I'm back at it today, a little bit, and am slowly making progress. You wanna read a little bit of it? Keep in mind this is my first pass, and I'm going more for volume just to get the ball rolling, so there are flaws. But that doesn't mean you have to be fakely complimentary. If it's good and you like it, awesome. If it's bad and you hate it, I'd love the feedback. Here's the first few paragraphs of what's tentatively titled, "The Fourth Wish."
Sylvia pushed her earphones into her ears, took one last deep breath, exhaled forcefully, and started running. This was her favorite time of day – before the sun came up, quiet streets all to herself – all she had to worry about was putting one foot in front of the other, steadily if not slowly. Once she fell into a rhythm, breathing hard with the effort of exertion, thoughts could flow and she fell into a semi-meditative state.
Looking around her appreciatively, she turned down the path that runs alongside the river. The early morning air was cool with an autumn mist. Not cool enough to warrant a sweatshirt, it was a welcome relief from the heavier summer air of only a few days ago. Even though fall seemed to be arriving a bit early this year, the low clouds didn’t deter the colony of hummingbirds that swooped and zoomed over and around her head. She smiled at one that seemed particularly scrawny as it fluttered and hovered above her head.
The path turned a bend parallel to the riverbed, and Sylvia noticed a figure ahead of her. She squinted into the distance, trying to determine if it was a shadow from a telephone pole or a person. It seemed too short to be a shadow, but she still couldn’t detect any movement. Remembering stories in the news about solo women joggers getting attacked, she always tried to be aware of her surroundings. Slowing to a walk, she approached the shadowy figure, finally determining it was an older man, stopped in the path.
She realized why it had been difficult to figure out if was human or not - he was motionless in the path, seemingly lost in his own world of thought. As she got closer, she saw that he was slowly twisting back and forth, swiveling his torso with arms outstretched.
He noticed her approach, turned to face her, and smiled broadly. Sylvia took one of the earbuds out of her ear and smiled in return. “Good morning,” she called cheerfully.
“Yes, yes it is!” he replied. “Isn’t this weather wonderful? It makes me feel like anything is possible. It feels like…magic.” He paused, still smiling, and looked her directly in the eyes. “Do you know, today is my birthday! I’m 90 years old today.”
Sylvia smiled broadly, “Happy birthday! You look much younger than ninety. This exercise must be the reason. “
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of missing a day of it. It keeps me young! Here,” he reached into his pocket and producing an orange, handed it to her. “I picked this off my tree just last night. It’s the last batch of the summer. It’s my birthday present to you.”
She laughed. “It hardly seems fair for me to receive a gift when it’s your birthday, but how can I say no?” Sylvia took the orange he offered. “Thank you so much! I wish you a very happy birthday, and many more to come.”
“Thank you my dear. It’s nice to see a beautiful young woman enjoying the early morning.”
Sylvia laughed again, “Well, I don’t know about the beautiful part, but it is a beautiful morning, I’ll agree with you on that point. I hope your day is magical!”
They both turned, ready to resume their respective journeys. Sylvia put her earbud back in and resumed her pace. She turned one last time to wave to the old man, but he seemed to have disappeared. Just then a twinkle of sunlight reflected through the mist, flashing brighter than she would have thought possible given the overcast conditions. As quickly as it had come, it disappeared. She shrugged, turned again and continued down the path.
Several minutes later of jogging, she checked her watch and realized it was time for her to turn for home so she could get ready and be to work on time. She turned around and headed the other direction. As she passed the spot she had encountered the old man, she noticed the same hummingbird she had seen earlier, flying from one branch of a tree to another, pausing in a seeming erratic pattern to investigate leaves and dying blooms. It paused in the path just ahead of her, hovering steadily, seemingly considering her presence in his territory, then zipped off in another direction. Sylvia noticed some discarded orange peels just off the path, obvious traces of the old man’s early morning snack. She smiled, remembering his exuberance, and continued home.