Push-ups With Perry Price!

Perry Price first got interested in push-ups when he was five years old. He remembered the day like it was sixty-five years ago. He was outside playing with matches during the first long hot drought of his life, burning scorpions and stradivarius violins with equal gusto, when he noticed his dad lying on the ground. But instead of lying still his body was going up and down. “What are you doing, papa?” “I’m fucking the grass, son, what else do you think I’m doing?”

A few years later, when he was enrolled against his will for full contact rugby, he saw all the other kids doing that same up and down business he saw his father doing when he was a smaller kid. Perry Price walked up to the coach, introduced himself, and asked the man if he too should drop down and ‘fuck the grass’. He learned two lessons that day: one, coaches are violent-tempered sadistic assholes, and two, that his father was a fucking smartass. He learned something else too (which made three things), that he wanted to do push-ups more than anything else in his short life, and that included becoming the fifth member of the rock group, KISS.

And so at age eight, Perry Price’s obssession with push-ups began. In no time he worked up to several thousand a day, in numerous settings and positions, sometimes with friends atop his back, even making the local news once in between a story on the rise of crack cocaine in the inner cities and the weather forecast calling for another three years of drought.

As an adult his passion for push-ups didn’t fade one bit. It became his life, and eventually, his career. He was given an early morning spot at a local tv station as some sort of alternative exercise guru, in an attempt to counter the other stations’ reliance on bimbo aerobics instructors. Apparently in addition to a shortage of rain, there had been a pretty bad shortage on bimbo aerobics instructors. In that gap of supply, Perry Price found his chance for success. His show was called, “Push-ups With Perry Price!” It was all very straightforward, predictable, just thirty minutes of a young, barrel-chested Perry Price doing push-ups while various gangster rap tracks played in the background. In those early days his stage presence left something to be desired, and after one season he was cancelled. Perry Price was at a loss for what to do for money, but his conviction that doing push-ups continuously, or at least as often as was possible, for the rest of his life, was not shaken one bit. Even when he slept, he dreamed of push-ups.

After that, Perry Price sank into poverty, lost his home, and took to the streets. But still, even in those garbage filled alleys with bums sleeping off mouthwash hangovers and pasty-faced rotten-mouthed hookers sucking off their clientele with a distractingly noisy vigor, Perry continued to do push-ups.

*

One day a little girl saw a bum on her front lawn in an exclusive neighborhood filled with geometrically complex mcmansions, and he was lying on his belly, going up and down. She walked up to him. “What are you doing mister?” It was Perry doing push-ups. “I’m doing push-ups, not fucking the grass. Want to join me?” And so she did.

The little girl’s father–taking a break from planting tropical plants in his garden– noticed the stranger’s impeccable push-ups and his daughter inept mimicry. He smiled, both impressed by the bum, and innocuously annoyed by his daughter’s poor technique.

“Found a friend, huh, darling?”

“Yeah daddy, his name is Perry Price. He’s not fucking the grass.” Her attempts at push-ups were pathetic. Both her knees were firmly planted in the grass, and her skinny pale arms were shaking violently at the elbows.

“Hahahaha, of course not. It’s a push-up, the greatest damn upper body exercise the world’s ever known. Honey, you’re not doing them right. Mr. Price?”

While performing alternating one handed push-ups and snapping his fingers each time, nowhere close to breathless, Perry said, “Yes indeed they are. Fine fine exercise. I love them. I can help your daughter improve her technique. If you like. I’m a bit of an expert, not to brag or anything.”

“I would consider it an honor sir. And, you know, I must confess, even though you have a beard longer than Billy Gibbons, and smell worse than a landfill worker in São Paulo, I recognized you immediately. I was a big fan of your show. Too bad they took it off. It was scintillating. Of course, I’d be most privileged if I could hire you to teach my daughter. Howsabout 60k a year, free internet and a bed in the back of my air conditioned garage? There’s even a humidifier, since it’s been so dry lately. Also, a record player and everything ZZ Top put out between 1969 and 1985.”

“I’ll take it.”

So Perry Price slowly built up a nice bankroll working for this rich man who himself was obssessed with ZZ Top, almost as much as he was the push-up. After a few years unfortunately, it became painfully clear that Alice (which was the little girl’s name) pretty much sucked at doing push-ups. She seemed enthusiastic enough, that wasn’t the problem, just no matter what routine he put her on, no matter how much creatine and protein powder his forced her to eat with her oatmeal, nothing would increase her upper body strength needed to do proper push-ups. And then, the worst thing possible happened, she sprouted tits. At that point it was all over for Alice’s push-up career. He broke the news as gently as possible to her father, “Alice sucks at push-ups. She’s a pretty fine specimen of young budding sexuality however.”

