Things had calmed down in Shady Place since the incident, but Jim Phillips had found himself to be a bit of a celebrity. He couldn’t escape the adulation everywhere he went. He hated it. It was against every fiber of his being to be the center of attention, but there it was; he was the most popular man in town.
Hiding did Jim no good. People dropped by just to say “hi” and to thank him for the good deed he’d provided Shady Place with just a few weeks prior. The casserole dishes filled his refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, and sink. He had two choices at that point, to get another fridge, or eat faster. Really he had a third, but it was unthinkable, invite someone over to share the food with. He shuddered at the thought.
The food was already prepared and couldn’t be donated. So he ate more than he should, he didn’t want to be wasteful, or seem ungrateful.
The unchecked eating and hiding lead to a surprisingly rapid weight gain, the kind that caused the bathroom scale to chastise and groan instead providing numerical mass. A jiggly tummy and quickly growing man-boobs indicated something needed to change.
Jim decided the only way to lose the weight was exercise. He started jogging when he moved to Shady Place, but had only gone a few times since and found he, like most people, failed to pick it up again once he fell out of a routine.
But no more, he ordered a treadmill so he could work out at home, but didn’t want to wait the two days it would take it to get there. He could try the fitness center, but was certain there would be no end to the idol worship his neighbors insisted on showering him with, rendering him incapable of completing a workout.
The solution was simple, put his headphones in and go for jog through the neighborhood.
This strategy was not without risk. The residents of Shady Place thrived in the open air and constantly filled the streets in the form of golf carts, scooters, bicycles, and walkers, sometimes even walkers with walkers. Jim knew what was at stake, the chances he could avoid contact were slim, but he was impatient. He had to begin his new workout regimen that day or he may never start.
Initially the trip was smooth sailing. Neighbors saw Jim and attempted to greet him, but simply nodded and pointed to his earbuds as he briskly walked through the neighborhood. He intended to jog, but needed time to build up some momentum and loosen up the old bones.
Jim Phillips liked order. Even though it may look like he does things impetuously and certain elements of his life appear to swirl in chaos, they were governed by a particular order of his own creation. He can’t stand when things don’t follow the path he believes to be correct. His order may not match your order, but it is right, it is the way it should be.
With his music loud enough to drown out the sounds around him, he looked at the clouds, the trees, the lush surroundings that marked every turn in Shady Place. He took particular notice of the roadways; they were laid out for perfect symbiosis. The street was for cars, the cart path was for carts, the bike lane for bikes, and the sidewalk for everyone else.
Minding his own business, Jim plodded along through the neighborhood before taking off on a light jog. He crossed numerous pedestrians, congenially nodding and sharing the sidewalk with them. He gladly slid out of his way for a woman who had to be in her nineties cruising along on a motorized-scooter, even offering the best version of a sincere smile Jim could muster.
He noticed a bicycle in the distance, but it wasn’t where it belonged. It was cruising along on the sidewalk, growing further away from him, but brushing by and forcing the pedestrians in its path to give way. Before he had a chance to reflect, Jim was overtaken from behind by a pack of wild cyclists. Smiling, laughing, pointing, all at his expense no doubt. There was no warning, a whirring rush of air blasting past him nearly knocking him to the ground.
The experience had left him startled and perturbed. The gall of those…those people, he thought, using the term loosely; the words in his head were much more explicit. What gave these cads the right to zip around on the sidewalk like maniacs? They had their own lane only a few feet away!
He shook it off, an isolated event, he was certain. But it wasn’t an isolated event, and when it happened again, Jim was prepared, and much less forgiving. He had begun to trot along at a reasonable pace once again, until an approaching bicycle nearly ran him off the sidewalk with a happy smile and wave. His only course of action was an exaggerated ole of the charging bull to preserve his health.
