I’ve been working out ever since I’d been about 14 years of age, when my dad bought a free weight set. I love lifting weight. Strength. Bodybuilding. Powerlifting. The look, feel , and smell of chalk, iron, and the intensity of serious lifters grunting and straining. Always have. I’ve seen some amazing feats of strength in my time…two in particular stand out.
While in college, I’d entered my one and only powerlifting competition (I came in third of out of 3 or 4…and the tallying was messed up so I got the 3rd Place medal off-stage and afterwards when the error was found). I’d been working out at Mt. Olympus gym (long out of business), in Flagstaff, Arizona. There was this skinny-as-shit (probably weighed all of 140 lbs) lifter I saw dead-lifting 405 lbs (it’s also what I deadlifted at some 175-180 lbs at the time). 405 pounds is a lot for someone of his size. I also saw him squat 300 – 400 pounds, can’t remember what he’d done there, but the deadlift stuck in my mind because it was exactly the same as I lifted.
The other instance was with a guy who’d gone on to become Georgia Tech’s (GT’s) Director of Player Development, back in the 80s: Dave Pasanella. All 275 pounds of him. Between 1979 and 1983, while I went to NAU, I worked out at Mt. Olympus Gym. To this day, I rank it as the best the gym I’ve ever worked out at—maybe because it was my first away from home?—but I loved working out there. Like the video shows, we’d all get around someone who was going for a max lift (or I’d gather them for my heavier lifts), or just wanted some “moral support,” and yell at him/her. It was a thing. It was great. Anyway, Mt. Olympus was small, all free-weights, and we all had a great time there. Anyway, that’s where I “met” Dave Pasanella, in his early-to-mids 20s. I’ve never really shook hands with him as I recall, but was lifting plenty of times when he was lifting. He would warm up with 405 pounds on the bench press, just to give you and idea of the man’s incredible strength. That’s a 45-pound bar with four 45-pound plates on each side. He ripped off the reps like it was nothing-but-bar.
But the really cool feat of strength I’d seen was him lifting one end of the owner’s VW bug (“Jake” I think was his first name; I’ve long forgotten his last name, but if I’m not mistaken, Jake is in the background wearing the “Pro Workout” Reebok T-shirt in this image; I know Jake used to follow him around his meets, and he’d been studying biofeedback and lifting while also studying at NAU). The VW was parked out front of the gym’s plate-glass window. I think it (the VW) was yellow? Dave and Jake had been talking, when Dave went outside, squatted down, grabbed the VW’s bumper…and freaking lifted it to a full standing position! Just like that. The VW wiggled a bit as it was set back down. Geesh. I ran into Dave a lot at Mt. Olympus, but we never really met or became friendly. He didn’t seem all that nice of a guy then…I won’t go into specifics…but even he later talked about his early behavior, once he’d become a Born Again Christian, about how he felt bad about his younger-self’s behavior. Nice to know he finally turned into a good person before he left this Earth.
Dave also had a weightlifting bar developed and named for him, called the Pasanella Bar, which had been approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for the 242-pound, 275-pound, 305-pound, and unlimited classes.
But, Dave Pasanella’s life came to an abrupt end…he was killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver on June 12, 1995, just off GT’s campus in Atlanta. I’d heard of it years later.
I’d always wanted to write a “weird tale” related to gyms and weightlifting, so back in 1990 I wrote this one. It was based on a Gold’s or World Gym I’d worked out in, in Colorado Springs, CO.
This story has never been “spotted”…I mean published.
© F. P. Dorchak, 1990
“Move it, man! Push it! Don’t fuckin’ stop now, you pussy—push it out!”
Groaning under the stress of 540 pounds of black iron on his shoulders, Donny forced himself back up into a standing position, keeping his knees at a slight bend. This was Donny’s fourth set, working towards his third rep. Veins popped out from the sides of his twenty-one inch neck like snakes on a tree. The weight clattered hollowly on the bar’s ends. The lifter hesitated momentarily, trying to regain his needed concentration. Three spotters—one behind and one to each side—prepared for Donny to off-load the bar back unto the rack.
Donny, however, had other plans.
Emitting a loud growl and hitching up his powerful frame, Donny proceeded back down into the squatting position, sweat streaking the sides of his face. Forcing his head back (hair sweaty and tangled) to keep his balance, Donny emitted the growl of an animal and his spotters squatted all the way down with him.
