The Program

the.programby Chris Hlad…

To call Tully Edwards overweight would be a gross understatement; calling him just plain gross, on the other hand, would be more apropos.

Big Tully stumbled into his big predicament like most Americans do: very slowly.

At first it was just a few pounds which could easily be taken off in a week at the gym. Two tops. It actually worked for a while too, until Big Tully allegedly ‘pulled something’ that would require ‘back surgery’ and the only recourse, according to the ‘Doctor’, was to ‘take some time off from the gym’.

It all went down hill from there.

Since B.T. didn’t have to be – was in fact not allowed to be – in the gym, he found a new ‘activity’ that most Americans treat not as entertainment, but as a vice. B.T. also convinced his Doctor that he should go on disability for a few months, and, since said Doctor had another patient to see and he really wanted to get home to see what Judge Judy was adjudicating on today, he told him, “Sure, no problem.”

B.T. would spend entire nights just watching TV. Since he didn’t have to go to work, there was no reason that he couldn’t sleep in, after all.

And just like that, his life was reversed. He’d sit (slouch/slump) on his couch in the early evening, with the side table full of all sorts of healthy things like cheese that came out of a spray can.

Before he knew it, he had become ‘That Guy’. He avoided looking at his reflection when going to the restroom; he still had a shard of dignity left in him.

Which was why, around 3 a.m. the next morning, he picked up the phone and ordered the treadmill that he’d seen so many times in his favorite infomercial. (Yes, he had sunken to the level where he had a crush on the hot little blonde on the treadmill, and actually let himself believe that being as fit as her was all done via a treadmill.)

And then there was the guarantee. Not only did they promise you that if you stuck to the program, you’d lose at least a hundred pounds in two days, but if you didn’t, they’d reimburse you for the treadmill and give you a cool Hundred Grand. All you had to do was stick to the program.

The next day, the men came in and installed the treadmill. Our friend B.T. told them where the hide -a- key was, and that he was more of an evening person, so if they could set it up for him, that would be just fine and dandy.

Well, when he woke up and went to the couch to begin his nightly routine, he was surprised that it was all set up and ready to go. He’d already half forgotten about it, but no, there it was, right next to the TV.

To his credit, once B.T. saw the treadmill, he changed out of his robe and into his ‘workout gear’ such as it was. He’d thought and thought about the possibility of losing a hundred pounds in two days and thought it impossible; he’d just stick to whatever program they had him set on, though, and collect his cash after two days. A Hundred Grand bought a lot of cheese whiz, and with his disability check, he was just getting by.

In his exercise gear, facing the machine, he was ready for the challenge. He looked around for instructions or something, didn’t see any, and just hopped on. It looked like the generic treadmills he’s seen in the gym, so how hard could it be?

The treadmill had a motion sensor, and when B.T. stepped on, it said, “Welcome to the Program.”

This spooked him a little.

“Uh, thanks.”

“So, are you ready to start?”

“Well, I guess so. I’m not really sure what the program is all about though…”.

“It’s a yes or no question,” the machine said, cutting him off.

He laughed. This could be a little bit of fun after all. And if it wasn’t, he’d just step off of the thing and hang his laundry on it or something. “Yes,” he said, and just as the words were out of his mouth, the treadmill started to turn.

“Now place your hands on the railing for safety,” the voice said.

B.T. did so, and as he did, two metal clasps came flying out of the machine and locked themselves tightly to his wrist. He tried to raise his hands from the rail, and found that he could. The clasps, the bracelets, were attached to the machine via some sort of cord, allowing for limited range of motion.

“What the hell is this?”

“We want to monitor your heart rate so that you burn the most calories possible without dying. You did read the fine print, right?”

“What fine print? I came in and it was set up. There was no manual or anything!”

“I guess you didn’t listen to our whole message after we took your credit card info, did you?”

He was sweating, even though the treadmill was barely moving. “What, about some survey? No!’

“We specifically said ‘additional legalities and survey’, fat ass.”

The treadmill sped up. Now, for the first time in more than three months, he was jogging and sweating like a pig.

“We said you should consult your Doctor before participating in this program.”

“Oh, this is a bunch of B.S.” he managed to huff out.

“B.S. you signed up for. I guess that means you didn’t take the time to add a beneficiary to collect the Hundred Grand in case you’re disabled?”

“Disabled?”

“Or dead. Either way, you’ll drop that hundred pounds.”

“Turn off now!”

There was no errie voice to keep him company now, just a treadmill that kept going faster and faster and faster. Eventually, B.T. couldn’t keep up, and fell, landing lengthwise on the treadmill, the surface of which was made to replicate hot asphalt.

The heart monitor stopped registering a heartbeat thirty minutes later, thirty minutes where he was essentially being dragged down the street. Oh yes, he lost well over a hundred pounds of flayed flesh.

The two men who did the install came up as soon as the monitors said he was dead.

“This is probably the best idea we’ve had yet.”

“Right? As long as we get one sucker a week, we’ll be able to retire in a few years! I’m surprised this guy could even afford it!”

“Like every other sucker looking for a miracle cure and easy money, I’m sure he maxed out his credit cards.”

They proceeded to put the remains of what was once Tully Edwards on the couch, where he would have died eventually – treadmill or not – and took the machine back to the truck, driving off without anyone so much as batting an eye.

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