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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 34. Chapter 34: Keeping Up

Keeping Up

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

November 10

So I got up Tuesday morning to run with Kaz. He met me at the track in the pre-dawn darkness. I was shivering in my basketball shorts and strawberry t-shirt – and brand new running shoes. I wasn’t just shivering. I was damn cold. Of course, I’d been there way early, sneaking out of the school to avoid running into the janitors on their way in.

That wasn’t something I wanted to explain.

Kaz loomed out of the darkness, dressed in sweatpants and a hoodie.

“Hey, Andy, you made it.”

How the hell can he manage to be so cheerful about this?

“Yup. Right here.” I kept it short, so Kaz wouldn’t hear my teeth chattering.

“Time for a quick stretch, right?”

I nodded, and Kaz showed me how to get ready to run.

“Now, I figure, we’d better do the track to start, OK? That way, you can run with me for a while, and then I can take my own pace. Fair?”

Another nod.

And off we went. At first, Kaz let me set a pretty sedate jog for a pace, and we ran together. I guess at this pace, Kaz could still breathe and talk, but between the cold and the unusual exercise, I was puffing a bit.

“I gotta tell you, Andy, I really appreciate your doing this.”

I really didn’t have to nod, as he went on, anyhow.

“I mean, I just gotta run, no matter what, you know? But this is the problem – I really like to run with people. It’s just not as much fun to run all by yourself, especially when it’s early morning and dark out.”

Another partial nod.

“So what happened on Saturday? We were looking all over for you, couldn’t find you.”

It’s not as easy as you think to shrug while you’re running, but I managed it.

“You really need to give Terry your phone number, so she can track you down.”

Another shrug.

We went round and round the track like this. Kaz really couldn’t stop talking. I don’t think he really expected me to reply, which was just as well. He just needed someone to hear what he was saying.

“OK, now it’s time to put on some speed.”

Speed? I hadn’t been sprinting, but I sure wasn’t jogging, either. I couldn't protest, and in a moment, Kaz had kicked off and started pulling away at astonishing speed. Soon, I could barely make out his legs flashing on the far side of the darkened track. Before I knew it, Kaz had passed me the way cars had whizzed by me on the highway last summer.

Damn, he can really run.

His example goaded me into trying harder. I wasn't about to let Kaz run away just like that. I pushed a little harder, picked up my pace a little. This time, it took Kaz a little longer to get all the way around to pass me. That ought to teach him. I kept trying to push a little more, and a little more. No way could I catch him, but I sure could make it harder for him to catch me. I ran like that for I don’t know how long.

Eventually, though, my lungs gave out, and I had to slow down. The cold was doing me in. Kaz passed me again, then slowed to my pace.

I wanted to stop altogether, but Kaz wouldn’t let me.

“Gotta keep moving, Andy,” he encouraged me, all but pushing me forward, “Can’t stand still. You’ll thank me tomorrow for this.”

Maybe. But right then, I wanted to kill him. Soon we were jogging slowly around the track together. Kaz kept up a steady stream of one-sided conversation while I panted and puffed.

When we finally came to a halt, I was soaked with cold sweat.

“Not bad for your first time, Andy. Are you sure you’ve never run before?”

I shook my head.

“Right. Final stretch, and then we can head in for a shower.”

As before, I followed Kaz’s lead, letting him point out exactly what I should be doing. Come to think of it, Kaz is going to be a damn fine coach one day.

As we headed inside, we grabbed our bags from the bleachers.

“You know, Andy, you really ought to wear something warmer tomorrow.”

No shit, Kaz, I thought to myself. I didn’t say it out loud. I wasn’t going to have Kaz or anyone else buying me sweats, too. Time for me to raid the lost and found.

There are problems with using the lost and found as a clothing store. First off, you don’t always find your size. Second, if you choose something that looks even a little distinctive, people can figure out you’re wearing their stuff. Suddenly, they’re all in your face about stealing and threatening to beat the shit out of you. It’s no use telling them that they lost it all by themselves, or that you’ll give the stuff back. There’s a good chance that you get beaten up anyway. This happened to me at Carlsberg more than a couple of times. Thanks, Dad.

