The Lady or the Tiger

The Gateway Review


Paul Beckman

Honorable Mention


“I’m not looking forward to work today,” I tell my family while they sit around the living room eating their breakfast on tray tables watching TV on the only channel we get: The Fat Nun with the Big Bible Station. The sound is broken in the off position and they are taking turns going behind the TV pretending they are the Fat Nun but none of them speak of religion. My mother-in-law is the nun now and she’s telling a Doctor Seuss story she memorized years ago.

The alarm goes off and the family forms a huddle and I strap them on my back and head off for work. I report to my boss, Ricky Ricardo, for my assignment and he asks me what I did last week. “I ran the Zamboni two days and spent two days on potholes so I got a day off.”

He asks what I had for breakfast and if I was still hungry he’d have Lucy whip me up some fritters and I asked what kind and he gave me my assignment for the day. “You’re on steel girders today, Bozo. I want you to watch this Buster Keaton scene to get an understanding of the job.”

“Why do I have to learn from Buster Keaton?” I ask.

“Listen, Buster, don’t be such a wisenheimer.” Then he gets in his yellow bumper car and is pancaked by the Mertz’s. Lucy comes out, her red hair on fire and she asks who ordered the fritters and when no one answers she gives me the dish and says, “For the family.”

The “kid” comes over and tells me to go up two levels and take my lunch break. The TV’s on and the Fat Nun is now selling veg-o-matics. She’s demonstrating it to a home ec class of sixth grade boys. I unstrap the family and take a couple of extra strength generic aspirins. It’s windy on the girder but luckily the fritters are anchoring us in place.

Ricky comes up to give me my next assignment. He tells the “Kid” to hand it to me. It’s in a sealed envelope and on the outside is printed. “This is your assignment, if you choose to accept it. Or you could have what’s in the box.”

The “Kid” says I’ve seen this veg-o-matic show and kicks the TV off the girder and it falls twelve of the fourteen stories and is stopped by its electrical cord.

I motion for my family to huddle up and I strap them back on my back and head off to my next assignment.

The “Kid” reminds me to punch my timecard and I tell him it’s my non-violent week, so he offers to do it and I slip him a sawbuck and slide down the fireman’s pole.


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