Dyspnea by Salvatore Difalco


I had thin arms as a boy. When I was about 11, I started doing biceps
curls with a wooden beam in my father’s workshop. It weighed maybe ten
or so pounds. I did hundreds of curls with that beam, hundreds. I did
so many curls with the beam it became too light to give me a pump. So
I added some weight to the beam, in the form of two stout salamis that
my mother was curing in the cantina. They weighed a couple of pounds
each and I tied them to opposite ends of the beam for balance. This
worked. The added weight guaranteed that I got a pump when I did my
curls. This was before barbells became a commonplace. Eventually, two
salamis added to the beam were not enough. I had to add two more. My
skinny, weakling arms were filling out and hardening into serious
pipes. I started wearing tank tops and my little friends made comments
about my arms. Look at his arms, would ya! They’re like Steve Reeves’!
They’re like Popeye’s! Of course Popeye had huge forearms, but his
biceps never featured prominently. My forearms were still quite
slender. But my biceps had really developed. Over the year, I added a
prosciutto to each side of the beam, and by that time it must have
weighed some 40 or 50 pounds. One day my father called me down to his
workshop and asked me what the hell all the meat was doing on the
beam. Surprised that he hadn’t made an issue of it before, I confessed
I was building up my arms. He looked at me skeptically. I showed him
my biceps. He started laughing. His laughter quickly turned into a
coughing fit that went on until he started spitting blood into his
handkerchief. He told me to go get him a glass of water, which I did.
He drank the water, rinsed his bloodied teeth and told me not to tell
my mother about the salamis and prosciutti.


by Salvatore Difalco

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