Taylor Phillips: Sons of Sisyphus (fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Texas and raised in Texas, as were my parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so on. I grew up in the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas and currently reside in the Hill Country of Central Texas. I’ve traveled all over this big ol’ state, from South Padre Island to El Paso and everywhere in between. Texas is in my blood and my blood is in Texas.
Sons of Sisyphus
Jack Janosik was repping three hundred and fifteen pounds on the bench press in front-a his porch when I pulled up to his eyesore of a singlewide after meandering deep into Green Ridge trailer park—one of the trashiest trailer parks in Vandeveer and all-a Tonkawa County, for that matter. It was conveniently hidden behind a strip-a scrap metal yards and auto shops along the stretch-a highway between Vandeveer and Dalaigh. Compared to the others in the park, Jack’s trailer wasn’t too bad, but that really wasn’t saying much.
I pulled into his short, dirt driveway and parked behind his old, dirty Wrangler he’d had since high school as he finished up his set and racked the bar. I could hear Linkin Park’s new album, Meteora, blasting from the stereo on his porch. I grabbed my duffle bag full-a everything I owned and headed on up to the trailer as he sat up on the bench and grabbed the can-a High Life sitting on the ground next to it and took a big swig.
The funny thing ‘bout my buddy, Jack, was that he really didn’t belong in a place like this. Well, he did, but he was here by choice, not by circumstance like the rest-a the poor sonsuvbitches who lived in this shithole.
He’d grown up in a trailer park—one much nicer than Green Ridge called Oak Hills off Burleson Road, but a trailer park nonetheless. His mom was a grocer at the HEB and his stepdaddy was a bartender. Real blue-collar people.
But his real dad was filthy rich. He was an architect who owned a construction company that basically had a monopoly on all the fancy houses that got built in Tonkawa County. When Jack graduated from high school, he was ready to get the hell outta town and go party it up in Austin at UT where he’d been accepted thanks to his 3.9 GPA and high test scores, but he’d also been offered a scholarship to the local college, Schaffer University, which was still a damn fine school.
So Jack’s old man gave him a choice: go to UT and pay for it himself through student loans and getting a job and racking up a shit-ton-a debt, or he could take the scholarship, and the old man would pay for all-a his post-grad education anywhere he wanted to go, and that included housing. Jack chose to take the scholarship.
It wasn’t the post-grad deal that sealed it for him though. He’d intended on doing that regardless. It was the going anywhere he wanted part that really sold him. What his old man didn’t realize was that, to Jack, “anywhere” meant Europe.
After a year at Schaffer, majoring in something like international relations or something to do with political science and minoring in French, which he already practically spoke fluently after four years-a taking it in high school, Jack spent a semester-a his sophomore year studying in Cannes where he perfected his French, and then a semester-a his junior year studying in Paris. During that time, he traveled to every European city worth traveling to, living outta hostels and backpacks and meeting all kinds-a crazy people.
Anyways, now he was back in Vandeveer, having just graduated from Schaffer and preparing to go back to Europe to get his Masters in some city I’d never heard of, living in one of the shittiest trailer parks in the county when he could-a been living in one-a them nice apartments off Auburn or even renting a decent little house near the center-a town.
There’s that old saying, “ya can take the boy outta the trailer park, but ya can’t take the trailer park outta the boy,” but with Jack, ya just couldn’t take the boy outta the trailer park. Period.
Jack got up off the bench, dressed in his usual sweat-stained wife-beater and jeans and flip-flops and ragged, High Life trucker hat that never seemed to leave his head. He slammed the rest-a his beer and tossed it into the small pile-a empties collecting at the bottom-a the steps-a his porch, and he started walking towards me with that big ol’ goofy smile on his face. He was glistening with sweat and looked dirty as hell like he hadn’t showered in days.
“What’s up, brother?” he said, throwing out his gigantic arms in preparation for a smelly hug I wasn’t looking forward to.
“What’s up, Jack…?” I said a little awkwardly. I already felt bad ‘bout asking him to lemme crash at his place. He wasn’t a fan-a roommates.
