On a warm summer’s evening sound travels far. As I sat at my desk with the windows open, the stillness was interrupted by an unusual sound. It was a rhythmic clip clop clip clop. I glanced across the neighbors’ backyards from my second story perch, trying to locate its source. Just then, my grandson Henry entered the room, peeked out the window, and asked,
“Gramma, what’s that guy doing?”
I followed the direction of Henry’s gaze to the yard kitty-corner from ours. There, on a black mat laid across his patio, a man was jumping rope. He appeared to be in his early thirties. He was clean-shaven and shirtless. Three small toddlers were running around the yard, every so often trying to get his attention by yelling, “Daddy, Daddy.” But he didn’t break his rhythm. He lifted his knees high, almost hitting his chest as he jumped, higher and higher, faster and faster. Then he threw the jump rope to the ground and began doing push-ups. Real push-ups, straight legs, straight back, balanced on his toes. I counted to twenty before he got up and picked up the jump rope again.
clip clop clip clop
What was this guy doing? I thought, “No one exercises like that unless he’s chasing away some kind of demons.” But what kind? Maybe …
He was serving his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. This would be his last. His unit was patrolling for IEDs, those horrible homemade explosive devices that kill so many in that country. His best friend, John, was leading the unit and found what they were looking for. Suddenly there was a large BOOM and John was blown up into tiny pieces. John had the misfortune to find one of the IEDs that was being controlled by a command wire. There was an insurgent lying in wait for someone to arrive so he could trigger the device. He couldn’t get it out of his head. People weren’t meant to end up that way. When he got back to the States, the Army doctor said he had PTSD and suggested he see a psychologist. But he didn’t want to talk about it.
clip clop clip clop
Or maybe he was a computer genius. Never got a formal college degree, didn’t need to. He was a natural coder. He designed app after app for mobile devices and sold them online. He had a knack for figuring out what people wanted. They worked well. He was a four-star app guy. One day, out of the blue, A guy from Apple named Todd contacted him. Todd said Apple wanted to buy his latest app. Apple would make it part of their operating system. It would be put on every device they sold! This was the break he had been waiting for. No more dollar a download. He would be a millionaire. Maybe even a billionaire. After flying out to Cupertino, shaking hands with Todd and being promised the legal contracts would follow soon, he returned home. He moved his family out of their small bungalow in a lower middle class suburb to this 4,000 square-foot estate in a tony neighborhood. The mortgage payment was a real stretch now, but once the deal went through, it would be chump change. Trouble is, the paperwork from Apple never arrived. He made multiple attempts to reach Todd with but Todd stopped taking his calls. The mortgage bills kept arriving and he was already three months behind. He was already getting not-so-friendly payment reminders from the bank. Every day, he sat and stared at his computer. He just needed to invent another killer app.
clip clop clip- clop
Or maybe it started innocently enough. The flirtation, the lunch dates. Then one evening, while they were working late at the office, he kissed her. She kissed him back. Once they had crossed that line, the affair began in earnest. They started planning secret meetings in hotels. He told his wife he was working late. Amanda was single, no need to lie. After several years of sneaking around, Amanda began to get restless. He could sense it and he didn’t want to lose her. She was so sexy. His wife was pretty but after three kids, she didn’t have the body she once had or the energy. Chasing toddlers around the house will do that. He told Amanda he loved her and he would divorce his wife. This worked for a while but then Amanda got demanding. Nagging him. Incessantly. He couldn’t take it any longer so he tried to break it off. Now Amanda was threatening to tell is wife. He had been a fool. He didn’t want to lose his family.
clip clop clip clop
I was interrupted in my pensive reflection by Henry tugging at my sleeve.
“Gramma, what’s that guy doing?” he asked again.
As I looked into his innocent blue eyes, I replied, “He’s exercising, Henry.”