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Big is Better
|"Just follow me, Pete. The real party's this way," Sam said with a flash in his eyes, motioning to the door.
Once again we headed down the long flight of back hallway stairs leading to the gym below. It was like déjà vu staring at the solid, moving wall of muscle in front of me completely obscuring my ability to see anything beyond it.
I paused just inside the door of the gym's rear entrance to give my eyes time to adjust again to the low lighting while Sam disappeared somewhere ahead of me in the dimness.
"Hey Pete, I'm over here," Sam called several times, realizing that I still wasn't behind him. His voice came from the 2 o'clock direction from where I stood. I took a few steps and then promptly stumbled over something and fell flat on my face. Only moments later, I was seized by my armpits, found myself flying briefly through the air like a flailing rag doll, and then I was firmly set down again squarely on my feet.
"Careful, big guy. I sure wouldn't want to lose you now!" I could make out Sam's hulking physique towering in front of me. I thought he might be shaking his head; no doubt a silent commentary on my agility and coordination. We were standing beside a small door somewhere roughly between the rear entrance and Sam's side office. I'd overlooked this door on my previous self-tour of the gym. Sam turned his back to me and fiddled with a key in the padlock. I head a click and then the sound of the padlock being removed from its shackle.
I followed behind him as we traversed a short hallway and emerged into another large space. Sam reached around a corner and raised the brightness of the overhead lights with a dimmer switch.
"This here's my Fortress of Sol-ee-tude, Pete."
A quick look around told me that this space was a converted garage. I figured that we must be standing in the rear quarter of the building, the L-shaped `Big IS Better' making up the other three- quarters of the ground floor.
"This here used to be an auto mechanic's shop, awhile back," Sam offered. "I asked the owners to snatch it when it became vacant, so's we could have space to expand the gym sometime. Guess the price must'a been right too, so they did it."
One of the outside garage doors had been removed and that opening permanently bricked in. The two auto lift frames still remained on the floor in their respective bays. I wondered if they still were operational. The glass panes in the few windows had all been rendered opaque with paint making it impossible to see out or in for that matter. Then I spotted Sam's truck. He'd pulled it in off the street and parked it right on the lift in the farthest bay.
There were some pretty bizarre objects laying about the room, too. I recognized immediately several huge train axle-wheel assemblies because I'd seen similar ones abandoned on occasion along the train tracks back home. There were also of good number of interlocking poured concrete road dividers commonly seen along Interstates. Most had been neatly stacked.
Taken as a whole, the room had a odd sort of warm ambiance, a bizarre coziness. Maybe it was the effect of the relatively dark walls combined with the newer-styled overhead track lighting that suggested a cozy personal space designed by Rube Goldberg. There was a TV and a stereo sitting on a long, narrow bench. A small refrigerator was tucked into a corner next to an old well-worn couch. There were a few small lamps and some magazines scattered about on makeshift coffee table, and even a small eclectic collection of art objects I guess you'd call them hanging on some of the walls. All together, these things created an oddly homey feel.
My eyes came to rest on a prominently-hung, framed portrait of an odd- looking couple. An inspection revealed that it had no doubt been painted by the same gifted artist who had blessed the world with all those Elvis on velvet. The man in the painting appeared to be as disproportionately huge as the woman was incredibly petite, almost suggesting the Byzantine perspective that I'd learned about in a mandatory freshman art appreciation course.
I gestured at the portrait. "Are they your folks, Sam?"
He affirmed that with a silent nod. There were other objects d'arte gracing the walls. For example, there was a large framed rectangular sign resembling a huge stamped-metal license plate. It read, "Be All That You Can Be." A photo of Sam's face had been roughly cut out and substituted for Uncle Sam's. Much of the other interior wall space was mirrored, which not only reflected the overhead lighting but also made the space appear more expansive than it was.
"I fixed this place up to be my own private gym. Hardly a soul actually knows it's even here," Sam said, as he continued to fiddle with the light dimmer switch. "This here's where I come to, well, do what I does without nobody gawkin'. You did say that ya wanted to know everything, right?"
"That's right Sam. Everything..." I replied, although not very convincingly perhaps. I was still surveying the array of bizarre objects around me and was only partially listening. Even with a severe stretch of my imagination, the appearance of this renovated garage might only vaguely have suggested that it was a gym of sorts. From all of the large objects randomly strewn about, I'd have first guessed that it was actually a bulldozer obstacle course.
