Pretty & Darn Slow

Photo by halilibrahimctn from Pexels

Crazy Cat Running Club was the name of the local running group; a group that Jess already tried to join when she and Lexi first moved to the city six months ago. But the club wasn’t a good fit for Jess. And visa versa.

After doing some research on the internet, Lexi peer-pressured Jess to check out the popular local running group she found online. Reluctantly, Jess arrived at the meeting point Lexi gave her only to find an entirely too enthusiastic crowd of spandex-wearing men and women in skorts.  

Standing off to the side, Jess stretched while skeptically watching the crowd. Bandanas. Water packs. Coffee-gel shots. These people were strapped. Ready to run the Bataan Death March based on their supplies, let alone run a flat three miles around downtown.

As soon as the coordinator for the run, who was standing on top of an empty crate, blew his air horn, the buzzing mob began to move.

Jess quickly hopped into the middle of the crowd, pressed in side by side with the other runners like a mouth full of bad teeth.  

It was baffling how many people tried to start a conversation with Jess despite the headphones in her ears. Even more baffling was how everyone looked like they were running, but were actually moving at a walking pace. No long strides. No heavy breathing. Jess was pressed into a crowd that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, just bouncing up and down like they were an audience at a rock concert.

This was not how Jess enjoyed working out.

At the end of the run route, spouses and children perched along the sides of the road cheered the runners on as they were funneled under a large white banner inscribed with the inspirational message: Off the couch and onto the street, we run for fun, but also for treats! Jess didn’t like that either. She furiously pressed the volume button on her phone to turn up her music, hoping to drown out the applause, but the volume was already at full blast.

About to peel off from the group and head home to avoid praise from strangers for a mediocre achievement, something just beyond the corny banner caught Jess’ eye. As she moved closer, food stacked up on folding tables came into view. It was the most glorious breakfast spread that Jess had ever seen- nothing but mounds of donuts and beer.

These people were alright.

Jess made her way to an empty table that had been scavenged through already, but at least she wouldn’t have to fight off waiting family members who hovered over the more desirable items like a swarm of gnats. Under a stray napkin, Jess found a hidden gem. One unmolested powdery donut. The sugar called to Jess as she reached her hand towards it, only to see a second hand suddenly drift towards her prize.  

“Would you like to join our table?”

Jess locked eyes with a perky, middle-aged woman who had cropped blonde hair and a hint of crazy in her eyes. Not crazy, crazy, but relentlessly cheerful type of crazy. Through her peripherals, Jess saw that written on the front of the woman’s pink tank top, in big bold letters, was the word “PRETTY”. Jess resisted the urge to roll her eyes while still making direct eye contact with the stranger. The question dangled in the air between them. Jess, however, was too distracted by the woman’s hand continuing to move ever so slightly below her own.

Without breaking eye contact, Jess thrusted her hand down past the woman’s and snagged the donut for herself. The woman’s wide smile was drawn into a pinched expression.

While scurrying back to her car, holding the donut to her chest, Jess glanced back to see the words “DARN SLOW” written on the back of the woman’s shirt. Jess let out an audible laugh as she opened the dented driver’s side door of the Buick LeSabre she inherited from her grandparents, realizing that she misjudged the woman.

The woman wasn’t pretentious, she was idiosyncratic.

And who am I to judge the offbeat? The quirky? The delightfully weird? Jess thought as she looked over at the built-in phone protruding from the center console of her car. A relic Jess affectionately referred to as her “conversation piece.”

“Are you still going to the party this weekend?” Lexi asked.

“That I wouldn’t miss,” Jess replied, tossing her lipstick in her purse and heading out the door.