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    Parker Owens
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A to Z - 51. Chapter 51 Uphill

Uphill

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/

March 11

Today, running with Kaz was the major event. At least, he treated it that way. In the morning, Kaz took me on what he called a distance run, and which I think must have been a marathon. I felt like we had run thirty miles, though Kaz assured me we’d only done fourteen. We took a long route to the south of his house, into territory I’d never walked. I was happy that it seemed to go downhill, at first, until I realized at the next hill that we’d be going up again. And then up some more, up and over a shallow ridge and down again. Only to climb again. This was just like my experience last summer, cresting ridge after ridge, only to find another one. However, I was actually running this time, and the ridges and valleys were less dramatic, thankfully. When we made couple of turns and Kaz announced that we were headed for home, I could have kissed him and whooped for joy. Except that I was panting somewhat then.

Of course, Kaz had to keep up both ends of the conversation as we ran. He talked about all kinds of stuff: about people we both knew, about different kinds of running shoes, about his family, and so on. He felt the need to fill in the silence, as he always did. But he managed to bring things around to running in the end.

“Track tryouts start Monday,” he said at one point.

“Kaz, I can’t,” I said.

“Why not? You’ll make a hell of a sprinter,” Kaz stated.

“Because, I’m just not like that,” I returned.

“Like what?”

“I’m not like you or Zander. I’m not an athlete,” I explained as I ran.

Kaz snorted at that. “Listen Mr. Non-athlete, you realize you’ve already gone eight miles, don’t you?”

He had me there.

“Besides,” he went on, “I’ve seen your arms, man. You’ve got the muscle and power and endurance. What you need is practice and discipline. And you need to believe in yourself once in a while.”

“But Kaz, I’m never going to win races or be a champion like you or Zander,” I complained.

“So? The point isn’t just to win a race. The victory isn’t over the other guy all the time. The biggest victory is when you beat your own limitations. When you conquer yourself.”

Miraculously, Kaz let me run alongside him in silence for a time, while I digested that. He’d said something really important. Maybe he was onto something.

A half mile later, Kaz changed the subject. “You’re missing him aren’t you?”

No question who it was I was missing. “Yeah, you know it. And he won’t be able to call or text me all day. Coach wants Zander to turn in his phone. No distractions.”

“You two are close, right?” Kaz asked.

“Yeah,” I said, warily.

"I mean really close, you know?" he probed.

"We're boyfriends," I said simply.

Kaz took a few moments to ask his next question. “Have you guys been, you know…doing stuff together?”

Doing stuff? I knew what Kaz meant, but that was pretty lame.

“I don’t know, Kaz. Do you and Terry do stuff together?”

Now it was his turn to be embarrassed. “Well, kind of. I mean, we’re not…sleeping together…we’re waiting on that until we’re married,” he said, actually blushing.

How about that? I made Kaz blush.

“But we’ve done other things,” he went on.

“You don’t have to tell me, Kaz,” I cut him off. “I get the picture.” And I did get the picture. The image of a naked Terry wrapped around Kaz was actually stimulating. It reminded me of what I’d like to do with Zander. Someday.

“You two planning on getting married?” I asked, trying to steer things into safer territory.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, grinning. “As soon as we graduate next year.”

Wow. That seemed so soon. I hadn't realized they were that serious. But then, why shouldn't they? I couldn't imagine Kaz without Terry, or Terry without Kaz. "What about college?” I knew Kaz planned on trying for a running or track scholarship.

“We’ll go to the same college and try to get married student housing,” he stated. He had it planned out, I guess.

“They have that? Dorms for married couples?” I asked.

“More like apartments, but yeah, some do,” he said grinning. Then he asked, “What about you and Zander?”

I really hadn’t thought about that. How could I go to college, anyhow? It’s not like I have any money, and I don't doubt the Stevensons would want to help me – in fact, I know they’d probably want to help, but wouldn’t be able to. And honestly, they’ve done enough for me already. I’m not sure I’d let them help, even if I were college material.

“I don’t know, Kaz. I know Zander wants to study architecture, but I don’t know if I’m even good enough for college.”

“Don’t talk shit, Andy,” Kaz said, seriously, “I heard about your report card. You’re smart, and you know it. Besides, that’s not what I was asking.”

Kaz was good at calling me out. I appreciated that.