Inside, I picked the farthest shower stall, the one up against the wall. Kaz is so tall, he can see over the partitions, which most people can’t. I wanted a stall where I could always face him, so he’d never see my back.

I shouldn’t have worried. Kaz picked a stall several away from mine, but still.

The hot water felt wonderful and did a lot to revive my spirits. It was hard not to linger, but I wanted to be out and dressed before Kaz.

I indulged myself in a double breakfast that morning.

Wednesday morning, we were at it again. And today. It’s getting better, slowly. At least the sweats I snagged from the lost and found fit me reasonably well, and Kaz isn’t asking any questions.

Thank God he’s got states this weekend, so I won’t have to go with him on Saturday or Sunday. Zander must be a saint, because I understand he went running with Kaz seven days a week.

Yesterday, I discovered that Zander just stays at school until swim practice. Mr. Karpus lets Zander work in the Art room until his team gets into the pool around six; then he swims and goes home after. At least, that’s what he told me when I asked him about it.

I don't really understand how swim practices work. Zander said that his times in the pool will vary day by day, so that different groups on the team can rotate time slots in the pool. Apparently, the divers don't want to wait until late every night and I can't blame them for that.

But it also means Zander has to swim at six, then at five, then at six in the morning, then at eight in the evening, and so on. As I said, I don't really get it, but I'm glad I'm not Zander, anyhow. Up at six to swim? Not me. Of course, if someone had told me a year ago that I'd be getting up even earlier to go running in the chilly darkness, well, I'd have told that someone to have his head examined.

Zander has a new, shorter haircut. I guess it's for swimming or something. It makes him look even more lovely than before, if that’s possible. It made me run my hand through my own hair. Maybe I could afford a haircut again, sometime. Hell, I shouldn't fool myself into thinking Zander will notice. Or care. I saw him working away after art class at his worktable, so I walked up. I felt very brave, somehow. Since when do I walk up to boys and talk to them? Especially straight boys I have a crush on.

“Hey, Zander.”

He looked up and hurried to cover his work with a large sheet of paper.

“What’s up, Andy?” he asked.

“You staying here?”

“Yeah, trying to get farther along on this project.”

“Is that one of the sketches you did of me?”

“Maybe,” he said with a sly grin.

“Can I see?”

“Nope. Not yet.”

“But you will let me see it someday.”

“If it’s any good.”

I nodded. I wanted to tell him that, of course, it would be good – but something in his tone told me that he didn’t need to hear that right now.

“Kaz says you’re a real running machine.” This from Zander.

“Kaz needs to have his head examined.” I growled. “How long are you here for?”

“Until swim practice at five, tonight. Then home for dinner.”

An awkward pause.

“Oh. Well. Sorry to interrupt your work.”

“No problem,” Zander smiled.

That smile lit up the rest of my day, and kept me up late into the night.

 

November 16

I continue to run with Kaz every morning. It’s beginning to feel like a good habit. It's cold, but the sweats really help. Last Friday, Kaz insisted that he’d meet me Monday morning early as usual, no matter what happened at States.

I’m coming to the conclusion that Kaz is an incredibly good guy. He is exactly what he appears to be, and completely sincere. Terry is lucky to be his girlfriend. I can say that. I don't have a crush on Kaz, but he's one of those people who make you feel like you made his day when you meet. Yes, he lives on ‘planet running,’ as Zander puts it, but Kaz seems to live to encourage and support people. Why, oh, why didn’t he have a clone in Carlsberg?

Apparently, he did really, really well at States. He’ll get to go on to some big national thing in North Carolina after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. I don't really understand the big deal about the holiday. Dad and I never celebrated it (we never celebrated anything), and I don't really remember what we did when Mom was around. In fact, I don't even know when that happens. Note to self: look up when Thanksgiving is.

Today, at lunch, with Kaz and Zander looking on, Terry hit me with a question I’d been dreading.

“Andy, how come I don’t have your phone number?”

I shrugged. Standard answer.

“Zander doesn’t have it, and Kaz said I should ask you.”

I kept my head down and focused on my lunch. Perhaps the question would go away.

I could feel three pairs of eyes boring into me.

