Bodybuilding thongs on the bed, steroid needles on the night stand, used bottles of testosterone on the ground, Viagra and a plastic trophy on the book shelves – this was the hotel room of Riki Pianola, a middle-aged heavyweight bodybuilder.
After taking a shower Riki stared at his reflection in the mirror and began contemplating the ink covering his body. He had so many tattoos that during each bathroom analysis he was always rediscovering a new one. Riki looked at his eyes. A sharp feeling of self-destruction passed through his heart like an electric impulse. He had become unrecognizable.
“Who am I?”
Riki was getting tired of the muscle industry. He was spending most of his money on drugs, food, and supplements only to receive ugly souvenirs. Every time a skinny guy in an expensive suit was giving him a check for 10k, Riki was getting mentally prepared to cry himself to sleep. He needed more than that just to cover his monthly drug bills. It was really hard not to punch the pencil neck straight in the face. The low IQ bimbo with fake blonde hair holding the other side of the check was not making things any easier. Riki was tired of fitness girls. They were too easy and lacked the intelligence needed to be with him. Next to fitness sluts, he felt like a professor from Harvard.
“This is it. I am getting a real job,” said Pianola and recalled the way his high school biology teacher nicknamed “The Bottle” (excessive drinking) used to talk to him – “Where do you think muscles will take you, Riki? More studying, less pumping”.
“The drunk was right,” whispered Riki to himself while lying down on the bed. He kept his feet planted on the floor. Admitting the obvious hurt, but the moment of truth had come. A change of direction was in order.
Riki began going through the contacts on his phone. Over the years he had met people from all walks of life. It was time to put them to good use.
“Who should I call? Bobby The Needle? No, I don’t want to get involved in the steroid smuggling game again. Dave Palumbinio The Alien Predator? No! This guy has an ego bigger than his gut.”
Pianola realized that most of his contacts were linked to the industry one way or another. This was a problem because his heart was begging to get out of the thong sector. Riki wanted to try something new in the “real” world and make his family proud again.
At about 8 o’clock in the evening, Riki prepared to get out. He had planned to go downstairs and watch a jazz concert. Riki hated jazz but live music is live music regardless of the genre. Staying alone in the hotel room was not an option. He put on a nice black shirt, his new red-black sneakers with “Pianola” written above the heal and on the outer side, sprayed a sprinkle of exotic perfume, passed through the cloud and left.
Riki sat at a bar and ordered whiskey – his favorite drink. Then he started analyzing the surroundings. There were many snobs and mistresses in the house. The women were wearing silk dresses worth thousands, and yet their gestures were taken out of cheap porn movies. Class? Not even once. Brain? Maybe 5%.
Riki was just about to order another drink when somebody touched his traps. Instinctively, Pianola moved back while turning around.
“Hey, Riki, buddy! It’s me, S.H. Don’t kill me, please,” said a decently built man with glasses.
S.H. was an old friend of Pianola who used to share his love for muscle back in the day but hated competing. His original name was Samuel Harrison, but due to his initials and dark past, he was also known as the Sultan of Hormones.
“Oh, man! Look at you! You look great,” said Riki.
Samuel was indeed looking like a slick baller.
“Thanks, man. You look nice too. Huge! Monstrous even.”
“I am trying to stay in shape, you know.”
“It’s working. Is bodybuilding still your job?”
“Well, yes,” said Pianola. The shame in his eyes was obvious, but it was hard for him to play tricks with the Sultan of Hormones. S.H. could read people like an open book.
“I am looking for something new, to be honest. What about you,” added Pianola.
“I am working as an investment banker right now and have a few personal projects on the side too.”
“Money goes to money, right?”
“I guess so,” replied Samuel, although he didn’t come as one of those people who put their success in your face all the time.
“Listen, Sam, do you have something for me? I have many skills. It’s not just muscle,” said Riki. He was hurting inside because asking others for help was new to him.
“Hm….now that you mentioned it, I am actually starting a new project. Are you interested in being the main advertising model of a new knife brand?”
“A knife brand? By knives you mean those things that cut other things.”
“I have Rambo style knives to promote. You have the looks.”
“20k a month plus 1% of all annual sales.”
