Monday, April 1, 2019

Maximum Effort, Part Three - John McCallum

George Handle hobbled into the gym owner's office and eased himself into a chair. The owner watched him curiously. 

"Georgie, my boy," he said. "You didn't wet your pants or anything, did you?" 

George shook his head.

"Then show a little snap," the gym owner said. "You're supposed to be a young weightlifter. Don't stagger around like an aging rhinoceros." 

"My muscles are sore," George said. "I'm in pain." 

"Sore?" the gym owner said. "Pain? From what

"From that stupid workout you made me do," George said. "That from what." 

The gym owner frowned. "Come, come, Georgie," he said. "Let's not dramatize. A little stiffness merely shows you haven't been working hard enough in the past." 

"It isn't just a little stiffness," George said. "I'm in bloody agony." 

The gym owner got to his feet, walked about the desk, and poked George's right pectoral with his forefinger. George stifled a shriek and jerked back in his chair.

"That didn't really hurt, did it?" the gym owner said. He reached down and squeezed George's thigh. George gave a strangled gasp and leaped to his feet.

"Did that smart just a little?" the gym owner asked him.

George cowered against the wall. "Don't," he whispered. "Please." 

The gym owner took George by the shoulders and steered him back to his chair. "Have no fear, my boy," he said. "It's just that your constant complaining has an unsettling effect on me." He walked round the desk, sat down again, and tilted back in his chair. "Well," he said, "now that the formalities are over, I imagine you're anxious to get on with your workout." 

George's face fell. "Look, man," he said. "I can't do it tonight. I just can't." 

"Can't?" the gym owner said. "Can't? Come, come, Georgie. There's no such word in the vocabulary of a truly successful man." 

"I hurt all over," George told him.

"Tough," the gym owner said. "And, besides, we got a deal." 

"Couldn't we call it off?" George asked.

"We could," the gym owner said . . . he went to the filing cabinet, pulled a card, and tossed it on the desk . . . "if you'd like to pay up your three months back dues." 

"I got no bread right now," George said. "I told you." 

"Right," the gym owner said. "You did. And I told you I'd hold the dues in abeyance while you trained on this program." 

"Won't you listen to any excuses?" George said.

"Listen to excuses?" the gym owner said. "My dear boy, I'd be delighted to listen to your excuses. Lay one on me." 

"I feel like I've been hit by a gravel truck," George said. "My pecs and lats are on fire and my legs are so sore I can hardly walk on them. I should be home in bed, and if I work out tonight it'll probably kill me." He looked wistfully at the gym owner. "Isn't that a good excuse?" 

"Fabulous," the gym owner said. "Hit me with another." 

George slumped in his chair. "If I die in here," he muttered, "you'll be sorry for a long, long time." 

"Indeed I will," the gym owner said. "My grief shall be boundless. But while we're waiting for that tragic event" . . . he pulled George to his feet and walked him to the door . . . "please accept my thanks for dropping in. These little moments of social chit-chat bring sunshine into my otherwise cheerless existence." They stopped at the door. "And now," the gym owner said, "suit up. Gird your loins, so to speak, for the fray. Jump into your sweat pants, warm up the old muscles, and I'll meet you on the gym floor in ten minutes." 

"Okay," the gym owner said, when George was ready, "we're all set and raring to go." George opened his mouth to speak but the gym owner cut him off. "Control your impatience, my boy. You can dive headlong into the whole stimulating thing in a few minutes." 

The gym owner opened his notebook. "Now," he said, "a quick perusal of my meticulously kept notes indicates you worked your thighs, pecs, and lats yesterday." He squinted at the book. "Squab:" he said. That's a bird, ain't it?" 

George peered over the gym owner's shoulder. "I think that's supposed to read squat." He ran his finger down the page. "And this should be pulley, not pullet." 

"Squab?" the gym owner said. "Pullet? Amazing. A Freudian slip if ever I saw one." He closed the notebook and stared at the ceiling. "My mother-in-law was over for dinner the night before last. We had roast chicken." He closed his eyes in pain. "The toughest, most miserable bird you ever encountered."

"Sometimes chicken's like that," George told him.

"Not the chicken," the gym owner said. "The mother-in-law." He put his hand to his forehead. "What a beast." He opened the notebook again. "Anyway," he said, "tonight you'll be doing your shoulders, lower back and arms. You'll use the same system you used last night, tire out the muscles first, and then work on a basic exercise until you can't budge the weight." 

He scribbled in the book. "You'll do your shoulders first," he said. "Upright rowing, lateral raises, and then presses behind the neck. No rest between exercises and each one done to the point of complete collapse" . . . he cleared his throat . . . "excuse me, I mean complete failure." 

