There was a low rumble in the sky. It prompted me to open my apartment's door and gaze up, which is something I don't do often. Overhead was the same mixture of robin's egg blue and sooty gray which had remained over Salem's metro area since I walked to work that morning. Sporadic showers had come and gone throughout the day, a few of them heavier than the rest, but I had not expected thunder. There was no mention of it as part of the local forecast I had watched on Channel 6 News.
A flash luminous as a strobe light's pulse in an old, deserted mine shaft illuminated the saturated landscape. It came from the south. I saw not one massive black anvil-shaped cloud, but an entire wall of them. In that moment I had no more confusion so far as where the thunder had come from.
Weather conditions for the next activity on my to do list were about to get altered in a spectacular fashion.
An intense elemental change suited me just fine.
"It's about time," I muttered under my breath at the ominous low pressure system as it steadily advanced.
I turned to my neighbor, Mrs. Hernandez, who had also opened her door to peek outside. A stiff breeze lifted the petite Hispanic woman's long black hair from off her vivid sunflower yellow blouse's shoulders.
"We've got a whopper of a storm headed our way, Esmerelda. Before I leave I can see if Jose is over at Roberto's place. Just say so, and I'll pass along you sent for him. It's no problem. Mom people should not have to be worried during weather conditions like this."
She frowned up at me, troubled.
"Olaf, why is my intuition telling me I should be worried for you?" Esmerelda rolled her eyes, which were almost as dark as her hair. "Anyway, you're kind, offering to do such a thing, but my son is with my husband at the library."
"That one?" I asked, and pointed in the general direction of Chemeketa Community College's main campus, less than a football field's length away from our apartment complex.
"No, the one downtown, across from City Hall." She crossed her slender forearms and rubbed both elbows. But my neighbor's next sentence revealed she also did that out of dread, too, not just because she felt a physical chill due to the storm's rapid approach. "I hope Enrique has installed new wiper blades on our truck, like we talked about. The last time I drove through rain with him, I could barely see out a block ahead of us."
"When I left for work this morning, he was in the process of handling it." I grinned as I recalled the brief conversation I had with the annoyed young man. "He complained that he's had more fun with tax forms, but I'm sure he got the job done. Don't worry." I grasped my door knob. "Take care, Esmerelda. I've got to go get ready."
"Get ready?" she echoed. Her curious, puzzled expression gave way to another concerned one. "Please tell me you're going out on a date," my neighbor of a month said. "Or at least something else that will be good for you."
I took an instant to mull her words over.
"Well, to be concise, yes."
I waved and returned to my apartment. I changed into my running gear and swung on my orange reflective vest with its vertical fluorescent yellow stripes. Within seven minutes, I was outside again, stretching my muscle groups in our complex's parking lot.
It was no longer a mere breeze that swirled between scores of apartment buildings, but a steady wind, and the thunder did not only rumble. There was a full scale celestial artillery barrage. The storm's distance away from us had dwindled from a range of several miles to less than one.
"Stop, Olaf! What do you think you're doing?"
I whirled around, startled. I assumed my neighbor would simply go back to whatever it was she had been in the middle of when the thunder began. Evidently she peeked out her living room window's curtain while my back was turned.
Esmerelda hopped over her door's threshold and dashed up to me in one of Enrique's bulky coats. Her normally soft voice was edged with incredulity as she continued.
"You can't go for a run now! Are you loco? What about your date?"
"My 'date' is with the next Portland Marathon," I replied. "There's a score for me to settle with that course. Six years ago I was forced to begin walking at its seventeen mile marker. Before I reached the eighteenth, I could barely even manage that because of what was probably a pinched sciatic nerve in my lower back. Where I wound up in the final competitor order as a result is an aggravation that has not sat well with me ever since. I know I can complete all 26.2 miles of a Boston Marathon qualifying event in a better time than almost five hours." I nodded toward her door. "You better get back in your apartment, Esmerelda. These showers are about to have one nasty upgrade."
"Exactly," she declared, hands on her hips. "Which means you'll be drenched to the skin. If you don't take care of yourself, you're at risk for catching a cold, or getting afflicted with pneumonia. That puts people in the hospital, you know."
"To most of humanity, okay, yes, a workout at a time like this seems a crazy thing for someone to do," I conceded. "But here's where I'm coming from, all right? I've already budgeted my registration fee for next year's race. It's non-refundable. Period. And the Portland Marathon is an event which gets completed rain, shine, or whatever. The race's cancellation would require much more severe weather than that." I hooked my right thumb up at the gigantic, towering black clouds as they closed in. "And here's another thing. The Portland Marathon is consistently anticipated. In fact, it's internationally famous now. Esmerelda, I intend to compete shoulder to shoulder with athletes from every state of the union, in addition to folks from Asia, Europe, who knows how many other continents, and it doesn't matter a whit to anyone I'm north of 50. Out there on those streets, no matter where we competitors are from, it won't be only our feet which gets us to the finish line in the heart of Oregon's Rose City. We'll succeed because of our tenacity. But before we ever get released in our waves of hundreds from the starting grid, we're prepared to train alone with no excuses, no hesitation, no remorse."
"All the same, you're a stubborn man, Senor Larson."
"Yep," I agreed. "Blame my Norwegian heritage. My paternal grandmother did all the time during holiday family reunions while I was growing up. Then she would point at my dad and uncle as she scolded them for their laughter, because, according to her, they were the same way."
My neighbor smiled. Perhaps she had come to terms with the circumstances that her small family lived next door to a nutty but harmless gringo.
With a final shake of her head, she walked back toward her apartment.
In moments I left our apartment building far behind me. In another minute, Esmerelda's warning about how thoroughly wet I would become was validated as lightning forked through Salem's sky with jagged white bolts.
"Motivation!" I roared. My Nikes hammered a deserted bicycle lane, as I sped up my pace. "Bring it on!"
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