as he worked my ears and tail. My tail! I couldn’t keep from wagging it, letting my master hear the happy thump thump thump of his big tubby dog’s tail as I exulted in the pleasure of being groomed.

By the time he put the brush away and clipped my leash to my collar I was practically jumping around with eagerness to get outside.

But first the master had a phone call to make. I rubbed against his leg, making sure he had the smell of me on him as he talked to the chief.

“Yeah, that new guy, what’s-his-face — gave me his resignation today. Couldn’t handle the job, didn’t like what it was doing to him.

“Oh, he’s fine, he’s already found something he likes a lot better, from the sound of it.

“No, I’ll be all right without a partner this week. Got a new K-9 to break in, anyway.”

He hung up the phone and I perked my ears, knowing it was time.

“All right, pup, now that all that unpleasantness is behind us…how about we show you off around the station?”

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