A Moment of Silence, a short story by marlin225. Date added: 2007-09-02. Times viewed: 698.
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- A Moment of Silence
By Mark Mika
It still amused Henry how the best part of his day always began with such truculence. Sitting on the couch with tightly laced sneakers on his feet the debate raged for five, ten, sometimes (as it did today) fifteen minutes while the weak minded reasons not to go poured through his head. Giving in to what was now habit but had once been guilt and fear he rose up and cleared the front door in a few strides, walked out his bleached wood gate and with Ipod in hand headed for the paved bicycle/jogging path alongside the Pacific Ocean.
He began the mental exercise during the few blocks it took to walk to the beach. The weary anticipation the same on this day as it was when he began his ritual two years and one hundred and thirty pounds ago; when the late night pizza, cheeseburgers and double sundae fudge had finally released their gooey glob of fat down his carotid artery into his 45 year old heart and had put him down. Months later, after the hospital, the Doctors had said "run." So he ran. Grudgingly at first but the picture his (now ex) wife had taken and framed of him ghostly and weak in that bed, tubes in every orifice was a great motivator and every week he went a little farther, with less effort. Henry began to not hate it, then enjoy it and finally, to NEED it. Only the dread of actually doing the thing remained. Like an addict desperately trying to pull away from the drink or drug all the while knowing he would, eventually, have to have it.
"But this is good for me." Henry thought as he took the final steps leading down and hitting the switch on his Ipod in perfect time to his foot hitting the sand. That was his mental ritual and like the physical, never altered. The past was dealt with efficiently. Pain was remembered, financial losses from recuperation mourned and all that COULD have happened wrapped and dispatched during a two block walk.
The first group of preset songs started as he found the pavement and eased into his stride, heading east away from the late day sun. He loved this part. Launching himself forward with the pace of the music knowing his heart would soon be pounding, bearded face sweating as he tested his body and mind to find the limits they held for today.
He was a wonderful runner. Long limbed and now, lean, he moved in time with the pulsing speed metal that poured into him from the headphones as he began to peel the edges of the day from his mind. It was always stubborn, like pulling cellophane from a freezer item but Henry worked them slowly, truculently, patiently and one by one they surrendered.
The damn contract snag with his biggest vendor.... "Pop."
Another pointlessly frustrating phone call with his divorce attorney, pulling dollar bills from his pocket with each minute..... "Poof."
Henry Jr. suspended after a final fight at school which lead to an unwelcome argument with Laura on who should pick him up and punish the recently impossible boy... "whoosh."
On and on they went, each one detaching itself easier from the mental noise in his head as the strain on his body increased with each stride. He was breathing hard, feeling the rush of blood racing through his body when the final one came free and then they were gone. He was singular in his world and for next brief but blissful hour concerned only with moving forward, holding a pace and rhythm he alone controlled. Henry knew the feeling should be explored more, that perhaps it held a meaning, a beginning of something that would carry differently with any person in its grasp. For Henry, it simply felt good and that was enough. This was the moment he craved all day, longed for in meetings and during phone calls and the thought that made him smile as he took the long commute home.
He hit his turn point, marched up and down the Cliffside stairs then down, and headed back the way he had come. The lowering sun, full and hot on his face working in perfect concert with the cool evening sea breeze crossing him from the side and Henry felt the warm surge of confidence men feel when they know their goal can be had. He admired himself and the changes he had made these past years. The business had risen from the ashes, he had completely changed his body, his eating habits and completed all of the head shrink classes the doctors had suggested. He ran into the sun enjoying the picture of health he had become. It wasn't perfect of course, he thought. The anger and resentment of a failed marriage remained, he knew what they said around the office also but business was business. He wasn't there to make friends. No, not perfect, he thought, well what the hell is.
The wall came then as it always did at the turn and he moved through it with precision. The second group of songs, a mix of old school rock bursting with motion and scripted for the moment was turned on and he found the shimmering mirage from the sun moving like a curtain across the path in front of him. Never gaining or losing ground Henry ordered his mind to clear, pushing everything away except that unattainable mirage in front of him. The runner's wall of pain moved through him, he felt its pressure and then as suddenly as its arrival it was gone. He was almost effortless now. Discomfort and laboring certainly but no pain and the other runners, walkers and bikers he passed or passed by him were invisible.
Henry glided forward seeing nothing, feeling everything and registering the approaching end point switched his music to its final cool down act. A mix of acoustic ballads filled him as he moved to a near sprint for his final few hundred yards.
He barely noticed the first few that passed him. They moved by on his right side, single file, going the opposite direction and they registered in his mind dreamlike, without recognition. The fourth one though he saw full. Moving past him he noticed the tube going from the bulky black chair to the rider's mouth, he saw the cheeks expand with the effort of blowing into it. The fifth one seemed to avert his downward gaze as they passed just as Henry tried to move his own eyes elsewhere, anywhere, back to the shimmering curtain but the sun was resting low and it was gone. The last one in line, a man that seemed close to Henry's own age welcomed his gaze though, seemed to smile slightly around the tube as they saw each other. It was less than a second. A moment of a moment if even that and Henry was moving forward again running. He saw the shape of the concrete restroom rapidly moving towards him, the one where the stairs would take him up from the beach on the path back home and he ran faster than he had all that day. Faster than he had ever run before and he was shocked by how slow he felt, bewildered and fearful by the sudden tears running down his face.
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