It always does my heart good to walk into a writer’s conference or reading event and see that Shane Gericke is already there. We met at my first Thrillerfest in NYC, where he quickly helped me feel like I belonged. When you read his post, you’ll know why–he has a heart as big as his Chicagoland stomping grounds!
Shane spent 25 years as a journalist–most prominently at the Chicago-Sun Times. But now he writes thrillers full time. His debut novel BLOWN AWAY became a national bestseller three weeks after launch, and was named Romantic Times magazine’s Debut Mystery of the Year. CUT TO THE BONE, the second book of the series featuring Chicago police detectives Emily Thompson and Martin Benedetti, came out in 2007. Number three is coming in early 2010.
Find out more about Shane at his website!
By Shane Gericke
Rain dotted the windows of my house. Dirty brown earthworms crawled my wettened deck. The sky was gray as an anvil, and gloomy as a rejection letter.
“Well doesn’t this just suck,” I grumble to myself, slapping the curtains back in place.
The arthritis in my knee is kicking like a mule, making me limp like Festus on Gunsmoke. The tendonitis in my elbow is worse, the pain throbby enough that I don’t feel like writing, even though I promised my manuscript several thousand new word-pals today. I don’t feel like catching up on e-mail, or cleaning the office, or sorting business receipts, or preparing for the big Bouchercon mystery conference this weekend. I don’t feel like doing a goddamn thing, actually—today I am a cranky, foul grump. Even my happy place—a big, steaming cup of coffee with a splash of cream—is annoying me so much I dump the rest of the pot down the sink.
I decide to hit the gym. Maybe sweating my brains out will blow away my blues.
I limp to my car and climb inside, grumbling and bitching and woe-is-me-ing. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic—I look like a wooden marionette climbing through that little door. My ride is a Honda Civic, and my body doesn’t bend like Gumby when it hurts.
I drive the mile to the gym. Normally, I like to walk, as I’d rather be green when given a choice. Hah. Today, the planet can eat my monoxide.
I parked, hobbled inside, and got busy with stretching and weights.
To call my efforts half-hearted is an insult to heartedness. I was barely going through the motions, because my joints were so stiff and angry that I couldn’t bend far enough to tie my shoes, let along stretch out the kinks and knots to warm up for the weight machines.
Grumbling, I skipped the rest of the warmup and moped over to the main event. I locked on poundages so embarrassingly low that my grandma could have lifted them one-handed, and she’s been dead five years.
I shooed myself to a padded dumbbell bench. Not to lift anything. Just to convince myself I’d actually raised a drop of sweat and could now head home to my easy chair and TV.
Then, the front door opened. In came a little girl. She was pretty. She was young.
She was twisted like a pretzel into a wheelchair.
Pushing her was a young woman with a buff body and a tattoo on her collarbone. Could have been her mom or sister, I guess. But I think she was a personal aide from an agency. She had the cheerful demeanor and practiced assurance of someone who helps people cope with debilitating diseases for a living.
She locked the chair’s wheels, then helped Amy to her feet. That’s the little girl’s name, Amy, I learned from my pesky writer’s habit of listening to public conversations to hear how people really talk. She got Amy turned in the right direction, and started her walking. Amy bent and swayed and lurched. But she didn’t whine or complain, as I had with a thousand things less wrong with my situation.
Together, they walked the length of the room, to where the floor mats were stored. “Walked” stretched the definition, I suppose—Amy flopped and dragged and stumbled. But she did the locomotion work, so I say it counts. The aide guided her, telling her about the great workout they were going to have.
How can she do that, when I can’t lift my knees to my waist?
I left my comfy bench to find out. I made sure not to stare, as that would be an unacceptable invasion of their privacy.
The aide eased Amy’s behind to a mat, then planted her feet at the end. She moved Amy’s sweatshirted shoulders into place, then said, “OK, let’s begin.”
Amy struggled to keep herself upright. The aide centered her. Then, Amy’s arms started flopping around. The aide took her hands—gently and matter-of-factly, encouraging Amy every step of the way. Together, they bent their legs at the knees, then lowered their upper bodies to the mat.
Down, they went.
Up, they came.
A situp so perfect a Marine would be proud
“One,” the aide counted.
Amy moaned something in a language only the two of them understood.
“No, you’re doing great,” the aide encouraged. “Let’s try it again.”
Two, they went.
Three, they went.
“Ten,” the aide said after awhile. “Very good!”
Amy made the moan again.
They worked their way around the gym, trying things. I kept a loose shadow, observing them as I performed my own neglected workout. I felt a little ashamed of how I’d whined so much before. Amy could easily have laid in bed around the clock, doing nothing. Nobody would blame her.
But she didn’t. She came to this gym, fought her way to that mat, worked through the ten sit-ups and the other exercises, the aide cooing encouragement all the while.
Not that Amy got cheers regardless. She was treated like any other athlete. Once, she started whining and acting up, just like I had. The aide said, firmly, “Hey. We don’t do that. Do you want to get back in your wheelchair and return to the van?”
Amy said no.
Amy wanted to work out.
So they did.
They worked their machines. I worked mine. They rested, I rested. They got back to it, I got back to it. I didn’t leave till they did.
And guess what?
My mood is much sunnier now.
My arthritis still hurts, but not as much.
And the gloomy sky?
Still there. But it’s not gray.
I’m calling it pewter. Or, maybe, polished sterling.
Because in the end, life is all in how you view it.
Thanks for being here, Shane!
[Remember–Everyone who comments is entered to win $100 Godiva Chocolatier and Harry & David giftbaskets, plus books from several Octoberguest! authors! Drawing held November 2nd.]
Monday’s Octoberguest!: Deborah LeBlanc