Minding the Gap

Written with the prompts:  the dog is an absolute horror, punctual, more than ready, broke her ankle, possible, this was the plan, ambled up the street, tell me again, all she could see tour got window was. . ., large coffee and a cinnamon roll, tell what you can’t remember, confusion, as good as it gets, want

After Janie broke her ankle she laid on the couch in her midtown flat for weeks, watching TV with occasional glances out the wide horizontal window that ran across the north wall.  All she could see was a strip of white sky, fluffy with fog.  It made her feel sealed off, trapped in tightly wrapped gauze.

Her most loyal visitor was her former co-worker Ted.  He came every Wednesday and weekends, always punctual, bringing her a large mocha latte and one of those iced cinnamon rolls from the Moose and Squirrel Cafe which he owned.  Ted was a nice man, nice-looking, and he made nice conversation.  She was never bored with Ted.  She wished she could flip a switch and make herself feel attracted to Ted, but it didn’t seem possible.  Yet she most certainly would not turn him away.  She wolfed down the pastries he brought with gusto.

“Before the accident,” she told him, “I was training to run in the marathon.”

“The marathon in December?” he asked.  “I’ve always wanted to do that too.”

“It goes right by my front porch!” she gushed.  “I so wanted to join in.  It’s been my plan for years.  Finally I felt more than ready.”

“But then—” He gestured toward her cast.

She nodded.  “But then.”

When the ambulance had brought her into the emergency room, the nurses noted her running clothes and shoes.  “Did you fall on the trail?” they asked.

She shook her head, embarrassed.  “I tripped on a concrete block in the parking lot.  I didn’t make it to the trail.”

It was a bad break.  She needed surgery.  They inserted some kind of metal plate and pins to bolster her bones.  She wondered if she’d ever make it through security in an airport again.

The morning of the race, Ted brought a surprise:  a wheel chair he’d gotten at the Good Will.  “I can carry you down the stairs so you can watch the marathon.”

Janie hesitated.  She’d been dreading this day.  She wasn’t sure she wanted too see these able-bodied runners, mocking her with their fitness and speed.  But Ted was so nice.  Ted was promising more surprises.  And Ted was surprisingly strong.

Outside in the cold clean air for the first time in weeks, Janie could see streaks of blue behind the patchy fog.  Ted was pulling two leashed dogs from his car—Siberian Huskies named Natasha and Boris.  He promptly harnessed them to the chair.  Janie laughed, feeling like a queen in a chariot.

A crowd was gathering to watch the race.  the dogs were absolute horrors—whining and growling and barking at passers-by.  Ted calmed them, ambling down the sidewalk beside them like a circus performer.  The crowd parted for Janie and her entourage.  Suddenly she heard the slap of rubber soles on asphalt, the whistle of patrol officers clearing the road.  She lifted her hands.  She wouldn’t look, she couldn’t.  There was loud cheering, shouting, squeals.  Ted was calling her name, cheering for her.  She lowered her hands, looked toward the street in confusion to see herself jog by at the head of the pack, healthy, ebullient, endorphins kicking her forward.  Then the vision passed, and Ted and the dogs were beside her on the couch.  His hair was gray.  So was hers.

“Tell me again,” she prompted.  “Tell me about the times we ran marathons together.”

He filled her coffee cup and cleared his throat.  “You tell me the stories you can’t remember, and I’ll tell you mine.  We’ll fill in the gaps together.”

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

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