Gripping by Steve Biersdorf

Steve Biersdorf's Floridian character laments the inevitability of ageing.

Image generated with OpenAI
Two car salespeople with squinty, weathered gazes, outside the showroom smoking. Coming across the lot, an elderly couple slowly approaches, the man employing a walker.

"Great," one of the salespeople says, "grippers."

"Why do you call them grippers, Lord Sidious?" the other salesperson asks.

"Observe, my young apprentice, how he holds onto that walker for dear life."

I have the odd fantasy about having once been renowned, even legendary in some circles, left to rot in a nursing home, a woolgathering smile for the fawning admirer who had to meet me before it's too late. The setting for these fantasies is a bleary gestalt of the piss-pungent shithole from where Dad was born into eternity, Parkview Gardens, and the cedar-stenchy bovine outpost where Perry's Mom stays, Autumn Woods.

Technically or officially, Perry's Mom never agreed to live at Autumn Woods. Her admission to Autumn Woods was an abduction, a forced relocation. Perry and I took her to breakfast at a Greek family restaurant, a carby palace on the Cattletown strip, piles of leathery hash browns with melted pads of butter like oil slicks, dawdling over our coffees. Off then to Autumn Woods, ostensibly to visit Mom's sister already interred. Perry and her sisters had been broaching the idea to Mom, softening the blow, paving the way as it were, but because the response was always adamantly no, abduction was the only alternative; Perry with Power of Attorney, Mom with dementia. Mom was foot-tappingly furious until Autumn Woods became the only place she'd lived for as long as she could remember.

Dad's admission to Parkview Gardens was similarly against his will, though less of an abduction since he'd stroked; more like a semisoft landing, dropping down on the runway, jolting him from his slumber, unable to get around without a walker as he was, having difficulty speaking, everything he ate liquified, everything he drank thickened, everything he ingested degrees of viscosity.

With the ideal that any kind of ambulatory autonomy might be possible in Dad's twilit future, according to the head therapist, Raji, physical therapy/occupational therapy had been scaled back because Dad had plateaued. He hadn't been responding to new treatments, hadn't been progressing with existing ones, Raji explaining they would do some light therapy with Dad in his room, and if he were to regress, back to normal PT/OT he'd go. He regressed, and so there we were. At $250/hour, Medicare B wasn't willing to pick up the tab unless he regressed. If or when he stopped improving and plateaued again, Medicare B would stop paying for therapy, until he regressed again (insert eyerolling emoji).

I sat off to a side observing in the brightly-lit and linoleum-tiled therapy space, there to offer encouragement in any appropriate fashion, as if Dad were a toddler piling blocks or learning to count with his fingers. The therapist, Kelly, bouncing a red mega ball that Dad caught then bounced back to her. His throws were off the mark, intentionally, it seemed to me. Kelly had to reach over her head or pivot adroitly to catch the ball.

Next Kelly gave Dad a flex bar, telling him to bend it into a U, then an upside-down U. She gave him a yellow then a red then a green one, each color a greater resistance. Dad struggled with the green one.

She then retrieved a laundry basket filled with rubber chickens, scrunchies and sensory shapes, triangles, balls, squares, that look donated; chewed, drooled on, handled with filthy hands, soaked in disinfectant. She dumped the contents on an ottoman she placed in front of him, then placed the laundry basket to his side, with a three-foot space in between, telling him to throw the rubber chickens, scrunchies and sensory shapes into the laundry basket.

Dad made little effort to toss these items into the laundry basket, tossing them carelessly to the side, some landing in the basket, most landing in the three-foot space or in front of him, on the floor. I spotted indignity unapparent to the unnuanced eye, fueled by me observing. He was a doctor of theology, a reverend and father, he would have wanted Kelly to know; he'd written five books, founded a seminary where they named the library after him, he'd been pastor of two churches, he'd built two houses. He was a Marine.

I'm at a Walgreen's pharmacy, waiting for a refill of hydrochlorothiazide. My new ENT doc erroneously prescribed twelve point five micrograms rather than my usual fifty, which I take for Meniere's Disease, or Many Years' Disease, many years of wear and tear on my right inner ear: Middle Class Rut at the Rave, The Plasmatics at Masonic Temple, earbuds like amplifiers blaring point-blank at my sensitive hearing apparatus, high-performance exhaust systems, alcohol-fueled exuberance in canned spaces, unsolicited opinions, I-me-my, life stories, long-stories-short that never are. If I don't take two hydrochlorothiazides (50 mcg) a day I experience not-so-benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Imagine your screen losing containment, your panorama unmoored, adrift, floating, zero gravity, equilibrium shot, graying pallor, sweating torrentially, projectile vomiting, speaking in tongues, head spinning around, telling the pharmacist her mother sucks cocks in hell.