Sam's continuing banter eventually drew my attention back to him. "O.K. Thought so, but I just wanted to be sure. See Pete, I'm a - different - kinda guy."
"You can say that again. Boy, are you ever!" I exclaimed, breaking into a smile as I turned to look at him directly.
Sam was just shaking his head. "No, Pete. I know that I'm a real big guy, but that ain't exactly what I mean. Maybe you ain't gonna be able to understand some things, I reckon. Hell, why should ya even? I don't rightly understand some things myself. But this here's the place to be so's I can give ya the birthday present ya wants, anyway." Apparently as an afterthought, he then added with a wink, "I wanna save the best one for last though...."
Sam put his big arm around my shoulders and looked me right in my eyes. When this huge hunk of man so much as even brushed me, I got a case of the tingles. With his monstrous arm surrounding me, I melted as quickly as an ice cube in the Sahara.
Sam looked as if he had something else on his mind though - and it seemed important. He even opened his mouth a few times to speak, but then hesitated as if he might be re-thinking what he wanted to say - or how to say it - or perhaps reconsidering if he even should say it at all. I gazed up into his iridescent baby-blues and strikingly masculine facial features. The dude was just plain unequivocally DEADLY handsome. This created a momentary conflict for me. On one hand, I wanted Sam to know that I cared by giving him my full attention, but I also had a strong and arguably selfish urge to just lean up and initiate some serious spontaneous face-sucking with him, too. Here was a face that could launch a thousand erections. But my dilemma was quickly resolved as Sam began to finally talk.
"I've got a few important things that I wanna tell you. Well the truth is, I guess I do - and I don't - wanna tell ya. But I'm gonna anyways, so you listen up now, real careful. You probably should hear this right now I reckon - before things go any further."
"OK Sam. I'm listening to you," I replied encouragingly.
"See Pete - when I wanna do real serious liftin', I usually starts thinkin' `bout it first. I sorta get myself prepared as I'm doin' my warmups. Well most lifters psyche themselves up too, so that ain't nothing special, but... what I means is... there's somethin' definitely different about the way I does it. It ain't the same thing. I start thinkin' about these here big muscles of mine. Sometimes I closes my eyes and sometimes I don't. Truth is, I don't have to close `em to do this either, but it just works a lot faster for me if I do. I can just do this thing...."
I had a hunch where he might be generally going with this. I'd already seen `things' - things that defied logic and reason; things that frightened me - that astounded me - that thrilled me. And I really wanted to understand him. I suppose that I also wanted him to validate what I thought my eyes had clearly seen. I hoped that maybe he was about to disprove once-and-for-all that it was all something I'd over-imagined.
"Sam, - what thing? What do you mean by `do this thing,'" I asked sincerely.
Sam tapped hard on his skull a few times with his index finger. "It's like I can just flip on a switch up here and... what I'm thinkin'... what I'm visualizin'... it all just happens. I see pictures in my head that keep gettin' sharper - clearer-like. I sees this guy - and this dude's H-U-G-E, Pete. He's got muscles just piled on top of muscles! I ain't never seen muscles this big - and I pictures him liftin' and makin' his muscles even bigger! I don't care what nobody thinks. I wanna look exactly like that dude. I want muscles just as big as his, and I knows that eventually I'm gonna, too! Anyway, as I'm seein' all this in my head, I starts to feel different - I mean my body. This'll sound weird to you, but I can feel myself gettin' stronger - and it's a pretty amazin' feeling too. I feel powerful, like their ain't nothin' that I can't lift - and it feels terrific!"
I was already working overtime trying to follow Sam's meaning but I let him continue.
"Then it's sorta like I'm watchin' a movie. I sees this huge dude liftin' things that nobody else can, and doin' other amazin' things, too. He don't seem to act like me either. His personality is different. This movie in my head keeps gettin' more intense - more alive. I sees myself becomin' this dude. I merge right into his body, sorta like that other Sam does in that there movie `Ghost.' We become one guy. And then, at some point - it don't seem like I'm seein' a movie no more. It's real. It's really happened. I AM this other guy - and I'm HUGE! I can do all sorts of amazin', unbelievable stuff, too - the same things I saw this guy doing in the `movie.' It gets way too confusin' for me to tell who's who. I don't know if I should be sayin' `me' or `him' or maybe `we.' Seems any of those... what do ya call them things? Pro-Nuns?"
