Outside Cindi’s Gym
September 4, 2023
The men standing outside the nondescript North Hollywood exercise facility tense up and take a tentative step forward as the equally nondescript taxi pulls up and the back door on the passenger side flies open; their body posture just as quickly relaxes, however, when a husky man in a loud vacation shirt, panama hat, baggy shorts and vintage shades steps out, holding up a hand with the middle finger proudly sticking out.
“’Aloha‘, bitches!” He does not wait for an answer, instead sticking his head through the front window of the vehicle. “Hey asshole…next time, why don’t you try driving even slower? Maybe then you can actually make me late.” He pauses for a moment, then shakes his head. “Are you kidding me? NO. No tip. ‘No hay tip-o’. I wouldn’t even have paid the fare if I knew you were gonna drag ass. You’re lucky I’m not reporting you. Get the fuck outta here.”
Then, as the cabbie drives off, audibly swearing up a storm in what appears to be Spanish, he once again turns to appraise the assembled group, who, by this point, have reverted back to their previous laid-back banter.
“Hey Flanagan! Check this shit out, bro! Dann’s been in fuckin’ Cuba smoking cigars and getting fat, and he’s still in better shape than you, my dude!” The speaker is a slender man in a ‘luchador’ mask with a blue checkmark etched across the forehead, his eyes totally covered by gray eye flaps.
“It was Hawaii, dipshit. And FYI, I did work out while I was out there.”
The man in the mask is unable to suppress a chuckle. “Work out what, Dann the Mann? Your upper arm, from lifting all those Mai Tais?” Before the man called Dann can even reply, the masked luchador sidles up to him, throwing an arm around his shoulders. “Yo, but check this out, though…I’m working on coming up with nicknames for everybody. Y’know…something catchy. Something we can hashtag the shit out of. And I think I’m onto something. You ready, bro?”
“What if I don’t want to hear it?”
Dann’s objection is, however, moot, as his interloper is already well under way with his giddy spiel, his hands held in front of and slightly above his face like a picture frame. “OK, picture this…I could be #theMarxMan…and you could be #OnePunchDann.” He giggles, giddy with his own brilliance. “One-Punch Dann! Get it? Like One-Punch Man? Except it’s you, and your name’s Dann!”
“How ’bout I one-punch you in the face?” The husky man glowers at his smaller interloper for a second, before his attention appears to shift elsewhere, as his eyes dart around the immediate vicinity, clearly not finding what they expected. “Hey, where the hell’s Public? I swear, if we get push-ups because of him, I’ll pound his lousy rat fink face into the dirt!”
“Probably somewhere up Corporal Wright’s ass…” The quip from Chet brings chuckles from the other men, even as Flanagan, the flat-topped Irish brawler, makes his own thoughts about the group’s leader known by waggling his eyebrows and waving his hand at crotch level, in a cupping motion clearly suggestive of groping, which draws a roar of laughter.
“Yo, don’t let Corporal Wright see you do that, bro…” Despite his words, it is clear Marx would like nothing more than to witness the fallout of that exact situation.
So lost in their mirth are the men, however, that they do not even notice the motorcycle which comes roaring to a halt across the street, its rider pulling her helmet off as she dismounts, to reveal a familiar shock of dark hair: it takes a cry piercing the morning air to bring them out of their blissful state and crashing back down to reality again.
Corporal Miranda Wright’s expression is anything but amused as she walks along the row of men now neatly lined up against the outer wall of the building, staring a hole into each one.
“Any of you lousy maggots mind telling me just what is so fucking funny?”
“N-Nothing, ma’am…” All cockiness has bled out of Chett Marx’s voice as he answers his superior’s query.
“’Nothing‘, Marx? Are you sure? ‘Cause I’m damn sure I saw all you dipshits laughing it up not two minutes ago. And I’m damn sure you weren’t laughing at ‘nothing‘. So, I’m going to ask you again…” The woman’s arm suddenly shoots forward in a downward motion, and a small gasp of pain escapes the mouth-hole in Marx’s mask. “…What. Is. So. Fucking. Funny?”
Before the struggling Marx can reply, however, Wright glances up and down her line of cadets, clearly coming to the same conclusion drawn by Dann earlier. Rather than question the whereabouts of the squad’s missing member, however, she simply barks out his name, causing a nearby pile of cardboard and assorted litter to suddenly speak up.
Wright rolls her eyes. “Figures. I should have known a rat would be hiding in the trash.” The policewoman’s tone then suddenly becomes booming and commanding. “Fall in! NOW! TEN-HUT!”
No sooner has this command been issued than GLOBAL’s most hapless superstar comes tumbling out from behind the pile of garbage, nearly falling over in his haste to join the ranks, where he is met with a mixture of livid glowers and barely-suppressed chuckles.
“Ma’am…I actually have something you might—”
“QUIET!” Wright’s Johnny Lawrence-like bark causes Public’s words to die in his throat, replaced with a meek whimper, and almost immediately brings the rest of his squad-mates back into attention. This is, however, not enough to prevent a tongue-lashing from the makeshift squad’s commanding officer, as she begins pacing up and down the ranks.
