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by Paul Beckman

Time was all he had left. He knew he had time but he wanted more no matter how much he had. He thought he could barter his way to more time. Where would he go to do this? eBay? The farmers’ market? The dark web?

He decided to ask his rabbi. She gave him a rabbinical answer which was of no help to him whatsoever. She thought it was and was proud of herself and took the rest of the day off and went bowling with the Methodist minister who was just stopping by to say hello.

They bowled and went to the shore and ate full bellied fried clams, onion rings, and drank birch beer. Both knew they’d have heartburn.

The minister worried if the rabbi would feel guilty so he told her not to. She told him guilt is one of the only certainties in her life and not to try and take it away from her.

They rode back in silence.

But this is a story about a man and his time, not about people of the cloth.

The man, knowing he had time, decided that he didn’t have to worry about time this very minute and decided to go to the shore and have some seafood. He saw the rabbi and the Methodist minister take their food on trays out to the outdoor benches in the sunshine. He told the counter person he’d have the same thing they ordered.

That evening he had terrible heartburn from the fried food. The heartburn turned out to be a heart attack — a fatal one.

He should have kept up his quest for more time, the rabbi said at his funeral. The Methodist minister, who was co-captain with the man on his curling team, also gave a eulogy. He said that his friend was in a better place.

If his friend would’ve heard this, he would have disputed it, but the people in the synagogue nodded their heads in agreement.

There is a happy ending here but not for the man with the heartburn — but for the rabbi and the Methodist minister who ended up living together but not marrying because neither would consent to convert.

Paul Beckman’s story Healing Time was one of the winners in the 2016 Best Small Fictions and his 100-word story Mom’s Goodbye was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. Paul lives on the Connecticut shoreline, and his latest collection of flash stories, PEEK, is available on his blog at https://pincusb.com. His website is at www.paulbeckmanstories.com and he can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@pincusb).