We hugged and, surprisingly, he didn’t smell too bad. Just like sweat and beer. When we pulled away, he towered over me. He was six-three and two hundred and fifteen pounds-a solid muscle. His shoulders was broad as a bear’s and his arms looked more like a pair-a legs and his chest bulged out like it was afraid-a being too close to his heart. He was just a beast of a man. That’s why everyone called him “The Wall.” And that’s what he was. Just a big, thick, solid, immovable force, and hardly anybody ever had the balls to test him, and when they did, they sure as hell wished they hadn’t. One punch from that tree trunk of a right arm could send even the toughest sonuvabitch to the hospital.
“That all ya got?” said Jack, gesturing to my duffle bag.
“This is it.”
“That’s my boy. Keepin’ it light.” He patted me on the shoulder and gave me a nudge toward the trailer. “Go set yer shit down and grab a beer. I gotta bust out a few more sets.” He walked back over to the bench press, and I climbed the steps up to the porch and moved around the heavy bag hanging from the overhang. “Hey, grab me one, too!”
I pulled open the screen door, which seemed to just barely be hanging on and stepped into the trailer, taking off my gas station aviators as I looked around. It was a mess—not-a trash or clothes or dishes, but books. Dozens-a them. Textbooks, novels, poetry, philosophy, history, biography, political science, anthologies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses. Everything. He had them scattered everywhere. Anywhere he could find a place to put them. He had enough room in the trailer for one bookshelf and that thing was overflowing. The rest-a the books was scattered across the coffee table and the couch, a couple on the armrests-a his La-Z Boy, a dozen on the kitchen table, a few on the kitchen counter, a stack on top-a the TV, even a few on the floor. A couple-a his kitchen cabinets was open, and I could see some books stuffed in there, as well. I assumed he had some in the bathroom, too, and his bedroom was probably full-a them.
The mess-a books didn’t surprise me though. Jack had always been a big reader. Pretty much all he did all day was read, lift, drink, and occasionally go to class. He was one of them naturally smart types that didn’t need to go class ‘cept on exam days. Me, on the other hand, I was one of them types that could go to class everyday and still fail the exam. I just wasn’t built for school. My brain simply didn’t work that way.
I dropped my duffle bag down next to the couch and headed into the kitchen to the fridge. It was stocked full-a Miller High Life and gallon jugs-a distilled water. I grabbed a couple beers and headed on back outside just as Jack was finishing up his set. When he racked the bar and sat back up, I handed him his beer and popped the top on mine as I put my sunglasses back on and lit a cigarette. It was bright as hell, and the hangover I was nursing wasn’t too keen on that Texas Hill Country summer sun.
“Seems like there’s a few more books than the last time I was here,” I said, taking a few big gulps from my can and looking ‘round the trailer park. What a shithole, I thought.
“I’m sure,” Jack said, catching his breath ‘fore taking a swig-a his beer. “Always gettin’ new ones.”
“Yer damn right. Readin’ will do that to a man,” he said, taking a big gulp and setting his beer down on the ground as he climbed off the bench. “More ya read, the crazier ya get. Worth it though, in my humble opinion. My daddy always said, ‘There’s only one thing this world can’t take from ya…”
“Yer education,” we said at the same time. I’d heard him quote his old man damn near a hundred times by now.
“That’s right,” Jack said, slapping me on the shoulder as he walked over to the forty-five pound dumbbells sitting on the ground next to the bench. “And it ain’t gotta be no fancy college education neither. Anybody can pick up a book.”
Jack started curling the dumbbells. I wasn’t counting, but by the time he finished, he had to-a done upwards-a twenty reps on each arm. He dropped the weights and picked up his beer and took a big swig, eying me curiously as he drank.
“Ya get that busted lip in the bar fight?” he asked.
“Nah, from Sawyer.”
Jack nearly spit out his beer. “From Sawyer?” He laughed in disbelief. “Jesus! Whatchya do to drive that little Nerf ball to throwin’ punches?”
“Called his girl a cunt,” I said, cringing a little in shame. “And he ain’t little. He’s got at least an inch on ya and nearly half a foot on me.”
He waved me off and shook his head. “Don’t matter. He’s still a little softy. So ya called his girl the dreaded c-word, huh?” he said sarcastically. “Americans, man… So damn sensitive ‘bout that word. In Europe, they throw it around like we throw around the word ‘dude.’ Grab that ten-pounder, would ya?”
