Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Dickie Sharkskin's Callused Heart"

Dickie Sharkskin visualized himself murdering a goose. In his head, Dickie squeezed the stinky bird’s phallic neck in his wrists, twisting it like an Indian rope burn, while the disgusting goose screamed and vomited up bits of garbage and excrement all over Dickie’s callused hands. Six members of the goose’s gander watched in horror as their leader, Bruce, was decapitated by a squat muscleman who was yelling, “How do you like me now? Who’s the champ? I destroy geese!”

“What did you say about geese?” said Bryan Buckle, seated on the bench press next to Dickie.

“Fuck ‘em,” said Dickie. “I said fuck all the geese.”

The endorphins rushing through Dickie’s brain made him feel like he had just brought a cover model from Women’s Fitness Magazine to an earth-shattering orgasm, simultaneously with his own, while simultaneously coming up with a new way to infuse creatine powder into high-protein lunches.

Dickie had just hit a new one-rep max on the bench, 695lbs., blasting through the plateau he had been stuck on ever since he started wearing underpants to the gym at the behest of the other patrons who were bothered by the glare coming off his shiny Prince Albert piercing. He again felt whole, assured that his gains were a result of his brute strength and superior physicality, not just the freedom of showing off the metal rod that no one, absolutely no one, wanted him to get.

Dickie Sharkskin was a monument of the human form. His pecs were pumped like hams, his biceps swollen ripe like lacey footballs in Saran wrap, and his quads burst out of his thighs as if they were screaming in your face, “Four years of squatting is a better investment than four years of college.” His lean torso was as shredded as his digestive system, which was scarred and twisted from the gallons of chemical supplements Dickie pumped into it.

Dickie spent nine hours a day at Nasty Hamstrings, a gym that somehow had more iron in it than Dickie’s bloody shits after a grilled chicken binge. His routines were simple and effective. A thousand deadlifts, a thousand squats, and to tone his abs he would get on the floor and hold a tight plank until a Major League Baseball player was indicted for steroid use.

Dickie lifted weights six days a week, and on his day off he sat in bed, too sore to move, fantasizing about tomorrow, when again the smooth metal of 45 pound plates would caress his palms with the soft touch of the girlfriend who dumped him after getting tired of being bench-pressed in her sleep. While his muscles rested and he fantasized, Dickie organized buckets of protein powders and listened to heavy metal music to drown out the noise of his roommate planning soccer games with his friends in the living room.

Dickie hadn’t been on good terms with his roommate, Kevin Kayak, since he started lifting weights seriously four years ago. Every time Kevin wanted to watch a movie, Dickie wanted to watch his amino acid intake. Every time Kevin suggested they go out to eat, Dickie suggested they go score a pair of smoothies on the way to the gym. Every time Kevin said they should work on a fun project together, Dickie was in the bathroom vomiting blood and shooting pre-workout nitric oxide into his eyeballs.

Just as Dickie rolled back to pinch out another rep at 695, his cell phone buzzed with a text message from Kevin Kayak. Dickie opened the phone with his defined fingers.

The message read:
Save me, bro! Mystery man kidnapped me on soccer field! He’s got me in a van headed towards Fox’s Pizza Den!

Dickie ignored the message. Where would he find the time to rescue Kevin? He still had to do pushups until someone he went to high school with got married. He’d let one of Kevin’s teammates deal with it, since they always seemed to have so much fun together anyway.

On his walk to the other side of the gym, Dickie passed a poster that said TEAMWORK and showed two slick, shirtless men, one hanging off the side of a cliff while the other pulled him up. Dickie stared at it for a minute. Memories from years ago began pouring into his adrenaline-drunk brain. He saw himself and Kevin playfully flinging paint at each other on the day they moved into their apartment. He saw Kevin teaching him how to do a proper chin up. He saw Kevin asleep on the couch, where he had been waiting after Dickie slammed his door in Kevin’s face one night, refusing to go out until he did a thousand bodyweight squats.

What has become of me? Dickie thought. I have traded my life for my pecs; my friends for my quads.

Dickie threw his protein shake at Bryan Buckle and raced to his car. It was time to rescue Kevin.


