OUT OF THE WOODS

So my brother-in-law and I had this crazy run this one time I’ll never forget. It still makes me smile. I remember it because of the socks. He was wearing these ridiculous new neon-yellow Nike compression socks. You could see them a mile away.

He’s a handsome, buff guy who likes a good sporting outfit. He’s also a gifted athlete who plays as good as he looks: former QB in college, weekly basketball player, and a kick-ass golfer who shoots in the 70’s when he’s got his golf game together. (I like golfing with him simply to witness the amazing shots he makes. Even the ones he’s miffed at flubbing slightly are shots that would be my best of the day, most rounds.) This is a guy who doesn’t just run marathons, he runs them shirtless (and then throws up a few times after he finishes).

So our families are on vacation together a few years back on the North Fork of Long Island, and me and him and his socks are out for an early-morning run on a favorite loop that goes through woods and alongside salt marshes and fields.

We’re chattering away for a half-hour or so and then he goes quiet for a bit. I have a feeling I know why. We hustled out of the house pretty quick so as not to tangled up in fatherly duties if kids started waking up. But maybe we hustled out a little too quick, before he could take care of other fundamental sorts of duties.

Sure enough, right when the road ducks into this pretty little stretch of woods, he says, “I gotta stop.” And without another word he darts into the woods and disappears.

I go a little ahead so as to give the man some space. He could be dealing with all kinds of craziness in there and at a time like that a person needs their space.

Of course, by the time he finally reemerges from the wilderness I’m totally cracking up. And so is he. As he steps proudly back on the road he has his arms held high and a big smile on his mug.

“Victory!” he shouts.

And soon we are on our way again. As we trot along, we’re right back to chattering away, but there’s something nagging at me, something different about our run now, maybe about my brother-in-law. Maybe something even more serious than I thought happened back there in the woods.

We go a mile or so before I realize what it is.

“Your socks!” I say. “They’re gone.”

“I was wondering when you’d notice.”

The meaning of this dawns on me. “Did you—?”

“Yup.”

“Man oh man.” I shake my head. “You loved those damn socks, didn’t you?”

“You said it, brother. But every victory requires a sacrifice.”

Today he says he’ll never forget this sacrifice, because it scarred him. Literally. “I still miss those socks. And still have a scar on tip of my foot from the blister that ensued after running ten more miles without them.”