by R.A. Lubow
The elliptical is good -- uses upper and lower body. Burns more calories. The first ten minutes are the hardest, until sweat and mind wanders...
Veined horse legs... leather stretched over concrete... pro athletes... fighting... who'd win, pro-football player or small chimpanzee... tough kid I knew in college, Billy. No Jim. Jimmy. Jimmy in a fight -- something I wanted to see; something we all wanted to see.
Jimmy was the toughest in the fraternity. Carried a keg over his head. Cagey in flag football. A temper when drunk. Never saw him fight, but couldn't imagine him losing. Wasn't a trained fighter or college athlete, so he could lose for sure. It's just hard to imagine.
Jimmy fighting would make a good story.
Maybe a sentence would read: Jimmy was a good student and clean cut, and seemed to be connected to the ground by a high tension metal cable that reached miles deep, tethered to a balanced childhood full of good role-models and American middle-class ideals, and that made him dangerous, and so on, and the story could be about how I was jealous subconsciously of Jimmy and convinced him to box in Greek Fight Night, the annual boxing tournament open to all contestants, including the official collegiate athletes -- the big, sinewy black guys on the football team.
I don't know anything about Fight Night, except that there was one. I could always research it later -- a chance to really build in some authenticity.
Research... drudgery... 32 minutes left, 290 calories... hamster wheel... smug Europeans laughing at me... primitive man running through woods... men attacking a deer with bare hands... Mike Tyson punching a deer... Jimmy fighting...
So Jimmy fights. Doesn't want to, but in the story, I, or someone like me, talk him into it. First person is good. Easier. Decide later. In any case, in the story I believe in Jimmy and couldn't imagine him losing... the image of him getting hurt was just impossible to conjure -- like in real life -- and I could describe how it was like he was made from titanium, and stood with a valiant grace and hint of menacing danger and controlled tenacity -- a mythic hero. Weave in some Nietzsche. That'll make it really literary. More research.
27 minutes. I make Jimmy believe that he's invincible. And this should be pretty natural because I'll have it so Jimmy already thinks he's invincible on some level. And then the irony is Jimmy gets pulverized, and it's unexpected because I build it up so the reader thinks maybe Jimmy really is invincible. But then, after the fight, the reader's like, of course, he's just a tough kid in a Jewish fraternity, but not in the league of a real athlete. And the reader will be impressed by the realism, and maybe learn a lesson about mythologizing things. There's a theme there. I know it.
Then Jimmy comes out of a coma, and he's okay, but his face never quite settles the same, his jaw not healing right, false teeth changing his face subtly. And the first-person character in the book, you get the sense he's happy that Jimmy lost, even though he can't admit it to himself. It's got to be subtle, hinting to a sub-conscious master plan to de-mythologize Jimmy, like the downfall of Jimmy was a rite of passage for the narrator. Reminds me of a book in high school. A Separate Peace. Or, A Separate Piece? Not so famous a book, I bet. And it's different enough anyway. But the same holds true -- the weak sabotages the strong.
23 minutes left, 226 calories burned. What was I thinking about? Oh. Jimmy. Fighting. Write it down later. After you get off the machine.
Week three-in-row of cardio for me. Not gonna give up. I'll be cut for the first time ever. Cut by July... that would be nice... could go shirtless like Jimmy. He was so cut.
I've never been defined.
Don't forget to write down about Jimmy, like the million other things forgotten during the million other workouts. 22 minutes, 36 seconds...how could that be?
Wasted creativity... 2nd grade class... .workbook... draw animal next to the name... draw a lion next to the word lion... easy... create your own animal... name it and draw it... class will vote... be creative... Googerbop...
Googerbop -- haven't thought of that in years. Can't believe I lost to Googerbop. So expected. So mainstream, unlike my animal, the Sasasasasasa... something like 13 syllables of "sa,"Ð far more creative and daring then Googerbop, which sounds like something from a kid's cartoon, and looked basically like a lion. It won because the lettering and picture looked like a grownup did it. Economy of line, simple and clean, created by a girl from India who talked like a grownup at eight years old.
My Sasasasasasasasasasasasasa was a mess. A body of a centipede with legs only in the middle so the two ends stuck out with nothing supporting them; a big square head with no face but for the numeral six, which seemed eerie and surreal at the time. The six was likely a nod to Peppermint Pattie's eyes, taken to the extreme.
I'd been imagining weird monsters and making up names for things since I was a toddler. That was my thing. Losing to Googerbop probably changed my life. Might be why I don't write stuff down.
But wait. This could make a good story. It's basically done -- an allegory about art, all taking place in a 2 nd grade schoolroom. A contest to create an animal. Themes about creationism and evolution... literally biblical proportions... could be huge... extremely literary.
Pumping harder, adrenaline... must be a good idea. Remember it. Remember it. Get a pen this second. How much longer? 12 minutes left. Awesome, 12 minutes to go... almost done, another workout gone. Big lunch today, whatever I want, earned it, plus I got two ideas out of it. The Googerbop -- a classic. And what was the other one? Shit. Hold on... it'll come.
Damn. I have to write shit down. This happens. I should stop before I forget Googerbop. It is memorable though... I have to hand it to the Indian girl. Probably won't be forgetting it any time soon.
9 minutes. Grinding noises from rear left. Keep going. Old machine breaking a little. Still works... aging... never been defined... warranty... repairs... home servicing... refrigerator repair... access to food... sabotage...
What if a refrigerator repairman poisons your food? Now there's a story for the times. Disgruntled employee from, say, Heinz, decides to take the company down. So he gets a job as a refrigerator repairman. He puts botulism in the ketchup when people aren't looking. Pretty soon it gets out that people are dying from Heinz ketchup. Product recall. Factories inspected. But in spite of all efforts by Heinz, there are more outbreaks of botulism. The company image ruined forever.
Perfect story. Ties in with terrorism, people are thinking about that now. Also sends a message to big corporations. I'd need to do research on botulism, big companies, scandals in general... could be a movie idea.
But then I'd have to research how to write a movie, how to pitch an idea. Have to buy screenplay software and I bet it's expensive and impossible to learn, and there are formulas to learn, like what has to happen on page 36 and so on. There will need to be a Hollywood ending. Maybe it'll just be a book. Or short story... then it won't even need an ending.
2 minutes left.
It's a little mean spirited. Wouldn't want to give anyone any ideas.
Maybe I'll have the repairman type up a list of food diseases and how to recognize symptoms. He could tell each customer that the law is making all refrigerator companies disseminate this material. Some customers will read it, and later notice their symptoms before damage is done. The guy wants to take down Heinz... he has nothing against the innocent ketchup eating public.
No, it really doesn't work, does it?
10 seconds, 9, 8... ketchup... fries... lunch... workout... shirtless by July... elliptical... never been defined...
About the author:
RA Lubow lives in Chicago with his wife and two children. More of his work can be found at fictionwarehouse.com.