Up, Down & Sideways
As these CBFers demonstrate on a three part obstacle course, dynamic balance means much more than standing still on one foot.
Up, Down & Sideways
As these CBFers demonstrate on a three part obstacle course, dynamic balance means much more than standing still on one foot.
Snowmaggedon & Corsets
Last week we heard great fitness stories from CBFers, not about what they accomplished in gyms or recreational sports, but how they overcame, and continue to overcome, the challenges of a record snowfall and extreme cold.
What’s notable is that these stories were told by CBFers attending class to workout. They had already spent hours, in bitter cold, digging, pushing, picking and lifting to free themselves or friends and neighbors, and livestock and vehicles. There was a slip and fall (of course, she rolled as practiced). Yet, except for a few sore muscles, they were ready to go, whether to workout or shovel more snow.
One of the revered gurus in functional fitness is Georges Hebert, who coined the slogan, “Be strong to be useful.” While in the French navy just before WW I, he was deployed to provide assistance to refugees fleeing a volcanic eruption near Martinique. From that experience, he realized how important physical strength and abilities are to survive, and assist others, during disasters and in everyday life. He devoted the rest of his life to developing training systems to optimize physical performance that are still utilized today, including at CBF. (As a side note,Hebert was one of the first males to champion that women can and should get strong and attacked wearing corsets as an impediment to developing their full physical capabilities.)
Hebert taught us that the need for fitness goes way beyond physical appearance or good health. It’s also about being strong and skilled enough to take care of yourself and others when the need arises – like when too much snow falls.
The best way to avoid bad luck today is to workout.
Due to the severe weather, we are closed today. See you Friday!
An inspiring story of beauty, passion, sweat and redemption. Based on a true story.
A Fitness Tale – Happy New Year!
Adapted from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
It’s mid-morning on the day after Christmas. Fred and his wife Mary, a married couple in their early sixties, sit in a coffee shop, as they have done this time of day almost daily since they retired. Free of earning a paycheck, most days they have time to kill.
Fred’s sipping a triple whipped caramel latte and munches on a blueberry muffin as he listens to Mary chat on her cell phone. She’s thanking Jill, their daughter, for her Christmas gift of stylish new sweatsuits, which they are wearing. He’s in jet black and she’s in a bright lime green, and Mary has painted her fingernails to match. Mary asks Jill how her pregnancy is going. Jill’s excited because she’ll see her OB/GYN later in the week for an ultrasound to determine gender.
Like any good mother, Mary cautions her daughter to be careful on New Year’s Eve because of all the drunk drivers who will be exiting the local micro-breweries. The city where they live has more breweries per person than any other city its size in the USA.
As they are finishing their coffees, they see Travis and Melody Beck, old friends, enter. Spotting Mary and Fred, they come over to say hello. Fred starts to get up to greet them, but his back hurts too much, so he sits back onto his chair.
“Good to see you two,” says Mary. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, I think the last time we saw you was at John’s funeral,” says Mark.
Fred feels a pang guilt at the mention of John, a former golf buddy, because Fred found his condition so disturbing, especially after his leg amputation – the IV tubes in his arms and cannula in his nose, the beep of the monitor – that he didn’t go to the hospital to see him during the last month of his life. “Man, I miss him. We had lots of fun. We’d shoot nine holes after work, then drink and play poker until they threw us out of the place,” Fred remembers wistfully.
Mary asks if they are planning to exercise because, like them, Travis and Melody are wearing workout clothes.
“Yep, come rain or shine we exercise three days a week when we’re in town. We’ve been going for almost six months,” says Melody proudly. “That’s why we’re here. Gotta get that caffeine fix to energize me. They work us hard. How about you, Mary? You still go to that aerobics class at the senior center?”
“No, those floors made my knees hurt, and, besides, I’m just too busy with volunteer projects,” says Mary.
“We discovered a gym that specializes in older exercisers. It’s really fun. We workout then play fitness games. They even play oldies music,” says Travis. He looks at Fred and winks. “Lots of pretty women there, too.” Melody laughs and faux-punches Travis on his arm. “You look ready to go. Want to join us?”
“No, thanks. I have an appointment to get to. Besides, I’m retired. Exercise is too much work.” says Fred. “I prefer to get my exercise like this.” He mimics lifting a beer to his lips.
“Our daughter is always nagging us to exercise. Last year she gave us a gift certificate to a gym,” says Mary.