I grabbed the ten-pound weight and added it to the three forty-fives on the near side-a the barbell while Jack threw a ten-pounder on the other side. He took a swig-a his beer and set it down on the ground as he lay on the bench and grabbed the bar.
“So ya beat his ass?” Jack said, pulling himself up to the bar a few times as he prepared to lift it.
“Who? Sawyer’s? Yeah, man. Like ya said, he’s a pussy.”
“Good. That dude needed a beatin’. Probably never gotten one in his whole cushy life. Everybody needs to get a beatin’ at least once, otherwise you’ll go through life all afraid, thinkin’ yer made of glass. Ya did him a favor.”
“No, not ‘I guess’…”
Jack lifted the bar off the rack and busted out eight reps at three thirty-five. He racked the bar, sat up, grabbed his beer, and took a swig.
“Throw another ten on each side,” said Jack as he walked over to the dumbbells and started curling them while I put on the ten-pounders. When he finished his twenty-something reps, he sat back down on the bench and caught his breath, eying me strangely as he did. “So yer pretty much up Shit Creek without a paddle now, huh? Got slapped with an assault charge, lost yer job, and now ya done got yerself kicked outta yer house…”
“Chase told ya I got fired?”
“Yeah,” said Jack with a chuckle. “Sucks, brother.”
“That asshole, man. I wouldn’t-a gone to jail in the first place if that prick would-a just given me a ride home,” I said, starting to get pissed off ‘bout the whole thing again. “They was gonna let me leave without callin’ the cops, but my ride was too busy chattin’ up some broad.”
Jack laughed. “Why didn’t ya just walk home?”
“We was at Pier 24, man,” I said irritably. “That’s like a five-mile walk.”
“So? I run five miles in my sleep, son!”
“Dude, I was drunk as hell,” I said. “I wasn’t thinkin’ straight.”
“Yeah…” Jack lay down on the bench and grabbed the bar. “Gotta learn to hold yer liquor, son.”
“I can hold my liquor,” I said defensively.
“If ya say so…”
“Relax. I’m just givin’ ya shit. I know ya can get it.”
He lifted the bar off the rack and did six reps at three fifty-five, letting out hard, short breaths each time he pushed it up. He racked the bar and sat up and breathed heavily. Once he caught his breath, he grabbed his beer and chugged the rest-a it and stood up as he tossed it into the pile-a empties.
“Take off them tens and throw on a twenty-five,” he said as he took the ten-pounders off the other side. I finished my beer and took off the weights and threw on the twenty-five as Jack lay back down on the bench. “All right, I’m gonna need ya to spot me on this one.”
I tossed my cigarette and walked behind the bench and prepared to spot him. He looked up at me and gave me a wink as he lifted the bar off the rack and started repping. After two reps, he began to struggle, so I put my hands under the bar to be ready, but I didn’t touch it. On the fourth rep, he failed, and I put my fingertips on the bar and started lightly applying relief.
“Don’t help,” he groaned through his teeth as he kept pushing with all his strength and then some.
“I ain’t doin’ shit,” I lied. Well, sort-a lied. I was barely helping. He knew I was, but it was a mental thing. He needed to think he was doing it all on his own. “This is all you, brother!” He was ‘bout halfway up, but he was stuck, so I started helping a little bit more. “Push it, son!” He slowly got closer and closer to fully extending his arms. “Still all you, man! Ya got this! Push it! Come on! Don’t be a little bitch!”
A sudden burst of energy shot through him and pushed that three hundred and sixty-five pounds all the way up, and I pulled it back onto the rack.
“Raw!” Jack roared like a beast as he sat up. “That’s how it’s done, son! Woo!” He stood up and shook out his arms and cracked his neck and jumped around a little. “Oh, hell yeah! Raw!”
“Get it, Wall!” one of his neighbors yelled from outta nowhere.
“You’re damn right I get it! Ain’t nobody get it like the Wall!”
“Damn straight!” the neighbor called back.
I chuckled, and said, “Who the hell’s that?”
“That’s Gary. Dude’s obsessed with me. Think he might be queer. I don’t give a shit though. He’s a sweetheart. Damn, son! I need another beer!” he said, heading back up to the porch. “Let’s go inside, man. It’s hot as balls out here.”
He gave the heavy bag a hard left jab as he walked past it and turned off the stereo. We went inside, and Jack headed straight for the fridge and grabbed us a couple beers, tossing me mine.