He snapped the notebook shut and held it aloft like a banner. "And now," he said. "the moment you've been waiting for." He gave George a slap on the back that knocked him eight feet toward the lifting platform. "Do or die for B.D. High!" 

George stood over the bar. "B.D.?"

"Back dues," the gym owner said. "Think about it while you're lifting." 

George took the bar with a close grip and pulled it to his neck.

"Pull it high," the gym owner told him. "Right up to your chin." 

George did nine reps and paused for breath.

"No stops," the gym owner said.

George did another rep.

"Keep it going," the gym owner said.

George did another slow rep.

"Again!" the gym owner yelled. 

George pulled. The bar rose to his chest and then dropped.

"Pull!" the gym owner roared at him.

George pulled the bar to his navel.

"Harder!" the gym owner shouted.

George pulled against the bar until it fell from his hands.

"Okay," the gym owner said. "Now the lateral raises." 

George did twelve lateral raises and then strained against the dumbbells until he couldn't move them from his legs.

"Not bad," the gym owner said. "Not good, but not bad." He pushed George back to the lifting platform. "And now for the big one," he said. "Presses behind the neck." 

George cleaned the bar with a pained look. He pressed the first rep off his chest and then did six more from behind his neck.

"Push hard!" the gym owner said to him.

George pressed the bar to the top of his head and then let it fall back on his shoulders.

"Dig!" the gym owner yelled.

George pushed against the bar with shaking arms until it wouldn't budge. The gym owner stepped forward and took the bar. George collapsed on a bench, gritted his teeth, and pressed his hands against his deltoids.

The gym owner scribbled in his book. "Feels good, doesn't it?" he said. "There's nothing as satisfying as a stimulating session of physical culture with a treasured friend." 

George closed his eyes and muttered under his breath. He lay on the bench for three minutes, and then the gym owner said, "All right, my boy. Let's go! One more set of each." 

"Can't do it," George mumbled. "Absolutely no way." 

The gym owner leaned down and whispered in George's ear. "If you aren't on your feet in ten seconds, I'm going to sue you in small debts court." 

George sprang lightly to his feet and bounced to the lifting platform. He did another cycle of upright rowing, lateral raises, and presses behind the neck while the gym owner shouted encouragement at him. Then he took three minutes rest and did a third cycle.

The gym owner leaned back on the incline bench and wrote in his notebook. 'Man," he said, "this thing is tiring. I wouldn't want to do it every day of the week." 

George rested five minutes and then the gym owner dragged him to the hyper-extension bench. "Now," he said, "the lower back. One set each of prone hyper-extensions and stiff-legged deadlifts."  

George did fourteen extensions and eleven deadlifts, took a three minute rest, and did another set of each.

"And now, the gym owner said, "comes the part you're gonna love." 

"A hot shower?" George asked him.

"Better," the gym owner said. "Arm exercises." He dragged George to the lat machine. "Curls to the back of your neck with the lat machine, and regular barbell curls. One minute's rest, and then triceps extensions on the machine and parallel bar dips." 

"This is the part I'm gonna love?" George said.

"Right," the gym owner said. "Every bodybuilder wants herculean arms. Arms like John Grimek's or Bill Pearl's or: . . . he coughed modestly . . . "mine." 

George did curls with the lat machine till his biceps cramped and then regular curls until the bar fell out of his hands.

"Not bad," the gym owner said. "I think you're getting the idea." 

George went back to the lat machine and did triceps extensions until he couldn't budge the bar and then parallel bar dips until he couldn't budge his body.

"My protege," the gym owner said proudly. "Look at those arms pump." 

"Ridiculous," the gym owner said. "Another set of each will loosen them up just dandy." 

George took a three minute rest, did another cycle or arm exercises with the gym owner screaming at him, and then sat on a bench and groaned.

"Okay," the gym owner said. You're through. Don't sit around sweating on the furniture. 

George showered and went home. He did the program faithfully and two months later the gym owner called him into the office.

"Well, Georgie boy," he said. "You'll be pleased to know the experiment is over and you can drop the program." 

"Really?" George said. "I was just getting used to it." 

"How do you feel?" 

"Terrific," George said. "I wouldn't have believed it. My arms and legs are up an inch each. my chest is up three inches, I'm at least 20% stronger, and I owe it all to you." 

The gym owner blushed modestly.

"Isn't there anything I can do in return?" George asked. 

"Actually," the gym owner said, "there is." He held out a filing card and dropped it on the desk. "Let's do something about those back dues, shall we?" 


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