Monday, March 5, 2012

Weird Men Walking

Isn’t it a bummer when you’re talking to someone and while they’re looking in your eyes, they suddenly make a strange face and drop dead? Don’t you hate when that happens?
I had a friend, Mr. Fred, an older guy I met while in the musical South Pacific. I played Billis, the coconut bra wearing schemer who gets people things and Fred had a small role as a Naval Officer. We had a scene together and I learned he was a really cool guy and ended up meeting Fred Jr. through doing business with the radio station.
Years later Fred had a heart attack. It rattled him mentally as well, and he started “race walking” to get back into shape, rewind his ticker, and in time really could rock around the clock. He then got me involved and we both did that race walking thing. We had our waddle on, hips shaking from side to side, arms moving back and forth, two weird men walking, and one behind the other. For inspiration I channeled John Wayne.
I got fast, could beat most, and looked like a boneless chicken. It would embarrass my wife when she saw me race and I could never beat 80 year old Fred but I trained, early in the morning darkness when radio listeners couldn’t recognize me. I looked like the Village Idiot but I liked winning the medals. Fred made me a contender.
Well, a colleague from the radio station was running at the track one evening and saw Fred walking, doing his thing, in his groove, and then come to a stop before he hit the first mile marker. When my radio mate jogged to him he said hello and mentioned that he knew me.
“Yea,” Fred said, “I know Larry? How’s he doing? I haven’t seen him out here lately.”
“Oh, he’s doing good. We spoke about you at lunch today and he told me he’d see you at the 5K Run for Excellence.”
“Yea, that’s the next big race…He knows my son, too… I’ve known Larry for years. We did a play together over at the theater, tell Larry…” Fred then grabbed his chest and down he went.
My friend immediately dialed 911 but the people who gathered couldn’t revive him. He died that evening, our group of walkers quite shocked. At the 5k Run for Excellence, BRASS, the Bayou Runners Association displayed a picture of Fred over our heads and as over a thousand people crossed that finish line he looked down on us all.
Fred didn’t collapse in front of me but it was I who he was thinking about when his heart gave out. Everyone dies, but while doing it, I’ve never heard of anyone thinking of me.
Should I hate when that happens?

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