Hitting bottom, Donny’s behemoth frame bounced, creating upward momentum…but halfway to the top he slowed to near a stop, actually beginning to reverse his direction.
“Fuckin’ push it up, Donny! You can do it, man! Get it up! Force it out!”
The spotter yelling behind him was “Jimbo,” his face as red and knotted as Donny’s. Jimbo’d be damned if he was going to help him—this was Donny’s weight, Donny’s movement, and, as far as Jimbo was concerned, spotters were only there for moral support.
Quickly regrouping, Donny emitted a new growl and explosively pistoned upward.
A glut of air was expelled as the movement was completed. Standing defiantly, Donny allowed the bouncing movement of the weight on the bar on his shoulders to add additional “psyche” to his powerful display of strength. He was a hunter shouldering his kill. Hobbling forward toward the rack, Donny gruffly racked the weight off his shoulders, then stepped back exhilarated.
Immediately the spotters congratulated him, slapping him on the back and smacking his shoulders with muscled fists. Throwing his own fists high, Donny whooped out another growl, but this time of triumph. Lifting chalk from his hands powdered the air in the wake of his thrown fists.
He had finally broken his sticking point…a sticking point where for weeks he couldn’t get past the weight or the reps…but now he’d done both, and the whole world could take a flying leap.
While all the excitement had been going on, nobody thought to watch the entrance desk. Donny, who owned the gym, had let the others who had been working the desk leave early because it was nearly closing time, and he could handle whatever came up. Only sparsely populated at this hour, the gym contained a mere six or seven people still battling with their workouts.
The plate-glass windows facing the parking lot were completely fogged, the darkness weaving a complex coziness to the gym’s interior. Inside, fluorescent lights illuminated tons of plates and other equipment…a layer of calcium carbonate chalk covering everything. A rock station wailed “Welcome to the Jungle,” by Guns N’ Roses, over the sound system, while the ghostly presences of the day’s previous lifters echoed throughout the mirrored walls.
Everyone was winding down, except for the blond individual currently striding in through the glass doors. Walking in, he signed the register at the front desk, under “Guest,” and went straight to the rear of the gym. An acute odor followed him, causing those he passed to wrinkle their noses.
Still excited over Donny’s achievement, others were collecting around the power rack. The gathering was about halfway into the gym’s interior—which basically consisted of one large room, mirrors facing both the north and south walls. The remainder of the gym’s inhabitants, who had momentarily stopped their workouts to watch Donny and give their moral support, resumed their own lifting. Donny meanwhile, had sat down to undo his knee wraps, chalk flecking off his muscled and calloused hands.
Out of everybody’s way the blond lifter began setting up equipment. He wore a tattered and sweat-stained shroud-of-a-tank-top that hung about his body like a cat clawing for holds. His four-inch wide lifting belt was aged and stained; his shorts a vestige of better workouts. The socks clinging about his ankles were unevenly folded down around themselves and stained, and his sneakers were more reminiscent of sandals than shoes. Not nearly as hulking as Donny, the stranger was tanned and muscular. His body “ripped.”
But the most striking thing about the stranger was none of these things. The most striking quality about him was his face.
It belched forth a face that was hard to take without wincing. Blazing blue and frighteningly wide, his eyes screamed witness to a disturbing past. There was a strung-out look about him…hair long and twisted…speared out in all directions, flowing easily over muscled shoulders and back. His movement was quick and jerky, giving the appearance of epileptic fits.
And he smelled.
Without the slightest warmup, the stranger threw on six 45-pound plates to the bar, totaling 315 pounds. Getting beneath it, he ripped off a quick eight reps of the same exercise Donny had just completed.
Watching nearby, a weekend warrior was doing seated calves and nearly swallowed his tongue.
The blond threw on a few more plates, totaling nearly 500 pounds. Again immediately positioning himself under the bar, he unracked and repeated the same feat. Even for a guy the stranger’s size, this was a weight to be reckoned with. Staring, the weekender stopped what he was doing, motioning to a buddy.
Looking around for something bigger, the lifter saw 100-pounders, and grabbed two. By now Donny’s spotters were getting interested. Donny was still cleaning up his area from plates and personal equipment. It was about time to close up shop.
