The Gym Ring Of Hell

humor, short story, The Devil, running, high school gym class, Modern Philosopher“I know you’re an out of control running machine now, but what were you like back in gym class when the teacher forced you to run laps?” The Devil asked with mischief in his voice.

My annoying Sunday guest was dressed, as always, in an impeccably tailored suit that cost more than a year’s worth of payments on my new car.

I, on the other hand, was comfy cozy in ratty sweats and a fleece, having recently showered after my morning run.

Net cost of my ensemble: dirt cheap at the thrift store.

“I absolutely hated running in gym class,” I confessed with just a tinge of anger as a rampaging river of bad adolescent memories flooded my brain.  “I was not an athlete.  Running was not my thing.  I resented the teachers for making me do it, and I’d spend the entire run plotting my revenge.”

“It was really that bad?” Lucifer asked as he handed me a Snapple to ease the pain of my horrific flashbacks.

“We rarely had to run in grammar school,” I explained after taking a long, refreshing sip of my iced tea.  “The Nuns were harsh task masters, but they apparently liked doing the torturing themselves.  If we ever did run back in those days, it might have been a lap around the basketball court to pass some obligatory physical fitness test.”

“So I take it the nightmare began in high school?” The Prince of Darkness asked with glee in his eyes.  “Tell me how the mean gym teachers hurt you.”

“I went to high school not far from Central Park, so when it was time for the running portion of the gym schedule, we’d be marched out there to our inevitable doom,” I responded far too dramatically as a chill ran down my spine.

I chugged the rest of my Snapple in one, huge gulp.  This conversation was forcing me to open a vault of memories that had been sealed shut for a reason.

humor, short story, The Devil, running, high school gym class, Modern Philosopher“Central Park is beautiful, though,” Satan added, most likely, just to annoy me.  “So much better than some stuffy, gymnasium that reeked of decades old sweat.”

“Yeah, well the Central Park Reservoir is one of my least favorite places in the world,” I snapped back at him.

While the running path around the reservoir is only a little more than a mile and a half, a distance which is mere child’s play for me now, back when I was barely older than a child, it seemed like the length of a full marathon.

“Do tell…” The Devil purred as he sipped his Snapple and stared at me intently.

“I was so tiny my Freshman year,” I explained with a sigh.  “Short, stick thin, and just scrawny.  Not an ounce of muscle on me.  My little nerdy body was designed to think, not to run.  Figuring out how to get around that body of water in the middle of the school day was an equation that I simply could not solve.  It was torture.  My lungs were on fire.  My legs ached.  I just wanted to collapse and wait for the paramedics to drag me away.”

Lucifer laughed so hard at my tale of woe, that he had to use a silk handkerchief from his jacket pocket to dab away the tears that were forming in his eyes.

“I wish I could have been there for that,” he struggled to say through the laughter.

“My gym teacher was also my homeroom teacher and the track coach,” I continued.  “So he was relentless.  He thought we should all be able to run the loop as quickly as the track team guys in my class, who whipped around the reservoir before I was even halfway done.  Oh, how I hated him for expecting me to be athletic and fleet of foot.”

humor, short story, The Devil, running, high school gym class, Modern Philosopher“Look at how much has changed,” The Prince of Darkness chided.  “I think you owe your gym teacher an apology, and maybe even a thank you for introducing you to the grueling world of distance running.”

I shrugged and pulled another bottle of Snapple out of the cooler.  He was right, of course, but I hated to admit it.

“Fine,” I groaned.  “I apologize to all the gym teachers I hated for forcing me to run.  They were right, and I was just lazy and weak.”

“Amen!” Satan agreed.  “I’m glad I was able to add a little something to your outstanding Catholic School education.”

If ever there was a time to run, to get as far away from this conversation as possible, it was now.  But I had just run six miles, and there was no way my body could handle it.

Maybe I could have made a run for it, if I had only better applied myself back in high school gym class.  Oh, the irony…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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