an empty bag of potato chips.

Alison looked with disapproval at her two companions. In her opinion, they’d let themselves go. Alison sniffed. She had not let herself go. At their age, with sixty approaching like a speeding bullet train, you had to be particularly careful. Midriff bulge. Bingo arms. Turkey neck. And those magic potions touted for sale everywhere – moisturisers with essence of Amazonian jackfruit or something – as if they could turn back the clock once you’d LET YOURSELF GO.

Madeleine was constantly snacking. In fact, in front of her right now she had an open packet of potato chips and was absent-mindedly stuffing them into her mouth one after the other. Fran was at it too. For every three chips Madeleine stuffed in, Fran took at least two. Alison thought about telling them how utterly awful potato chips were for their health, but she’d done that countless times in the past. Madeleine and Fran just told her she was a party-pooper, a wet blanket, and suggested she share the chips. They said it might cheer her up.

Alison regarded herself as perfectly cheerful, except for her exasperation with her overweight friends. She watched them sip their gin-and-tonics (she herself was having soda water with fresh lime). They were definitely overweight. Madeleine had at least two chins, and if you looked at Fran in profile you couldn’t tell where her chin ended and her neck started. Both of them were on blood pressure pills too. Alison couldn’t stand it.

“Those chips are poison,” she said. “And alcohol isn’t great for you either. You should pay more attention to your health.”

“One little gin and  bag of chips aren’t going to kill me,” said Madeleine.

“That’s your second gin and your third bag of chips,” said Alison, as Maddy screwed up the empty chip packet.

“Oh, Ally, put a sock in it,” said Fran. “We may be fat, but we’re happy!” She laughed.

Madeleine, who was not quite as large as Fran, laughed a little less. She preferred to refer to herself as “heavy” rather than “fat”. It had more gravitas; sounded less like a person with no self-restraint. She considered the empty chip packet and thought about ordering another. She said to Alison:

“OK, Ally, no more chips. I’m going to order some dinner.”

“What are you having, Maddy?” asked Fran.

“Pizza with sausage,” said Madeleine.

Alison sighed.


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