The Complainers


“I wish I was a treadmill” said the punchbag longingly, ignoring the heavily sweating man beating at its skin with about as much force as a Four Year Old’s flatulence. He was chatting to a brooding pec deck, who didn’t comment, but he rarely dragged himself from his typically morose considerations to respond to the punchbag.

The punchbag continued unperturbed “He’s always so busy, people always want to use him, not me, I’m never very popular, just the occasion smack by most users as they pass, just look at him there, spinning away as another runner pounds out the miles”.

He sighed and watched as the peewee wandered away after his thirty second bout against his worst tormentors to try to lift something else before giving up and going home for his dinner; likely consisting of predominately fatty foods, but now being able to justify the ocean of fats and carbs by maintaining he’d just balanced the meal with his pathetic little workout.

“Always taking people places, you know?” He didn’t expect or wait for an answer “Always moving forward, giving people a goal, and objective… purpose. Yea, that’s it, purpose.”

He briefly turned his attention on a new contender stepping up to the mark, and was mildly surprised when this man actually presented him with a little ability. The chap jabbed and crossed, ducked and uppercut, tucked up and hooked with efficiency and energy; not even stopping to rest every ten seconds or so, but eventually kept up the ferocious barrage for about half an hour.

“All people ever do with me is hit me, kick me, butt me, knee and elbow me. I mean, what did I ever do to them; it’s not like I can hit them back, is it. I like to see them if I could, oh yes… no longer a poor defenceless bag to slap around, oh no… I’d flatten them, that’s what I’d do.” He grumbled on.

“Just look at him, all shiny and clean, spotless he is. He’s even his own TV; ah if I had my own TV… I hear he’s more than thirty channels; never be bored, would you.” Still the pec deck remained unforthcoming.

“Look at me, all worn nearly through, stitched up in two places, and not neatly, oh no, just some botch job to keep my stuffing from falling out. What happens to him when he’s broken… out comes some super well trained technician and in two shakes of a cat’s tail he’s as good as new.” He went on like this throughout the day, and at closing time he continued to bewail his fate well into the night.

“Ah, but I wish I was a punchbag” said the treadmill longingly, as he sped laboured along under the massive weight of some obese walker. He was wistfully sharing with the potted plant that kept him company.

“That’s the life, I can tell you, lucky bugger” He watched enviously as yet another slim fit looking athlete took his turn on the bag.

“Just look at the variety; they move all around him, attacking him from every direction, using hands, feet, knees, elbows and even their head. He can swing in any direction he wants to, and he’s all that space, right in the centre of the floor, not crowded into a line like me” He looked about at all the other identical machines lined up beside him, and turned his attention back to the potted plant “The one and only, that’s him.” Everyone looks at him, he’s the challenge. Me, I’m just one of the machines, no one lines up to use me, oh no… if I’m busy they just choose another and forget all about me.”

The fat runner left and was soon replaced by a more dedicated runner, who pushed the speed up nice and high and ran with light steps for more than an hour.

“I tell you something” He spoke in a conspiratorial whisper to the potted plant, infamous for his reticence “I absolutely hate this job; I mean it’s just not going anywhere. I spend all my time on the move, constantly driving forward and where do I get… nowhere! Just round and round like the wheel in a hamster’s cage, that’s my life.”

“You know, I have to work here while they sweat on me, just dripping sweat all over me. Does he have sweat drying on him all day… oh no he doesn’t, as soon as one of those sleek fighters have finished with him out comes the towel and he gets a lovely wipe down, not me, oh no; bounce up and down on me all day without a by-your-leave and then off they go without a glance at the state they’ve left me in.” His voice rose a few octaves as his little tirade picked up pace.

“Here I am, with forty two channels on my television and what do they watch… is it an interesting documentary, or the news, something edifying… oh no, they just watch some rubbish filled with love struck buffoons and weeping women, ah the philistines.” He was becoming quite agitated now and for a moment the potted plant thought he might twist a roller, but fortunately the runner left and he was left to himself for a while.

He rambled on in his usual sour temper for hours until all the lights had been turned out, and even as he fell asleep he continued to vent his spleen to the uncaring gods of exercise machinery.

“Just look at that lawn” the grass said jealously “Have you ever seen a lusher, more verdant green… I can tell you honestly, I never have, although I’ve only ever seen that one other lawn so I’m no expert you understand” He philosophised to the shed.

He continued to admire the next door neighbours front garden “Perfect he is, just perfect; not a mar, all his grass the same length, edged nicely, equilateral square, ah that must be the life”

“Not that I’m complaining mind, but I can tell you I wouldn’t mind a bit of his watering; morning and night she’s out there with the hose, as regular as clockwork, set your watch by it you could. I could use a bit of that; look at what this heat wave has done to me, all yellow and dry, roots can’t find a lick of water, and if you think that little bit of dew I get in the morning is enough I can tell you it doesn’t come close, and the sun’s had it away by eight these days, ah a drop of that hosing, that’s what I need” He was silent for a while as he indulged in a few flights of fancy where he was being drenched in water flowing unendingly from a hose clutched in the caring hands of a meticulous owner.