Truth. It sucks, but I went with a version of the truth.

“I don’t have one.”

When silence greeted that reply, I elaborated, looking up at her: “I don’t have a phone.”

“Really?”

“It’s OK, really." I thought about how to say this without telling too many lies. "My Dad…he drives a truck, and there isn't a lot of money." Mentally, I counted how much money sat in the bottom of my pack. "Anyway, he doesn't want me to have one.”

True enough, I guess. Dad didn’t want any phone at all at home. He carried a cell, but that was it.

“What about your mom? Wouldn’t she want you to have a phone?”

It was about time this question came up, too.

“I don’t have a mom. It's just me…and Dad. My Mom left about eight years ago. Haven’t heard from her since.”

Now it was the turn of Zander and Kaz to look at their lunches with great interest. Damn. I didn’t want to make a huge thing of it. Didn't want anyone to be uncomfortable. Didn't want anyone to notice.

“Well, no wonder I couldn’t text you last weekend. How can I find you this weekend, then?” Terry asked, recovering.

“I’m working.” This is my last weekend with Mrs. M for a while.

“All weekend? All Saturday night?”

“No. I get some time off for good behavior.”

That got a little laughter from Kaz and Zander on the other side of the table.

“So how about we meet up at the movie theater out at the plaza on Saturday?”

I assumed she meant the big multi-screen place out by the Wal-Mart.

“Movies start around six. How’s that?” Terry pressed.

Why not? If I scrimped a little on next week’s food, I could manage it. Maybe. I figured I could finish at the Abbotts, hustle back to school and shower, then walk over to the theaters by six. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a movie. Besides, who wouldn’t take the chance to hang out with Zander?

“Good,” I said tentatively.

Terry looked across the table, and there were nods. Nobody was going to cross Terry when she got into organizing things.

“Fine. And Kaz and Zander are going to let me choose the movie.”

Twin groans from across the table greeted that one. I looked on, confusion written all over my face.

“She’s going to pick a chick flick, man,” laughed Zander. “Bring a pillow.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I let it go with a shrug. We’ll see what this all means later, I guess. In the meantime, there’s plenty of homework to be done, lots of writing to do.

Time to anticipate.

I remain deeply indebted to Craftingmom for her guidance and careful editing of this and every chapter.

Please leave a review. Comments, critiques, questions or remarks of any kind are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Sigh, Terry - and I bet she didn't feel uncomfortable for very long after forcing two sad truths out of Andy. :rolleyes: Oh well, at least running with Kaz is a good experience.

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On 12/02/2015 07:28 AM, Timothy M. said:

Sigh, Terry - and I bet she didn't feel uncomfortable for very long after forcing two sad truths out of Andy. :rolleyes: Oh well, at least running with Kaz is a good experience.

Well, that was fast! Don't know how uncomfortable she was made by her own questioning. That may remain to be seen sometime in the far future. How wonderful it would be if we all could have an encouraging friend like Kaz. Thanks for your reading and your review!

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I think Andy should be grateful Terry is persistent. Without anyone butting in, Andy would never leave the security behind his own walls. The friends definitely have a plan! Just hope they don't spook him.

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On 12/02/2015 07:49 AM, Puppilull said:

I think Andy should be grateful Terry is persistent. Without anyone butting in, Andy would never leave the security behind his own walls. The friends definitely have a plan! Just hope they don't spook him.

His friends may not have a plan, but Terry is nothing if not determined. Andy certainly hates to get out from behind his barriers, you have that right. Thanks for reading and reviewing again!

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Well it was bound to happen, asking about personal things like, where do you live, what is your phone number and all the other things that your friends ask you! How is Andy going to handle all of this? What happened to his report card? Or has it not come out yet? So many unanswered questions. Lots to look forward too. Another good chapter

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On 12/02/2015 08:06 AM, slapshot said:

Well it was bound to happen, asking about personal things like, where do you live, what is your phone number and all the other things that your friends ask you! How is Andy going to handle all of this? What happened to his report card? Or has it not come out yet? So many unanswered questions. Lots to look forward too. Another good chapter

Andy has deflected nearly all of these kinds of questions with a shrug, or if that won't do, something vague and general. This is the first time he's had to be specific - and this means admitting his poverty, if nothing else. His report card appears to have gone astray, but that's one of the many unanswered questions, as you observe. Thank you so very much for reading and for staying with the story so far. I appreciate your reviews!

