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|It was Monday morning and I was at work on my computer, but like most Americans, I was surfing the web. Now who’s the monster for today... let’s see, Jay Cutler? Nah, overplayed. Ah... Mat Duvall. Damn, just look at those arms! Oh shit – I heard the voice of my boss over the cubicle walls, getting louder and louder. Quickly, I scurried my mouse cursor and closed the web browser window.
“Turner!” my boss stated matter-of-factly. He peered at me over the cubicle wall, then glanced at my computer screen as if he knew something was up. “I know you’ve been having computer problems, so maybe today’s your lucky day. We just hired a new IT manager. You’ll find him in office 512. I know it’s Monday morning, but you better start looking busy! We have some clients coming in this afternoon.”
I nodded and slumped my shoulders. Clients? Nobody had told me anything about clients. I glanced at my “There’s no place like 127.0.0.1” t-shirt and ragged jeans. It was a typical programmer’s garb. I wondered if I should “dress for success,” until my thoughts were suddenly cut off by a hand waving in front of my face.
“Hey squirt, where’s my deliverable? You promised it last Friday, remember?” Damn. It was Cooper, my least favorite Marketing liason. Cooper was the kind of slimy Marketing guy that you wouldn’t trust with even a dollar of your money. Unfortunately for me, I seemed to forget that whenever I looked at him.
You see, he had the kind of muscular body that you see on television, never up close: thickly muscled and ripped to shreds. He was wearing a crisp oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up, through which bulging forearm muscles fought for space. The most intimidating part of him was his enormous chest. I could never believe just how thick and wide he was. The shirt he was wearing must have been custom-tailored.
Before he became impatient, I stumbled to find an excuse. “He-hey Cooper. I ran into some major bugs late Friday and got caught up in fixing them...” I stopped as I realized how stupid and geeky I sounded. But it was true – I have this bad habit of getting totally lost when I’m fixing bugs. Time just flies by.
Cooper scowled. “Don’t you realize that I could – I mean, we could – lose a huge client because of this?! Turner, you need to shape up – “ with that he stole a quick glance at my somewhat noticeable belly “ – I’m not the only one who’s noticing your lack of delivery around here. Get it to me by tomorrow, kapiche?” He turned and left me to my thoughts.
I pounded my fist on the table. Yeah, this “marketing liason” program is a fuckin great idea. My boss proposed a program in which Marketing and Engineering were paired up, so the company would be more cohesive and team-oriented. The reality was the engineers got harassed by the verbally dominant (in Cooper’s case, physically dominant as well) marketing devils.
I clicked on some programs to start up with some work, but my computer screen flashed and error messages appeared on a blue screen. Shit! Not now... I breathed out heavily. I stood up and looked around the office, half expecting someone to look back and nod, agreeing what bullshit this morning was. But nobody was looking at me. Instead they were milling about as usual, looking busy. That’s when I remembered that the new IT manager was starting today. Just great, probably another big-headed corporate snob who knows more about directing than IT. With a face that was plainly full of anger and impatience, I strode down the cubicle alleys in search of office 512.
As I turned a corner, I slammed head-first into some hard object. I felt hands steady my shoulders and a deep voice exclaim, “Whoa buddy, you should watch where you’re going! You feelin’ ok?”
I massaged my head and looked up – who was this guy? His smiling face towered over me. At first glance, his closely shaved head, clean features, and chiseled jaw made me think of an undercover cop. Then I surveyed his body, which was clearly visible due to his tight, dark blue t-shirt that strained to contain his wide shoulders and slab-like pecs. I felt light-headed and weak standing so close to a man who possessed such obvious power. His large hands squeezing my shoulders didn’t help my reverie.
“Hey, I said, are you feelin’ ok?” he repeated.
I cleared my throat and attempted a smile. “Yeah, I think so. I didn’t see you around the corner,” I explained. I couldn’t see above the cubicle walls, so these collisions were sometimes a problem.
The tall man laughed. “Well I saw you coming down the aisle a mile away. It helps to be tall around here, huh?”
