The Thirty Minute Detective

Vltava in fogA morning run can be beautiful and it can be awful. And usually, I know which after just a few steps. There are times I chug down the river, feeling strong, healthy, and solid. Sometimes it’s so good that I feel like an actual athlete, with real muscles and all. Men nod at me, women notice me, and when they do I flash a little calf.

It’s during these wonderful runs that mind and body meld together. My mind goes to a story I’m editing or one I’m writing, and I slip into this place with ease. My body goes on autopilot and my brain reworks or brainstorms. We work as a perfect unit and I become a meditative running Yogi. It is beautiful.

But sometimes, sometimes, running is an agonizing experience. After just a couple of steps I can tell that not only are my mind and body not working together, but that my entire body is not one whole body. My limbs, lungs, and core break into separate rebel insurgency factions and fight against each other. My legs seemingly forget how to work and I stumble and stagger. This stumbling gait is enhanced by a shaky panting that should alert bystanders to call the emergency medical authorities. This is all topped off with my arms swinging like confused possums.

It’s during these awful runs that I need a hobby. This hobby only has to remain a hobby for about thirty minutes. Its main goal is to distract my head and body, tricking them to work together while keeping me from a fall into traffic or the river.

Sometimes I’ll bird watch, count slugs and snails, or squash leaves. Other times I’ll count cyclists, people wearing spandex, or just practice my obnoxious operatic baritone. And sometimes I just work with what Prague gives me. The Vltava River is a central active point in Prague, there are several stories hidden in its discarded items, garbage, and bodily fluids. I try to notice them and put together the story; I sometimes feel like a thirty minute detective.

If that detective is insane.

Could the remnants of a shattered car window in Podolí be linked to a discarded bucket of KFC near the Botel Hotel. First one runs out of fried chicken, then one breaks a window in extreme anger. Or maybe he steals the car to drive to a place for more chicken. A trail of blood heading away from a box of wine and a toothbrush. Well, that story is obvious.

Today I take two steps and know that it’s an awful running day. My knees are wobbly and I can’t catch my breath. I need a hobby. I scan things around me: no birds, fog, leaves, not wet enough for slugs, a shoe near my starting point is nothing to write home about. It’s a shiny black pointy-toed shoe, the kind worn by bankers elves. As I head towards the train bridge at Výtoň and prepare to sing in obnoxious volumes, I see the shiny black shoe’s left-footed brother.

Hm. Intriguing.

I become the thirty minutes detective. A pair of shoes a hundred meters apart. What happened to this guy? I jog on, cross the train bridge. On the other side, coming down the path there are a pair of men’s boxer shorts hanging in a tree. Fascinating! Did our guy strip off his pants, pull of his boxers and then throw them in a tree?

I imagine the guy’s night – drunken, violent, maybe he was kicked out of his house. I jog on, scanning the ground (and now trees) for the next clue. I go through the playground and the basketball courts, expecting to see a naked guy sleeping on a bench. When I finally hit Palackého Bridge, I see the sleeve of a shirt poking around the corner behind a post. I speed up and run to it only to find that it’s just the sleeve. Blue pin-stripes on a white shirt.

It’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning and it dawns on me that I am an early bird. There are not a lot of people on the river now and I wonder if I am going to stumble upon something I really don’t want to see. I have come across dead homeless men before on this river. I don’t want to see another dead person, and I definitely don’t want to see a naked banker.

I don’t remember running crossing the bridge, I spent the time looking along the ground and into the river, convinced that I was on the trail of some sinister affair from the previous evening. I make it across with no finds and head back towards home.

The run from Palackého Bridge to Podolí is littered with tons of possible evidence. There are McDonald’s bags, pizza boxes, condoms (uh…soiled), broken wine bottles, and a bloody bandage. By the time I have hit my finish line I conceive a murderous plot of nudity, fast food, and sex. This plot – and my curiosity – will never be satisfied.

I walk up the hill to my flat disappointed. What happened to the disappearing banker? I am so disappointed that I don’t realize until later that I ran 5K in about 25 minutes. Guess I’ll be the twenty-five minute detective next time.

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