Fred chuckles. “Yeah, and Mary went online and found a place where you can cash in unused gift certificates. That’s what we did, cashed it in. Don’t ever tell.”
Waiting at a stoplight in their car on the way to the chiropractor, Mary says that they should think about joining a gym in the new year because it it would be good for Fred’s high blood pressure.
“Who needs a gym? That’s what’s medicines are for. And beer.”
“What’s beer got to do with it?”
“I saw it on Facebook. Experts say it’s good for your heart.”
When the light turns green, Fred starts to press on the accelerator but a man with scraggly white hair, wearing a ratty Oregon Ducks sweatshirt and old-fashioned grey sweat pants, jogs across the intersection in front of them. Irritated, Fred sounds the horn. The jogger raises his hand apologetically and almost falls on a patch of ice before making it to the other side.
“Good way to get killed,” Fred says, shaking his head. “A lot of good that exercise will do him if he’s dead.”
That evening, Fred and Mary lounge on a sofa facing a huge high-definition TV mounted on the wall. They are sipping a pumpkin flavored seasonal microbrew, called Seasons Greetings, while they watch a ‘Walking Dead’ marathon. A parade of zombies walks jerkily past the camera. Fred abruptly puts his beer down on the coffee table and leans toward the TV, muttering, “What the hell? You see that?”
“See what?” she asks.
He leans closer. “That guy looks like John.” He points to a zombie approaching slowly on a pair of crutches.
She squints and holds her glasses just right to get the clearest view. “Oh my god, it does look like him. His leg…”
Before she can say another word, the zombie walks right out of the television and is standing, full-sized, right front of them in a rumpled suit with a few tears and smudges here and there. He’s missing the lower part of his right leg. His face is dark and sunken, and has a few long whiskers, but the decomposition isn’t too bad yet. Mary and Fred pinch their noses because they smell a foul odor filling the room.
“Hi, guys,” greets John. His tongue does not work correctly, so his voice is garbled. But they remember that was his signature, oft-repeated word, when speaking with more than one person: guys.
Concerned, Mary picks up the bottle of beer and examines the label. “There must be something in this beer. We’re hallucinating,” she says to Fred. “He’s not real.”
“No, you’re not imagining me. guys. You can touch me if you want to.” He pats his arm. “See? I’m very real.” Mary and Fred don’t move. “Ok, then maybe you’d be kind enough to offer me a beer. Walking around in the underworld, you get thirsty.”
Mary gets up to go in the kitchen and returns a few minutes later. Cautiously, she approaches John, holding out a beer. “No worries, I won’t bite, guys. I’m not a vampire, “ he quips, another telltale sign of John when he was alive; always joking. He takes it, lifts, and chugs. Much of it dribbles out the side of his mouth. Within seconds, a few stains start to darken his suit where it’s leaking out his body, and dripping from the stump on his right leg.
“You probably wonder why I’m here,” says John.
Fred says, “Look, John, I really feel terrible I didn’t come see you more often towards the end…”
Leaning on a crutch, John weakly lifts his hand up to stop him. “No, no apologies necessary, guys. I get it. It got ugly those last few weeks. Very depressing, though I didn’t feel a thing because I was so stoned on morphine. It’s too late for apologies. I’m dead. I’m here to deliver you a message.”
“A message?” Mary intones. She thought maybe her mother might be trying to communicate. She recalled a reality show about two men and a woman who travel around investigating paranormal events. In one episode, a woman who lost her husband got a message through a medium in a seance. Mary always regretted not making it home before her mother died because inclement weather delayed the airlines. “From my mom?”
“No, sorry,” says John.
“Well, who’s sending this message? asks Fred.
John shrugs. “To be honest, I don’t know. Look, guys, I just do what I’m told. Where I don’t live now, there is no-body, if you get my drift.”
Mary and Fred look quizzically at each other. Finally, Fred says, “So what is the message you’ve walked all the way from the underworld to tell us?”
“You need to start exercising more – or else,” says John bluntly.
“You came all the way from the underworld to tell us that?” says Mary with a hostile tone.
“Or else what?” says Fred.
“You’ll end up like me, guys. Disabled, and dead before your time.” He pauses for a moment to let the gravity of his words sink in, then adds, “Both of you.”
“Why would they send you?” says Fred. “I don’t remember you exercising ever. A little golf, maybe. We always rode in a cart.”
