WEIGHT LOSS • by James Hartley

I don’t know why I should take all the grief for this. I, in common with about half of American women, just wanted to lose a few pounds–well, maybe ten or fifteen–okay, maybe twenty.

I’ve tried all the popular diets, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and South Beach and so on, ad infinitum. I’ve also bought literally hundreds of books with weird fad diets and tried them. I mean, who’s ever even heard of the “Grapefruit and Cauliflower Diet”? I have, I bought the book, I tried the diet. You know what I lost on that one? Zip! Nothing! Just like all the other diets.

Of course there are the diet pills, they just make me hungry. And those canned shakes, they’re great, but I don’t lose weight when I end up drinking ten or twelve of them a day.

So when I saw a little ad in one of those supermarket tabloids, can I be blamed for giving it a try? “Lose Weight with Witchcraft,” it said. “Just send in $10.95,” it said. So I sent in my $10.95, and I got back a sheet of paper that said it was a weight loss spell. The cover letter explained how it was taken from an ancient Grimoire, and an admonishment to keep the spell secret. Well, duh! If I give somebody a copy they won’t send in $10.95 for their own copy. No specifics on what might happen if I gave out copies.

I gathered up all the ingredients I needed for the spell. A couple were hard to find, I had to try three health food stores for one of the herbs. When I had everything ready, I cast the spell at midnight, and I went to bed, and I woke up the next morning twenty pounds lighter. Hooray!

It was a couple of days later I ran into Beth, one of my best friends. She looked heavier, and she appeared to have been crying a lot. “I just don’t understand it, Susan. I went to bed one night, and in the morning when I woke up I had gained twenty pounds. It’s awful! I don’t know what to do!”

I began to get an uneasy feeling. “When did it happen, Beth?”

“It was Tuesday morning. I was fine Monday night, then Tuesday morning I was like this. I talked to my doctor, but all he’ll say is it’s impossible, I must have been gaining and just noticed it then.”

My uneasy feeling was getting a lot worse. That was my twenty pounds. Apparently the spell didn’t make the weight vanish, it just dumped it on someone else. “Beth,” I said, “come over to the house and let me give you something.” I have one of those printer-fax-copier thingies, and I made her a copy of the spell. I did not, unfortunately, give her a copy of the cover letter that said to keep it secret.

Of course I wasn’t keeping it secret, but that’s different. Beth was my good friend, and her problem was my fault.

It must have taken Beth a while to get the ingredients. A few days later she was back to normal, but Nancy, another good friend, had the twenty pounds. And Beth’s cousin Charlotte, who had been way overweight for years, was suddenly looking svelte and slender. Over the next weeks, I kept seeing overweight people I knew drop many pounds, while ordinarily slim women would bulk up for a few days and then go back to normal. I guess Beth had given out the spell rather freely.

I was wondering what would happen when everyone had the spell, where would the weight go? Then I got a letter from the company that sent me the spell. “You were told to keep the spell secret, and you have violated that rule. This will have consequences!” How could they know? I admit I was a little scared, but I didn’t expect anything like what happened.

I woke up this morning as the bed crashed to the floor. I looked down at myself and screamed. I tried to get up, but of course I couldn’t manage it. I did manage to crawl to the phone and call 911.

It took eight EMTs to get me out of my apartment and into the ambulance, and the hospital had to set up a specially reinforced bed for me. The doctors are baffled, they say they have never seen a woman who weighed over a thousand pounds. I know, I know, I was supposed to keep the spell secret, but did I really deserve this?

James Hartley is a retired computer programmer. He grew up in northern New Jersey, and has now settled in sunny central Florida. He has published a fantasy novel, “Teen Angel,” and stories in Every Day Fiction, Demon Minds, Lorelei Signal, Kidvisions, Golden Visions, and Nocturnal Ooze. He is currently working on a second novel, “The Ghost of Grover’s Ridge.”

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Joseph Kaufman