“So pretty, like that” The poet in the lawn crooned “Surrounded by all those flowers, all those lovely colours, him sitting there in the middle like a king; I bet they hang on his every word, ah that’s the life”

“Not a soul allowed on that lawn, just the missus when she’s watering. Pride that is; he’s a showpiece to be exhibited to all and sundry as an example of aesthetic beauty” His voice took on a dreamy quality as he floated off into a delightful daydream of hundreds of people all gathered around him gasping at his immaculate colour and texture.

“Oh no, here come the kids again” He complained as the boys came running onto him and started to kick a ball about on his already well battered surface. “It’s not that I don’t like children, you understand, but they do turn me up something rotten, and they never bother to stamp the clods back down, I look all diseased, I do”

He fell silent again, just wincing now and then as one of the boys scuffed him or dove to the ground to save a goal and an elbow or knee tore into his thin covering, and dreamed of being pampered and treasured.

“I’m just sick of being treated like a prima-donna” Complained the lawn in his nasally high pitched voice to his captive flower audience; surrounded as always by his adoring fans he continued his little tirade “Never touched, that’s me, like a virgin who’s never known the touch of a lover. A pristine princess, kept aloft in her remote castle, just to be gazed upon, hungered for, but never violated” The flowers thought he might have been taking things a bit far here, especially when he actually shivered, but refrained from remark as they didn’t want to be the victims of one of his tantrums.

“Rough and ready, that’s him, tough” He whispered the last word almost lustfully and the flowers glanced at each other knowingly, their suspicions supported with one more little piece of evidence.

The lawn was almost panting now “Handy, that’s him; always available. Look at those boys playing football on him, laughing and playing. Do you think he minds being roughed up a bit, I bet he just loves a bit of rough” The lawn giggled to himself at his forwardness, and the flowers contained a wince.

“A man of many hats; a renaissance man, I should think; able to turn his hand to anything, an all-rounder. I mean just last night there were some adorable little children camping on him, and last week the master of the abode had that dirty engine in pieces all over him, do you think he minded a little slippery oil and grease, I bet he lapped it up” This last with a naughty little chortle that would have had the flowers blushing if they were but able.

The lawn continued with its flattery “Just look at his tan, all brown and sun brushed, now that’s what a man should look like. I can even make out a little soil here and there…” This was just a little too much for the flowers who began to discuss in a low whisper for the umpteenth time how they could escape his rantings, but as usual none of them could come up with a useful idea.

“Ah, here comes the tyrant again to flood me with water. As if this morning’s downpour wasn’t enough to keep me irrigated for a month; just look at how fat I’m getting” On and on he went, to the disgust of the flowers, seemingly delighted by little but the manly lawn living next door and the sound of his own voice.

“I don’t know what you’re so happy about, we’re half way empty” The schizophrenic glass of water continued his conversation with himself “Always chipper, that’s you, can’t you see you retard that we’re just a few swigs away from empty, and what will we do then, I ask you.”

“Ah, you do like to worry” He replied to himself “If we’re emptied we’ll just get filled again the next time someone is thirsty, relax a little.

Anyway half a glass of water is better than no glass of water, isn’t it now”

Offended at this perceived insult the glass vented his anger upon himself “How can you say that, eh? What’s half of anything… can you be half alive, can you be half beautiful, eh, eh… I don’t think so!”

“Ah, it’s better than nothing, and I quite like half full, if we’re all the way full its very nice, yes, but someone might spill a bit, and we’re never moved like that. Half full is great, we get waved around the room when someone is gesturing, we get to go everywhere; see the sports, out into the garden to listen to that insane lawn talking to himself, up to spend the night with one of the kids.” He seemed oblivious to his own bad mood and settled into silence for a while with a contented bubble or two.

Not so himself who went on and on “Half empty is awful; we get that dreadful stain around our middle if left for too long, we’re in dreadful danger as we’re less stable and at any time some idiot could smash us into a thousand shards, and heaven knows what would happen if they play that horrific whiskey game again where they keep slamming us into the table”

He found himself shivering at the thought and stopped himself with a reassuring word “Ah, you worry too much, enjoy the moment, who knows when they’ll use us again”

These words just spoken, a ball came crashing through the window from the neighbouring garden to shatter the glass into a million pieces. The very last words he said to himself, echoing into oblivion, and completely unsure as to whether he had said it or he had, were… “Told you so”


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