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Contemporary Funny

Calvert Barrows, known to friends as CB, couldn’t do 10 push-ups in a row. 

He actually couldn’t do 2 push-ups in a row, but it sounded better when he said 10. Like he had gotten up to 9, and fell just short on his way to 10. A real man was strong enough to do 10 push-ups right? He needed to show his boys, Ben 6, and Theo 3, how to be a man, and push-ups seemed like a good place to start.


 He charted his plan out, designing a multi-tab spreadsheet in Excel with progressive increases, rest days, and of course a nutrition plan to maximize his fitness.

He just needed to start. A week went by, then two. 


 A perfect example of a body built for his work, CB’s lean arms stretched easily over his office desk, his skinny legs tucked tight underneath, while thin, delicate fingers moved over his keyboard like synchronized swimmers dancing in a pool. All perfect for his work managing the flow of electricity through high-voltage power lines, matching energy supply to energy demand for all of California.


He had built the muscle between his ears through long bouts of training at the best ivy-walled schools, edging his razor sharp mind against the abrasive whetstone of immense datasets. Finally it had burst out, flexing into a head slightly too big, over shoulders slightly too small. With a messy flop of light brown hair, he resembled nothing so much as a caramel tootsie pop.


Not a complete couch potato, CB could walk of course and had conquered mountains, hiking thousands of feet into the thin air, for crystal clear views. But the effort to push his prone body off the floor seemed as difficult as meeting California’s demand for air conditioning on the hot summer nights, when the solar panels go dark, and the windmills can only wait for the wind to blow.


But how does he look to his boys? He wanted to be more than just a brain, but a real man of strength and athleticism. To succeed in life these two must be pried away from their books to experience life, and have the strength to overcome any test. 

CB needed to be nothing less than the strongest, most push-up’ing dad ever. He dreamed of his young men excelling on the modern field of battle- football!


No, maybe not football he reconsidered, as images of their little bodies being tackled into the dirt swirled in his vision. Basketball then! He looked over at his two boys, all in the kitchen with him, small for their ages and frowned. Soccer! They will be soccer stars-


“-Dad, can I have a pickl’ spear? Theo, his future center midfielder, currently sucking on a small toy train interrupted his thoughts. 


CB opened the fridge. “Looks like we’re all out, bud.” 


“By the beans.” Ben said, head down at the table, a fat crayon in his hand filled his paper with elaborate colored flowers, butterflies and rainbows. 


“By the beans?” CB looked curiously at his oldest, and saw his narrow feet dangling off the stool. “A striker for sure.” He muttered, and then Ben’s words clicked and he turned to the pantry and there next to cans of beans, he found a new jar of Organic Kosher Dill Pickle Spears on the shelf.


“Here we go!” CB pulled it down and his fingers circled the top to turn it open.

It didn’t budge. 


He grunted, and saw his chance to prove his strength. He took a solid grip of the jar, felt the glass cool in his palm, and then with his free hand began to twist. 

 Nothing happened.


“Here you go boys, watch your Dad use his muscles to open the pickles!”


Now with an audience, he readjusted his grip, tucking the jar into his soft belly for better leverage, took in a big breath and twisted. His teeth gritted, he felt his face get flushed. He could do this!

“Arrgh!” His slick palm slipped on the cold metal. 

 He paused to catch his breath against the offending jar.


Ben and Theo looked away, back at their work.


CB prepared for war. He stepped sideways into a wide stance, wiped his hands dry on his pants and tightened his grip on the still unopened jar. He pressed down and turned, straining to get into the salty, crisp pickles. He could taste the tangy brine on his tongue, just a little bit more-


“-Can I help?”


The words broke his concentration and CB let go, his entire body trembling with exertion. His hands worn out from the effort, he put the jar on the counter, a break before he went back in for round two. “No, I can do it, the lid’s just tight-”


His wife walked over and picked up the jar.


