Don rushed through the underbrush, eschewing leaps and bounds for good, old-fashioned sprinting. He knew that they were behind him, had turned for a second to see the bright glow of their orange uniforms, and cursed this mistake. They would follow him, he was certain. The bushes and leaves shrieked in terror as he ran, the violence of his flight ripping and tearing the verdant groin of the forest. It would be simple to track him via the trail of shocked and appalled holly bushes, ashen ivy nests, and praying mantises with mouths wide open, claws to their heads in surprise. Don was scared, and acknowledged to himself, in between gulping breaths of sweet oxygen, that the Janitors had, thus far, proven to be worthy adversaries. The package under his coat heaved against his chest, swaddled in terrycloth, bound with rubber bands.
500 yards to the south, leaning against an old oak tree, Robert Coombes stroked his chin while also simultaneously scratching the inside of his leg, too. It itched often, to his annoyance. He had tried many powders and ointments, but to no apparent avail. He was considering exfoliation, and, more importantly, without the consultation of his wife. She would ridicule him, retaliatory enfilade for all the hours he spent mocking her make-up application, the face she made when putting on eyeliner, mouth wide open like a screaming praying mantis, with eyelids set at Sunset Boulevard aperture. But there were more pressing issues to consider now. This office fugitive, Don A. Kurosky, from Receiving Affairs, had taken what was clearly not his, and it was Robert’s job, his sad and moderately heavy burden, to track this man down, no matter the cost in overtime or gas money. He picked up the radio and signaled his right hand man, Fitchturn.
“Where is he now?” Coombes asked, exhausted. The radio crackled with static, and, after a few seconds, sounded back a reply from Fitchturn, his honey voice cadenced by exertion.
“He’s just…jumped over a huge ravine. I don’t know how he did it, and we can’t see him anymore…what do you want us to do?”
It was time, thought Coombes, his head hung down on his chest. Management would have to be alerted.
The jump had been amazing. Across the ravine, no broken ankles, no stumbling, all he had done was hold his breath and leap. Don sat down against a green-grey boulder and caught his breath. He had stood at the edge, terrified, ignorant of both the Janitors’ position and the laws of physics, both of which would have frightened him even more. It was a twenty-five foot gap, maybe farther. The Mario brothers made it look so easy, he thought to himself, who’s to say I can’t make it. Nintendo games had never been proven wrong in his experience, and this was no time to be starting new precedents. So he jumped, wiggling his legs as Luigi did, and came down plop, stick-in-the-mud, revving back up to motorized scooter speed. Don had the sudden wish, not for the last time, that his old gym teacher had been there to witness him.
He couldn’t hear anyone in the forest now. It was silent, for the most part, except for background noise, which was soothing. Don reclined his head against the mossy rock, and let his eyelids droop. They would still find him. It was not a stretch of the imagination to imagine the Janitors regrouping at that very moment, angry but determined, patting each other on the back and smoking very cheap cigarettes, the smoke of which killed all the gnats around them. Don’s exhaustion was only tempered by a promise of what good he would do, what smiles would greet his gift, his extremely larcenous gift.
If only he knew how far he still had to go, he would not have napped like a lazy, foolish cat full of its own disgusting hairballs. But Don slept, and dreamt of the resurrected ghosts of murdered bears, stubborn in their refusal to move from his driveway.
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