“Ten quid’s a real bargain for a treadmill. There something wrong with it?”
“We just want rid of it really — not bothered about the money. I mean, it’s a bit temperamental, but it works on the whole.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes the speed setting gets stuck. You have to have someone switch it off at the plug, or just jump off it. No big deal. You could probably get someone to have a look at it, get it fixed.”
“Right. I dunno, mate.”
“Go on. You drove all this way to look at it. Tell you what, I’ll let it go for a fiver. How about it?”
At home he donned his tracksuit bottoms and his trainers and he psyched himself up for his January journey to fitness.
He began with a stroll, speed set to minimum, and it wasn’t long until his heart was pounding and sweat was beading on his forehead.
“Power through,” he told himself, and he mashed at the control pad to increase the speed.
He made it up to a jog. His throat grew dry and his legs burned. He thought about the ice cold beers in his fridge and the pizza place menu on the kitchen counter.
“Power through,” he told himself, and he hiked up the speed once more, just to prove to himself that he could do it.
He hadn’t run anywhere in years. He couldn’t even remember the last time his legs had moved so fast. His heart hammered and his lungs wheezed and the sweat began to pour from every inch of his skin.
“Can’t power through. Don’t want a heart attack,” he told himself, as his tacky fingers pressed desperately at the control pad.
Nothing happened. The speed wouldn’t drop. He began to see spots. His legs turned to jelly. Everything went woozy. He squeezed his eyes shut and when he opened them again he thought he was dreaming.
He wasn’t in his familiar living room. He was in someone else’s house. The walls were a pristine bright white. The black leather sofa looked brand new and it was adorned with fluffy grey scatter cushions. The biggest television he had ever seen was mounted on the wall.
A woman emerged from the doorway. She was gorgeous. Just his type. He gasped and wheezed and wondered what the hell he was going to say to her, what the hell she would say when she saw a sweaty stranger running on a treadmill in her house.
And then in he walked. Another version of him — a better one. Trimmer, more muscular, a layer of rugged stubble across his defined jawline, a slim-fit t-shirt highlighting toned pecs. The better him kissed the gorgeous woman on the lips.
“Shall we pop a bottle of champers?” said the woman. “Celebrate your promotion?”
“Good idea.” The other him kissed her again. “I’m so lucky I found you. And it’s all down to that treadmill. If I’d never have bought the treadmill I’d never have entered that 10K race. And if I’d never entered the race, I’d never have met you. Funny how things work out.”
She smiled and sauntered off. He admired the sashay of her hips as she left. He wore the the same dopey expression as his alter ego.
“The fuck is going on?” he asked himself. “Is this my future?” He was still running but the pain had stopped. He was too preoccupied to think about it. His clothes were sodden. His damp hair clung to his forehead. But none of it even registered.
There was a knock on the door and the other him went to answer it. Moments later he returned with his lifelong friend.
“I brought beer and pizza,” said the friend. “Thought we could celebrate your new promotion, Mr Bigshot!”
The other him gave a tight smile. “I appreciate the gesture, mate, but you know I don’t eat that crap anymore. And I certainly don’t drink beer. Only champagne, and only on special occasions.”
The friend’s face fell.
“Stay, though,” said the other him. “You have the beer and pizza. I’ve got some chicken breasts and broccoli on the go. We can still eat together.”
That was that.
He threw himself off the treadmill and landed clumsily on the floor beside it, gasping for breath. Everything went woozy and he squeezed his eyes shut once more.
When he opened them he was back in his own home. The other him was gone, along with the giant television and the slick sofa and the gorgeous girlfriend.
He wiped his brow, dragged himself to his feet and plodded to the kitchen. He grabbed a beer from the fridge, popped off the cap and downed it in seconds. He grabbed his phone and the pizza place menu and he made a quick call.
“The usual. Two of ‘em.”
And while he waited for his food to arrive he listed the treadmill on eBay and vowed to never, ever give up pizza and beer. His two greatest loves.
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