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Acquiring the Fork
by M. J. Nicholls

Fat Jake the paediatrician, the wittiest doctor in the hospital, nuzzled his plate past Frances Pomon, chiropodist, in the lunch queue. Both men could see the beans depleting fast, and both men wanted a serving to complement their chips and salad. Otherwise, the meal was incomplete, and the final stint of the shift would be irritating and drab.

I need those beans. I can’t spend another four hours looking at bunions and fungi without the sweet release of that tomato sauce, the mushy texture of those seeds. Oh, what a pig he is!

Jake, knowing Frances would crave a spoonful of beans, sweet-talked the dinnerladies into dishing him an extra portion, leaving three rogue beans in the pot. A spurt of bile rose within Frances, bubbling hotly in his throat. Before he could articulate his rage, he opted for the peas instead. He was too shy to make a fuss, and Jake exploited this to his advantage. Snatching the last fork from the pile, Jake sidled over to nurse Jennifer, the woman Frances wanted to take to the cinema to see a pleasant art house film.

Is he doing this on purpose? What kick does he get from stealing my beans, my forks and my potential dates? Oh, I can’t eat these peas! Look at them, they look like bunions. Oh, bunions! God, I hate bunions…

Forgetting to ask for a fork, but too afraid to bother the dinnerladies after serving time had closed, he nibbled his chips with his fingers and ignored the peas. At the table across from him, he noticed a woman awkwardly cutting her beefburger with the side of her fork, darting her eyes anxiously to see if people were watching her. It seemed she was missing a knife. He made his move.

“Excuse me, I hate to intrude but, I couldn’t help but noticing you have a fork, but don’t have a knife. Thing is, I have a knife but don’t have a fork. Ha! I don’t suppose you’d like to swap at all? I mean, I can’t scoop up my peas or salad, and I couldn’t help but notice you were having trouble cutting your beefburger,” Frances said, blushing.

“Oh, yes. Ha, that’s right. So you have a fork? I mean, a knife? I mean, do you want to swap? That would leave me with nothing to eat my beans with. I can swap though, if you want. I don’t really want the beans,” she replied, blushing.

“We could share,” Frances put in.

“Share? Right, I mean… might get AIDS or something. No, we can share. I mean, you have the knife. I’ll just use my hands,” she said, slamming the table in her confusion.

She hit the knife by mistake, wobbling on the edge of the table, and sent it sailing behind her into the jugular of Fat Jake, who toppled backwards from his chair and did the appropriate amount of squealing for such a painful accident. Frances stared at the charming woman, frozen in horror.

I can probably take Fat Jake’s fork and knife now. I wonder if this woman will go out with me?