This was for a short story contest years ago where I was randomly assigned to write a comedy about a personal trainer. Included here is its submitted form, without necessary revisions. Enjoy.

Polly Pennyworth didn’t review Malcolm’s complete Placement Profile before he came into her office that morning taking long, lunging strides with each step. Usually the firm’s receptionist kept all these things organized but they’d been without one for weeks and she still hadn’t found the motivation to do it herself. Now here he was in her office – the kind of man that exercised with every movement he made, getting stronger even when he ran his hand through his short, gel-set hair – and Miss Pennyworth was unprepared.

Since Malcolm had come into her office, she had become irritated, like an instant allergy to nitwits, and everything from her usually comfortable blouse to her unusually warm office was annoying her. Malcolm was no exception. She was anything but impressed by his well-defined physique, but found herself staring at him anyway, the same way anybody would stare at someone doing deep-knee bends during an interview. She opened his file up and spread the various papers around in front of her, doing her best to ignore the constant squeaking of his tight orange and black spandex.

“When you’re ready, Malcolm, we can begin.”

“I was born ready, Miss P! Shoot!” Malcolm said, dipping low to the ground and breathing out loudly as he rose, counting every repetition.

“Then if you’ll please have a seat…”

“No can do, Miss P! I still have another set to go. Great health can’t wait!”

Rather than argue, which she was certainly feeling unmotivated to do, Miss Pennyworth decided to start the interview despite his constant dipping and exhaling.

“How are you today, Malcolm?” she asked with disinterest, her glasses sliding down to the end of her long nose.

“Oh I’m great! Two-hour jog, big eight-egg omelet, pushed a lot of weight! It’s a great day! Heart’s pumping, lungs are going, I feel great!”

“That’s… great. I see this will be your fourth placement with People Placers.”

“And I’ve got a great feeling about this one!”

“I’m sure you do. Since you’ve already been through a few placements, your account was moved to a senior representative. Be assured,” she said in a very un-assuring way, like reading from a cue card, “that People Placers works hard for all its hard workers.” Miss Pennyworth pushed her glasses up to see the page marked Placement History more clearly. “Your last placement was with… McDoodles, is that correct? It says here that you were dismissed. From McDoodles.”

“That was a misunderstanding. All I did was make a few suggestions!”

“It says that you were yelling at customers.”

“Yelling suggestions! I was motivating them!”

“You told a man you wouldn’t give him his food until he could see his feet. That he should go for a jog and come back later.”

“You should’ve seen him, Miss P. I’m not sure he even knew he had feet! And then his order, that was like a two heart attack combo meal for four bucks! Just guess how many squats it takes to burn those calories. Come on, guess!” he challenged, pointing his ogre-like finger across the desk, still dipping and exhaling. “More than eighty. Yeah, didn’t think it’d be so many, did you? And that wasn’t the only thing! They only gave me one lunch break! I have to carbo-load at least three times a day, one lunch break just isn’t enough!”

“Right,” she replied indignantly. “In the future, Malcolm, please just do the job as it is described to you. Employers want someone to work, not to improvise,” Miss Pennyworth advised, tapping her long fingernail on the paper for emphasis. “Before that, it says here that you were placed with a call centre. Again, you were dismissed, this time for negligence.”

He rolled his eyes, still dipping down low at the knees and exhaling every time he stood up. “Negligence? Is that what they said? I’ll tell you about negligence! People sitting at home eating chips and watching infomercials, calling up some toll-free number to order a scam ab workout! All I did was tell those losers to stop being losers and do some crunches! Know what I did to get these abs?” he asked, pausing in mid-deep-knee bend to lift his shirt and pat his stomach. “Crunches. It’s all about crunches, baby. More better!”

“Again, Malcolm, please do the job exactly as it is described to you. People Placers has extensive experience in workplace staffing. We guarantee placement if our guidelines are followed. That is to say, if our guidelines are followed,” Miss Pennyworth said sternly, tapping her fingers on the desk like gavels. Long, slender gavels with fake nails. “It says here that your first placement was at a warehouse. You know,” she added, leaning over her desk and inspecting him carefully to make sure he was still the same enormous brute, “I would expect that a warehouse would have been perfect for you. Lifting boxes, moving things… grunting…”

“Oh, that place was full of sissies! Using forklifts to lift crates! Imagine that, like they were too heavy to lift by hand or something.”

