By Molly Wallaby
SADDLEBACK, Tex. — Over the past five years an unusual and unexplained development, little discussed and rarely acknowledged, has affected adult men in this small ranching town 65 miles northwest of Houston. Beginning in 2009, hospitals started reporting cases of embarrassed men arriving with an astonishing complaint: they had grown a pouch on their abdomens and had effectively become marsupials.
What began as a few isolated instances has now emerged as a full-blown epidemic, with every adult male resident of Saddleback, pop. 718, confirming he has a bag or pouch on his lower midsection.
Local and federal health officials are investigating whether the “marsupial aberration” might be linked to ground-water contamination from a nearby chemical plant that makes artificial sweeteners, flavorings, colorings and thickeners for the food and beverage industry.
“Speculation at this point is that all these scary syrups and powders that go into our food have something to do with what’s happening in Saddleback,” according to a lawn maintenance worker at the Texas Department of Health. “We know of course that a lot of this junk isn’t good for people, but the industries that sell it are so powerful and the regulators that are supposed to regulate it are so weak and underfunded that…well, it’s just easier to put the crap in our food and see what happens. Feed it to our kids and watch them grow or not grow. Get diabetes or not get diabetes. Suffer learning disabilities or not suffer learning disabilities.”
In the meantime, men in Saddleback are learning to live with a pouch and even coming to enjoy some of its benefits. For factory workers the pouch serves as a convenient lunch box or tool holder. Office workers put dividers in the pouch and use it as a briefcase or portable filing cabinet.
After their initial dismay, younger men have discovered that the pouch may even serve as an attractive man purse.