Just One

Quick Note: This story was inspired by something my mother did in high school. Thankfully, she didn’t carry it this far.

Just One

(Originally published on April 30, 2010 on Flash Me Magazine)

Despite the claims of both his classmates and the bag of potato chips itself, Alvis had eaten “just one.”

It had been delectable; the little golden flake had practically melted on his tongue. Even before his taste buds finished absorbing the salty deliciousness of the first they were screaming for a second. But, though he desperately wanted another, Alvis pushed the yellow bag away and felt a surge of self-satisfaction as his buddies’ eyes widened and jaws dropped.

“We’ll see about that,” one of them challenged, crunching into a chip as if to punctuate his declaration.

Naturally, they chided and egged him on throughout the rest of that day, playfully or perhaps maliciously placing one chip at a time in their mouths and then licking the salt from their fingers as if in ecstasy. When they grinned in ridicule, their teeth were buttery golden, and when they got right in his face and whispered things like, “You know you want one. They’re so good,” Alvis could smell potatoes and grease and wanted a second chip even more.

But, growing ever more determined, Alvis would either shake his head or wave his palm, denying himself one golden chip after another until his friends eventually stopped caring. That day became days and those became weeks and those weeks became months and then years after that and he never touched another one, even when he really wanted to.

“Man, who cares?” one of these friends once asked, years afterward, shoving an open bag in his face just to tempt him. “Go ahead and eat one. That was forever ago.”

But Alvis still cared.

Once, in his sixties, he was really tempted. He had even purchased a bag and taken it home; opened it and began to salivate as he breathed in the thick scent of spuds and salt. Gingerly, he pulled a single flake from the open bag and held it between his fingers, letting the skin of his fingertips absorb the oil and sodium. But, the voice nagging him to “go ahead and eat it” was eventually drowned by the one saying, “you’re a failure; a big, fat failure.” In the end, he dropped the chip back in the bag with its brethren, wiped his hand on his khaki pants and pushed the package into the trash.

He just couldn’t do it.

There are certain challenges a person undertakes that are more important than reasoning and logic, matters of personal pride and dedication that say something about a person … define who he is. When Alvis told his idiot friends back in elementary school that he was going to eat “just one,” he had meant it; he had defined himself as a “just one” kind of guy. And while lying on his deathbed, the world gradually fading away as if the blinds were being drawn — the top of the open bag finally being rolled and clipped, as it were — Alvis smiled with the pride of a retired champion.

He licked his lips and tasted salt.


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