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Running Buddies

No telling what evil lurks

By Renee Whitmore

A few days ago, I galloped back into the house after a run — well, it was more like a trot. I am calling it a trot because after a year’s hiatus from running, I downloaded the “Couch-to-5K” app on my phone, and have come to the realization that what I do is not really running, but can best be described as an uneven trot.

If you are unfamiliar with the Couch-to-5K app, it’s a virtual running partner. The voice tells you through your earbuds, “Start running now,” and “Start walking now,” and my personal favorite, “One minute left.”

On Day One, you start with small bursts of 60-second runs between several minute-long walks. Each week, the running time increases and the walking time decreases. Ideally, you run at least three days a week, and according to my software tyrant, in nine weeks, you’re ready to run a 5K (3.1 miles). Sounds great, right? Not so fast, as they say.

I am currently on Week Three, but I have to be honest: Week Three has been on repeat for four weeks because I wasn’t ready to move onto Week Four because, well, that’s a lot of running, er, trotting, and Week Three (otherwise known as September) was still too hot to trot.

Anyway, I want to tell you about that day’s run/walk. Let me preface this by saying that I live in the country, so I have a great running road with lots of room and rarely do I encounter anything out of the ordinary. By ordinary, I mean the usual roadkill, a snake or two, empty beer bottles and crumpled McDonalds cheeseburger wrappers pitched out on the side of the road. Maybe, if I’m lucky, some dog who either thinks I’m in his territory or just wants to meet me feels like a romp and tags along for a bit.

On that particular day, I was running back to my house, about three-fourths of the way through my trot. Sweat was dripping off my forehead, stinging my eyes, and my chest felt like it was on fire. (I mentioned the heat, didn’t I?) Suddenly, I started to feel like I was being watched.

I rarely see other humans on my runs, unless someone stops to ask me for directions (which is a bad idea, by the way, because half the time, runners don’t really know where they are and couldn’t find their way home without using the GPS on their phone). Anyway, something was off. Someone or something was watching me.

I frantically glanced around, into the fields on both sides of me, up at the sky, behind me, in front of me. Just the usual. The puffy white clouds. The pine trees. The growing corn stalks. A dead squirrel.

The feeling lingered, though. A car lazily passed me. I waved. They waved back. I kept trucking. But, still. What was watching me? It’s probably just in my head.

Then, there it was. On my left. Fenced in a neighbor’s yard. Its black, beady eyes glared right through me. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. As I ran by, its head moved, keeping its eyes on me. A chill ran through me, even though I was sweating, and I thought of the last Stephen King novel I read, which I’m pretty sure involved an animal very much like this one.

It was a goat. But not like any goat I had ever seen. A big, jet-black goat with huge pointy horns. He was sitting in his yard, behind the wire fence, staring at me.

So, I ran. I ignored the high-pitched voice in my earbuds that commanded, “Start walking now.” I just ran. All the way home and into my front door with Mr. Stephen King Black Goat still burned in my mind.

I tried to tell my husband and sons about the big black goat, but they just laughed it off like I was being melodramatic. No one seemed to take the goat seriously, and for the next several days, when we passed the house with the fence, I said, “Look for the goat!” Except he was gone.

Did I imagine him? No. No way. He was there. He was big. He had pointy horns. He was jet-black. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of a goat gone bad?

Well, I just got in from another trot/run this evening (I graduated to Week Four). When I passed the house with the fence, there he was! Sitting in the same spot, those eyes boring into me just like before. We exchanged stares. He stood up and charged at the fence near me. I stopped running and just stood there, contemplating whether I should snap a picture. Goat proof.

In the distance, behind the fierce, almost-certainly-possessed goat, the front door of the house opened, and an elderly lady with a cane peeked out. When she saw the goat and me standing practically eye-to-eye, she yelled, in the strongest voice the poor old woman could muster, “Fluffy! Leave that lady alone and get back in here! It’s time for dinner!”

And, wouldn’t you know, Fluffy turned right around and galloped right through the front door. Virtual goat no more.

I trotted on down the road.  PS

When Renee is not teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she is working on her first book.

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