Before his sneakered feet hit the sidewalk it occurred to John that he was already thinking of Joni’s financial windfall as “our” money. Legally speaking, he figured this was true but as he’d done nothing to earn the dough that had transformed so beautifully into a large loaf of bread he reminded himself that while he was the bearer of great news he still had to be careful how he presented it to his beloved. He really needed to call it her money and wait for Joni to use the word “our.”
As the crow flies John had about a three-and-three-quarter-mile distance to travel. Of course, not being a crow, nor any other type of winged creature, he would get from home to the car parts dealership where Joni worked along city streets. The possible routes from A to B must have ranged in the billions what with all of the side streets that one could take but side streets implied more territoriality and the increased possibility of unwanted attention from some of the less desirable, non-inclusive and covetous inhabitants along the way. Since he wasn’t familiar with the ins and outs of the myriad neighborhoods through which he would travel on his jog he decided to stick to major arteries, rightly figuring that he’d be far less likely to have any unpleasant encounters on major thoroughfares than on the backstreets.
Not that he was particularly worried about gangs or random acts of crime, especially in the middle of the day, but by deciding to keep to the major routes he was limited to two, or if one were a hairsplitter, three, straightforward ways to proceed. His choices were to head south two blocks on Indiana Avenue and then west on 138th Street until coming to South Halsted where he would honor the streets prefix and indeed head south: Halsted would dump him onto Morgan which led to the south west diagonal of Park Avenue which he’d follow down to 159th Street.
The other option was to just head due south on Indiana Avenue until it intersected with US 6, aka 162nd Street, which turned into 159th when it crossed over Vincennes.
With either route the first part of his journey entailed turning left on the 136th Street sidewalk in front of the Hagans’ home and then taking a right half a block later onto Indiana Avenue. John headed east on 136th and then south on Indiana. At first the cold air bothered his lungs but in less than three minutes he wasn’t thinking about the cold but instead just enjoying the freedom of being outside and active.
By the time he’d traversed the two blocks to 138th Street he was already regretting his decision to wear a stocking cap and gloves so he took off his hat, wrapped the gloves inside and then placed all three items in the waist band of his sweat pants, thankful for the drawstring that would help to keep them secure as he jogged onward. Because he was feeling good John looked at his wristwatch as he continued southward. By going due south on Indiana he’d have gone about one point seven miles when he reached his first of three major intersections, Sibley Boulevard. Once at Sibley he could check his watch and then again another 1.7 or so miles later at US 6 and a final time at Park Avenue, which would be mile marker five. These mile markers would allow him to get a good feel for his pace and even though speed wasn’t part of his mission he, like most folks, inevitably wanted to know how far and how fast they had just run.
Indiana wasn’t a bad street to run on. The sidewalks had slabs that had shifted and John thought, ‘Looks like I best keep one eye on the ground, another on traffic and a third one watching out for pedestrians so I don’t collide with anyone or anything.’ He inhaled deeply and then softly started singing, “I’m only pretty sure that I can’t take anymore, before you take a swing. I wonder what are we fighting for when I say out loud I want to get out of this. I wonder is there anything I’m going to miss? I wonder how it’s going to be when you don’t know me.” He laughed when he realized why that song had popped into his head.
The neighborhoods seemed nicer the farther south he went and he noted an even bigger improvement after crossing the second set of railroad tracks. He ran on the right side of the road and the houses and businesses on his near right were far more inviting than the ones on the east side of Indiana. He checked his watch at Sibley Boulevard and was pleased to see that it had taken him only about fifteen minutes to travel the first mile and three quarters or so until he remembered that he’d already been jogging for at least a minute before his initial time check. He smirked, shrugged, and stood panting while he waited for the light to turn green so that he could continue safely on his journey.
When the light turned John checked his watch and immediately started to run southward. A man in a big jeep honked at him for daring to step out into the street with the crosswalk sign illuminated WALK and John glanced at him, shrugged and then made the sign of the cross before throwing his hands into the air. He wasn’t sure if this action qualified as breaking Commandment Number Three or not but he figured it was better than flipping the guy the bird as he had been sorely tempted to do. ‘Maybe better for both us,’ he thought as he picked up the pace and began to run harder than he’d done for the first third of his run.
He replaced his comfortable pace with a more spirited one and his breathing became more labored. He checked his watch when he crossed over The Little Calumet River and was pleased to see that well under three minutes had passed during what he was certain had been a third of a mile jaunt. John dug a little deeper and increased his pace. He again looked at his watch when the baseball fields came into sight, knowing that these were just north of his right turn onto US 6/162nd Street. If his breathing up to this point had qualified as labored, then he had now gone into the equivalent of breathing childbirth. The end was near; John pushed on.
He rounded the corner onto 162nd and checked his watch. Sixteen eighteen? How was that possible? He was certain that he’d been on pace for eight-minute miles but then he realized that his distance may have been longer than his calculated 1.7 miles. He fought the temptation to stop dead in his tracks and catch his breath and instead slowed to a jog that would allow him to cover the last third of the trip in about twenty-two minutes. He’d worked hard and was tempted to throw in the towel and just walk the rest of the way but he’d promised himself to run until he reached the Park Avenue diagonal and that was by Jiminy what he was going to do!
He caught a red light at West/Center Ave and he took advantage of the light to cross from the north side of US 6 to the south side. Once the light turned he jogged the remaining block underneath the train track overpass before slowing to a planned cool down walk along the final three blocks to South Side Auto Parts where Joni worked.
He felt good. Tired, but good. He couldn’t wait to see Joni and tell her about their, he corrected himself, her windfall. He sang, “’Blue skies, I got nothing but blue skies, coming my way,’” as he walked along in the crisp, cool Chicago air.