Jake is a prosperous sixty year old man with a loving wife, but his fondness for good living has gone straight to his waistline. So, for his birthday, his wife buys him a personal fitness instructor, Ashley.
The first six weeks are hard but satisfying. Jake becomes more muscular, but he doesn’t lose an ounce of weight. Ashley puts him on a diet. He still doesn’t lose weight. She makes him keep a food diary and he discovers how often he cheats, how all the little snacks and martinis add up. He starts to feel guilty whenever he has a soda. And, little by little, he realizes how little he is enjoying his new life.
Unfortunately, Ashley’s contract is to work with Jake for life. As she says, “I’m a paid nag, dude. It’s my job to buff up the old boys, tell them to eat their vegetables and drink less. Wives pay me well so they don’t have to say those things.”
And given that this story appears in murder and crime anthologies, is it any wonder what Jake does next?
It’s a quick, fun story that’s just the right length, and Jake’s suffering hits a good level of schadenfreude.
Red Meat by Elaine Viets
Availability: print only
Word count: 3,100
Awards: Nominated for an Agatha Award 2003
First published: Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block, 2003, Berkeley Prime Crime
Where to find it: The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Fifth Annual Collection, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, 2004, Tor