Right Foot, Left Foot

by Richard L. Provencher

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The slap, slapping of my jogging feet is loud on the sidewalk. Over and over they repeat as a frenetic drummer during his First Nations ‘Pow Wow’ gathering. Then it’s as if that person leaps joyously and rushes into a Mi’kmaq Circle dance. Now it’s my turn to be boisterous among my surroundings. I also dance with a desire to lose weight. To stay in shape, live longer; and impress my wife, Esther.

“Yes,” she said, “you can do it.” Such confidence in me keeps me focused one foot after another. It must be a whole twenty seconds now since I hit the pavement, from my front door. Feels more like fifteen minutes.

Too far walking to the school track to begin my daily exercise, I’d be worn out by then. Superman, I’m not. My shorts continue to tug at my butt. I can feel the wind against me. And just ahead, an ancient lady must be in a race with a caterpillar, shopping bags massaging her legs.

I can’t see her ankles, dress almost sweeping the street. Her calico headband accentuates an unruly mop of hair, gray. Puts my balding head to shame. But she reminds me of my mother living so far away north of Ottawa, at Barry’s Bay, in the middle of the woods. Mom never enjoyed the company of mosquitoes, nor listening to the wolves call, like furry devils, she’d say.

I always liked wolves. One day I almost stepped on one, beautiful creature. Glad he didn’t bite me.  She also detested bears that lingered near the town she grew up in. Schumacher, Ontario. I never heard her call them, black devils though I could imagine her analytical mind ticking off a number of uncomplimentary statements.

My thoughts are a collection of memories, almost spiritual, blurring my past and present. I’m like that on my morning run. Each day begins at six am. Sharp. Early-bird paperboys are out, some getting practice for their future. Perhaps a successful wine merchant or interior decorator also trots the walk. They need the bucks first though. University can also be quite expensive. And more power to the younger ones who overcome a night of studying and slumber this time of morning.

That older lady must wonder what enjoyment I get out of my morning exercise. We should sit down someday and talk about it, whoever she is. Strange though, seeing each other every morning. Wonder if she has a crush on me?

I know I need this time for myself. Besides, my doctor says the old BP will continue to give me trouble if I don’t smarten up. And she, being a smart lady doesn’t give me room to maneuver any excuses in defending my burgeoning tummy. I need that reality check, about taking off pounds. After all, am I not the one who kept bragging about how many miles I could hike on a good trail-walking day? Indeed that reputation must be protected.

Now a couple of ravenous canines threaten to rip off my knees. They leap frantically at my shorts, then mercifully turn back as I leave them in the dust from my sneakers, a nice birthday gift from my wife.

Finally, someone mowed the lawn around the Petersen house. The town officials must be tired of the complaints regarding an out of area landowner expecting the grass to trim it.

Wonder if my wife is still sleeping. And the kids, Susan with one hand over her eyes in case the sun got up too early. And Troy, well he was probably up when he heard dad, then ate later, dressed, hopefully washed his face, now waiting for dad to join him for breakfast.

“You go too fast for me,” he said. “Besides, my belly is still flat.” Smart kid. Maybe I should get another route just to keep him happy. Perhaps he can have an exercise trail only a block long. Faithfully, I complete a mile each day.

I traverse the same cracked sidewalks, count power poles, jump over some kid’s bicycle, whew made it again. Houses with flowers and shrubs tease me for a quick smell of ecstasy, the aroma following me as I continue my plotted journey. The relentless slap, slap of my feet echo each other. My breath is straining a little as I begin my last half of the circle.

It was my original intention to have a full circle route, in the event I had to crawl home, and not having so far to go.

Except the best I could do for my good health plan in a small downtown was to encircle blocks of land, some pie-shaped; others rectangular. Only then could I create a zigzag of movement for someone with a desire for change. Architecture abounds on Pleasant Street, Queen Anne and early Italian designs speckle the avenue, conversation topics for the office.

“Guess what I saw on my run today?” gathers in my draft of memory. My feet are getting pained, the sprinting becoming a trudge, slow down, need a drink, remember the bottle falling from my back pocket after that last dog-barking mouthful of teeth gave me chase.  Actually it was a Terrier. But I have tender flesh.

Almost there, home awaits, rest, my mind reeling, but exercise definitely needed. My son waiting, the older lady probably in her easy chair having a small glass of brandy, my throat thirsting badly, tummy hungry, left arm flailing for a little burst of speed, right arm dangling in an uncontrollable dance.

I make it to the front door, reach for the iron railings, drag myself to the living room couch, and collapse into its softness. Like a large marshmallow greeting me. Smiling faces, from my wife, daughter and son, reward me. It’s all worth it.

I know they’re proud of me; surely, yes. My shrinking tummy is happy too.


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