Shortness of breath is one of the signs. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe and, at the same time, my pulse races—like I’m supposed to do something dangerous. But I’m just sitting here, with a thermometer hanging out of my mouth. My head feels hot, but the mercury never rises past 97.9. I’m told that’s how death comes—when you feel nauseous and just a little off. That’s when the clots form, and the heart gives out—and I’m supposed to go to the emergency room, but I know I’ll be turned away, like so many others. Instead, I watch YouTube exercise videos on my laptop, in the eerie shadows of the living room. Prancercise is a classic—trotting about in tight pants seems strangely invigorating and reckless. Walkfit and 80s Jazzercise sizzle and sparkle in the expanded screen view. And then: a sunny beach, with people in colorful exercise outfits. They’re trying out a Twisty Board.
“All you have to do is twist,” the inventor of the Twisty Board says, and I begin to have hope. More distractions—that’s what I need—and all of those cheerful colors. I take the thermometer out of my mouth and punch in the special offer code.
On the edge of the sofa, I breathe deeply. My oxygen saturation level is 88%—or maybe it’s 98%. I will probably die, but lots of people think they will die, and they’re still here. The thermometer won’t read past 97.9 for me. I have to wait until it reaches 103. I have a long way to go.
Somewhere between my tenth breath in and my eleventh breath out, I hear a thud outside my front door. It sounds exactly like a package being dropped off on the welcome mat, and I know what’s inside: my Twisty Board in bright pink.
I take it upstairs to the spare bedroom, which is carpeted. The carpet adds some resistance, so my workout will be challenging. When I pay for the subscription online and click the first video, a cheerfully lit studio, with shiny wooden floors and pink and blue walls flashes across the screen—and I feel like I’m transported there. Shana, the exercise leader, runs out, clapping her hands. Behind her are Michelle, Andy, and Michael.
A pumping, pulsing disco beat takes over, and Shana tells us to “Move! Twist hard today!” The nausea subsides, my heart quits fluttering, and the walls around me dissolve. With each twist, I’m pulled in closer to Shana and her gang. Everything will be okay, as long as I keep twisting.
After an hour, my thighs burn, and I think I’ve developed a cramp in my side, but I’d say that with time, I could join Shana, right on her show. I could hang with her. I could definitely hang.
When I pick up my board, I see a few cracks from the strain of the workout. The carpet is definitely worn down, and some of the bright pink paint has rubbed off into the floor.
At night, I dream of rainbows. I’m twisting back and forth, and my hips throw sparks of color: left, right, left right. Opening my arms wide, I pull the colors toward me. They swirl about and get caught up in my hair. When I wake up, I’m drenched in sweat, and my heart beats fast, like I’m on a plane that’s taking a nose-dive, and death is near. The clots are probably forming, but the thermometer says I’m fine. Shana, Michael, Michelle, and Andy are even closer now. I feel like I know them—like they’re right here with me, always. I swear I can hear them talking, and I can see them taking shape, materializing before my eyes.
After my sixth workout, I take Shana and the others down to the kitchen with me to make a healthy snack.
“Hey—what’s that up there?” Shana asks.
“That,” she says, pointing at the ceiling.
I look up and see a crack in the ceiling, along with shades of pink poking through.
“Oh, you know what that is,” I say. “That’s where I put the Twisty Board—right next to you, during the video routine.”
“Yeah, that’s dangerous. You could twist a hole right through the floor,” Michael says.
But the more that I think about it, the more I believe that falling through the floor would make for a great finale. It would be just what I’ve always wanted.
I’ve added purple ankle weights and neon green five-pound hand weights to the workout. Sometimes pink flecks of plastic fall through the ceiling, into my hair, when I go downstairs to make snacks for us all. Michelle reminds me that I’m probably damaging the floor and that one of these days, I’ll be sorry for not moving the routine downstairs. But
when a hunk of plaster, the size of a small brick crumbles to the kitchen floor, I call an emergency Twisty Board session.
“I don’t advise what you’re about to do,” Andy says.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” I tell him.
Together, we climb the stairs. My heart flutters and races, but this time, I’m not worried. I place my Twisty Board right over the dented piece of carpet and call out the routine. Then, the floor gives way—finally. And I go down in a radiant display. Colored bits of plastic mix with plaster and splinters.
I’m pretty sure it’s Michael who calls the paramedics. They find me flat out on my back, sprawled all over the kitchen floor. I can see straight up into my exercise studio. My ankle weights are still strapped to my legs, and the Twisty Board has shattered all around me. I wish the paramedics had seen the big finale. It must have been something, but I can’t speak. I’ve knocked the wind out of myself pretty good.
“Looks like she fell through the ceiling, on one of those Twisty Boards,” one of them says.
“Yeah. People are buying all kinds of things to keep from being bored.”
They hook me up to some kind of electrocardiogram machine and wait.
“Hmm—an arrythmia,” one says.
“So, it won’t be the fall that kills her?” the other one asks.
“Nope. Sometimes there are clots.”
Cecilia Kennedy once taught Spanish and English courses in Ohio for many years. She now lives in the Greater Seattle area, and writes horror stories. Her blog (Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks: https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/) chronicles her humorous (and perhaps scary?) attempts at cooking and home repair.