He hadn't felt fear until he left the house. A distinct feeling of "what if I'm doing the wrong thing" flooded his mind. He shook his head, and reminded himself that the first step is always the hardest and that a journey of a thousand miles can only be started by taking the first step. With a shaky breath, he kept putting one foot in front of the other until he got to the bus stop.
He looked down the road and taped his foot impatiently as he waited for the bus to make an appearance. He felt the fear start to rise inside him again, but he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Hey mister!"called a young girl who walked up to him. "Are you okay?" She asked, with a look of concern on her face.
After another steadying breath, he nodded his head. "It's the start to what looks to be a very long day."he said in a soft voice. She smoked at him and replied "Good luck then, hopefully the day will go better then you think,"with a broad smile on her face.
"Your mouth to Gods ear." He said as the bus came to a stop in front of them. With a gentlemanly air, he waved her onth the bus ahead of him. Slowly, he followed her aboard, climbing the steps with creaky knees.
"Hello Mac!" Said the bus driver to the old man. "You're a little early today" he said as the old man slid his metro card into the reader, waiting for the beep. "Just a bit of a to_do list. I figured I'd go ahead and get an early start."
The bus driver grinned broadly at him. "Sounds like my honey-do list. It always seems no matter how early I start I can never get to the end of the darned thing." With his deep voice, the bus driver laughed, and a smile came to the old mans face as he walked to an open seat in the back of the nearly empty bus.
As he sat he felt the paper in his pocket crinkle. He pulled it out and smoothed it in his lap. He looked at the first item on the list, as he debated his first stop. Carefully, he folded the paper again, and placed it into the breast pocket of his courderoy blazer.
The bus pulled onto a street with stores lining both sides. He pulled the cord, and rang the bell to signal the driver to stop. As the bus slowed, the old man stood and walked back to the doors.
"You have a good day now, you hear!" Said the bus driver with a wave. The old man turned and waved from the side walk. "Thanks!"he called out as the doors closed and the bus pulled away.
With a slow but steady pace, he began his journey into the first store he came across. The large red and gold awning was printed with dinosaurs and clowns. The shop windows were lined with balls, teddy bears and dolls dressed in all their best finery. Pulling open the gaily painted door, the old man found himself inside a little family owned toy store.
"Hi sir, can I be of any special assistance to you today?" The young man behind the counter asked.
"I'd like a hula hoop please." He said, speaking more firmly than he'd intended. "For a boy or a girl sir?" Asked the clerk.
Casting his eyes to the floor he whispered, "For me please, I've always wanted to learn but never tried." The clerk smiled as he put his hand on the old mans shoulder. "Hey, don't be embarrassed. I only just learned this past summer myself. My girlfriend finally nagged me enough so I gave in and learned, and llooked the fol till I figured it out." The old man giggled with the clerk as he wiggled around in what was unmistakably poor hula hooping technique.
"Theres a trick to it though. I'll give you my own hoop to borrow. It's a little larger than these kiddy toys and it makes it worlds easier to figure out the motions." The young man ran into the back of the shop and brought back a blue and silver hoop nearly three feet in diameter. "I know it looks huge,.but it really does the trick."
The young man walked to the door and spun the out to lunch sign sound. "lets go into the back yard and give it a spin," he said gesturing for the olds man to follow him behind the counter and out the back door.
Dutifully the olds man followed the younger man to an enclosed patch of grass behind the shop. The young man took a stance in the middle of the yard and swung the hula hoop around himself and began rocking back and forth.
"The trick is to not contort yourself, and to let the hoop do the work. Here, you try! I know you can do it!" The old man took the hoop and imitated the clerks stance. Carefully, he pushed the hoop around his body, and tried to rock to keep it moving. The hoop passed around him three times before ungracefully clattering to the ground. He looked down at the hoop and a wave of depression threatened to wash over him. He stood there for a minute waiting for the young man to start laughing at him, but instead he heard him whoop and clap.
"Whoa! You did better than I did my first try! You've nearly got it. Keep trying! I know you've got it this time!"
Filed with a renewed sense of pride, he tried again. He took the position and gripped the hoop firmly. "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and time to go!" He said as he pushed the hoop and felt it pass around him. He rocked back and forth feeling the rhythm of the hoop around him. The young man started to cheer loudly, the sound of his cheers and applause filing the old mans heart. Somehow, in that moment,he swore he heard his Martha for but an instant. This is when he realized he was on the right path, that he was doing the right thing for himself. As the hoop passed around him, he started cheering, and the cacophony of the two men could be heard up ange down the whole block.
He deftly caught the hoop as it passed in front of him, and carefully stepped out of it after several minutes of hooping.
"Wow! You really are a natural at this!" Said the young man who was still very much in shock. "If youre interested, my girlfriend teaches a hoop fitness class at the dance studio next door, shes a little more skilled than me, and if you could do that, you'd be a perfect fit there." The old man hanged the enormous hoop to the younger man and they started to walk back inside.
"That might be a possibility, young man. When is the next class?"
"She's between classes now, actually, if you want to go meet her, you can go over and tell her that Billy sent you.I'm sure she'll get a huge kick out of you."
Together they walked to the front door. "Thank you Billy, this has been one of the most interesting mornings I've had in what seems like at least a year."Billy walked the old man back to the door, and they shook hands. "No sir, thank you, you've really made my day!" The old man flipped the out to lunch sign over, then pushed open the door, and continues his journey with a new spring in his step.
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