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A Funny Walking Story
With the midday temperature a tortuous ninety-three degrees in downtown Harrisburg, it was reasonable to expect that there wouldn’t be many walkers that day. Most of the crowd of state workers who normally took a noontime constitutional instead took cover in air-conditioned cubicles, but I was in the midst of my walk-a-day phase.
Heat or no heat, I was going out.
I’m a corporate competitive walker, faster than most, but some folks are just speedsters. You know they’re behind you, maybe way behind you, but no matter how fast you push it, somehow they catch you. You learn to recognize the back of their heads as they zoom past. One guy in particular was really quick. I think he was probably a manager of some sort. His pace just ate up the distance like it was nothing. I despised him; he always passed me.
On this baking hot day I had the course almost all to myself. Sure, there were a few adventurous souls, but no serious competition. I breezed across the footbridge leading to City Island, which sits in the middle of the Susquehanna River, adjacent to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, at a fairly steady pace. I quickly turned onto the walkway around the island itself, and maintained a powerful stride.
I was feeling good. And fast. And smooth. For a few more minutes I glided along, imagining myself well in front at some Olympic event. A sweat was building, but it was a good sweat, and I was impressed at my performance. Then, as I prepared to make the first turn on the backside of the island, I heard them.
Footsteps. At first it didn’t really sound like steps, but when I listened closely, they were definitely there. When you’re a competitive walker you become attuned to these things. Someone was coming up behind me.
No problem, I thought. I’ll turn on the juice and leave this pretender in my dust. I lengthened my stride, the roadway raced past, and for a short time I thought I had lost him, but then...
I started walking for real now, pumping away at ninety per cent capacity. No way was this chump going to keep up with me. I allowed a small smile to cross my face as I imagined his puny efforts to keep pace, but my smile faded as the sound of footsteps once again faintly reached my ears.
He was still there!
I wanted to look back, but I couldn’t. It would be a sign of fear. I decided to slow down, let him have the lead, then pass him as we crossed the bridge again. So I eased off, just a bit, but as I slowed, he did too! I speeded up, he speeded up. He was playing with me, and right then I knew it had to be him, that really fast guy, my nemesis, and he was toying with me.
It was getting hotter, and as sweat dripped off my forehead I happened to glance down and noticed that my sneaker was untied. As I watched, the shoelace flopped back and forth, smacking against the ground with every stride. When I slowed, the sound of my shoelace slowed as well, keeping perfect pace with the swinging of my leg. All at once realization dawned on me, and I stopped and looked behind me.
The ominous sound of approaching footsteps had simply been my shoelace hitting the pavement. Standing alone that day on the sweltering pavement, I realized that perhaps I was taking things too seriously. Sheepishly, I bent down and retied my sneaker. When I got back to my office a co-worker asked if I’d had a nice walk. I just smiled and changed my shoes.
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