Just put your back into it

The Cast Stone

The Cast Stone
Michael Gallagher

Since the first human put on his wellingtons and went for a wander around Africa almost 6 million years ago our brains have searched desperately for the meaning of life. Why are we here, what’s the big plan and what’s the point of living one’s best life?
Over the centuries many major historical figures have philosophised about these questions and wondered aloud into the great abyss. Of course, there was little point. Life is complicated enough without trying to make sense of it.
I haven’t learned much in life, and I’m not the smartest, but I do know the secret to my personal happiness is peace of mind. I love it when my world is relaxed; when my loved ones are safe and happy and I have some understanding of what’s occurring around me.
Recently, I thought I was finally getting a handle on things. Maybe enlightenment was finally being bestowed after years of thrashing around through the riptides of life.
How could I have been so wrong?
Last Wednesday started well. The morning went according to plan and work assignments were so successful that an extra-long lunch was earned. I had my gear bag in the boot of the car, so I decided to head for the gym before work called again at 2pm.
The lads at reception had great welcome and as I climbed the stairs there was a bounce in my step. All was right with the world. I finally had it sussed, or so I thought.
A minute later I was sat in the changing room, minding my own business. Two young fellas were in the centre of the floor having their own craic, but it was hard to miss them. They were throwing all sorts of shapes at the mirror. They weren’t the biggest lads in the world, but their self-confidence was whale-sized, fair play to them.
One of them was telling whoever was listening that he had shaved all the hair off his body and the veins in his calf muscles were things of beauty. I looked around to see if I could see any of the ‘Beholder’ family in the room, but those beauty experts were nowhere to be seen.
That bit of chatter and posing was bad enough, but the worst was yet to come.
The second lad was contorting himself into all kinds of shapes in front of the mirror. He seemed to have some serious obsession with his own back. Then he delivered a phrase that told me I really haven’t a clue about life.
The young man in the middle of the room, faced away from the mirror, arched his spine, looked over his shoulder and said, “I have a really succulent back.”
I nearly fell off the bench where I was sat, dragging on my sock.
‘A succulent back’. I’ve heard many phrases in life, but I’ve never heard anyone describe their own back, or anyone else’s for that matter, as succulent.
However, the two lads couldn’t care less what anyone else thought. One was bald all over with veins bulging out of himself and the other lad had a back to die for. That’s where their bliss abided. They were as happy as two pigs in a dung-pit.
Thankfully, at that stage I was suited and booted for action and left the changing room like a rocket. I couldn’t absorb any more body-delight from the dynamic duo.
Forty minutes later, I finished my workout and went back to the changing room for a shower and a return to work. Amazingly, the two lads had returned too. According to themselves they had worked on various muscle groups, and they were now taking pictures of one another’s calves and backs. I kid you not!
Later in the afternoon, I began to think about the daring duo again. On mature reflection, I almost had to admire them. I have spent decades searching for enlightenment. I have wasted years worrying about wages and bills and deadlines. I have lost sleep over health challenges and mortgage repayments, but the true meaning of life never dawned on me until last Wednesday.
All I needed for true happiness was an all-over shave, veiny legs and a succulent rear torso. From what I’ve heard, there truly is nothing like a succulent back.