Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Diet - deadline is 8-9-12 9:59 am NY time. (08/02/12)
TITLE: Mark and Robin
By Jody Day
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Bam. Monday morning and a headache rocked Mark’s world. Uh oh. He had better beat that time clock to nine a.m., or he’d likely lose his job. He’d give anything if the two block walk didn’t wind him.
Why couldn’t they get a time clock at work that didn’t chug so loud it hurt his head? Yawning made it worse.
A double tap needled his shoulder. He turned to face a small woman. What was she, twenty-four or five? Same as him.
“Excuse me, where are the diet foods?” Her large brown eyes darted between Mark and the floor. She twisted a gold ring on her wedding finger.
“Do you mean, like, weight loss drinks? Or maybe fruits? Veggies?” Guuuh-reat. Work starting in right away. No time for coffee or donuts.
“Well, what would you suggest?” She glanced from side to side.
“For you?” Not an ounce of flesh on her. Was she kidding? Rain could puddle in her sunken cheeks.
“I just need to lose a few pounds.” She bit her bottom lip.
If she wanted to blow away, that was her business. Mark led her to the diet food aisle and left her there.
Delegated to stock frozen food, Mark leaned against a tall stack of popsicle boxes. Sweet. The only place he could get cool since he put on fifty pounds. At least fifty since he weighed last.
He squinted his eyes at the dieting waif. Why did she just stand there and stare at protein bars?
Suddenly, she deflated. Her body quivered and then crumpled to the floor like a wet paper straw.
“Hey! Somebody call 9-1-1!” Mark knelt beside her. He chilled at her rolled back eyes and blanched lips. Her body noodled limp as he pulled her into his lap and patted her face. When would that ambulance get there? This didn’t look good at all.
She didn’t make it. They worked on her forever, but no dice. Mark ate more than ever that week. That girl’s large, pitiful eyes brimmed with tears in his dreams every night. If only he hadn’t brushed her off. Could he have helped her? Right, he couldn’t even help himself.
A few weeks later the girl’s mother came to the grocery looking for Mark.
“I just wanted to thank you for trying to help Robin. Thank you for staying with her until the paramedics came.” Her eyes duplicated her daughter’s, but they were red and circled in dark purple.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” So, she was Robin. The woman’s eyes were more than he could take.
“We tried to get her to see a counselor after her husband left her.” Robin’s mother wrung her hands and sighed.
Mark shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Did he really want to hear this? People think counseling is the answer to everything. But, maybe in Robin’s case, who knew?
“She thought if she lost weight he might be pleased with her and come back. Her dieting spiraled out of control.” The woman managed a weak smile for Mark, shook his hand and turned to leave.
The lunch he’d gorged on pushed against the back of his throat. He was Robin. Robin was him. No chance his Susan would ever come back, she’d already remarried.
When would he stop seeing her eyes? He knew where she’d been. Crushing pain sent them to the same dark place in different ways. She starved herself, he ate everything in sight. Both of them pushed everyone away. Had Robin had a pastor that called nearly every day? Had she ignored his calls as well?
Mark clocked out early that day. He left the bag of snacks he’d purchased in the break room. He stared at his cell phone for a long time, well into the night. Choking back the tears, he punched in the number.
“Be right there.” The pastor arrived at Mark’s door like, well, like a gazelle on steroids.
That night, he saw those big brown eyes in his dreams again. This time, Robin smiled at him.
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