As he slammed the heavy wooden door shut, he breathed deeply through his nose and exhaled in a cloudy breath. Checking his watch with satisfaction, he noted that it was just after 7AM. Plenty of time for a refreshing run before making his way into the office. Running was his favourite way to get things straight when he had a lot on his mind and today he had more than usual to think about. He picked his way across the street between the cars as a milk float droned past. In only moments, he was through the iron railings and into the park.
On a good day, it took him roughly 5-10 minutes to do a full circuit around the lake and back to the gap in the railings. He mentally set himself a target of 5 laps which would leave him plenty of time to take a hot shower before the commute to the office. Quickly finding a rhythm, he settled into an easy pace and allowed himself to take in the misty scene before him. The lake had a skin of ice across the surface and he smiled to himself as he noted a duck slipping on the glossy surface.
As usual, he tried to keep an empty mind for his first lap. He found it helped him to focus on the problem at hand. He allowed himself a shortcut through the trees for a change and his feet crunched on the frosty grass. When he emerged, he found himself in front of the toilet block. The attendant had just unlocked the ladies and was making his way towards the gents. As he ran past, as always they said hello to each other despite the fact that their only contact had been brief chance encounters in the park.
As he reached the halfway mark, he noticed a corpulent lady in front of him. She was jogging in the same direction and he could tell from her gait that she was not having an easy time of it. Sweating profusely despite the chill in the morning air, her breathing was rapid, deep and laboured. He looked at her with some concern as he jogged past, but she smiled dismissively and he pushed her from his mind. When he reached his starting point at the gap of the railings, he took a deep breath and set about his second lap.
His mind turned to the problem in hand; his budget had been cut, so one of his team had to go. There must be a solution, he just had to work it out. Playing out multiple scenarios in his head, he found himself negating each one in turn as he found some fault or another. Up ahead, he could see a baseball capped dog walker leading a scruffy mongrel on a studded lead. As he did so, the dog arched his back and proceeded to defecate in the middle of the path. He just knew as he jogged past that the youth had no intention of disposing of the dog’s waste and he shot him a filthy look.
Around the lake once more and he spied the corpulent lady. She was sitting on the garden bench beside the path. Still puffing, wheezing and sweating, she waved feebly as he jogged past. Past the gap in the railings once more and he noted with frustration that the steaming pile of faeces still sat in the middle of the path. He tutted as he jogged past and wrenched his mind back to the problem in hand. As he rounded the lake again, he could feel the tendrils of his problem knitting themselves into a solution. He had narrowed it down to two. Who should go out of Simpson and Douglas? One more lap should do it.
Yet again, the corpulent lady came into view in front of him. She was jogging once more and her gait had not improved. As he came close behind her, he felt he nearly had the solution in hand but before he could grasp it, the corpulent lady collapsed in front of him. His own problem melted away and he ran to her side. Her breathing was shallow and her skin had a worrying pallor. Pulling his phone from his pocket, he punched in the emergency number and called for an ambulance.
As he finished the call, the lady coughed suddenly and a fleck of blood appeared on her lips. Using his T-shirt, he wiped it away and asked the lady her name. Her lips moved feebly, but nothing came out except raspy breaths. Her eyes seemed glassy and distant as her eyelids sank to half mast. He found himself shouting at her, willing her to breathe. After what seemed like an age, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over. They told him that she needed to get to the hospital and asked if he would like to go with her.
Taking his numb lack of response as a yes, they bundled the two of them into the ambulance and took off. The journey was a blur as he watched the paramedic working on the corpulent lady. After a bumpy ride, the ambulance came to an abrupt halt and the doors thrown open. Uniformed figures took her stretcher in one direction and led him in another to a seat. He sat there silently, his mind in absolute turmoil. He hardly knew this woman, yet every fibre of his being wanted her to be OK.
After a time, a younger woman came and sat next to him. To his surprise, she reached over and grasped his hand. “I want to thank you,” she said. He looked at her puzzled as she explained that the lady was her mother and she was eternally grateful for his quick actions. He saw that she was fragile and close to tears. Stretching out, he put his arm around her and pulled her close. She seemed to melt into his embrace as he rubbed her back in comfort. He realised with embarrassment that he was still in his running gear and smelt none too fresh, but she didn’t seem to notice.
His rumbling stomach made him think they were seated for quite some time. As his thoughts turned to food, a man in a white coat stepped over. The young woman looked up expectantly. The doctor smiled as he broke the news that her mother would be OK. She threw her arms around both of them and whooped with joy.
He arrived at work at lunchtime. His boss pulled off his glasses and stared at him sternly. “You’re late!” he barked. “I hope you have a name for me?”. The man looked down at first, ashamed. But he then whipped his head up defiantly and replied “Yes! I saved a lady’s life this morning, so I can think of better things to do than this – you can have my name!” He turned on his heel and left the office with no intention of returning.