LIFELINE • by Melissa Nott

“Hi there! This is Patti at Lifeline Fitness. Can I throw you a lifeline today?”

“Patti, it’s Carla Morris. You guys open for business, or have the layoffs hit you too?”

“Oh, we’re definitely open for business.”

“Really? ‘Cuz I heard a bunch of your workers got canned yesterday.”

“I assure you, Ms. Morris, Lifeline Fitness is alive and kicking. How can I save your life today?”

“I need to lose a hundred pounds. Promised the hubby I’d try Lifeline. You guys got water aerobics?”

“Yes, ma’am. We offer Boot Camp Water Aerobics, Hip Hop Water Aerobics, Peri-menopausal Water Aerobics, and my favorite, Slap-Death-in-the-Face Water Aerobics.”

“Sign me up for your cheapest one.”

“As part of our Get-Tough-With-the-Economy initiative, I’m proud to say that every Lifeline Fitness class is streamline-priced.”

“Fat people like me drown in streams, Patti.”

“When I say streamline-priced, I mean every class costs the same. In these rocky financial times, we find our customers prefer a simplistic pricing structure.”

“Hang on. Tryin’ to make a left outta Mickey D’s and this bastard Hummer keeps shoving his grill up my bumper. Quit sniffin’ my tailpipe, ya richie jerk! Sorry, Patti. Back now.”

“Ms. Morris, perhaps we should continue this conversation when you’re not behind the wheel.”

“Nah, I do my best talking in the car. What’s the price on these water aerobic doo-hickies, anyway?”

“One-twenty per six-week session, but if you sign up now I’ll slash your cost to ninety. That’s a savings of two hundred forty dollars per year, a deal you can’t beat in this economy.”

“Do I get a gift with purchase? Easter ham, box of chocolates, somethin’?”

“Ms. Morris, do you want Lifeline to save your life, or do you want to die an unfit woman?”

“Actually, I want my doctor to staple my stomach. One of them get-thin-quick surgeries, ya know? But insurance won’t cough up the dough unless I make an honest, do-it-yourself attempt first.”

“Then you’ve called the right place. Lifeline Fitness provides just what its name suggests: a lifeline to excellent health and exuberant living.”

“Frankly, Patti, I’m surprised you even picked up the phone. Word on the street is that you guys shut your doors for good.”

“I assure you, Ms. Morris, all essential employees are still here at Lifeline. Why don’t you come visit us? We’re the orange brick building on Zephyr Avenue.”

“That’s my plan. Passin’ Burger King as we speak. How do I find you?

“Do you have a GPS?”

“Don’t know my GPS from my ABCs, Patti. Whoops! Just turned the wrong way down a one-way street. This oughtta be interesting.”

“Perhaps we should hang up so you can concentrate on your driving.”

“Yup, I’m definitely goin’ the wrong way. Whee! You ever play chicken with oncoming traffic, Patti?”

“Ms. Morris, I want you to hang up and get off the road. Now.”

“Nah, these wide-eyed schmucks see me comin’ a mile away. Swervin’ left and right like bats outta hell, poor dears. Safest thing I can do is go straight.”

“Ms. Morris, I’m concerned for your safety. This conversation must end.”

“But Patti, you’re my lifeline. What if I get in a crash?”

“Please, pull off the road and make a U-turn.”

“Can’t. Orange and white barrels blockading everything. Wish you could get a load of these slack-jawed drivers. They’re confused as hell.”

“Turn onto a side street, then!”

“No can do. Road just morphed into highway. Cars shootin’ past me like daggers now. Glad I got sharp eyes and a quick reaction time. And glad I got you, Patti – for moral support.”

“Ms. Morris, don’t you see any spot alongside the road where you might turn around?”

“Yeehaw! This reminds me of that eighties video game. You know, the one where the frog hops across the logs? I always died in that game.”

“Perhaps the police can intercede for you. Hang up and I’ll call them.”

“Chill out, Pat. When I was a kid, I studied The Dukes of Hazzard harder than a Presidential Scholar at Yale. I’ll be fine.”


“Whew! Almost got sideswiped by a yellow bug. Cute little cars, them bugs. Remember Herbie Goes Bananas?”

“Ohmigod! Kent!”

“No, Herbie. It’s a Disney flick from the seventies. When were you born, Patti?”

“Kent, please! Put down the gun!”

“Hey Patti, who’s Kent?”

“Kent, my god! You don’t know what you’re doing!”

“Er, what’s goin’ on?”

“It was wrong of me to fire you, Kent. You can have your job back. Just, please, don’t shoot.”

“Patti! Whaddya mean, don’t shoot?”

“Kent, I’m begging you! Take my purse, my credit cards. Take anything you want!”

“You’re jokin’, Patti . . . right?”

“Drop the gun and I won’t tell a soul. I swear.”


“No, Kent, I’m not on the phone. See? Dial tone. No one knows you held a gun to my head. It’s our little secret. Just you and me.”

“Someone’s holdin’ a gun to your head? Patti, my god!”

“Go ahead, Kent. Take the phone. Take it right out of my hands. There are no witnesses on the other end of the line. I’ll say it again: There are no witnesses on the other end of the line.”

“Stay calm, Patti. I’m callin’ the cops!”

“Shh, Carla! Please!”

“Today, my fitness friend, it’s me throwin’ you a lifeline!”

“Kent, NO!”

“Hello? Patti? Crap, I dropped my burger. Lemme just reach down and grab it. Damn all these wrappers and bags! Oh, shit. Oh, shit!”

“Forty-year-old Carla Morris died today when she lost control of her vehicle and crashed into a tree. Family members say Morris had struggled with obesity for years and was on her way to Lifeline Fitness to make a change for the better when the tragedy occurred. Ironically, a gunman stormed Lifeline Fitness and shot the gym’s owner, Patti Jones, at precisely the same moment as Morris’ death. Police are still seeking a motive.”

Melissa Nott lives in Michigan with one husband, two children, and three egocentric furry creatures. Her writing has been accepted and/or featured in Defenestration and The Big Jewel.

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