I once had a religious experience

10-sided dice are used for games requiring per...

10-sided dice are used for games requiring percentages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to run a thriving games club in our local town hall. We mainly played board and card games with the occasional foray into a war-game or roleplaying game. The town hall is only a short walk from where I live so I used to walk there and back. We had no storage at the club, so I usually dragged along a large kit bag full of games that we could choose from.

One evening, I was walking home carrying the kit bag as usual. Up ahead of me was a man leaning up against the wall smoking a cigarette. He was a good 6 inches taller than me and he had big shoulders. He had a skinhead haircut and exuded menace. He might have been waiting for a bus except that the bus stop was 30 yards further up the road.

As I walked past him, he said something to me that I didn’t quite catch. I didn’t really want to get into any kind of exchange so I just mumbled something non-committal and hoped that inertia would keep him there smoking his cigarette. When I was about 10 paces ahead of him, I heard him stamp out his cigarette and start walking up the hill behind me.

I needed to cross the road to get home anyway and I wanted to know if he was following me so making sure the road was clear I quickly crossed the road. I heard him cross behind me. I was anxious now, running through the possibilities in my mind. What was I going to do if this came to an altercation? Mother Nature wasn’t very kind when handing out my physique, so there was little hope of me outrunning him and even less of me coming off as the victor in any kind of scuffle.

I came to a junction. Normally I would turn off the main road into a quieter residential street. This time though, I carried on up the hill. There was a petrol station up ahead and maybe that was where he was heading. We walked past the petrol station and he was still there behind me. His pace quickened and my stomach started to churn.

A plan formed in my mind. I would throw the kit bag at him and run like hell, hoping that he was more interested in the contents of my bag than in doing damage to me. I heard him close behind me and braced myself. As I turned to face him, a car careened off the road beside us and came to a screeching halt in between us.

The man ran off.

I peered into the car, my legs like jelly. The window came down and inside there were three nuns. Not women dressed up in fancy dress – honest to goodness – nuns. They asked if I was OK and told me that they had seen the man and they were convinced he was a sinner. I agreed and thanked them. They offered me a lift, but I declined and made my way nervously home.

If it hadn’t been for their timely interjection, it could have been a very nasty business.

Running into trouble

Hoar frost or soft rime on a cold winter day i...

Hoar frost or soft rime on a cold winter day in Lower Saxony, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.