Chapter 3 - Exercises in Futility

He'd already made the decision to cut the snack from his routine if he hadn't lost at least five pounds. Having gained almost two made him realize he'd have to take far more drastic measures. He began performing isometric exercises at all former non-exercise times. He cut breakfast down to a piece of fruit or a glass of juice, a piece of bread or a half a handful of cereal, rice or pasta (including any expansion from milk or cooking), and a once-a-day vitamin. Dinner was just as severe - a piece of meat no longer or wider than the palm of his hand and no thicker than a quarter of an inch, a handful of vegetable and a single bite of bread. The most stringent meal, however, was lunch. He loved Oreo cookies, and had been having them for his snack. He didn't want to give them up completely, so lunch was always two Oreos. All meals had to be preceded, accompanied and followed by at least a liter of water. Any deviation from the menu was acceptable only if it involved less food. Any more food could cause another "incident", and the last thing he wanted was to be caught puking his guts out just because he had a cup of coffee. He didn't like to throwing up when he was sick, so to do so because of stress was simply intolerable. He'd rather starve again.

By the end of the second month, he was ready to try his scale again. He was gratified to finally see the numbers drop, though not nearly enough. At 134 pounds, he still had quite a ways to go.

The third month came and went, and people were starting to talk. He was avoiding eating with the band now, as they kept trying to offer him more food than he was allowed. In fact, he cut his meat intake in half, just for spite. He was silent through rehearsals, except of course to sing. The performances themselves were stellar, but he didn't interact with the band on-stage any more than absolutely necessary. If he got too friendly with them, they tried to get him to deviate from his diet in one way or another. They wanted to sit with him or talk to him or play new songs for him or any number of things that interfered with his exercises. The hardest time was in the hotel rooms. They rarely let him have a room to himself, and they pestered him incessantly while he worked out. Sometimes they would give up and stand in the doorway, talking to the others about his regimen. He resented their childish behavior. If they were jealous because he was achieving the body he wanted, that was their problem.

The tour was scheduled to end three months and two weeks after it started. They were told they would have a month vacation and then were going to headline a six-month cross-country tour afterwards. The rest of the band complained about having too little personal time before such a long stretch, but Steve was more worried about what he would do with himself for a whole month. The tours were very scheduled, with places he had to be in at certain times. Living alone for a month, there was nothing like that which he didn't have to implement himself. Two weeks before the tour ended he'd managed to get down to 131 lbs. He spent those weeks exercising harder and faster than ever, and cut dinner out all together. That way he could have a little leeway during his month-long break.

An hour before the last performance for that tour, Steve weighed 129.

He was certain he'd never shed that fucking four pounds.

When he got to his lonesome little house, he went through the cabinets, checking expiration dates, calculating whether or not he could eat all the food before it expired. What he couldn't he donated to a food bank. What he could he divided and stored on a single shelf in the cabinet by the stove. Perishables were unnecessary wastes - he could get what he needed out of a can if it wasn't normally meant to be stored in a pantry.

The whole process took two days.

During the kitchen remodel, he drank water all day and had only a glass of orange juice and an Oreo, spread through the whole day. When he finished, he rewarded himself with a small bowl of rice. Pleased with his work in the kitchen he checked his weight - 128 pounds.

He sold his refrigerator for $25. He wanted - needed - the space for a treadmill.

His fourth day at home found him checking the yard sales for a decent treadmill. He didn't want to buy a special one just yet, since he would be going on tour for so long. He knew he would miss the cheap one he was scouring for now. Trying to work without any treadmill while a modern machine sat at home collecting dust would simply kill him. He found what he was looking for around noon and took it home. It worked perfectly. He drew all the curtains in the house, turned the stereo on sky-high and got on the treadmill at 1:30. At a quarter to eight, he took a break. He went to the living room and did two hundred sit-ups. Then he checked his weight.

127 lbs.

He gave up for the night and went to bed upset. He curled up and tried not to touch the ugly, voluminous mounds on his abdomen.