I needed a card with a PSN number for prescriptions, and now, after the seven-to-ten business days for my insurance provider to deliver this to me, the pharmacist is checking the validity of my PSN number. While she's checking the validity of my PSN number - which involves series of mouse clicks, frenetic typing, and frustrated sighs - I'm dancing discreetly to I'll Be Around by The Spinners, softly seeping through the store's sound system. I don't know if you could call it dancing, precisely, more like aping movements I imagine sync to the beat. I've been around long enough to remember listening to this song on WABC-AM when it was a top-40 hit, with a transistor radio with retractable antenna. I imagine if I were to tell this to anyone, the smirk I'd get in return that I'm really that old, as if aging is an avoidable affliction.

The bathroom fan, positioned directly above the toilet, is singing, a single, soft, high-pitched note emanating from behind its dusty grid, an indication the impeller behind the grid is growing weary of being forever relied on to eradicate foul odors. It asks nothing, always grinding on, expected to function with the flip of a switch, until now. Hello? How about dusting off the grid? Would a spritz or two of WD40 put anyone out? Did we expect the bathroom fan to function unappreciated and maintenance-free into eternity? Did we not foresee this day, when the bathroom fan would warn of its impending demise? Must we live in constant denial that there is an end to all things? Why, yes, we must. It's easier that way.

As I'm taking a sack of garbage out to the dumpster, I hear three beeps in succession not unlike the tweets of a bird, except they're perfectly timed and without pitch variation. The beeps are getting louder as I get closer. Someone, out of frustration, has dispensed with their malfunctioning electronic device, which now resides in the dumpster, awaiting the last leg of the journey to its final reward, the county dump, where it will take up its final resting place in a mound of refuse, beeping incessantly until the battery dies, its remotest hope of resurrection that some purveyor of junk and antiquities combs through the piles of refuse for trinkets, anything of value. The beeping electronic device is salvageable. It works. In the hands of anyone more competent, it probably functions optimally.

It beeps due to operator error, its former owner, likely an aging baby boomer not of the electronic age, and not predisposed to electronic devices that arbitrarily malfunction, unable to interpret instructions that falsely assume the new owner of this device has a level of expertise equivalent to the designers and manufacturers thereof.

Leaving for work, backing out, looking both ways, using the reverse camera because my fusing neck vertebrae allow my head to turn only slightly in either direction. I see an elderly woman walking her well-behaved dog. She's upright and healthy appearing, no tired stoop or encumbered shuffling. She waves at me, a friendly wave, something more than perfunctory. I wave back, reaching over toward the passenger-side window to ensure that she'll see I returned her wave with equal verve.

Are we waving because we're neighbors? Or because we share the same relative fate: to live out the rest of our mortal existences in these somewhat remote, modest yet not inexpensive units of dwelling, co-residents of this gated community with its well-tended grounds and strategically-located dumpsters, with access to a shared pool and cramped workout facility?

Or are we waving to each other because we might have met, and neither of us is sure if we did or not? The way we wave at each other is how two people who are acquainted, friendly even, might wave at one another. This way, if we have met, and neither of us remembers, or one of us does but not the other, neither of us is the wiser.

Post-it notes are piling up beneath my monitor. Reminders, important phone numbers or email addresses, things that need tending to, or numbers or email addresses I needed before and could need again. Eventually, I'll decide the accumulation is messy, sort through these post-it notes, throwing most if not all of them away as casualties of my ever-shifting priorities. Each note knowing their existence will be short-lived once scrawled upon, as is the nature of post-it notes, kamikaze by definition, nobly prepared for their fate.

Across the desk from me, Mr. Leonard III is indignant. Mr. Leonard III is a well-to-do gentleman in his seventies, a tall man, founder and former proprietor of a successful construction company. On the left side of the buyer's order are charges, things he ordered for the two jet skis he's purchasing, covers for both, life vests, anchors and such.

"What are those charges?" he demands to know.

"Those are the items you ordered, sir," I say. "Life vests, covers, anchors and such."

He looks hard at me.

"Always something more with you people. More, more, more. Every time I talk to someone here it costs me more."

"If it helps, think of it as a budget overrun," I suggest. "Or you were given a faulty estimate based on incomplete information."

