Those Powers That Remain

by Howard L. Wilder © 2002

The two elderly people pedaled slowly up the bike trail, the woman a fair distance ahead of the struggling man.

Although in her early 70’s, she retained a strong hint of youthful attractiveness. Stopping to admire the stunning view of the lake and hills beyond, she waited patiently for her husband to join her.

Although a large physical specimen, the elderly man was in much worse health than his wife and sweated freely from the Herculean effort bicycling was requiring of him. With every turn of the sprocket, his aching body protested the torture he was subjecting it to.

He had little choice, however. After his last stroke, a team of international doctors had poked and prodded him with a battery of silly and often humiliating tests. Their final recommendations had been blunt: eat right and exercise, pal, or you’re going to die.

Exercise was one thing, but not satisfied with that, the villains had drastically modified his diet. He mourned the loss of what for years had been his favorite snack: the occasional five pound bag or two of pure cane sugar. He had argued strenuously, explaining that, like a hummingbird, his unique metabolism required extra glucose to function properly.

It was a wasted effort, however. The bastards had smugly provided conclusive test results showing that, these days, his metabolic rate more closely approximated that of a three-toed sloth. He was old. Things had changed. He shrugged massive shoulders and grimly continued pedaling.

Gratefully stopping when he reached his wife at the summit of the trail, he more or less managed to will his shaky legs to stop quivering. He avoided looking directly at her when she turned and smiled at him.

“Isn’t the view gorgeous, Honey?” she asked, pretending not to notice.

“It would be a lot nicer from the air,” He replied brusquely, unable to completely keep the bitterness out of his voice. Giving up sugar had been rough, but being grounded was killing him. The doctors and the FAA had been adamant, however, and so that was that. His flying days were over, and he knew it.

His wife reached over and put a comforting hand over his. He closed his eyes and tried to enjoy it’s warmth without any visual distractions.

“How’s the hearing, dear? Is it still giving you fits?”

“Well, as long as I don’t strain to hear something, it seems to be okay,” he answered dryly. That was an understatement; in the hospital, when he tried making out what the doctors had been whispering about in the next room, he found himself listening to all the conversations taking place outside of a convenience store in Joplin, Missouri. It had taken several hours before his hearing had returned to normal.

There were other, more persistent sensory-based problems, and his wife could tell by the way he studiously avoided looking at her that one important area was still affected.

“Well,” she sniffed. “I’ll certainly be glad when the vision thing clears up, anyway.” Now it was her turn to sound bitter, and he couldn’t blame her.

She abruptly got back on her bicycle and took off back down the trail, not bothering to see if he was following her or not.

He sighed, cursed, and hurried to catch up with her, sincerely hoping that much sooner than later, he’d be able to get his damned x-ray vision under control and see more of Lois than just her skeleton on a bicycle.

x x x

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