Octoberguest! Shane Gericke

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!

Welcome, Shane!

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.
Great workout?
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

7 thoughts on “Octoberguest! Shane Gericke”

  1. Sandy Space says:

    Deborah LeBlanc is a fantastic story teller….her books are great haunted bedtime tales. She is an energetic person who immediately captivates her audiences.
    She is the founder of the Leblanc Challenge which motivates young people to read. Deborah personally presents her literacy program in schools all across the nation. Two books are given to each student who is encouraged to read them and take the LeBlanc Challenge. Challenge winners can win many prizes including cash incentives to obtain a college degree. If you wish to learn how you can help, please visit: http://www.literacyinc.com

  2. Pinckney says:

    Beautifully observed, Shane. I can see why L enjoys your company and your writing so much.

    As sad as this makes me seem, I was a childhood GUNSMOKE addict – and, though Festus had a lot of stuff wrong with him, I think it was Chester who had the bad leg.

  3. jodi says:

    Shane, Sometimes we need to be exposed to those worse off than ourselves to realize our reality. I think we have all been there. I love the pewter sky and intend on calling it such during our long, Detroit winter.

  4. MFMakichen says:

    Wow, I’m just blown away by your post. What a lovely way you have with words! I love the sentiment expressed as well.

  5. Ken Lewis says:

    Shane: I have the opposite problem you do. I’m still in Lakeview, Organ staying at The Hindu Inn on my two week mule deer hunt. When I arrived here October 4th I was in fine physical shape. As fit as a fifty year old fiddle! But nine days of traversing rugged terrain that would intimidate the most seasoned of military mountain troop units, and driving hundreds of miles over washboard logging roads (the equivalent of having your spine adjusted…every five to ten seconds… at the chiropractor’s office) I am in piss, poor shape. Oh, and I’m not even counting Saturday when I got lost on a mountaintop in a blinding snowstorm and had to walk out using my Garmin GPS, finally reaching my 4X4 at 8:30 that night! Fortunately, my wife packed a 180 capsule bottle of Glucosamine Chondrotin with my other stuff, and I’ve taken to downing ten or twelve capsules at night, washing them down with copious amounts of Jack Daniels. The good news is I am feeling better, and the even better news is my hunt ends Wednesday and I get to go home! And what about the deer, you say? Hell, at this point I wouldn’t even consider shooting, since Search & Rescue might have to press one into service to pack either me, or my remains, out of these mountains and back to town.

    PS: I know how much you admire my Ruger Mini-14 and if for some reason I don’t make it back home, it’s yours old buddy.

  6. Shane Gericke says:

    Hi, everyone, I’m back from Bouchercon and finally back to my computer. Laura, thanks so much for allowing me to run my little ditty about that little girl. She has a lot of grit.

    Sandy, you’re absolutely right when you say Deborah is a great storyteller. The Challenge shows her helping side. Together, they make one great person.

    Thanks, Pinckney,for the most generous thoughts. It’s great to know Laura, and now, you. I loved Gunsmoke, and still occasionally catch it on reruns when channel surfing. It’s held up better than, say, The Beverly Hillbillies 🙂 Damn, I think you’re right about Chester being the one with the limp. But being an author, I will blame my editor, copy editor, publisher and all readers everywhere for not telling me beforehand not to commit my error to print 🙂

    Jodi, feel free to borrow the pewter any time you like. I love winter, but damn those gray skies are tough to take when they run for weeks on end. Fingers crossed for blue over Detroit and Chicago.

    For those of you who don’t know mfmakichen, she is Mary-Frances Makichen, and she’s going to be one of the next big things in writerdom. Her first manuscript was just accepted at a big-time literary agency, and with her personality and talent, I predict she’s going places. Thanks, mf, for your praise. Tis appreciated.

    And Ken, my good friend, I openly lust after your camouflaged Mini-14. But don’t get yourself yakked on a mountainside on my account–Ruger can always make another one! Hope the hunt went well. For those of you who don’t know Ken, he is a police chief and a writer of major talent, whose new book LITTLE BLUE WHALES I just had the joy of finishing on the plane ride to Bouchercon. Do yourself a favor and order a copy. Order enough of them and Ken will send me his rifle for free.

  7. Kaye Barley says:

    Shane, just read your piece and it is lovely. Pure Gericke with the poetry we’ve come to expect from you – even though you do blow things up on a daily basis (fictionally, of course).

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