“You’re right on, “ says John, raising a decomposing finger in agreement. “That’s why they sent me. Look at me now.”
“I can’t exercise. I’ve got high blood pressure, my joints ache all the time, sometimes I get a little dizzy just standing up,” says Fred.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” says John. “You take blood pressure meds, statins, an anti-depressant, Coumadin, Lasixs. Oh, how could I forget, and Cialis to get an erection.” Fred leans back against the sofa.
“Have you been looking at his medical records?” says Mary.
“Not exactly, but I have ways of knowing. For instance, I know you take a Fosamax for osteoporosis, blood pressure meds and statins, too, Ambien to sleep most nights, as well as an estrogen replacement.“
“This is crazy,” says Mary.
“What if we don’t want to exercise? This is free country and we can do what we damn well please,” grumbles Fred.
“Whoa, guys, don’t get mad at me. I’m just the messenger,” says John defensively.
“We’re happy just the way we are, aren’t we Mary?” Fred asserts. She nods in agreement, although she thinks to herself that she’d like to lose a few inches in her hips. “Nobody will tell us what to do.”
“Well, you’re going to have some visitors soon, guys. Three of them. One at midnight, one at one o’clock, and one at two o’clock,” warns John. “They might change your mind.”
“Visitors?” asks Fred. “Who?”
“You’ll see soon enough. I gotta get going.” He gestures towards the TV behind him. “The show ends in a minute. I better get back in there with my comrades.” He puts down an empty beer bottle. “It was so cool to see you. Thanks for the beer, guys.!”
In the blink of an eye, John is back in the TV picture. As he trudges by the camera in a throng of zombies, he glances at the camera and winks.
The Ghost of Fitness Past
It takes Fred and Mary a couple hours of off-and-on discussion to de-stress from the strange event before they finally turn off the TV and retire to bed. Neither is asleep when, around midnight, they hear a piercing whistle.
“Oh, no,” groans Fred.
The whistle sounds again.
“Shhh,” whispers Mary. “Let’s wait.”
The whistle sounds again. Then again, then again.
“We better get up,” says Fred. Still in their pajamas, they go slowly down the hall.
Entering the family room, they see the silhouette of a lean, sculpted, short man bathed in the bright glow of a blank TV screen. His feet are shoulder width apart, and his hands on his hips. Fred flips on the light to see him better. He looks familiar – the groomed hair, the corny jumpsuit with short sleeves to showcase his muscled arms, ballet slippers, the cheesy grin. A whistle hangs from a lanyard around his neck.
“Aren’t you Jack LaLanne?” said Mary. “My mom watched your exercise show almost every day. You sold juicers, too. We had one.”
The man gleefully opens his arms to feel the love. “I’m flattered you remember me. And thanks for your purchase. Yes, I was Jack LaLanne. These days I’m the Ghost of Fitness Past. Feel free to call me Jack, it’s shorter.”
“You passed away a few years ago,” said Mary, wondering how he could be standing in her living room.
“Right you are,” agrees Jack. “In 2011, at age 96. I had a good, long life.” He pauses for a moment, remembering. Then he turns his attention back to Fred and Mary. “But we’re not here to reminisce about my incredible life. I’ve got all the time in the world to do that. You, however, don’t. Why don’t you sit down. I want to show you something.”
Fred and Mary looked nervously at each other.
He aims the remote and presses it. A grainy black and white home movie of an infant spreads across the screen. She crawls across a carpeted floor then reaches her arm up to a footstool to pull herself into a standing position. She totters and sits down, before pulling herself up again. “Look a that nice contralateral movement and range of motion, then up you go against gravity.” Jack looks at Mary. “That was you when you were strong.”
He presses again. Another grainy B&W picture appears of a young boy scrambling up the bars of a jungle gym in a school yard. He climbs up onto a cross bar that’s higher than he is tall, then jumps, landing perfectly on both feet, then rolling across the ground. ‘Remember that, Fred? Really impressive. Look how physical you are.”
He presses again. Another b&w of some young girls in tights at the barre in toe shoes in a ballet studio, doing plies. “Mary, that’s you, second from the left. That’s just super flexibility and control. You’re only 9.”
He presses again. However, this time a color picture appears. The camera is a little shaky and the colors faded. It’s a boy in the batter’s box in baseball game. He waits for the pitch, then takes a swing, hitting the ball perfectly. Jack gushes, “That was a game-winning home run. Your dad filmed you with one of those new Super-8 cameras.” The camera follows him all the way around the bases and to home plate, where his excited teammates gathered to greet him.
