A Losing Game by Bonnie Schroeder

She stuck out her tongue at me! I don’t believe it! Why’d she do that? I’ve never bothered never even spoken to her in all the months I’ve been coming to this Weight Watchers meeting in Pasadena. She’s always here ahead of me anyway, and she sits on the far side of room, facing the door, where everybody can see her.

But why’d she do that to me? I just weighed in and sat down, minding my own business, and I look across the room and see her, facing right toward me, slinky blue eyes narrowed down and pointed my way, and that tongue poked right out, nasty little thing—looked like the underside of a lizard’s belly. But why?

She sure thinks she’s something special, with that fancy name: Elizabeth. They give us stick-on name badges, but I don’t wear mine. My name is nobody else’s business, as long as I show up every week. I don’t know what the big deal is with names, anyway. Most other self-help groups are anonymous. That’s the way it should be.

Elizabeth was a lot bigger when I first joined here, but she’s collected a bunch of those trinkets they give you when you lose a pound or two, so I suppose she thinks she’s better than me. Probably has one of those supercharged metabolisms that burns up everything she eats the minute she’s finished chewing.

I try and watch what I eat, I stay away from potato chips and Coke; I buy the low-fat ice cream, and if that’s not a sacrifice, I don’t know what is. You can eat the whole carton and still not feel like you’ve had enough.

Maybe it wasn’t on purpose, her sticking out her tongue? No, she seems like the kind of person who knows what they’re doing. She may be skinnier than me, but she’s not pretty, not by a long shot. Scrawny brown hair all streaked with gray; you’d think she’s never seen a L’Oreal commercial. God only knows what color my hair would be if I let it grow out all ugly like that. And she hardly even combs it, lets it stick up all over her head, like she just climbed out of bed.

Did I do something to her and not realize it? I don’t think so. I’m pretty careful to steer clear of the other people, not bump into them in line. I don’t even talk much—not like Elizabeth. She talks to everybody, sitting there in those jeans that couldn’t fit tighter if she’d painted them on. I like a little room in my clothes, so I can breathe. My husband likes them that way, too; he tells me so whenever I ask him.

I wonder if Elizabeth even has a husband? Somebody to tell her California wouldn’t fall off into the ocean if she combed her hair and put on a little lipstick now and then. Me, I go the whole route, even if it’s just to a meeting like this one. Even if I’m only going to gas up the Suburban, I do up my hair and put on eyeliner and mascara and lipstick. There’s nothing wrong with a woman helping her looks along, you know.

I wish the meeting would hurry up and start. These chairs are so uncomfortable, hard and skimpy. Of course her skinny fanny fits with room to spare, but I’m not the only one who could use a couple more inches.

Lots of people showing up now. Why does everyone come at the last minute? There’s a bunch of them in line to get weighed, chit-chatting like they’re at some kind of party, joking about how much they ate, or didn’t eat, this week, and laughing if they fool the scale.

From the row of chairs behind me, somebody’s purse brushes against my hair. She better not have messed it up; I spent a lot of time fluffing it just so. I hope my husband notices when I get home. The purse’s owner is getting settled now, zipping something up and rattling papers. Probably reading the handout they gave us this week. I glanced at it, but who needs another salad recipe?

Oh, great—it’s another socializer behind me, the kind who has to talk to everyone. I hear her chair creak as she turns around in it.

“Tina’s in a good mood today,” the socializer calls out to somebody in line. Tina’s the receptionist who does most of the weigh-ins. The scale face is hidden, but you can tell what’s happened from what Tina says. She tells the ones who’ve lost, “Good job!” And if you’ve gained or stayed the same, she says, “Now, don’t get discouraged.” She’s always telling me not to be discouraged.

Skinny old Elizabeth is still staring my way, and I get ready to stick my tongue out at her. But she’s looking over my head, so I turn around. Wanted to get a peek at the socializer anyhow.

She’s not exactly what I expected: just a kid, one of those no-makeup types, almost as skinny as Elizabeth. She has good skin, and if she’d comb out her hair instead of pulling it back in a ponytail, she’d be a pretty little thing. She holding up her right index finger and grinning like a fool.

“Hey, Elizabeth,” she calls out, looking past me like I don’t exist, “don’t be a sore loser. I won the bet fair and square, by a tenth of a pound.”

© Copyright 2009 Bonnie Schroeder. All rights reserved.

Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the 5th grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and also volunteered for a local Red Cross chapter, writing newsletters and press releases to sharpen her factual writing skills while she worked on her fiction. It was sometimes a challenge to separate the two. Her debut novel, Mending Dreams, was published by Champlain Avenue Books.

10 thoughts on “A Losing Game by Bonnie Schroeder”

  1. I didn’t see that one coming. Isn’t it just like us paranoid types to think the tongue stuck out is aimed at us? Good job, Bonnie. There’s just the right amount of spite, jealousy, peeve and… humor in your story!

  2. Love this. Don’t we all know someone like this, who thinks it’s all about her? I can just see the big hair and overly done face with the barely concealed mean expression. Actually, I think you have described my neighbor-from-hell to a T.
    Must remember to use the line about having a metabolism that burns up everything the minute she finishes chewing. Great line. Good piece.

  3. Well I’ve spent some time at Weight-Watchers myself and really enjoyed this! Saturday mornings with …dang what’s her name. Going to her meeting is like going to the Ice House.

  4. Yes, a character study of an insufferable person who is suffering, even if she can’t see it herself. How’d you manage to make that entertaining? You did.

  5. I really enjoyed this, although I also identify with the paranoia, unfortunately. Definitely agree with Petrea – an unsufferable person who is suffering, too.

  6. I didn’t think she was insufferable. I think she may be a bit of a judger, but she seems like the kind of person who means well and actually would be dismayed to know she had distressed someone, which is why the tongue sticking is so distressing to her.

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