|Jake Wiley's Fatal Flaw
With the party just getting started, Dr. Abernathy studies her patient, Jake Wiley. She watches as he pivots away from an angry blonde in a red dress and crosses the living room to the bar. He speaks with Sid, the host-bartender, gesturing to the blonde as he does. Sid slaps a cocktail glass on the counter and drops in a shot of rum, some Coke, and ice cubes while Led Zepplin gets Jake tapping his foot. Jake says something and Sid bursts into laughter--probably one of Jake's sex jokes. Dr. Abernathy shakes her head at the predictability of it. Jake still can't see her observing him as he turns and solemnly faces the room, sipping his drink, his eyes roaming close until she decides to feign interest in a nearby conversation.
Seeing nothing of real interest, Jake wanders into the dining room to check out the food spread and what does he see? Seafood! He knows he'll get hives if he even touches the stuff. He gulps down the remainder of his drink then grabs a plate and selects from the cheese and cracker array, placing two slices of a white cheese onto each cracker.
He bites into a round, orange cracker. It tastes stale. The hostess steps up to say, “Are you having fun, Jake? I think someone said you love seafood so we stocked plenty. Have you tried the cheddar cheese on the garlic crackers?” He nods, swallowing quickly, yearning to elaborate his enjoyment. He thinks, “Just tell her yes, the crackers really taste great.” He answers, “Yes, the crackers are like little edible plates, and seafood gives me hives.”
The smile of the hostess freezes. Dr. Abernathy notices the awkward pause and motions Jake to come over. Muttering to himself, Jake crosses the room to Dr. Abernathy. She introduces him to an old college friend. “I was just asking Alex here what he wanted to be when he was a kid.”
“A fireman,” Alex responds. “So I could put out fires and save lives. But I'm a Laundromat manager. I did put out a dryer fire once. How about you, Jake?”
Jake looks at Dr. Abernathy as though asking permission to speak. She nods once. Jake says, “I wanted to be a racecar driver so I could drive really fast. And my car would have sponsor's logos painted on the side.” He takes a breath and says, “Actually, I wanted to be a racecar passenger and tell the driver he's going too fast. And I'd say, Wow, you must really like
Alex excuses himself.
Dr. Abernathy looks frustrated at Jake. “What did I tell you, Jake? To get along in this world you need to play the game, tell people what they want to hear, not what you want to say. Now, how did you irritate that blonde a few minutes ago?”
Jake gives Dr. Abernathy his guilty boy look. “I said her hair looked like a wet hamster and her breath smelled worse than Cambodian dog stew.”
Bryson Plant lives near Boulder, Colorado with his wife, Debra, and their daughter, Erin. For the past twenty years, Bryson has written technical manuals, but this is his first published fiction piece. He is currently at work on a novel.