Dickie threw all 290 of his lean, veiny pounds into his left turn. He had chosen to have the power steering removed from his car at the dealership. The removal cost him $600, but it was worth it every time his triceps popped while pulling the wheel. He caught a glimpse of his bulging tricep, looking like a fat, ripe sweet potato, out of the corner of his eye. He tried to focus on the road, on his mission to save Kevin, but it was difficult to ignore something so plump, so rock-hard, so beautiful. As Dickie leaned over to kiss it, he spun out across an intersection and heard brakes squeal and a crash louder than his 1,500 pound deadlift.

His car had smashed into a van and now both were spewing flames. Dickie crawled out from the wreckage and noticed writing on the destroyed van: Mr. Edwin Mann, Hospital Associate. He knew immediately that this was the “Mystery Man” Kevin mentioned. Dickie was going to make this “Mr. E. Mann” pay for kidnapping his roommate.

Throwing open the door, Dickie found the culprit pinned to his seat. Edwin Mann was hideous. Not only was he doughy and weak, but he was so ugly that his full time profession was as hospitals’ cheaper alternative to ipecac. He induced vomiting in poisoned patients by describing the one horrendous time he had disappointed a woman sexually.

Dickie shouted, “Time to die, roommate thief!” and reached to grab Edwin by the neck, but his arm refused to budge past his shoulder. His rippling bicep was paralyzed with soreness. He was stunned; his workouts had rendered him immobile.

Edwin didn’t want to die, because he was only halfway through the novel Eragon and had to find out how it ended. He could tell that Dickie was paralyzed because Dickie just stood there with his arms up like a robot, so Edwin tipped the boulder that was Dickie’s body into the car. Amid broiling flames licking both of their faces like Satan’s hellhound, Edwin slapped Dickie across the cheek six times. Dickie just sat there, too sore to fight back. He screamed into the back of the van, “Kevin! I’m here to save you but my pecs are too sore! Get out if you can!”

The flames were racing towards the gas tank. Edwin knew he had to finish destroying this muscled madman soon. He looked for options. He could strangle him in a seatbelt. But there wasn’t enough slack. He could try to punch him to death. But there wasn’t enough room to get a full swing. He could stick Dickie’s penis in the cigarette lighter. Bingo.

Edwin mentally channeled his one-time girlfriend Susanna Sandal as he fished through Dickie’s mesh shorts in search of a penis. He fumbled the short, shriveled lump of flesh in his hands and with a heave worthy of one of Dickie’s barbell rows, Edwin stretched Dickie’s penis and crammed it into the cigarette lighter. As Edwin rolled out of the flaming van, Dickie regretted his entire life.

The piercing in Dickie’s glans sparked against the fuse and Dickie lit up electric blue as his penis thrashed in the socket, taking in thousands of volts until it looked like a wrinkled, unwanted gas station hot dog. The voltage burned up Dickie’s penis like a candle wick, sending flames rocketing inside Dickie’s organ, melting his urethra. The toxic concoction of anabolic juices and nitric oxide coursing through his veins made his blood as flammable as gasoline, and the flames rushed through his vascular system, turning his rubbery arteries into paste and igniting the row of kidney stones in his ureter one-by-one, making the calcified rocks crackle and spark like gunpowder balls. The flames accelerated, melting all of his veins and arteries, causing a storm of blood to rain down on his muscles and bones while he yelled, “Kevin! Save yourself! My pecs are toast!” The trail of fiery pain blazed its way to Dickie’s hardened heart, callused from pumping chemical supplements, making the swollen organ melt into a glob of Star-Spangled ice cream, red and blue and sticky and dead.

Dickie’s life leaked out from him as a trickle of chemical-laced blood, which snaked down over a tire, under Edwin Mann’s leg, across the street, and finally came to rest in the grass of the Rosemont Golf Course, where a lone goose sniffed it, looked left and right, and licked it up.


Kevin Kayak checked the time. “He’s probably still at the gym,” he said to Linda, the Fox's Pizza Den waitress. “Ten more minutes for those pizzas. He’ll make it. He’s really going to love this surprise party.”

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