In Ten Sentences Or Less [6] – Gymbalaya: The Hadean Sequel

Thursday: I can’t help being a half-hour late to the health club this morning because it takes me that much longer to tie my shoes and uncoil from the stooping posture I’ve had to assume to get the laces out of the tangle I’ve put them in, as I seem also to have done with my life, which, till my nephew’s well- intentioned intervention three days ago, was proceeding at the same pace and with the same tranquility that grass is believed to grow in pastoral vistas of sylvan charm, although, these days, one would be extremely hard put to find any of those still surviving. Yolanda is waiting for me impatiently, thin, cruel lips pulled back in a vicious snarl, vampire canines exposed, voice rising to a timbre perfectly capable of shattering the toughest glass, as she shrieks: “You aren’t the only one I have to train, you know.” As punishment for my tardy arrival, she dispenses with the light workout and puts me on dumbbells straightway, turning her back on me as a sign of extreme disapproval, which is the wrong thing for her to do because, with her attention diverted to other hapless souls in various stages of impossible contortion on the gym floor, I slink off on tiptoe to hide in the restroom. But, being the hard taskmistress she is, Yolanda promptly sends one of her dumb belles to find me, which she does in a jiffy making me think that either she isn’t so dumb a belle after all or the restroom is the obvious hiding place for unfortunates, like me, seeking reprieve from Yolanda’s unrelenting regime and who, as punishment for their attempted desertion, are put on the mechanical rowboat, as I was, till they cry “Uncle” or are a jelly-like mess, whichever comes later.

Friday: I hate Yolanda – that stupid, skinny, anemic, anorexic little horror from Hades – with every painful fibre in my body, more than any human being has ever hated another in the history of the world and, if there were a part of me that I could still move without unbearable agony, I would beat her with it till she was in the same gelatinous state that I am in after fifteen excruciating rounds with a mechanical monster. To add to the ignominy, she wants to work on my triceps today knowing full well that I don’t have any, and if she really doesn’t want any dents in her pristine, parqueted floor, why hand me anything that weighs more than a chicken and cheese sandwich, and why put me on a fast treadmill only to be thrown off minutes later to land unceremoniously, limbs akimbo, on a health and nutrition advisor of willowy proportions she’s roped in to catch the impromptu entertainment, if it is not to complete my humiliation?

Saturday: I wake up in the middle of the morning after a sleepless night of agonized tossing and turning to find that Yolanda has left a rude message on my answering machine, in her grating, shrilly, imperious voice, in words that are impossible to repeat in a family magazine, particularly one published out of the Middle East, inquiring why I have not shown up today? It’s enough to make me want to smash my Panasonic – her head not being in immediate proximity – with something blunt and heavy, but I lack the strength to even punch the TV remote and end up watching eight straight hours of the Weather Channel till Morpheus brings blissful oblivion.

Sunday: Because of pain that never seems to go away and makes every bodily movement, even a simple turn of the wrist to switch on the ignition, excruciating, I’m having a hired car take me to the Kali Temple today, where I will profusely thank Her the week is finally over, though I’ll have to do all my thanking standing up because falling to the knees is not an option, nor lying prostate since there’s no guarantee that, once down, I’ll ever be able to get up again. I will also pray that next year my nephew – that little piece of fecal matter – if he dares to choose a gift for me again, will pick something more fun, like a root canal or a haemorrhoidectomy, or both.


