The foot was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt about that. The register of its burial had been signed by the podiatrist, the chiropractor, the massage therapist. The foot was as dead as a doornail.
Scrooge knew it was dead? Of course. How could it be otherwise?
For months, he had been unable to run without pain. He was dreadfully cut up by the onset of the malaise at the height of the tax season in spring. By summer, the pain had frozen his features, stiffened his gait, and rendered him unable to do little more than sit at his desk and order DoorDash.
He did not tip.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge, but being unable to run did. He grew nastier each day that the pain continued. His suffering made him insufferable.
He iced his foot in the dog-days and heated it in October. A Strassburg sock arrived in the mail. His running friends stopped sending him gladsome emails, imploring him to join them on weekend runs or in holiday 5Ks. When they passed him on the street, no one dared to say, “My dear Scrooge, how many miles did you run this week? How is your marathon training going?”
The dogs of sedentary people seemed to avoid him, and tugged their owners away from him on the street, as if to say, “No foot at all is better than a foot with plantar fasciitis, dear master!”
Scrooge grew colder than the coldest of winter winds. Even a visit from his nephew, a sedentary bloke who normally made him feel immensely superior, didn’t cheer him.
One night in mid-December, he was visited by three spirits.
The first was the ghost of running past: an effusive fellow, who reminded him of the glory days of 10Ks at the lower end of his age group, of Saturday-morning runs at a leisurely pace, and the pleasant exhaustion that enveloped him the rest of the day.
The second was the ghost of running present: a fearsome apparition whose left foot was wrapped in chains and who repeatedly intoned, “oh, woe is me!” and cursed angrily when getting out of bed.
The final and the most fearsome was the ghost of running yet to come: a frightening, silent reaper who pointed to a dark shape in the distance and bade our Scrooge approach.
Trembling, Scrooge limped toward the ominous mass.
It was a La-Z-Boy recliner with indentations vaguely resembling Scrooge’s buttocks, and empty chip bags protruding from its creases. On the stained fabric there rested the crumbs of Double Stuf Oreos and an empty tube of Doan’s Pain Relieving Cream, its end snipped off with scissors so as to retrieve every last trace of lidocaine.
“O spirit,” Scrooge cried. “Am I the man who sits upon this recliner? Speak comfort to me.”
“I have none to give,” the ghost replied disdainfully. “You knew you should have changed your shoes at 300 miles and stopped running on cambered roads. Yet you did not.”
Scrooge collapsed in the recliner, weeping. When the ghost departed, he found a few stale Oreos under the chair cushion and ate them. Then he fell asleep. The recliner, after all, was quite comfortable.
Morning broke, and light filtered gently into the room, waking Scrooge.
What glory was this? He was not in the dingy recliner, but in his own bed. And when he gingerly stepped onto the floor, Scrooge was shocked to discover there was no sensation of pain.
Astounded, he sat back down on the edge of the bed and touched the floor lightly again.
Zounds! Nothing hurt!
Scrooge ran to the window and threw open the sash, having the curious sense, for just a minute, that he had stumbled into the wrong story.
But no matter. A runner was approaching on the sidewalk. “What’s to-day?” Scrooge cried as the woman ran past.
“To-day?” she shouted in reply. “Why, it’s the Reindeer Run 10K, of course.”
“Hallo!” Scrooge replied gleefully. “Do you know the poulterer’s, in the next street, at the corner?”
But she had run on, and Scrooge wasn’t even sure why he said this. He was a vegan, which had contributed to his bad temper.
He turned back to his bed chamber and saw with relief that there was no recliner in his room, nor was there one anywhere in his house. His two pairs of running shoes, size 10 ½, moderately mud splattered, were lined up neatly by the door. His eyes fell upon the Strassburg sock balled up on the floor. He scooped it up, laughing giddily. “I shall love it, as long as I live,” he cried. “What a wonderful sock! Hallo! Whoop!”
The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he laced up his shoes, and the chuckle with which he trotted back and forth across the living room floor — painlessly! — was only exceeded by the chuckle with which he bounded out the door.
Oh! What a run he had that morning! And afterward, the stretches! Such glorious, pain-free stretches! Afterward, Scrooge showered and dressed nicely and went gladly to the finish line of the Reindeer Run, where he joyfully slapped hands and stayed cheering until the last runner crossed.
From that point on, Scrooge was a changed man. He switched out his shoes regularly and massaged his feet every Sunday afternoon. He got off the road and ran on grass and forest trails. He got pedicures. He strengthened his arches. He lost weight.
He became as good a runner, as good a human, as he could be in the good old world. He had no further intercourse with spirits, and it was said of him that he knew how to keep his feet well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
May that be truly said of us, all of us, whether we be runners or not. As Scrooge’s podiatrist, marveling at his recovery, later observed: knees can be replaced, but not feet. God bless them, every one.