Authors: Jack Kilborn
“I’ve still got my novel, though.” The CD isn’t very shiny anymore, and it has a crack that I pray hasn’t hurt the data.
“Best thing I’ve ever done in my life, Squeaky old pal. Wouldn’t change a damn thing about the path I chose.”
It starts to rain. I stare at the CD, at my reflection in it. My beard is coming in nicely. It gives me sort of a Hemingway look.
“Did I tell you about the Intervention, Squeaky? Right before I got kicked out. My parents, my brother, the chaplain, and some guy from WA. Tried to get me to quit writing. Follow some stupid 12 step program.”
I still feel a twang of guilt, remembering my mother’s pleas.
“They wanted me to admit I had a problem. But they don’t understand. Writing isn’t an addiction. It’s a way of life. Like being a rat. Could you stop being a rat, just because your family wanted you to?”
Squeaky didn’t answer. The rain was really coming down now.
“I have to write. I don’t have a choice. It’s who I am.”
The CD in my hand got warm to the touch, glowing with an inner spirit that I knew for sure isn’t just my imagination. It’s worth something. Even if it never sells. Even if I’m the only one who ever reads it.
It validates me.
“I’m no one trick pony, either. I won’t rest on my laurels. I’ve got more books in me.”
I pull out my collection of gum wrappers and sort them out, chapter by chapter.
After reading what I wrote that morning, I take my stubby pencil from my shirt pocket and start where I left off.
After all—writer’s have to write.
It’s what we do.
Once upon a time I wanted to write a humor column like Dave Barry. I quickly learned that only Dave Barry was allowed to write humor columns, and newspapers weren’t looking for anyone else. This was penned during college, and then tweaked to put on my website.
was watching “The 20 Minute Workout,” sitting back in my easy chair and eating a box of Twinkies. The blonde aerobics instructor (at least I think she was blonde, for I was having trouble seeing over my stomach) was chirping away about how eating healthy and exercising were the keys to a better you, while doing thigh lifts that made me exhausted just looking at her.
Among other health conscious things, she said that if you are truly satisfied with your body, you should be able to stand naked in front of a mirror and like what you see. I accepted the challenge, and after finishing the Twinkies and two bowls of Frosted Sugar-O’s Cereal (now with 30% more corn syrup), I disrobed and went straight to the full length mirror.
Much to my dismay, I looked like a giant sack of potatoes with a penis. This did nothing for my self-esteem, and I dove into a Piggo Size Jay’s Potato Chips and didn’t stop until I hit cellophane.
It was not until later that I realized most of my problems, such as not understanding my income tax return, were directly linked to my overweightedness. I decided at that moment to start a strict regimen of diet and exercise, but soon just limited it to exercise, not wanting to give up my favorite meal, beer and Snickers Bars.
The thing I had to do, as told to me by countless celebrities on TV who can’t get work elsewhere, was join a health club. I went to a popular one nearby, housed in a building the size of Rhode Island. Inside was like stepping into The Jetsons: chrome…mirrors…flashing lights…techno music…a running track lined with spongy foam…rows and rows of exercise machines, as far as the eye could see…Elroy, walking Astro…
I was greeted at the door by a very muscular guy who’d been packed into a Spandex outfit so tightly I could see individual corpuscles pumping through his veins. His name was G.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.
“With a G.”
“Do you have a last name?”
“It’s just G.”
“So on your birth certificate…”
“Enough about me.” G grinned big, making his neck muscles ping out. “Let’s talk about you.”
G herded me through a throng of beautiful people, telling each in turn that he was in a meeting and couldn’t be disturbed even if Madonna called with a Pilates emergency. We went into his office, which was decorated with pictures of G with his shirt off and smiling, G with his shirt off and scowling, and G with his shirt off and looking apprehensive, probably wondering where he’d left his shirt.
G handed me a bottled water from his personal mini-refrigerator and sat me at his desk. He remained standing.
“It’s a good thing you came today, Mr. Konrath, because you’re about five beats away from a major myocardial infarction. If you don’t join our club right now, I’ll ask you to sign this waiver to absolve us of responsibility when you walk out this door and your ventricles explode.”
“I actually just had my heart checked, and…”
“Plus, you’re so disgustingly fat, no one will ever love you.”
“My wife says…”
“Hey, Joanie and Brenda, come in here and meet my new best friend, Mr. Konrath.” G motioned for two attractive young women standing in the hall to come in and smile at me. “Don’t you think he’d benefit from our programs?”
“I’d love to get him in one of my Prancercize classes,” Brenda said, licking her lips. “I’ll help you take off that disgusting, icky fat.”
Joanie put her head to my chest. “I hear his pulmonary artery crying out like a sick kitty.”
“You truly are a disgusting man, Mr. Konrath,” G said. “I suggest the Super-Duper Extra Special Presidential Package. That will give you access to all of the club’s facilities.”
He handed me a color brochure filled with pictures of smiling, healthy people. The Super-Duper Extra Special Presidential Package monthly dues were slightly more than what I earned in a month, but I would have full access to everything, including unlimited use of their one racquetball court, should I ever decide to take up racquetball.
“Sign it and we’ll be your friends forever,” Joanie said.
“Sign it or you’ll get sick and die alone,” Brenda said.
G put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. Hard. “I don’t want to sugar coat this—”
“If you did, I’d probably eat it.”
