Printed from https://shop.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2317471-The-best-part-of-my-day
by KS23
Rated: E · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2317471
A summer morning is a terrible thing to waste.
I lock the car in the empty parking lot of my health club and stash the key in the back zippered pocket of my running shorts. By the time I return the club will be open. A brief, brisk walk takes me to Maple Street where I start my watch and ease into a jog. This is heaven. The best part of my day. My footfalls are the only sound as I glide through the dark, cool air. Even the birds are not awake yet. In an hour the sun will ease over the distant hills and Maple Street will begin to come alive with sleepy, coffee-sipping drivers, but right now, for the next two miles, it belongs to only me.

At Benton Road, I swing left. I had picked up the pace in the second mile on Maple, but a quarter mile along Benton I encounter the first hill. It's not very steep, but it’s long, nearly a mile, so I ease the pace just a bit. This stretch of Benton cuts through undeveloped woodland, though it is well lit. On a summer morning like this I'll almost certainly startle a few cottontails, or see a coyote scamper across the road. Once I narrowly escaped being rammed by a doe who was surely as surprised by my presence as I was by hers. She was beautiful.

Cresting the hill, Benton runs level or a bit downhill for another mile and a half, so I kick it up a gear. The horizon to the east is brightening and the glow is creeping up the sky. I still haven't seen any cars, but the birds have now begun to chat amongst themselves in the bushes and trees. Just before I turn left onto Pease Road, I see my friend, Big Red. That's my name for the bright red male cardinal who commands the road from a branch beside a streetlight. He calls a greeting and I return a cheery "Good morning, Sir!"

The breeze has picked up a little, which is giving me an assist as I attack the Pease Road hill. This one is steeper than Benton, but less than a half mile in length. This is where the real workout begins. Keeping my head up, I count the utility poles as they rush by; there are exactly twenty to the top of the climb. A number of homes occupy this stretch and the birds are joined in their encouragement by a few best friends of man out in their yards for their morning eliminations. I thank them as I pass.

The sun has now crested our eastern hills and is maintaining its own steady climb. Even so low in the sky I can feel its heat. The crosswind breeze against my bare chest feels great. The next two and a half miles are like a children’s roller coaster, gentle, continuous ups and downs with the occasional twist and turn thrown in for excitement. I see my first car of the day and others soon follow. Thankfully, the road here has wide shoulders, so though I stay alert for the unexpected, I actually feel quite safe.

Some homes here contain large gardens sharing their sweet-smelling blossoms. And yes, even the lingering perfume of manure can make me smile. Occasionally a large, silent golden lab will trot easily just behind me for a half mile or so. I've asked him several times for his name, but he seems to prefer anonymity. At any rate, he always disappears just before we reach the Mollie Park neighborhood. This area is a trial for me, and perhaps more so for the lab, as the houses are close to the road and the open windows fill the air with the siren scents of bacon, sausage and pancakes.

"Soon," I promise myself. "Just another two miles. Then later I'll stop at Walt's Diner for a heart-clogging breakfast." (Little white lies to oneself when battling temptation are surely allowed.)

When I reach Chestnut Street, I make another left. Chestnut is hillier than Pease, but has the advantage of carrying very little traffic. That's because the road surface is riddled with potholes, just the way the few wealthy homeowners along Chestnut like it. It keeps the area quieter, safer and more private. The margins of the road where I do my running are relatively crater free, so I'm in total agreement with the residents. Most of the way the road is closely bordered by tall trees such that neither the sun nor the breeze can find their way in here until mid morning. I am loving this run.

After a mile and a half I make my last turn, onto Main Street, for the final mile long home stretch. Even this early, Main is flowing with people heading to work or school or both. There is a wide sidewalk bordering Main Street, but I don't like using it, especially when I'm moving fast. Twice in the past five years I've tripped on cracks in sidewalks and sustained painful injuries. I now avoid sidewalks whenever possible, and then I slow to a rapid jog. Now, however, I am in fast cruise mode with a light breeze in my face and the sun off my right shoulder. I feel like I'm floating, like my feet are barely touching the pavement.

Seven minutes later I'm back at my car tilting up my thermos of ice cold chocolate milk. As I luxuriate in its silken, restorative delight, I wonder why I don't just move to southern California where every day is like this and summer lasts all year long.

Ah well, time to shower and head for the office. But already I'm thinking about tomorrow's run. A summer morning is a terrible thing to waste.
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