HANS’S DEAD WIFE, THE BODY BUILDER by Kevin Sterne

February 11, 2017

Hans is selling his dead wife’s bodybuilding stuff. Not just the dumbbells, but her leotards, trophies, even the newspaper of when she squatted a mini-van in ‘97.

All must go,” Hans says in his heavy Swiss accent, “priced to sell.”

It’s hardly light out on a Saturday and he has me hauling it all around, directing me here and there, et cetera. I’m instantly sweating. It’s all the residuals of last night when my ex-girlfriend, Cindy, and I got together under the guise of another “this is just a one-time thing.” This has been pretty regular for us. I beg her every time to take me back. She does, then I do something to mess it up. It is my identity.

I’m sweaty and thirsty and Hans only has these tiny water bottles from the German grocery store. I down one and start like tossing the dumbbells, making huge dents in the lawn and cracks on the sidewalk. Hans gives me this look.

Stop. Stop.” He’s waving his arms. “We move squat rack.”

Hans owns nothing with wheels. Zilch. No dolly. No skateboard. Not even a damn scooter. So we’re like dragging this squat rack down the driveway.

I ask Hans how his bodybuilding wife died. The guy starts to tell me and drops his end of the squat rack on his foot. Instantly broken.

I find my car and drive him to the hospital, which is two towns over, and he’s screaming out the window the whole ride. “I am dying,” he yells as we pass the boys cross-country team, “death is so painful.”

It’s a miracle we make it to the hospital.

Turns out doctor’s got to operate immediately or he might lose the foot. Hit it just right apparently.

Hans is in hysterics. They have him butt naked in one of those paper gowns. He has me holding his hand.

I sit there with him until they come in to drug him.

The nurse says family only and who am I.

Before I can say anything, Hans goes: “My oldest and dearest friend.”

Hubby?” she asks.

I’m shaking my head and Hans says, “Of course.”

This will help the pain she says and drives the needle in. I watch the fluids run into his arm. His eyes go as big as half-dollars, his chest puffs out and then he lets out a deep sigh of serenity.

Stedman,” he looks at me, “the room is so white.” He has this face like he’s seeing the divine light.

His last words before he’s out are something like: “Run the garage sale” and “Keep all the money.”

I set up shop in a beach chair around all these autographed pictures of his dead wife, Mary Pat, all bronzed up and flexing her biceps and calf muscles.

Perhaps because I was still hung over earlier, I didn’t realize that half the garage was full of trophies and medals. Trophies stacked on trophies. People will be lining up to get a piece of Mary Pat Whitticker-Olson.

I tell myself I will give it all to Cindy.

I poke around in the house for something professional to put the money in. There are more collector’s items inside. Signed magazine covers framed on the wall.

You know infomercials for the vacuum attachment hair clippers? I find like 10 in the upstairs closet. Still in the box. I put one under each arm.

It was only a matter of time before I would find their wedding album, this dusty thing Hans had buried in the TV cabinet. I grab it and head back outside.

No one’s come yet—I guess it’s still early—so I plop myself in the beach chair with the wedding album. They’re your standard wedding photos. Mary Pat, completely ripped. A lot of pictures of her in her gown and her weightlifter girlfriends all around her. Then the bride and groom, the newlyweds. The Whitticker-Olson’s. Smiling. In love.

I think about all the times I’ve been high on drugs and asked Cindy to marry me, and all the times she said her dad would shoot meet with his hunting bow. “It would just end tragically,” she’d say. Maybe she’s right. But, think whatever you want of me, I’d trade losing Cindy for a binder full of our own wedding pictures. I’d give the world for that.

I end up not selling a single thing. Apparently Hans forgot to put an ad in the Pennysaver or whatever and no one knew about it. I pack the back seat of my car with trophies and a few dumbbells. Figure I’ll try working out again.

I take the wedding album too, throw it under the TV stand. I fall asleep on the couch to one of Mary Pat’s fitness videos. I don’t know how much time passes, but later I’m woken by the phone ringing. I pray for it to be Cindy. The voice on the line says I need to come pick up my husband.

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Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. His work has appeared in Substream Magazine, The Rumpus, Chicago Health Magazine and Reviewing the Evidence, among others. He did not vote for Donald Trump.

Twitter him @kevinsterne or read more at kevinsterne.com

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