The tension in this short is rooted in the speaker’s dislike of older people. Where the tension culminates, where the story takes an unexpected turn, is when his wife is dying. I am assuming that the huge white space is to show a change it time, that it is years later and the speaker and his wife are now old themselves. I think that one of the points to this piece of flash prose is about the stubbornness and unwillingness to accept human mortality.
Chaon describes the wife who in her old age is having problems with her lungs filling with fluid as drowning—“a kind of slow-motion drowning.” On the page, this is succinct, but it creates a big image that I dwelled on.
Upon a second and third reading-through—and I may be reading too much into it—I found subtle hints within Chaon’s words that hint to his lack of acceptance of death: he doesn’t accept that his wife is just dying because of old age, that her death is a part of the normal order of things, and he has to qualify it as drowning. Even when he is describing the other old people, the hobblers, they don’t sound like they’re dying—“they will emerge again in the spring.” According to the speaker, the hobblers are continuous, an everlasting spring, growing like budding trees.