Reinvention—even the word wears me out. I picture a perfectly good wheel, destroyed; followed by strenuous efforts to create something round, that rolls, and can help propel objects and machinery.
The fact was, I'd lost my job at 55 and it was time to start from scratch. Even though I tried to listen to advice from well-meaning friends, read all the "rah-rah, you can do it" websites, there were times when my mind just tended to wander.
1) Erica Ferencik, Brain Surgeon
"Paging Dr. Ferencik!"
As nurses hurry me into my scrubs, I look over at the accident victim on the stretcher.
"Thank God you're here," the emergency nurse says, "I think we're losing him."
"First he fell out of a plane, then he was hit by a car that pushed him off a bridge. It doesn't look good."
"How about his (insert complex medical terms here)?"
"That's all fine. It's his brain, actually."
"Oh yes, I see. Hand me my (brain repair stuff) and stand back."
A clock's second hand spins around: 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock, 11-12-1-2-3-3-4-5, then 6:00 in the morning.
A nurse rushes by the operating theater and glances down through the glass at me hard at work on my patient. "What's going on? She's been operating on him for two days now. Maybe someone should give her a bathroom break."
"Don't stop her!" the chief surgeon says, gazing in wonder at my stunningly precise scalpel moves. "No one else can do what she's doing."
Calmly, I make the final connections in my patient's brain. I leave the operating theater and collapse in a chair.
A handsome, young intern rushes up to me, breathless. "The family's outside in the lobby waiting to thank you. You not only cured him, you've increased his IQ by 15 points!"
"Paging Dr. Ferencik."
I give the intern a weary look as I reach for clean scrubs. "Please send the family my best, but it looks like I'm needed again."
2) Erica Ferencik, Olympic Gymnast
"Hailing from Schenectady, New York—a hotbed of Olympic talent, by the way—55-year-old gymnast Erica Ferencik is like nobody we've ever seen before. Isn't that right, Jimmy?
"You've got that right, Billy. She just won the gold in floor, vault and uneven parallels. Is it even possible to land the beam as well?"
"Anything's possible with this girl. It's like she's made of rubber, or has wings, or something. Just watch her up there. So far it's been a flawless, daring program."
(We hear the squeak of chalk, hushed murmurs.)
"And here she goes. She's getting ready for her dismount, which we've been told is a triple backward salchow landing on one forefinger. Never been done before."
"I didn't think it was possible, Jimmy, but you're right, we're about to witness history—and you can read that anticipation on her face. Thousands watching in the stadium, millions of viewers around the world, all holding their breath—you can hear a pin drop! Oh my God! She DID IT!!!"
"What a dismount! All her limbs blew off but reconnected to her body at the last second. Never in the history of the sport—"
"But the judges, will they be pleased? You know the Russians … but perfection crosses all cultures—it's the international language! And here it comes: 10 ... 10 … 10! Perfect tens all across the board! Four gold medals!"
The roar of the crowd drowns out the announcers while Erica selflessly poses for photographs with sick children.
3) Erica Ferencik, Principal Violinist
"We're here with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on opening night and we've just learned there's going to be some sort of announcement before the concert begins. Let's listen in."
A young man in a tux approaches the podium in the center of the orchestra. He leans into the microphone. "It seems that our principal violinist, Vladimir Vladivostock, has taken ill," he says while the crowd of thousands titters and buzzes. "Taking his place will be … Erica Ferencik."
There's a smattering of polite applause as I sashay onto the stage. God, I look fantastic in that gown.
The commentator continues: "She's strikingly young-looking. We're learning that she's an unknown. Only been studying the violin about a month now, maybe two. Obviously some sort of prodigy. Hold on, here she goes."
I begin to play a little ditty called Bach's "Chaconne from Partita No. 2" in D minor. Piece of gateau.
"Oh my goodness, listen to this, the mastery! The playfulness! The raw feeling!" the commentator exclaims. "Vladimir better watch his back."
The crowd gasps in awe. A woman faints. Others weep with emotion. One dude actually dies of overwhelming pleasure.
"I'm told she's mastered the cello as well. And the triangle. And that she models in her spare time."
I wrap up and take a bow. The audience leaps to their feet and demands an encore. Though the media is already sprinting down the aisle toward me, flashbulbs popping, I figure what the hell, and give the crowd what they came for.
4) Erica Ferencik, Cirque de Soleil Aerialist and NASCAR Championship Driver
Soon to be a major motion picture.