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I guess it was bound to happen. You can't become friends with a small group, especially that small, without coming under scrutiny and having them want to get into your personal life a bit. Haha ...all the things Andy doesn't want. But, it comes with the territory, as he's discovering.

 

I think his friendship with Kaz might be a key for him. He seems completely at ease with him and perceives zero threat ...which in itself is something. But the friendship between Kaz and Zander is going to do something at sometime in the (near, I hope) future.

 

Plus he's building up stamina if he ever needs to run away! ;)

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On 12/02/2015 12:47 PM, skinnydragon said:

I guess it was bound to happen. You can't become friends with a small group, especially that small, without coming under scrutiny and having them want to get into your personal life a bit. Haha ...all the things Andy doesn't want. But, it comes with the territory, as he's discovering.

 

I think his friendship with Kaz might be a key for him. He seems completely at ease with him and perceives zero threat ...which in itself is something. But the friendship between Kaz and Zander is going to do something at sometime in the (near, I hope) future.

 

Plus he's building up stamina if he ever needs to run away! ;)

Andy's pulled between the need to hide, and the need to be open with his new friends. His conditioned caution and wariness will probably lead him to make decisions about what absolutely must stay hidden, and what can be revealed. This chapter gave us a good idea of how that might play out someday. The friendship with Kaz can hardly be anything but positive. Thanks so much for your perceptive review, and for continuing to read the story!

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Andy is running, talking, in like, what next? His friends seem real and caring, now if only he'd let himself believe it.
Nice chapter
tim

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On 12/03/2015 09:03 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Andy is running, talking, in like, what next? His friends seem real and caring, now if only he'd let himself believe it.

Nice chapter

tim

Andy beginning to realize he can have something very, very good. Friends. Almost enough to eat. The beginnings of a place in the world. He's gained so much, at least as much as he had with Eustace on the farm. As you say, belief and trust will be the things that bring him out of the library. That's going to take time. Thanks for reading, and especially for the review.

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Aw, they were looking for Andy at the party. Seems like his friends really do care, but it's becoming a tad bit more personal. How long before the gang stops accepting shrugs as answers. I am glad that he's getting out though and experiencing a day at the movies. There's so much he needs to get current on.
Good chapter, moving on..

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On 12/04/2015 11:33 AM, Defiance19 said:

Aw, they were looking for Andy at the party. Seems like his friends really do care, but it's becoming a tad bit more personal. How long before the gang stops accepting shrugs as answers. I am glad that he's getting out though and experiencing a day at the movies. There's so much he needs to get current on.

Good chapter, moving on..

Well, they were expecting he might show, at any rate. Poor Andy just has no clue about this kind of school social etiquette. What's good is that Terry and Kaz and Zander are all pretty kind to him that way. I enjoyed writing this chapter, even though it didn't seem like too much was going on. Thanks for reading and for leaving your comments.

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I liked this Chapter a lot. Especially the ending. I thought it really indicated the impact his Dads isolation has had on him through his life.

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On 5/8/2018 at 11:19 AM, Higster said:

I liked this Chapter a lot. Especially the ending. I thought it really indicated the impact his Dads isolation has had on him through his life.

I apologize profusely for having missed this comment. I am so sorry.

Poor Andy has so little idea of how to interact with the world as everyone else knows it, which becomes evident at the end of this chapter. What's nice is how his friends seem to allow for that.

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Great chapter. So Andy is running with Kaz. It's obvious at the end how much an effect his Dad has on him, when he answers the questions truthfully. Will be interesting at the movies.

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11 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. So Andy is running with Kaz. It's obvious at the end how much an effect his Dad has on him, when he answers the questions truthfully. Will be interesting at the movies.

Andy running with Kaz is a great step ahead, even if Andy complains about the early hour and the cold. But movies? He doesn’t really know about that experience. Thanks for your thoughts. 

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