Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Alternative Plan

An Alternative Plan
by Jim Harrington

“Morning, Abe.” Abe's neighbor, Morgan, lumbered up the steps of Abe’s front porch and squeezed himself into a metal chair. “You drinking a beer this early?”

“Nope, just looking at the bottle.” Abe, hunched forward, his elbows on his knees, rocked the love seat in miniature arcs.

“Why you doing that?”

“Doc Brown put me on a diet.” Abe looked at Morgan. ”Says I can’t drink beer for a while.”

“You? On a diet? There's hardly anything to you now.”

“My blood pressure and cholesterol are high. Doc says I need to lose fifteen pounds.”

Abe leaned back.

“And I can’t eat pizza." Abe slipped two fingers into his shirt pocket. "So I carry a picture of one.” Abe unfolded the Pizza Hut ad and showed Morgan.

“Ain’t that un-American?” Morgan crossed his ankles and leaned back. His black t-shirt rode up and exposed a lint-filled belly button. “Maybe Congress should pass a law making it illegal for doctors to stop Americans from drinking beer and eating pizza.”

Abe shrugged.

“So why’re you looking at the bottle?”

“You know how people who are trying to quit smoking walk around with an unlit cigarette in their mouth to help them get over their cravings?”

“Sure. Mabel did that for a while.”

“I thought maybe if I carried the bottle, it would help with mine. By the way, how is your wife?”

“Still smoking.” Morgan scratched his crotch, inched forward in the chair and grabbed the bottle. He twisted the cap off, took a swig of the amber liquid, and spit it out--mostly on Abe.

“It’s warm,” Morgan said.

“I’ve been carrying it around for a couple of days.”

“Well you should'a said so. Why’nt you go inside and get a cold one?”

“But I can’t drink—”

“Well, I ain’t on no diet, and all this talk about beer made me thirsty.”

Abe went inside, returned with a new bottle, and handed it to Morgan.

“Ah, that’s better,” Morgan said, after downing half the bottle. “Sure you don’t want some?”

Abe shook his head. “If I drink some, I’ll want more.”

“Oh, come on,” Morgan said. “It’s only beer.”

Abe walked to the railing, crossed his arms on his chest, and stared at the house across the street.

“Can’t do it,” Abe said. “I’ve come this far. I’m going to stick to the plan.”

“Mind if I have another?”

Abe strode into the house and returned with the remainder of a six-pack. “I bought these the day before I saw the doctor.” He held out the carton. “You can finish them.”

"Whatever you say," Morgan said, uncapping another beer and saluting Abe with it.

Abe leaned on the railing and stared at his neighbor's bulging belly and multiple chins. He listened to the wheezing and wondered if that could be him in five years.

He looked around and decided he'd finally fix the railing and paint the porch. Morgan would be sure to hang around. He loved watching other people work. It would be the constant reminder Abe needed to follow the doc's advice.


BIO: Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His Six Questions For blog ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” In his spare time, he serves as the flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre (