“First a cashmere hat, now this?”

asked a voice from the Blueliner peanut gallery. They know me as one to be on the cutting edge of the latest fashion trends, starting with the lovely shoes I grow myself.

This is part 3 of a 977 part series. Read part one here, then feel free to continue on to part two here.

The group meets every Saturday morning at 7:30 to run various lengths of the Greensboro greenway. The official reason for the get-together is to run, but really everyone wants to see what stylish concoction of drapery floweth from my limbs each week. I’ve waxed poetic about the form and function of cashmere in the winter, extolled the virtues of the kilt, and even pontificated aloud about down which path the shoe trend will go:

Coming soon to a running store near you!

This time, however, there was little to discuss because there was little I was wearing. My wardrobe consisted of two items – a cap and the dainty shorts. I had never been so naked in public (the charges were dropped, so that one time at Disneyland doesn’t count).

“You have some clothes in your car, right? I don’t think they’ll let you into Panera like that, no matter how much money you spend there,” said a needlessly concerned fellow runner, who, quite frankly, wasn’t much more dressed than I was.

“Panera is my source of a delicious and nutritious lunch almost every day. I would never even for a moment consider doing anything to tarnish our relationship,” I replied in a terse manner.

“So, is that a yes you have clothes, or no?”

“Yes! Yes, dang it all to heck in a ball of fiery darnation, I have shorts and a shirt in my car.”

“Good, because we have to eat too, you know.”

I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that remark, but we all started running before I could ask. In fact, the whole conversation was quickly forgotten as I noted the sensation of libertyness in my thighs. Nothing was rubbing them with each step, they just moved with the wind blowing freely through my leg hair.

You know those romantic scenes in movies and such of women riding horses, with their hair flowing behind them? That’s what it felt like, except replace the woman with my legs and her hair with the folicular output of my thighs.

I want to make sure that image sticks, so read that last paragraph again. Close your eyes, and really see it.

I pushed the pace, wanting to make the group pay for their snickering. After a few miles, I saw a familiar ball of quadruped fuzziness. “Hey, Charlie!” I called out to the schnoodle I know from work. Charlie was taking his pet human out for a walk. “Stay away from my dog, you naked sicko!” said the human. They’re so unpredictable, those humans. NEVER pet one without the dog’s permission.

Behind me I heard cursing. Looking back, I saw everyone slipping, sliding, and flailing about. “That’s strange,” I thought. Then I realized that without clothing to soak up my sweat, I was leaving a treacherous river behind me. Maybe my habit of bonking during marathons has nothing to do with training or lack of fitness or proper nutrition – maybe I was just buckling under the wet weight of my own clothes.

Near the end of the run, I saw Jason from Off n’ Running trotting toward me. Actually, that’s a lie. I didn’t see him at all. He was running with a pretty lady, and I make it a point not to look at pretty ladies when I’m running naked in public. Actually (again), I just made that rule up at the time, but it seems like a good one to stick to I must say. As we crossed paths I heard him shout out, “how are the shorts working for ya?” I was confused; it sounded like Jason, but there was no way he would be running with a pretty lady. Or more accurately, there would be no way a pretty lady would run with him. The proper course of action was to rescue the damsel in distress.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said as I turned around (in the south you call everyone ma’am. Even dudes. It’s a unique corner of the world, to say the least), “is this vile ogre of a beast harassing you?”

No sooner had the words “vile ogre of a beast” left my lips when the lady let out a shriek. “THE HORROR! JASON, MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP! FOR THE LOVE OF GILGAMESH, WIPE CLEAN MY RETINAS STAINED BY THIS APPARITION!” But Jason had already taken the break as an opportunity to tear into another Stinger Waffle.

“Well I say,” said I, making a hasty retreat as the sounds of her sobbing grew quieter in the distance.

Fortunately I’m not one to take into consideration the delicate style sensibilities of the bourgeoisie. I now know my regular running shorts are nothing but heavy with sweat thigh weights. Now my legs are free of the chains that once encumbered my stride and pulled me, like Quasimodo ringing the midnight hour, to the earth’s core.

Emily was right. These shorts do make me faster.

Thank you for reading part three in this infinite series. Stay tuned for the next one, which may or may not appear in this dimension.

“Wow, that’s kinda short,”

I said to the reflection checking out my legs; but if I imagined I was looking at someone else, I saw a runner.

This is part 2 of a 733 part series. Read part one here.

Of course I couldn’t tell if I was immediately a faster runner, but I did feel faster. I looked faster. Time for the reveal. I stepped through the curtain, expecting applauding crowds oohing and ahhhing, instead everyone was doing this “working” thing I hear about from time to time.