He presses again. It’s a high definition color picture showing cheerleaders at a high school football game doing cartwheels and backflips. One picks up her pom-pom’s and shakes them towards the camera with a big smile. She has a cute blonde hairdo. It’s Mary. Jack shakes his head with admiration and says, ‘Wow! Now that takes a lot of athletic skills.”
“I don’t remember anyone ever filming us,’ says Mary.
Jack laughs. “We film everything.” He clicks again to show a high definition clip of young soldiers carrying heavy back packs and rifles as they run in formation down a road. Their faces are flushed and sweaty. “You grunts ran ten miles that day, Fred. What’d you carry, maybe 40 pounds? Think that’s impressive? Watch this.”
When he switches scenes, bold red print appears on the screen that reads: “Warning: This film contains adult content. Not suitable for viewers under 18.” It shows a young adult couple. The woman has her back against a tree trunk, and is holding onto a branch above her head, with her legs wrapped around the man’s waist. Although the picture is intentionally pixilated, it’s obvious that they are both naked from the waist down and he’s supporting her with his hands under her buttocks as they engage in sexual intercourse. Jack quips, “Boy, those were the days. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Talk about strength and stamina!”
Embarrassed and speechless, Mary and Fred keep their eyes fixed on the screen.
Jack shows a fast montage of scenes over the years: a younger, leaner Fred playing racquetball; Mary with two other women, all wearing pink ankle warmers, doing aerobics with a Jane Fonda tape, Fred bending over easily to tee-up a golf ball, Mary half-heartedly dancing holding little dumbbells in a local gym; both of them walking a dog on a trail by a river
Then, as if a brake had been put on the video, the scenes slowed: Mary putting her arm on the counter to help push herself up from the toilet; Fred shoveling snow, tossing a couple shovels full of snow, then pausing to gasp for breath; both struggling to stand up and get out of a kayak; on an airplane, Fred attempting to lift a carry on into the overhead bin, but he can’t so a younger gentleman gets up assist him; Fred sitting down on a bed to pull on pants because he can’t do it standing up; Mary struggling to pull on on a pair of snow boots; Mary unable to reach a glass off a second shelf in a kitchen; the two of them in a shopping mall, shuffling flat footed; finally, in the supermarket where Fred loses his balance and topples when trying to place a case of beer on the lower rack of a shopping cart, then getting up with a grimace, clutching his lower back.
“Do you see a dangerous trend here?” asked Jack.
“We’re getting old?” guesses Mary.
“You’re aging faster than you need to. You’re too young to be so weak, stiff, clumsy and un-coordinated. If you don’t change your ways…” Jack voice trails off as he shakes his head with genuine concern.
“We can’t do the same things we did when we were young,” complains Fred.
“Fred, you have it backwards. You can’t afford not to do the same things you did when you were young,’ says Jack.
“That’s easier said than done,” counters Mary.”
“Who said it would be easy? When I got up in years, I couldn’t do as many push-ups – you might remember I set a record for doing over 1,000 in 23 minutes – but I could still do push-ups. I couldn’t swim as fast, but I could still swim. Folks, when I was 60, I towed a 1,000 pound boat from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf. I just kept trying. You need to keep trying, too.”
He looks at his watch. “I’ve got to go. It’s showtime.” In the blink of an eye, there he is on the screen in black and white, welcoming his viewers.
The Ghost of Fitness Present
Back in bed, Fred and Mary are about to fall asleep when they hear “Do You Believe in Magic?” by the Lovin Spoonful blaring down the hallway. The digital clock on the nightstand reads 1:00. Groggily, they roll out of bed and trudge up the hall.
When they arrive in the living room, they see the dark silhouette of a woman. She’s facing the TV, swaying to the music, waving the remote to turn the sound down.
Several times Mary repeats hello. When the woman finally hears her, she turns. What Fred sees takes his breath away. Standing in their TV room is Marilyn Monroe. She looks stunningly beautiful, as always, with a curl of her blonde hair falling across an eye and her lips bright red with lipstick. Mary thought she was dressed sort of oddly for that time of night in a skimpy terry cloth bikini top and bluejeans.
Marilyn giggles. “Forgive me. I never used one of these and pushed it the wrong way,” she cooed in her inimitable, breathy voice. “Thanks for letting me visit you soooooo late.”
