Writing from the Outcasts Box has to be the strangest place to sit, watch and write. An eighties track chimes in the background – not always loud enough to hear against the thuds and thunks of a workout . The box smells of orange, rubber and synthetics but the shouts of encouragement are real enough when someone tries and fails to lift against his PB.
Luna, the lurcher, cuddles in my arms – soft, slinky and seal-like, with limbs and paws as graceful as a dancer. She’s on alert for a glimpse of Dan as he strides across the box . She’s not barked yet! Luna’s collar matches the blue of his shirt and she remains wired for her promised playtime.
Here there are no meat heads, they blow like props lifting weights, box jumping, and crashing to the floor and rebounding as they burpee their way through the session.
The window steams and the sheets of rain are punctured by the sharp smell of sweat. The late-September light is just how I remember it: Lead-grey dotted by traffic lights swept clean by the cars that speed past the industrial estate ; then the light is grubby again.
A magpie struts in the stubborn leaves of a copper beech. I cuddle Luna – stroke the silver in her black brown pelt. She’s indifferent – she only has eyes for Dan. She refuses my affection. She remains on guard for the one who rescued her. The music tracks change and collide in the space between both gyms. Luna stretches and changes position. Keep going keep going – the shouts cut through the jangle of competing eighties tracks. It’s hard to remember lyrics as they cut and fuse in a noise that hurts. I reach for Luna and she changes sets and stretches taut on her lead. The shutters open and she pulls towards the window.
‘Walk?” I say and we whizz around the industrial estate across land my ancestors once worked. Luna’s eyes are reproachful – this isn’t the workout Dan promised – the one with the magic word, ‘Ball!” It is good though to smell the city and hear the roar of the traffic and with the rain, and the gloom and the music I feel 17 again.
Inside the box I’m brought sharply to my senses – tail whipped by Luna as she shakes herself dry. She shivers and curls into herself next to me on the sofa.
Edited for Dan and Luna