“Ahem,” I announced, arms akimbo and legs in a balletic 4th position.

“What do you think?” asked Jen, looking up from doing a set of one-armed push ups.

“I think my thighs are lily-white. Do you guys have a tanning booth?”

Apparently they thought I was kidding, so I never got an answer to that question. Instead, I made my way to the treadmill where they perform their Gait Analysis Rituals. I’m not really sure what is involved in these rituals, but I always endeavor to be culturally sensitive. Something to do with Gaits is my guess.

“I’ve never run on a treadmill barefoot before. You are all about to witness history in the making.” I stepped onto the machine and saw my feet appear on the video screen in front of me. “Hey, those look familiar.” I started it up and watched my feet pitty-pat.

“Can you zoom out? I need to see what my butt looks like.”

Everyone looked at Jason, as it was his turn to humor me. Instead, he was engrossed in an effort to find out how many Stinger Waffles he could fit in his mouth. Emily, sighing, attended to my whims as Jen got a bucket for the inevitable conclusion of Jason’s experiment. “So that’s what all my vanquished foes see,” I said as my snowy pistons pumped. I picked the pace up to 10mph.

“So, who wants to analyze my gait?” I asked with legs fluttering like hummingbird wings. Pale, pasty hummingbird wings.

“Dang,” said Emily, “do you always run that fast?”

“Of course,” I wheezed.

“Well, if I’m going to analyze you, you’re going to need to slow down a bit.”

“What?” I wasn’t listening, too busy looking at my backside. I was beginning to have an existential identity crisis.

“Slow down!” yelled Jen, opening another Stinger for the ambitious Jason.

I complied.

“Um, you’re neutral,” said Emily after a moment.

“Really? I always thought I was biased.”

The door opened, a customer strolls in. Never one to cause a scene, I let them tend to business as I gathered up my things, discreetly bidding adieu to the team at Off ‘n Running.

The next day was Saturday. That meant a run with the Blueliners.

Thank you so much for reading part 2 of a 1,544 part series. Be sure not to miss part 3, which can be found somewhere around… here? No – here. Shoot. Wait… ok. Here.

“The party has arrived!”

I announced in the doorway of Off’n Running. I like to think the store employees are always happy when I show up, looking forward to a few tens of minutes of wit, profundity, and inanity. They gathered round with that familiar look of expectation. What odd string of words and notions are going to leap forth from that scraggly bearded mouth today?

“Shorts,” I proclaimed, slapping down my reward for a mile well run (it was a gift certificate for the fastest 70+ woman) on the counter. “We have shorts!” They said triumphantly and eerily unison. Then they asked, “what are you looking for?”

Was that a hint of uncertainty I detected? Using my barefoot running induced telepathic powers, I read their minds. Writ large across their cerebral periodicals was the concern, “What kind of short was this shoephobe going to ask for? If barefoot runners run in barefoot shoes, will he want bare-assed shorts? Would he *gasp!* model them in the store? In public?”

I decided to put them at ease pronto and replied in the most down-to-business tone I could muster, “I want shorts that will make me faster.”

I heard a guffaw from the office. Apparently some people still misguidedly believe that speed is attained through hard work and determination, not apparel and trinkets. Outfitter extraordinaire Emily knew better. Her eyes lit up as if to say Got him! I will sell him something conventional! “How short do you want to go?”

My usual aura of strong, masculine confidence wavered, flickered, then dimmed from a shimmering blue to a dull pink. I’m a modest fellow, my shortest of shorts ending just above the knees. Putting on a mask of confidence (+2 against fire elementals) and focusing on my aspirations of speediness, I responded “what’s the shortest you’ve got?”

She showed me a pair that was the running equivalent of a split mini-skirt. “Uh, won’t they see my butt?”

“Of course not – you’ll be too fast.”

“Um, right, but, before the race, and after…”

“Baby steps, Emily. Baby steps,” advised Jason as he pulled a pair of what must have been sheer granny panties of the rack. “How about these?”

Something about Jason’s cheshire grin told me those “shorts” weren’t actually for sale, but rather an oddity from his own collection.

“Right. Lets go one size slower,” said Emily, pulling a small piece of polyester from a hanger.

“That’s for grown-ups?”

“Yup.” She handed the dainties to me and pointed to the fitting room. I took them, gingerly (as one is wont to do in these circumstances), and proceeded to the bathroom.

“Uh, hey, Josh, we have fitting rooms.”

“Right.”

I then walked from the bathroom to the fitting room. Were they the first steps of a new life? Or would this be like the beginning of my Freshman year in acty singy college when I thought spandex was appropriate fashion for the classroom?

Continue to part 2 of this 48 part series…