James Babbs

The Treadmill

In the dead of the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed thinking I heard a noise and the first thought that crossed my mind was—the treadmill’s in the basement.  Why the hell was that the first thought that crossed my mind?

I got out of bed and went down to the basement and, of course, there was the goddamn treadmill, sitting there, mocking me with its silence.  It had been several months since the last time I had used the damn thing.  I had been all gung-ho when I first bought the treadmill but my initial enthusiasm for exercising waned after those first few weeks had passed.

I looked at the treadmill.  Something made me reach out and touch it.  I put my hand on the treadmill.  It felt cold.  I gave the treadmill a gentle push as if to say, you can’t intimidate me, you fucker.  I turned off the lights and left the treadmill sitting there in the dark before going back upstairs.  I had trouble falling asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had peanut butter on toast and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and turned on the TV.  There wasn’t really anything good on but I left the TV on anyway.  I had a frozen pizza for supper and watched some more TV before, finally, going to bed.

In the middle of the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed.  Had there been some kind of a noise?  I wasn’t sure what it was but I got out of bed and went down to the basement.  The treadmill was, still, down there but something was different.  The treadmill had moved.  It was only a few inches but the treadmill was definitely not in the same place it had been the night before.

I touched the treadmill.  It didn’t feel as cold as it had felt the night before.  I looked at the treadmill and laughed.  Fuck you, I said and I waved my hand at it before turning off the lights and heading back upstairs.  I went back to bed and lay there for the longest time just listening to the radio before, finally, falling asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had a sausage and egg biscuit and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and read a book for a while.  I had some canned soup for supper and did some more reading before going to bed.

Sometime during the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed thinking the treadmill’s trying to kill me.  What the fuck?  What kind of crazy thought was that?  I figured I must have been having some kind of weird dream.  I looked at the clock that was next to the bed.  The red numbers on the clock read 3:33 so I stayed in bed and fell back asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had some powdered doughnuts and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and went down to the basement.  Right away I saw the treadmill had turned a hundred and eighty degrees and was, now, facing in the opposite direction from where it had been before. This was crazy, I thought.  What the hell was going on?

I grabbed the treadmill and struggled with it.  I lifted and pushed and, finally, managed to get it back in its original position.  I was sweating and trying to catch my breath.  I looked at the treadmill just sitting there all innocent.  You piece of shit, I said.  I got on the treadmill and started it up.  The belt moved at a sluggish pace and I walked without any trouble at all.

I began to relax.  I started swinging my arms settling into a good rhythm.  I chuckled and then I laughed.  See, I said.  No big deal. 

There was a strange noise and the treadmill lurched and started going faster.  I had to quicken my pace to keep up.  Shit, I said.  The speed of the treadmill increased even more.  What the hell?  My legs were beginning to hurt.  I had to stop the damn thing.  I had to get off.  I hit the power button but nothing happened.  The treadmill was making loud screeching noises.  Suddenly I lost my footing and went down.

I was thrown off of the treadmill.  My left foot hit the wall with a sickening smack.  I felt a jolt rushing through my entire body.  I was lying on the floor.  I didn’t think I was capable of moving.  The treadmill made some loud cracks and pops and then the motor gave out a low moan before going completely dead.  I thought I smelled smoke but I wasn’t sure.

I managed to roll myself over.  I was on my back looking up at the ceiling.  I saw the bright lights above me.  I smiled and closed my eyes.

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