“Hey, Donny, catch this,” Jimbo said, pointing to the rear of the gym. “Who is that guy?”
Donny stopped, casting an at first indifferent glance. “Dunno—” Then he saw the weight on the bar and became immediately interested.
“Holy shit. Let’s take a look,” he said, slapping Jimbo with the back of his hand and strutting to the rear, entourage in tow.
The blond lifter stepped back from the rack, the ends of the bar bouncing and rattling on his shoulders. In one smooth movement he squatted down, then, without so much as a bounce, glided back up.
Astonished, Donny looked back at his groupies. The blond turned around, hitting everybody with the eyes of a Lon Chaney creation. Donny flinched. Not only was he not ready for the face, he was not ready for the odor of dead fish. Donny felt the smell go beyond his nostrils, clawing down his throat and into his stomach. Could a smell hurt?
Looking at Donny for an indifferent second, the tanned beach bum continued about his search for more weight. Donny turned to Jimbo.
“What the fuck’s his trip?” he asked, gagging. Jimbo shrugged, holding back his own dry heaves.
“Weirdo,” Donny said, and approached the stranger.
“Hey, man, what’s your name?”
Replacing the 45-pound plates for hundred-pounders and adding to it, the stranger turned. He gave the same wild-eyed look, not saying anything for the first few seconds. Donny felt like an icicle had just been rammed up his ass.
“Name’s Wave Doggy, man,” the blonde lifter said, continuing to the rack. Donny hacked again, this guy’s smell was just too much.
“You ever take a bath?,” Donny said, gagging, “You smell like dead fish.” Donny did not want to open his mouth again. Opening it around this guy meant that smell would enter his mouth.
The stranger looked back after rearranging the weight on the bar.
“Bath?” he asked, as if missing a punch-line. “Yeah, guess so. Give me a spot, dude?” Donny looked at the gathering behind him, some of which were snickering.
“You—a spot? You don’t look like you need me—or anyone else.”
Positioning himself under the bar, the blond lifter didn’t move until Donny came up behind. God, the smell! It was eating away at the back of his throat….
“Go for it, dude,” Donny said. Some in the crowd were leery that Donny could spot all that weight by himself, but let Donny alone. A couple big guys silently went to either side of the bar just in case.
Wave Doggy squatted down—not once, but four times—and each squat went as easy as the first, as easy as if it were only the bar. Wave Doggy racked, getting out from under the bar and turned around. He looked like some crazed David Lee Roth. As if hit by a wall of stench—multiplied by the force of Wave Doggy’s turn—Donny stumbled backward, tripping over tangling feet. Wave Doggy shot out a hand and grabbed him, jerking Donny back up—into the air—then landing him on his feet. Blondy quickly returned to the bar, cleaning it off.
Nearly burned by the slimy coldness of the stranger’s touch, Donny wiped off his hand on his shorts, slowly backing away.
“You haven’t been in here before, have you,” Donny asked, looking for any reason to kick the dude out.
“Nope,” Wave Doggy said.
“Then you didn’t pay to get in.”
“It’s up at the desk, man,” he said, twitching in his nervous fashion as he turned to look at Donny. He immediately began setting up another bar, on the floor. Deadlifts. Donny motioned for Jimbo to go up front and check it out.
“Where you from?”
“No shit,” Donny muttered, where else would he be from?
Jimbo found the money, counting it out.
“Whatcha’ doin’ here?”
Again, no shit, this guy was a genius. Jimbo returned, Wave Doggy’s money in hand.
“Hey, he left ten bucks at the desk—he even signed in.”
Ten bucks. It cost only five to workout one day.
“You left five bucks more than necessary, pal.”
“That’s what I always leave,” he said, squatting down before the bar. Wave Doggy grasped it using no wrist straps, in a reverse grip…one hand under, other hand over grip. Straightening his back and looking up, Wave Doggy hefted the weight off the floor. Eight times.
405 pounds. No problem.
Donny had enough of this. Taking Jimbo and the two other spotters with him, he left the crowd. It felt great getting away from that fishy odor and wild eyes.
“I’m calling the cops to check this guy out. Keep an eye on him.”
Jimbo, Bill, and Charlie nodded, spreading their lats like dangerous gym-rat peacocks, and made their way back. Donny, money in hand, made the call. Even the guy’s bills were slimy.
