The Carnation Cafe

by | Apr 9, 2019 | Issue Eight, Poetry

The silverware in the Carnation Café

had the thinnest metal

of any silverware I’d ever seen

I was surprised that the pieces we’d been given

wrapped in a napkin

weren’t bent

My wife and I were out for brunch

It was our forty-third wedding anniversary

but it wasn’t a celebratory meal

My wife seemed to have forgotten

what day it was

I’d bought her a card but hadn’t given it to her yet

The card said:

Here’s to another year of adventure

The biggest adventure we’d planned for the year

was two spinal surgeries for her

one for the upper spine

one for the lower

We hoped that the surgeries would eliminate the

considerable pain she’d been suffering

for some years

and the numbness in her arms and legs

and her difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

It was painful watching her struggle to the bathroom

I tried to be out of the house before she woke up

so I wouldn’t have to witness it

I got up at five a.m. and went to my gym

It was called Planet Fitness

and it was only ten dollars per month

but I didn’t even have to pay that

because I’d turned 65

and got the Silver Sneakers benefit

I’d get on the elliptical machine

and pedal for sixty minutes

as my cardiologist had told me to:

 an hour a day, six days per week

at my target heart rate

between 112 and 120 beats per minute

That and my statin drug

would keep my arteries clean

My arteries had been 90% blocked before my triple bypass three years ago  

I’d been in danger of having a major heart attack

and would have if I hadn’t moved from

rural Michigan to Denver

replacing an incompetent doctor

with a really good one

My previous doctor had looked at my cholesterol level and said

Maybe lose a little weight. And exercise more

He’d said the same thing every year

for four or five years

My new general practitioner said:

Let’s get you a carotid ultrasound

The ultrasound showed significant clogging

Then a stress test revealed the danger I was in

That GP saved my life

In Planet Fitness I pedaled the elliptical machine

and watched young women do squats

at the stations in front of me

They were developing their lower body strength

Women naturally have much better lower body strength

than upper body strength

but you rarely saw a woman working seriously on her upper body

which was counterintuitive to me:

Wouldn’t a person want to work on remediating their weakness?

I watched them squat under the weight

then rise to a full standing position

and admired their efforts

I knew that even if my wife’s surgeries were successful

that she would not join a gym

would not lift weights to improve the strength

of either her upper

or lower body

but maybe she’d regain her ability

to walk around Sloane’s Lake (three miles)

or at least the lake at Crown Hill Park (a mere mile)

Even that had become beyond her capabilities

Meanwhile I was hiking fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet)

 I’d make my way up the rock-strewn trails

of the Rocky Mountains and

at the top

I’d stop and survey the scene:

lesser mountains below

some snow-peaked

blue sky and increasing clouds

I’d get down before the afternoon thunderstorms

made the heights dangerous

Meanwhile my wife was stretched out on her divan

eating orange slices and chocolate truffles

watching British mysteries and

police procedurals

She preferred programs produced by the BBC

and those based in Scotland

because she loved the scenery

and the Scottish brogue

I could never watch those shows

without the benefit of subtitles—

otherwise I couldn’t figure out what they were saying

In the Carnation Café

my senior breakfast arrived

It was only $6.29, including coffee

quite a deal

It was my first time there

I had often noticed how busy it always was

and now I knew why

I picked up my fork

again impressed by the thinness of the metal

and thought: I can’t bend this fork with my mind

but could bend it easily with two fingers

It wouldn’t even take much effort

I could bend it casually

like swatting a fly

I wondered how much silverware

the Carnation Café lost to

that kind of vandalism

and concluded:probably very little

Read more Issue Eight | Poetry

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