"Pronouns, Sam," I responded immediately so he wouldn't lose his train of thought. I was as fascinated as I was confused.
"Yeah, O.K. Pro-Nuns - like them teachers dressed like penguins the size of NFL linebackers I remember from one school. Man, was they ever a mean-lookin' bunch! But anyway - it's hard to tell which Pro- Nuns I should be usin'. I'd probably change `em dependin' on the situation I'm describin'. But I'll just say `I' for now. That way, I can maybe finish this and not totally confuse ya. Just so you understands though, it don't feel like it's `me' sometimes."
I was a few bounces even further behind the ball, and my head was starting to hurt. But I didn't want to interrupt him. Sam was on a roll.
"But Pete - whoever I am, I sure ain't my normal self no more. I knows that much anyway. I can't even think of the right words to tell ya how it really feels, but I'm HUGE... and maybe even stronger than a whole team of oxen! Even seein' my own body just blows me away! It's all very confusin' to explain. Ya must be thinkin' by now that I'm a real wacko fit for the Funny Farm...."
Sam was waving his arms more animatedly and getting agitated.
"Jeez, this is so damn frustratin'! It all sounds completely crazy. I really don't know what happens to me, let alone how I even can do this weird `thing' - but I can - and I don't think I'm crazy."
Sam suddenly looked almost remorseful, as if wishing he hadn't begun telling me any of this, so I offered him the little support that I could.
"I know you're not crazy, Sam. Would it help if I told you that I've already noticed this `thing' that you do? I think that I saw it happening to you while you were curling that barbell before. I thought I noticed a hint of it again when you were `rearranging' the shape of that big cleaver, too. It sure seems real to me. It's not just your imagination - or mine either. I want you to know that I believe you, Sam - completely."
Sam looked at least somewhat consoled. "You know something else, Pete - I've been able to do this for about as long I can remember, too. Well, my Ma always told me that I had a good imagination, but there's no way it could be just that - no way at all. I never told her or my Pa `bout all the things I could really do. Seems maybe I wasn't around when the Good Lord was passin' out the smarts... but he must've filled up that empty space inside my brain with somethin' else...."
I had a thousand questions I immediately wanted to ask.
"Sam, do you remember anything after you've `throw the switch' up here, as you'd put it?" I asked, tapping my own head.
"Pete, the truth is... well... maybe. Sorta. It's just fuzzy and confusin'. Like I told ya, it sorta seems like it's `me,' but then at other times, it really don't. It's like I'm... what's that word? Skits-o-frenik... like I'm two different guys sometimes.
I persisted with more questions. "After you've done this `thing,' Sam, do you know where you are? Do you know what you're saying or doing?"
Sam thought for some moments before he answered. "I sure remember seein' and hearin' things. But like I'd said, it's all kinda off in the distance somewhere - real fuzzy-like. I must know where I am though, `cause I can definitely do a lot of things - things I want to do, like get my whole workout done...."
Then Sam started to chuckle a bit. "And Pete, I never see no piss on the floor, so I must be able to find the bathroom and know what to do when I'm in there. I sure seems to know where my refrigerator is, too, when I'm thirsty, judgin' from the empty water bottles. And I knows I can talk - and I do, sometimes. I wouldn't wanna have to swear an oath about what I might have said though. It's too foggy. Jesus, this is really tough for me to explain to ya, Pete, `cause it's always so damn fuzzy!"
"So, Sam - after you've done this `thing' to yourself, what happens next?"
"Well usually, I just start doin' my workout. And I really works out extra-hard, too - maybe harder than anyone. I don't even stop for a breather. I can keep goin' and goin' and goin' - just like that there Energizer Bunny! I see guys workin' out all the time, ya know - `cause it's my job, Pete. So I knows how long even the real serious guys can last when they's trainin' hard. It ain't all that long, really. But I nearly falls over when I sees how much time goes by while I'm liftin'! I got some serious stamina! I was made for liftin' weights."
"How long is that, Sam? How many minutes can you last?" I asked him.
Sam replied matter-of-factly, "Not minutes, really... more like hours...."
