He Went For His Morning Run And It Changed His Life… For The Worse

Flickr, Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright
Flickr, Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright

Blake turned on the faucet in his master bathroom. He let it run for a while until the temperature was a perfect lukewarm because cold water didn’t agree with sensitive teeth. After brushing, gargling, and rinsing, he placed contacts into each eye, washed his face, and blew his nose.

This morning he dressed himself in his best jogging attire: a metallic silver tank top, neon blue shorts, and a headband, also neon blue.

Before his stretched his muscles, Blake checked the weather on his phone: High of 98 with some clouds; another scorcher. Currently though, it was only 73 degrees and still sunny which made for perfect jogging weather.

Downstairs, Blake’s wife Melissa was feeding the baby. She had a small towel draped over her shoulder as she spooned mashed pears into the baby’s tiny mouth. Blake kissed Melissa on the forehead and took a chomp out of a protein bar. He washed it down with a glass of orange juice, wincing as the flavors of citrus, granola, and fresh bursting mint married each other into one distasteful blob.

“Good morning”, Melissa said. She brushed her bangs from her forehead with her free hand. “I was wondering if you were ever getting out of bed.”

“Man, I haven’t slept like that since college. A solid nine hours.”

“It was my turn to get up with the baby anyway,” she said.

Melissa held the spoon up high and twirled it around in the air while making a propeller sound with her lips. She made a successful landing onto the baby’s tongue.

“You looked refreshed.”

“I am. I feel like a new man!”

Blake stretched out his arms and flexed his biceps.

“I’m also down ten pounds! Hey, have you seen my tablet anywhere?”

“It’s on the end table. You left it there last night while we were watching the movie. I wish you wouldn’t bring your work home with you so often.”

“I know, I know. I’ll be able to leave ‘work at work’ once I land the Gabay account. Shoot, with the commission, we’ll finally be able to go on our honeymoon.”

Melissa folded her hands under her chin and blinked her eyelids rapidly.

“Someplace tropical?”

Blake waved his arms around, wiggled his hips, and curled his upper lip:

“Say there mama, whaddya say we leave this here place and go see the world together?”

Melissa snorted. Her face looked ten years younger. She hadn’t seen Blake this animated since the baby was born. She stuck out her bottom lip, pouting:

“Gee, what would the colonel think if I went off with The King?”

Blake bent down to kiss his baby on the head and pointed at Melissa:

“Don’t you worry about Colonel Tom Parker, baby. He don’t control The King of Rock n’ Roll.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that, Elvis. Now go check your stocks and burn those calories.”

The late morning sun blinded Blake as he stepped off his front porch. The humidity had already started thickening the air. He opened an app on his phone, RunBabyRun, and pressed the RESUME icon. An English accented voice came through his ear buds:

[Welcome back (pause) Blake. Ready to start running?]

Blake nodded while turning his torso from left to right.

[Okay. Let’s do it!] The voice was very motivational.

The route Blake took every day was simple: He ran south on Salem Ave. until he reached the cul-de-sac. Then he looped back around to Haven Court for a quarter mile, which took him back to Salem. He would continue north on Salem until the dead end, turn around, and repeat the course. The route totaled two and a half miles. It was a walk in the park for a seasoned runner, but it was challenging for Blake, being just a few weeks into the routine. His goal today was to top yesterday’s time of 20:41 and if he ever got down to the fifteen minute mark, he’d just extend the route longer.

[Would you like music (pause) Blake?]

Blake slowed down and pressed the green YES icon, loading his playlist. He cleared his first mile in seven minutes flat. Not bad, not good, but by no means terrible. Although his side began to ache he was still determined to beat yesterday’s time.

Homeowners were already out and about, cutting the grass and tending to their flower beds, trying to get the outdoor chores done before the approaching heat wave came. Blake waved at some construction workers while they repaired a roof on Haven Court. They didn’t wave back. He had the courtesy to switch his running lane for the street curb while a mother pushed her baby in a stroller. They made eye contact. He smiled, she didn’t. Just another day in the ol’ grumpy neighborhood. The heat had everybody in a shitty mood.

Sweat began pouring off Blake’s tattooed shoulders. He slowed down to wring his headband out before he doubled back to Salem Ave.

[Would you like to stop (pause) Blake?]

“No. Hell no!”

Besides a few parked cars on the curb, Salem Ave. was deserted. Blake passed by several homes (every other model looked the same), before he noticed an old lady hunched over a bed of mulch. Her ridiculously large sun hat matched her pink blouse. She was stabbing at the dirt with a spade. Blake couldn’t tell if she did it out of frustration or if it was just her way of gardening, either way, she was really getting after it.