“No, I was asking about if you and Zander were going to get married,” Kaz finished.

Now that was a shocker. I mean, I’ve heard of guys getting married, but Zander and me?

“Can we do that?” I asked.

“Sure can, in this state, anyhow,” he shot back. “So what about it?”

“I’m not sure we’re ready for that, Kaz. After all, you and Terry have been together for what, three or four years? Zander met me last October. Big difference,” I explained.

“Maybe,” Kaz conceded, “but Terry says she can tell there’s something really special between you two. We think it's love.” He was grinning.

“Does Terry have a perfect track record?” I asked innocently.

“Okay, okay, you got me there,” Kaz said putting up his hands as he ran along, “but you wait and see. I just want to be the best man,” he laughed.

“Oh, no,” I replied, “you’re going to be the maid of honor.”

Kaz whooped at that. One of the best things about Kaz is that he doesn’t mind a joke on himself.

For the remainder of our run, I couldn't help but think about Kaz and Terry, waiting for marriage. They'd be married, and could live together – and sleep together – without guilt or fear. Like regular people. I'd like that for Zander and me. But I think it would be a long wait for us – I have no idea if Zander would want to get married, let alone if he'd want to marry me. And unlike Kaz and Terry, I'm sure Zander wouldn't even think about settling down until after college.

After our run, Kaz insisted we eat something and then rest at his house for a couple of hours. I was certainly ready for that. He made me stretch, then stretch again. Then we shot pool for a little bit. Lena came down to the basement and watched us play for a little while.

"Hey, Andy," she said, standing near behind me, watching me miss another shot, "need help?"

"No thanks, I can lose all by myself," I grinned back at her, standing up.

She stood a little closer. "Maybe you just need a better teacher."

Oh, hell. Was Lena really flirting? With me?

"I think Andy can figure it out himself," Kaz said, sinking another ball.

I was about to add to that when I saw Lena wrinkle her nose. "Didn't you guys shower after your run?"

"Nope," her brother replied, lining up another shot, "we're going out for another run soon."

"Well go now, before we have to open the windows," she laughed. "You two are awful." But she left the room, to my relief.

"There's a party at Nick Lewis's house tonight. Terry and I are going. You want to come?" Kaz asked, bending over an easy corner shot.

A party? No way. My last party on New Year's eve left me jealous and ready to run; the thing with Toby on the Fourth of July was a disaster.

"No, thanks, Kaz." Nick Lewis was one of the few African-American kids at Blackburn high school. I'd met him at the lunch table when he sat with us once or twice. He was a nice guy, medium dark, maybe an inch shorter than me, but built well. He was friendly enough, but that didn't mean I wanted to go to a party at his house.

"You really need to get out on your own more," Kaz counseled wisely, "it'd be good for you." He missed his shot.

I'd heard that before. Toby Harris had given me advice like that, and before I knew it, I was on the run again. Not that it was Toby's fault, of course.

"I just don't do parties," I protested, as I tried to line up the cue and the twelve ball. "There was one I went to last summer, I got beat up pretty bad," I went on, and I immediately regretted saying more than I'd intended to.

Kaz stood there for a moment. "This isn't going to be a big thing," he said slowly, "and Terry and I will be there, so you won't get in any trouble."

"You don't have to do that for me, Kaz," I said, a little irritated.

"So that means you'll think about it?" he asked.

I sighed and sank the twelve.

Later, after a decent interval, Kaz had us stretching again, and then jogging off to the north this time, along a street that paralleled the course of the river that went through town. The clouds were moving in, and we'd lost the nice sunshine that brightened our morning run. Despite that, it felt, if anything, warmer out. A front was definitely arriving soon.

Surprisingly, I was able to run – I didn't think I would be able to. About a couple of miles away from Kaz's house, he stopped us at an intersection. The road to the left angled uphill steeply away from the river. I got a sinking feeling.

"Okay, so now were gonna sprint up the hill to where there's a yellow house on the right. Then we jog back down," he instructed.

"And then what?" I asked, knowing the answer.

"Then we do it again," Kaz said simply.

I knew better than to argue. This was for my own good. For my training. Kaz gave the signal, and we were off. This was supposed to be a sprint, and I dearly wanted to beat Kaz at his own game this time. I tried to concentrate on nothing but the road in front of me. I took off as fast as I could, using shorter steps, revving quick like a tractor in low gear. Slowly, I lengthened my stride, trying to maintain my frantic pace.

