Read It and Write a Review

I’m done with the first draft of my serial narrative, “Runner.” I started writing it about a year ago, and now it’s about 8,500 words long.

Thank you much for your support. It is so wonderful to have devoted readers.

With your help, I’m going to push my story to the next level. I want to know what parts you liked. If you give me some feedback, I’ll send you an annotated version of my novella. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated.

This PDF is the updated version of “Runner.” (As I wrote it, I went back and tweaked a few things.)

Runner – Parts 1-19

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Runner – The End

This is the last chapter of my serial novella, “Runner.” Thank you so much for your support!

Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part 19

I walked with Angel to the bus stop. The town had lost half its population with the departure of students, and it felt deserted.

“I’ll miss this town,” Angel said. “But now I won’t have to drive 45 minutes to Chipotle.”

I laughed. “You’re gonna go on a fast food binge?”

“Chipotle isn’t fast food!”

“You know what I mean.”

The bus stopped at the curb. Angel handed her suitcase to the driver and he stowed it inside. We were left standing together.

I had thought about this moment for a long time. But I was nowhere close to figuring it out — Angel was an enigma to me. She was a mentor and friend. And I couldn’t deny I was attracted to her too.

“I hope the audition goes well,” I said.

“Thanks. Me too.”

We embraced briefly.

“Good-bye, blondie.”

She got onto the bus, the driver started the engine, and the bus drove away. I watched. I imagined myself chasing the bas and catching it. But I didn’t have any words to say if I caught it so I stood still.

The waning sun stained the sky with streaks of gold, and its last rays hurt my eyes. I had no reason to stay in this town. It had been stripped of importance for me, reduced to an empty house. I had come here for an education, and when the school closed I stayed for my friends. Now they were gone too, and all I had left were memories superimposed on empty streets and vacant buildings.

I smiled. I turned and started walking back to my dorm room, my hands shoved into my pockets. Sometimes memories are enough.

Runner – Part 18

This is the second to last chapter of my serial narrative, “Runner.” I will be posting the finale on July 18.

Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part 18

Angel slammed the door open when she reached the top of the stairs. I heard the two Hatters shout at us. We shoved past knots of people and headed for the door. The party continued around us.

Angel and I burst out of the front door and had almost reached the street before the bouncers on the porch reacted. The two Hatters from the basement shouted at us and tried to chase us. But we were too fast. Our pursuers soon stumbled to a halt, red-faced and barking expletives.

I started to slow down, but Angel grabbed my wrist and pulled me along.

“We need to get off this street before the police get here,” she said.

“What? Why are the police coming here?” I said.

“I had Evan call them.”

We cut through an alley and onto another street. I heard police sirens howling in the direction of Travis’s house. We looked at each other and suddenly we were laughing — we had walked into the dragon’s den and survived. Together, we jogged back to the House.

The town had finally calmed down. The police arrested Travis and two of his housemates for possessing of cocaine and methamphetamine. So far, none of them had said anything, but the police knew they were part of a larger organization.

Shake disappeared as soon as he was released from the hospital. I don’t think anybody knows where he went.

Paulo left the town early in case the Hatter tried something. We had one last, big party at the House before Paulo left. Deacon bought some pizzas at Pizza Express in Cadiz.

Evan said, “This is finals week. Right now.”

It was a good night. At one point, Deacon raised his can of Arnold Palmer and asked for our attention. He smiled at us.

“I’m glad we have this time together before we say good-bye. I will miss all of you. But this is truth: A seed must die before it can produce a harvest. The New Athens club will end, but this is just the beginning.”

Deacon raised his can of Arnold Palmer. We raised our plastic cups, glasses, and beer bottles.

“Run free,” he said.

“Run free!” we cried.

Runner – Part 17

This is Part 17 of my serial narrative, “Runner.” Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part 17

I followed Angel across the lawn and up to the front door. I was carrying a 6-pack of beer that Angel had bought earlier. Three guys were sitting on the porch. One of them stood and pointed at me, “Scram freshman. We’ve already got a bad ratio.”

Angel said, “If you don’t let in my cousin, we’re both leaving.”

Before they could respond, I said, “You guys want any beers?”

“Give them to me,” the leader said.

We walked into the house. The Friday night party had already started, the music pounded into the walls, and bottles littered the tops of tables. Angel grabbed my arm and breathed into my ear, “We split up.”

I walked into the raucous clamor alone. Paulo had shown me a picture of Travis. I was supposed to pose as a druggie looking for a score, just one of Shake’s crowd that needed a new supplier.

I recognized a few people, but I didn’t know them. I finally spotted the target in a side room. He was sitting on a couch and smoking a fat cigar. I walked by the room twice, getting up my nerve. Finally, I wandered into the room and sat down. He ignored me.

