Once I crossed the river my body had suffered through so much pain and exertion it decided to switch to the numbness phase. My lungs no longer burned with lack of oxygen, the stitch in my side had passed, and I concluded there was no pain on the bottom of my foot because all of the nerve-endings had been rubbed away with the layers of skin. Subconsciously, I knew my sock was probably being dirtied by something other than sweat, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I could easily cope with other people’s blood, but the sight of my own vascular fluid gave me the willies.
I realized I had passed the wall and I could, just maybe, finish this thing. I rounded another corner and the back of a hulking figure came into view just in front of me on the paved trail. Even from the rear I knew it was Graham with his Alaskan Malamute, Quinton, tethered to his fist. Graham and I have known each other since we were five. Drawing closer I quickened my pace so that Graham would witness me as an expert runner with agility to spare. A smile twitched across my mouth when Quinton’s ears pricked up. I could tell he had caught my scent. Immediately the dog spun around and tugged Graham to a stop. At his dog’s sudden halt Graham also turned and they both watched me approach.
When Graham and I found Quinton he was only five weeks old and a small grayish-white puff of fur with deep brown eyes. I wanted to call him Pom Pom, but Graham flat out refused. Now Quinton had a sleek black and white coat that was trimmed to keep him cool for the summer months and the same large brown eyes. I sprinted to where they were standing on the trail and stopped on Quinton’s other side.
“How is my Quinton?” I asked, stooping to rub between his ears. “Are you being a good boy?” Quinton’s response was obvious, expressed in violent tail thrashing as he pushed his weight against my leg. After a few more pats I stood. “And how is my Graham?”
“Fine,” he said ramming his hands deep into the pockets of his khaki cargo pants. “Running I see. Is this another one of your ploys to get into shape?”
I gave him a good slug in the arm. “Are you suggesting that I am out of shape? Or more exactly that I am fat?”
Graham shrugged and I saw a smile flit across the corners of his mouth. I punched him one more time for emphasis. I knew he was joking around, and I shouldn’t have hit him. Not because it was a joke, but because he was ripped and after shaking my fingers out a little I thought next time I would be more careful about the force behind even the most playful right hook. Graham slid his hands from his pockets and took the leash off his wrist, handing it over to me. “You should finish your run,” he said.
“And leave you here on your walk all alone?” I replied. “No. I can’t possibly do that. What kind of friend would I be?”
“Get going,” he said, and then he slapped me on the rear.
Outraged, I moved to punch him again, but at Graham’s command Quinton had darted forward dragging me away by the wrist.
More to come...
More to come...