The next week he further adjusted his strict diet, reducing lunch to only one Oreo. He feared intensely he would have to give up breakfast if he was going to get to his absolute maximum weight of 125. He already had established an intense routine that even he was hard pressed to improve. He woke up at 4:30 and got on the treadmill until 9:15. He drank his juice and read the paper while clenching and releasing his abs and calves. At 9:30 he went outside and jogged for an hour, then ran for another hour. At 11:45 he was at the park doing his chin-ups and vertical sit-ups. At 12:45 he jogged back home. At 3:00 he had his bread and read some more of the paper while performing leg lifts with 15 lb. weights on his ankles. At 3:15 he performed his jumping jacks. At 4:00 he did his abdominal crunches. At 5:00 it was full-fledged sit-ups. At 6:30 he started his push-ups. 7:15 he had his Oreo and concentrated deeply on its crispy chocolate wafers and soft, creamy white innards while clenching his abs again. At 7:20 he got on the treadmill and stayed there until 11:20. He took his shower and was in bed by 11:30, to start it all over again the next morning.

The third week was a breakthrough. He stopped with the juice and reduced his water intake to only a liter before each meal. He found that fewer bathroom breaks made for extra workout time, and less liquid in his system in general made a difference in his average weight. Two days into it, he was at a blessed 121 pounds. He was so excited he was tempted to eat an extra Oreo. When he pulled the cookies out of the cabinet, he dropped some cans that had been in front of the package. Steve looked at the floor in annoyance and something else caught his eye. His belly stuck out ever so slightly under the tight t-shirt he wore. Frowning, he put the cookies back, picked up the cans and put them away, and went to the bathroom.

He knew as he went to the floor-to-ceiling mirror that he should just go finish his exercising, but he had to see. He peeled the shirt off and flung it in a corner. Then he stood so close to the mirror he could see his breath. His eyes slowly moved down to the area in question. Those fucking abdominal muscles. He stood there, looking at his stomach, looking at the offensive humps under the skin. Every man in the world wants these fucking things but him, so guess who gets them? He twisted slightly, looking at the less obvious obliques on either side of him. He wasn't so sure about those either, but at least they didn't stick out, taunting him mercilessly. He turned completely to see his profile, and was positively grossed out by the reflection. The flesh directly under his rib cage sat flush with it, creating a smooth surface, except for one area. Midway between the high place where his ribs ended and his pelvis, the part that should have been convex, or if anything, smooth and flat, a bulge started that dipped in and out, creating three ugly protrusions on his otherwise flat body. He grimaced and pressed his hand to the misshapen flesh, drawing it slowly over the nauseating swells, up and down, back and forth.

He turned to face the mirror head on again, and pulled his pants off. He stood there naked, staring at his bellybutton. He never liked to show his navel, because he used to think the flesh around it was too soft. Now the area underneath it looked severely swollen. It was only the definition of his abdominals, a roundness that flattened out in his groin, but it looked to him like an engorged hernia. The navel itself was pulled taut into a little horizontal line, a testimony to the toughness of muscle that surrounded it. The skin above it stretched tightly over it like a bandage. The flesh beneath it separated into two shiny mounds, divided by a deep cleft directly under the navel. He touched one of the mounds gently. It didn't give. He poked it. It still didn't give. He grabbed it with his whole hand, pinching and rolling it between his fingers and thumb. He felt the stringy sinews of well-trained muscle, the bulge hard and unyielding.

His other hand flew toward his mouth, but before it got past his revolting, rippled belly he'd already ejected the morning's water. The slimy water dripped over his too-late fingers and slid down his arm. He looked at his reflection and puked again. The nasty rocklike protrusions visibly tensed, doubling him over. He retched over and over, trying to belch the disturbing image of his revolting torso through his mouth. When he finished, he was standing in the middle of a wet and slimy puddle on the floor. Rather than clean up the mess, he went to the kitchen to throw away the Oreos.

He was not going to lose control of his body again.

Chapter 2
Chapter 4

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