1. The Machineries of Joy
I was folding sheets in the massage room when the chainsawing noise commenced, close and deafening, or was it a gas-powered compressor being run outside? If so, it was right under the window. Nope. David the witless gardener wasn’t anywhere on the property. Perhaps an alien spaceship was bursting through the space-time continuum. Radio transmitting some weird interference from the construction site across the main road? Radio wasn’t on. I proceeded to the kitchen. Louder. The blender was whirring away on Liquefy, liquefying the air.
I jabbed it off and yanked the plug. WTF?
Random items of silverware clanked under my feet as I turned, and a small feline face peered timorously out from the bottom of the staircase. I meant to do that.
I’m leaving it unplugged.
I was mostly done working out, anyway.
His Royal P-ness, who is the oldest trainer in the gym and possibly in the cosmos, limped up to me at the welded barbell rack where I was writing down my last set in the notebook. In his palmy days he used to enter the gym flanked by a pair of beardless acolytes who would hand him the 70- and 80-pound dumbbells with which he did incline presses, one on each side of the bench, like altar boys. He had the kind of thighs you actually want to see in bike shorts and lats like the wings of a giant flying squirrel. These days, after a car crash and a bleeding ulcer (and, not least, after losing his sources of anabolic steroids) he is an old warrior whose shirt no longer strains to contain him, deep pain lines and forests of eyebrow defining his face.
“You got a minute?” he asked.
I nodded. He stretched out his right hand.
“Do you think I broke that?”
The base of his thumb was swollen. He’d stumbled and broken a fall with his hand earlier.
This is a great way to break your wrist, but there was no bruising (a fracture usually gives you a little Technicolor), and the tenderness and motion restriction were so narrow that I began to think he had dislocated the saddle joint of the thumb and said so. The best suggestion I had was to ice it down and treat it like a bad sprain, and take it to the doc-in-a-box across the street if it hurt enough that he couldn’t use it. (I know the P.; he’ll do anything before going to a doctor, which I understand all too well.) Saddle joints get a little off track pretty easily and icing the swelling down might be enough to let it pop back in; if it was broken, sometimes it takes a few hours for a hairline fracture to show up on X-ray anyway.
The P. loped back up to the front desk, leaving one of my regular gym clients looking on with visible amusement.
“We all yell for you at times like this,” he said.
“I think I’m going to get an olive drab jacket stenciled ‘Corpsman,’ ” I said.
“Ah, you like it.”
He’s probably right.
An old favorite