When Perry woke up, his felt his jaw throbbing painfully, the sky above him an impossible puzzle of gray birds and blue skin. Perry was in considerably better shape than Alice’s father, but he was no fighter, the product of a fitness trainer being overspecialized in one narrow field of exercise, though spectacularly adept as he was at it.

He went to the mountains and lived as a hermit, and push-ups became his meditation. It took several years to come to this enlightened realization: his push-ups, while performed with stellar stamina, and in various and interesting modes with obssessive abandon and intensity, just weren’t creative enough. He had been stuck in an imaginative rut from day one. After this epiphany, he didn’t perform a single push-up for two years. He moved back in with his parents, got a job delivering pizzas, even managed to get a girlfriend. But she dumped him when he wouldn’t shut up about the number of push-ups he’d performed in his life, but when she asked him to do some he always made some excuse not to. And also refused to have sex with her.

*

It was a stroke of luck really that saved Perry’s career. He came across Alice again while he was trolling the local university dorms (Alice was in college by then) and she took pity on him, remembering his dedication to teaching her something she really didn’t give a fuck about, finding that somehow appealing and pathetically cute. She offered to help him make a website to promote his pushups on the internet (her major was graphic design), if and only if, he let her lick his pecs. He considered and said, “Why, I suppose that would be ok. They are pretty impressive pecs I guess.”

His website was an immediate success. He used his initial profits and donations to make training dvds, but what sold the best were his increasingly daring displays of extravagant push-up feats. People didn’t really give a shit about quantity of push-ups, what they wanted was to see Perry do push-ups on the rooves of cars speeding down the highway, or doing push-ups at the zoo while surrounded by horny gorillas, things like that. Alice was his co-host, his business manager, the author of most of his tricks, and eventually, his wife. She licked his pecs, he licked her clit, they were a perfect match in the bedroom.

They made a fortune, but the years passed, and even though Perry never smoked, drank or had a shitty diet, he aged, got man-tits to a degree, even, quite out of the blue, had a mild heart attack. Though still, he pushupped goddamnit. But he couldn’t do as many as before, or as spectacularly. And Alice, who was over twenty years younger, and more enterprising, decided she wanted a divorce. She’d met ‘a guy’, he was a world famous writer of absurdist fiction, an amazing genius. She too wanted to write. God don’t they always–

*

At seventy, Perry Price decided it was time to die. Alice was long gone. He fought against his push-up retirement as hard as he could. He only did brief morning and evening sessions of push-ups, about 500 total. Now, he could physically lick his own tits. During the rest of the day he tried to write poetry, or lick his flabby man-breasts. It didn’t take long to realize he had to do this, if not for himself, then for some budding push-up genius still young and unsure of his path in life, how to get there.

One final spectacle, one last push-up.

Perry used the last of his retirement savings t0 rent an airplane and pay for a pilot who wouldn’t ask too many questions. One last plunge, one last thrust up. The ups and downs, always ending on an up. Life is up, always up.

At 12,ooo feet he got the pilot to slow the plane and out he went, sans parachute, fighting with every fiber to maintain a prone push-up position as he fell. When he hit earth he would be ready.

How To Scare Children: An Instruction Manual

It’s been so quiet since grandma left, so quiet now you can hear the house talk, in the prattling of pipes and somber groans of wood, the unnerving incoherence of a drugged and mumbling schizophrenic. The loss, the abandonment, is palpable. The leaves outside are sick-yellow, charred red, sifting through the soft sunlight of late October. But it’s also a kind of relief as well. Like the calm and mysterious aftermath of a murder scene, after all the bodies have been removed.

Grandma’s rocking chair, with it’s precarious lean to the left, sits in unmoving bereavement on the front porch, or maybe rocks ever so slightly in the breeze. It’s a chill gray day, cool but not cold, with little cyclones of dead leaves skittering across the yard under the fat, moss-trunked oaks. These oaks have been here long before the house itself, back before the two great wars, saplings from the turn of the 20th century. They all lean towards the house, which is built on the side of a ridge, and year by year grow heavier with time, aching with a century’s growth, perhaps only one more big storm away from crashing down. But it’s an empty house now.

They had to take grandma away because she’d lost her mind finally, her blood choking through a decaying brain, a dementia like a flickering dying bulb. She kept falling too, and no one could stop her from walking down the steps to the basement, where she thought some strange woman had moved in. She was convinced. She said this woman was the devil’s whore, but was sometimes nice and came upstairs to have coffee and chat. But at the drop of a hat, the coarse-skinned woman would turn on her, shout obscenities, then laugh, threaten her with kitchen knives, long razors, shards of broken tiffany glass. When asked what the woman’s name was, she could not remember, grew angry at anyone who questioned her veracity. But she was covered in bruises, shallow slow-healing cuts on many places on her body. All self-inflicted, according to her doctor, either from accident, or delusional violence. When your mind goes, the first available victim for revenge is the body.

