What is this Kool-Aid people are bringing into the gym with them these days? Huge jugs of the stuff. It’s not pre-workout boosters because that stuff, presumably, you chug before the workout. And post-workout, a donut’ll do. So it must be a during-workout concoction designed to keep you juiced up and raring to go so you don’t keel over mid-set. Don’t know any legit, over the counter substance that works instantaneously like that. So it must be simple candi-coloured bullshit swishing around in that gallon jug from station to station, inevitably, all that liquid in the belly keeping these guys, these semi-pros, from maintaining a solid core during the second half of their workout. That can’t be good. Freaking nonsense. And they always got a sopping wet towel and a gym bag with them, moving house after every exercise, pissing purple all over the place and then smearing it into the bench for the next guy.
Back in the day, we stunk proper, same shorts, same tank top everyday. At most, we carried a couple ratty festering kitchen sponges to keep the callouses from pinching when we’d grip the weights. Today, I find myself having to choose my wardrobe daily. Nothing fancy, but I do rotate tee shirts and track pants, all muted colours so I don’t stand out. Why would I want to? I’m not the biggest, strongest, or most shredded in the gym. I know my place, for fucksakes. It’s like these joggers who don’t stop for traffic. What the hell? You’re training for the Olympics you can’t pause to save your life?
Before I get to cellphones, I first wanna mention the gym craps. I call em gym craps. How freaking poorly timed are you that you have to take your dump at the gym! Wtf! And it isn’t as if it’s stomach problems, and so therefore the runs, because these gym craps smell like old shit, Thursday’s greasy pizza and it’s now Saturday morning. This is post constipation crapping, smells more like shit than shit. Too much whey powder sludge buildup keeping the crap from swimming efficiently through the intestines, so it has time to ferment. You know? And when you’re charging into the gym for the workout of your life, and you bust into that locker room just after that idiot who decided he was going to ignore the cramping, the farts, the belly full of Thursday’s cheese–gonna pump some weights today!, that solid wall of someone else’s reek cuts your legs at the knees before you even start. It’s like driving up on a horrible car wreck. Hits you all at once.
And then there are the fuckers with the cellphones. I move quickly from exercise to exercise, so I already know where I’m going next before I get there. I eyeball the next station, look around for anyone who might be thinking of going there. That’s easy to do. If it’s a seated row pulley machine, you look for someone close by working their back. No? Good. One, two, three….
Then just like that, some kid half-heartedly shows up from the other end of the gym, sits at the pulley row, and slumps forward into his cellphone. Fock me! Happened today! I don’t mind if it’s someone serious, like me, needing the same station. He’ll waste no time crunching out the reps, a one minute rest between sets. And if I need to get on the machine right away, I can always ask the serious guy to alternate with me. Those guys will never say no, same like me. But what do you do with a kid being sucked into the screen of his cellphone? Smack him? They’ll toss you from the premises, revoke your membership. Happened to me once already.
So I had to think fast, today, switched up the sequence of exercises in my head, forced a plan ‘B’ before my muscles could cool and I’d lose the pump. Terrible that. Screws the momentum. The gym is the only place I don’t carry my cellphone. If I think someone might be looking for me while I’m in there, I’ll shoot them a text before putting it away in the glove box. Going in the gym, I’ll say.
End of subject.
Next installment: The Moaners and Groaners
Change Seven editor Antonios Maltezos studied at Concordia University. He is formerly an associate editor of Vestal Review. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Night Train, Smokelong Quarterly, [PANK], Foundling Review, Storyglossia, Verbsap, Dogzplot, Thieves Jargon, Slingshot Magazine, Ink Pot, Skive Magazine, Mad Hatter’s Review, Pequin, Per Contra, Story Garden, WordRiot, LITnIMAGE, Underground Voices, Cezanne’s Carrot, Pindeldyboz, Flashquake, Elimae, Eclectica, Hobart, and many other journals and mags. When he isn’t running a tavern-style kitchen near Montreal, Quebec, he is working on a collection of short fiction, Setting Fires, and a novel, A Train Runs Through Here, told entirely through flash.