Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mission of Mercy

"Is that him running toward us?" Rachel asked, as we jogged side by side along the bike path. "Blue muscleman shirt? Blue shorts? The man you're dying to meet?"
He was nearly fifty yards away, but I'd recognize Jake Crosby's gait at any distance. We'd been jogging past each other at six-thirty in the morning for nearly a month.
"That's him," I said.
"Wow! Tall. Broad shoulders. A Greek god. Adonis."
I breathed deeply and evenly, trying to focus on the crisp autumn air, the colorful leaves, and the sunny blue skies.

Suddenly Adonis appeared to be pulling up lame. He slowed to barely a walk and hopped about on his right foot, while gingerly lifting his left foot, the toe barely touching the ground.
Rachel and I slowed to a stroll. Jake had stopped and was bending over, vigorously massaging his left calf.
"You all right?" I asked, as we halted in front of him, all of us puffing.
He stood straight, balancing himself mostly on his right leg. "Got a bad cramp. Happens when I don't stretch enough before taking off."
"My friend Ellen's a nurse," Rachel said. "Maybe she can help."
"Nothing to do but relax," I said. "Rub it out."
"Hi," he said to both of us. "I'm Jake Crosby."
Rachel and I introduced ourselves, and then he said to me, "I've seen you before—I mean, besides on this bike path."
"Mercy Hospital," I said. "In the hallways and elevators. I'm a nurse. Obstetrics."
He nodded slowly. "I'm in food service management. New guy in town."
His blue-eyed gaze sent a warm shiver through me, but I recovered nicely, I thought, and said, "There's a bench under that oak tree. Maybe you need to sit down."
While Jake hop-skipped to the bench, Rachel grabbed my elbow and whispered, "This is your chance, girlfriend. Rub that cramp out of his wonderfully muscled calf. He's yours."
"Don't be silly!"
Jake was sitting on the bench, massaging his left calf with both hands now. He winced again and looked up at us, obviously in distress.
"Where's your car?" I asked, and sat down next to him. "Mine's about a mile west."
He pointed east. "About two miles that way."
"Think you'll be able to hobble back? There's no way we can drive a car here."
"I'll be fine."
"Well," Rachel said, "you guys are on your own." Flashing me a smile, she took off.
"She must be in a hurry," Jake said, and leaned back to stretch his left leg.
"She lives about not far from here. Her kids are probably up. Her husband's making breakfast, and she always wants to get back before they destroy the kitchen."
"You have a husband and kids to jog home to?"
I didn't hesitate. "Single," I said.
"Me, too."
"I knew that." I felt a little sheepish. "Lot's of gossip goes on at the hospital." Then, "How's the leg doing?"
"Still tight." He gave it a few more rubs. "This your day off?"
I nodded. "Every other Saturday."
A little breeze blew, cooling me off.
"Mine, too," he said. "How about if I walk you to your car?  It's closer, you can drive me back to mine.  I'll take you to breakfast."
I blinked. I felt thrilled: Saturday morning breakfast with a guy I'd longed to meet. Couldn't get any better than that.
"All right, " I said. We stood and I added, "I wouldn't put too much pressure on that calf—you sure you're okay?"
"I can make it."
But as we got up and shuffled toward the bike path, Jake suddenly stopped. He seemed to hobble worse than ever. He faced me, a painful look on his face, and shrugged helplessly. "I don't think I can go much farther."
"May be a severely pulled muscle. You might have to see a doctor." I guided him back to the bench where he plunked down.
"I feel stupid," he said, shaking his head.
I stood over him, hands planted on my hips. "Sit there. I'll be back in fifteen minutes with a wheelchair. We'll get you home so you can at least rest that leg."
"A wheelchair—no way. If I keep rubbing this out—"
"Rachel has a chair at home. Her husband used it when he had back surgery—sit there."
"I can't let you do this."
"What other choice do you have? Do you think you can drive?"
"Of course. My right leg's okay."
 "All right. Sit there," I said again. "Nurse's orders. I'll be right back."
He smiled at me though his pain. "I'll see to it that you eat free in the cafeteria all week. All month."
I shook my head. "This is a mission of mercy. No payment required."
"You've got to at least let me take you to breakfast—or dinner—sometime. I insist."
I started to stretch a bit, getting ready to leave. "All right. Maybe we can work that out."
"It's a deal," he said.  Count on it!"
And so I sped off in the sunshine on my mission of mercy. For Adonis. I felt loose and joyful enough to run a marathon.
The End

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