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Run in with Death MAG
I have joined a gym, which brings with it a multitude of motivations and excuses. One being the distance: with moderate speeding, the gym is 10 minutes from my house. If it’s rush hour, the light is out, or there’s a cute boy following me, it can take anywhere from 17 minutes to three hours.
Now that I am forking over an arm and a leg for the privilege of making my remaining arm sore and sweaty on a weekly basis, I feel all the more inspired to stay home and “work out.” This means doing a few push-ups, 30 jumping jacks, and meandering down my street and back, covering approximately a mile of pavement.
On this particular day I set out with the lofty intention of actually running that mile of pavement. I had always perceived running as something best left to antelopes and skinny boys in shrink-wrap shorts but at this point, I was actually dating one of those aforementioned boys.
Yes, we all know how that goes. I was dating a dancer, so we went to a nightclub. I was dating a writer, so I read a book. I was dating a taxidermist, so I stuffed the neighbor’s cat. Things you would never do, things your rational mind has a permanent picket fence against - these things are attempted in declaration of that starry-eyed malady, love.
I was dating a runner, so I ran.
It wasn’t so bad. I would set goals: if I can run from here to the mailbox, I’ll walk to the driveway. If I can make it all the way around this curve, I’ll stop and breathe. If I can run past those kids on their skateboards without reacting to their catcalls, I’ll have some chocolate. Those kinds of goals.
I was doing great! A little short of breath, slightly scarlet in the face, but overall - great. My calves and thighs were screaming, “Yes! Yes!” After rounding both ends of the street, I was headed home to accept my gold medal (or at least a foot rub from my runner) when I rounded a curve and saw Death.
I will admit, I had my mind on other things, like getting home before the sun set and the temperature dropped 40 degrees. But there was no mistaking the tall figure in a long, black cloak gliding 30 yards in front of me on my side of the street, I might add. Just gliding along. Not bobbing or pacing or strolling, but moving very evenly. The figure would stop for a few seconds and lean against a post, then start back up in its creepy, gliding way.
Now, I am all for neighborly love, but not when the neighbor resembles a villain from Harry Potter. I jogged to the other side of the street. Yes, it was a blatant sign that I was avoiding this guy. But hey - he was Death. He was probably used to it. Besides, I just didn’t feel comfortable with a Grim Reaper staring at my backside.
As soon as I crossed, the thing looked at me and glided to my new side of the street. That was unsettling, but even worse was the fact that I couldn’t distinguish the face. Man, woman, melting skull? I had no idea. Five yards from my driveway, I crossed to the original side of the street.
The thing looked at me as I drew even with it, but before it could cross again, I booked it for my yard. I have never run so fast - my runner would have been proud. I hightailed it up the hill of my backyard, simultaneously crossing myself and praying, clutching the stitch in my side, and trying desperately not to pass out. When I reached my porch, my fingers were numb and I couldn’t get the code right for the lock on my back door. A million thoughts were chasing themselves through my brain, most beginning or ending with “Dear God” and “Holy crap!” But I couldn’t resist - I looked at the street.
There was that thing. And even though I had been running and it had been just gliding along, it was already at my driveway.
I punched in the code once more and threw myself against the door. It opened. I slammed it shut and locked it. I raced through the house, shutting the garage, locking doors, turning on lights; no one else was home, of course.
I set up camp at my kitchen table, clutching a phone (for 911 purposes) and a butcher’s knife (because I didn’t know how to shoot my father’s gun). I was convinced that the thing was going to glide to my door and slurp down my soul with a flexi-straw.
After calming myself, I called my runner and told him of my near-Death experience. Do you know what he told me?
“You shouldn’t go running alone anyway.”
I got a lot of ridicule the next few days but I find it a matter of irony that I ran over a squirrel for the first time in my life on the way to school the next morning.
This is a true story. So maybe it wasn’t Death, per se, but there was a very solid, very creepy person in a cape gliding down my street at sunset. Actually, he might live two houses down. He’s probably just going through an unearthly phase.