“It’s really stuck,” CB put his hands out in warning. “It must be glued shut-”

A loud pop interrupted him, and then the jar was back in CB’s hand, the lid left on the counter and his wife, through the kitchen and gone.

CB picked out a spear and took a bite. It tasted of bitter defeat.


After dinner, he changed into sweatpants, and an old t-shirt to re- focus on his goal. He had to start today. It took a while to find the yoga mat, buried deep in the back of the closet. Leaning in he fought against the claustrophobia, able to pull it out before the dark, tight walls squeezed the breath out of him.


The mat rolled out, he had just eased down to his knees when he felt someone next to him. He looked over to see a small boy, also on his knees looking over with big, eager eyes.


“Theo, you’re supposed to be getting ready for bed- and anyway, you can’t be here- I’m training!”


“I want to be ‘train too!” Theo’s mouth dropped open, amazed that this new game now involved his favorite topic. 


“No, not a train, just train, a workout. I’m going to do 10 push-ups.” CB, said ambition coloring his voice.


“I can do push-up.” Ben said brimming with the confidence of a toddler. “What’s a push-up?”


“Here, let me show you.” CB, still on his knees, dropped down and pressed his hands into the yoga mat, elbows tight, and lifted his knees up to balance on his toes. 


“You start like this, hands on the ground, back straight.” He breathed out once and lowered himself down until his nose hovered off the floor, and then pushed himself back up, his body moving like a bike with a broken chain, slipping and creaking. “One!” He huffed with the effort. “That is a push-up. Now you try.”


Theo bent over his hands, now on all fours. 


“Ok, bend your elbows, and put your nose to the floor.” CB gestured down.


Theo bent his elbows, his head moving down, while his little butt went up. Down, down until his nose tapped the mat and then he raised it back up.


“One!” He cried out in joy. He then did several more, shouting ‘one’ after each, finally looking up, his nose red.


CB looked on in horror at Theo’s poor form. “You need to keep your butt down, back straight!” What kind of father was he? He needed to train these boys up.

“Maybe we should start tomorrow. Want some ice cream?” 



Standing on the deep green grass of a field crowded with red faced boys chasing a black and white ball, CB looked for his own son, Ben. He found him closely examining a flower in a corner of the field. CB knew Ben’s lack of focus was his fault, he needed to be an inspiration.


CB decided to ask for advice. Marcus, another dad, seemed to have no problem with push-ups, his shirt tight around thick, muscular arms.


“Push-ups? I prefer the incline bench myself.” Marcus said, his eyes on his own son dribbling down the field to score once again. “Push-ups are boring. Lay on the ground. Push yourself up. Flop back down. Repeat”. Marcus said with a shrug. He turned to see the disbelief in CB’s eyes. 


“Come on, you can do one.” Marcus tapped CB’s shoulder with rough aggression. ”Right here!”


Marcus moved, a quick jump, and then he lay face down on the grass, hands underneath him an expectant look up at CB.


CB looked down, the ground suddenly far away. He leaned forward, then like a tower of jenga blocks after the wrong one was pulled, he collapsed into a puddle on the grass.


“Put your hands underneath your shoulders,” Marcus instructed, ”face down and then up!”

His arms snapped into straight, rippling pedestals.


CB looked over, mouth open. “OK!” He pushed down, the grass underneath him had a soft bump right under his hand. Not wanting to be distracted, CB tried to ignore the strange texture and pushed down, twinges of pain in his elbows and across his chest as he strained with effort. His arms straightened, he had completed a push-up!”


“Great.” Marcus said, "Now, ease yourself down until your chest is almost touching the ground, and then right back up.”

Marcus demonstrated, moving down and up, as easy as a cool breeze.


CB breathed out, and as he lowered himself down, a strange sensation crossed his right hand, but he focused only on pressing even harder into the earth, his thin arms struggling to raise his body. He huffed “Two!”


“Again.” Marcus said, dropping into several more, his body moving like an oiled piston.


CB lowered himself, hovering over the ground until the itching became too much. A quick glance and he saw his hand covered in ants, scurrying into a thin, black glove of movement.