He slowed his pace down to a power walk and heard a high pitched voice over Dave Grohl screaming about not wanting to be someone’s monkey wrench. The old lady was motioning a distressed hand towards him to come back.

[Would you like to…]

Blake removed his ear buds. They bounced against his chest as he approached her.

“I’m so sorry to bother you young man, but would you be so kind as to carry these lawn bags into the garage for me?”

Her skin had deep ridges that curved around her features, making her face look like a loaf of warm bread, baked fresh from the oven. Her teeth were brittle. Her hair wasn’t quite blue, but it was close enough. She cracked a thin smile and caressed his arm like a grandmother should, but to Blake it felt almost sensual. Her eyes were an Irish green that glowed ominously under the shade of her hat.

“Sure, ma’am, why not?”

“Oh joy! I have some bottled water in the garage!”

Blake smiled and hoisted a bag full of leaves and lawn clippings in his arms. It seemed like a small chore for something as valuable as a bottle of water, even it would be warm. The garage was a mess. He placed the first two bags next to a pile of cluttered gardening tools. With one bag left, the old lady scurried out from the corner of the garage and handed Blake a bottle of warm water. He downed the first half and poured the rest on his face and shoulders. She marveled at the way the water rolled off of his tone skin and muscular arms. Blake didn’t notice, but she licked her lips as he carried the last lawn bag into the garage.

“Before you put that down young man, I want you to smell this.”

The old lady brought a potted plant over to him. The stem was stiff and white. Blue and purple petals flowered around its crimson sepals. The pollen tube was long and fuzzy. Tiny black granules danced along the anthers. He bent down and took a whiff.

“Your wife might like this. You can take it home with you.”

“How’d you know I was married? Oh, right, the ring. Well, I have to finish my run. Why don’t you leave it outside and I’ll come back to…”

“It has been awful hard around here lately trying to maintain the garden, the lawn, and well, just everything really. Since Harold passed away last year, things have been next to impossible.”

Oh man, Blake thought. I’m such an asshole. This poor widow just wants a little conversation and here I am more concerned about my workout…

The garage door began to close. The old lady blew into the plant, sending those tiny black particles into his face. Blake sneezed a couple times. His head became dizzy, like he had too many tequila shots. The feeling was actually quite pleasant.

She opened the door to the laundry room and took Blake by his hand. He started to lose his balance. She helped him along, leading him through the living room and into the hallway. Photographs of different people lined the walls in a seeming chronological order, from black and white to color. There was a blacksmith covered in soot in one, a politician shaking hands with a voter in another. The one that made Blake stop was the one of a lounge singer. She was laying on a piano wearing fishnet stockings and black lipstick. A cigarette burned in one hand, a Shure Classic microphone was in the other. Blake noticed something familiar and disturbing about each photograph… the eyes. Every set of eyes in each picture were the same Irish green, even the black and white ones. The old lady kept tugging at his hypnotic body, trying to get him through the hallway.

“Hey…wait a minute.”

Blake pulled his clumsy hand away from her and raised a finger, pointing at each photo.

“All these people in the pictures…they have the same color eyes you got. Are they, are they YOU?!”

He snickered and looked at the old lady’s eyes. In between hiccups, he rubbed his forehead, trying to process his new discovery.

The old lady grabbed Blake with a scorned grip and snapped her fingers. Now having his full attention, she led him into her bedroom.

Blake’s body timbered down face first onto her bed. The old lady walked into the closet. She came out moments later wearing a silk robe and holding a staff. She removed a brown leather pouch from the front pocket and tossed a green powder into the air. It trickled down, crystalizing as it covered his body.

[Welcome back (pause) Blake. Would you like to continue running?]

The humidity had set in. It was too thick to tolerate. Salem Ave. was still a ghost town. Everybody was inside where their air conditioner’s kept them comfortable while they sat on their couches, filling their heads with nonsensical daytime television.

Melissa was packing a small travel bag with diapers, bottles, and toys when the front door opened.

“Honey, you’re home! I started to get worried about you! You better get in the shower. We gotta get to your mom and dads or we’ll miss the previews!”

“Previews?”

“Yes, the previews. You know how I hate to miss the trailers. Wait a minute. You forgot about our matinee didn’t you?”

“Matinee? No, no. Um…let me shower. I’ll be right back.”

Melissa held the baby up.

“Aren’t you going to kiss your baby girl?”

My baby? My baby girl? Oh how I’d love to be back in a woman’s body again. A young, fresh female body. I’ll just have to be patient and wait until she’s old enough… Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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