“—but if you don’t sign this contract you’ll be the biggest wuss-boy I’ve ever met.”
I stared at G and had a momentary delusion that I, too, might be able to look like someone stuck a tube up my ass and inflated me. Sure, his shoulders were so broad that he probably needed help wiping his own ass, but he looked damn good without a shirt.
“Sign,” they chanted. “Sign. Sign. Sign…”
I signed, and left the club feeling cheerful about my new commitment to get in shape. The pounds would soon begin to drop off, I was sure. They had to, because I no longer had any money for food.
When I shared the good news with my wife, she was equally excited.
“It cost how much?!?”
“Don’t think of it in terms of costs,” I said, repeating what G had told me, “think of it in terms of benefits.”
“You tell the kids they can’t go to college because their father spent all of our savings.”
“College is overrated. You don’t really learn anything useful. Trade schools—that’s where it’s at these days. You see that one on TV, teaches you how to repair air conditioners?”
My wife shook her head. “You’ve got issues, Joe. In fact, you’ve got a whole damn subscription.”
“Why don’t you come down to the club, check it out? G said there’s a discount for spouses.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?”
“I’m saying that your support hose isn’t hiding your little pouch like it used to when we were dating.”
My wife smiled. She was obviously coming around.
“How long is this stupid contract for?” she asked.
“That’s how long you’re going without sex. Enjoy the couch.”
The couch was close to the refrigerator, so it wasn’t too bad.
During my fourth week as an Extra Super Special Guy Member, G called me up.
“Mr. Konrath, you joined a month ago. When are you going to come down and start working out?”
“I can’t now, G. I’m waiting for a pizza.”
“Come on, Mr. Konrath. Joining was just the first step. Now you’ve got to start coming in. I’ll blend you a fifteen dollar kelp smoothie, personally train you on the equipment for sixty dollars an hour, and give you a nice thirty dollar rub down afterwards.”
“I thought all of that was included in my Jumbo Deluxo Mega Membership.”
“Did you read the fine print?”
“It was in a different language.”
“Don’t let money keep you from being the best Mr. Konrath that you can be, Mr. Konrath. Come in today and you can take my Jazz Kwon Do class for half price.”
“What do you drive, G?”
“A Mercedes. And my payment is due.”
G was right. I’d made the commitment to get in shape. It was time to put up or shut up. Even my wife, after having our lawyer try unsuccessfully to break the heath club contract, had begun encouraging me to go.
“You wasted all that money!” she’d say, encouragingly. “Put down the cheese wheel, get off your lazy ass, and go work out!”
But, truth be told, I was scared. I knew if I went to the club I’d be surrounded by beautiful people, and I would be alienated and my self-esteem would sink even lower.
My plan was to get in shape before I went to the club. It could happen. I lost four pounds just last week, though I found it later, in my upper thighs.
“G, I feel too uncomfortable to come in. Can we do this over the phone?”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. Konrath. There are plenty of fat, ugly people who come here every day. You’ll fit right in.”
“If they come there every day why are they still fat and ugly?”
“You’re disappointing me, Mr. Konrath.”
“Sorry, G. I’ll drop by later today.”
“Great! See you then.”
“Are you mad at me, G?”
“No. Not this time.”
I hung up the phone, happy about recommitting myself to getting into shape. Twenty minutes later I was in the health club parking lot, finishing the last of my pizza. G greeted me warmly, pumping my hand like I was a lat machine. He was bigger than I remembered. I bet he had more definition than Webster’s Unabridged.
Well, come on, all the jokes can’t be good.
“How’s my bestest buddy, Mr. Konrath?”
“Hungry. How about that smoothie?”
“Sure thing. You bring your Visa?”
“My wife took it. But I found some change in the couch.”
G led me to the juice bar, and spent five minutes measuring out assorted powders into a stainless steel blender.
“The base is macrobiotic organic yogurt,” he told me. “Low fat and sugar free.”
“Sounds good. Can you add a few scoops of those chocolate chips?”
After the smoothie, G and I hit the equipment. Almost immediately I knew we were going to have problems. First of all, he wanted me to start a program he called “weight training.” From what I gathered, this involved picking up weights, and lifting them up and down. G gave me a preview, grabbing a barbell the size of a Cadillac (when they still made them big), and curling it up to his chest several times. I very politely told G that he was out of his freaking mind if he thought I was going to do that. You couldn’t pay me to do that. I certainly wasn’t go to pay them to let me.
G let out a friendly laugh and then threw me a weight belt and told me to get started while he went to the juice bar for a creatine shake. “For a boost of energy,” he said.
“Put in some of those mini marshmallows,” I told him. “And some ham.”
While I waited for my energy boost, I sat on an exercise bike, content with watching a girl in a string bikini do leg presses. She had a body that could make a priest give up choir boys. When G came back I was sweating like a pig.
“How are we doing, Mr. Konrath?”
“Great, G. I’m glad I signed up.”
“Let’s not overdo it your first day. Time for your rubdown.”
While G rubbed my achy muscles for three dollars a minute, I had to admit that this health club thing was a good idea after all. Sure, I had to take out a second mortgage to pay for it, but seeing that girl do those leg presses gave my heart a workout it hadn’t had in years.
And later that night, I actually got in a few minutes of strenuous exercise. With my wife, while thinking of the leg-press girl.