I made eye-contact and laughed, then quickly looked back down at his chest. Holy shit was he stacked. I absently thought of Cooper and this guy having a contest to see who could bench press more weight with no shirt on.
I realized it must be obvious that I was staring, so I decided to get the hell away as fast as I could. “Well I should get going, sorry about that!” I attempted to squeeze past him by turning my shoulders.
I heard him call after me, “Okay then, I’m glad you’re okay. I don’t want to be sued for bodily injury on my first day!” He chuckled.
I blinked. First day? I turned to look back and saw the tall stud’s head move above the cubicle walls and finally end up at my destination – office 512. My jaw dropped. That big guy was the new IT manager?! I started to breathe uncomfortably. I had to get my computer fixed, but talking to any big guy like Cooper or this guy was difficult. Words just didn’t come out right, and I had to fight the natural instinct to get the hell away. Fight or flight... and with guys of their size, fight wasn’t an option.
I clenched my fists and slowly forced myself to walk over to office 512. Once I arrived, the big guy didn’t notice me. He was busy typing on his computer, setting up some new software. I glanced at his broad back and shoulders, clearly too big for the small office chair they gave him. The only decoration in his cube was slapped up on the wall, a Denver Broncos pennant. Typical of guys in this area, I thought, but not of an IT manager. This Monday morning wasn’t typical, indeed.
The big guy slammed on the Enter key with a flourish and the monitor showed that software installation was complete. He swiveled around in his chair and stopped when he saw me. “Hey, you again! How’s your head? Hope you’re not confused and think this is your office. I just moved in!”
I smiled. What a jokester. I wondered how long his jokes would last in this god-forsaken place. I began sheepishly, “Uh hi, yeah we met just a few minutes ago. I was told that you could fix my computer?”
With that, the big man’s eyebrow raised disapprovingly. He grumbled, “Who told you that? Sure I can help, but I don’t think I was hired just to fix computers.”
I was quick to reply. “Yes, I understand that completely. But my boss has asked our tech guys to fix my computer repeatedly. Nobody seems to know what’s wrong. And I have a deliverable due tomorrow, so I need my computer running or else Cooper’s going to have a fit and –“
“Easy, easy there... okay I’ll take a look. I don’t have much to do yet anyway!” He stood up to his full height and towered over me again. He blinked and reached out his hand. “Ah, the name’s Chris.”
His hand engulfed mine as we shook. “I’m Kyle Turner. People around here always call me Turner.”
“Would you rather be called Kyle?” he asked.
I thought about it for a few seconds. “Yes, actually I would. Nobody has asked that before.”
“Then it’s nice to meet you, Kyle.” As he removed his hand, I noticed a ring on his ring finger. He must have noticed, for he explained, “Yeah I got married just two years ago, crazy for a 27 year old like me huh? I still feel like I just graduated high school! But I met this most wonderful woman, and we just couldn’t wait.” He stared off into space as he said this, half-smiling.
We talked about my computer problems as walked back to my cubicle. Along the way, we bumped into several people who introduced themselves to Chris. They were all hesitant when confronted with his large physique, but he always joked his way into a comfortable conversation.
I politely waited for his latest introduction to end, when all of a sudden Chris let out an “Oof!” and fell to his knees. Everyone who was around looked confused until they saw who had tackled Chris – it was Cooper. Cooper was getting up and smiling like an idiot. “Damn boy you’re a big mother! Couldn’t bring you down like I usually can.” He offered a hand to Chris.
Chris looked a little dazed but regained his composure quickly. He grabbed Cooper’s hand and pulled himself up to his full height. Now with the two of them side by side, I realized how short Cooper really was. Cooper had a very thick build, but his head didn’t even reach up to Chris’s shoulders.
“What was that about?” Chris asked, checking his clothes to see if they were torn. Chris seemed a little irritated.
Cooper laughed. “Just a little somethin me and my boys do to greet each other. You look like you can handle it anyway. You must be the new IT manager I keep hearing about. I’m Cooper.” He extended a hand formally.
Chris shook his head. “What a way to greet the new guy...”
