Lately Amelia and I don’t take a lot of walks. I am either working or cooking or driving us to and from shops, play dates, my mum’s house, etc. Yesterday it was the most spectacular spring day and after lunch I decided we should hit the pavement and enjoy some of the springy (but unfortunately smoggy) air. Amelia climbed into her stroller and away we went. I can’t remember the last time I took any exercise at all so it was a good day to start afresh.
After a good twenty minutes or so I was feeling completely exhausted and we ended up at our local playground. It’s a run-down little place hidden away in a back street which we have nicknamed the ‘secret park’. That makes it seem much more exciting and enticing than it really is, for in truth I find it kind of bleak and sad but it’s the closest to home and Amelia enjoys it enough to visit it from time to time. I also end up feeling quite uncomfortable spending huge amounts of time there because it’s quite isolated and I am a paranoid “they’re gonna get us” kind of person. These days I recognise that this is kind of silly so I do my very best to ignore my gut and rationalise with myself; “they’re not going to get us, they are busy doing other things” and so on.
I was doing a good job of it today, until a shambly kind of guy came striding through the playground. “Hello!” he called to us cheerfully. I said hello cheerfully back. I don’t think I sounded terribly forced – brave face and all that. Amelia immediately loudly said “who’s that?” and I had to say “I don’t know – I guess someone who lives around here.” and the shambly guy, who was still striding by was kind enough to say “A stranger!” and give a kind of chortle. Not exactly a wicked cackle but most definitely a chortle. So I was feeling a little less brave as he disappeared around the corner. We moved on to the swings and as Amelia stuck her feet up high in the air in front of her, I noticed another man striding down the path looking intensely at us as he strode. I can tell you now that my heart rate quickly jumped higher than it had been after the Lost finale and all those jelly snakes on Thursday night.
Here were the things about him that made me feel uneasy.
a) He had a bald head
b) which is obviously not bad in itself but he also had a large bull neck
c) and he had a huge bushy moustache
d) He had little round sun-glasses on
e) He was wearing a woolen button-down black shirt covered in sewn on badges and black track pants and big boots
f) and finally -(and I kid you not) – he had a pick-axe swinging at his side!
He kept staring at us all the time he walked through the playground, and his jaw was jutting out in a most aggressive manner. All the while I kept pushing Amelia on the swing making small talk (in a thin, high, terrified voice) with her about Buzz and Woody, trying not to make eye-contact with this creature from my worst, most paranoid daydream. I know, I know. I am prone to exaggeration for the sake of a good story but he really was there, really and truly – with a pick-axe.
After I was sure that sudden movements would not incite him to come charging towards us, I whisked Amelia (loudly protesting) off the swing and bundled her into the stroller and seriously gunned it home. I didn’t know my legs were still capable of moving so fast. I had to lie on the sitting room floor for a good fifteen minutes afterwards while my body recovered. Wow! Now that was a good workout.
So I have successfully started my new exercise regime and confirmed all my worst fears about being out of the house all in one afternoon!