“It says you dropped several crates and damaged them.”

“Yeah, just couldn’t get the right grip, I guess. But, hey, no pain no gain!”

Miss Pennyworth dropped her head and stared at Malcolm above her glasses, which had once again slid down to the tip of her nose. She wondered if his spandex might be too tight, particularly around the neck. With a hearty cry of “fifty!” Malcolm stopped his deep-knee bends and sat down. Instead of remaining seated, though, he put his hands on the arms of the chair and repeatedly lifted himself up and down, up and down, exhaling loudly and counting each repetition. There was a polite tap at the door immediately followed by Mister Wilson coming in holding some loose sheets of paper. He was dressed as any other old, potentially senile boss would be; brown slacks, white shirt, and a crooked gag tie. Today, his tie read: “Life starts at 60!”

“Pardon the interruption, but Miss Pennyworth, have you seen my stapler?” he asked, peering over Malcolm’s dipping body to see her desk.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Have you seen your stapler, then?”

Miss Pennyworth took her stapler out from her desk drawer and handed it to Mister Wilson.

“Thank you,” he smiled politely, “if mine ever turns up, you can have it. Shouldn’t be long, I’d expect.” He turned to Malcolm, who was still counting off each up and down, and exclaimed, “You certainly seem fit, young man! What I wouldn’t give for a body like that now!”

“Nothing to it but to do it, sir!”

Mister Wilson chuckled. “Yes, nothing to it but to do it, indeed,” he mumbled to himself as he left the room.

Miss Pennyworth took a deep breath and impatiently shuffled around the papers on her desk until she found the sheet marked Previous Experience. “Moving on,” she said, “let’s discuss other jobs you’ve had so we can take advantage of whatever qualifications you may actually have. You wrote down that you used to be a personal trainer,” she read, hardly surprised.

“Sure was! I was great at it, too. Great job, I’m a great motivator!”

“In addition to that, what other work have you had?”

“I think I wrote it all on that sheet.”

“Yes, I see you wrote ‘personal trainer’ on all ten lines, but what I need to know is what other jobs you’ve had, what other skills you’ve acquired.”

He stopped to think for a few seconds, looking up at the ceiling for help. “Well, I can do over two hundred push-ups in under two minutes! But anybody can do that, they just gotta try harder! More better! Being healthy isn’t a choice, it’s what you gotta do!” he exclaimed, clearly proud of himself. Miss Pennyworth tapped a pen on the area of the form she was expecting to eventually write in.

“Aside from push-ups, what else have you done?” she asked impatiently.

“Oh, plenty! Chin-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups…”

She tapped the pen harder. “Aside from anything to do with exercising, have you done anything else at all?”

“Well, I worked at a restaurant…”

“Okay, that’s a start.” She wrote ‘restaurant’ down on the form. “What else?”

“… a call centre, a warehouse…”

Miss Pennyworth dropped her pen and sighed.

“You know, to be honest, you should just set me up as a personal trainer somewhere,” he said, giving a wide, winning grin.

“We don’t do specialized placements like that. No, you’d need to go to… well, somewhere else for that. In fact, why don’t we give that a try, hmm?” Miss Pennyworth closed Malcolm’s Personal Profile and crossed her hands over the folder. She expected him to get up and walk away at any moment.

“Oh no, Miss P, I’m not giving up on you yet!”

“You could try, you’d be surprised how easy it is.”

“You’ll find me a great job, Miss P, I know it. I can tell you’re great at your job. People must really like working with you… hey, wouldn’t that be great if we worked together?” he asked before stopping his chair exercises to lean across the desk like he was sharing a secret, “You know, Miss P, between you and me, there’s a few people around here that could stand to lose a few pounds. Maybe I could work here, set up a company fitness program. Get rid of some of this dead weight,” he suggested, pointing at Miss Pennyworth but, specifically, pointing to her rumpled, overhanging, larger sized blouse. “I’m thinking jumping jacks for sure, they’re great for cardio, then some lunges, some squats, push-ups. A lazy office is bad for business!”