“Hey, you’re Travis, right?”

He looked at me for a moment. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m a friend of Shake. He skipped town or something. Can you help me out?”

I pulled out some bills that the other had fronted me. Travis stared at the cash then looked up at me.

“Wait here.”

He got up and left. After a minute, Travis stepped back into the door frame.

“Come on,” he said and beckoned.

I followed him. He walked to a closed door that led to the basement, He went down first. I looked around when I got to the bottom of the stairs. A washer and dryer, some cardboard boxes, a ceremonial mask. Travis was standing by an empty workbench.

He didn’t speak.

Two guys came down the stairs. I figured these two were Hatter enforcers. I felt the cold rush of adrenaline dumping into my system. I was trapped.

“Who are you?” Travis said.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Who are you?” Travis demanded. “Shake isn’t a friend of mine. I want to know why you know about me.”

“I already told you. Shake talked about you.”

Travis gestured, and the two guys grabbed me. Travis stepped closer. “What’s your name, punk?”

The noise from upstairs became noticeably louder — someone had opened the door. Someone started walking down the stairs. The two Hatters loosened their grip on me but didn’t release me.

I craned my neck to look over my shoulder. It was Angel. She was holding a red cup and looking perplexed.

“Is the bathroom down here?” she asked.

All three of them stared at her for a moment.

“Sorry babe, no bathroom down here,” Travis said. “How about you run back upstairs?”

“The bathroom isn’t down here?” she said.

He walked around me to escort her back upstairs. Angel kicked Travis in the stomach and slammed her knee into the head as he bent over. He crumpled to the concrete floor like a boneless animal.

I had been waiting for her to do something. I yanked free before the two Hatters could recover.

“Run!” I yelled.

Angel turned around and bounded up the stairs. I followed her.

Runner – Part 16

This is Part 16 of my serial narrative, “Runner.” Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part 16

The address belonged to a frat house a few blocks off Main Street. Beer bottles and trash littered the yard.

“What do you think?” I asked.

We were sitting in the van and watching the house.

“We don’t know if they’re cooking the meth in the house,” Deacon said. “They might not even have any meth in there.”

“Shake didn’t know anything else,” I said.

Deacon grinned. “We’ve got enough information to work with. Let’s get back to the House.”

He twisted the key and the old van coughed to life.

Back at the House, we put together a plan of action.

“We need to stick this to the Hatters,” Paulo said. “Bloody them and put the spotlight on them. The Hatters will crumble if we can put enough police pressure on them.”

“So what do we do? We can’t just walk in,” Evan said.

“I’ve got an idea,” Angel said. She smiled at us.

Runner – Part 15

This is Part 15 of my serial narrative, “Runner.” Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part 15

We decided to continue their efforts to subvert the Mad Hatters. Ryan articulated the group’s feeling when he said, “I came here 3 years ago for school. Now it’s my home.”

Deacon suggested that we should talk to Shake in the hospital. The group agreed and picked me to visit the injured drug dealer.

I went to the hospital the next day to see Shake.

I walked up to the nurses’ station, and I stammered as I said Shake’s real name. Shake was, of course, a nickname. A stage name.

I went to his room and pushed the door open.

His face looked like someone had used it for violent, radical psychotherapy. He was sitting up in bed, both eyes black and puffy. I put his phone on the bedside table. We stared at each other for a bit.

“What happened?” I finally asked.

“I went back for my other stash of meth.” Shake smirked. “I’m no fool. Any dealer worth his bread won’t hide his junk in just one place.”

His smile faded. “That’s when they jumped me. Those Hatter thugs had been waiting for me. They beat me up and took the rest of the meth.”

He touched his swollen cheek and said, “They really gave me a makeover.”

“Did you know the guys that jumped you?”

“Nah, never seen them before,” Shake said. “I’m not really part of the Hatters. I can’t believe you’re messing with them. I’m getting out of town as soon as I’m released. This town is a bomb waiting to be poked.”

He looked at me. “You guys still serious about messing with the Hatter?”

I nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m going to give you the address of my meth supplier. Give me some paper.”

I handed him a notepad from the table and a pen marked “[Redacted] Memorial Hospital.” Shake scribbled on the notepad then handed it back to me.

“His name is Travis, and that’s where he lives. I don’t know if he’s the only one that lives there. I’ve only been inside twice.”

I ripped off the page and stuffed it into my pocket.

“Thanks. Sorry about your face.””

He shrugged. “Life is about collecting scars, brother.”

Runner – Part 11

This is Part 11 of my serial narrative, “Runner.”

You can enter the adventure two ways:

  1. Download a PDF from the link here. The PDF will contain Parts 1-11. Or …
  2. Read the post below. (Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part XI

I stayed. My parents protested my decision at first, but I was able to convince them after a few talks. My plan was to use my extra time to apply to colleges and study for CLEP tests. Some students fled as soon as they could pack. Deacon and Evan and Angel stayed.

