Pete doesn’t like interacting with others at the gym. He has a job to do – a training run to get through and a fixed time slot to achieve it in. In the reception area he doesn’t make eye contact with anyone, instead he scans the weekly leader board of names displayed there and is pleased to see that he retains the top spot on the chart of hours racked up by serious gym addicts. Zane Bhaskar is coming up close behind, so there’s work to do there. He chucks his stuff in a locker, heads for his favoured machine: treadmill number eight overlooking the carpark.
Pete doesn’t like the radio station they play here. It’s an infuriating mix of sickly-sweet modern dance-type music with a heavy beat that probably has a specific genre title he doesn’t know the name of, but which he privately labels as ‘pulsing vomit pop’. The same ten songs seem to play on loop. He plugs in headphones, skips through a carefully curated playlist of 80s pop tunes and settles into his run.
Pete doesn’t like people watching him. He’s three quarters of his way through – just another three miles at marathon pace. He doesn’t know what the sweaty bloke to his left thinks he’s playing at; he keeps looking over at Pete’s display, upping his speed to match. He doesn’t look like much of a runner, his trainers are all wrong for a start, and there’s no part of his top that isn’t dark with sweat. If he thinks he can keep up with Pete Smedley he’s got another think coming. Pete taps up his speed until he’s running a steady 7-and-a-half-minute mile pace. He can keep this up as long as it takes. He smiles and skips through to his favourite Blondie track.
Pete doesn’t like to be interrupted. Not today he doesn’t. He’s had a hard day at the office and he needs this. He may be the designated first aider for his workplace but he only agreed to go on the course to get out of being the fire warden and although he’s physically attended the course every year, the worst he’s ever had to deal with was when apprentice Joe dropped a gallon of water on his foot and fractured his fifth metatarsal. He’s certainly never done any CPR and he’ll be damned if he’s going to start now. The sweaty bloke to his left has staggered off his treadmill. He’s clutching his chest and his face is an alarming shade of purple, but Pete is in the zone now and he loves this Blondie track and he needs to get this run finished to make sure he gets a Boston qualifying time at London next month so he pretends he hasn’t noticed anything, he powers through to the finish, pounds the treadmill in time to Heart of Glass like his life depends on it. He doesn’t adjust his pace at all until Shona from reception runs over and starts waving her arms and faffing about with a chair and he’s getting to the end of his run now anyway so he powers down, removes his headphones, takes a swig of water and turns to his left. By this time the bloke has sat down, his face is less purple, and Shona appears to have everything in hand. Good old Shona.
Rebecca Field lives and writes in Derbyshire, UK. She has work in several print anthologies and has been published online by The Phare magazine, Spelk Fiction, Reflex Press, The Daily Drunk, The Cabinet of Heed and Ellipsis Zine among others. Tweets at @RebeccaFwrites