NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015
1st Round, Heat 28
Character: A fitness instructor
I had a lot of fun writing this piece. Some wouldn’t consider anxiety, occasional bouts of self-loathing and sleep deprivation fun, but I look at the woes of writing as necessary components of the creative process. As with everything I write, there were also the euphoric highs as I watched something being crafted and refined from nothing but the cluttered confines of my mind.
I had eight days to concoct this story using the genre, subject and character parameters listed above, and a 2,500 word limit. A big thank you goes out to my very capable beta readers, and my followers. I write for my readers, and I could never do this without you.
Enjoy, and please feel free to comment. For more in depth critiques, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact link found on the home page.
Zane sprung forward, shoving the guy in the doughnut suit. This was the third day in a row the fat, chocolate covered grease wheel had tried to encroach upon his street corner.
The doughnut pushed back, nearly toppling Zane in his own top heavy costume baring the remarkable likeness of a plump, juicy hotdog.
While the certainty of war mounted, neither combatant realized the irony of their insults toward one another.
As Zane stood his ground, the doughnut occupier’s scowl suddenly softened into a look of confusion. His gaze had shifted toward something beyond his challenger. Zane turned, waddling like a penguin within his suit. He had to see what drew his opponent’s attention away from their impending battle for real estate.
An old, grungy panhandler who had unwittingly obtained front row seats to the epic foam food battle was having a grand old time. Zane watched from the confines of his hotdog suit as the old coot stumbled from behind a sparse grouping of leaf barren bushes. He assumed the tattered clothed mocker had been relieving himself in as much privacy as the cross streets of Jewell Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard had to offer. The man’s hysterical laughter collapsed his lungs in a raspy wheeze while he pointed toward the doughnut.
“… Asshole doughnut!”
His trembling hand and accusing finger laid claim to Zane next. “Dick the…”
Consternation suddenly laid claim to the deep wrinkles across the old bum’s face. His shit eating, yellow toothed grin fell away under the duress of sudden panic. His eyes widened, focusing upon some unseen point in space.
Zane wondered if the derelict would die right there in front of them. He caught movement in his peripheral. His doughnut nemesis was now standing beside him. Glancing toward one another, Zane could see the face occupying a fair portion of the doughnut hole silently questioning the beggar’s potential for demise as well.
The old man dropped his cardboard sign advertising God’s blessings in exchange for anything spared by the inhabitants of passing traffic. Falling to his knees, he reclaimed his pointing finger, clinched his hand into a fist and pounded it against his chest. A penumbra of reds laid claim to his facial color. Who knew how many shades of purple his weathered skin would explore before he finally keeled over?
Zane felt he should do something. Was the old fart choking? He couldn’t perform the Heimlich maneuver. His arms only protruded his hotdog bun from the elbows down! He took a step in the man’s direction, but stopped short.
The greasy haired turd arched his back as though his spine had been sheered below the ribs. A roiling hack rose from deep within his chest flinging an egg yolk from his lungs. Gritty laughter followed hot on the heels of the slimy projectile. Though he kneeled twenty feet from Zane and the territory thieving doughnut, the glob of lung butter was headed straight for them with supersonic speed.
Instinct kicked in. Zane had become used to dodging objects hurled from passing traffic. Since taking the dancing dog job for Fanny’s Fancy Franks three weeks ago, he had avoided countless half empty fast food cups, about a buck fifty-seven in change, two golf balls and one enormous bra.
Zane bent at the waist and ducked the tip of his wiener as low as possible while spinning on a heel to his right. Unfortunately, the dumbass doughnut zigged while Zane had zagged, and a whole different problem arose. The tip of his wiener had just wedged itself into the chocolate covered doughnut hole.
A cry sounded through the costume’s void above Zane’s head. The muffled sound of the complaint suggested the doughnut man’s face had been completely overcome by the foam frank. He also guessed the guy’s head was the culprit behind such a tight fit.
Serves the asshole right, Zane thought to himself.
Zane reached as far as he could above his head trying to disengage himself from the doughnut. He strained at the armholes in the suit. He felt nothing. Zane could hear the panhandler still laughing, and wondered if he and his now conjoined marketing actor had managed to avoid the submission from the old fart’s lungs.
“You’re stuck in my hole!”