There are exorbitant fees elsewhere on this buyer's order, a destination charge, a commodities surcharge, and a documentation fee. Together they're more than the items he ordered. The items he ordered are positioned separately from everything else, the destination charge, commodities surcharge, documentation fee, original price, sales tax, and the total.

Mr. Leonard III needs to avail himself of the facilities. While he's gone Mr. Leonard IV, who would satisfy any casting director's prerequisites for ne'er-do-well offspring of a wealthy patriarch, and presumably who at least one of the jet skis is for, is apologetic.

"He used to be sharp as a tack."

"His instincts are still sound," I offer.

I figure I need to work for another seven years. Face cremes, flaxseed and sycophancy are my plan to get there. Over the years I've mastered faux sincerity. Sycophancy is a bit of a fine line; feigning interest at all times without excessive flattery, refraining from I or me statements.

After boasting to me that he dates women his daughter's age, an old friend sent me pictures of him with this twenty-something girlfriend, from Rio de Janeiro. In one of the pictures, the two of them in bed, his face is oily/sweaty and mottled and old-looking contrasted with her youthful glow. If only I could be so blithely lacking in self-awareness, but I can't, because as my father once said about me, I'm a survivor. And so, retinoid, exfoliate, moisturize, moisturize; it's important to look as young as possible for my age. My advanced age will serve as an unpleasant reminder that they, too, will one day be old and infirm, unless I can better blend, blunting perception of me as old, minimizing my margin for error as sixty comes and goes, then sixty-one, sixty-two...

I forget a line item on one of the contracts, a service fee. I'm usually "on point" with such matters, as anyone would tell you. Lee, who's three years older than I am, recommends taking B-12 for mental acuity, a thousand microgram tablets, one per day. It's the third time he's recommended B-12 to me, and for the third time I tell him I already take B-12. He has a worried expression at this news. Not because I've told him before and he's forgotten, but because I might be evidence B-12 isn't the failsafe solution he thought it was.

Screened-in porches here are referred to as Florida rooms. The buildings where these dwellings are housed are two-story. The backs of two of the buildings, where the Florida rooms are, are perpendicular to one another and look out on a courtyard of patchy lawn, where people walk their dogs, hence the patchiness, dominated by a giant spruce and storm-ravaged smaller tree right outside our allotted Florida room. And there's a vented garbage on a pole where dog excrement can be deposited, a Whitman's Sampler of plastic bag and creamy nougat destined for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Sometimes when I'm returning home at the end of a work day, coming down a sidewalk through the courtyard, an unseen gentleman will regale me with a commercial ditty, ditties old and relatively new but mostly archaic, some that predate my awareness of such things. The man, whoever he is, is a human archive of commercial ditties and jingles.

"My bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R."

"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is."

"Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."


Delivered with a pitchman's tenor, clear and strident, mindlessly serenading me as I make my way to our apartment. I'm reminded of Lazarus, a late-in-life gray poodle stray rescued by my late father and stepmother. They came across Lazarus trotting along the shoulder of busy Southfield Road. Though blind and deaf, Lazarus had the instinct not to veer into traffic, trotting dutifully along the edge of the shoulder, mostly oblivious to the mass of humanity passing close by, other than to feel the vibration of the vehicles and inhale excess amounts of carbon dioxide. I'm not sure what he would have done when he came to a traffic light. Would motorists have been thoughtful enough to let him trot across the intersection? Or would Lazarus instinctively turn around and trot back the other way? Rather than taking Lazarus to an animal shelter, where he likely would have been euthanized, my father and stepmother brought him home, living out the rest of his days in their basement lined with newspapers, receiving twice-daily meals, urinating and defecating with abandon. Sometimes they would come downstairs and find him in the unfinished section of the basement, barking incessantly at the forty-gallon hot water heater.

When I pull in at the end of a work day, an ambulance is there. EMTs are wheeling a gurney down the sidewalk with a covered body, a shroud covering the newly deceased. People are gathered with folded arms and solemn expressions. I pause with the gathering.

"Dave Slotkin," one of them tells me out of the side of her mouth. She says Dave Slotkin as if everyone knows Dave Slotkin. The Dave Slotkin, the one and only. She may see I have no idea who Dave Slotkin is/was, so she adds, "the commercials guy." Knowing only this about him, I remark favorably on his archival knowledge of the ditties and his rich voice.

"The Alzheimer's got so bad he didn't recognize his kids when they came around, which, granted, wasn't often. But he knew a thousand commercials."

