Why do they have different standards for people, he wondered. I cannot wear orange shirts, he thought, no one will like it, but can I not even be a little round?
He looked down at his feet, or rather, at his protruding belly. He hadn’t been able to see his feet in years, of course.
He was a trader in Wall Street, and he was worried. Not about the stock market, or the recession. He was worried about his weight, all 300 lbs of it.
He looked down at his wife, sleeping peacefully, and shuddered.
It had all started yesterday when he casually leaned against an edge of the dining table, and then shifted his weight over it. The table leg promptly collapsed, and with it, the table.
“It’s a Baker!” his wife had screamed, her eyes filling with tears.
“I’ll replace it! Tomorrow!” he had hastily assured her, mentally shuddering at what it would cost him. Twenty thousand dollars?
“But it was my grandfather’s!”, she wept. Then, she gave him her ultimatum.
“Either you lose 50 lbs in one month”, she said “or I will leave you.”
He knew she was serious about it. He hadn’t slept all night.
The trouble was, he had already tried everything. Diet pills in red, orange and blue. Every type of diet from Atkins to salads to cardboard-meals-sent-home.
He had even tried the Madonna inspired popcorn diet, and munched popcorn at his desk. His fellow traders, gobbling their French fries, had laughed at him.
“Are you at a movie, buddy?” they had asked him.
Eventually, the jokes got to him. He went back to the fries.
He exercised religiously whenever he had a few minutes to spare – that is, on weekends. He walked as much as he could every day – from the subway to his workplace. No doctor was willing to operate on him, so surgery was out.
Yet, he wasn’t losing any weight.
There was only one option left. It was scary and dangerous, but it was the only way out. After a long sleepless night, he had come to a decision.
He would go to prison.
He had heard that prisoners in NYC jails had great diets and were losing weight. He had read about the menu – whole wheat bread and fresh fruit. Steamed carrots. All the food he could never manage to eat at work. Or at home.
Yes, he would go to prison. He would go out today and assault a policeman. That should do it.
“Four weeks in Rikers Island”, said the judge the next day. “The defendant is asked to rise and state his name to the court.”
He stood up and faced the judge.
“O. Henry”, he said.
My nod to O. Henry’s “The Cop and the Anthem”