It's late afternoon. The sun's not as hot as it was at twelve, and you got some bad news today, so you decide to go for a run.
You throw on the old soccer shorts, the ratty sports bra, and the navy blue FCMS 2010 shirt with the bleach spots, and head out. You have to clonk your Keens against the side of the house to get the mud off from when you wandered through the woods earlier. It's only been hours, but the mud's baked dry, out on the porch.
Out in the lazy street, old men with arthritis would have an easier time running. Is it the heat, or is it your knee? It's definitely your left knee. Damn the high school days of cross country, and the ski sprain you never tried enough to heal. You'll go to the front of the neighborhood and come back; that's enough to feel good about yourself.
Nobody's outdoors, so you don't worry about looking around. Eyes on the pavement, because it helps you focus on pacing, and because there's nothing else to pay attention to. No dogs barking, no wind. You scare away one somebody - a crow, pecking at the eyes of a dead squirrel who got hit mid-run and looks almost like he's faking, like he could take up and go again if you just give him a second. Poor guy. You'd scoop him off the road to peace, if there weren't so many bluebottles, but with nobody else to shoo them away, they're going to town. The busiest part of the neighborhood is this roadkill.
So when the blue SUV crunches to a halt in the middle of the road at the turnaround, up ahead, you're happy to see another person. It's that kid who used to ride the morning bus, four or five years ago. He's still gangly. You wave but he doesn't seem to acknowledge you, and you keep on jogging.
The car's in park, and he gets out. Chinese fire drill, but weird when you notice that there's no one else in the car. The truck's got no license plate on the front, and you can't see the back. He walks around to the back, hands out oddly from his waist, someone used to a walkie or a tactical belt, and was his hair always buzzed?
You keep jogging, almost at the turnaround, kind of still looking at the asphalt out of habit, but he hasn't come back from behind the car.
He looks like one of those guys who snaps and goes out to shoot up passersby. Well, with the burning in your knee, and that phone call you got earlier, you dramatically almost wish he would. You wonder what it'd feel like to get shot...they do that in police training, except you get to wear Kevlar; Mrs. Murphy said it's like getting punched. You think of the dead squirrel.
Man, this run is something else, but what great shape you'll be in!
You've rounded the bend, the SUV still parked but now behind you, and you're jogging away lost in thought when you hear the trunk close and chock - the clip locks into place. Huh, you think. Sounds like an AR; you've shot one before at Clark Bros with your dad, they're semi-aut and incredibly good at...long...ranges...
You see the exit wound through the front of your t-shirt before you feel it. Then you hear it, and then you fall down. Or maybe it's not in that order, but the ground beneath you is awfully soupy, kind of like melted Popsicles, and ow, OW, oh my god, did he SHOOT me, and the door closes and the engine roars and behind you the kid in the car peels out, but all you can see is stars.
Your brain is slow. You left your phone at home. Your head's so heavy. Focus, focus.
And then you blink and you're on your feet - how, you don't know - and your navy blue shirt's dark with sweat, and sticky, too, so you wring it out and it's only when the sweat drips off red that you get it. Oh. You need help, to call someone, how much time before you bleed out, what was the license plate number, was that one bang or two?
But of all the things you're supposed to do, only one keeps coming to mind. The run. You have to stick to the path. You can get that out of the way, and then get to everything else. Brain says just lay down on the curb and let go, but body says left foot, right foot. So you stuff a hand into your stomach and hold it in, and your feet are moving forward on their own, jogging again, going home. Just finish the run. Some girl on the swim team asked once if your parents were in the military, because you didn't complain during workouts. Go. Slosh, squelch, left foot, right foot.
And you do it. And you get home, and you go to get stitched up, and everyone wants to know how come you kept moving, how you didn't pass out, but "well, I wanted to..." isn't an answer. And they give you comfy socks, and you tell everybody all about it, and you can go on another run in a week. You still feel bad, but not as bad; that phone call this morning seems miles away. You realize, right then, that you pulled through, still kicking, and heck, you turned out better than that squirrel. You can use this for creative inspiration, think of a story to tell about it. Perhaps weave it into character development. Sure, maybe you can't wear the bikini for a while, and maybe you'll avoid weird gangly blond distant acquaintances for a while longer, but man, what a surreal day, and isn't that just the way life goes?