“The Stationary Bike” audiobook is split between two CDs and has a total runtime of about an hour and a half.
The story is read by Law and Order’s Ron McLarty and he tells the tale so well that it is a joy to listen to it. This is the first audiobook I ever listened to and on the strength of the experience I have now listened to quite a few of them.
The central character in “The Stationary Bike” is a commercial artist named Richard Sifkitz. A week after taking the physical he had been putting off for three years Sifkitz is invited by Doctor Brady to review and discuss the results. All of the test names and numbers on the doctor’s sheet are listed in black except for one. That line is printed in red and it is marked ‘cholesterol’ and the number that stands out in that line is ‘226.’ Sifkitz doesn’t even bother to kid himself that 226 is a good number. It wouldn’t be in red if it was a good number.
Doctor Brady discusses Sifkitz’ weight with him and explains the connection between high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Brady then compares the metabolic process with a work crew – men in chinos and Doc Martens. “Their job is to grab the stuff you send down the shoot and dispose of it,” Brady tells him. “If you send them more than they can deal with you put on weight.” The doctor tells quite a good story and warns that Sifkitz’ work crew aren’t getting any younger and so are no longer as efficient as they used to be. If Sifkitz doesn’t make some changes, and soon, he will have a real problem on his hands.
When Sifkitz arrives home he cannot get the picture of the work crew out of his head and he begins to incorporate them into a picture and even gives the crew names. He doesn’t know how he knows all the guy’s names, but somehow he does. He knows all about them and their lives.
Worried by the test results, Sifkitz buys a stationary bike and puts it in the basement. He is so worried about his health that he actually rides the thing too. But riding a bike that is going nowhere in a basement is boring and so he employs his artistic talents and paints a mural on the wall: a country road, winding through some woods underneath a red sky. He even buys a map and decides where the road is. He decides that it starts in Poughkeepsie, New York and goes to Herkimer. He marks out his progress each day on the map.
Sifkitz soon finds that he loses track of time when he is on the bike, he goes into a kind of trance and it is as if he really is on the winding country road and his stationary bike becomes not just an exercise bike but the three-speed Raleigh he used to have when he was a child.
All of that pedalling pays off and Sifkitz’ cholesterol level becomes so low that even Doctor Brady is envious and tells him, “It’s lower than mine.” The problem is that Sifkitz is becoming so drawn into his imaginary journey that before he gets onto the bike he has to set an alarm clock, to go off two hours later, just to pull him back to reality. Even then, though, Sifkitz is aware that, in time, the alarm clock won’t work and he is becoming increasingly convinced that he is not alone on the road to Herkimer and that someone is following him.
There are a total of 6 chapters in the story—three on each CD—but they are spread across the 12 tracks that each CD Contains. If you are interested, it breaks down to something like this:
- Introduction (track 1)
- Chapter 1 Metabolic Workmen (tracks 2-6)
- Chapter 2 Stationary Bike (tracks 7-9)
- Chapter 3 On the Road to Herkimer (tracks 10-12)
- Chapter 4 Man With Shotgun (tracks 1-3)
- Chapter 5 The Screwdriver Would Do For A Start (tracks 4-6)
- Chapter 6 Not Quite The Ending Everyone Expected (tracks 7-12)
“The Stationary Bike” is a great story and it works very well as an audiobook. It’s a great story, well told and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.