I live in a beach town, only not anywhere near the ocean. My mom and my brother and I have a dumpy little two bedroom house that my mom says “we’re lucky to have because: one, it’s a house, and two, the landlord takes Section 8,” which if you don’t know, is a kind of system where the government helps pay your rent. Which we need since even though my mom works two jobs, she gets paid peanuts. She explains this is “because I didn’t go to college and you and brother are. definitely. going.to.college.” Yeah, she says it just like that. Every time, at least twice a day.
I get home from school first. Most of the time, I like having the house to myself. I have my own room, but since my mom sleeps on the couch in the living room, she keeps her stuff in my room and gets ready for work while I get ready for school. We have a schedule and Mom runs it like a….well, I can’t think of anything that keeps on schedule as perfectly as Mom.
Like how she comes home from her second job on Sunday and goes right into the kitchen to cut up vegetables and stuff so we can have homemade suppers. Fast food is definitely.not.allowed. That was me saying it that way. Personally, I wouldn’t mind an occasional sack of burgers and fries.
Anyway, for the past couple months I’ve been antsy. It’s winter most everywhere else but here we have highs in the 70s, sun and your basic spring weather. Once I do my homework and chores, I usually read or work on our vegetable garden. About three weeks ago, I finished a book about Abebe Bikila, an African guy who ran the marathon in the Olympics. He only got added to the team at the last minute when the main dude got hurt. And get this: he didn’t like the shoes his coach brought so he ran it barefoot. He won the whole thing, too.
I wasn’t so inspired that I felt like running without shoes, but I did pull out my Chucks from under the bed. ‘Why not?’ I thought. So I headed out for a run. We live near a river and there’s a decent bridge over it where I’d seen people walking and running. That’s where I went.
Running felt good. It was about a half-mile to the bridge. There’s the challenge: my state is pretty flat, except for bridges. I started the uphill, feeling it in my legs, my lungs. I was on the pedestrian side. There’s a low wall between it and the bike lane, which is next to traffic. And you know where my mom would have wanted me.
The sun’s starting to let us know it’s gearing up for the evening show. Over to my left, in the bike lane, is this old lady, running. She smiles, nods, and speeds up. What is this, some runner challenge? OK, I’m in. Bam! We’re crazy running like 10 year olds over the bridge. I get ahead of her, but dang if she doesn’t pass me on the downhill. What? I mean, she has grey hair and all.
At the end, she waves and runs on toward downtown. I turn around and run home, kind of wondering if she’ll be there tomorrow.