I didn't see Kaz ahead of me, and I didn't hear him behind me. I just ran and ran. There. The yellow house appeared to my right. I approached it and accelerated as the road gradually began to level out just as I reached my goal. Suddenly, I realized how hard my lungs and heart were working. Slowly, I got my body to respond, and I turned and headed back downhill at a jog. I saw Kaz grinning at me as he labored up the hill, coming toward me.

"Awesome, Andy. You had me beat hands down," he said when he joined me back at the bottom.

The praise felt good. "Thanks for the head start," I bantered, having gotten my breath back on the slow descent.

"I didn't give you one," Kaz shot back.

I snorted at him, then we were off again, up the hill. Again, I beat him to the yellow house, and again, Kaz insisted that he hadn't given me an edge. No way was I beating Kaz in any kind of running race. I refused to believe it. Sure enough, he was ahead by a little the next time, and a by a whole lot more the sprint after that.

It didn't stop there. We kept it up until we'd done over a dozen more sprints up the hill. I'd beaten Kaz only those first two times. Now, I really felt tired. "Superior training," I panted, "you win. I told you, but you didn't believe me. I'm no runner."

"That's crap," said Kaz, who was panting, too. "You started falling behind when you told yourself you couldn't win. You gave yourself permission to fail, Andy." His chest continued to heave as he tried to recover some breath. "A great man told me that it's not your body that quits, it's your mind. Don't let your mind quit."

"Which great man was that?" I asked, sarcastically.

"Zander."

That shut me up. That wasn't from some inspirational poster. That was my boyfriend speaking, and I felt as if he was speaking directly to me for that moment. I imagined him thinking that same thought in that same hour, maybe in the same moment as I was.

"I'll tell you what," Kaz said, "You beat me in the next hill climb, and you don't have to go the party tonight. If I win, you have to go with me and Terry."

Shit. What a choice. How the hell could I beat Kaz? I'd done it once. Twice. But I was relatively fresh then. 'It's not your body that quits, it's your mind.' Had Zander really said that? I could almost hear his voice, see his grin. God, I missed him. Maybe Zander was right. Kaz had to be just as tired as I was, or close to it. Hell, I wasn't going to roll over for Kaz. If I was going to get beat, I was going to make him work for it.

"You're on," I said.

At Kaz's signal, we took off again up the hill. I concentrated on quick acceleration, and on trying to maintain as fast a pace as I could. Kaz's strides were longer, but mine came a lot quicker. We ran even for a while, then he began to pull ahead. From somewhere inside, I found a seam of energy and strove to catch up. By the time we reached the yellow house, we were exactly even, neck and neck, running flat out.

Kaz finally slowed down first, and I quickly followed suit.

"Tie…race…" he gasped, his face red. This was a first. I'd never seen Kaz out of breath before.

Of course, I was no better. I couldn't speak. I practically doubled over trying to stay conscious and on my feet. But I'd kept up with Kaz on the hill. That must be worth something.

"Come on, we're going home," Kaz finally got out. And we jogged very slowly down the hill. After a long interval of silence, he couldn't help saying, "I win, so you're coming tonight."

"You win? Since when? I beat you, Kaz." I said indignantly.

"We tied. You didn't win," he said simply.

"Well, you didn't win, either."

"How about this? Seeing as you didn't win, you have to come to the party, at least for a little while? But because I didn't win, you don't have to drink." There was a definite grin on his face now. I couldn't very well refuse him. He and Zander had been right. It was my mind, not my body, that had given up.

After another long period of stretching – and a much needed shower at Kaz's house – I realized I needed to call the Stevensons to ask permission to go to this party. I hadn't asked permission for anything like this in forever. I remember asking Dad if I could play at someone's house back in like the sixth grade. I also remember getting smacked pretty hard for asking. I never went to anyone's house after that.

I got out my phone to call, with Kaz standing right next to me, with this big, goofy grin on his face. I felt all nervous to have to ask for this, and to have an audience, too. I could hear the phone at the Stevenson's ringing. Monica picked up.

"Hello?" I heard her greeting, and somehow, I got flustered.