I'd have laughed hard if I'd heard such transparent macho bravado coming from anyone else. But Sam wasn't prone to exaggeration. In fact, more often than not, he had a penchant for understatement. His endurance seemed impossible and yet believable, based on what I'd already observed. When Sam had been curling that world record- breaking weight previously, I saw him do countless repetitions. Moreover, when he'd finally stopped for whatever reason, he wasn't showing visible signs of being fatigued.
"So this `thing,' Sam. Can you do it anywhere? Anytime?"
"Yeah, mostly, Pete. It easier if I has me some peace and quiet to put my mind to it. I starts to concentratin' and... it just sorta happens. It feels so great to me that I kinda like doin' it a lot! I usually only do it when I wanna workout though. I keep makin' great progress with my liftin'. You've probably noticed that, huh? It breaks all the rules, but I just keep gettin' bigger. It's as easy as pie for me. So Pete - you actually noticed somethin' was different `bout me when I was liftin' before, huh?"
"It would have been impossible to miss, Sam," I replied honestly. "You closed your eyes. After awhile, you sure started looking and acting kinda different, too. At first it struck me as being just a little weird, but then - it got kinda scary. Whenever I could see your eyes, they looked blank. There was nobody home, Sam. You looked like you were off somewhere on another planet - and you acted almost robotic. You lifted like a machine."
I knew nothing about psychology, but as I stripped away the confusing details in Sam's description of this `thing' he could do, I was able to think about it in a `bigger picture' sort of way. I wondered if maybe this bizarre phenomenon might be related to some type of self- induced hypnotic state - that is assuming there even was such a thing. I tended to be a bit skeptical by nature. And even if it was related to clinical hypnosis somehow - and I made a quick mental note to get a book on the subject from the library anyhow - I didn't think that would offer any scientifically credible explanation for Sam's extraordinary physical attributes.
"Yeah, I've heard that same thing before, too. I'm scary..." Sam sighed, looking more forlorned.
It didn't seem to me like this was destined to become much of a real party now at all. Sam's former unbridled zeal for us to `get big' wasn't evident anymore. He seemed increasingly more down-in-the- dumps.
"They got scared of me too, Pete. They said I was too weird. But I can't really tell what happens to me, let alone what I looks like to someone else when it does. So I only does it now when I'm completely alone." Sam then added, "Well... usually. It ain't worth it nearly scarin' someone half to death. Hell, look at me. I knows I'm scary enough just the way I is!"
At least Sam cracked a faint smile momentarily, but his behavior indicated that this was deeply serious stuff for him.
"So Pete - I was thinkin' that maybe this `thing' I do when I'm liftin' is just too freaky for you. I knows we came down here `cause you wanna watch me do real serious liftin', too. But I really don't want `cha to be scared of me. I can't hardly believe how lucky I am to have met you today. Goin' down to that bar this afternoon to see if you just might be there was a total shot-in-the dark. I thought it'd be a disappointin' waste of my time. But I knows now that it was maybe the best decision I ever made. You're REAL special, Pete. Honest. But I thought you should know some things about me beforehand - so's you can make up your own mind."
"My mind's already made up, Sam. What you've told me doesn't change anything," I replied, sounding much more self-assured than I felt at that moment. "I sure don't understand it, though. I mean, how could I? It's nothing that's ever happened to me. Say, maybe you could even teach me some time how to do it! But just don't keep fretting about it now. I'm really a pretty cool guy, you know!"
I waited for my nose to suddenly grow like Pinocchio's. A `cool guy' I was not. I was private by nature and worried too much for my own good. After hearing Sam explain this phenomenon in great detail, it seemed somehow even more bizarre to me than when I didn't know what I was seeing. Now it sounded even impossibly weirder - like some kind of Voodoo. Sam's newest disclosures made me more apprehensive than ever.
I found myself wishing that Sam would get back into a more obvious partying mood again. Hell, I even wanted to feel that enthusiasm again myself. The mere anticipation of partying had wildly turned both of us on when we'd been eating supper. My current trepidation aside, at least my hormones sure wanted to start shouting `let's party!' And now I wanted to just leave this too-serious subject quickly behind. Somehow I had to restore Sam's former bright-eyed and intoxicatingly-sexy enthusiasm to `get freaky'. Hmmmmmm....
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