THE MAN WITH THE COUGH


Sam woke up early. It was dark. He was awake but did not want to get up. He didn't know what to do if he got up this early. He had nothing planned. So he laid in bed next to his wife and thought. His thoughts jumped around to past instances, to probable futures. He took very little away, and, in fact, he was brought down a little by the missed opportunities of the past and the dreary reality of the future. The thoughts kept Sam awake for the next hour or so until the alarm radio went off and he got up to turn it off and went into the bathroom and turned on the light. After he went, he let the dog outside so she could go, he put on a green hooded sweatshirt, shorts and socks and shoes. It was still dark outside when he put the leash on his dog's collar and he stepped out the front door — turning the lock on the door handle to make sure he wouldn't be locked out when he returned.
Outside, Same stepped off his porch, walked down the pathway to the stairs that lead to the street  above his house. He waited to make sure no cars were coming when he committed to walking down the street on his way to the park. As soon as he turned to sidewalk, Sam heard a man up the street cough obnoxiously. Sam looked up to see the outline of the man and thought he was coming towards him, down the road to the intersection where Sam was to turn and cross the main road to get to the park. Sam walked quickly to create distance between he and the man. When he got to the intersection, which was lit better than the road above he waited for the light to change, and when he crossed the main road he looked back to where he thought the man should be so he could see him, but he couldn't. And after he was safely across the main street Sam looked back again, he kept his gaze on the other side of the street, but still the man was not there, which Sam thought was weird.
Sam got to the park and his old mutt took a poop where she always does, and Sam bagged it up and threw it away. Sam walked across the park and lifted his knees high, galloping to wake up his tired bones and muscles. When he got to the other side of the park Sam stretched up high, then down low, then in triangles like his father-in-law had taught him long ago, fully extending his right leg and bending his back to the right, then extending his left leg and bending his back to the left. All the while keeping his hips n line. Sam did this a few times being mindful of his breathing and looking up every once in a while in the dawn light to check on the old mutt. When he was done stretching, Sam called the dog over, put the leash back on the collar and left the park, going a different way than he had come.

The man with the cough spent no more than a moment thinking about the noise that had come out of him because he felt so alone in the early, dark morning. The cough broke an impregnable silence. The man thought he was alone until he noticed down the ways a bit someone walking toward the street light, a man with a dog. With a brisk pace, he man who coughed didn't think  the other soul had heard him— how could he not?—but either way the figure was walking away from him and not towards him. When the man coughed like that, which he did as a way to clear a thought or to get a new thought started, he was walking down the street that morning returning home from an early morning walk, one he regularly takes when he wakes at the early morning hours to become, as he put, anew. Everyday is a fresh start. A reboot. That was the cough that morning as he made his way home. That was the punctuation on that thought. I'm going to start over today and get things going. So, he slipped through the door he had left unlocked, took off his shoes and socks, his shorts and red hooded sweatshirt, and got back into bed with his wife.
When his wife awoke to the alarm radio she did not immediately get out of bed. She listened as National Public Radio's news broadcast discussed national politics, natural disasters and war in the Middle East. A science piece broke the rhythm of the otherwise depressing but captivating delivery of the voices coming from the clock radio, which read 6:05. The man's wife did not roll to physically wake herself, she laid in a comfortable, close eyed state, on her back, breathing calmly listening and waiting to mentally transform from the dream world from which she'd come. And the man with the cough watched her and waited until she did open her eyes and turn her body and notice her husband looking at her on this new day.




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