I’ve always been fit, in a non-competitive way. Able to do what every Westerner can: Whatever needs to be done. Maybe not expertly or even well, but, basically, we git ‘er done (as my friend Barb says). Dig a hole, change a tire, build a fence, build a bookcase, plumb a sink, add an outlet, draw the pirate, catch a fish, cook a fish, grow a garden, can pickles, ride a horse, siphon gas, row a boat; that’s all in the Code of the West. It applies equally to men and women, gay and straight, punk kid and geezer.
But now that I’m 55, I’m screwed. Tough year, on top of 25 soft years at desk jobs and city living. I get tired and wobbly. I turn wrong, and my back spasms and I’m on the floor. Lifting things will hurt, sooner or later – or both. My arms and hands are weak. It’s pathetic. I think it’s getting better, though. I try to keep working at it, short of pushing the back too far. My doctor wants me to go to physical therapy, but I’ve wimped out. I think I can do it on my own, without exercises divorced from work and purpose, and without some stranger in my face. Anyway, I didn’t mean to get all old-person-whining-about-health-problems on you. I was just saying I’m a bit wobbly on my pins when I get tired. So the other day I was tired, tidying the south porch, hauling an armload of coils of bright blue and black plastic pipe up the steps and over to a hook on the wall. And I look down through the coils and I’m stepping onto the flimsy plastic grill over the crawl-space hole. “Not good,” I think – then in a weird mishmash of slow motion and fast motion I fall down and to the left, am extruded through the 14-by-28-inch hole in a flash of checkerboard red and black (the pipe?) and thinking “buffalo plaid!” I am suddenly hanging upside down by my right pants cuff, in the dark.
Everything is still.
I wonder if I’m hurt. I could be hurt. C. was inside – she wouldn’t have heard anything. She wouldn’t hear if I called. I could be hanging here for a long time. Worse, my foot could come loose and I’d fall on my head. In the powdery dirt. Under the house. This won’t do. So I climb my own leg, get an arm up onto the floor and reef on that stuck cuff. It’s jammed pretty good but I get it loose and suddenly am right side up. A little shaky, but teakettle over ass. I climb out, wobbling a bit, and go inside. C. looks at me over her book. “I fell through the floor,” I say. “I thought I heard something,” she says, going back to her book.