1. "I'm not fat," I told my neighbor, "but I would like to lose a little—about ten pounds."
2. "Ten pounds?" he said. "That's easy. I lost 20 pounds just by running every day."
3. That's when I made up my mind. I would run, too. I'd run on Willow Road, which goes by the end of our block. And I'd outfit myself in a pair of white shorts, sneakers and a sweat shirt. I'd have the right clothes, so I wouldn't look silly.
4. To begin with, I decided to run up Willow Road as far as the Emersons' house. That was about a mile.
5. By the time I got to the end of our block, my legs had turned to stone. And I felt as if somebody had lit a campfire in my chest! I limped on for another hundred yards. The thing to do, I decided, was to stop as soon as I came to a good place for a rest. At once I said to myself, "This looks like a good place !" And I fell, panting, to the earth.
6. After some time, I sat up. "You're out of shape," I told myself. "You've got to work up to things bit by bit. Give yourself time!"
7. I stood up and walked home.
8. Every morning for three weeks, Mondays through Fridays, I burst from my house and ran toward the Emerson place. I went a bit further every time. Weekends I rested up. Finally, I decided that I was ready to run the whole mile. Of course, I'd stop a few times along the route to rest.
9. I made the big push on Saturday. That was a mistake. I had forgotten that the neighborhood children would not be in school that day.
10. I was no more than halfway up the block when I sensed that I had an audience. There were all the children, standing on their front lawns staring at me. I waved. Most likely, they were admiring my brisk pace. Then I learned the awful truth. As I turned onto Willow Road, a half-dozen eight-year-olds ran out and settled into a steady trot beside me.
11. "Hey, mister," said one, "my little brother can run faster than this, and he's only six."
12. "Oh, yeah!" I barked. "When he's as old as .. "But there my air ran out. I stopped talking in order to save my breath.
13. We paced onward. Up ahead, I could see a shady maple tree, and ideal rest stop. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I pushed toward the tree. Then, just as the shade was within reach, a small voice said, "Hey, mister, we'll race you!"
14. The eight-year-olds tore out in front of me and were soon out of sight. My spirit was broken. I staggered off the road into a clump of underbrush and dropped like a sack of bricks.
15. I was still resting there ten minutes later when I heard children's voices.
16. "They must have caught him," one voice said.
17. "Yes," another replied. "He did all right for an old man, though. He must have run the whole two miles from the mental hospital."
18. Still I wouldn't give up. The best way to mn without an audience, I decided, was to run after dark.
19. "Well, enjoy yourself," my wife said. "I've got to drive Andy to his trumpet lesson."
20. I set out into the dark, sure that I would finally reach the Emersons'. I had just turned the corner when something the size of a watermelon shot out at me. It began barking and wouldn't stop. It was the Barts' bulldog. I shouted and sent him back to the Barts' front lawn, but I could feel a rising fear. After all, there were lots of dogs in our neighborhood.
21. My hunch was right. Two minutes later I set off the Abels' boxer. He circled around me, barking, and refused to leave. Next it was the O'Briens poodle and then a strange sheep dog.
22. I was nervous, but I led the parade onward. Once in a while I'd say, "Nice fella!" to nobody in particular. Then a huge collie came bounding out of a driveway. ! had heard once that collies love children. I pointed to my shorts and trotted on.
23. What did it, finally, was the Emersons' Great Dane. That dog is the size of a pony and has jaws like an alligator. They call him Cuddles!
24. Well, I made it to the Emersons' driveway. I jogged in glory across the lawn. I even had my foot on the porch step when Cuddles burst from his doghouse like a fire engine answering an alarm. The next instant, the whole parade was tearing back down Willow Road. And I was bringing up the rear.
25. Halfway home, I remembered that Cuddles was usually chained to his doghouse, so I slowed down. However, I was exhausted when I reached home, and I flung myself down on the front steps to recover.
26. Andy was standing by the garage with his trumpet. He and his mother had just got back from his lesson.
27. "Gee, Dad," he said excitedly, "did we see the craziest thing on the way home! Some old man in a white bathing suit was chasing a pack of dogs down Willow .. "Then his eyes fell on my clothes. A puzzled look mixed with fear came over his face. "I guess I'd better go practice my trumpet, huh, Dad!" He did not stay for an answer.
28. In spite of it all, I might have kept on running, but that evening I climbed onto the scales. I wanted to see how much lighter I was after three weeks' work. I had lost four ounces. I could have lost more than that by letting Cuddles chew on me for a few seconds!