The Long River Run This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The Long River Run by H. M., Georgetown, MA

Wind whipped the runner's face, and each pelting footstep sent shock waves up his taut calves. The long expanse of the Park Street Bridge hung out over the swollen river, its pounding drowning out the traffic. This was the one chance to get away from the eternal et ceteras of the cramped laboratory, from the deafening noise of construction machinery building high-rises. It was only the blood rushing through his veins and the energy surging past his loins, the pure thrill of rushing water and cold air shaken by rolling thunder that set him free. Lights painted a panorama of sculpture on the bridge, while below on the right, a churning whirlpool swept toward the overflowing dam near the dark brick power plant. It was a mysterious scene, pervaded by humanity, yet strangely lonely, a paradox of peacefulness and potential violence, lending a heightened tingle to his already slick skin.

Martin Bradley pushed the corner and sped up the curving ramp that led to the bridge spanning the highway. His breath came in ragged gasps, and spittle trickled down his chin. He wiped it away and grinned, face hidden in darkness as he left the cones of light below and descended to the dark hulks of the science laboratories nestled in their landscaped walkways. It was a beautiful scene at 10: 30, the clouds backlit by the city lights and the trees reaching leafy fingertips to the horizon. Puffing, he hiked his knees higher, grimacing at the pain in his back as he rounded a bend and sighted the cancer hospital and the med library, its grey angled facade fronted by spiky flowers.

His watch told him he'd been going for fifteen minutes. Every step was killing him, but he didn't want to stop. God, no, he laughed, if I do that I won't be able to move for a week. It was a high, a thrill beyond expression. The hours never seemed to end when the only activity was to sit and wonder at the world beyond his little cubbyhole, and finally he was out, gone in a blast of air and a shudder of lightning. It was a resurrection, there was no other explanation. The body of one Martin Bradley, middle-aged scientist and single father of three, hurt all over, but it was the best feeling he'd known in months.

Slowing to a shuffle, he jogged past the general hospital and debated whether he should take a break. A bus sped into the entrance loop and stopped, beckoning to the people lining the stone benches. He considered the air conditioning and the relaxation and disregarded it in a flurry of footfalls, defying the power of modern technology. For the strangest reason he burst into a mischievous giggle and sprinted the bus to the road, losing by about ten feet. It could have been worse, he reflected.

Tennis courts, parking lot, field house, dormitories, the route was laid out in orange construction cones and dirt mounds. Looking over his left shoulder, he made it across the street, catching a few catcalls from a group of snickering students. He felt the surge of adrenaline hit as he arced over the highway a second time, a quarter mile from the last bridge. In no time he was looking down at the lights grazing the surface of the dam. Waves six feet tall spilled down over the top, metal bars and logs the size of his body swept with the ease of a stream pushing a twig. The noise was deafening, more so because of the generators and turbines inside the dam's power plant, whose chimneys flashed with red lights. The scene was an expression of massive power, the river proving its danger time and time again. Lately he'd exploited the thrill associated with this part of his route, the inherent terror of the river crossing, by imagining himself plummeting into the menacing whirlpools caused by the current. Hadn't it been just two days ago when three kids in a boat had nearly drowned?

Thankful for the road and the sight of the Quik Trip variety store, he cut across the railroad tracks and skirted the main library's parking lot. It was only a matter of minutes to the Union building and the laser lab. Beyond was his ultimate challenge, the near vertical hill by the faculty garage, which he'd affectionately named The Bitch. The last time he'd attempted it, he'd gone for a digger on the concrete. This time, the lady would be his.

And so Martin Bradley completed his long river run. The rows of stadium lights around the garage and the basketball fields lit his route like he was some kind of big track star hitting the finish. Was it only in his mind that he imagined the skateboarders stopping to smile and the young officer in the squad car giving him a wave? Or was it, he asked himself, cresting the top of the hill with his arms swinging, that life had suddenly been renewed by a gift of God?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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