"He should have been in memory care," someone laments, presumably not Mrs. Slotkin, assuming there is a Mrs. Slotkin in the picture, and not an ex-Mrs. Slotkin, or multiple ex-Mrs. Slotkins, or a dearly-departed Mrs. Slotkin. Or Mr. Slotkin(s).

I think about lifting the shroud to see what Dave Slotkin looked like, deciding instead to Google him. He may even have a Wikipedia entry. I'm curious if I'll recognize him, if I've seen him around, or maybe bumped into him at the one wine-and-cheese meet-and-greet Perry and I attended. I feel like I should know what he looked like. Otherwise, he's nothing more than a disembodied voice peddling brand awareness. I may attend the wake if it's close.

Dave Slotkin's wake isn't far as it turns out, at the Castle-Grant Funeral Home down the road, best known as a fishing hole from where the local constabulary angles for speeders. There's a notice posted on the clubhouse bulletin board. I happen by it on my way to retrieving a package, a T-shirt I ordered online that reads "eschew obfuscation" in white letters on a navy background. When I ask Perry if she'd like to go, her expression effectively conveys her disinterest. Feeling the need for justification, she says, "We won't know anybody." When I don't react, she adds, "Nice of you to go, though."

The parking lot surrounding the Castle-Grant Funeral Home is half-full. As I enter, I instinctively look around for a familiar face; the guy across the hall, on the heels of a messy divorce and living with his mom, his mom, the guy with the birdfeeder obsession who lives beneath us, Travis the surly maintenance guy, someone I might have traded bon mots with at the wine-and-cheese meet-and-greet. I sign the guestbook and pay my respects. Dave Slotkin is lying in state, eyes closed like he's in the throes of a delicious sleep, a bent smile glued on his face. I either heard or read somewhere superglue is the mortician's secret weapon, which, come to think of it, would be a kitschy slogan. I may need to trademark that.

I make my way to the coffee service. A commonality with all the wakes and funerals I've attended, the coffee is always first-rate, fresh-ground, fresh-brewed, strong, served with fine china. As I'm filling a cup from the spigot, a feminine voice says, "hello." An elderly woman introduces herself as Jean Slotkin, Dave's wife of fifty-eight years. She has frank blue eyes and skin like parchment, like she could have a blurb from the Dead Sea Scrolls tattooed to the side of her face and it wouldn't seem extraordinary. She wonders how I knew Dave.

"We're neighbors." Carefully using the present tense, as if I still can't believe he's gone.

She tacks in a new direction, embarrassed or the slightest bit chagrinned that she doesn't know or recognize me, asking, "Did you know Dave was on an episode of M*A*S*H*?"

"Oh, wow, no kidding. I'm sure I've seen every episode. I've always wondered what Alan Alda was like."

She moves in closer, her fingers on my forearm, turning slightly away from me, saying discreetly, "He's a liberal."

"What was Dave's part?" I blurt, hoping to avert a political diatribe if that's where we're headed.

"In this particular episode, he's standing with a group of extras and he says, 'things are tough all over, doc.'"

"A plaintive assertion, as opposed to a blanket summation."

"Yes," she says with a degree of uncertainty. "He was addressing Mike Farrell and Alan Alda. On this episode, the recipient of a Dear John letter decides to go AWOL and Father Mulcahy grants him sanctuary in the mess tent, where a much-anticipated scrambled egg breakfast had been planned. Dave was among a group of disgruntled camp personnel confronting Pierce and Hunnicutt, who were charged with diffusing the situation by Colonel Potter."

I'm about to ask if Dave Slotkin appeared in any other shows of the day - Fantasy Island, Eight is Enough, the Rockford Files, McCloud - when her fingers rediscover my forearm.

"Will you excuse me?"

I will, and do, recognizing an opportunity to disembark the recently decommissioned SS Dave Slotkin memorial, finishing my coffee with a couple of painful swallows, sidling toward the door, lingering a few moments by an easel of snapshots of Dave Slotkin down through the years.

On my walk I cross 98, the main east-west thoroughfare in the coastal Panhandle. Sometimes I have to jog across, between cars and trucks zooming by. The speed limit is 55, more guideline than constraint. Going 55 on 98 is to be a boulder in the rapids. I don't move like I used to, and the cars and trucks zooming by are loathe to slow down, so timing is crucial. I wonder if I stopped in the middle of 98, if I called their bluff, if they'd run me over. Clearly, they'd like for me to think that possibility exists.

