“Head Games”— A Mort Laitner Short Story

Head Games


By Mort Laitner



Surrounded by her friends and family, the FSU graduate cut into her celebratory cake. She parted the icing between Osceola’s spear and Renegade’s head. In an act of defiance, the cake knife bounced back. The graduate’s face froze in disbelief. Her smile flipped into a grimace. She realized that her Seminole cake’s top layer consisted of foam. The foam had been dressed in icing. The cake’s purchaser hurriedly assisted her daughter in the removal of this faux layer. With all the anger of a child, embarrassed by a well-meaning parent, the graduate scraped the frosting from the foam layer. She then flung the icing onto the empty space left on her cake. This catapulting of garnet and gold helped burn away the negativity housed in her gut.

As my stomach hungered for the cake, I counted the witnesses, including the graduate. There were twenty. I watched seventeen of them eat cake. For the first time in my life, I was one of the three who neglected to partake. In my gut, I realized I had switched sides. I joined the smaller sized foam group.

My hungry eyes sent a short message to my brain. Oh my G-d. He has switched sides!

            My stomach sent an SOS distress signal… “Feed me. Feed me. Feed me. A traitor is on board. Kill the traitor!”

My brain responded, “We’ll teach this renegade a lesson he won’t forget. There will be a high price for this insubordination. Does this sucker think he is in control?”

Pride lit up my face… change happens. I observed, collected data and abstained. I watched my fellow non cake eaters as they glowed in my eyes. They belonged on my team, on my tribe, by my side. Our team named the “losers” versus our worthy opponents the “gainers.”


My resolve was again tested the next night surrounded by friends in a Thai restaurant our waitress served us bowls of rice. I usually ate one to two bowls. This time I abstained. I watched as my three compadres ate anywhere from one quarter to a half of a bowl of rice.

My inner voice screeches louder than my whimpering stomach, “How many calories in that starchy mountain of rice? I bet 700. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories.” You’re over your daily allotment of 1500 calories. Inner voice continued the rant, “Where is your calorie calculator? Do you want to be stranded on that weight loss plateau? Drink that glass of water with the lemon swimming in it. You have got to trick that stomach of yours.”

My fork does not break the surface area of the mound. My hands pushed my bowl to the center of the table. The rice smelled like poison. I observed the rice eaters. They could not believe their eyes. Their inner voices whispered, “Maybe I ate too much rice. He beat me this time. It won’t happen again.” As they discretely glanced at my gut, they wondered if it had shrunk. I felt the euphoric joy of metabolized fats breaking down.

As I left the table, I chanted my new mantra, “Change your lifestyle, change your lifestyle, change your lifestyle.”

I’ve lost eight and a half pounds in three weeks thanks to the diet program, liberal amounts of discipline sprinkled on my food and a number of head games.



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