Before and After

It was not a diet; it was better than a diet.
Instead of altering his food intake or spending his lunch breaks on a tread- mill, Tony attached an air pump to his abdomen and inflated his stomach. He watched as his belly swelled, bloated and round. Just as his front was about to burst, it broke away from his body and drifted up over his head. A wicker basket was suspended beneath Tony’s rising stomach. Inside the basket, a young couple shared a bottle of Chianti, admiring the country- side passing beneath them. While hovering over a meadow, they saw a bicycle lying on the ground and a dazed rider sitting in a ditch. The front wheel of the bicycle was still spinning.
Tony stood on a stage beside a magician hired to entertain the convention attendees. “You have a scar,” the magician said to Tony, “on your right knee.” Tony confirmed the scar and the diners, gathered in their new, slender clothes, applauded.
When Tony returned to his table someone said it was amazing how the magician knew about the scar on Tony’s right knee. “It’s not amazing,”
Tony said. “Everyone has a scar on their right knee.”
Everyone ducked under the table to check their knees. When they emerged, someone said that it must be some sort of trick, and they resumed discus- sions regarding their recent weight loss. “It’s not a diet,” someone said.
“It’s better than a diet.”
“Are there any more rolls in that basket?” someone asked.

Thomas O’Connell is a librarian living in the mountains of southwest Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in Caketrain, Sleepingfish, and The Broken Plate, as well as other print and online journals.