By now everybody had stopped lifting to watch Wave Doggy and his Amazing Feats.
Besides his odor, there was a definite fascination about the guy that fill the air. A magic. Everybody but Donny was visibly impressed. Donny didn’t take lightly to being upstaged, not to mention that he just plain didn’t like what was going on here.
What kind of a name was that?
Donny locked the front doors. The gym should have been closed fifteen minutes ago. Waiting for the police to arrive, Donny began clearing out the remaining customers. Wave Doggy, after deadlifting as much weight as the bar could handle, then proceeded on to other exercises. There seemed no stopping him.
The cops arrived, two of them, looking quite official in midnight-blue jackets and black nightsticks. Donny let them in.
“Hi. I’m Donny Frayze,” he said, shaking hands, emphasizing the first syllable for the men, “I own the place.” Pointing to the rear, he continued. “And that’s him.” Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” screamed over the speakers. The officers accompanied Donny back to the rear.
“Well, he doesn’t look familiar, Mr. Frayze,” said one of the officers.
Wave Doggy was now benching repetitions with better than 600 pounds. Nobody his size does that. Donny could tell the cops weren’t too pleased with the prospect of arresting the guy. A few of the overhead lights around Wave Doggy began flickering off and on. Donny went over and asked the remaining lifters to split. After some silent protest, they began packing up.
Racking the weight, Wave Doggy jerked himself upright, immediately turning to the cops. He regarded them uninterestingly, then went back to packing on more weight. One of the cops turned to Donny.
“He fuckin’ stinks.”
“Excuse me, sir, we’d like a word with you if you don’t mind,” interjected the other officer, a man named Tony Valletti.
Wave Doggy finished adding his new weight to the bar, then casually approached the officers. The officers placed their hands on their weapons and positioned for action. Wild-eyed and mechanical, Wave Doggy sauntered up to them.
“Where you from mister,” Valletti asked.
“SoCal.” The surfer dude’s head continued to jerk chaotically.
“This guy’s definitely on something, Peterson,” Valletti said to his partner. Carefully reaching for handcuffs, Valletti and Peterson rushed him. Wave just stood there, naively offering no resistance.
“You’re under arrest for suspicion of substance abuse. You have the right to remain silent.”
After cuffing him and turning to head back to the cruiser, the policemen were gracefully eluded as Wave Doggy pirouetted out of their control and headed back to his bench instead.
It was as if he’d never been wearing cuffs at all.
He’d simply separated his hands like the silent half to a clap…and pieces of chain fell from his wrists. Cuff-metal still encircled his wrists as Wave Doggy grabbed more weight and placed the plates on the sleeves of the already weighted bar.
Stunned, the cops spun around, unholstering weapons. They leveled them at Wave Doggy, who had simply gone on to continue with his workout.
“Mr. Wave Doggy—you are under arrest! Any additional attempts at resisti—”
But Wave Doggy had no intention of being arrested.
After his set, he popped back up and continued to pile more weight onto the bar.
Valletti went around behind the lifter, while Peterson nervously remained where he was. More lights flickered off, Donny looked around nervously.
Valletti replaced his revolver, withdrawing his nightstick, instead. As soon as Wave Doggy sat himself back down on the bench, the officer reached over the bar, nightstick grasped by both ends, and caught a Wave. Nightstick around and against Wave Doggy’s throat, he brought him back against the racked bar, hard.
With sickening speed, the officer was flipped over both the bar and Wave Doggy—landing with a crash in front of the bench. A stand containing chalk was spilled over, a funnel of white fanning out on the floor’s thin carpet. The second officer yelled “Freeze!” but Wave Doggy merely stood up as though he was off to the water fountain. And went for the remaining officer.
Wave Doggy took the slug in his chest…then grabbed the gun and threw it into a mirror. With his other hand, he placed it square on the officer’s chest and casually pushed him away, Peterson flying feet-over-head as he flew backward.
Acting as if all were nothing more than a minor inconvenience, Wave Doggy sat back down on the bench and unracked the rattling bar.
Donny made his move.
Coming from behind the bench, Donny pressed his 240 pounds down on the bar, forcing it into Wave Doggy’s chest. Wave Doggy did two reps with Donny pressing down on him before exploding—both the bar and Donny—up and into the ceiling. Ceiling tiles fell around the floor as the weight came crashing back down…Donny entangled with it. After bouncing, the bar came to rest on one of Donny’s legs, an exquisite splitting sound finishing out the movement.
