Boxes littered one corner of the room, formerly his eldest child’s bedroom, now the gym as the slightly tacky sign on the door indicated. ‘Danger!’ the sign indicated in bold typeface. ‘Hot abs of steel being worked on’ it added underneath, with a little mock up of a six-pack in a warning triangle just to get the point across that people might be exercising.
With Greg now in his own home, newly-wed with a baby on the way Leonard, Leo to his friends, decided it was time for a bit of a new start of his own. His youngest two stopped at his on weekends and at various points during the school holidays, he wasn’t getting any younger and his waistline wasn’t getting any thinner.
So he had splurged on various bits of gym equipment as part of his dramatic re-imaging and new regime. He called it getting in touch with the young man he used to be. Diane, his ex-wife, called it a mid-life crisis and said the money could be better spent elsewhere. Say on the kids, or on helping Greg get settled in.
There were dumbbells (even though he had a perfectly serviceable set in the garage), an exercise bike (his mountain bike suspended from the rafters in the garage being the domain of spiders, their intricate webs and the husks of their prey), a punching bag (he’d never hit anything in his life, which made confrontation with the Bikesville Spiders out of the question), and various contraptions often seen in a gym. They looked more like torture devices to him, but the guide on the internet said they were found in home gyms, so that’s what he had purchased.
Assembly of the home workout emporium ranged from the simple, getting the dumbbells out of the box, to the more complex. It was the hideous marriage of an industrial production line and the instructions of flat-pack furniture (with the tools of that damned process to boot) that dragged his finishing of the gym out from the projected weekend, to a fortnight later.
By then, the fits of rage at the overly simplistic yet outstandingly sadistic instructions had burned more anger than energy.
It was summer at that point, though, so it was too hot to work out indoors. Besides, he could exercise in the great outdoors, there was that park down the road and that cycle trail just out of town. He knew he had a mountain bike, somewhere. Going to get it down roused the ire of the Bikesville Spiders. Well, one twitched a leg, another scurried under the after-market gel seat (designed for comfort and cushioning a man’s sensitive area on an intensive ride, or so read the packaging), one made a threatening step towards his hands, and a small number had shuffled off their mortal coil in righteous indignation.
Given their desiccation though, they may have done that pre-emptively.
So it was in his gym clothes, bought specially from that sports store in the high street, that Leonard started running. It was warm though, so that dropped down to an intense jog. Then a measured jog. Next, a brisk walk. Finally he settled on a leisurely stroll, second-hand Walkman delivering the varied sounds of BBC Radio 2 to his ears.
It blotted out the obnoxious barking of kids and exuberance of dogs in any case.
Summer had come and gone, and his gym beckoned again. But work had picked up, there was merger in the works and he was doing his due diligence to make himself seem even more the energetic go-getter that he was. Late nights and stressful days kept him from Project Leo till the winter time.
There was a good sports drama series on TV on some of those nights though. And that new pub quiz game. He’d been able to keep his job with a promotion as well, so the extra hours he was working on some days just left him too tired to begin to work on him. His body was a temple, but he was a very tired mason and it was getting along just fine without further redesigns.
Christmas and New Year had been and gone, and his first grandson had arrived. Money had been tight for his son and wife. Of course, Leonard would help out. He sold that gym gear that had been cluttering up his eldest’s old room to help with getting a pushchair and one of those nice baby monitors. They sold fairly quickly on eTree or GumBay or whatever site he’d used. The excess covered the gaudy, hi-tech presents his youngest children had asked for.
In his day, he was happy with a Beano album and a new Corgi car.
Leo felt restless, come spring. He’d given his house a spring clean, evicted the residents of Bikesville with the aid of a vacuum cleaner. Spotting the notice on the bedroom door, he idly wondered about setting up a home gymnasium. Till he remembered what happened last time.
His waistline was still the same circumference, but he’d certainly lost pounds.