I watched as the two big guys of the company shook hands. I wondered if Cooper was going to initiate Chris into his gang of assholes at the company. Or maybe Chris would be smart enough to realize that Cooper respects nobody except himself.
Cooper noticed I was watching and pointed at me with both hands, “Turner, where’s my deliverable!” And he looked sideways at Chris and winked. He muttered softly, but obviously loud enough that I could hear, “This guy’s always late with his work...”
Chris looked thoughtful but didn’t say anything. Cooper eventually left us alone and we got back to my cube in peace.
“Ok, so here’s the problem...” I showed Chris what was wrong with my machine, and after about 20 minutes, Chris had the problem nailed down. We had to get rid of some spyware and order some more RAM. I explained that our company denied my requests for more RAM but Chris said he’d look into it.
I opened a web browser just as Chris was about to leave to check some email, but to my horror the homepage that loaded was www.bodybuilders.com. How did that happen!? I frantically moved to close the window but Chris turned back and saw what was on the screen. He looked at me, then back at the screen several times before saying, “How’d that become your homepage? I guess we missed some spyware. Here, let me take a look.”
I couldn’t believe it. Chris was acting as if nothing were wrong. How many guys had bodybuilders.com as their homepage? My face felt red hot as Chris typed away at my computer. I didn’t know what to say.
As my mind raced to find something witty to say, Chris stood up and declared, “Okay it should be fixed now. There were some temporary files that we forgot to clean up. Let me know if anything else pops up!” He patted me on the shoulder and walked out.
I breathed a sigh of relief. It was now 11:00 AM and there was plenty of work to do before Cooper was going to visit again and kick my ass. Since the monitor still showed bodybuilders.com, I was about to close it quickly, but a flashing link caught my eye. The link said, “Create your own Virtual Bodybuilder!”
I clicked on the link and hoped that nobody would walk past my cube. After a simple registration page, I was taken to a text-only input screen that looked very simple. The cursor blinked on “Name” and other fields covered measurements, bodyfat, strength, and max lifts. I began to fill out the Name field with “Kyle” but then got an idea.
With a smile, I entered the Name “Chris”, filled in height as 6’4 (my guess) and weight as 250 pounds (another guess) and the other fields were filled in automatically. I guess my virtual bodybuilder had to start humbly – the measurements were respectable but not those of a pro bodybuilder: 47” chest, 19” neck, 16” arms, 36” waist, 27” thighs, 17” calves.
The page reloaded and a profile page appeared with my virtual bodybuilder’s stats. A large image of my bodybuilder was on the left side and a caption said, “Click to work targeted muscle! (limit one per day)” Since I figured the first step was to lean him out and get him in proportion, I hovered the cursor over the stomach area and clicked. The image disappeared and the text “Changes in progress” appeared. After a few seconds, the image reloaded and the gut was noticeably smaller. The stats page showed that the waist measurement was now 34”.
I smiled. This game was going to be fun. I clicked “Logout” and started on my work.
After several hours of debugging, I came back to reality and looked at the clock. It was past noon, so I figured I could use a lunch break. I walked over to the kitchen area to grab my depressing sandwich.
As I approached the kitchen, I heard animated voices talking about the latest Broncos game. Cooper’s voice boomed through the hall, “He tanked his way through the line, like look the fuck out!” And with that Cooper re-enacted the run by running shoulder-first into the hallway. Unfortunately he barreled right into me as I turned the corner. I fell on my ass, the wind knocked out of me. All I could do was curl up into a ball on the floor.
I could hear Cooper’s concerned voice, “Oh shit, sorry about that –“ until he saw who he had hit. “Turner!!!” he half-yelled and half-laughed.
Several other office mates started gathering around me in concern. A petite girl named Sandra knelt down and put her hand on my shoulder, “Turner, are you all right?!” She whipped her head to glare at Cooper. “Cooper, you should know better. Get out of here before you make things worse.”
Cooper fumed, but didn’t say a word. As Sandra turned her attention back to me, Cooper made a face at the back of her head. “Bossy bitch...” he whispered to himself as he left the scene.