"Mom, this is Andy," I began, speaking rapidly, "Kaz asked if I could go to a party with him and Terry tonight, if he promises to have me home early, can I go with them, please?" The request came out all in a rush.

Silence was all the response I heard for a few moments. Clearly, something about this was hard for her. Maybe I shouldn't have asked. I felt a chill. Was something wrong?

"I'm sorry, Andy," I heard her say with an effort, "you want to go with Kaz and Terry somewhere?"

"Yeah. I asked him if he could get me home early, though. I don't want to stay too late," I repeated, hoping that would help.

"That's all right, Andy," I heard her say, her voice getting back to normal again, "you can go, as long as it's safe. No drinking, you understand?"

"I understand. I won't."

"The weather is supposed to turn tonight," she added, "we could get five or six inches of snow. If you need me or Garrett to come and get you with the four wheel drive, call us. Do not get into a car with someone who has been drinking, understand?" Her tone was firmer now. This was more of what I had expected.

"Yes, mom. I get it."

More silence.

"Okay. And Andy? Have a good time," she finished softly.

The call ended. Monica had been a little weird, but it had turned out all right. I looked at Kaz, whose happy grin only got bigger.

"So, all set?'" he asked.

"Yeah, fine. I just need to be home early. Monica's worried about the weather."

Monica. Had I just called her 'mom?' I hadn't even thought about it. The word just came out in my excitement. I hoped she wasn't too mad about it. I debated in my mind calling her back to say that it had been an accident, but I thought that would be pretty awkward. I just hoped that she hadn't been too offended.

The party itself really was a pretty tame affair. Kaz had the use of an ancient Oldsmobile owned by his father; Kaz had earned his driver's license last year sometime. We drove in his old clunker over to Terry's house, and then we made our way to Lewis's place.

"Kaz convinced you to come!" Terry enthused from the front seat. "This is awesome!"

"I guess," I said. "I'm not too sure about this. I'm not good at…"

"Don't worry, I'll stick by you so you'll be safe from Mary Ellen," she laughed.

I couldn't help laughing, too. I didn't realize she'd be there, not that she'd hit on me. I didn't think she would, anyway.

The party itself was pretty mellow, maybe eight or nine people hanging out in the living room, watching a movie, and some more in the basement. It turned out that Kaz had set me up; this was a pre-season Track team party. And because Nick's parents were present, there was no alcohol, so, no drinking, either. But I did get cornered in the kitchen with a big cup of Coke by Nick Lewis himself.

"Hey, look here! The shadow's here, without the body!" the handsome mocha faced boy greeted me. "Where's Zander?"

Oh. So I'm the shadow. I got it. Are we that noticeable? "At state invitationals. Swimming."

"Yeah, I know. Just bustin' your chops, man. Good you got out of the house on your own, Andy." So word had gotten around I was a resident at the Stevenson house.

Nick changed the subject. "Did Kaz recruit you for the team yet?" he asked with a smile. Really, he was being very pleasant.

"He's tried," I returned with a small smile, "he's very persistent."

"You gotta come out, dude. Kaz says you're the bomb, and that's saying something coming from him."

"Yeah, well, he put me through a workout today. Fifteen times up this hill, sprinting, this afternoon," I said gamely. I was beginning to feel it.

"He took you up Suicide Hill? Fifteen times? Are you crazy?" he asked in disbelief.

I shrugged. "I don't know what hill it was. I only beat him three times out of fifteen."

Nick's eyes got really wide. "You beat Kaz three times up Suicide Hill? Dude, you are seriously coming out for the team. No question."

I realized I wasn't going to get a chance to say 'no' to Nick, so I just shrugged and smiled. Maybe I could take a vacation and everyone could forget about me. Fortunately, Terry, who had faithfully stayed close to me, turned the conversation in a different direction, and I could retreat a little.

But it wasn't the last I heard of it; I overheard Nick's voice and the phrase "Suicide Hill," and "fifteen times," at least twice more that night. I got my hand shook by a couple of Track guys, which was awkward. The party seemed to accumulate more people and the volume level of conversation went up. Eventually, I found myself sharing the living room sofa with Terry and a boy who looked like he was a freshman – a shock of light brown hair, glasses, really shy, like me.

I managed to overcome my shyness first. "Hey, uh, I'm Andy. You are…?" I tried, introducing myself.