“Don’t tell me, you’re here to talk to us about exercise?” asks Fred. Exercise is not what he first thinks of when he thinks about Marilyn Monroe. “You know something about exercise?”
“Oh, yes, I always exercised quite a bit, especially getting ready for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.’ In my movie days, I exercised to develop my curves. After I over-dosed I didn’t want to be the dumb blonde sex symbol anymore, so I went to college to study exercise physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology.”
Mary and Fred look skeptical.
“Jack, what a cutie he was, tells me you think you’re too old for exercise because you have some aches and pains. Don’t we all?” She laughs and slaps her thighs. “Come on, I’m 90, you’re just kids. What’s with all the excuses, like you don’t have time to exercise? Trust me, time is all you have! You with me?”
Mary and Fred nod.
“Ok, let’s get down to business. You need to form some new habits, like I did. I used to have (her voice becomes shrill) a real high squeaky voice, but (she switches back to her new normal) I learned to soften it to sound like this – like a caress.” She pauses, puckers her lips, and blows a kiss. “Your friends at the coffee shop this morning told you about a gym. Let’s go there. You need to see what older adults like you are doing right now.”
“Right now? It’s in the middle of the night,” says Fred.
“Do you believe in magic. I do,” she says and sings, “That old black magic has me in a spell, that old black magic that you weave so well…remember?”
“She sang that in ‘Bus Stop’,” Mary tells Fred.
Marilyn nods and turns the up the volume to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave”. The camera looks down on a circle of ten adults in their 60s and 70s. They are stretching and warming up in a gym on black wrestling mats. It looks like a place fighters train, not where you’d expect to find older adults. All along the edges, and hanging from the rafters, are heavy bags, dummies, and speed bags, as well as other exercise apparatus.
The camera swoops down from on high for close ups of of the activities. Marilyn stands to the side of the TV, providing Fred and Mary a full view, and points to various exercisers as she comments:
“See this woman. She had a stroke. Look at her navigate that agility ladder! No problem. She’s got power in those legs. Great balance. She won’t break any time soon.”
“And this guy here. Two artificial knees, fused ankle, surgically repaired shoulder. Nice kettlebell squats. Mary, that’d be good for you so you could get up without any assistance. When you’re older, if you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker.”
“See this lady here with the silver curls? Never exercised until she came here. Look at her do the squat press with those dumbbells. Strong legs, strong arms. She’s doesn’t need help on airplanes.”
“Oh, and this fellow, slamming that medicine ball. Fused wrist, shoulder issues. Both knees get Syndics shots every now and then. You gotta love it. The central nervous system orchestrating all those muscles on his anterior chain to generate that power. ”
“Check this skinny lady hitting that heavy bag. Watch those stable feet and that rotation coming out of the hips, then the core bracing for arms to extend and strike. She’s building strong tendons and ligaments in her shoulder that can withstand shocks like falling or pushing someone away one of those drunks who backs into her at one those beer festivals. Fred, are you stable enough on your feet to do that?”
“Oooh, love this guy doing that plank with knee touches. Total body, managing those asymmetric forces and loads. Life gets lop-sided like that, like when you crouch down and flex to one side to put a case of beer on your cart.”
“Wow, like the fly this woman’s doing over there with the tubes. I used to do something like that every day with dumb bells for my chest. At her age, she needs those now more than ever.”
“Yes, yes, yes. This woman’s doing a spider crawl. Crawling is so good. Strengthens your hips, shoulders, core, and quads. Keeps all those myofascial lines strong. You can call her un-fragile.”
“Jump, jump, jump. Sandbell jumping jacks. A wonderful exercise. Going against gravity, lifting a load overhead, her heart’s beating faster and faster. (The camera closes in on her face so you can see she’s starting to breath hard.) Ah, poor thing, her lungs are starting to burn as she blows off hydrogen ions. She’s passed her first anaerobic threshold. She’ll only be able to produce ATP to contract her muscles for a few more seconds. That’s how you up your endurance. Fred, you could use a little that shoveling snow.”
“And this lady with the short grey hair. Another thin one. Pump that iron, honey. She’s no dumb blonde. That’s a jockette. She knows when you’re older, you’re either adding muscle or losing it. Hear that, Mary?”