One afternoon, Deacon called me and asked me to come to the House.

When I arrived, Deacon opened the door and led me into the living room. Paulo was already standing in the room, his dreadlocks nestled in the hood of his sweatshirt. We nodded to each other.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Some guy near here has started selling cocaine,” Paulo said. “He’s a small-timer, selling weed and getting high with his stoner friends. But now he’s dealing crack. The only people in the coke business are the Hatters.”

“The Hatters are using the confusion to expand,” Deacon said. “We’re going to have a little talk with him.”

The three of us walked over to the house. The house was a two-story building. There was a large window on the ground floor, but orange curtains concealed whatever room was behind it.

Paulo knocked on the door, “Hey Shake, open up.”

Shake opened the door a sliver like we were a winter wind. A pungent smell flowed out of the door. It smelled like freshly cut grass. He was wearing a loose tank top that hung off him. Long, tangled brown hair.

“Hey, Paulo. Thought you were walkin’ the line.”

“I am. My friends want to have a word.”

“Yeah? About what?” Shake asked. He was staring at Deacon and me now. Deacon stepped forward.

“My name is Deacon. Listen, I’m going to get right to it. I know you’re selling crack out of here, and I can’t allow you to deal that in my neighborhood.”

Shake lifted his hands, palms open, “Whoa brother. I’m just chilling here, and you accuse me of being some kind of drug lord.”

“Shut up,” Paulo said. “Everybody on this street knows you sell pot. We know you started pushing meth for the Hatters.”

The young man’s face froze for a moment — lips parted, eyes unblinking.

“I d-don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“We know that the Hatters are supplying you,” Deacon said. “You’re in a tough spot, Shake. We can give you protection. Then you can disappear.”

A sheen of sweat covered Shake’s forehead.

“I don’t have to talk to you guys. I’m gonna close the door now.”

“Wait …”

Before he closed the door, Shake pointed a finger at us, “Nobody crosses the Hatter. No-body.”

Runner – Part 8

This is Part 8 of my serial narrative, “Runner.”

You can enter the adventure two ways:

  1. Download a PDF from the link here. The PDF will contain Parts 1-8. Or …
  2. Read the post below. (Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part VIII

Time passed. My classmates measured time by how many days until Friday, how many weeks until exams. How many months a couple had been dating. I recognized this from high school. But now I felt separated from the cycle.

I continued my parkour training with Angel. I was surprised that it was mentally rigorous. I knew it would be physically challenging — but I didn’t know it would be mentally tough.

You’ve been waiting for this part of the story. How it all fell apart. This is the real story of [redacted] — raw and unfiltered.

I can tell you. I was there.

It was March, two months before graduation. On a Friday night, the school’s alternative paper published a story saying [redacted] might lose accreditation next year. Their source was a trustee that had accidentally let the information slip to one of the paper’s reporters.

Normally the university library was open until midnight. But on that night, the library closed at 9 p.m. and security guards escorted students outside. The honor students and bookworms were infuriated, but most of us were too drunk to notice. The administration had cancelled classes on Monday because of “preventative building maintenance,” and the campus was preparing for a wild three-day weekend.

Saturday began quiet, but questions were being asked. A student posted on Twitter: “the library is still CLOSED! whats going on??”

I remember when it happened. I was sitting in my dorm room alone on Saturday evening because my roommate was out partying or something. A male student stepped into my doorway and said, “Check your e-mail.”

He was gone before I could ask why. I opened my school e-mail and saw a message from the university president. I stared at my screen, trying to absorb the news.

We are deeply sorry to inform everyone that [school name redacted] has been forced to close its doors. The remaining classes of this semester are cancelled. We will make every possible effort to provide information that will help our students complete their programs of study at an alternative university. Please watch your e-mail for further information.

I texted Deacon and the other Pathfinders: “did u read the email?” Evan responded almost instantly, “Ya. things r gonna get crazy.”

The news hit the campus like T-12 Cloudmaker demolition bomb. Facebook and Twitter exploded – it was like election night. We began to piece together the puzzle. This was when students realized that certain buildings were locked and barred, including the library and the president’s office.

Everyone wanted to know why the school was closed, but the administration was silent. Eventually, I called my parents that night and told them the news. My father was angry. I promised to forward him the e-mail from the president.

The campus was restless on Sunday night, a city the first night after a military coup. Everyone was angry and confused. I lay in bed with my stomach clenched and finally fell asleep sometime after 1 a.m.

Runner – Part 7

This is Part 7 of my serial narrative, “Runner.” Disclaimer: this post has some language.

