Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart.
Lily Bart’s arms were bursting out of her satin sleeves like two great slabs of uncooked brisket. “Mr. Selden!” she cried. “What luck. Have you heard? I can deadlift one hundred forty pounds.”
It was not that Miss Bart was afraid of losing her newly-acquired hold over Mr. Gryce. Mrs. Dorset might startle or dazzle him, but she had neither the skill nor the patience to effect his capture.
Besides, Lily Bart could squat over 110 pounds. If it came down to it, she calculated, she could probably crush Mrs. Dorset’s windpipe with her thighs. After all, her thighs were thicker than two large sacks stuffed full of wriggling kittens, and she could use them as she liked.
At last it became clear to Lily that she had lost three hundred dollars at cards.
“Oh—but how!” Lily cried. “If this is to come out, it could—why, it could ruin me!”
Lily Bart’s powerlifting coach frowned. “Lock your knees when you lift, Miss Bart, or you’ll be disqualified from the deadlift competition.”
“Right, of course,” said Lily, turning her focus once again to her powerlifting. What was there to do? She simply had to get yoked if she was going to crush Grace Stepney and make her way into Mrs. Peniston’s good graces.
At the tableau vivant, the curtain suddenly parted on a picture which was simply and undisguisedly the portrait of Miss Bart. The audience gasped.
“Such a beauty!” whispered Selden. Had he been wrong to deny his feelings for her for so long?
Ned Van Alstyne frowned. “Her body looks like it was crudely chiseled out of ham,” he said. “Has nobody else noticed this? Why is Lily Bart so jacked?”
Lily sighed. She was so evidently the victim of the civilization that had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate. Also, the loaded bar on her bench press seemed like the weight of society bearing down on her. And the deadlift above her head? Why, that seemed like the pressure society was placing on her to make a financially successful marriage. This weight-lifting gym was practically swimming in metaphors. It was making it hard to get good reps in.
Over the counter, Lily caught the eye of the clerk who had waited on her before and slipped the prescription into his hand. There could be no question about the prescription: it was for anabolic steroids.
“You don’t want to increase the dose, you know,” the pharmacist remarked. “If you take too many steroids, it could lead to side effects such as hair loss or acne.”
Lily’s heart contracted. What did he mean by looking at her in that way? If she ever hoped to lift at the upper end of her weight class, she simply had to start juicing. How could she ever manage to land a rich husband, she pondered, if her body were built like anything but a brick shithouse?
“I’m afraid you’re taking too many steroids,” whispered Nellie Struther. “Your body looks like a hard pillowcase filled with snakes.”
Lily Bart cracked Nellie’s kitchen table over her knee, reducing it to a pile of splinters.
Lily Bart laid down in bed and reached for her steroids. “I want to be torqued,” she murmured, “Torqued and goosed, shredded, bone-cut, dumped-down, roided-up, maxing out on reps and sets, pumped, making gains, getting bulked and cut, slimming down and rounding out, pounding the metal and working in, getting goal-swole and—oh—punking the bros on railbreakers!”
Her eyes closed and she died.
Lawrence Selden stood over Lily’s body. Even in death, she looked like a grade-A meat machine. Her torso looked like a veiny hunk of rock salt, and her legs looked like big German sausages filled with smaller German sausages.
“The doctor found a bottle of steroids—she had been lifting badly for a long time, and she must have taken an over-dose by mistake,” whispered Gerty Farish.
Selden stared at the woman he loved, whose body looked like an early prototype of a Panzer tank. “She was a beefcake,” he murmured solemnly, and closed her eyes.
He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear.