Howard sat at a table by the window, eating a breakfast of fried eggs, hash-browns, and toast. Two men, one fat, and the other thin, sat at a table near Howard and carried on a conversation everybody in the small diner could hear.
The fat man, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Real Men Ride Harleys, leaned back in his chair and said to the thin man, “I have a million dollars.” Howard thought he detected a trace of smug satisfaction in the man’s voice.
“A million dollars,” the thin man exclaimed. “That’s really something. I wish I had a million dollars.” His voice quivered with awe, or, Howard thought, possibly admiration, but more likely envy of the fat man’s riches.
Howard glanced at the two men. The fat man smiled at Howard. He was enjoying crushing the thin man and was pleased to have someone watch him do it.
“I live in a big house on seven acres,” the fat man said, his voice bumping up a few decibels. “All paid for, too.” Again, the self-satisfied tone.
“I wish I had that much land,” the thin man said. He pushed some hash browns over his plate with his fork then put it down. “I’ll never own a house.”
“I’m a veteran, you know. The Marines,” the fat man crowed. He lifted his head and jutted out his chin, remembering the glory days when he was young and wore the uniform.
“I wish I was a veteran,” the thin man said, deflated by the successes of the man sitting opposite him.
Howard laughed out loud.
“Not to worry, fellas,” Howard said to them. “It comes out even in the end for all of us when we’re put in that box and dropped in a hole in the ground or our ashes are poured into a cheap urn and tossed in the back of a closet and forgotten.” Howard paused briefly then continued. “Or we could end up naked on a table in the dissection lab and have some smart-ass medical student say, “Who embalmed this guy? Look at the size of that boner.”
Howard laughed out loud again, left a generous tip by his plate, and walked out of the diner.
Robert P. Bishop lives in Tucson, AZ