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"Final Exam" by Michael Mallory

Twist #300 - August 2015

Originally appeared Jan. 1998

(Page 1 of 3)

Margie nervously fiddled with her coffee cup as the younger woman laid out the photos on the coffee table, carefully and deliberately, as though they were Tarot cards. The pictures were grainy and blurry, and even for somebody who knew as little about photography as Margie, the composition was atrocious. Obviously, they had been taken in a great hurry. But even with all the technical flaws, she had little trouble identifying the two people whose images were captured in the pictures.

"You can't see the man's face too clearly here," Sonia pointed out, but to Margie, it did not matter. It was not necessary to see her husband Patrick's face, since his birthmark, the one that was normally hidden by his underwear, was in perfect focus.

Margie examined the image of the woman in the photos. "You have a beautiful body, you must work out," she said, her anger and heartache tinged with a touch of bitter envy. Then again, she judged the woman, who gave her name as Sonia, to be in her late 20's. At that age, Margie herself had been a looker, or so men regularly told her. Including Patrick.

"Thank you," Sonia said, with a polite smile. "I try to get to the gym every day. Keeping yourself in shape is a requirement of the job. Do you want to see the rest?"

Taking a deep breath, Margie nodded.