Up ahead, a guy is edging his lawn. His lawn has clearly-defined, perfectly-edged borders. Physically, he's on the thick side. The back of his T-shirt is wet, implying back hair. I walk down to a cul-de-sac on the water, tap a manhole cover there with my shoe, turn around, and head back the way I came. A new house is under construction there, in the beginning stages. A slab foundation has been poured. Wooden forms have been erected.

On my way back, I pass a young woman walking a freshly-shorn Siberian Husky, the Husky with the canine equivalent of a military fade. The young woman is preoccupied with her phone with her free hand, the other holding the slack leash. She doesn't notice me, or if she does, she'd rather I not know, lest I read anything into even cursory acknowledgement. The Husky notices me with a certain aloofness.

I hear a buzzing right over my head, and something dark and strange looking flies directly over me. At first, I think it's a small drone. On closer scrutiny I see it's two large dragonflies, mating midflight, insect equivalent of the mile-high club.

There's a dog park in our complex. Two women are sitting together on a bench, chatting. I look to see if one of them could be Jean Slotkin. A small, white dog with black patches rushes to the chain link fence and barks at me, forewarning me not to get any funny ideas. One of the women says, "Patch! Patch!" When Patch ignores her, she raises her voice to a yell, "PATCH!" I'm walking away and Patch is still barking at me. She must know by now that yelling at Patch a few times is entirely pointless. Pointlessly yelling at him must be her way of letting me know she doesn't approve of Patch barking at me, but what can she do that wouldn't be considered animal abuse? It must occur to Patch by now that I pose no threat. I imagine Patch is kvetching at my back, "I hate my name. How would you like to be named after an unflattering physical characteristic, Receding Hairline? Walks Like A Gripper? Ass Hammered Flat From Too Much Sitting?"

My motor skills are in decline. Whereas I used to think of myself as surehanded, I drop things now, Perry too. She dropped the Keurig's sixty-six-ounce plastic water reservoir in front of the sink, soaking the mat we have there, adding a new dynamic to doing the dishes. I straddle the giant wet spot with a wide stance. Sundays she prepares all the keto-friendly food for the week, so the dishes are like the breakfast rush at Denny's. I think sometimes she gets tired of cooking, but what motivates her is leaving a mess for me to deal with. The slow cooker reminds me of the top hat the shyster-y dude on the Monopoly cards wears. We have new frying pans, they're blue for some reason. The old ones were scraped up so Perry tossed them, figuring we were probably ingesting Teflon.

I see faces in things, countenances in odd places like trees, the sand at the beach reconfigured from a thousand footprints, the patterns of the shower curtain, the mussed shag throw rug where I step when I'm done showering. I see a wide-eyed woman with long lashes and a pointy chin on the throw rug. I see a bald man with slit eyes and a civil war veteran beard in the trees. I see a wall-eyed man with a mindless grin, missing teeth. I see a clown in the sand with bozo hair and a bulbous nose. Blended features like cannibalized parts reconstructed into distorted countenances, overlapping templates, mnemonic pieces, not enough room left in the attic for continued storage.

From my youth until now, my recurring dream has changed. The setting and the details are never the same from one recurring dream to the next, as best as I can remember, but the theme is consistent. For many years the theme was me killing someone, or more specifically, I'd killed someone and was trying to get away with it, the authorities closing in.

I remember one such dream in vivid detail: We were flying in an open-air helicopter, circling a nascent subdivision, unpaved, graded subbase and skeletal frames, mounds of dirt pushed to the edges of a rived gulley, mud-splattered, yellow construction equipment in flexed boom-and-shovel poses. A police officer in a windbreaker pointed to the man-made body of water below us, something like a pond that will be stocked with fish, these built-to-spec homes worth that much more because of their proximity to its weedy stagnation, a pond too small for powerboat or sailboat, too sedimentary and piceous for swimming.

The officer was shouting something inaudible against the thumping whir of the chopper blades. He pointed to where the water was smashed flat and smooth by blade wash, a camouflage torso floating there, face down, and nearby, partially submerged, floating just beneath the tannic surface of the water, a matching long-bill camouflage cap. The dream ended there. To the best of my knowledge, I was never apprehended.

The recurring theme now is I can't find things I need, or more acutely, I'm somewhere like a stadium, airport, shopping mall, unable to remember where I parked.

