The Lake Walk, cont’d…a Mike Valentine tale

this is a continuation of yesterday’s post. You can catch the first installment here.
He stood, put his hands on his aching sides, looked around and realized he was almost halfway around the lake. His legs were starting to cramp. Losing motivation, but aware that it’s the same distance back as it is to continue, he started to walk again. His mind was still racing but he furiously tried to control it.

He thought of his late father and his trademark line, Everything will work out, it always does. The mantra rang through his head.

I wish you were here to talk to right now, Dad. I could use some of that cheerful optimism of yours that I once scoffed at, he mused as he trudged forward. His Dad always seemed to have it together. Sure, he sometimes fought with his mother. But he loved her unconditionally. He had money problems, but got through it. He hated his job, but he never acted like I am right now. I’m a hot mess. I can’t stand my wife, I’m on the brink of foreclosure and my boss is a fucking psycho that I love one minute and hate the next. How would Dad handle all of this?

Mike Valentine was well-known to friends, family, and business associates for his resilience and cheerful demeanor. It was a source of pride to him that this applied to more than just his public, outside persona. He was also committed to maintaining a positive frame of mind even when alone and talking to himself, which today he was doing quite a bit of. What people didn’t realize is that it required a lot of his energy to maintain that reputation. There are limits to what any man can take, as he was fond of thinking. Sometimes, when the walls felt like they were closing in, he had to remind himself to be positive and at this moment he did just that. Snap out of it! he reprimanded himself, you’re not going to fix anything in this state of mind. With the equivalent of a snap of a finger, he let his day wash off of him and he just walked. To keep his mind empty and focused he walked while looking down at the ground and concentrated on playing “don’t step on a crack”, a game from his childhood, not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. This amused him for a while and it wasn’t long before noticing that he was approaching the final stretch where his car sat waiting for him.

When Mike reached the clearing to the parking lot he saw that his car was the only one in the lot. He found it oddly comforting, it went great with his whole I want the world to leave me alone mood he was in. Then, as he got closer, he saw a lone figure in the parking lot very close to his car.  It was either a kid or a small adult. Great, I’m probably getting robbed or vandalized. He began to walk faster. This day is somehow getting worse. His legs protested but he pushed on.

He felt the phone in his back pocket vibrating. He continued focusing on walking as fast as he could. He was tempted not to even look to see who was calling. It was most likely his wife doing the nightly “where are you” call. God, he hated that call. Often, he contemplated answering and saying “as far away from you as possible!” and hanging up but he knew that wouldn’t end well. Then again, it could be one of his kids calling and he grabbed for the phone. Too late, he had missed the call, but it was indeed the wife. Here comes the text, he thought. 2 seconds later it came through.
Where are U?

Mike chuckled to himself despite his annoyance. He called that one. He didn’t respond. He had a walk to finish and possibly a kid to beat up.

As he got closer to his car he could see that it was a boy, maybe 8 years old standing near his car. He must have seen Mike approaching yet he made no move to retreat or even acknowledge his approach for that matter. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up, something seemed off about this kid.

“Hey kid”, he called out when he was less than 20 feet away, “can I help you?”
The boy was gazing intently at the sky. Without looking down or away he replied, “no Mike, I’m just fine thank you.”

to be continued…