Greg pushed the metal peg into the hole for an increase of ten pounds for the next set of ten lifts. As the trainer had suggested, he would wait at least half a minute before starting to lift the weights. This particular machine required that he extend his arms out to his sides to grasp the levers and pull them to meet at arm’s length in front of his face. This would especially exercise his chest muscles.

“Hey, Greg—how’s it going?” The familiar voice belonged to Johnny. Everybody at the gym knew Johnny. Everybody was working out because they wanted to look like Johnny. Unlike the layer of flab that circled Greg’s waist, Johnny had a slim torso. Slim arms and legs too. Perfect head of hair.

“Hey, Johnny. Good to see you.”

Johnny had a clean towel draped around his neck that looked like it was fresh from the front desk, so he apparently had just arrived. His gym shorts were new. As usual, they looked like the latest fashion from the athletic stores at the mall. They had pockets for keys and other small items, zippers in strategic-looking locations, bright colors and stripes that made Johnny look like a major athlete. Greg shuddered to think what they must cost.

“Hey, Mike,” Johnny said to the man at the weight machine next to Greg’s.

Johnny continued down the line of weight-lifting machines, greeting each man in turn. When he got to the end, he turned and started back the way he had come. Stopping about midway, he reached into one of the pockets on his shorts and pulled out a pair of black leather gloves. But they weren’t full gloves; rather, they were the type that left the fingers bare to maximize gripping ability and dexterity.

“I heard he gets his gloves from the same company as major league baseball batters like Buster Posey,” Mike said as he set down the handlebars to rest between sets.

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Greg agreed.

Johnny stretched like a lion waking up from a nap. Then, after twisting his torso first right and then left, he started running in place for a few seconds, lifting his knees up as high as they would go. After about five seconds, he stopped and looked around for an available machine.

“I wonder what material that T-shirt is made of?” Mike wondered aloud.

“Don’t know. Looks like a cross between silk and titanium, doesn’t it?”

“You got that right.”

Mike and Greg traded machines, each of them having completed three sets. They followed the same regimen prescribed by the gym’s professional trainer, so they had six more machines to go. Some of the machines worked the upper body muscles, some the arms and shoulders, and some the legs.

Down the way, Johnny had finally found an empty machine, and he sat down on the seat positioned between the handlebars. He fished his cellphone out of his pocket and started scrolling through his email and text messages.

“I keep trying to turn these arms into muscle, but nothing seems to work,” Greg grunted as he hoisted ninety-five pounds above his head.

Still staring at the screen on his cellphone, Johnny stood up from the seat at the machine he had found moments earlier. Scrolling while strolling, he made his way back down the line of machines toward Mike and Greg. He finished reading whatever was on the screen and slipped the phone back into his pocket. He pulled the wrist straps of his gloves off their Velcro fasteners with a scratchy ripping sound, and then pulled them tighter before refastening them.

“Well, guys, see you tomorrow,” Johnny said as he strolled past Mike and Greg. “Time to hit the showers.”

“Yeah, see you tomorrow,” Greg called out.

As Johnny continued toward the door, Mike scratched his head. “Say, did he actually do any exercise?”

Greg shrugged. “Doesn’t need to,” he said. “I wonder what kind of bleach he uses to get his socks that white?”

Later, after they’d finished their workouts and showers, Mike and Greg carried their gym bags through the lobby toward the parking lot. Glancing back over his shoulder, Mike saw Johnny striking up a conversation with Debbie, the sweet young thing who managed the front desk. Mike was too far away to hear what they were discussing. As he watched, Debbie reached into a file and extracted a white envelope, and then handed it to Johnny. At that moment Mike and Greg reached the door, and went outside to their cars.