“Oh, what’s this? A cute little blue ball. Looks like a version of volleyball. Sudden starts and stops, forwards backwards, reaching up and down at odd angles, striking, teamwork, hand eye coordination. fast thinking. Notice nobody is losing their balance. No falls. This game be good for both of you.”
Marilyn turns down the sound, as a blue ball continues to fly back and forth over the net. “So what did you think?”
“Those exercises look like really hard and tiring,” said Fred.
“Honey, that’s because you’re tired, not the exercises,” teases Marilyn.
“They’re sure sweating a lot,” said Mary.
“Mary, sweat is the elixir of life. You ever had a really, really good time (Marilyn winks) and not sweated. Some like it hot!” coos Marilyn.
“I don’t know if I could do that,” says Fred. “Those people are skilled.”
“How will you know if you don’t try?” Marilyn offers. “You know what Bob Dylan said?”
Neither Fred nor Mary knew how to answer this. Dylan said so many things he won a Nobel Prize. Together they shook their heads.
“That he not busy being born is busy dying,” says Marilyn. “That choice is up to you. As for me, I’m going to stay busy being born.”
Balancing on one leg at a time, she bends and pulls off her shoes and socks. “They don’t allow shoes on those mats,” she explains, then gives them warm wink, turns, and jumps right into the screen. Within seconds, Fred and Mary spot her moving the gym floor, playing with the others. They all laugh and clap when she spikes the blue ball and scores.
The Ghost of Fitness Future
Fred and Mary had fallen asleep on the sofa, watching Marilyn. Being a light sleeper, Mary awoke first. She heard a low, dull hum that was audible even over Fred’s snoring. She keeps her eyes closed, and continues to listen. It seem to be gradually getting louder. She opens her eyes to see two glowing, unmoving large red dots about the size of gold balls in the direction of the TV. Except for those and a small red LED glowing on the TV, the room is very dark.
She reaches over and squeezes Fred’s leg to wake him up. He lurches. “What?”
“What the hell’s that? Wait…you hear that funny noise? I hope they didn’t screw up the TV. He feels for the remote. Not finding it, he leans over and gropes for the light switch on a lamp on the table. When he turns it one, he hears Mary gasp.
Directly in front of the TV stand a Terminator, the murderous robot with a metal skeleton in the popular movie. At first it doesn’t move, but when Fred, half awake and frightened, reacts over to grab a beer bottle as a weapon, the Terminator’s head turns slightly to watch what he is doing.
The hum subsides slightly as a deep bass voice, which sounds electronically synthesized and to originate from nowhere in particular, commands, “Put it down.” The voice is weird, with both male and female qualities. Mary looks at his groin and surmises it must be androgynous.
Fred expected a strong German accent. “You’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger?”
Its eyes pulsate. “No, he’s an old model. I’m the latest and greatest. Better software, faster processors. Exciting new features.” It adds, “More deadly.”
Terrified, Fred reaches over and grabs Mary’s hand
“Please don’t kill us,” begs Mary.
The Terminator’s eyes glower brighter, as if pausing to cogitate before it responds, “I don’t need to kill you. You are already doing that yourselves by the way you live. Come over here, now, my mission is to show you something on your new TV. Time is going by, you are not getting any younger.”
“We can see okay from here,” says Mary.
“You will see much better here. Come,” it gestures with his hands.
They get up. Fred turns to Mary and says, “If something happens, I want you to know I love you.”
Mary sighs, “That’s so sweet. I love you too.” She kisses him on the cheek. With great trepidation, they approach the TV. He moves politely to the side of the screen to make room for them.
“What are you going to show us?” asks Fred, full of dread.
“The Future, Version 1.0,” says the Terminator, in a wavering voice so low it is almost inaudible.
“I can barely hear you,” said Mary.
“Closer.” The Terminator’s metallic hand gestures for them to move up even more. Fred and Mary get so near their faces are inches from the screen.
When the screen lights up, it is not like they are looking at a normal TV, rather it is as if they are looking out a window to reality. Everything is three dimensional, with natural colors.
They are peering inside a brightly lit medical clinic. Fred, naked and even pudgier than he is now, is seated on an exam room table. A doctor in a white coat is holding up a plastic cross-section model of a male’s genital anatomy. The doctor explains, “I’ll make the incision here to insert your penile prothesis. Two hollow cylinders will be placed right here where normal erections occur. When you’re in the mood, all you’ll need to do is squeeze your scrotum, this little pump that feels like a third testicle, and, bingo, you’re ready to go. It may not be as romantic as the good old days, but it does the job…
Fred is really scared. “When is this?” he asks, but the Terminator says nothing. Mary squeezes his hand.
