Essentially Ashland: By Lance Pugh — I began going to the YMCA again, after many months of sitting and cranking out articles for far too many hours each day.

I did it again. I began going to the YMCA again, after many months of sitting and cranking out articles for far too many hours each day. I was beginning to look like a harbor buoy, bobbing and bouncing as my digits clogged out a tune of tomes as the clock relentlessly advanced from the early morning, through lunch and toward the early evening.

I like to begin the workout with some stretching, but by this I do not mean limbering up the body, but rather engaging in some conversation in which I exaggerate incrementally until any possibility of it resembling reality simmers, then pops into one of an infinite number of parallel universes, where I am also at the gym telling tall tales.

It is a fine art, much like fly-fishing, to reel in an unsuspecting listener with a minnow of a lead-in with an orca-like finish, all while keeping a straight face and non-expressive body language. I usually land a few flapping fins, then excuse myself toward the myriad machines that, during the time of Tomas de Torquemada, the famous inquisitor, would have easily qualified as torture devices, at least the way I seem to misuse them.

I usually like to start with some bench presses and pectoral crunches, both of which leave me shaking like a leaf in a windstorm. Yet, to be truthful, I always keep one eye glued to an abdominal machine, which seems to call out to me like the Sirens did to Ulysses in "The Odyssey." It apparently calls out to many, as every time I glance its way someone is in a determined quest for a six-pack.

The line in front of this machine snakes like an anaconda and seems to wind around and through the gym as it apparently is the favorite of everybody. Dozens of other specialized machines sit idle as this one just keeps on crunching. On dozens of occasions I have noticed it not in use, but cannot seem to get to it before the next samba line of devotees approaches it with enthusiasm and seems to exit its clutches in just a few minutes with a newly sculptured waistline. Most of the people who use it run for some scissors and trim their tops to expose newly formed rippling muscles. Meanwhile, I can only sigh from a distance.

I have made many attempts to gain access to this machine, some subtle, some overt and some outright deceptive, but thus far the only technique is to place an "Out of Order" sign on it and wait for the throngs to dissipate. Once accomplished, I get on the machine and hope and pray for any sort of result that would have me rush to shorten the shirt and flex my abs homeward with determined confidence.

Just yesterday I found the machine unused and proceeded to huff and puff my way to near exhaustion as my waist headed wasp-ward. I finished my sets in a froth, yet felt so fresh that I could not resist a few more sets to make up for all those days when such a targeted work out was not possible.

Feeling like a prize fighter, I did my routine on another 10 machines before skipping and laughing to the car. Minutes later I was parked at home. I exited the vehicle with far less élan than I expected and climbed the three steps to the porch like a mountain climber, clearly out of oxygen, nearing the top of Mount Everest for his three minutes of fame. I collapsed on a chair and nodded off in a wink.

The next sound I did not hear was the arrival of my wife, Annette, whose Prius, at parking speeds, runs on electricity and is as quiet as a mouse. Not to appear the sloth, I struggled to my feet and greeted her with a private viewing of my abs.

"You look like the Michelin Man," intoned my ever-observant companion.

Thinking furiously for a fast comeback, my only response turned out to be flat: "I just feel a little run down and tired."

Lance@journalist.com was last seen warming up for a workout by dodging walnuts being winged his way by a pair of squirrels high up in a tree. If you are nuts about anything, toss it Lance's way.