Flash Harry

Flash Harry

 
** Published in Yours magazine under new title of Where Did You Get That Hat? on 20th October 2009!!!

Shona scanned the fun run crowd for Harry’s hat.

The closed-off high street was an ocean of heads on this humid June Sunday, two thousand heads to be precise, but a wizard’s hat ought still to be conspicuous. She hoped so – it was her only way of recognising the unfamiliar Harry.

Shona limbered up self-consciously as she wove through the runners and walkers. She hadn’t anticipated being alone. Nigel, a workmate, was to be her running mate – until this morning when he’d wheezily phoned her.

‘Won’t be up to it, sorry. Gone down with a stinking cold. Doubt I’ll be in work tomorrow either.’

‘No worries, Nige. Dose yourself up and get back to bed.’

‘My neighbour Harry mentioned he’s doing it, though, if you want company. He’ll go at your pace. He’s been very poorly, so having to take it easy.’

‘How will I know him?’

‘You shouldn’t miss him,’ Nigel spluttered, ‘says he’ll be wearing a wizard’s hat. Had it years apparently, it’s a good luck thing.’ He was about to say more, but his voice gave way to a torrent of breathless coughs.

‘You get back to bed, Nige,’ Shona sympathised, ‘I’ll find him.’

She spotted the enormous pointed hat bobbing near the starting line. She was rather surprised to find its owner amongst the mainly serious runners who flocked to the front of the crush, intent on completing their six miles in speedy times. Silly costumes tended to be worn by the less competitive participants nearer the back.

She approached the man who, with his back to her, was doing a sedate jog on the spot.

‘Excuse me. Harry?’

‘Yes?’ He turned round, and Shona gaped. Harry looked at least eighty.

Nigel had to be having a laugh. ‘He’ll go at your pace’ indeed. Yeah right, she may be no Kelly Holmes but she didn’t quite need a Zimmer frame to manage six miles. Still, she’d committed herself now, no harm being pleasant to the old boy.

‘I’m Shona.’ She instinctively adopted the loud, slow tone she used with her hard-of-hearing grandpa. ‘I work with Nigel.’

‘Nigel?’

‘He should have been here too, of course, but he’s not very well. He told me to look out for you.’

‘Well how do you do, Shona?  I hope you can keep up with me.’ Harry gave Shona an odd look when she laughed at this.

She decided he was a sweet soul, obviously with a sense of humour, and that she would remain with him today, if only to ensure he survived the course.

‘How are you feeling?’ she yelled, loath to ask him direct questions about the nature of his illness.

Harry looked slightly baffled again. ‘Never better, my dear. I’m seventy-eight and on top form.’

‘Seventy-eight? Wow!’

‘Eh up, we’re about to get going.’  He patted her arm bossily and bent his tiny knees into a racing position.

When the starting gun blasted, the runners at the front zoomed away like hares – including Harry. Shona, concerned her new friend had failed to pace himself, sped up to keep alongside him.

By the one-mile mark, though, he wasn’t even panting. Unlike Shona.

‘You all right there, dear?’ he enquired.

‘Mnff,’ she managed.

‘Can be a bit of a struggle when it’s muggy like this, eh?’ Harry smiled sympathetically. Shona was sopping with perspiration. ‘I must admit, though, I don’t usually bother with these short distance events. I’m more of a marathon man.’

Marathons?’

‘Done London a few times. Few half marathons too – Great North Run, things like that. I like to support this one, though. The charity was so marvellous with my grandson.’

Grandson?’ Shona puffed, forced to slow to a trot. This annual run was in aid of a cancer trust. Somewhere in the corner of Shona’s mind a penny was dropping.

‘Yes, he’s taking part today, with a few pals. Now if you don’t mind, I’d quite like to try and beat my time from last year so I’m going to get a wriggle on.’

‘No problem.’ Oh bliss, she could stop pushing herself to keep up with him. ‘See you at the finish line.’

‘Cheerio Shona,’ Harry gave a backwards wave as he sprinted away on his sparrow legs, ‘good luck.’

        ******

‘The old man left you standing then?’

Four miles on, Shona had abandoned all pretence of running and was massaging her side, suffering from stitch, as floods of people overtook her. She turned to encounter a young man with toffee-coloured eyes and the most lovable smile. Wearing a wizard’s hat.

‘You wouldn’t be Harry’s grandson, by any chance?’

He broke away slightly from the two friends who accompanied him. ‘Harry junior. And I gather you’re Shona.’

Shona couldn’t help laughing, despite feeling like a crimson, melting mess beneath his gaze. ‘Your grandpa must think I’m crackers. So you’re Nigel’s neighbour. He just told me to look out for a wizard’s hat.’

‘He wouldn’t know I had one done for Gramps as well.’ Shona noticed how attractively Harry’s hair curled on his damp forehead beneath the hat. ‘I spotted you down the front talking to Gramps. We stuck at the back, let the serious runners go on ahead. I guessed you were Nige’s colleague but couldn’t catch up to say hello until now.’

‘Harry senior ran me ragged.’

‘Oh, he’ll have finished and be enjoying a cup of tea somewhere by now. He’s such an inspiration to me. I only took up jogging after I got the all-clear three months ago.’

‘I could do with doing the same,’ Shona admitted, humbled by what she had seen today, ‘I’ve got no excuse to be out of breath.’

‘Well I run on Tuesday evenings,’ Harry looked at her hopefully, ‘if you fancy joining me.’

‘Tuesdays sound good.’

‘We could replace a few calories by going for a bite to eat afterwards.’

Shona flushed, and not from the exertion of running. ‘Can’t wait.’

Harry senior was cheering them on as they crossed the finish line together.

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