"Jeff. Jeff Ellison," he said, giving me his hand to shake. We both had to raise our voices to be heard over Terry, who gossiped with another girl on my right. "How long have you been on the Track team?"

I shook my head. "Never ran track," I said. "I'm trying to get out of it now."

Jeff sighed, looking kind of defeated. "Lucky you. I have to run. My sister runs track," he pointed across the room to a girl deep in conversation with a boy I recognized as being a sophomore. "My parents are pushing me hard to try out, but I don't want to."

"Why not?" I asked, making conversation.

Jeff looked directly at me, so it would be hard for someone else to overhear what he said over the din. "I'm afraid that I'll suck at it," he said. "I mean, how would it look if I got beaten by my own sister? And besides, I don't have any friends on the team."

Immediately, I felt bad for Jeff. At least I already knew I'd be worse than my friends on the team – I had no illusions about how I'd do compared to Kaz or Zander, or even Terry. And they all ran, so I guess I didn't mind so much. But I had friends. They were encouraging me, not forcing me, to be part of this team. And so far, everyone I'd met seemed pretty nice. Poor Jeff looked like he'd be miserable. I kind of knew how he felt. At that moment, I made a decision.

"If you join, I'll join, how's that?" I asked him. "That way, you'll have at least one friend on the team."

Jeff's face brightened, then looked uncertain. "But I'll still suck," he stated.

"So what? I'm probably going to suck, too. What matters is breaking your own barriers, not beating your sister. At least, not right away," I astonished myself by spouting wisdom like Kaz.

I saw a small smile form on Jeff's face. "You join if I join?" he asked, holding his hand out again.

"Deal," I replied with a grin, shaking it. I realized I’d just made a friend. How hard was that?

Too soon, Kaz was pulling me and Terry away to the front door; one look out the window told me why. It was snowing, hard. The grass was quickly getting covered, and the streets would get slick in a hurry. Kaz wanted to get me home; maybe he hoped to get Terry to stay over at his house. I wondered how Mrs. Kaz would handle that.

I reflected on how lucky I'd been today, as Kaz carefully maneuvered the big old car down the increasingly slippery roads. Kaz had tried to run me into the ground, and I was still standing. A little sore, but still standing. I survived a party – and even had fun. I'd made a new friend, all on my own. I'd made a commitment to a team, though I hadn't told Kaz about that. That surprise could wait until Monday.

What I can't wait for is for Zander to come home. Tomorrow.

I want to thank Craftingmom for her endless patience and persistence in gently and tactfully editing this and every chapter. I am most grateful.

Please leave a review. Your comments and reflections of whatever sort or variety are much valued.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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In some past chapter, I recall Andy lamenting that he wasn't "smart, athletic or good looking". Well, with straight-As, he's got to know he's smart. Beating Kaz and running 14 miles is pretty athletic, and we already know how Zander feels about his looks. Andy is becoming ... one of the "beautiful people". Calling Monica "mom" was a pretty big step for him, too. I'm sure she's all choked up about that. Now we just have to see what comes out of Carlsberg and East Akron...

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It's funny, even when the story is lighthearted and positive, I still get a little sad. I just hate what Andy's dad did to him, that he has such a low opinion of himself, that he has such a hard time recognizing his own strengths. I did appreciate Kaz calling him out on all that, and helping him see how ridiculous some of these ideas he has in his head are. Andy still doesn't see how strong of a runner he's become, to Andy it's just some hill and more of Kaz's crazy training, not "suicide hill." It was interesting how he made a friend and committed to going out for track out of sympathy for his new friend. He's growing as a person and he doesn't even realize it.

 

Also calling Monica mom by accident and then thinking she'd be offended afterward. That kid is so silly sometimes.

 

I really enjoyed this chapter, thanks Parker for sharing this wonderful story with us.

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On 01/23/2016 12:20 AM, xleroc said:

In some past chapter, I recall Andy lamenting that he wasn't "smart, athletic or good looking". Well, with straight-As, he's got to know he's smart. Beating Kaz and running 14 miles is pretty athletic, and we already know how Zander feels about his looks. Andy is becoming ... one of the "beautiful people". Calling Monica "mom" was a pretty big step for him, too. I'm sure she's all choked up about that. Now we just have to see what comes out of Carlsberg and East Akron...

