“Yup, I washed my tennis shoes and am wearing thick bobby socks so I should be okay even if my feet sweat.” Like any 13-year-old undertaking a major challenge, I wanted to look good, as well as be comfortable. My favorite canvas shoes that year had colorful dancing teenagers printed on them and I had figured that the thick socks would soak up the inevitable sweat from the long walk, hoping they might also hide the smell.
“You just washed those new shoes? Aren’t you afraid that they shrunk and will be too tight? You could get blisters.” My friend MJ was right. I probably shouldn’t have washed them right before the hike but they were canvas so I reckoned they would stretch out some as I walked.
“It’ll be okay. I can always take off the socks if I need more room. Better get started if we’re gonna finish before 7. Gotta babysit tonight.”
“Got your water? Mine’s right here.” Canteen straps hoisted over the teenage shoulders, the two of us began our 50-mile hike. President John Kennedy had encouraged the youth of America to get fit and challenged us to a 50-mile hike. My red-headed classmate, who lived conveniently kitty-corner across the street from me, had stepped up to join me in the long trek. We had already done the short four miles to Linda’s and back. This was followed by a country circle of sixteen or so miles Linda had shown me when we were out riding bikes one Saturday. Now, the big day had come. We would take the back roads to the next city. At the first house inside the city limits, we would phone home and let our folks know we were on our way back. The trip measured fifty miles. If we walked a brisk four miles an hour we had plenty of time to make the fifty miles before babysitting at 7 PM that night.
“I’m glad that we’ll be doing this hill on the down slope on the return trip,” MJ said, as both of us puffed up the steep hill. “We’re lucky it’s only a mile from the starting point, too, since we’re not yet tired.” Cresting the hill, we stopped for a small swig of water from the canteen. It was early yet so we didn’t want to drink too much, knowing that the heat of the sun was hours away.
Passing the mid-point of the cemetery grounds to our right, I heard a car coming up behind us. “Hear that, MJ? Better move over a little.” We moved to the right as far as we could; the country roads didn’t really have a shoulder. Moving behind MJ to affect a single-file, I slowed my walking a bit, trying to listen for the advancing motor. The gravel alongside the paved road melted into a green grassy slope, angled about 45 degrees into the ditch just a couple of feet below.
My heart rate began to increase as the sound became louder. It didn’t appear to me that the vehicle was moving to the left any to go around us. In fact, while it was slowing some, the car was moving to the right. Fortunately, MJ had not known I had dropped off our hiking speed so there was about 30 yards between us when the car hit me.
****Same Gender Friendships, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow