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In the stillness and tranquility of early morning, Walter Baines took off running. He ran every day; and this morning was no exception. His doctor, Alan Swayford, informed him that running was good on the heart. But in the case of Walter Baines, no amount of running would help the quandary he would soon find himself thrust into.
Apart from the sound of Walter’s feet pounding against the cold, hard, pavement of the road, the world was almost entirely silent. And besides the occasional cadence of a gaily chirping bird, in the branches of a nearby tree, there were no other signs of life.
That’s exactly how Walter liked his morning run. No people to stop and gaze curiously at him; and no distractions to advert his attention from the hypnotizing rhythm of his steadily beating heart. In fact, that was the loudest sound of all. Not the birds, nor his feet on the ground; but his heart beating furiously—pleading for mercy, for rest.
One yard, two yards, three yards, four. Walter kept running. Five yards, six yards, seven yards, eight. He finally stopped. He couldn’t take it anymore.
His feet stopped moving and the upper half of his body thrust him forward. On the narrow, gravel, shoulder of the road, Walter Baines felt ill. He was doubled over, contemplating whether or not he would vomit and risk the humiliation of doing so, should someone happen to drive by.
In the end, he acknowledged that his body would refrain from such embarrassing public behavior; but the fact still remained that Walter was ill. Not just a passing illness either.
He had been ill for many months; fourteen months, to be precise. While at the medical office, for a routine physical, Dr. Swayford had informed Walter that he was in the high-risk category to suffer a heart attack.
“Change your habits or you will suffer a heart attack, Mr. Baines.” Dr. Swayford had advised him.
But Walter hadn’t listened.
It was true that he had altered his diet: cutting out most of the red meat and other fattening foods; but he was barely in compliance. Now as for the exercising, that was the time when Walter had taken up running.
There were at least ten other suggestions on the to-do list that Dr. Swayford had sent home with him. But Walter hadn’t taken the initial first step towards accomplishing even one of them. Walter hadn’t even informed his wife, Catherine, or his son, David.
Fourteen months and they were still unaware that his heart could stop beating at any moment.
He stood upright now, breathing deeply. The crisp morning air tickled his throat. Walter coughed so powerfully that he might as well have been attempting to expel his uncooperative heart.
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