I’m right next to the protein shakes when he comes in.
Or they might be vitamin supplements—the jars look the same (I’m only here to browse product names anyway since everything is at least twenty per cent cheaper online). Dressed in full denim and wearing gumboots, the guy snakes in through the side entrance, knocks down a couple of cross trainers, jumps up at Big Mike and shoves a shotgun right in his face. The first thing Big Mike does is slam the register shut, but the guy screams and prods Mike’s nose with the barrel of his gun. He must be on something heavy—chems or the like—since he doesn’t seem to care that Mike looks meaner than a shed-full of landmines and could probably snap that gun like a toothpick.
I drop to the floor and try not to breathe. Through the merchandise I have a pretty good view of what’s going on. What? Don’t give him the cash, Big Mike! His head is as big as one of your fists. Stop being a puss and break the little prick in two! My quads are sore from squatting and my teeth are grinding bad, but I don’t suppose I should move—not if the guy hasn’t noticed me yet—I don’t want to steal Big Mike’s glory when he lifts this joker into the air and bench-presses his arse into intensive care. Mike might not be able to lift as much as I’m pressing these days, but man, I’ve seen what he can do with a piece of iron; there’s a reason why I christened him ‘Big Mike’ and got him that sponsorship deal. Just last week I was saying what an improvement he’s made. I mean, he’s still got a lot of training to do if he wants to make it into my league, but even so, I was spotting him at around one hundred and fifty KGs, and he was tossing that thing in the air like it was a broom stick; the veins on his neck alone could have lifted it. If he keeps it up he might have a chance at the regionals next month (‘might’ I said); third or second round of course, not the finals. Mike’s a great guy and all, but he still lacks the discipline; everyone knows it. I heard he even eats a loaf of bread a day. And not your bakery-bought stick of rye, but a one-kilo sourdough hero from the supermarket; he’s got access to all the supplements he wants, yet he’s gorging himself on carbs. Sometimes I wonder what’s going on in that beefcake head of his.
I edge to the back of the shop, where Mike keeps the weightlifting belts. There’s a new range I haven’t seen before—I should check them out online when I get home… if I get home. If Big Mike doesn’t get his arse into gear and get rid of this clown, I’m going to have to make a move myself.
From this vantage point I have a clear view of the front counter. Big Mike knows I’m here, but he’s not giving it away. I’m actually impressed; especially considering how quick he usually is to look my way and shout when I walk into the weights room.
OK, someone has to do something; we are in the middle of a financial crisis and I imagine Big Mike’s business doesn’t need this sort of trouble. This is what I’ll do: I’ll sneak up behind that guy—he’s too busy shouting at Big Mike to fill up the gym bag to hear me—and plough my shoulder into his spine. That ought to put the weed out of commission for good. But then again, there is that niggling neck injury of mine: one little strain, even if I don’t feel it, could throw my entire training routine off track and ruin my chances at the regionals. There’s no way I’m risking that.
So before I know it, the guy has the bag and is nudging Big Mike into the store room. I swear it looks as if a blade of grass is slapping against the trunk of an oak tree. Only when they disappear behind the beaded curtain do I ease myself up, carefully now, keeping an eye on the front of the shop. I’ll call the police; yes, that’s what I’ll do—just another one Mike will owe me! As I slide the cell phone from my fanny pack, I hear the guy screaming again, so I steal out of the shop and dial the number from behind a parked car. The reception is much better here. “I’ve got the exits covered,” I say. Oh, Mike will be fine; he’s in no danger. I’ve seen this guy’s type before: they mill around the train station demanding handouts, with no ambitions, no outlook, and no talents—he hasn’t got it in him to pull the trigger, you can bank on it. He’s swiped that whole ‘open the fucking register, I’m desperate’ act straight from a B-grade cop movie. You’ll see—Big Mike’s got drive. He’ll be back at the gym tomorrow morning, pressing iron, determined as ever. Even if he doesn’t stand a chance at the regionals, you’ve got to admire him