“Ahh!” CB yelled and flopped onto his back, waving his hand in the air to get the ants off. He wiped his arm on the grass, then with his other hand, finally his shirt. Still at 2 he thought staring up into the bright, blue sky. Still at 2.


The soccer team party at Marcus’ house had been fun, pizza and cupcakes after the game, but it was time to head home.


“Theo, Where’s your brother?” CB leaned down to his youngest boy. A heavy crash from a nearby old shed answered him. 

“Dad!” Ben’s panicked voice came from the shed and fear shot through CB like a bolt of electricity.


He moved to the door of the shed and pushed to open it. 

“Ben, what happened?” The door knob twisted but it didn't move.

“It wasn’t my fault, I only wanted to see the paint cans, but it fell-” Ben's voice echoed.


The paint cans are on a shelf, it must’ve fallen, blocking the door!” Marcus said. “Maybe we can push it open-”


CB’s eyes went wide, the challenge in front of him clear.


“I can do it.” CB narrowed his gaze, focusing all of his energy against the door holding his son hostage.


 He placed his hands against the door, shoulder width apart, and leaned in. His soft hands pressed into the weathered door and with a deep breath he pushed, straining his shoulder, a twinge in his elbow. The door moved! Just an inch, but at the small success he redoubled his efforts. CB would save his boy from certain doom!


Red-faced, CB shoved again, adrenaline coursing through him to rescue his oldest son. A scraping sound echoed from the small gap as the door moved another inch, and then stopped, stuck. CB grunted with effort, slamming his hands against it, but the door stood like a wall, unmoving. His feet slid out from under him, slipping on loose gravel.


“Damn!” CB shouted, drained from the intense effort.

“Dad,” Ben’s voice reverberated around him, “I’m scared...”


Marcus came up, shouldering CB out of the way. “Let a man do it! “


CB fell to the side, his head in his hands. He had failed his son.


Marcus began pushing, his huge shoulders against the door, but still it resisted.


Scraping again echoed from the shed, and then Ben’s small voice. 

“Why does it echo?” CB asked himself.


CB couldn’t use his muscles, but he had other strengths. He moved down the side of the shed until he found it. A small window along the back wall, cracked open. His long thin fingers were able to fit in the narrow gap and slide it open further into a small rectangle.

It’s so small, he could never fit. He angled his head in and saw Ben standing on the shelf near the door.

“Ben, I’m coming!”


 CB shoved the window to its edge and then began scaling the wall, his long narrow legs able to angle himself up until one shoulder followed his head in. He reached out a long arm until he could almost touch a steel rack. 

If he could only reach it, he could use it to pull himself in.  


The metal frame of the window pinched tight against him, a sudden fear of being stuck tightened his chest, locking his breath. He stretched out more, skinny fingers reaching into empty air. He could not fail again. Reaching...


He got it! 


His fingers pulled his slender build through the opening, narrow shoulders tilted in without a hair’s breadth to spare, lean hips following through until he collapsed onto a pile of camping gear and sleeping bags. 


With a few deft movements he hugged Ben, then shifted the shelf out of the way and pulled the door open to loud cheers.


“You’re my hero dad!” Ben said while Theo joined in a group hug.


          CB, Ben and Theo all stood on their matching mats.

“Ok, wide arms, wiggle your hands.” CB called out. “Last stretch, flower picker!”

 All three bent down stretching out their fingers, reaching down for their toes, and then back up.


“Remember, the men in our family are lean and flexible.” CB said. “Now, how about some frozen fruit bars?”   


April 23, 2024 18:59

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29 comments

LeeAnn Hively
03:02 May 03, 2024

I would very much like to skip the pushups and go straight to the frozen fruit bar, please. I have less skill with that than CB. The strength of a parent when needed, however, is such a beautiful thing to witness. Also, Marcus hopefully gets hemorrhoids soon if there is any karma in the universe. I just immediately bristle at cocky displays of machismo.