“Don’t expect me to apologize for the mess,” he said as he walked by me. “Ya know how it is.”
“I don’t care, man. I just need a place to crash ‘til I can find a place to live.”
“Well, ya only gotta month to get it figured out, and then I’m off to Warsaw to get my MA.”
“Where’s that again?” I said, feeling dumb for asking.
“Poland, son. Headed back to the motherland.”
“For how long?”
“Damn. Then what?”
“Then I get to work on my PhD.”
“Pumpkin head deluxe?” I teased.
“Shit, ya know I ain’t never got no pumpkin head,” said Jack, walking over to the TV, which was on CNN, showing footage-a American soldiers manning checkpoints in Baghdad. He turned it off. “Given out plenty though…”
“Ya gonna get yer PhD here at Schaffer?” I asked.
“Nah, man. They ain’t got no doctorate program. Probably go to UT or somethin’. Shit, I dunno. That’s a long ways off. So ya want the tour or what?”
“Pretty sure I can see everything from here…”
“Come on,” Jack said, leading the way. I followed him through the trailer and down the hallway to the back where the bedroom was. “This is my room. Hey!” he called to the black cat curled up on his bed. “Get outta there, ya lazy little shit! Go do somethin’.”
The cat didn’t budge. Jack rolled his eyes and walked over to the bed and picked the cat up and dropped him on the floor. The cat pranced outta the bedroom and on down the hallway into the living room as I watched in confusion. I didn’t recall Jack ever having a cat.
“Ya got a cat?”
“He’s a stray,” Jack said, walking outta the bedroom and shutting the door behind him. “I started feedin’ him, and now he hangs ‘round here all the time. I call him Professor Schopenhauer. You can just call him Schoopie for short.”
“Schoopie, huh?” I said with a grin. “Never took ya for a cat person.”
“Cats are smart creatures, son. Smarter than dogs. And they’re independent. Don’t need nobody. That’s my kind-a pet.”
Jack opened the door next to his bedroom, revealing a tiny bathroom with a tiny stall shower and a ragged curtain, a nasty toilet that looked like it’d never been cleaned, and a small, dirty sink covered in all-a his toiletries. Books was stacked on top-a the toilet just as I’d expected.
“Gotchyer bathroom here,” he said. “Don’t use any-a my shit. Use yer own shit. Don’t want ya smellin’ like me.”
“I got my own shit, and I don’t wanna smell like ya neither.”
“I smell like a man, son.” Jack led me outta the hallway and back into the living room. He pointed to the kitchen. “Ya already got yerself acquainted with the kitchen.” He walked around the coffee table to the couch and started collecting the books. “This is where you’ll be passin’ out,” he said as he moved the books from the couch to the coffee table.
“That’s one nasty ass couch,” I said in disgust.
“Beggars can’t be choosers. It was the previous owner’s, too, so that makes it even worse,” he said with a chuckle. “Don’t know where he got it. Probably off the side-a the road. It’s comfortable enough though.”
“Yeah…” I said, eying it skeptically. “Ya at least got some sheets I can throw on it?”
“Jesus Christ, yer one high maintenance little princess, ain’tchya, Joe? Ya too good for my trailer?”
“Hell no, man. I dig it. Just thought some sheets might be nice is all.”
“Then buy yerself some sheets, princess,” Jack teased as he headed back towards the kitchen, slapping me on the shoulder as he walked by.
Professor Schopenhauer followed Jack into the kitchen and rubbed up against his legs as he reached into one-a the cabinets and grabbed a can-a cat food. He popped it open and led the cat to the door and dumped the wet food into a bowl on the porch.
“Come on, Schoopie,” Jack said, holding the screen door open as the cat pranced out onto the porch and started devouring his food. “Eat up and then go catch ya some lizards or somethin’. Chase some pussy, ya lazy little shit.” Jack closed the screen door and walked back into the kitchen, tossing the empty can into the trash. “He’s always bringin’ me lizards and mice and shit. Good little hunter, that Schoopie.”
“Ya ain’t superstitious ‘bout black cats?” I asked.
“Superstitions are for weak-minded people. What time is it? It time for a proper drink yet? Hell, I don’t give a shit. It’s whiskey-thirty by my clock.” He opened up one-a the kitchen cabinets and grabbed a bottle-a Jameson’s and a couple glasses.
