(First time here?  Great, we’ve left a chair for you by the fire.  Please click to They Had the Right to Remain Silent (1), where the story begins, and builds with each successive posting.  For those who’ve been following along, let’s get right to it)
They Had the Right to Remain Silent
Richard Jachimecki
Chapter ( ix )
     NORA HAD SETTLED INTO THE ROUTINE of coming into the gym during later hours of the evening. She didn’t have to wait for an available piece of equipment, as was the case at the peak, end- of- the- business- day sessions, when UCon resembled the trading floors of Wall Street; members scurried about, jumped from one machine to the next, some to the point of rudeness – Nora wondered if these might just be the same people who cut her off during rush hour traffic.
     There were about twenty members scattered throughout the expansive gym – no lines, no waiting. Nora also liked that the staff members were more accessible for help and advice.
     She had spent an hour on the treadmill, and now was ‘feeling the burn’ as Sparky called it, from a rowing machine. There were two types, all lined in a row: air resistance and water driven. Nora sat on a water model. She would start with her knees bent and touching her chest, her feet strapped onto the foot- board, her body all crouched together, and held the machine’s handle in front of her with both hands. She pulled the handle and leaned backward, pressed her soles against the foot- board, extended her legs fully. A rope, which was connected to the handle, ran through a series of pulleys and caused a vertical axle, at the front of the apparatus, to spin. The lower three- quarters of the axle was sealed, and passed through the center of a squatting, clear polystyrene cylinder that was three- feet in diameter horizontally. Paddles were welded to the shaft, perpendicular to its axis, and were immersed in the water that filled the container, like a propeller.
     As Nora performed each rowing cycle, the paddle would gyrate against the water, causing erg- resistance. She was in full stride when Thurman approached her.
     “You haven’t missed a day in all these weeks since you joined, have you?” he said.
     “Don’t intend to,” she puffed, and continued to exercise. She looked up, toward him.
     “Maybe Christmas,” she said.
     “That’s the only day we close,” he said.
     “Really?”
    “The only full day, that is,” he said, “we’re open Thanksgiving morning,” he chuckled, “people get in a workout – don’t feel so bad stuffing themselves all afternoon, watching football.”
      “I,” she panted, “remember.”
     “Everything going OK for you here?”
     “I’ve…lost several pounds already…and…I’m feeling stronger.”
     “Great,” he said, “you like this machine don’t you? I see you on it a lot.”
     The water churned against the sides of the plastic tub.
     “If I…could add soap, I’d…get my laundry done,” she smiled at him, then puffed a drop of sweat off her nose.
     “So what do you do,” he said, “for a living?”
     “I work for an ad agency,” she said, giving an extra effort, the water foaming.
     “No kidding,” he said, “TV?”
     “Print…photography…models, mainly.”
     “You’re a photographer?”
     “No…I clean things up,” she wheezed.
     “I’m not sure I follow.”
     “I do some corrections with a…computer.”
     “Like Photoshop?”
     “Kinda…but mostly with the printed paper photos themselves,” she said, slowing her pace a little to speak, “I do a lot of airbrush work.”
     “To hide things?” he asked.
     “Or improve them,” she said, “I give the guys stomachs with perfect six- packs.” She pulled a little faster, “and the girls great…boobs,” she said, “I’m the one who saves the day…when somebody shows up at the shoot…with a zit on their nose.”
     Thurman laughed.
     “Oh, it’s serious,” she said, “something like that could cost thousands…if they had to postpone a session…I’m Ms. Fix- It.”
     Nora paused, caught her breath, then started again. The water whirled.
     “I wish I could just airbrush my whole body like that,” she joked.
     “Just keep at it,” he said, “you’ll see.”
     “So, how did you get involved,” she asked, “in the fitness business?”
     Thurman sat on the pad of the machine next to hers, “I started weightlifting in high school,” he said, “for football.”
     “Oh,” she said, “what did you do?”
     “I played running back.”
     “Was the team…good?” she said, her breath got heavier.
     “We were State Champs, my senior year,” he said, “undefeated.”
     “Wow!” she said, “you must have been pretty good yourself.”
     “Got a free ride,” he said.
     “I don’t know… what…?”
     “Sorry,” he said, “a full athletic scholarship. Penn State.”
     “Awesome,” she said, “how did that work out?”
     “It was good,” he said, “but I knew I’d never go pro.”
     Thurman looked at his watch, “later than I thought,” he said, then turned toward the front desk, “Ricky, lock the front will ya?”
     “You got it,” Ricky yelled back.
     “Are you closing?” she asked.
     “No,” he said, “we always lock the front door when there’s only an hour left.”
     “Won’t people set off the alarm when they leave?” she asked.
     “We don’t set that,” he said, “until the staff is out the door.”
     “When you say staff,” she said, “you mean YOU.
     “Yeah,” he smiled, “pretty much.”
      Nora had found a comfortable speed to keep rowing.
     “So, you weren’t going pro,” she said.
     “Right,” he continued, “I took Phys Ed and Business Administration as a double- major,” he shrugged, “it was a good fit.”
     “You must’ve been pretty popular,” she said, “your senior year in high school.”
     “A bit,” he said, “with a lot of kids trying to hang around us.”
     “Still,” she countered, “all the notoriety. That must’ve been great.”
     “It’s never perfect,” he said, “somebody always tries to show you up.”
     Thurman’s smile disappeared. His stony face conveyed his recall of a contemptible image from his memory. Nora stopped rowing. Thurman stared, his eyelids lowered slightly, as if finding that moment on his mind’s horizon, floating frozen before him, over a decade in the distant past.
     “That pep rally,” he said, “that little shit.”
     “Huh?” she said.
     “I haven’t thought about it for years…”
     Thurman never stirred, only his eyes shifted toward hers. She looked into clear ice.
     “The school put on a rally,” he said, “to celebrate our success.”
     “OK…”
     “The whole student body was in the auditorium, everything going great,” his brow furrowed, “and then this little Milquetoast,” he spat, “comes out on the stage, behind us, dancing around.”
     “Why?”
     “To steal our thunder!” he said, “ he just flitted around, got everybody laughing, like some kinda sissy clown.”
     “Sorry I brought it up,” Nora said, “I never meant for you to get upset.”
     She watched as his eyes opened, his face softened; the moment had passed. Nora noticed the music’s volume had been turned down. She looked around and realized she was the only member left in the gym.
     “It’s OK, all ‘water under the bridge’,” Thurman smirked, “let’s just say he was persuaded to never pull a stunt like that again. He’s probably still…”
     “Well,” Nora said, “I’ll get outta here so you guys can go home.”
     “All right, Nora,” Thurman said, and stood up from the machine, “you be safe, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
     She hurried to the empty locker room and was sick in one of the toilet stalls, while Thurman joined Ricky at the front counter.
     “What was that?” Ricky asked.
     “Just talking with a member, is all,” he said.
     “I think,” Ricky whispered, “somebody’s got a little crush on the Boss of UCon.”

 

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