It’s swelteringly hot and humid today due to some meteorological phenomenon that produces stuck heat domes which oppress those folks stuck inside them. (Yes, I believe in Global Warming, so I wear a hat.) Not exactly a day that calls for sane people to go out and exercise; however, by now you know conclusively that I am not running for election to The Sanity Hall of Fame in Toledo but the other way. So, after taking care of grocery shopping and an air conditioned trip to the bank, I thought I’d go for a sweaty walk in the sauna outside, just around the block to start. But once I began to stride into the wet wammy wall of warmth, I felt motivated to go harder, walk all the way into, through, and out of the local park, a total of two miles. Not too long ago I used to run that circle without any trouble. Today it’s different. I’m out of shape and a little worried about hurting myself if I go too hard. My parts are getting stiff and sore at age 60, probably from underactivity. I’ve been thinking of a line of sports clothing with U transposed over A, like Under Armor only my sports line will be weak and wimpy, Under Active, like a slow thyroid. Maybe that can be my logo, a sleeping thyroid gland on a waterbed.Kinda scary looking.
Anyway, I went out with my hat and sunglasses, t shirt and shorts, socks and sneakers. No phone or i.d., no money or thread back home. Of course no note telling my napping daughter or soon to arrive home wife where I was. I began to think of my trek four years ago with my Arizona daughter’s dog Kermit in the July heat of the Sonoran Desert. That was intensely stupid, as I recall, not because I was at risk but the dog was exposed to heat stroke. Dogs just know when it’s too hot or dry or windy to go outside. I lack that gene. (We were saved by a midget football team’s car wash behind the Valero gas station. Little boys who asked me, “Hey Mister, can we wash your dog?” Not real midgets or little people or dwarves, just little boys.)
On I went, sweat starting to rise up. “Ahh, feels good.” The merciless sun beat down. I went on bare chested, even better, get some color. I jogged a bit, testing the right knee, gauging my breathing. Like I said before, I don’t want to push too far too fast and wind up in the hospital again. A year and a half ago I ripped my back up shoveling snow. This past winter I did it again. I was not up for a third time of being disabled. Hospitals are worse than funeral homes for me. At least in the funeral home you know what’s wrong; you have an answer.
I knew my wife would be coming home soon, and if she saw me alive she’d stop and lecture me about heat stroke and dehydration and death and being donated again to medical science cadaver service. But I did not see her red car as I left the neighborhood. If I timed it right ( but without a watch or phone I was in my familiar commonwealth of ignorance), I hoped to arrive at home as she did. I suspected that if she did not see me within a few minutes of her arrival, she’d start to search for my lifeless body along the likely walking routes and in the ditches. It’s what you do. Otherwise without a body it’s hard to collect the life insurance.
I knew what meatloaf felt like when left to broil into shoe leather. My skin oozed sweat and liquefied body fat as buzzards circled above me. I also knew my pace was not fast enough to meet my wife at home, so I began to jog a bit while aimlessly looking around at the landscape I used to run through. The corn is high. The barn is empty. More cows are roaming and look at this, they are coming to check me out at the fence line where it’s shady. My mind could only observe and stop there.
“Well, hello girls. 4649, you are looking good today, girlfriend. Losing weight? 4039 stop humping your herd buddy. That’s nasty. Are you watching porn in the barn?”
I turned toward home, anticipating the many ways in which I could just miss my wife in her little red car. I pushed on. As I came down my street, I saw her and my daughter in the front seat of the red Honda Civic pulling into the driveway. I waved, shirtless and drenched in sweat. I knew what they knew: I was not dead just brain dead. The moment became tense.“We’ve been driving around looking for you!! Are you crazy? Who goes jogging on a day when the heat index is 200 degrees? Oh, you do, the jogging dead.”
“Put the shovel down, dear. I’m sorry to disappoint you by showing up alive. I can lie down and stroke out if it makes you feel better. Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. I just wandered off….”
No, they just wanted to see me alive and behaving admirably which is a rarity on a good day. It seems to be a self evident truth that I was not beaten enough as a child, or so I am told with regularity. Secretly, I think they wanted to rescue me from myself and I stole their moment of glory by not collapsing in a cornfield or falling unconscious on the broiling macadam like a truck struck raccoon with a sympathy helium balloon.
Maybe because it was so hot or so familiar, but the interrogation and guilt roasting stopped there. I almost lost my balance, not because of dehydration or vertigo or heat stroke, but at the lack of push back. Mercy is a powerful force.