Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Square Peg - The Walking Club

The Square Peg - The Walking Club
© S. Bradley Stoner

I was out for my morning walk again today and was enjoying my morning solitude when I ran into Hillary Hardbody. Hillary is a serious walker. I’m more of a humorous walker. I try to avoid serious walkers... they take all the fun out of morning strolls. Unfortunately for me, Hillary was hell bent on intercepting me. And she did right while I was keeping my eye on the neighborhood Goshawk as he darted among the trees in hot pursuit of a fat Mexican Dove. It came as quite a surprise when I slammed into Hillary and I almost fell on my kiester. All I could do at that point was mumble, “Sorry” and step to the side.

“Oh, that’s okay,” Hillary chirped cheerily. “Out walking?”

Okay, y’all know I’m a bit of a smart aleck, so you won’t be surprised that I responded, “Nope... I’m just blocking the sidewalk.”

Hillary laughed and asked me if I walked every day. Now that was totally unnecessary. I know for a fact that Hillary keeps tabs on everyone who walks. I think she keeps a log of who walks past her house, when they walk, an how long it takes them to come back by so she can estimate the distance. Like I said, Hillary is a serious walker and somewhat of a walking evangelist. She’s also about ten years younger than me and recently divorced. That is a potentially dangerous combination. Anybody who doesn’t recognize that is an idiot... and I’m not.

“Well, I’ve got to finish my walk and get home. I’ve got things to do,” I said, hoping to escape.

Hillary wasn’t ready to let me go. As I walked away, she suddenly turned on her heel and caught up with me. “I’ll join you,” she proclaimed, “we can talk.”

I’m not much on talking, especially when I’m walking and especially not when I’m walking uphill, which is what I was doing at that particular moment. Obviously, Hill was in better shape than me. She chattered non-stop until I reached my normal turn-around. She was adamant in urging me to join the walking club. It was fun, she said, it was a chance to catch up with neighbors and neighborhood doings. Besides, she noted, we are a growing club with eight core members and several others promising to join. Since members were either retired or stay at home spouses, everybody could go at the same time. Wasn’t that convenient?

I groaned. The last thing I wanted was to have my normally peaceful alone time mucked up by a gaggle of nattering nabobs of nothingness. I was perfectly happy not knowing what Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice were up to in their own home. I could care less who was getting their roof replaced, a new bathroom, or a revamped kitchen. And I certainly didn’t need to know who saw that mysterious stranger in the BMW visiting Floozy Flora in her filmy nightwear. These things simply don’t interest me. I prefer the company of the critters that I see on my walks, which is why I was glad when daylight savings time went off so I could walk in the early dawn instead of in the dark.

I started to wonder how many of the behind the curtain peekers would take note of me walking with Hillary. What would they make of that odd pair... her in her spandex shorts, sports bra top and Nike crossovers and me in my ratty old shorts, faded tee shirt, white sox and holey sneakers? I could almost feel the breeze from all those wagging tongues. I shuddered. I had to end this. Instead of turning around where I usually do, I struck out for the park another quarter of a mile up the dirt track we were on. I had a plan. When we reached the park, I took an abrupt right turn. There was a narrow trail, more of an animal path actually, that led down a steep hill through heavy brush.

Hillary stopped and stared. “Um, where are you going?”

“I’m going bushwhacking,” I said with a little more evil edge to my voice than was absolutely necessary.

“But,” Hillary’s voice was tentative, “I’ve heard there are snakes and poison oak down there.”

“More than likely,” I agreed. “And brambles and burrs. It’s a challenge.”

The wheels in Hillary’s head were turning... fast. I was pretty sure she would decline. After all, burrs and brambles don’t mix with spandex walking shorts or bare legs and midriff, not to mention even the threat of snakes was enough to make most women run, not walk, the other way. She had that look of fox that had just lost a rabbit to the briar patch.

I took that first step into the brush, “Well, gotta go. I gotta be home in a half an hour.”

“Um, okay... but you’ll think about the walking club, right?”

“Sure,” I said, stepping out and snagging that first set of sand burrs on my right sock. I would have turned around right then, but I could see that Hillary was lingering at the top of the hill, so I gritted my teeth and disappeared into the bush.

A half an hour later, I emerged from the brush, scratched, itching, with my sox full of sand burrs, into the creek bottom. What was I thinking? Normally, the creek bottom is just a sandy expanse with a few low spots filled with water. In my desperate attempt to escape the walking club president, I had completely forgotten about the four inches of rain we’d gotten over the weekend. Needless to say, the creek was not dry... and neither were my feet. Luckily the exit to the neighborhood wasn’t that far and I managed to squish my way out, cross a short expanse of lawn, and gain the sidewalk, leaving me only a couple of blocks to home. About halfway there, the piston motion of my feet inside my holey old sneakers pumping water out onto the cement, I ran into my next door neighbor who was just finishing her walk.

She looked me up and down, noting the scratches, burrs and squirting sneakers, and said, “Looks like you took a bad turn. Have you thought about joining the walking club?”