I struggled to get myself up. With Sandra’s snappy orders, people had brought a warm towel, water, and some food. I drank the water as I sat on the floor. Suddenly the crowd parted and I looked up to see none other than Chris, half-smiling at me. “This just isn’t your day, Kyle, is it?” he sighed. “What happened!?”
Sandra looked up at Chris and her hands started to fidget with my shirt sleeve. She flipped her hair back with one hand and spoke before I could, explaining quickly. “It was Cooper. You may have met him already, but if I were you I would make that your last meeting. He’s always harassing people at work but nobody steps up to him. Besides, the bigwigs love him because he brings in the most deals. So we just have to deal with him.”
She stood up and held out her hand, her concern for me obviously forgotten. “I’m Sandra. You must be Chris?”
Chris looked caught off guard. He stammered, “Uh- yes, I’m Chris. Nice to meet you Sandra.” He shook her hand and looked uncomfortable. Then he realized that I was still sitting on the floor. “Hey, Kyle you ok? I seem to be asking you that all the time. Here, let’s see if we can get some lunch.”
Chris pulled me up and I felt light headed, but he was right. I was hungry as hell. We ate our sandwiches alone; nobody else was around. Chris began some small talk, but I wasn’t really listening. Sitting at the lunch table, I realized I had never sat across from such a tall and large man. Even sitting down, he was much taller and his thick arms were distracting. He was wearing that tight t-shirt and his biceps bulged every time he brought his sandwich up to eat.
He continued talking, “... so I was out of a job for a while, I did some side jobs just to get by, you know gotta pay the bills and get food for the kid. I had to cut back on food for myself, but I think I could use a diet anyway.” With that he chuckled and patted his lower torso, but as he did so he seemed surprised. “Wait a minute, this isn’t right.”
I stopped staring at his arms and looked at him. “What’s not right?” I asked.
“This,” he pointed at his stomach. He stood up quickly, his chair tumbling backwards and rattling on the floor. “Look!” Chris yelled as he pulled up his t-shirt and showed me his mid-section.
It was obvious that Chris’s pants were too large – they sagged at his hips and his belt barely prevented them from falling off. What’s more, I could see the beginnings of a six-pack, the abdominal muscles forming small ridges under his skin.
Chris breathed out heavily as he flexed and surveyed his stomach. “Oh man, this is too weird. I swear these pants were too small this morning. I was even going to buy a larger size tonight! Kyle, do you SEE this!?” he exclaimed.
I knew it had something to do with my virtual bodybuilder, but I played dumb. It couldn’t be... I mean, it was just some stupid website, right? I tried to calm Chris down to avoid any attention. “Yes, I see that! Come on Chris, sit down, I think you must have put on the wrong pants or something.”
He shook his head, “No, that can’t be right. I swear...” He began feeling his new, tighter stomach. Then he let go of his shirt and stuck both arms out with palms up. “What the fuck is going on!? Okay, Kyle you seem to be completely un-phased by all this.” He sat down again and turned his complete attention to me.
“Uh- I just don’t see what is so amazing. You look like you workout, so come on, I think it’s normal to have the kind of stomach you have,” I tried to pull him away from the topic.
But Chris wouldn’t let up. He looked around to see if anyone was around, then lowered his voice. “Kyle, don’t play around. I didn’t want to bring this up until later, but I checked your website log to pinpoint the source of your spyware, and I noticed you visited a ton of muscle sites –“ at this he reached out a beefy hand and grabbed my wrist across the table. “It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone. Hell, I visited some of those sites myself” – my mouth opened in shock – “but I think you know what’s going on here. The last site you visited was some ‘virtual bodybuilder’ site, is that right?”
I was trembling. My only interactions with a big guy like this were with Cooper, and I inevitably got my ass kicked. I wondered if Cooper had put Chris up to this as another was to humiliate me. It was entirely possible... but looking at Chris’s concerned face, I just didn’t believe he was capable of being that kind of guy.
Just as I opened my mouth to speak, a middle-aged coworker came in and saw Chris’s hand on my wrist. Chris quickly removed his hand and spoke in sympathetic tones, “Sorry to hear about your brother man, c’mon let’s roll.” I followed him as we walked out of the kitchen.
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