Friday, April 24, 2009

Past Posting's Penance (Knitting Circle Mud Run)

The fact that is was raining harder than most times Harry had been hit in a schoolyard didn't deter him from getting up at a weekday hour on a decidedly weekend day. It was Saturday and today was the race, the Mudfest he had been training for by running around the park evenings, a total of about 2 1/2 miles that he convinced himself was more like five or six because of the damn hills in town. Didn't matter, he was ready and up for it, or at least as up as you can be when you notice the beer glass you got for finishing two years ago says its a nine and a quarter mile race when you were all prepped for seven something miles. Doesn't help when you're polishing off your third beer when you notice it either.

The rain reminded him of the rain that was coming down one Saturday a few years ago when he and Chris had signed up for a charity thirty mile bike ride. He had woken up on time, heard the rain, climbed into the shower, got his stuff, mounted the bike on the rack, come back inside and kissed Chris goodbye to which she woke, fleetingly, said "you guessed right" and rolled back over.

Today Sue was up, had cooked oatmeal, packed four or five energy bars into a pack along with a couple of quarts of Gatorade, a map to the race site and a note telling him to do well and how much she loved him all before six on a Saturday.

He lived with Sue and loved her but still only lived with her. Harry had gotten to the point of convincing himself that he would soon marry Sue once the time was right. Of course, the time would eminently be right when Harry grew a set of balls. In the dark of a rainy evening, he knew that. Rainy mornings were a different animal.

If he left at seven, he reckoned he'd be at the Mudfest around 8.30, the time he and Mike usually arrived. It was their fifth annual Mudfest race together and like an old couple, they had gotten into a habit neither dared break out of. They got to the parking lot by the baseball field around 8.30, grabbed an energy bar and a sports drink, then hopped around the parking lot trying to stay warm until the ten o'clock start time, bitching about getting there so early when there was really nothing to do and damn, was it cold. Trouble was, if you actually applied common sense and got there shortly after nine, you'd throw karma off and either Harry or Mike would be pissed off because the run "wasn't the way it was supposed to be." So for the better part of five years, every Saturday before Easter, you could find the two of them atop a mountain jumping around a parking lot.

This year was going to be no different and even bringing the truck to a sudden stop for a mallard and his mate in the middle of a highway didn't portend trouble ahead. The road sign that said "highway closed ahead, " that was a different matter. Harry dutifully took the detour and noted that it was a quarter of eight. Ok, forty five minutes, still plenty of time to get there assuming I am where I am on my mental map and I don't get stuck on this detour behind some piece of farm equipment. And while I'm at it, I wonder how many anagrams I can pull out of "International Harvester Farmall." Guess I've got a little time.

The detour ended and "Fucking Slow Sonofatractorbitch" which really wasn't an anagram anymore but seemed to be the only recombinant left in Harry's brain turned right so Harry turned left and north, happily on the state road that came to a "route 53 ends" sign in the next town.

Not a problem. Harry knew where north was and took the most logical route; "Buck Cabin Road" that way which led to a decision of "East Mill Post Road" versus "South Church Road" so Harry took the latter and was perfectly confident that he was following his inner compass until he passed the "No Turns in Parking Lot" for the third time. There wasn't a map in the truck other than the one showing the way to the race assuming the state did its job and kept the roads open and passable. Here of course lay the danger of assuming. There was a phone though and while Harry no longer knew where he was he did know that Sue was somewhere in a warm house near a website that had maps on it. He dialed.

"Hi honey." he said trying to sound as unlike a small child in a large dark warehouse as possible. "Can you get on the net and tell me where the fuck our lousy governor's stimulus program has put me?"

"Have you passed Jen's Corner?"

"Yep. Just now."

"On your right or on your left?"

"Left."

"So you're heading the wrong way. You should have passed on your right. Turn around, pass it again, take Hay Bale road on your left and that will lead to 736 east which will get you on the main highway."

"Thanks Hon." Harry was quietly glad for a number of things: that even though it was getting on nine o'clock, he still had a shot of making the race and catching up with Mike and Jim whom he hadn't seen in over eight months. That he could rely on Sue and a computer to get him out of the current misdirected mess and mostly, that he wouldn't have to knock on a farmer's door to ask directions and forfeit money, urban wisdom, anal virginity or betrothal to a daughter who was every orthodontist's wet dream to get a clear route home.

"Fucking A, Harry." when Harry met up with Mike in the sign up line at about twenty of ten. "I barely just got here myself. Seen Jimmy around?"

"Nope." Harry shivered back.

"This has to be one of the worst."

"Unlike last year." Harry said, "Dont'cha remember? It was 28 degrees and snowing when we started out. They marked the course in flour which of course shows up real nice in snow."

"Year before was worse though, comrade." Mike said. "Remember that temps hit the seventies? We were dying."

"We weren't dying Mike. We just lost time in the stream crossings. Everybody stopped mid-river to cool themselves."

"Duly noted but I still think that that was the worst."

"As opposed to today. When its pouring. It will continue to pour for the rest of the day. There will be mud everywhere, we will be soaked and cold, we'll stop for one beer out there and leave as soon as we hit the finish line."

"Paradise as I know it."

"Mike, will you at least hang around for a post race hot dog?"

"And miss the live version of 'Sweet Caroline'? I'd sooner sign up for lifelong membership in the Republican party."

"Cool. Meet you at the finish line. By the way, I'm a Republican."

"And I'll beat your time."

"Only if you can jump deer carcass higher than I."

"Didja see Jimmy yet?"

"No. Wasn't he coming with his wife?"

"Yeah. He and the missus are running together this year. I dunno. Kind of miss you and me and Jimmy finding a pacer and spending a few miles noting her finer attributes. Didn't you invite Sue?"

"Nope. Sue and I have a rule. Races equal guy time."

"At least somebody keeps the faith."

"You know what I've noticed? We've done this for five years now. We do it every year and we'll probably be here next year no matter how much this sucks."

"Yeah?" Mike asked.

"Its a mantra. Every year we run. Every year the weather is what it is. Its hot, it snows, it rains like a sonovabitch and every year we run through it, trying to better our times. Every year its either hot, cold, wet, miserable and we hate it and it sucks and we bitch all the way through it. Then we eat lousy food and listen to a couple of octogenarians sing old Neil Diamond covers, go home, soak in a hot bath with a cold beer and thank the gods that be that its over."

"Your point?"

"Whup your ass by fifteen seconds!"

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