The scene changes. They see a woman with a toddler-aged girl in a local park that both Mary and Fred recognize is near their house. The woman sits on a park bench. The little girl asks her to stand up and take her to the swings. As the woman steps into the sand pit that surrounds the swing sets, she takes a couple of wobbly steps then falls. The little girl comes to her, takes her hand, and tugs to help her get up, but she can’t budge her. The woman struggles onto all fours, tries to get up, and falls again.
Mary looks at the Terminator. “That’s me, isn’t it?” His red eyes look down, but he says nothing.
The scene changes again. Fred, wearing a parka, is in his garage. The door is open, revealing almost a foot of snow covering the driveway, and it’s still snowing. He rolls a snow-blower near the open door, then pulls the cord with a loud grunt to start it. It won’t start. He waits a second and pulls it again. This time he swears, grabbing his shoulder in pain. With his good arm, he opens the back door and calls for Mary to come and help. A few moments later she comes out in a sweater. She pulls the cord, but nothing happens. Fred tells her to pull harder. Angrily, she says she’s pulling as hard as she can. They look at each other, at a loss as to what to do.
The scene changes again. A group of men whom Fred recognizes are sitting around a table in the clubhouse at a golf course, drinking and playing cards. One of the men asks if anyone has heard how Fred’s doing. One of them says he heard that Fred had open heart surgery, but there were complications. He’s still in the ICU. Somebody says he’ll get over to see him when he’s better. Another comments how crappy Fred’s life has been since he had to go everywhere with an oxygen bottle after his first heart attack. The waitress arrives with a big plate of nachos, and they tease her about her purple hair then, forgetting Fred, start talking about the damn water hazard on the ninth hole.
Fred is trembling. “Do I make it? Tell me!” The Terminator ignores him.
The scene changes again. It appears to be a nursing home, where a group of older women are in a recreation room, watching TV. Some are on chairs, others are in wheelchairs. The camera zooms in on Mary, wearing exercise clothes and white slippers, in a wheelchair. She looks gaunt and sad. A voice coming from over a loud speaker announces lunch will be served in fifteen minutes in the common area.
Now Mary is trembling, too, and feels a little nauseous.
The scene changes again. It is a beautiful, sunny day at a lake in the mountains, where a wedding is about to take place. People are seated in folding chairs on either side of an aisle that leads to a platform, where a clergyman waits for the arrival of the bride and groom. Just behind some trees, Jill makes final adjustments to her daughter’s wedding veil as Bill, her husband, patiently waits. Their daughter, in her early twenties and beautiful with a garland of white flowers in her hair, says she wishes that Grandpa Fred and Granny Mary could be there, then hugs Jill. Bill approaches Jill and extends his arm. She takes her place next to him, and the scene freezes on the screen as they start down the aisle.
Mary sobs. Fred releases rubs her back in slow circles to console her. “Is that our future? Is it too late to change it?” asked Fred, tearing up himself.
The Terminator settles his glowing eyes on them. “It’s never too late. That is why we came. You can upgrade to the Future Version 2.0. Whether you get terminated or not is up to you. You know what you must do.”
As his words trail off, the humming sound grows louder and louder, and the air becomes heavy, creating an unbearable pressure. Fred and Mary cover their ears and close their eyes, feeling they might be crushed.
Then, suddenly, it stops. When they open their eyes again, the Terminator is gone and the TV is off. Fred and Mary hug for a long time, just grateful to be alive.
Mary picks up the three empty beer bottles and leaves for the recycle bin in the kitchen. Fred approaches the TV and looks into the screen. He thinks he sees two, very dim red eyes, but concludes it’s just his imagination. All that remains is his own, blurry reflection.
They talk for a long time before finally crawling into bed, close to dawn.
They are still asleep when the phone rings. It’s already mid-morning, normally the time they are sitting in the coffee shop. Their daughter Jill is calling them with exciting news - they will soon have a grand daughter.
Despite their exhaustion, they are very happy. After several minutes celebrating, Fred picks up his cell phone and taps a number. He listens to a recording to leave a message and responds, “Good morning, this is Fred. I bet you’re at that gym for older people like us. We want to find out more about it. Please call. We’re ready to upgrade.”