You can enter the adventure two ways:

  1. Download a PDF from the link here. The PDF will contain Parts 1-7. Or …
  2. Read the post below. (Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.

***

Part VII

I continued my parkour sessions with Ava. Sometimes we met in the park, sometimes we didn’t. Other Pathfinders joined us on rare occasions, but most of the time it was only Ava and me. After a Friday session, we walked back toward the House. Ava stopped at a convenience store.

“I’m going to buy some wine,” she said.

I stayed outside. The night was alive: Students were drawn to the convenience store like bugs attracted to a light. These kinds of places catered to the college crowd — making a killer profit on junk food, energy drinks, cigarettes, and booze.

Angel came out with a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag.

“It’s Moscato,” she said. “It’s sweet. I think you’ll like it.”

On our way back to the House, we passed frat houses with students holding beer bottles and red plastic cups. I could hear the sound of the music but stripped of any vocals or melody. Only raw bass.

Two young men lounged outside a frat house. They were wearing flat-brim baseball caps.

“Hey baby, you’re looking good,” one of them said. “Wanna come inside and party with us?”

Angel ignored them. The two frat boys moved to block our way.

“Come on,” he said. “Wanna come inside and party? You can bring blondie if you want.”

Angel shook her head. “Not interested.”

The alpha male smiled, wide and slow. “You know who we are? We’re Mad Hatters!”

“Well, my name isn’t Alice,” she told them.

He frowned and put his hand on her arm. Angel yanked her arm way and said, “Don’t touch me again.”

The alpha male leaned forward and whispered something to her.

Angel smashed the wine bottle against his head. I swear she hit him in sync with the bass drop from the party.

His friend lunged toward Angel, but I stepped between them. The Hatter swung a fist at me, I jerked away, and his forearm bounced off the side of my head. I shoved him hard with both arms.

“Back down, asshole,” Ava said.

We both looked at her. She was still holding the bottle, the wine was bleeding out and soaking the paper bag. “You better take care of your friend,” she said. “He had a nasty fall.”

The first Hatter was lying curled up on the ground, moaning. His friend cursed us.

Angel jogged away from the frat house and I followed. She led me down several side streets and tossed the cracked bottle in a dumpster. Finally, we slowed to a walk. I glanced over and saw Angel was shaking, her arms and clenched hands trembling like a guitar string releasing its last note. Her face was blank. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what.

Eventually she said, “Such a waste of good wine.”

I walked with Angel to the House and said good-bye. The night was dark and cold, but I didn’t mind walking back to my dorm alone. I wore the darkness and solitude like an old leather jacket.

Runner – Part VI

This is Part 6 of my serial narrative, “Runner.”

You can enter the adventure two ways:

  1. Download a PDF from the link here. The PDF will contain Parts 1-6. Or …
  2. Read the post below. (Here’s a link to Runner – Part I if you haven’t read that yet.)

***

Part VI

Ava and I agreed to meet at a local park for lessons. She was sitting on top of a picnic table when I arrived. She pushed off with her hands, landed on the ground in one languid movement, and walked up to me. She was wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt.

“Do you need to warm up?”

I shook my head.

“You’re going to learn some basic vaults today,” she said. “It’s obvious that you’re athletic. But parkour requires a strong mind as well as a strong body. It’s more like a martial art than a sport.”

Ava pointed at the table.

“This is your training partner for today,” she said. “Meet Mr. Table.”

The table was a wooden picnic table, solid and rugged.

She smiled. “You can view the table as an obstacle. Or as a path. ‘There is no spoon.’”

Angel ran forward and leaped over the table. She lifted her legs to the side so they passed over the table. As she went over, she touched the table for stability.

“That’s a speed vault,” she said.

Angel demonstrated the vault again. “You’re not using your hand to push off. It’s just a guide.”

She had me try it next. I ran and jumped and vaulted over. It was over in an instant. The movement felt natural. After a while, Ava said, “Okay, I’m going to teach you the Kong vault next.”

She ran toward the table, leaped forward, pushed off with both hands, and soared over the table. She landed firmly.

“Stand over there,” she ordered, pointing to the narrow part of the table. “You’ll get a side view of the vault.”

She launched herself over the table again. For an instant before she touched the table, she was parallel to the ground. The Kong vault looked unnatural — it looked like I would hit my feet.

Angel might have sensed my trepidation. She told me to shorten the move by jumping onto the table before attempting the full vault. I did that twice. I had to try the vault now.

I stared at the table, a knot forming in my belly, the familiar tickle of adrenaline surged through me. Ava’s presence made me uncomfortable.

I charged the table and jumped. I pushed off with my hands, and suddenly — I was soaring, almost flying, my body unlocked from gravity’s chains. Then it was over. My feet hit the ground.

A warm glow filled me. Angel smiled and said, “Behold, the king.”