At the thought of ever working with this empty-headed nitwit, she reached into her desk drawer, pulled out a folder, flipped through it, and picked out a sheet at random. “Here’s your new assignment. This afternoon, report to this address and speak to this person whose name appears on this sheet.” Without looking it over, she pushed it across the desk to Malcolm, who picked it up with his muscular fingers and read it with great enthusiasm.

“Basic receptionist duties! Sounds great!” Malcolm pushed himself up out of the chair. Before he turned to leave, he looked down at Miss Pennyworth. “Listen, I don’t want to sound rude, because it’s not like you’re fat or anything, yet, but if we’re not going to do this company fitness thing, you should consider squats. Nothing to it but to do it! Hey, do you think I’ll get more than one lunch break?”

“No,” Miss Pennyworth answered dismissively.

“Well, that’s okay, I’ll just eat more during one break. It’ll be great!” Malcolm said with excitement before turning and squeezing his hulking frame out the door. Drained, Miss Pennyworth decided she would take one of her frequent extended lunches, including several margaritas and chocolate cake, all on the corporate account.

Later that day, long after she should have been back at work, Miss Pennyworth returned to People Placers and was immediately irritated when she heard Malcolm’s voice roaring from down the hallway. She hurried to the back of the building, fists clenched, and found Malcolm leading the whole office in group aerobics! Everybody was there doing jumping jacks to Malcolm’s resounding cadence, even Mister Wilson, whose daily exercise usually only consisted of walking back and forth from the water cooler. Miss Pennyworth stared at the group in shock.

“Miss P! You’re just in time for our afternoon fitness class!”

“What… afternoon fitness class? And what are you doing here, Malcolm? You should be at your assigned placement!”

“But I am, Miss P!” Malcolm exclaimed. “This is the address you gave me! And guess what! This whole office is eager to get into shape! Come on, join in!”

Miss Pennyworth shot vicious looks around the room. “This is inappropriate! Mister Wilson, will you stop this at once!”

“Now, Miss Pennyworth,” Mister Wilson interjected, slightly out of breath, “Like Malcolm tells us, being healthy isn’t a choice, it’s what you have to do. There’s nothing to it but to do it! A lazy office is bad for business, isn’t that right, Malcolm?”

“You got that right, Mister W!”

“You’re not really listening to this… this… man, are you! He doesn’t know what’s good for business! What’s good for business is to not have him in one’s business!”

“That’s not fair to say about your enthusiastic new co-worker, Miss Pennyworth. He’s a great motivator! While you were out on your – shall we say – generous lunch break, Malcolm here showed us all how to do… oh, what did you call those, Malcolm?”


“Yes, that’s it. I rather enjoy those squats.”

“You’re not too late, Miss P, we’re about to do another set. Everybody should do squats!”

“I do not need to do squats!” Miss Pennyworth shouted.

“Trust me, Miss P,” Malcolm said, looking her up and down as politely as he could, which wasn’t very polite at all, “everybody should do squats. Remember, if you can’t do squats, you can’t do squat!”

Miss Pennyworth turned red in the face and, turning to Mister Wilson, argued, “I assure you, I will not tolerate having to work in the same office as this… this… nitwit!”

“Miss Pennyworth! If you can’t perform alongside someone that I feel is an ideal employee, how does that reflect upon you! Malcolm is an excellent addition to our team. He’s a great motivator!”

Malcolm stopped exercising and beamed a wide, winning grin at Miss Pennyworth. She exploded into a frenzy of hand gestures as she furied across the floor, shouting “I quit!” with more motivation than she’d ever had before. She stormed down the hallway, cursing Malcolm and Mister Wilson and squats all the way to the front door. She heard Mister Wilson’s voice behind her and stopped. Listening carefully, thinking he may have come to his old batty senses and was firing Malcolm, she instead heard Malcolm cheer with great enthusiasm.

“Senior representative! Sounds great! How many lunch breaks do I get?”