The Grind by Frank Bill

It’s an honor to welcome Frank Bill back to the site. Bill burst onto the scene with his powerful collection Crimes in Southern Indiana, which was named by GQ magazine as one of the best books of 2011. Next came the hard-hitting novel Donnybrook, which is currently in production by director Tim Sutton with Frank Grillo starring. Bill’s follow-up to Donnybrook, The Savage, out now from FSG Originals, is “an unnerving vision of a fractured America gone terribly wrong, and a study of what happens when the last systems of morality and society collapse.”

The Grind

My wife says I’m obsessed.

In bed and dead-eyed to the world by 7am after a twelve hour shift.

Alarm sounds by 12:30 pm but you’ve been tossing and turning like a hound dog to something dead in the soil since 11:30am.

I say I’m dedicated.

Rasp of gritty tongue to my features. Good morning plea from my hound, Emma’s awake. Out of bed. Cold hard wood to the balls and heal of feet. Stiff legs. Tight hips. Tight thighs. Aftermath of heavy squats followed by a fast-paced walk. You tell yourself. Maybe you should rest. Take a day off.

I’ll rest when I’m dead.

I say I’m determined.

Three scoops of ground Arabica dumped into the French press. Three quarters full of hot water. Steep for five minutes. Coffee’s ready to remove the haze of sleep deprivation from my vision.

In my office, checking my phone. Texts and emails. Walking through the house. Lay the phone on the kitchen table. Hit the head. Take a piss. Wash my hands. Splash cold water on my features. Towel to hands, grab my phone. Carry it to the kitchen. Tick of nails across the floor behind me. Snap of collar to Emma’s neck. Out the kitchen door to the yard. Taking her to the bathroom.

I say I’m disciplined.

Emma’s long floppy-beagle-ears dangle beside her eyes, her caramel-colored head bends down, her nose inhaling every sent the ground has to offer. I’m stressed for time. I’ve barely been awake for 30 minutes and Emma hasn’t found her spot yet. More worried about the trespass of rabbit and squirrel in the yard.

I got a new book coming. Edits are done. Copy edits are done. First pass. Second pass. I think there was even a third and a fourth. Questions. Questions. Questions. All answered. The movie. Figured it’d never happen. That the option would run out. The deal with actors would fall through. It’s filming. Filming as Emma finds her spot. Filming as time slips away.

Wife says I’m a pessimist. I say I’m a realist.

Walking towards the house, I’m focused on the road, the trail. That’ll bring some peace of mind. But its what I need. That grind. Day after day. I don’t quit. I tire, but its temporary, I keep treading onward.

In the house, its 1pm. Press the coffee. Coconut milk to my ceramic mug. Pour the brown sludge. Head to the living room. Stretch my legs. My back. My feet. Slip into running shorts. Lube your toes. Keep the blisters at bay. Slide on my socks. Dry Fit shirt. Finish my coffee. Fill my hydration pack. Grab my shaker. Combine some coconut water with Citrulline. Grab a towel. A clean shirt.

1:30 pm is coming on strong. Its all about time, there’s never enough of it. Gotta get out of the house. Some days to the forest others to the park. Get some miles. On a dirt trail. A rutted or cracked road. Gravel. Other days its the rusted iron. The scrap electrical pipe that passes for my pull-up bar. The cold concrete of the shed I workout in with its rusted tin roof. It keeps me hot in the summer, cold in the winter.

Regardless of training, each makes me stronger.

TV on. Emma’s in her crate. Grab my phone, earbuds, double knot my running shoes. Shake the concoction in my shaker cup, slip on my hydration pack and I’m out the door.

Time. Time is always slipping away. Tick, tick, ticking.

Throw my stuff in the back seat. Slide in the driver’s side. Fire the engine. Mind traversing a mile a minute. Thinking: emails to answer. Texts to send. Ideas to brainstorm for publicity. Dates to manage for travel. Out in the street shifting to drive. I navigate to the park questioning, why? Why do this?


You lost it years back. Your discipline. Blew up like a whale. Laziness. I got pathetic. Decided I needed a change. Wanted my fitness back.

Looking at the clock, speeding down the pavement to the park’s entrance its 1:45. Work, gotta be there by 6pm. Leave the house by 5pm. Navigating the road through the park. Pulling between the lines. Stopping. I get out. Slip my ear buds in. Select a podcast, Rogan or Jocko or Strong Life. Or music. Hydration pack on. I place one foot in front the other.

You do this daily. The laundry list of worries. Of getting stronger.

Keeping your will. Your day to day. Tomorrow’s another grind.

Frank Bill is the author of the novel Donnybrook and the story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana, one of GQ’s favorite books of 2011 and a Daily Beast best debut of 2011. He lives and writes in southern Indiana.

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