Virgin Vinny loses more than he bargained for


AGAINST THE ODDS:On the recommendation of neighbour Mabel Murgatroyd, Vinny dons his football shorts for an aqua aerobic class in the local ‘Total Fatness’ club

DIPPING A gnarled yellowy toe into the water, Vinny Fitzpatrick tried his damnedest to look casual even though he felt as self-conscious as an Everton fan on The Kop.

As he immersed his behemoth bulk into the pool, he considered Archimedes and wondered how much water he was displacing – several drums worth, he thought to himself.

It was half nine on a Monday morning and Vinny was boldly going where he’d never gone before – an aqua aerobics class for the nifty-50s in a fitness club in Fairview known locally as “Total Fatness”.

He passed “Total Fatness” regularly, as it was on the route of the 130, but here he was, darkening its doorstep for the first time.

The early morning dip hadn’t been Vinny’s idea, rather the upshot of a conversation between Angie and Mabel Murgatroyd, a kindly neighbour in Mount Prospect Avenue.

“Mabel swears by the benefits of the class. Look at her – she’s as supple as a gymnast. Why don’t you give it a go? You’ve nothing to lose, except a few pounds,” chided Angie.

Having uncovered an old pair of baggy football shorts, complete with inside netting for his bits n’bobs, Vinny had tied a double knot before entering the water.

Mabel was beckoning at Vinny from the far end of the pool which was dappled with cloth-coloured heads and exposed shoulders. To his dismay, Vinny noticed the class was exclusively female.

Gingerly, he waded past the assorted ranks of seasoned water nymphs, convinced one or two were giggling at him, and took his berth beside Mabel. “Not many fellas around are there?” he observed.

“There never are, especially of a Monday. Don’t worry, when it gets going, it’s every woman, and man, for themselves,” said Mabel. “You’ll be so tired, you won’t even notice.”

Squatting down to eye level, Vinny glanced surreptitiously around. There were about 30 in the class but because they were mostly submerged, and wearing swim caps, Vinny couldn’t tell much about his classmates, their age or their tonnage.

Even so, one or two caught his eye and smiled back. There was even a thumbs-up from one snake-eyed semi-submersible.

On the pool deck, the class instructor was fiddling with the amplifier. He was in his early 30s, dark-haired, tanned, toned and wired up for sound. A white sticker on his tight-fitting shirt identified him as Ross.

“Right, can you hear me?” roared Ross. “Good. Any virgins with us there today?”

Vinny felt himself blush. He was never comfortable with the word, and even less so when the question was directed at him.

Slowly, he raised a dripping paw aloft. “Hey, bro, welcome to the nifty-fifty club. What’s your name?” beamed Ross.

“Er, Vinny,” said Vinny, silently wishing he could smash the amplifier over Ross’s sculpted shoulders.

“Well virgin Vinny, great to have you on board. Don’t worry, if you feel yourself struggling, you won’t be alone. Let’s hear it for virgin Vinny everyone.”

To Vinny’s acute embarrassment, he heard murmurs of “to virgin Vinny” ripple around the pool, amid more laughter. He was mortified and his cheeks were as crimson as the cap which was doing its best to fall off his potato-shaped head.

As the class got under way, to the backdrop of disco music, no one felt more relieved than Vinny as it removed the spotlight from him.

Ross oversaw a warm-up which involved marching on the spot, swinging arms and standing on tippy-toes. It was nothing that Vinny couldn’t do but just as he was beginning to feel comfortable, Ross cranked up the revs. “Right, let’s hit it,” he bellowed.

The next 15 minutes were a blur of water and a physical intensity that reminded Vinny of the Community Games in Mosney as a nipper. One moment he was punching the water, the next he was doing star jumps, at least he was trying to.

He was gasping for air when Ross ordered everyone to grab on to the side of the pool. “Right, legs out and start kicking for 40 seconds, then 30, then 20. Let’s do it.”

Almost immediately, Vinny’s swim cap slid off. He reached out for it but only succeeded in grabbing the arm of a spiky sea urchin to his left. She peered at him and hissed “keep your hands to yourself, mister” before resuming the exercise.

Vinny wanted to apologise but Ross was standing over him. “Come on Vinny, 10 seconds to go. Get those legs of yours going. I want to see the water move.”

After a brief rest, Ross reminded everyone to put in a big effort for the second round. “This is where you’ll feel the benefits later, especially you virgin Vinny,” he grinned.

Vinny felt he was holding his own when, half-way through the second set of star jumps, he foundered. It happened just as he clasped his hands above his head. Suddenly, he felt his shorts loosen. Instinctively, Vinny squatted down to assess the situation: things weren’t good below the water-line. The knot holding the shorts in place had come undone. One end of the lace was dangling in the water; the other had disappeared into the inner lining. Vinny felt for it with his flabby fingers but it was no use; he couldn’t work it back towards the opening.

There was only thing for it; he had to keep his shorts in place with his hand. Slowly, he made his way towards the steps at one side of the pool; it was time for an embarrassing retreat. As he put a fleshy hand on the rails, he felt a light tug on his ankle. He looked around. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” It was the snake-eyed mermaid he’d noticed earlier. She was holding Vinny’s cap in her hand. “You can’t leave without this?”

Vinny was in a dilemma. One hand was holding on to the railings, while the other was keeping his togs firmly in place. To stick or twist? He bent his head towards the pool. “Would you mind awfully?” he said.

“Not at all,” said snake eyes, taking care to put Vinny’s cap back in place. With that, she tapped him on the noggin and laughed. “You didn’t too badly today, for a virgin.”

As a red-faced Vinny shuffled down the side of the pool towards the changing rooms, his route took him past Ross, who was encouraging the class to indulge in pelvic gyrations. “Thrust in, thrust out,” yelled Ross.

A split second was all Vinny needed, and that was all it took for him to flick out an elbow and nudge Ross into the drink. “You want to see the water move, Ross? Well, it just has,” grinned Vinny to himself as he plodded on.

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