It soon became apparent that this would not be an ordinary track and field event. Neither would this be an ordinary jog through the city. In fact, there was nothing ordinary at all about pursuing a girl who would sooner jump over a moving vehicle than stop for it.
In his casual office clothes, Rob looked much less like a reckless rebel than he really was. Which was saying very little because Rob was not a reckless rebel. When it came to pushing and shoving his way down a busy sidewalk, he could only do so with a long stream of apologies. When it came to dashing through moving traffic, he could only do so with a high-pitched scream, bulging wide eyes, and a flurry of arms and legs.
But it bothered him that he seemed to be leaving a trail of angry pedestrians, cursing motorists, and crying old ladies while the girl he was chasing did not even cause a stir as she slipped between people and hurtling vehicles without so much as a careless breeze. Rob was just beginning to fear losing her when he saw her stop and look back. They caught eyes and Rob was startled to see her expression. She appeared surprised, as if she hadn’t realized he was following. Rob shook his head and quickened his pace, trying to call out for her stop.
The girl turned, and if she hadn’t been trying to lose him before, she was now. Where before, she had been darting through traffic when it got in her way, she now headed out onto the road like a child escaping into a playground that she knew her adult pursuer couldn’t navigate. Rob felt more like a human who couldn’t pursue an alien into an arena of death.
But the girl had more of a plan than simple death-defying acrobatics. In fact, she just wanted to catch a ride. Rob’s eyes went wide as he watched her gain speed alongside a truck before hoping onto the side step like boarding a trolley tour. The vehicles on the road traveled as normal, as if this action was completely ordinary. Rob wondered if it would still be ordinary if he was to run out there and plant himself on the windshield of one of those vehicles.
But he hadn’t lost her yet. Though he was not at the top of his class when it came to mounting moving vehicles, there was one type of vehicle he had a divine talent for commanding. Rob ran to the curb and thrust his hand into the view of a taxi driver as if he was clenching a fist of money. His movements were as precise and effective as an air traffic controller directing a fighter jet.
“Follow that girl!” he said, diving into the front seat as the cab slowed to a stop.
“Huh?” asked the driver.
Rob tried again. “Follow that girl!” He felt pretty mighty with this thrilling exclamation. The driver pulled into traffic. He was painfully hesitant for an inner city cab driver.
“You want me to follow someone?” he asked.
“Yes!” Rob hooted. “Step on it!”
The driver frowned. “I’m gonna drive straight…You just tell me when to turn…”
Rob quickly realized that this was not going to be the high-speed chase he was envisioning, since the cab driver didn’t seem to be getting all that into it. And besides, Rob’s mobility was severely hindered by the fact that he had to ride inside the cab while the girl was free to hop from her moving vehicle over a cement wall into a nearby park. Oh right, and Rob had to pay the cab driver. And so, by the time he was free to chase her, she was completely out of sight.
Rob ran into the park regardless just in case she had stopped early. The park was dirty and seemed more like a shortcut for hurried pedestrians than a place to relax and enjoy the air. But there was one person relaxing here, and he looked at Rob pensively from his position sitting upright on the back of a stone horse, his jaw raised and his eyes narrowed.
"Son," the old man said in a deep voice. "You've been chasing the wrong girl."
Rob stopped at the edge of the fountain and looked across the gloomy water at the man on horseback. "Why so majestic?" Rob asked. "Are you here to take me away on your valiant steed back to the kingdom of make-believe?"
The man did not even loosen the grave expression behind his grizzly beard, and he looked down upon Rob like a fat old king. "You have been chasing the wrong people," he declared. "And talking to the wrong people. And looking at the wrong people."
"You know," Rob said cheerily. "You're right. I fully agree that there is something wrong with all of you nut-balls."
The man squinted at him. "I was afraid you would say that." He nodded and tugged at his beard. "There is something wrong with your head. And we will have to get to the bottom of this." The man made a fierce decision and looked up with a noble glare. "Son," he said. "Would you come with me?"
Something about the way the man asked this question caused Rob to pause. "Ahh," he said. "If you're asking me to..."
The man glared even darker. Rob pointed. "Are you gonna...I mean...you don't want me to..."
There was an awkward silence as Rob looked at the ridiculous man on the stone horse in the middle of the pathetic fountain.
And then the man realized what he was referring to and his intense expression cracked into an eruption of laughter. He slapped the statue, rocked on the horse's back like a drunken farmer, and hooted into the sky. Then he tried to point at Rob and sputter a few words, but he couldn't overcome the laughter.
"Right," Rob said loudly. "We'll just leave the horse here then. We can go on foot. I'm glad we're in agreement."
At this, the man almost fell off the horse into the fountain, but he eventually regained his balance. And just when it seemed he had regained his cool as well, he suddenly broke into a 'gallop' by bucking his legs against the side and pulling on invisible reins. "Yah!" he cried. "Go boy, go!"
Rob turned his back. Another minute and he would have made an escape for the nearest cab but the man was suddenly beside him having cleared the gap of water in some miraculous fashion. Then he said, "Son. You better start laughing along because where we're going you won't survive without a sense of humor."
Rob felt threatened.