In Ten Sentences Or Less [5] – Gymbalaya

Unimpressed by my somewhat strident protestations that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that I am any less agile than I was 40 years ago when, as a high school football goalkeeper, I would lunge, leap, levitate or, at the mere hint of leather heading in the general direction of the citadel I was chosen to protect, launch myself into orbit, with the grace of a gazelle (or so I’d want to remember it as), to fist it out of harm’s way amidst the full-throated cheers of my myriad fictional fans, mostly of the fairer sex (or so I’d like to imagine), my nephew, the dear, concerned soul that he is, recently gifted me a week of personal training at the local health club. On his pithy observation that each time I paused while climbing  stairs, it wasn’t that I was deeply pondering the future of humanity  but only trying to catch my breath, I called the club with as much enthusiasm as I could muster and made my reservations for the coming week with a dulcet-toned personal trainer named Yolanda, who identified herself as a 26-year old aerobics instructor and part-time model for athletic clothing and swimwear, which information, truth be told, did much to dissipate my apathy for the project and even got me to agree to keep a diary to chart my progress, as my silver-tongued, soon-to-be-mentor advised I should.

Monday: Habituated over many years to not seeing the sun rise, believing as I do that it’s only a sunset in reverse and can be caught, in replay mode, at a later, more convenient time of day, I climb out of bed at 5.17 a.m., even before the sun has, and arrive at the health club to find Yolanda the Goddess – she of the dark brown tresses, dancing eyes, dazzling smile and statuesque, physically-toned build – waiting for me, as if she always has been. After the pleasantries, which I manage to extend for as long as I can without causing the kind of awkwardness one can’t quite wriggle out of, Yolanda takes me on a tour of the facilities, showing me the machines, which I find interesting, and demonstrating some of them for me, which I find infinitely more so, marvelling at her skill and agility as she builds up speed and a healthy sweat on a mechanical rowboat. “We’ll start with a light workout today,” Yolanda tells me because, apparently, there are too many parts of my body that exercise hasn’t reached, too many muscles that I still have to get acquainted with and, although my gut is aching from holding it in the whole time she’s around to see that I do my sit-ups without inflicting irreparable bodily harm on myself, I have a healthy premonition that this is going to be a fantastic week.

Tuesday: I beat the sun to it the second day running and even the neighbourly cock hasn’t uttered a single crow by the time I’m out the door with a tread so light that I might have been riding a sunbeam and a heart even lighter, so high is the anticipation of renewing acquaintance with Yolanda who, when she sees me, dispenses her customary high-wattage, blinding white beam of a smile and it is surely the surplus caffeine in my system that has me thinking that its duration is nanoseconds shorter than the one she bestowed on me yesterday and that it metamorphoses into a smirk as she instructs me to lie down on my back and begin pushing a heavy iron bar repeatedly into the air for no apparent purpose, with weights added on as incentives for coping. Barely surviving the iron rod treatment, I am persuaded, by a steely glint and an even steelier smile, to climb onto a treadmill, my legs still wobbly, like a drunk’s after a night of extreme Bacchanalia and, while I’m still trying to find my feet, so to speak, she gradually increases the speed of the conveyor till I’m stumbling and running and stumbling again but grittily determined to complete the 4 km. she has me programmed for come what may, because Yolanda is watching and I feel great already (although I must confess, the “surprise” she rewards me with at the end of the session – an unrecognizable, bilious green mush out of a bender that she calls a “smoothie” – does not go down quite so smoothie, if you know what I mean).

Wednesday: The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying my toothbrush at a height on the bathroom counter and running my mouth back and forth over it, though that gets the hernias in both pectorals to act up, and driving to the health club is fine so long as I don’t try to steer, change gears or brake hurriedly, which has me almost totalling an unwary Tata Nano in the parking lot. Goddess Yolanda is impatient with me, insisting, in a voice that is a little too perky for this early in the morning and, when she raises it a timbre, too nasally challenged for my pain-addled brain to take, that my screams yesterday had bothered other club members some of whom had even threatened to quit if I were to give an encore performance and, if running on the treadmill was such agony, I should get on the stair monster instead, although why anyone would invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete long ago by elevators and escalators is anybody’s guess. Yolanda tells me that it’ll help me get in shape and enjoy life and, as I try to keep my pain from finding voice, she says a whole lot of other stuff too, but I’ve stopped listening because I’m doing battle with the stair monster and losing.

[To Be Continued]