A Patchwork Planet

The blurb on this describes the narrator, Barnaby Gaitlin, as a loveable loser trying to get his life in order. What exactly qualifies him as a “loser”—is it the fact that he lives in a basement and owes his parents $9k and has a handyman-esque job?

Tyler is at her best describing the old people that Barnaby helps in his “Rent-a-Back” job. “I’m telling you: don’t ever get old! Before I started at Rent-a-Back, I thought a guy could just make up his mind to have a decent old age. Now I know that there’s no such thing… I must have seen a hundred of those sunporch sickrooms, stuffed wall-to-wall with hospital beds and IV poles and potty chairs. I’ve seen those sad, quiet widow women trudging off alone to their deaths, no one to ease them through the way they’d eased their husbands through years and years before…. those retirement watches old people consult a hundred times a day, counting off minute by minute! Those kitchen windowsills lined with medicine bottles! Those miniature servings of food, a third of a banana rewrapped in a speckly black peel and sitting in the fridge!… The reminder notes scotch-taped all over the house… the sudden downward plunges they make: snappy speech one day and faltering for words not two weeks later; handsome, dignified faces all at once in particles, uneven, collapsing, dissolving. The jar lids they can’t unscrew, the needles they can’t thread, the large print that’s not quite large enough, even with a magnifying glass… They walk down the street and everyone looks away from them. People hate to see what the human body comes to—the sags and droops, splotches, humps, bulging stomachs, knobby fingers, thinning hair, freckled scalps. You’re supposed to say old age is beautiful: that’s one of those lines intended to shame whoever disagrees. But every one of my clients disagrees, I’m sure of it… I doubt they want to be young again, but I’m positive not a one would turn down the chance to be, say, middle-aged.”