Walking out into the center of the room, Wave Doggy stopped.
A green glow emanated from him.
A brighter, more intense glow took up residence in his eyes. Welts and sores began bursting all over his body…and the officious odor grew even worse, if that was possible. Doggy’s body took on a bloated appearance…the appearance of someone who’s body had been in water the other side of far too long. Lights crackled and sizzled, electricity sparking everywhere, and Wave Doggy became violently spasmodic. Out of his throat came a gurgling sound, his lungs filling with water.
“All I wanted too doooo wasss lllifftt.”
Wave Doggy’s face cracked open in places, mottled flesh and gangrenous cankers saying “hello!” to the crowd. The welts that had formed on his body broke open.
The two cops stood up, collecting themselves. Donny quickly forgot about his own pain as he observed the gruesome metamorphosis.
“Wwwhyyy cccouldn’t yyyoouuu jussst lettt meee lllifttt? III wwwasn’ttt hhhurrrting anyonnnne?”
Water and bits of lung and other “material” issued from Wave Doggie’s mouth as he spoke. The cops, Donny, and those who remained in spite of Donny’s warning, all backed up. Wave Doggy coughed up more water and viscera. He looked pathetic…alone…and Donny found himself feeling sorry for the guy. After all, he thought, he really hadn’t hurt or bothered anyone—and he had paid an extra five bucks over-and-above the amount for a day’s lifting.
Hell, he’d even signed in. How many regulars did that?
The creature now before them raised his hands into the sparking electricity above him. Tears were mixed with the sea water and decay.
It was Donny, blood covering his legs—one broken—as he struggled to get up. Pain
(no pain no gain…)
knifed at him as he motioned for the cops to back off. They did. No argument.
Everyone looked to everyone else.
“I’m sorry,” Donny said, holding a hand up and gritting against the pain.
Wave Doggy stopped…looking over to Donny, who was crouching and unable to stand.
Lowering a mottled hand, the blonde beach bum came over to Donny and pulled him to his feet. Grabbing hold of the bench, Donny supported himself. The creature looked at him through puffed eyes and a face swollen nearly beyond recognition.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I-I’m sorry about all this,” Donny said, wincing. Donny’s Reeboks were soaked red. “Really.” Donny looked to Wave Doggy…there was (as hard as it was to believe this…) a look of understanding that came over the creature’s face…something that had been, up to this point, non-existent in him (it?). There was no longer that wild, strung-out David Lee Roth look…now only the look of a cornered, injured animal.
Donny owned a dog. One that had been injured and had looked up to him in just this way.
“I ooonllly waanttt tooo wwworrrk ooouttt.”
More matter washed out with his speech.
“III’ll llloock uuupppp when I’mmm donnne.”
There was a touch of childlike innocence to his shuddering movements that stabbed Donny right in the heart…yes, he had one beneath all the testosterone and muscle.
Donny slowly nodded his head in agreement and looked to the two officers, who could do nothing more than return the same look. Donny motioned them away.
Slowly, the swelling began dissipating from Wave Doggy…then he reached down to Donny’s splintered leg. Feeling around in the fracture (and at great pain to Donny), he put pieces of Donny’s bone back into place—setting it.
Donny looked up to Wave Doggy in disbelief.
Wave Doggy regarded Donny.
The two cops and Donny sat out in the cruiser, patiently watching through the fogged windows of the gym. The remaining lifters were all standing outside in the dark, also watching. The interior gym lights were going out on their own as the creature came out the front doors. Wave Doggy had returned to his earlier, tanned-and-surfer state. He locked the doors behind him, setting the keys down in plain view on the edge of the concrete. Donny felt his leg. There was still some pain…but nothing broken.
The cops and Donny watched as Wave Doggy faced them, still twitching in his tattered and sweat-stained gear and
weight belt still around his waist. They regarded each other for along moment. Though it was dark and Donny couldn’t make out features, he could still—mentally—clearly see Wave Doggy’s wild eyes and speared hair.
Forced reps, maaan, forced reps, Donny thought.
Donny wished him the best of luck with his continued training…and Wave Doggy nodded, turned…and walked away into the darkness.
Short Story Links
Links to all my posted short stories are here.