The Weightlifters

By on Mar 12, 2017 in Fiction

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Barbell in a weight room

Connor began going to the weight room with Justin and Samantha every day after class, and by the final week of school before summer vacation, he had lost seven pounds, and could squat two ten.  He loved the slow burn that settled into his muscles as he lifted.  He stood in front of the mirrored walls, examining his legs and shoulders, the shadow of his chest, the backs of his arms.  At home, Connor’s mother pinched him and said she couldn’t believe what a man he was turning into.  His stepfather told him he was impressed with his dedication to the sport, and that it would pay off in the long run.  “I’m real proud of you, Connie.”

The more he said that, the more Connor wanted to live in the weight room and transform himself into someone that could just as easily rip out his stepfather’s throat as shake his hand.  He stopped eating microwave food and instead thawed out chicken and steak from the deep freeze when he was hungry.  When his stepfather came home from work in the evenings, Connor stared him down from the kitchen until he was out of sight upstairs, Connor’s mother in tow.

After class on the last day of school, Justin approached Connor and Samantha in the hallway and told them they were making a raid at midnight.  The school had decided to lock up the weight room for the summer after the Pleasureland incident.  “Fucking principal.  We’ll take a few things and assemble ourselves a little gym, get it?”

“That’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said,” Samantha said.

Connor knew Justin was serious, and the more he thought about it, the more he relished the idea of taking charge of their own lives.  He wasn’t about to wallow the summer away turning back into what he had been.  “How’re we going to get in?”

Justin licked his teeth and nodded at Samantha.


Justin and Connor sat in the back of Samantha’s car as she chauffeured them to her home.  She parked on the driveway of her folks’ tan Rambler and led them inside.  From the entryway, Connor observed a mausoleum of glass and gold trinkets, heirloom jade carvings, red table runners, portraits of Asian men in gilded frames wearing suits with carnations blossoming on their lapels.  An air of freshly vacuumed carpet and soy sauce saturated the walls.

A small woman stepped out of the kitchen in a black floral print dress and greeted them.  “These are the friends you fitness with?” she said, jabbing a finger at Connor and Justin.  “They are boys?”

“Hi, Mom,” Samantha said.

Samantha was three times her mother’s size without even trying.  Her mother was bones and fingernails and uncreased eyelids, her black hair tied in a tight knot.

“Is dad sleeping?” Samantha said.

Her mother nodded.  “You don’t wake him.”

Samantha told Connor and Justin to wait there while she got something from her room.  Then she disappeared down the hall.  Samantha’s mother inspected the jade stones on a teak shelf and touched a single one to realign its position.  Then she folded her hands and examined the two boys.

“When does your season end?” she said, as if trying to make casual conversation.

“Season?” Connor said.

“Yah, you know.” She fluttered a hand about.  “Your weight fitness season?”  The piano beside her was lined with ribbon-draped trophies and pictures of boys who had to be Samantha’s older brothers.

“The state meet was months ago,” Connor said.  A door closed down the hall and something in the room jingled.

“What?  The season is done?  Where she go everyday then?”

“We’re in off-season training currently,” Justin said.

Samantha’s mom shook her head and said some string of hoarse whispers Connor couldn’t decipher.  “And still she get bigger,” was a part of it.  She tapped the piano top, then brushed a fleck of dust off the corner.  She smoothed her dress once and said to them, “Are more girls there, too?”

Justin shook his head.  “Just Chins and us.”

“What?” Samantha’s mother said.

Justin choked on his own laughter.  “Sorry.  Samantha’s the only girl.  Yeah.”

Connor couldn’t hold it in either, and when Samantha rounded the hallway corner and found them laughing, she stopped and glanced at her mother, who shrugged.  “They just start laughing.  I say nothing.”

Justin and Connor tumbled into the back seat of the car again.  Samantha kept asking them what her mother had said, and Justin snorted.  “We were just having a nice little convo with Mrs. Chins.”

Connor wiped at his eyes with the heels of his hands.

“Real nice,” Samantha said.

“Hey, we bought you time, right?”

Samantha tipped left and dug something out of her pocket, then flipped it back over the seat into Connor’s lap.  He held it up, a dull metal allen wrench hex key.  “Will Mrs. Chins be disappointed in her only daughter if she finds out what she’s done?” Justin said.

“Fuck you,” Samantha said into the rearview mirror, though she was looking at Connor.  Then she shook her head and slapped the turn signal.  “She can’t be any more disappointed than she already is.”


At midnight, Samantha unlocked the front door of Northfield High School with the long hex key and stood guard while Connor and Justin snuck inside, looking for any sign of movement, a night guard or a security camera.  But they saw none.  They broke into the cafeteria store room and took boxes of candy bars and single wrapped ham sandwiches and cases of orange Gatorade.  They waltzed into the girls’ locker room and found abandoned knee socks and panties and a pink sports bra as souvenirs.  They entered Principal Jenkin’s office and filled his fichus with all the piss they could muster.  Then they called Samantha off guard duty, and she unlocked the weight room with the same hex key.

They started with the dumbbells and carried out two in each hand to their cars and dropped them in the trunks.  They treaded quietly down the halls, each footstep a raucous echo.  They loaded plates into the passenger seats and curling bars into the backseats. They rolled medicine balls into the empty foot spaces.  They draped multicolored coils of resistance bands around the headrests.  They grew less afraid and jogged back and forth from their cars to the weight room, calling to each other, reminding whoever was heading back in to grab wrist straps or a support block.  They stepped out into the cool night air and returned to the stagnant hallways and the dark weight room, exhausted.

“Let’s go,” Samantha said.

“Don’t be a pussy,” Justin said.

“I’m the one with the key.”

“What else do we need?” Connor said.

Justin surveyed the weight room.  “The bigger stuff will never fit.”

“We’re going to get caught,” Samantha said.

Justin turned to her.  “Who’s going to catch us?”

They left the weight room and headed out to the parking lot.  Samantha relocked the front door of the school behind them.  Their cars were weighed down like the shocks had been lowered.  “No one will know anything’s gone before the end of the summer,” Justin said.  “We’ll return it all before then.  Like checking out a bunch of library books.”

Connor nodded and gave him a thumbs up, but Samantha said nothing.  They got in their cars and drove away in a single-file motorcade, dragging out sparks on the highway like fireworks in a victory parade.


They assembled the gym in Justin’s cluttered garage.  He and his parents always parked on the driveway.  It took them all morning to clear space and all afternoon to arrange the stolen equipment into something resembling an organized gym.  They tacked the socks and panties and the pink sports bra to the particle board on the back wall.  Justin found a pull-up bar and a squat rack on Craigstlist for free, and somehow got them to his garage with his rusted-out Camry.  They told each other they were home free, that nothing could go wrong with their plan, but whenever they heard a police siren, they hit the garage door button and hid behind the bench press until it closed.

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John Woodington is a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. His work has appeared in multiple publications, including The Sewanee Review, The Cortland Review, Pens on Fire, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k), Slow Trains and Wild Violet. He holds an MFA from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.