Slap, slapping from my jogging feet is loud on the sidewalk. Over and over they repeat as an out-of-control drummer during a First Nations 'Pow Wow' gathering. Then it's as if that person leaps joyously and rushes into a Mi'kmaq Circle dance.
Now it's my turn to be boisterous among my surroundings. I also dance with a desire to lose weight. To stay in shape, live longer; and impress my wife, Esther.
"Yes," she kept telling me, "you can do it." Such confidence keeps me focused one foot after another. It must be a whole twenty seconds now since I hit the pavement, from my front door. But, it feels more like fifteen minutes.
It's too far to walk to the school track to begin my daily exercise. I'd be worn out by then. Superman, I'm not. My shorts continue to tug at my butt. I can feel the wind against me. And just ahead, an ancient lady must be in a race with a caterpillar, shopping bags massaging her legs.
I can't see her ankles, dress almost sweeping the street. Her calico headband accentuates an unruly mop of hair. Gray. She still puts my balding head to shame. But she's a reminder of my mother living far away, and to the north of Ottawa. Barry's Bay is in the middle of the woods, in Algonquin Park.
Mom never enjoyed the company of mosquitoes, nor enjoyed listening to the wolves howl at night. "Furry devils," she' called them.
"I always enjoyed wolves calling each other," I countered. "Believe it or not, one day I came so close to one I almost backed into it. Beautiful creature. Glad he didn't bite me." She also detested bears that lingered near the town she grew up in. Schumacher, Ontario. I never heard her call them, "black devils" though I could imagine her analytical mind checking out a number of uncomplimentary statements.
My thoughts continue as a collection of memories, an almost spiritual situation, blending my past with the present. I'm like that on my morning run. Each day begins at six am. Sharp. Early-bird newspaper deliverers are on the move, a chance to earn some "Ching-Ching."
Perhaps a successful wine merchant or interior decorator also trots the news walk. They need the bucks too. And university can be quite expensive. So more power to the younger ones who overcome a night of studying and slumber this time of morning.
That older lady must wonder what enjoyment I get out of my morning exercise. We should sit down someday and talk about it, whoever she is. Strange though, seeing each other every morning. Wonder if she has a crush on me?
I know I need this time for myself. Besides, my doctor says the old BP will continue to give me trouble if I don't smarten up. And she, being a smart lady doesn't give me room to maneuver any excuses in defense of my burgeoning tummy. I needed that reality check, to be serious about taking off pounds.
After all, am I not the one who kept bragging about how many miles I could hike on a good trail-walking day? Indeed that reputation must be protected, even if it was a long time ago.
Now a couple of ravenous canines threaten to rip off my knees. They're getting closer. Thank goodness they're only a couple of mini-dogs. They leap frantically at my shorts, then mercifully fall back as I leave them in the dust from my sneakers, a nice birthday gift from my wife.
Finally, I notice someone mowed the lawn around Petersen's house. The town officials must be tired of the complaints regarding an out of area landowner expecting the grass to trim it.
Wonder if my wife is still sleeping. And the kids, Susan with one hand over her eyes in case the sun got up too early. And Troy, well he was probably up when he heard dad, then ate later, dressed, hopefully washed his face, now waiting for dad to join him for breakfast.
"You go too fast for me," he said. "Besides, my belly is still flat." Smart kid. Maybe I should get another route just to keep him happy. Perhaps he can have an exercise trail only a block long. Faithfully, I complete a mile each day.
I traverse the same cracked sidewalks, count power poles, jump over some kid's bicycle, whew that was close.
Houses with flowers and shrubs tease me for a quick smell of ecstasy; the aroma follows me as I continue my plotted journey. The relentless slap, slap of my feet echo each other. As I begin my last half of the circle, my breath strains to pop from my mouth.
It was my original intention to have a full circle route, in the event I had to crawl home, and not have so far to go.
The best I could do for my good health plan in a small downtown was to encircle blocks of land, some pie-shaped; others rectangular. Only then could I create a Zigzag of movement for someone with a desire for change. I made sure my plan included the neat architecture, which abounds on Pleasant Street; Queen Ann and early Italian designs speckle the avenue, conversation topics for the office.
"Guess what I saw on my run today?" gathers in my draft of memory. My feet are getting pained, my sprinting a trudge, slow down, need a drink, I remember the bottle falling from my back pocket after that last dog-barking mouthful of teeth gave me chase.
Actually it was a Terrier, who ran faster than his comrade pooch. The Terrier came awfully close to my tender flesh.
Finally, almost there, home awaits, rest, my mind reeling, but exercise definitely needed this time of my life. My son is waiting, the older lady probably in her easy chair having a small glass of brandy, my throat thirsts badly, tummy starving, left arm flailing for an extra burst of speed, right arm dangling in an uncontrollable dance.
I make it to the front door, reach for the iron railings, drag myself to the living room couch, and collapse onto its softness. Like a large marshmallow it greets me.
Smiling faces, from my wife, daughter and son, rewards me. It's all worth it. I know they're proud of me. My shrinking tummy knows it too.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2007
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.