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Almost Strangers Almost on an Almost Train

“Honey, we’ve gone over this; Jane and I are just catching up today.

 

“No, no, no, I’d never do anything like that; it’d be like eating Jif when you’ve got Skippy waiting at home. Look, you and I have been married eleven wonderful years. I wouldn’t—I couldn’t—throw all this away for some choosy, opinionated mom in a railcar-style diner.

 

“Don’t worry about a thing. Jane and I were together for, maybe, three weeks back when were fresh out of college. She’s essentially a stranger at this point, a boring, weak-tea-and-water-flavored-oatmeal-ordering stranger. You’re the keeper. Fun, a little daring, you’re the one I chose to share my life with. Jane’s no keeper; she’s more like taupe wallpaper: static, particular, and painfully bland.

 

“I couldn’t tell you specifics; it’s been close to twenty years since I’ve seen her. Really, I’m remembering across-the-board average: not pretty enough or freakish enough to turn heads. Made-for-TV-movie forgettable. You’re much more attractive, okay? Is that the ego boost you’re looking for? Fine, yes, if we must, we can rehash that everyone I ever dated before you was a filthy tramp crafted out of nothing more than wickedness and cellulite.

 

“Wait, honey, that’s brilliant. Jane would be perfect; she’s oozing with pure nondescript unremarkableness! I can see it now, ‘Be on the lookout for an ordinary, possibly Caucasian, bipedal, carbon-based maybe-woman wearing muted tones and being likely some number of years old.’ The police would be stumped; Jane’d never be caught, let alone ever linked back to us.

 

“No, stop, no more second guessing; it was a good idea and it’s the right thing to do. Uncle Rich has been squandering away his fortune, our owed inheritance, in that assisted-care facility long enough. Sponge baths, cable, electricity for his breathing machine, glamor enemas, he’s become unbearably frivolous! We get Plain Jane in there, she inadvertently pulls his plug, I’ll yank out a life-sustaining plug or two in her life or maybe, like, clean her gutters or something, and we’re good. A little guilt-riddled, but financially set. Crisscross.

 

“It just makes sense; the numbers don’t lie. Neither of our parents will give us the money to support our lifestyle. Neither of us can get the hours at work. We’re already on our second mortgage and creditors are calling every day. At this point we just need to do what’s right for us. It’s the best option. Family comes first, and immediate family comes before nearly-dead, flush-with-cash uncle.

 

“We can’t waver. This could solve everything. It’s our Hail Mary but desperate times call for desperate measures and if we’re going to have the funds in place to buy a new speedboat in time for summer we need him to die ASAP. I just can’t wait to see our so-called friends, green with envy, as the two of us zip around the lake on our new forty-footer, no longer the laughingstock of the club. This will be our summer, baby; an uncle murder is a small price to pay to finally achieve affluence and social status.

 

“Now don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll press Jane to get this done quick; I think the boat show’s in town next weekend.”

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Today My Name is Triumph

Denial, anger, bargaining, and, finally, depression—yes, I’ve been through it all this morning.  The tears have started coming and I don’t think they’re going to stop.  Not now, not today, why did it have to be today of all days?  It’s awful, I’m a wreck, and I can’t stop shaking.  No, this isn’t the day Fox cancelled the Glutton Bowl, it’s not the day McDonald’s discontinued the McPizza, and it isn’t even the day my cousin debunked pro wrestling for me.

 

No, today is the day of the 5K I had agreed to do eight months ago.

 

“It’s so far in the future, I’ll just agree to get them off my back, and, by the time it rolls around, I’ll have gotten new friends, or they’ll have forgotten about it, or, maybe, I’ll have succumbed to the sweet, warm blanket of death by then.”

 

Yeah, there’s no chance I thought I’d actually have to participate.

 

Trudging up to the crowds of happy, fit people was rough enough.  So I don’t own one of those fancy one-piece workout suits that aerodynamically shapes the contours of my penis.  No, I have a pair of pajama pant cutoffs and an old shirt that says, “I hate Mondays, but not as much as I hate Garfield.”

 

I’m getting a lot of stares; clearly, I look out of place, or everyone here has a penchant for workweek beginnings and comics drawn by Jim Davis.

 

I don’t want to run, but, fortunately, and much to the chagrin of my friends, Clipboard Guy says I can sign be one of the walkers competing.  I keep hearing that the only people who walk are the perpetually preggers, the robustly obese children, and the geriatric polio survivors.  Perfect, I have successfully identified my athletic equivalents.

 

The herd of people migrates to the starting line and  I’m realizing how much I don’t want to get sweaty.   I know if I start trying too hard my thighs are going to start rubbing together in some seriously extreme chub rub.  Eh, that’s pretty redundant; I’ve never had chub rub that wasn’t seriously extreme.

 

The gun goes off and I’m terrified.  Why couldn’t they just say go or use a whistle to start the race instead of that sawed-off shotgun?  People whoosh by me—their already-sweaty arms flailing and their bodily fluids just rubbing off all over my pasty skin and face.

 

Two hundred boring steps later and my brow is sweatier than John Goodman’s at a mayonnaise-eating contest—I must have gone at least 2K by now.

 

The realization is settling in: I really should have dropped my morning dumpage out my fun hole earlier.   I don’t really want to tempt this life-or-mess situation, so I’ll just walk nice and easy.  It’s like an old car—you don’t want to give it too much gas and risk something coming loose.

 

Many boring, television-less minutes later and I see spectators handing out cups from the sideline.  I mosey myself over there, hoping that at least one of those cups has Dr. Pepper in it, however, if they not down with DP I guess I’ll just ask the bartender, or whomever’s giving them out, for a triple whiskey.

 

The first cup I grab just has water in it and I immediately throw it away. Okay, I don’t want to waste anymore cups incase some tasteless freak actually prefers water, so now I’m going to start poking around through all these cups to find Dr. Pepper.  No, nada, nope, all water so far.  What do I have to do; I’d even settle for a Pibb Extra at this point, but no, it’s all goddamn water!

 

Clearly irritated, the runners keep brushing up against me with their sweaty slick bodies and it’s disgusting.  This is just like Family Day at the water park: constant violations of personal space, utterly unbearable, and notably free of Dr. Pepper and whiskey.

 

I think I’m close to the end, but my doody chute feels wetter and deeper than the Mariana Trench.  It’s simply become an abyss of cavernous, dark, unexplored depths from which I’m trying to hold back a faceless monstrosity.  In agony, I let out this abhorrent screech—seriously, the sound is insufferable; it’s like a cacophony of screeching cats, or screeching cars, or a young Dustin Diamond.

 

My dogs are really barking at this point, and by that I mean I don’t think these Hush Puppies were the ideal walking shoe.

 

The finish line is near and a crowd has gathered.  Surely, they are likely through most of the official awards and paper-plate awards by now, as I think I am the only one still on the course.  I cross the finish line and am immediately dissatisfied with the shameful lack of applause and pomp.  Clipboard Guy grabs me and my head begins to spin.  Did they know I was using performance enhancers?  How could they even know about those Jell-O energy suppositories I bought before the race?  I’m going to have plead ignorance or insanity on this one.

 

Instead, Clipboard Guy throws me on the top of the podium, likely for some public shaming.  I look to my left and right and there aren’t any contestant standing on second place or third place pedestals.  The announcer’s voice booms into a megaphone as he announces that I, Justin Gawel, have won first place for walking men aged twenty to thirty by default, as I was the only one who signed up.

 

The crowd sighs; clearly disgusted that part of their life was wasted looking at me received a medal.

 

 

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