“Hey, man, listen…” I said shamefully, “ya know I ain’t gonna be able to pay no rent. Between the court costs and the fines and the bail and losin’ my job… I’m broke, bro.”
“I don’t give a shit ‘bout none-a that,” Jack said, waving me off. “Like I said, it’s only for a month. ‘Sides, yer a friend. I don’t charge friends to stay at my place. Don’t let ‘em stay long enough anyways. Ya know how I feel ‘bout roommates…”
“Yeah… Well, I appreciate ya.”
He sat down at the kitchen table, and I joined him as he moved some books around and poured us each a glass-a whiskey.
“As for the job,” he said, pushing my glass towards me, “I can hook ya up. Or rather I got a buddy who can hook ya up.”
“What’s the job?” I asked curiously.
“Who’s the buddy?”
“My boy, Randy.”
“Yeah, well, the last buddy-a yers who hooked me up with a job turned out to be an asshole,” I said, lighting a cigarette.
Jack chuckled and grabbed my pack-a cigarettes and took one for himself, and said, “Chase is an asshole.” He lit the cigarette and tossed the lighter back onto the table and blew out a heavy cloud-a smoke. “All my friends are assholes. I don’t associate with good people.”
“I ain’t an asshole,” I said defensively.
“Dude, ya called yer best friend’s girl a cunt. Now, she may be one. She probably is if she’s with a douche like Sawyer, but still… ya don’t call your boy’s girl that unless yer an asshole.”
“Whatever, man. I was just tryin’ to push him to his breakin’ point, and it worked. Needed to be done with that shit…” I took a swig-a my whiskey and chased it with the last sip-a my beer. “But I think I’m a pretty chill dude in general…”
“Chill my ass! You’ve been in two fights in three days! Yer an asshole. You wouldn’t be my boy if ya wasn’t.” Jack finished off his glass-a whiskey and took a deep drag-a his cigarette as he poured himself another. “Ya know why I like assholes?” he said through a cloud of smoke. “They’re authentic. Good people are borin’ as hell, and they’re never authentic. They always got ulterior motives for bein’ good. That makes ‘em fake. I ain’t wastin’ my time on fake ass people. Sawyer and them boys… a bunch-a inauthentic, borin’, fake pieces-a-shit. I dunno how ya stood ‘em so long.”
“Yeah, well, I’m done with ‘em now,” I said, dragging on my cigarette.
“Good. Should-a been done with ‘em years ago,” said Jack, leaning forward onto the table. “Ya need to spend yer time with authentic people, not good people. Let the good people try to change their ‘little corners of the world’ or whatever corny shit they always say. Fuck ‘em.” He took a drag and looked at me seriously as he blew out the smoke. “Ya really wanna know why I like assholes?”
“Ya just said ‘cause they’re authentic… whatever that means…”
“It means bein’ yer true self. Deep down, everyone’s an asshole. They just try to bury it under bein’ good. They find religion, family, money… shit like that, and they bury what they truly are. They bury the authentic self.”
He took a quick sip-a whiskey and ashed his cigarette into an empty coffee mug with a picture-a John Wayne and a quote from McLintock! that read, “Don’t say it’s a fine morning or I’ll shoot ya.”
“But do ya know what makes assholes authentic?” Jack continued.
“What’s that?” I said skeptically. I could feel one-a his rants coming on…
“They don’t bury the anger… the rage… the frustration…the pain. They embrace it… like you do… And do ya know what makes people angry and frustrated?”
“I dunno. Shitty jobs… no money… bills… life…”
“Nah, man, that’s the superficial answer,” Jack said, finishing off his whiskey and refilling both our glasses. “I mean, yeah… life… But what about life? It ain’t their shitty circumstances beatin’ ‘em down that frustrates ‘em. It’s the search for meanin’ in a world that has none. They realize all their pursuits, all their ambitions, every goddamn thing they do is meaningless, and it pisses ‘em off. Ya understand? Turns ‘em into nihilists.” He took a big swig-a his drink and a drag-a his cigarette. “But nihilists are just people too lazy to dig a little deeper. I mean, yeah, life is meaningless. That’s nihilism, but that ain’t the point. That ain’t where it ends. This is an absurd world, brother. Not a meaningless world, an absurd one. That’s what meaninglessness is. Absurdity. We do all these things to manufacture meaning where there is none. Is that not completely absurd?”
