Guilty! (In the court of dietary justice)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Frank has been a good father, and a dutiful husband if you don't count his guilty secret.

As he’s gotten older the weeks, then the months, and finally the years are simply flying past for Frank Schofield.

This unusually profound thought drifts through his weary mind as he slumps into the car, pulling the seatbelt across. He’s reached a point in his life where everything smacks of conformity, and how hastily he's slithered into a smug, middle-aged existence. This thought process rumbles on at the same speed as his car toward one inescapable conclusion: that every day in his well-ordered life comes down to exactly the same routine, cornflakes or shredded wheat, then take his wife a cup of tea in bed. At five minutes before eight he leaves for work, during which he listens to the tragedies of the world on the car radio before parking in the same spot where he’s parked for the last twenty-three years. 

Today there's one other distraction: his thoughts surrounding the coming weekend, being that his wife’s birthday falls next Tuesday and he’s promised to take her shopping on Saturday to buy a new dress. He’s not exactly sure why he did this, as there’s nothing he likes less than to accompany her around the mall. In fact the very prospect has him cringing. Has it really been ten weeks since the January sales? He squirms in his seat as he recalls that excursion. 

“What do you think of this one James?” She’d asked, holding up a dress to herself. “Do you think I suit blue? Does it make me look too fat?” He’d learned down the years to respond to such questions with a sideways glance, sometimes a forced display of interest as she preened and swirled in front of a mirror. 

“I like it very much, darling.” He remembered answering.

“Really? Because you did say you loved the green one.”

“Well, yes, but that was three shops, and seven dresses ago.” 

“You know, Frank. You just tell me anything. All you want is to get home and watch golf on television. I don’t know why I ask you” She'd scolded him.

“Well, why do you ask me?”

“Because you’re my husband, and you should show some interest. It should be important to you how I look.” The sharp edge to her voice was reinforced with a look of daggers.

“It is important to me how you look,” he'd replied, with a measured display of indignity. “I really do like the blue dress. Just out of interest, how much is it?”

Inspection of the price tag introduced a further complication.

“It’s too expensive. We’ll have to go somewhere else.” She'd said, hanging it back on the rail.

“Is there somewhere else we haven’t tried?” He'd jested.

He recalled her look in response to that flippancy, the narrowing of her eyes. He recalled cowering, reviewing his options. He considered he had two choices, he could weaken, let the afternoon stretch out to late evening, and be with her while she chooses a pair of matching shoes, a hat, and a handbag! Or he can remain firm, but pleasant, and get home in good time to watch the ‘British Open’ highlights. Instead he raised a thinly veiled smile, and peered blandly over his spectacles. Her reaction was equally ambiguous, spinning around and sweeping off to the changing booths whilst he grinned, sheepishly, at the shop assistant. 

Recalling the memory of that weekend kept him seated, unwilling to get out of the car having arrived at his place of employment. He'd long considered the exertion of a hard week’s toil palled into insignificance compared to a few hours roaming from shop to shop in a shopping mall bustling with folk on a Saturday afternoon.

They’ve lived in their home for thirty of their thirty-three year marriage. The two single bedrooms now empty, no longer littered with paper party-hats, discarded candy wrappers, or spilt soda cans, though a couple of dolls remain and a buckle-wheeled bogey sits in the rafters above the garage, but mostly the house is silent. 

The exact age of his dear wife is well guarded secret, though he can recall the landmark fiftieth passing by on at least three previous occasions. Frank wonders what number she will declare this year. Eileen’s problem, he understands, is she does not possess the quality of memory required to sustain any long-term deception. He smiles and gets out of the car, reminding himself that today is Friday this evening he will continue with his 20 year long ritual of attending Greasy-Joe’s for a juicy roadside burger on his way home. 

He doesn’t often outright lie to Eileen, but there are occasions, usually after his closely supervised weekly weigh-in when her queries regarding his eating habits are not fully disclosed. He is, he tells himself, merely economical with the truth. For years and years he's stood with an air of reluctance on the scales-of-dietary-justice fully aware that Eileen has become familiar with all his little dodges. The pointer of the scales is adjusted to zero and positioned in the center of the room, denying him the opportunity to lean against anything to alleviate the impact of his weight upon the machine. 

“These digital scales never lie, Frank. Despite dieting you are still overweight,” she will say, once again pronouncing her amazement, shaking her head in disbelief. “I simply don’t understand it. These scales are always right.”

Frank has learned over the years to come up with innovative explanations to challenge Eileen’s unshakeable faith in modern technology.

“It’s all about body metabolism. I was born unlucky in that department,” Frank will argue, taking a deep inhalation, drawing in his stomach, as if this will somehow magically reduce his weight.

Eileen, though, never one to give up, wants facts. 

“Sit down James,” she last time ordered, pointing to the edge of the bathtub.

During the next few minutes Frank had become the defendant in the bathroom court of deception. Not having had a bible to hand, she'd relied on the length of their marriage to determine whether he was telling the truth. She looked at him, and began her cross-examination. Frank quite enjoyed being before a ‘QC’ wearing only a bra and pants, and naturally found it difficult to give the matter-at-hand his undivided attention. His wife, at least, had kept herself trim. No muffin-top in sight.

“You have bran flakes with skimmed milk for breakfast, don’t you?”

He noted how she tucked both her thumbs into her bra straps as she began her submission; something his hero ‘Rumpole’ might have done.

He'd nodded his vigorous accession to the question.

“And you only eat the salad that I prepare for your lunch?” She'd continued.

Frank again agreed, but recalled adding, somewhat righteously, “of course darling.”

The ‘QC’ began her summing up.

“So, you have a low calorie breakfast, low calorie lunch, and the meal I prepare in the evening, yet you are still overweight. I simply do not understand. These scales can’t be all they are cracked up to be”, she'd concluded with a shake of her head before finishing… “But it’s funny they're dead right for me…look,” she'd commanded, stepping onto the scales and pointing to the display.

“You, however, don’t look an inch thinner!” She'd said, her disdainful glower riveting him to the edge of the bathtub, head bowed, wearing just his underpants.  “Oh, get up and get dressed. You’re acting like a scolded child!” 

As far as she was concerned the jury had returned the verdict, the judge had agreed and, unusually, the decision had involved the ‘QC’ to dispense the appropriate punishment. She gave him a quick, unprovoked poke in his stomach as she walked past him and into the bedroom.

“Ouch…that hurt”, he'd yelled. “What’s that for?”

“To show how unfit you are; you need to do some exercise as well as…oh what’s the use.”

“As well as what?” He had inquired, gingerly rising to his feet.

“As well as this so called diet you’re supposed to be on…that clearly isn’t working.”

Eileen, however, was not satisfied with the verdict of the lower court; she was going to take the matter to a much higher authority. 

“I’m going to bring your case up at the next meeting of Weight Watchers, there’s something about your diet I just don’t understand."

Then, thankfully, he remembered, she'd turned her attention to other matters.

Frank, having completed his days work, slumps back into the car for the  journey home. But with a slight diversion. 

“You’re late this evening, Frank. I’ve got your double cheese-burger and fries. Help yourself to ketchup mate, and here's your diet cola. I don’t know how you drink the stuff. It tastes like gnat’s piss to me.”

Joe, having offered his professional gastronomic opinion, hands over the food to Frank with a broad grin. 

Frank Schofield is a loving, loyal husband; a man sliding toward retirement with one marriage-long tasty secret.

Submitted: December 21, 2014

© Copyright 2021 VikingMoon. All rights reserved.

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