“I know dumb ass”, Zane replied as loudly as possible so captain obvious could hear him. “But I think it’s just the tip!”
Panhandler’s laughter increased in volume tenfold, broken only by bouts of hacking cough. Mockery from someone who likely hadn’t showered since the late nineties was starting to piss Zane off. As soon as he could pull the tip of his wiener from the asshole doughnut, he had half a mind to turn his rage toward the loogie hocking prick. Shit, he and his phlegm rocket caused this whole damn mess!
“Wrap your arms around my hotdog”, Zane shouted once again.
“I can feel the bun, but I can’t get a good grip! It’s getting really hard to breathe!”
Zane shook violently in his suit and pulled with all his might. He could feel doughnut guy doing the same. To no avail though; fatigue was setting in. His associate’s degree in kinesiology and half his life spent in the gym weren’t going to provide enough strength to get him out of this situation, just as his enormous muscular physique played no part in keeping his job as a fitness instructor.
“I need a break”, Zane called out behind a gasp.
“Me too”, doughnut’s voice admitted through the void above Zane’s head. “I’m getting light headed.”
Despite the agreed upon break, Zane would be forced to stand bent at the waist for as long as he remained stuck in the doughnut hole. A steely hue of light across his vantage point of the sidewalk below suggested the sun had begun to set.
How in hell had he come to this? Zane had never been praised as the brightest bulb in the box by his friends or family, but he had aspirations. He wanted to have a business of his own. Hell, his crazy uncle with a wicked case of Turrets owned a hotdog shop. Why couldn’t he find some niche in the market?
Fitness trainer was supposed to be his ticket until his zealous passion for results cost him his job. Zane saw causing several clients to shit their pants on the squat machine as a testament to his commitment toward the job… His boss felt otherwise, and fired him six weeks ago.
Zane longed for the arrival of his first unemployment check so he could dump this shitty temp job. He’d only agreed to wear the hotdog suit promoting his uncle’s restaurant to make a little cash under the table until his unemployment kicked in.
“Ah you two just goin to stand hea o what?”
It seemed the mocking panhandler had harnessed his amusement toward their demise. The gravelly voice to Zane’s left carried the weight of about thirty years of smoking two packs a day. Having seen the unborn chicken he had heaved from his lungs a moment ago, this was no surprise. Zane did find the Boston accent behind his rasp quite odd and even a bit amusing however. The non-rhotic slaying of r’s and long a’s were something one rarely heard in Denver Colorado.
Suddenly the old man’s face appeared beneath Zane’s view of the sidewalk. He smiled wide with a hiss, relinquishing a smattering of yellow teeth and more than a few voids where some of the corn colored chompers had abandoned ship. His breath smelled like an ashtray filled with fish heads.
“Well if you’re done laughing your ass off and hocking up lung butter, maybe you could help us out.”
“Faack no! This is the funniest thing I’ve evah seen! You know what you two look like? You look like a giant…”
The amused mocker’s description was cut short. His head shot from in front of Zane’s limited view. For a moment, Zane wondered if another physics defying glob of chest snot had laid claim to the old guy’s throat, but then he heard what must have halted his train of thought.
A high pitched screech filled the air. Even with his ears confined behind the thick wiener suit, the noise was deafening. A thud along with the unmistakable sound of crumpling metal and cracking plastic should have halted the squeal, but the scream of skidding rubber against asphalt still howled. Another boom of impact resounded… More squealing and screeching… Twisting and scraping metal accompanied the pounding percussion of collision. Shattering and tinkling glass joined the concerto along with a harmony of blasting horns.
It was an orchestra of carnage!
Zane could still feel the pucker between his southernmost set of cheeks when he realized his roadside predicament was likely the catalyst behind the melody of mayhem that had just happened. He wished like hell he could have seen the wreck as it was taking place!
Zane heard the panhandler’s profane proclamation some distance behind him. “Yeah, I bet”, he muttered quietly.
Zane suddenly felt the conjoined doughnut pulling him forward. Certainly, his vantage point being buried beneath the tip of a giant wiener was no better than the concrete Zane was forced to view. The guy probably wanted to see the insurance nightmare that had just taken place beside them as badly as he did.
Before he could gain any leverage, Zane realized what was happening. The doughnut was going down, and he could do nothing to stop it.
“Damn it!” Zane cried out, realizing their situation would worsen once the doughnut went horizontal.