While they were shaking hands a diamond watch slid out of Samuel’s sleeve. A reflection of light stabbed Riki in the eye. Greed mode was on.
A few days later, the money wheel was already under construction. The knife brand had a new name – “Pianola Blades”. The targeted audience were people from the higher middle class and hipsters.
2 months later there were working prototypes and a TV commercial. Mass production was planned to begin in two weeks.
Right before one of the final meetings, Riki had to use the luxury bathroom of Samuel to load his glutes with synthetic testosterone. He was still a bodybuilder at the end of the day. Once you are addicted to muscle there is no turning back. While he was in the process of looking for the right spot to inject, he overheard a conversation between Samuel and another investor.
“Here’s how it’s going to work. I have contacts in China. There are manufacturers willing to make the knives exactly the way we want them for 50 cents each. We are going to sell a truckload of knives to Walmartinio stores for about $10 a piece. They will sell them to the mass consumer for $29.99 each. We are going to make a killing,” said the investor talking with Samuel.
“Cool. Except that this is not enough,” said Samuel.
“Are you serious? We are paying 50 cents per unit and selling it for 600 times more.”
“What if I told you that we can actually make even more money?”
“First, we have to make sure that every gym in the whole country has a poster of my guy, Pianola. I want him more popular than Coca-Cola. Then, we will tell the Chinese to send us the knives in two parts, a blade and a handle, so that we can put ‘Assembled in the USA’ on them. This will look even more appealing to the customers we’re targeting. Many naive individuals feel guilty for buying things made by exploited people overseas. This will increase our expenses, but at the end, we could sell units to Walmartinio stores for $20 a piece. They will sell it to the end customers for $50 easily. I am talking about ‘world class whores around you on an island’ type of bank. Are you in,” said Samuel.
“I am in, but you promised that Riki guy 1% of all annual sales. That’s a little too much for a bicep, don’t you think?” said the other guy.
“How will he know the actual annual profit? We can cook the books,” explained the Sultan of Hormones.
The greed in the air was strong.
By the end of the speech, the last drop of test from the syringe had been introduced to Riki’s glutes. He was feeling extra alpha and decided to confront his employer and former friend right away. Riki entered the room like a hungry gorilla looking for the last banana on Earth.
Samuel’s friend, the investor, immediately regretted not wearing diapers that day, but the Sultan of Hormones himself was standing in the middle of the room like nothing had happened.
“Hi, Riki! How are you?”
“Bitch, please! I heard your fucking plan. The fucking knives cost you pennies because you are exploiting people. Making millions and giving me pocket change!? Fuck you, twink,” said Pianola.
Samuel sat on the leather chair behind and started talking.
“Here’s how things work in the real world, my man. To get where I am, you have to forget about the movies and the media. It’s all a lie. You can’t win as a nice guy. You have to be willing to hit others around you. This is the world of the predator. There is no place for mercy. If you can’t fight back, you die.”
“And I thought I was getting a real job,” said Riki while squinting.
“A real job? Seriously? What is real job according to you, Riki?”
“A job that helps society move forward, like a doctor or a police officer.”
“It seems to me that you haven’t learned much from wearing that thong for 20 years, little big Riki. The ideas in your head don’t work in the current system. There are doctors who refuse to cut you if you don’t have insurance. Meanwhile, policemen are doing more work for the mafia than serving and protecting. They are all paid to protect the corrupt system and nothing else. It’s a game, Riki. A game that ordinary people can never win, but have to play. A real job? Give me a break. There is no such thing as a real job – only business and little games for the slaves to play. Keep your end or we will just find another meathead,” finished Samuel.
The next few days were highly melancholic for Riki. It turned out that he was doing more good to the world by wearing his thong and promoting muscle than being a part of a more respected “legit” business.
Someone knocked. It was his growth hormone dealer. Riki was late on a payment.
“You better have my money next week or I will break your synthol arms,” said the dealer. He had an iron bat over his shoulder. Riki’s knees got soft.
“I will have the money next week,” he said.
A few minutes later Riki Pianola contacted the Sultan Of Hormones:
“Fuck it! I am in.”
“Nice. By the way, we are going to sell protein powder as a bonus with some of the high-end knives,” said Samuel.