“Is he still upset about the elevator thing?” The agent asked the assistant.
“Oh! Well, no, not exactly. Although I wouldn’t suggest bringing it up. He’s brooding over his appointment with his fitness coordinator.”
“You mean…him? His nemesis?” There was a smile in the agent’s voice.
“But of course. He scheduled a video conference and has asked not to be disturbed.” There was a smile in the assistant’s voice as well.
“Right. So prepare chilled water and a towel and be ready to soothe a bruised ego by offering encouragement for the next time.” The agent thought for a moment. “A medic as well?”
“Sounds about right. I never imagined he’d choose this route to ensure his physical fitness for his role like that. He’s usually so zen.”
“Well, aerobic health is highly important for physically demanding roles after all.” The assistant reached for her tea. She sipped delicately, sighing her enjoyment as the fragrant brew warmed her from the inside out. The thermostat had been adjusted a little low for her liking. The two were interrupted before the conversation could progress further when her employer stepped forward in casual gray athletic wear and she hastily set down her cup.
“Conference room A?” He asked nonchalantly, but she could see the tension in the set of his shoulders.
“Ah, yes. I cleared it of all furniture earlier this afternoon as you requested. We don’t want any more nasty bumps like last time. You wandered around most of the day believing you were Richard the Third. What would you have done with a horse? I mean really?”
His cheeks pinked and she hid a smile when he coughed and straightened his lengthy frame. “Conference room A you say?” She nodded and he sighed. “Well, win or lose…I refuse to quit.”
“Quite right. Shall I patch him in when you are ready?”
He gave a brisk nod, girded himself up as if for battle and disappeared down the hall.
“Surveillance cameras still work in that room?” The question was asked innocently enough and the agent’s face was an angelic study fit for a painting.
“Want to watch with me?” The assistant, in contrast, asked her question with wicked glee.
The two quickly relocated and huddled before a video monitor as the assistant patched in the fitness instructor.
“Hello Richard,” came a bright and cheerful greeting.
“Ah, you as well,” came the low-voiced response. It was heavy with menace. The two were a study in contrasts.
The instructor’s bright enthusiasm filled the conference room although he was hundreds of miles away, and grim determination chiseled itself into the pupil’s face. “Are you ready to sweat?” The instructor’s muscled thighs gleamed below the hem of his brightly colored shorts and music swelled.
“Get those legs up!” The instructor said as sweat poured off the man in gray.
“Do you think he’ll outlast him this time?” The agent asked the assistant as they sat glued to the screen chewing on some popcorn and sipping beverages. They had been there nearly two hours already, watching the gripping drama before them, and only occasionally getting up for fear of missing something.
“Hmm…,” the assistant watched her employer critically, looking for signs of weakness. “Not a chance. I give him ten more minutes at the most.”
“You’re on. I say at least thirty. Richard’s a machine.” The agent smiled enigmatically.
“No argument there,” the assistant laughed and they settled back in to watch again.
Inside the conference room, sweat slicked the athletic wear to the pupil’s muscular torso. He was breathing heavily and his lungs were screaming in pain. He would not…gasp…not be bested!
“Oh sweetie! Lookin’ good. Keep it up now!” The instructor glistened but he barely struggled for breath. “Couldn’t you just do this forever?” A whimper escaped from the student. Was the man even human?
“Five more! Come on. You can do it!”
The room was hotter than hellfire. Was he dead? Was this hell? The smiling and cheerful face round with good humor mocked him.
“E…enough! No more! I’m not as fit now as I was before,” the student capitulated. He hung his head between his knees in exhaustion and shame.
“Are you sure? I was just getting warmed up!” The video monitor said as its subject danced around the room. He took a clearer look through the camera.
“Oh honey,” he clucked. “Don’t forget to cool down! You don’t look so good. Do you need a hug? You look like you need a hug.”
“No!” This had the conference room occupant straightening with alarm. “I mean, no, no thank you. It’s much too far to travel and, well, English, you know,” he offered by way of refusal.
“Well, alright sweetie, but the offer is there anytime! Now, don’t forget to get some rest. I keep telling you not to push yourself too hard. It’s not a race. Work up,” his arms rose in an arc towards the ceiling, “to your potential, and don’t forget to take breaks when you need them.”
“I promise,” the other man said as he sagged wearily.
“Alrighty then! You have a terrific day Richard!”
“And you.” The video blinked off.
The two voyeurs hastily scrambled back to the office area. The assistant snapped up a towel and a chilled bottle of water. The agent snatched up some papers and the two made a good impression of indifference and ignorance when the sweaty actor slumped into the office area in defeat…again. He looked at them suspiciously. He opened his mouth to say something but he was distracted by the cool bottle of water damp with condensation and he proceeded to gulp it down like a man marooned in a desert for a week.
She handed him the towel next and he buried his face in it. She suspected a moment of frustrated tears when his shoulders heaved and then stilled, but she opted for discretion and said nothing.
“How is Mr. Simmons?” Obviously the agent had no such restraint. Bitter from losing the bet, no doubt, thought the assistant.
“Fine,” mumbled the lanky man before flinging his sweaty towel at the agent’s face. The agent just smiled and pulled out a black marker.
“Sign, please.” Too exhausted to protest, the man did so, and collapsed into a chair.
“Chin up,” the assistant smiled. “Every dragon can be slayed,” she said slyly. Wounded, he shot a filthy look at the agent who was attempting not to laugh.
“That’s right. Go ahead and take the piss. I deserve it,” he scowled. They laughed, and said their farewells when he turned down their offer to have dinner with them, leaving him staring off into space dejectedly.
Once they were outside, the assistant turned to the agent. “Are you going to tell him?”
“What? That I arranged a one time only pay-per-view exercise experience with a fitness legend in order to raise money for his favorite charities?”
“Well, I was thinking of where you got the idea from, but that too.”
“Do I look like I have a death wish? The elevator was bad enough. He trains for his role, adoring fans are treated to their idol sweating to the oldies, and charitable organizations profit. The towel alone will raise a fortune! Everybody wins.”
“You’re brilliant. Evil, but brilliant.”
“Not so brilliant,” the agent said graciously.
“I notice you didn’t say anything about not being evil.”
“Dessert afterwards?” The agent sidestepped the question neatly.
(Sorry, Richard, and, you too, Richard. Maybe I need a Poor Richard category? What do you think? No harm meant. I wasn’t going to put this up, but all my friends seem to have this obsession with men named Richard (my fitness instructor friend – this one is for you and you know who you are) and I just had to do it. For the record, my favorite actor is actually Ed Harris and I’m not a fan of aerobic anything. I just follow where my inspiration leads, and it was a little…odd this time around. Anything for a friend! Anyway, hope everyone enjoys it, and bonus points if you managed to catch the Shakespeare reference.)