The man pushed through the cheering crowd. He shook hands and high fived but there would be no speech today. He felt like he had said enough this week and the people were still energized by his last speech, still working through its meaning, its power. He waved politely one last time and passed through the automatic doors into City Hall.
He took the creaky elevator to the second floor and entered the glass walled reception area. A stoic security guard motioned toward the large wooden double doors. Inside were two men, each with spiky blonde hair and bellies that spilled over their belts onto their thighs. The baby-faced man behind the desk said, ‘Welcome Shirtless Jogger. We’ve been expecting you.’
Indeed, he was the Shirtless Jogger, the protector of Toronto. He was tall and strong and wasn’t wearing a shirt. His chest barreled like two hams in a duffel bag. It was covered in a thin layer of wolf hair. He looked at each of the men but did not show them his fear, his concern for the three people tied to the executive office chair, his shirtless family.
“What do you want?” asked the Shirtless Jogger.
“Oh come on,” said baby face, “Let’s have a drink first.”
“Let’s just get on with it.”
The one on the couch, the one with the vacant stare, unraveled a short-sleeved, baby blue polo. “All you have to do is put on a shirt.”
“Don’t do it, Papa!” his children cried. “We love you, Papa!”
The Shirtless Jogger had been stationary for ten minutes. If his children weren’t tied to that chair, he would be worried about keeping his heart rate up. “I’ll never put on that shirt.”
“Oh,” said the vacant one, “then you leave me no choice but to put it on your wife.” He moved toward the woman who had been gloriously shirtless this whole time.
“No!” He couldn’t allow it. Not to them. “Let them go and I’ll do it.”
He took the shirt and pulled it over his body. The rough material grated against his course chest hair causing sparks to erupt violently from the neck hole. Putting on the shirt was like grinding down a bouquet of rebar. Once it was on, the vacant one lit a cigar and puffed. “Looks good on you, Shirted Jogger.”
The Jogger untied his family and took them down the elevator. He told them everything was going to be alright. His children cried and said they loved him. They said he sacrificed too much.
When he stepped out of the building, the waiting crowd erupted again but it only lasted a moment. They became quiet in their confusion. The automatic door closed loudly behind him. Someone yelled. “Hey! He’s wearing a shirt!” Then came the boos. “He’s one of them!” rang another voice.
The Jogger shielded his family and rushed them away to the street. They all got in his car and sped away as the crowd pelted it with sports bottles, the symbol of their movement.
As he drove, his wife put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. The people, they turned so quickly.”
The jogger smiled weakly. “It’s okay. It’ll take time but they will learn.”
“That underneath our shirts, we are all shirtless.”