Monday, August 18, 2014

One-Hundred Obituaries, Number Four


Sixteen-year-old Stephen Stegemiller perished beneath two-hundred and five pounds of iron on the last set of five reps. The plates, bar, and bench press station were purchased at a discount from a local sports store specializing in reselling equipment. The clerk was a shifty-eyed fellow, impolite, and somewhat overeager to take young Stephen’s hard earned cash, the fruit of three months’ worth of menial labor. Used barbells were a fairly popular item, and every week or two some teenage kid just like Stephen came through the sliding doors asking for a weight set. These boys shared the same mindset. They desired strength, as well as large pectorals and biceps, and their heads were clouded with images of men with bodies like Greek sculptures, each muscle defined and visible beneath taut skin. Some wanted to make the football team; other wanted to impress girls; a few wanted to beat up a bully. Stephen wanted to get ripped. He was gangly, with sloping shoulders and a hunched back, five feet ten inches tall, a buck forty soaking wet. The reflection in the mirror was a source of dissatisfaction to him. What he saw was not what he wanted to be.
            The Internet had plenty of information for the aspiring bodybuilder, and Stephen soon immersed himself in strength training forums. There were narcissists aplenty, men and boys posting pictures of themselves performing various poses, flexing their lats (bat-wings), traps (yoke), and biceps (guns). There were heated debates on programs and gurus, on styles of squatting, on the benefits of machine training. Protein sources and essential supplements were also discussed ad nauseam. Information was absorbed and stored and filed away in a clutter. There was little left to do but lift weights.
            So Stephen did just that. He ate more, started linear progression, adding five pounds to his bench press every week. Most of his workout were structured around the bench press, the barbell row, and the biceps curl, and though his routine was not ideal, it was exactly the sort of program a teenage boy would construct when left to his own devices. The show muscles received an inordinate amount of attention, and they started to grow.
            Stephen showed off these muscles with tight t-shirts and internet postings. In his mind, he began to believe that he was strong. His legs were skinny, and he had no ass, but he looked good in a sleeveless shirt, and that was what was important to Stephen.
            The set he died on was the fifth set of five. He had already pressed two-hundred and five pounds above him twenty-four times, but halfway up, the bar got out of the groove, so to speak, and all upward force production ceased. Stephen’s ass shot up off the bench; he arched his back and moved his shoulders, and the bar took an even stranger path and descended high on his chest, just above his collar bone. From that position, it began to roll, coming to rest on his throat. Stephen had clamped the weights on with collars, so there was no way for him to dump the plates. The blood flow to his head began to cease, and he experienced a brief wave of pleasure as his eyelids fluttered, and the life passed out of his body. He went to a heaven of shirtless men, all greased in bronzer, their vascularity unrivaled. Jesus himself came down to greet him, pieces of the cross snapping between his Popeye-like forearms. “Dianabol,” said Jesus, taking the young boy by the shoulder. “Tren. Got to watch the dosage.” Jesus pointed at his own massive biceps, mountainous and peaked. Stephen looked around and wondered what other heavens wait, cumulous, scattered on horizons no living being will ever reach. 

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