“I dunno, man…” I said, taking a swig. “I think yer talkin’ over my head…”
“Try to stay with me here, Joe. The fundamental question of life is, ‘Should we kill ourselves?’ To the nihilist, the answer is ‘yes.’ They put a bullet in their heads, whether it be literally or figuratively. They give up. They’re weak. Useless. They have no vision. So they get weeded out. That’s evolution. The people you refer to as ‘assholes’—”
“You referred to ‘em as assholes, too,” I reminded him.
“All right, the people we refer to as assholes are not really assholes. That’s the wrong word. Selfish is perhaps the better word… Anyways, point is, unlike the nihilists who have resorted to suicide, these people not only accept the absurdity of life, they embrace it. They accept that all their efforts, all their dreams, all their ambitions are all pointless and that the world is corrupt and violent and, worst-a all, indifferent… Indifferent to our hopes, our desires, our sufferin’… It don’t give a shit. These assholes have accepted and embraced that, and are thus allowed to become their true and authentic self.
“Ya say Chase is an asshole ‘cause he didn’t give ya a ride home after ya punched some dude at a bar and got the cops called on yer ass ‘cause he was too busy hittin’ on some broad. That don’t make him an asshole. That makes him authentic. Why should he give a shit ‘bout you when he’s workin’ on gettin’ some tail? He was too busy embracin’ life. You ruined yer own damn evenin’. Why should he letchya ruin his?” Jack started rummaging through his books scattered across the table ‘til he found the one he was looking for and held it up to me: Le Mythe de Sisyphe. “This is us, man. Sisyphus. Doomed to push a boulder up a mountain only to watch it fall back down once we finally reach the top.” He took a drink. “But we must imagine Sisyphus happy ‘cause despite the knowledge that all his efforts are futile, the effort itself to push that boulder to the top-a that goddamn mountain is worth it, otherwise he wouldn’t do it over and over again. The idea-a reachin’ the top is enough.” He tossed the book over to me. “That’s what ya need to read, brother. But you’ll need to get yer own copy. That one’s in French.”
“You read in French?” I said, grabbing the book and looking it over.
Jack leaned back in his chair and took a deep drag on his cigarette, and said, “Bien sûr! Traductions anglaises sont merde.”
“And what’s that mean?”
“English translations are shit.” He took a sip-a his whiskey and leaned on the table again. “But do ya understand what I’m sayin’ to ya?”
“I think so…”
“Pain and sufferin’ and indifference are all this world has to offer.” He leaned back in his chair again and finished off his glass-a whiskey. “So drink, smoke, fuck, do drugs… Burn the candle at both ends… Live hard, die young. Embrace the pain and rebel against it. Wallow in the absurdity of life, not the meaninglessness of it. That is how ya become yer authentic self.” He refilled our glasses and dropped his cigarette butt in the John Wayne coffee mug. “And that’s all I gotta say ‘bout that.”
I took a big swig-a my whiskey and lit another cigarette, and said, “That’s some heavy shit, man…”
“The heaviest, son. I just gave ya an education no money can buy.” He raised his glass. “To Sisyphus.”
“To Sisyphus,” I repeated, touching his glass, and we drank.
We finished off the bottle and spent the afternoon slamming beers and wandering ‘round the trailer park, shooting the shit with Jack’s neighbors and helping ‘em out with whatever projects they was working on, be it fixing their car or their door or their porch or helping ‘em pull weeds. We even threw the football around with a few-a the neighborhood kids. They liked to play a game called “Break the Wall” where they’d try to tackle Jack to the ground, but, of course, they could never take him down. He wouldn’t let ‘em even just for fun. When I asked him why he wouldn’t let ‘em have one every once in a while, he said, “The sooner they understand failure, the sooner they’ll be able to accept this shit world for what it is.”
That evening we grilled up some ribeyes and sausages on his porch with a couple-a his neighbors, that dude, Gary, being one-a them. We drank ‘til two in the morning and howled at the moon, and then I was ready to pass out. I lay down on that nasty couch-a his, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to sleep. As I started to fade off, I could hear Jack outside, pumping out reps on the bench press and still howling at the moon.