birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

One Guy, at His Desk, Eating Lunch, Waiting

I've run all the roads around my office. I run at lunch a couple/few days a week, and it doesn't take long to hit all the asphalt around the office park, the next office park over, the housing development next to that, the hotel across the street the other way, the housing development behind that, and so on. At the same time, there's only so far out I can go before I end up spending longer walking back than I did running. So I see the same things a lot. I hit the same ends of the same sidewalks (Auto Owners Insurance of Michigan can go eff themselves directly until they get a sidewalk in front of their office so I don't have to run through the uncut grass right next to a damn highway) and try to come up with new paths down the same old streets. There's a cul de sac at the end of that first housing development, perfectly round, with only one house on it, and I swear I'm this close to being able to just zone out and go around and around and around it for my whole run time. It hasn't happened yet, but it tantalizes me every time I go down that road.

I see the same houses, standard-issue suburban one- and two-story houses on well-cropped lawns, a little more varied than in my own suburban housing development, but not much. I don't see very many people -- if I ever counted, I'd bet heavily that I get passed by more cars, even deep in these developments where no one is driving through them, than I see humans outside. That's likely mostly because I'm running at lunchtime, and all the people I see are retirement-age, but still. It's odd, and occasionally disquieting if I let myself think about it.

I can't keep myself from thinking when I run. I try to put together stories as I do, but there's always something to watch out for, some driveway breaking up the rhythm of my stride, a street corner making me check over my shoulder for traffic, a random noise that makes it through the music in my earbuds... running isn't the pacifier for me that it is for some people.

When I started running at lunch at this job, I liked exploring. There's a weirdly large office building way back in the weeds (literally -- it's got untended wilderness on three sides and a single street leading to it) that has some kind of insurance company occupying it, and I always wonder whether someone is behind one of those windows who happened to see me coming, and watches me huff my way down the street, circle the front parking lot, and puff my way back down the street before I disappear behind the weeds.

I don't imagine anyone watching me from the houses, or really any of the other office buildings. Certainly not the hotel. People at that hotel have better things to do at lunchtime than be in their rooms staring at the parking lot. But that insurance company? Nah. There's got to be at least one person who's that bored, just sitting at their desk, absently biting into their sandwich, waiting for some movement outside to catch their eye.

I rarely flatter myself by imagining anyone cares about me. I like to think that every couple of weeks when my rotating running paths take me out to that building, that one person sees me and thinks, "Oh, good, him again. Good to see he's still running."

A Break From the Pace

The rhythm of walking and breathing