Short story

Terry has lost weight, but he still yearns for piz­zas and a Chi­nese take-away

YOURS (UK) - - Inside -

As Terry stepped off the scales to a round of po­lite ap­plause, Suzy Wen­lock, leader of the slimming club, said: “You’ve lost one point five ki­los. That’s three pounds four ounces in old money. Well done!” “It’s not fair – I’ve put a pound on this week,” grum­bled Terry’s nextdoor neigh­bour, Pat, as they walked home (cars be­ing strictly off-lim­its for jour­neys un­der half a mile). “Must be those fish and chips I had last Satur­day. I was se­duced by the smell of salt and vine­gar when I walked past The Golden Fry! Glo­ria said I’d re­gret it.” Terry laughed. “Karen wouldn’t let me any­where near a chippy. Or the Chi­nese. I’d kill for a num­ber 19, swee­tand-sour king prawns.” “Ever eaten a meat-free sausage, Tel?” Terry shook his head. “Can’t say I have.” “I’d keep it that way if I were you,” said Pat with a shud­der. The two men stopped at Terry’s front gate. “Tex­tured veg­etable pro­tein! Not for the faint­hearted.” “Yoo hoo!” They turned to see Karen stand­ing on the front doorstep. “Join­ing us for lunch, Pat? Chicken with veg­gie bake!” “Love to, but I’ve got a salad wait­ing,” called Pat, adding un­der his breath: “We can al­ways close our eyes and imag­ine we’re tuck­ing into a steak-and-kid­ney pud.” Terry chuck­led. “Fol­lowed by trea­cle sponge and cus­tard.” “Real men need real food,” mut­tered Pat. “Not cel­ery sticks. I’ve got a plan. My shed in an hour?” Half an hour later, Karen asked: “How was lunch?” “Lovely,” Terry said, hand­ing her a cup of cof­fee. In fact, he re­ally had en­joyed it. He’d never even heard of but­ter­nut squash twelve months ago, but now it was one of his favourites. In­di­ges­tion was a thing of the past and their food bill was go­ing down, too. He had even mas­tered a bit of low-fat cook­ing him­self. “You’re do­ing bril­liantly, Tel,” Karen said. “Less than a stone to go to your goal weight. I’m so glad you took the doc­tor’s ad­vice to slim down. You’re so much health­ier now.” She put her hand over his. “And I’ve got my­self a brand­new man into the bar­gain. Eat your heart out, Ge­orge Clooney!” Tak­ing the empty cups into the kitchen, she asked: “Any­thing planned for this af­ter­noon?” Terry shifted un­easily in his chair. “Pat’s throw­ing out some old tools. I said I’d go and take a look, see if I want any­thing.” “Well, don’t let him lead you astray. Glo­ria thinks he’s fall­ing off the wagon – she found a stash of choco­late wrap­pers stuffed in the back of his sock drawer yes­ter­day.” Aware that his wife was watch­ing him from the kitchen win­dow, Terry made his way across the lawn and stepped over the low wall that that di­vided the two gar­dens. Pat was al­ready in his shed, clutch­ing a sheaf of take-away menus. “The win­dow of op­por­tu­nity has opened, my friend,” he in­toned solemnly. “Glo­ria is tak­ing your good lady to aqua aer­o­bics next Wed­nes­day evening. All that re­mains for us to do is to choose our poi­son.” He waved the menus at Terry. “I was think­ing about a ke­bab, but I must say a curry wouldn’t go amiss. Creamy ko­rma with gar­lic naan.” “I don’t know, Pat…” Terry frowned. “Or per­haps Papa Ro­mano’s hot meat feast with ex­tra pep­per­oni?” Terry’s re­sis­tance crum­bled. “Now

He could smell pep­per­oni be­fore he even reached the shed

you’re talk­ing my lan­guage! Dough balls or gar­lic bread?” “Both – with wedges thrown in!” cack­led Pat. “I’ll phone in the or­der once the coast is clear.” He took a box of can­dles from the shelf and blew the dust off. “We can have a can­dle-lit feast here in the shed. Will you bring the drinks?” “You’re on!” “And re­mem­ber – cover your tracks!” Pat drew a fin­ger across his throat. “If Glo­ria and Karen get wind of this we’re in big trou­ble.” On Wed­nes­day evening, their wives de­parted for the aqua aer­o­bics class and shortly after­wards Terry heard Pat’s car start­ing up. He opened the fridge to take out the two cans of lager he’d con­cealed be­hind a large Ice­berg let­tuce. As he did so, some­thing flap­ping on the fridge door caught his at­ten­tion. It was an en­ve­lope with his name writ­ten on it. Terry tore it open to find a photo taken two years ago in Tor­re­moli­nos. It was of him and Karen stand­ing by the ho­tel pool. Terry blinked. Was it re­ally him? The man in the pic­ture had a stom­ach that hung un­flat­ter­ingly over the top of his shorts, flabby arms and tiny eyes that peered un­cer­tainly from a puffed-up face. He looked shock­ingly un­fit. Terry ex­am­ined his re­flec­tion in the kitchen win­dow. The man who gazed back at him looked much younger than the one in the photo. His face was lean and alert, his stom­ach trim and his bi­ceps im­pres­sively taut, thanks to hours spent at the gym. He put the cans in a plas­tic bag and set off. He could smell pep­per­oni be­fore he even reached the shed. Pat was sit­ting on a camp­ing chair con­tem­plat­ing a pile of food boxes. “Dough balls to start?” he asked. Terry said: “I’ve just seen a photo of my­self be­fore I lost weight. It wasn’t a pretty sight.” Pat nod­ded glumly. “Funny you should say that. When Glo­ria went out she left me a present on the kitchen work­top. A new pair of jeans. I last wore jeans over twenty years ago, Tel. I haven’t been able to squeeze into a pair since then, but these just slid on. Look great, don’t they?” He stood up so that Terry could see. “They do,” Terry agreed. The two men looked at each other. “My choles­terol is down,” Terry said. “So’s my blood pres­sure,” Pat replied. “A minute on the lips…” Terry be­gan. “A life­time on the hips!” fin­ished Pat. “I’ve changed my mind, Tel. I can’t go through with it.” He looked hopelessly at the spread of food on the work­bench. “What a crim­i­nal waste, though. Maybe just one slice of pizza?” Terry shook his head firmly. “No, let’s get rid of this lot while we’re think­ing clearly. If we give in now, who knows where we’ll end up?” When Karen came home, Terry was watch­ing the ten o’clock news. “Good class?” he asked. “Great. Nice evening?” “So-so,” Terry said, giv­ing her a side­long glance. “I found the photo, by the way.” “What photo?” Karen asked in her sweet­est but­ter-wouldn’t-melt voice. “Oh, that old pic! I thought it might help you to re­mem­ber how big you were then. And what the con­se­quences might be if you slipped back into your old eat­ing habits – not that I think you ever would, of course.” Terry kept a straight face. “I guar­an­tee that you could put a hot meat feast pizza or a plate of sweet-and-sour king prawns right un­der my nose and I wouldn’t be tempted. I’m a brand-new man, re­mem­ber?” “Only on the out­side, thank good­ness,” his wife replied loy­ally, her blue eyes twin­kling. “Chunky or slim, you’re still the Tel that I mar­ried. And I wouldn’t change that for any­thing.”

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