My physiotherapist dabbles in part-time work with the CIA.
Lovely girl. She specialises in soft tissue torture for terrorists and blokes recovering from dislocated ankles.
She’s indicated that she’d like me to resume my early morning walks. Actually, it was an order. Get active, or I’ll massage your achilles tendon into next week.
Only us oldies walk before dawn. Young people get their exercise in normal hours. They play footy and netball and Nintendo.
Yes, I know there are those of my vintage who wake up and decide to run marathons. Or ride bikes across continents. They give the rest of us a bad name. You know who you are.
Luckily, the sports clinic torturer has no such plans for me. A pre-sunrise stroll is enough to keep me in her good books.
It’s true that I don’t walk fast. More a leisurely half-hour wander, taking in the sights and sounds of the local neighborhood.
One reason for this lack of pace is my attire. I’m weighed down, for warmth. Footy jumpers, and jackets, and trackie pants, and a nice thick black beanie. As usual, no prizes for fashion.
Even in winter, there are others on the move before dawn. Members of a mobile community.
My first contact each morning is with The Working Lady. She carries a serious look. I assume she’s on her way to catch an early bus. I can set my watch by her.
For the first week, she averted my gaze. The girls reckon she thought I was heading to my next break and enter. That’s what the black beanie does to a man.
Slowly, however, I brought her around. Now we exchange quick pleasantries. No smile yet, but I’m working on it.
Around the first bend, I’ll be overtaken by The Silent Swooper.
At a guess, he’d be in his sixties. Not much hair, from the back. That’s the only view I get of him.
The Silent Swooper whooshes past. Scares me every time, because I never hear him coming.
He wears shorts, a cardigan, and old white Dunlop Volleys. No beanie. Fast, and oblivious to the icy air. I bet he laughs at me over breakfast.
A few minutes later, I’ll dodge The Mad Reverser.
I swear she’s waiting in the driveway every morning. Sitting in her car, engine running, ready to leave the garage. I can be early or late. No matter. She’ll still be gunning for me.
As I approach, she’ll thrust her Mazda into reverse, in the hope of claiming a scalp. Or beanie.
My theory is that she has breakfast and does her make-up in the driver’s seat, while a roadside camera monitors my imminent shuffling.
After I dodge the Mazda’s rear bumper, it’s plain sailing to the home straight, where I’ll find a highlight of the day. The Little Stretcher.
My Asian friend is elderly. I believe he may have put the finishing touches on the Great Wall of China. Not that it affects his walking.
Sometimes I see him twice. This is because he’ll often lap me. With a big smile and cheery hello.
You can’t miss him, because he walks while doing arm stretches. Usually upwards. Like he’s reaching to grab an apple from a tall tree. Or, given his lack of height, a small shrub.
Our daily encounter is a brief one, but I sense The Little Stretcher is a happy man. Happy and healthy. He makes the rest of us smile.
I wonder what made him start walking? He may have suffered an injury too. Maybe a chunk of the Great Wall fell on him. And he’s been reaching for imaginary fruit ever since.
We’re all on our own journeys. And it’s nice to be inspired along the way. I’d thank him for that. If only I could keep up.