The foam doughnut fell softly to the ground, but the motion was nearly enough to yank Zane from his feet. Suddenly, necessity finally began to prevail. An idea started to materialize in Zane’s frantic mind. He realized the new angle had just pushed the limits of his costume’s rigidity. Even now, the bend in his wiener felt as though it was threatening to lift his body from the ground.
Zane struggled to push doubt from his mind. His idea had to work!
Inching into position, Zane could hear the spit of raspy laughter from the panhandler ensue once again. Zane shook his head and sighed, and then began the countdown.
“Three…” He crouched managing to pull his feet a little closer to the doughnut.
“Two…” His weight hung against the costume’s upward tension.
“One!” The legs he used to squat five hundred pounds with at the gym erupted beneath him.
As his body flung toward the sky, Zane felt the wiener begin to stiffen. A certain confidence began to build in his mind. Sure, being built like a brick shithouse and years of training may not have kept him from the perils of unemployment. Yes, his drive for fitness ultimately cost him his dream job as a trainer. But today his muscle and drive would prevail!
Zane reached the pinnacle of his pole vaulting arch. The fully taunt wiener held true for a few seconds, allowing him to survey his surroundings from an elevated, but upside down perspective. The concert of crashing cars looked like a scene from an apocalypse movie. At least a ten car pileup! Despite the strewing heaps of wreckage making for a landscape of fender bender hell, a multitude of people stared precisely in his direction. Their phones held high, undoubtedly filming and snapping pictures of his uncanny physical abilities. Zane could even swear he heard cheers and hollers from the crowd. Is this what professional athletes felt while displaying their own amazing fitness driven skill, Zane wondered. Why not, he began to rationalize his sudden fame.
Zane felt his wiener pull against the doughnut’s grip as his graceful arch began to succumb to gravity. Nothing but sky came into view, and a smile pressed at his cheeks. His trajectory was perfect!
Now all I have to do is stick the landing, he thought.
The tip of his wiener announced its freedom with a jarring pop that sent a shudder through the rest of the costume. Once free, the fall to earth hastened exponentially until Zane finally felt the assuredness of the sidewalk beneath his feet.
Zane took a moment to revel in the flawless dismount. He slowly straightened the slight bend in his knees he’d used to dampen the landing’s blow. Though no rising music of triumph was playing, the climactic end to his demise had mustered a burst of electric guitar power chords within his mind.
“Yes!” he shouted at the top of his lungs while pumping a clinched fist into the air, and turning to face the appreciators of his talent.
A sizable crowd continued to amass, seeming oblivious to the wreckage of cars around them. Some still held their anomaly capturing phones aloft, others covered their faces with open palms. Where those tears of joy he saw?
Such attention was foreign to Zane. An acute sense of humility and tinge of embarrassment settled in his chest. He suddenly felt foolish for his earlier pity party. Had it not been for his unemployment and shitty job as a waltzing wiener he would have never known such acclaim.
Zane did the only thing he could think of in appreciation. He bowed low taking view of the sidewalk once again. The tip of his wiener bobbed up and down toward the rising roar of the crowd. Much of the ruckus began to fill with laughter. Zane smiled with empathy. Seeing a hotdog bow must be a strange sight, but he knew the source of their true infatuation. His athleticism is what had drawn their focus. He couldn’t imagine the positive advertising effects this was doing for his uncle’s restaurant.
With one final bow to his left, much of the crowd suddenly grew quiet. Murmuring quickly followed.
“What is that”, a woman’s voice questioned with exasperation.
As he began to stand from his final bow, his sight caught something glinting in the final light of day. The further he stood the more clear it became. Something oozed from the tip of his wiener, and stretched nearly to the pavement below. Realization took hold too late, and Zane’s bliss turned to mortification… The panhandler’s supersonic snot had not been dodged. Not only had it not been avoided, the slime string from the tip of his wiener swung as Zane stood fully, and plastered itself across his face.
In a fit of disgusted panic, Zane struggled to wipe the goo, but his arms would not reach. Holding back the urge to wretch, bile stung the back of his throat. He stumbled and writhed, desperately trying to shake the trail of rancid phlegm. Zane spun, looking to the ground for anything he might use to rid the muck.
Without warning, his efforts were stopped short. A muffled yell called out from the costume’s void above his head…