Apparently, my dreams are intense, because I grind my teeth when I sleep. If I'd been George Washington, I'd have woken up every morning with a mouthful of sawdust. Over the years, my teeth have endured the grinding, but now that they're old, they're beginning to fail. Number 19, a molar on the lower right side of my grill, is in pain. It feels like I've been sucker-punched by someone wearing brass knuckles. Pain management consists of Ibuprofen and Anbesol ointment four or five times a day that has a numbing effect. I swallow at least some of the Anbesol, so I wonder if the numbing effect is transferable, numbing my esophagus, stomach, intestines, tailpipe. It's conceivable I could start soiling myself and not realize it at first, the destruction of Number 19 the start of a chain reaction resulting in my transition to adult diapers. Which is something to pray for in my golden years - Lord, please take me before I lose sphincter contain.

When Bill Withers conceived of Lovely Day, he must have been remembering a day like yesterday. Eighties, no clouds, an iridescent sky blue that can't be replicated. The best anyone's been able to do is an art deco color more nostalgic than polychromatic, a thin, pale hue as one-dimensional as memories are to any multidimensional present.

Today, unfortunately, isn't one of those days. Consulting Doppler radar and her weather app, Perry's hopeful it will clear up by the time we get to the beach, about a twenty-minute drive. When we arrive it's raining, and judging from the murky horizon it's not letting up soon. Resolutely we plant our chairs near water's edge, but it's raining too hard and we decide to wait in the car until it lets up. Five minutes later I retrieve the wet chairs, and we're off to Crabs On The Beach for brunch, which strikes us both as a plucky alternative.

We're on our way in, past festive red umbrellas out front, where they're offering cocktails to go, for departing restaurant patrons or reveling passersby. Perry stops and waits for me to catch up, and takes my hand. A young woman under one of the umbrellas says "aww" when she sees this. She must cherish the idea of lifelong love, as embodied by the cute gripper couple holding hands as they enter the restaurant.

Rather than wait for a table, we opt for sitting at the indoor-outdoor wet bar. It's all under a ceiling, but the far end is open-air, then outdoor seating, then the beach, then the Gulf. It's busy. We're waiting to be acknowledged. Bartenders pass by where we're sitting, studiously avoiding eye contact. Servers in black "Got Crabs?" t-shirts roam about. One of the bartenders gets around to us, introducing herself as Blessing. They're offering three-dollar Bloody Marys or bottomless champagne. We opt for the Bloody Marys, which Blessing makes for us using a premade mix.

We go with the French Toast Bananas Foster with sides of Applewood smoked bacon, lamenting the carb intake, but nothing else on the menu appeals. We contemplate the crabmeat omelet with white cheddar cheese, but they use Alaskan snow crab, which isn't local and won't be fresh. Seeing there isn't much in my glass other than melting ice, Blessing brings me another Bloody Mary.

An expediter arrives with our plates of food on one of those big server trays. She goes to set it on the bar but misses slightly, the tray tipping, and one of the side plates of bacon spills. The expediter apologizes, rushes off to the kitchen, a short time later bringing me a side plate with more bacon than I would have gotten ordinarily. After we've had a few bites, Blessing stops by and wants to know how everything's tasting. We're too busy masticating to respond without offering her glimpses of food paste in our pieholes. Instead, we nod enthusiastically and give her a thumbs up.

We wonder if a return to the beach is in the offing. I walk past the outdoor tables to where the beach is, past a two-piece band (guitar and steel drum) playing Stuck in the Middle with You. "I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair, and I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs." A stairlift equipped with seatbelt and cupholder? The horizon looks the same - ominous rain clouds to the southwest, storm potential to the east.


  1. The story is a dystopian perspective on aging and particularly aging in Florida.
    The main character is stressed financially, physically and mentally as he approaches his 60’s. Instead of integrating the joys of a life well lived, remembering his past with his partner Perry, he is unfortunately doomed to perseverate about his present and future security as the indignities of an aging body and mind slowly and insidiously overtake him…
    I was sad for him.
    Makes me want to be sure not to move to Florida…

  2. Interesting story.

  3. Rozanne CharbonneauApril 11, 2023 at 3:51 PM

    I enjoyed this story - a reminder that none of us leave this earth unscathed.

  4. Steve Biersdorf’s “Gripping” is very funny. Although I found myself laughing out loud several times, basically it’s not pratfall funny, but rather Steven Wright, Hunter S. Thompson “think about it” funny. I didn’t count, but there must be thirty or forty scenes, each self-contained, but contributing positively to the whole. The only dispiriting element was the fact that I’m even older than the narrator, who is himself vexed by advancing age. Playfully deals with what we all experience—and we WILL all experience it, God willing—as we become seasoned citizens. A lot of fun. I hate to admit it, but I recognized every commercial ditty quoted in the story (Drat!).