Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Stationary Bike

For whatever reason, I tend to read obscure Stephen King novellas, short stories, and novels instead of his more well-known choices like The Stand, It, Christine, The Shining, etc. The list goes on and on. However, I did get my hands on a novella of his called "Stationary Bike." The back of the book drew me in because it just seemed so different, so mysterious, so bizarre. I hand to find out what this was about.

"Stationary Bike" is about a man named Richard Sifkitz who goes to the doctor to check out his cholesterol levels. He discovers that they are too high, and his doctor tries to describe his high cholesterol levels with a metaphorical scenario of workmen clearing off junk foods on the roads of his arteries. Richard becomes obsessed with this idea, and it will be brought up later on.

So, Richard, an artist, buys a stationary bike in order to lose weight. He sets it up in his basement, and he actually uses it all the time. On the blank wall in front of him, Richard puts a map of the United States, imagining where he travels with every mile he pedals. As he continues to daydream on his bike, he decides to paint a mural of these metaphorical workmen that his doctor described to him. He pains four workmen clearing fat off of a road. However, the mural starts to come to life.

When he rides, he enters a trance where he actually enters his mural. When he sleeps, he dreams of the workmen. One of the workmen enters his dream which inspires him to paint his garage. However, when he paints the garage, he discovers that this workman has hung himself. Richard realizes how serious this is all getting, so he decides to dismantle the stationary bike.

Richard parallels drug addiction to his addiction to this stationary bike. He tries to make his addiction to riding it to be less than that of someone addicted to drugs. He ponders the idea of doing the drug or the addiction that "one last time," thinking that drug addicts say it all the time and don't mean it, but he is somehow stronger and really can do it one last time. In any event, his one last time is the most intense and really does become the last time.

He interacts with the workmen in the mural who are angry that Richard has led to the death of their friend. Since they've cleaned up all the fat in the streets, they no longer have work. Their lives are ruined. Richard tries to tell them that they are all imaginary, but their comebacks seem to make him think otherwise. He tries to take one of their hats with him almost as a test. He wonders if it was all a dream.

How it ends: Richard receives a hat in the mail that says LIPIDS on it, affirming that the mural, perhaps, was real.

Interesting huh? It read very quickly, and was very interesting as you wondered what was real and what wasn't. It was interesting to hear him parallel what constitutes addiction, and it may even coincide with King's own thoughts of addiction. I liked that the story was about such a solitary guy in his home and how even though it seemed so mundane, it became so outrageous. You can tell that King spends a lot of time at home to concoct such a story. It's not a bad thing--I spend a lot of time at home as well, and because of that, I could see where he could concoct a story like this. It's like he had a crazy daydream, or dream, and then put it down on paper. Who doesn't have odd daydreams like this one? It almost sounds inspired by some sort of drug or drink anyway. I wonder if the wall started to come to life man... Crazy.

People write about what they know, right? King knows about the darker side. He knows about life at home (it's the life of the writer). He knows about addiction. He must know about daydreams or imagination from the intense stories and novels he has concocted. And, he knows how it is to be an artist, even if it is a different kind of artist, he paints even more elaborate paintings with his words.

As always, I am impressed with King. He is definitely one of our great writers alive today and should be consistantly commended for his incredible imagination. I feel like more and more people try to repress the imagination, but I admire those who connect with it. This is one reason that I really respect this man. He continues to come up with stories that are so engaging to a wide audience. Now THAT is talent.

So what do you think of "Stationary Bike?"


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