Getting Better All the Time

My son was the only young person in the physical-therapy facility almost in Texas. The elderly were being led back and forth by cables rolling over pulleys. They stepped up and down on machines that went nowhere, turned circles with their feet but did not move.

I was having ghost pains, an old woman on an upholstered rehab table said loudly. I could feel each bone.

On the TV hanging in the corner there was a hunting channel on, called Pursuit. A man in a baseball cap petted the dead fox he had just shot. Beautiful, he said. He yanked its leg up to check the sex.

Sometimes I could just die, the old woman on the table said. It’s not degenerative.

Yeah, she said, that’s helping a lot. I can feel this and I can feel that.

I told him if it would help me grow I’d be alright.

A woman on TV shot a white-tailed deer. It rolled to its back and moved its limbs slowly, as if having restless dreams.

An attendant in a blood-red polo held a woman’s head between his knees. Her neck was a stalk. He closed his eyes and smiled dreamily. His boss, who looked like the local dean they called The Toad-Choker, stopped to watch.

The TV said it had a full day planned. Pursuit: We Deliver the Outdoors.

Reaper Outdoors: Survive the Hunt!

Hank Parker’s ‘Flesh and Blood.’

An old man completed his set on a chest machine. The attendant made hurrah hands. An old man wearing a straw cowboy hat and boots lay down on a mat with an unlit cheroot in his teeth. The attendant laughed.

Listen to me, it’s degenerative, the old woman on the table shouted. You think it’s going to be a miracle.

I don’t want scar tissue. I’m a good patient, I just don’t listen to them very well.

Are you fighting it? an attendant called distantly.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.