He watched the cyclist continue along undeterred, oblivious to what they had just done, a nice enough looking woman in her seventies. She just didn’t seem to care. Jim grew enraged. The whole experience blew his mind. He turned a shade of red family and friends were all too familiar with.
Jim had found ways to remain calmer during his time in Shady Place, primarily standing still and breathing slowly. He wasn’t going to let this get to him. He had grown as a human being.
It wasn’t long before he found his resolve tested. As he jogged steadily ahead, headphones in, Slayer rattling into his ears, he lost himself in the exercise. The music, the rhythm of his feet pounding the pavement, it’s was the kind of order Jim lived for. Passing pedestrians with a calm proclamation that he was on their left or right. It was actually serene.
And then it ended.
Jim saw the man cruising toward him when he was at least fifty yards ahead. He told himself the cyclist would do the right thing and drop into the street. He would have to. That’s how it should be. Jim removed his headphones in disbelief and tried to make eye-contact with the man. The closer he got, the more apparent it became he had no intention of vacating the sidewalk, instead, he rang a little, annoying bell at the front of his handlebars and smiled.
Jim stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and frowned. Ding, ding. The bell chimed again at him, but he was steadfast in his defiance. His feet were the roots to the tree trunks his legs had become. The support system of the mighty oak tree Jim had committed to become, planted directly in the path of the insolent cyclist.
The man on the bicycle cocked his head in confusion, why wasn’t this fella moving? Did he not see him coming? They were on a collision course and it appeared Jim was making himself wider and puffing his chest upward. Their eyes locked as the man on the bicycle approached.
Jim was a rock, he was a mountain, immovable and strong, but the man didn’t waver either. He recognized Jim and even waved a little; he assumed Jim would move, but he was wrong.
As the gulf between them shrunk from yards to feet, it became apparent they were in a game of chicken. Racing toward Dead Man’s Curve, someone had to blink or both would perish. Jim was ready. The man thought he was, returning Jim’s fiery gaze, until the edge of the precipice was so close he could feel the wind pulling him downward.
The man blinked. He veered off the sidewalk and into an embankment a few feet away, before skidding to a stop and falling over. Jim remained straight-faced, while standing triumphantly over the man.
“You really should be more careful,” Jim said, turning away to leave.
“You’re a lunatic, you have to share the sidewalk!” The man shouted at him.
With his back to the man, Jim smirked, “Share the sidewalk you say?”
“Yes, I think I sprained my ankle! What’s wrong with you?” The man asked, “Are you going to help me up?”
Jim was so happy the man took issue with his actions he could barely contain himself, “This is a sidewalk. Walk. Can you say that? Sidewalk!” He pointed to the sidewalk, “What were you doing? Riding your bike. On the what? Side…ride? No that’s not right, what is it again?”
“Uhh,” the man fumbled with his words.
Jim leaned forward and cupped his ear with his hand, “What’s that? What’s it called?”
“Sidewalk,” the man said softly.
Jim leaned forward, “Oh that’s right, the sidewalk. Do you know what that is?”
Jim pointed to the street, indicating the several foot-wide path on the street.
“The bike lane?” the man replied.
Jim smiled, “And where do bicycles go?”
“The bike lane.”
Jim smiled and nodded, “Now you got it.”
He put his headphones in and jogged away, leaving the man rubbing his ankle on the ground.
The satisfaction Jim felt had him floating, running instead of jogging, losing himself in the music.
It was only a few hundred feet before it all came crashing down and Jim found himself flanked, then overtaken by four more bicycles, leaving him standing alone in their wake. He roared in anger and threw his hands in the air, it may have been the only time he had ever wanted an audience in Shady Place for once no one was around. The cyclists smiled and waved back to him, mistaking his growl for a salutation.
“You gotta be kidding me!” He shouted. “No one saw that?”
Jim resolved then and there that this was only the first battle of his war on the bicycles on the sidewalk.
He scanned through his playlist and found the loudest, hardest song he could, then turned back toward home, nearly sprinting.