“Look at you pathetic maggots. Was it even worth training your sorry asses? You’re not even out of bootcamp a month, and look at the state of you!” The “recruits” gulp nervously, exchanging glances, as their leader moves on to addressing each of them individually.
“Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” Steve Dann tries his hardest to keep his eyes forward and his posture straight as he acknowledges his superior.
“Had ourselves a little vacation, did we, cadet?”
“Ma’am, yes, Ma’am!” Knowing his flowered shirt takes away any plausible deniability, Dann opts for the sensible approach.
“Had a good time? Good food? Good drinks?”
“Ma’am, yes, M—-” The latter part of the reply is lost in a huff of air, as Wright lands a lightning-quick blow to Dann’s stomach.
“Must have been, seeing as how you’re even more of a lardass than you were before you started training…”
Dann’s attempt at a rebuttal is, however, cut short by another yelp of “QUIET!” The GLOBAL also-ran stands up straighter as his officer addresses him again, just as harshly. “Have you weighed yourself since coming back, Dann?”
“Yes, Ma’am! Yesterday, before leaving for the airport, Ma’am!”
If there is an acknowledgment from Wright, it is imperceptible. “…and…?”
“I see.” Wright pauses for a tense moment. “And do you want to know how much you weighed this time last month?”
Without waiting for a reply, Wright pulls up a spreadsheet on her phone.
“Three sixty-five. And just for curiosity’s sake, before you even started boot camp, you weighed…” The officer makes a show of consulting another spreadsheet, as Dann begins to visibly sweat bullets. “….three-seventy. And that’s when you were even more of a fat, worthless slob than you are now.” Dann’s perspiration increases as his superior stalks back and forth in front of him, feigning thought. “So what you’re telling me is, not only did you put all your weight back on, but you gained an extra five pounds…is that about right?”
“Y-yes, Ma’am…” The Fat Man is almost too quick to add a justification. “But it wasn’t my fault! I was in Hawaii, and—”
Once again, whatever excuse was being made gets lost in the huff of air escaping the mouth after a blow to the stomach; then, once the only sound coming from Dann is a whimper of pain, she delivers the predictable verdict.
“Drop down and give me five hundred…”
Dann is on his knuckles on the cement pavement before the second half of the punishment is even mentioned.
“…for every extra pound you gained.”
“W-WHAT?!” An incredulous Dann lets his mouth run away with him out of shock. “But, Ma’am, that adds up to…”
“This isn’t math class, cadet! I don’t give a rat’s ass what it adds up to! And don’t talk back to your commanding officer! ” Wright stomps the prone man in the back, drawing a huff of pain, before affecting an evil smirk. “Besides…you do need to lose back those extra ten pounds…”
“Daaaamn, bro! Busted!” Like Dann before him, Marx is also unable to hold in his reaction, which – perhaps predictably – causes him to become the new focus of Wright’s irritation.
“You think this is all a joke, don’t you, Marx?”
“Not all of it, Ma’am…it’s just…” The masked man snickers. “…Dann had been talking about how he still worked out in Hawaii, and, well…”
“…and he hasn’t, and that’s hilarious, right?”
“Well…yeah.” Marx is still visibly holding back laughter, despite the menace to his genitalia looming mere inches away.
“Right. Well, that lack of solidarity towards your squadmate just earned you five hundred push-ups. So get to flexing, wise-ass.”
Marx’s body posture visibly sags as Wright, not wasting another moment, moves on to the next recruit in line.
“Flanagan…vacation to Ireland, I’m assuming?”
The Irish brawler simply nods, never once straying from his at-attention posture, eyes forward and back straight – a stance which possibly helps soften his blow, even if he does by no means get off easy.
“I’m not even going to ask how many beers you’ve had while you were there. But you are going to give me ten push-ups for each one.” The predatory smirk once again emerges on the woman’s face as Flanagan’s posture breaks slightly for the first time, his eyes widening in horror. “If you don’t know how many that is for sure…do a guesstimate.”
The no longer stoic Irishman is then left to add up what is likely an astronomical number, as Wright moves on to the last three men left in line – Joe Public and the tag team known as The Salamanders – pauses for a minute, then seemingly makes up her mind.
“Thing One…Thing Two…I’m sure you’d be more than happy to take an even five hundred each for the team. And as for you, Public…who are always such an obedient little boot-licking worm…so eager to please…who always do whatever you’re told…” GLOBAL Wrestling’s most mundane superstar beams with pride, only for his face to drop with his mistress’s next few words. “…I’m sure you would be more than happy to take an even thousand for the team.” Wright’s sadistic smirk appears for the third time as her cadet’s face drops. “After all…you do want to be a good little boot-licker and please your commanding officer…right?”
The self-appointed drill sergeant allows her grin to widen as, after a long moment of helpless stuttering, the last of her recruits is left with no option but to commit himself to his punishment, joining in with his squadmates’ symphony of grunts, groans and huffs.
“That’s right, you maggots. Summer vacation’s over. Class is back in session…and good old Ms. Wright is about to take all your asses to school.”