*

Looks like the rain will hold off for this final October evening. Dusk is approaching and already a costumed cluster of various sized children are meandering from one house to another. Our porch light is on. Old habits. The smallest one is hard to contain, dressed as some blood-lusting fairy-like being (no doubt some accidently morbid homespun creation). She keeps whirlwinding off towards the street, or suddenly stops and bends over to examine some anonymous and now exposed insect or floral specimen. The way she abruptly just stomps on ants is hardly menacing, quite cute in fact. An older one, holding a wild-bristled broom and wearing a deformed black witches hat, shouts her name fiercely each time, and this seems to reel her in a bit, yet within minutes she’s wandering off again, crushing the dead leaves with cruel and innocent curiosity, or eyeing grandma’s rocker, or past that, something in the window perhaps. At us? If she could but see. Two or three times she looks over, the young are so perceptive, sad that she will lose it all in a year or two. That special awareness.

So many things still remain, but it’s only been a few weeks since grandma left us. Most of the furniture is here still. The dogpiss sofa, the television set, the white ceramic cat with the coal eyes, which you had begun to think alive, and feared it would scratch you to death in your sleep. Eat your blind eye.  That owl-shaped clock is still ticking away, slacking off long seconds, drunk on your sudden dissappearance. It’s not really owl-shaped, not sure why I thought of it that way. It’s pretty plain actually, 1950s era, manual, wind-up. It’s all as if we were expecting you back.

*

The young witch is calling the little girl’s name, pitched with fear, incipient hysteria. Apparently the little girl has run off. For a brief moment the sky was streaks of black and orange light, halloween colors, a false break in the gloom before night fell. Now it’s night and the streetlights form amphitheatres of dull orange-green in the trees behind the houses. Our yard’s trees are filled with moonglow leaves, flickering sliver.  Somnolent crickets chirp a post-summer lament, a lassitude of notes, melancholy memory crumbling, dissolving into sedate eternity. She’s becoming more and more frantic, looking behind every shrub or fat oak trunk, in the narrow corners between houses, in the piles of brown leaves. Why just minutes ago she was just over there… The young witch is crying, swirling in chaotic spirals, as if she were no longer in control of her own motion and now possessed by some dervish presence. The neighbors have come out on their porches, watch with bleak half-concern. Feeling the tug of televisions perhaps, or dinner growing cold. It’s Halloween you know, and people have been known to cut loose. She screams the name of the child once more, and then dissappears down the hill, looking elsewhere. The door to our house is cracked open, if she had only been more attentive. Perhaps the child wandered in after all.

*

Ah, here she is. Down in the basement, sitting calmly in the old schoolhouse chair, the desktop still covered in scales of yellow paint. Playing a little cruel Halloween game of hide and seek from her older sister. Her left hand has a long sharpened pencil poised over what looks like a crumpled sheet of workbook paper. She hasn’t moved from that position in what seems years, doll-like, waiting for some playful child to come and move her limbs with imaginative purpose. Like we all feel like sometimes, puppets with absconded masters, gathering mold and dust, all grandmas gone now in the echo of centuries down an endless corridor of faceless timeless photographs. Family to no one.

I should say they’ll find her eventually. I certainly hope so. I’m just playing with you, you know. This really is just a doll, a little raggedy ann number from the 1930s, one of our grandma’s toys she’d keep all these years. In the end, before they took her from us, she was once again that little girl, only this time haunted with rage and satanic visions, fear of great gaps opening up with no notice, playing violently with her dolls. Tearing them into shreds, ripping their limbs off with red-eyed tears one minute, sadistic laughter the next. That’s the grandma we miss.

In the dim yellow light of the basement (the source coming from a single overhead bulb somewhere deep in the cold clutter, the detritus of our shattered family) that crumpled piece of paper looks more like the stained cloth face of the doll has come clean from the head. A flimsy mask to scare your little sister with. Didn’t she die in her sleep and you grew up thinking it was your fault somehow?Did she come back, in your senile awareness of the supernatural, and laugh at your disease, at nature’s cruel revenge? Of course it was just us– we can be little devils you know. This empty house of decaying memories, and left-behind photographs of dead time: your brain, our home.

*

We hear the creaking of footsteps above, in the middle floor of the house, the one that opens out onto the porch and out to the driveway, see the flashing blue lights coming through a small grime-covered window way off in the jaundiced distance. My eyes are ticking like an owl clock.

Maybe grandma’s come back–