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Marty B
04:50 May 03, 2024

You have nailed each of the characters. CB is focused on how he can support his boys to be the best they can be, while Marcus is a bit of an ass! Thanks for stopping by!

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James Moore
21:36 Apr 29, 2024

I don't know how you put so much perceived drama into such an innocent act like a push up, skill of a great writer I suppose.

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Marty B
00:29 Apr 30, 2024

There is a great depth of feeling around athletic competitions- of all kinds! Thanks for your good words- much appreciated! Thanks

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Helen A Smith
08:37 Apr 28, 2024

At one point, felt as if I was doing the push ups myself! Not one to give up easily. Poor CB, the harder he tried, the worse it got. He has such dreams for his children, it’s a bit scary. They just carried on quietly doing their thing. He seems to have surrounded himself with people who have no struggles with physical endeavours. Some really funny moments. The take away seems to be it’s better just to accept what we’ve been given. We all have different strengths and talents. An enjoyable read.

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Marty B
01:38 Apr 29, 2024

Most parents have big dreams for their children, its just his dreams werent shared... I believe each person has their strengths, and they should be encouraged to maximize that, no matter what it is! Thanks!

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Helen A Smith
06:49 Apr 29, 2024

Very true.

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Belladona Vulpa
18:54 Apr 26, 2024

Great story! I am the worst at push ups hahaha. Loved the family setting and the flow of the storytelling.

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Marty B
00:18 Apr 27, 2024

Ohh! '...flow of the storytelling.' what a great comment- thank you!

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Kim Meyers
18:42 Apr 25, 2024

A reminder that we all excell in different ways. Great story!

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Marty B
03:49 Apr 26, 2024

Thanks Kim, I appreciate your comment!

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Hannah Lynn
20:33 Apr 24, 2024

Great story! Push ups are not for everyone ( I say with gym class flashbacks of terror ).

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Marty B
04:12 Apr 25, 2024

Some of us only push paper ;) Thanks!

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Jack Kimball
17:40 Apr 24, 2024

The whole story is so Marty B, which is a great thing. I mean, where does, "....he resembled nothing so much as a caramel tootsie pop." even come from? Another stellar story from Marty B.

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Marty B
19:58 Apr 24, 2024

I appreciate your good words. I encourage you to hang out in candy shops, great for inspiration ! Thanks!

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Alexis Araneta
12:14 Apr 24, 2024

Heehee ! Cute one, Marty !

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Marty B
19:57 Apr 24, 2024

Thank you!

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Yuliya Borodina
11:39 Apr 24, 2024

Oh, push-ups! I feel like most people have somme kind of impossible number in their head when it comes to those (hopefully, higher than 2, though :) Nice story! I had fun!

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Marty B
19:57 Apr 24, 2024

For us used to using a keyboard, or pushing a pen, even 2 pushups can be a stretch ;( Thanks!

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Yuliya Borodina
20:23 Apr 24, 2024

Oh, sorry if that sounded insensitive. I didn’t mean it to. Everyone has and should have their own goals and expectations.

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Marty B
04:14 Apr 25, 2024

I push my pen proudly! No offense taken ;)

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Trudy Jas
23:37 Apr 23, 2024

Talk about dreaming big. :-)

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Marty B
03:07 Apr 24, 2024

;) Thanks Trudy!

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Mary Bendickson
20:19 Apr 23, 2024

Adorable!

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Marty B
21:55 Apr 23, 2024

Thanks Mary!

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Kim Olson
00:24 May 02, 2024

A heartwarming, entertaining story with a great message. Good job!

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Marty B
03:50 May 02, 2024

Thank you for your kind words!

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Darvico Ulmeli
09:10 Apr 28, 2024

Nice and entertaining. I can do 10 push-ups right now. Before, I could do it 50. Happily, my kids are girls.

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Marty B
01:36 Apr 29, 2024

Thanks! Keep pushing, Im sure you can get back to 50! Thanks!

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