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Run for Your Lives MAG
“Run for your lives,” they say. They mean, “Run for your souls,” for nothing else is so revitalizing.
The morning sun claws its way into Ashley's bedroom, splinters of light prodding her awake.
Ashley groans. Wednesday. Ten-mile day. The two-week Alaskan cruise did wonders for her stomach capacity while dulling her motivation to do anything. She pulls herself out of bed and pushes her short black hair out of her eyes. After squinting blearily at her alarm clock, she glares at the sun. “You couldn't have waited an hour?”
Downstairs, the only food to be found is a half-eaten bag of Cheerios, probably opened by her older brother Josh earlier this morning. She takes a handful and munches as she ponders: to run, or not to run?
The sun pushes confidently through the gaps between trees; grass bends willingly to a jesting wind. The outside begs to be inhabited. But college applications await her return. Upstairs, her laptop is open and papers are strewn around the room, a grim reminder of the forms she needs to complete and the essays she must write. She dutifully climbs the stairs, plops down in her swivel chair, and pulls up an empty Word document on her laptop.
“Now write,” she tells herself sternly, blinking determinedly at the blank page. The cursor blinks expectantly back. She runs her finger across the keyboard.
“cvdgfhjklyftgsda,” says the cursor.
Ashley sighs in reply, swinging her legs restlessly. The alien glow of the laptop looks cold, and the screen seems to be shrinking, cramping her words and stifling her breath. She shudders and stands.
Her size-5 shoes hang over her bedroom door; her rumpled shorts and T-shirt lie under her desk. Even her water bottle waits, half-full, on her desk. Inspiration dangles in her reach, with rubber soles and flat laces.
“I'll be back,” she says to the cluttered room that already feels too small, even for a diminutive teenage girl.
Wednesday. Ten-mile day. She must run.
Morning traffic flows in a steady stream outside Mark's girlfriend's apartment. Mark's ex-girlfriend's apartment. Mark paces as he waits for Josh to pick up his phone.
“Can you pick me up?”
“Um, I'm at Costco. We came back from vacation and discovered that there's no food in the house.”
“I came back from vacation and discovered a guy in Kelsey's apartment. With Kelsey.”
Silence on Josh's side, then: “I'll be there in ten.”
Mark hangs up and begins kicking wayward pine cones into the street. Nine minutes later, Josh pulls up.
Mark nods in gratitude and gets into the car. He stares stonily ahead, unmoving. It is a surprise to both of them when Mark punches the glove box.
“Dude,” says Josh warily, “this is my dad's car.”
“It's okay,” says Josh. “Where to?”
“Dunno.” Mark grinds his teeth noisily.
“Want something to eat?”
“No.” Mark is now violently twisting his seatbelt.
“How about the park?”
“The park? To what … feed pigeons?”
“You need to run,” says Josh. That settles it. A ten-minute drive takes them to a park with densely packed trees and a bark trail. “Call me when you're done.”
Mark nods and gets out of the car, jogging toward the path.
He is still angry, even after an hour. A petite girl with dark hair passes him. She looks familiar.
“Shoelace,” he shouts, and points at her foot.
“Thanks. I owe you one,” she calls back, and crouches to tie it.
He jogs past, but with reduced furor. A feeling of peace begins to creep over him. Maybe not all girls are ungrateful, devious nymphs with bloodthirsty fantasies of breaking the hearts of hapless boys, Mark muses. He slows to a walk and realizes that he's hungry.
Josh answers on the first ring. “'Sup?”
“Let's eat,” says Mark, and he can sense, rather than imagine, Josh's grin.
“I am going to go to the park,” murmurs Allen, holding the phone's mouthpiece close to his dry lips.
“Go ahead,” says Todd distantly. In the background, Allen can hear Todd hissing, “Just a sec, Kelsey. It's my granddad,” and muffled giggling. “I gotta go,” he says quickly before hanging up with a sharp click.
“See you tonight,” says Allen to the dial tone. He grasps his cane, and bends to pick up the newspaper. Luckily, the park is close to his grandson's house. Cars roar through yellow lights as Allen stiffly strolls down the sidewalk. Cyclists buzz past, and even the crosswalk signal hurries him across the street with an impatient countdown: 10, 9, 8 …
As he crosses, Allen waves apologetically at the drivers who can scarcely wait to whiz onward. No one waves back. He finally arrives at the other side. The cars rush by once more.
He languidly walks the park's trails, irritating many an athlete. “On your left,” they pant, annoyed that they must waste breath directing him. He shrinks to the edge of the trail, marginalized against tree trunks and blackberry bushes.
“Morning,” gasps a young woman as she runs past. He waves in greeting, and to his dismay, sees her trip on her shoelace.
“Are you all right?” he calls, shuffling toward her.
She laughs reassuringly. “I'm fine. This lace just keeps coming untied today.”
Allen stands on the side of the trail as the girl ties her shoe, wondering if he should keep moving, as everyone has been urging him to. “Be careful to, ah, I mean, don't try to do anything if something else is undone,” he says clumsily, and resumes his measured pace.
“I'll remember that,” she says, smiling thoughtfully. “And don't you hurry either.” And as she jogs away, the renewal in the air is tangible.