CivilWarLand in Bad Decline “The 400-Pound CEO” Summary
by George Saunders

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“The 400-Pound CEO” Summary

Jeffrey, the story’s narrator, is an administrative employee at a raccoon control company. Purportedly, the company’s practice is humane and cruelty-free—they remove troublesome raccoons from their clients’ property and set them free elsewhere. In practice, the company is an exterminator. After removal, all raccoons are killed and thrown into a large burial pit.

Jeffrey finds his personal life disappointing—“I'm too large to attract female company,” he narrates matter-of-factly—so he takes a great deal of solace in his work achievements. When clients call to ask how their raccoon removal went, he entertains himself with elaborate lies about the animals’ new life in the wild.

The company’s other employees are very unkind to Jeffrey, constantly mocking his weight. They call him names, remark derisively on his snacks, and leave hippo-shaped refrigerator magnets at his desk. Somewhat resigned to his role as an outcast, he does his best to avoid their torments. “Thirty more years of this and I'm out of it without hurting anybody or embarrassing myself,” he reasons.

Begrudgingly, Jeffrey realizes he’s developed a crush on his colleague, a woman named Freeda. He asks her out for dinner, and she responds with cruelty—she laughs at the invitation and quickly spreads the word to the rest of the office so they can join in the mockery. Much to his surprise, Freeda approaches him shyly at the end of the work day. She’d actually love to go for dinner, she tells him. He takes her for dinner, and they have a nice time.

When they get back to her place, Freeda says a quick goodbye and remarks that she can finally pay her phone bill. Their boss, Jeffrey learns, paid her fifty dollars to go on the date as a joke. Jeffrey takes a week of vacation to recover from his embarrassment.

When he returns to the office, he volunteers for a raccoon entrapment to minimize his time near his coworkers. In the process, he’s bitten by one of the raccoons and winds up in the hospital. His sadistic boss, Tim, mocks him upon his return, saying how disappointed the raccoon must have been when it realized it had risked its life to consume pure fat.

When an animal rights activist learns about the raccoon pit, the business comes under scrutiny. Soon, the activist arrives with a camcorder to expose the company’s lies. Jeffrey sees Tim rush toward her with a weapon and acts quickly—in a frenzy of rage, Jeffrey realizes he hasn’t just stopped Tim from attacking the woman, he’s killed him. Following the raccoon burial procedures, Jeffrey rolls Tim into the pit. To cover his tracks, he forges a letter from Tim and plants it in the office. Tim has run off to Mexico, the letter says, and he’s decided to leave the business to Jeffrey.

Jeffrey arrives at work the following day and feigns reluctance to take over operations. Claude, another colleague, is skeptical that something is amiss, but the majority of the office embraces the change, and Jeffrey moves his things into the CEO’s office. Jeffrey fires Claude and throws a luxurious party to kick off his tenure, and the enamored staff swears their loyalty.

Suddenly, Claude bursts through the door with police in tow. He’s holding one of Tim’s shoes. “If you went to Mexico,” he asserts, “wouldn't you take your Porsche?” Jeffrey is arrested and led away. In the courtroom, he tells the truth about what happened, and the animal...

(The entire section is 891 words.)