“Joe’s a little odd, but his credentials are solid, and he gets results. Well, not odd, but you know, different.” Jolene moved the phone to her left ear.
At her end of the line, Marge stood up, “No, I don’t know! What do you mean, different?”
“Well, for one thing he doesn’t just coach his clients; he gets down and exercises right along with them. Eats with them too - says it saves time.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad, and Kerin is willing. This morning she asked if I thought that trainer would want to take on someone "in her condition.” I told her there was only one way to find out.”
“Hey! That’s great news! Well, gotta’ run. Keep me posted!”
Evenings from 3 to 11 Joe worked at a fish plant; came home, showered and slept until 7. Classes at City College filled his mornings from 8 to 12; by 12:30 he was back at the apartment, listening to his messages. Lunch was yogurt and a fat pita wrap with another to go; he saw clients starting at 1:30, for an hour and a half.
Most of the clientele were women with too much time and money round their necks. Some of them feared losing their looks and along with it, their husbands; others knew his reputation and yearned to be in on the latest fad. A few were athletes who needed tweaking and would settle for nothing but the best. Usually he went to his clients’ homes but if they didn’t have the right equipment, met them at the gym.
For Joe, body training was a way to lose his past. As a boy his parents had exploited and neglected him. Their house was always filthy; his life, devoid of natural affection. At eighteen he’d married an abusive woman who outweighed him and nagged him into the ground. That was when, of necessity, he’d first turned to weight training. Three years into their marriage his wife, Arleta, was killed in a car accident involving road rage. The road rage was Arleta’s. Since that time Joe vowed he’d never set foot in the old neighborhood.
“My name is Marge Whitmire; number: 907-3562. A neighbor, Jolene Ashley, told me about you – you coached her nephew, Paul. I’d like to discuss the possibility of your working with my daughter Kerin; she’s disabled. You can reach us here during the day or at night, but please don’t call after 10 PM.”
Though he had training in that field, Joe never had taken on a client who was disabled. But he wasn’t entirely against it. On the other hand he wasn’t entirely for it. He agreed to meet at the Whitmire home but he told them up front, “I don’t know, my book’s pretty full right now. Maybe if someone drops out.” Joe himself was the one who felt the need to keep an out.
At worst he anticipated a self-pitying whiner; at best someone very needy: certainly not this winsome girl who radiated inner peace and self-possession. Self-possession. That was the term Joe used for want of a better one. He told her mother, "Mrs. Whitmire, I'll be working with Kerin on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if that suits you." She told him he could call her Marge.
Joe's sessions with Kerin seemed to gallop apace. One day he was adjusting a weight at her right wrist, “What is it Kerin? He’d held back as long as he could. “Where do you go? I know some of the exercises must be painful, but even when I see tears on your cheeks, I sense inside you’re someplace else. Is it religion? If it is, it sure is a different stripe than I’ve ever seen.”
Some weeks later, Joe felt something in his heart region begin to untwist. Where he was somber, Kerin was light; where he was abscessed, she was ointment. In her presence he knew the quietude of total acceptance. One day he poured out the pain of his boyhood, and nuptial misery.
When Kerin led Joe gently to the Lord it was not by grabbing and clutching at his soul, but with a simple “Kerin” look. Afterward they planned how they would they would return to the old neighborhood together. They had agreed with the Lord and knew there was much work there: nothing was impossible.
Joe had come to Kerin offering physical therapy; Kerin had ministered spiritual therapy to Joe. It was the best workout he'd ever had!
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