It was a good thing that Kaz called Andy out over the way he talks about himself. Coming from Zander, Andy might discount it as the view through boyfriend lenses. Instead, Kaz simply told the truth as he saw it. You're right about Andy using the "M-word" with Monica. That's hardly an insignificant moment. Thanks for your honest, Kaz-like review, and for reading yet another chapter in Andy's life.

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On 01/23/2016 01:11 AM, spikey582 said:

It's funny, even when the story is lighthearted and positive, I still get a little sad. I just hate what Andy's dad did to him, that he has such a low opinion of himself, that he has such a hard time recognizing his own strengths. I did appreciate Kaz calling him out on all that, and helping him see how ridiculous some of these ideas he has in his head are. Andy still doesn't see how strong of a runner he's become, to Andy it's just some hill and more of Kaz's crazy training, not "suicide hill." It was interesting how he made a friend and committed to going out for track out of sympathy for his new friend. He's growing as a person and he doesn't even realize it.

 

Also calling Monica mom by accident and then thinking she'd be offended afterward. That kid is so silly sometimes.

 

I really enjoyed this chapter, thanks Parker for sharing this wonderful story with us.

The signs of growth and progress are all around Andy, but he doesn't always see them. This chapter amply records these signs, as you say. That Kaz feels okay enough with Andy to set him straight (so to speak) about his abilities says a lot about how their friendship has grown, too. Yes, Andy is so silly sometimes, but you are also right in pointing out how emerging from hell can color his view of the world. Thanks again for your kind reviews and for reading yet another chapter in Andy's life.

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I agree with the others. Andy's life reminds me of the running. Mostly uphill fighting, but now he has more and more level and downhill sections where he can take it easy. His self esteem is improving and I love how he dealt with Jack's doubts by proposing the deal. He's learning his own value. I am also getting really antsy about what's coming out of Carlsberg.
Oh, and I forgot to mention last week that I really liked Andy taking Eustace as his middle name and I hope we see him again.

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On 01/23/2016 03:32 AM, avidreadr said:

I agree with the others. Andy's life reminds me of the running. Mostly uphill fighting, but now he has more and more level and downhill sections where he can take it easy. His self esteem is improving and I love how he dealt with Jack's doubts by proposing the deal. He's learning his own value. I am also getting really antsy about what's coming out of Carlsberg.

Oh, and I forgot to mention last week that I really liked Andy taking Eustace as his middle name and I hope we see him again.

Thank you for extending the running metaphor. Andy may not live on 'planet running' as Kaz does, but he could relate to what you say, nonetheless. And Kaz totally set Andy up, didn't he? Thanks for your insight, and for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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On 01/23/2016 01:30 AM, mayday said:

Spikey 582 and Xleroc have said it all - beautiful chapter

Thank you for saying it's beautiful. I think it's beautiful that Andy can just relax and hang with Kaz, go to a party and make a friend. This is a simple, normal chapter in a normal kid's life. Beautiful.

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I think it was a big step for Andy when he initiated a conversation with a stranger.

 

I once made a promise like Andy's commitment (to join the track team) with someone I also had just met. In my case it was to convince my new friend to take an HIV test. He had been wavering about getting tested after the free county testing van came by. I knew I would test negative, but he was worried because of his drug abuse history. He was extremely relieved when he also tested negative. (He was doing really well and quit drinking and smoking. He turned his life around. Unfortunately, he died about a year later, after a drug relapse. I still miss him.)

 

I think Monica was shocked and happy that Andy unexpectedly called her 'Mom'. I think she got quiet because she was so emotional. She understands how much he feels like he doesn't belong in their family.

 

Andy misreads a lot of cues. It's called Cognitive dissonance. Intellectually, he knows he's doing well in school, but still thinks he's not smart. (I have the same problem, but I'm not anywhere near as clueless as Andy can be.) Brad, the friend I mentioned earlier, once told me he liked me because I was always smiling. I told him, 'No, I don't.' But he and our friends insisted I did. I told my therapist about the conversation and she agreed with them! (This is just one more reason I'm going to be in therapy for a long, long time.)

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On 01/23/2016 04:12 AM, droughtquake said:

I think it was a big step for Andy when he initiated a conversation with a stranger.

 

I once made a promise like Andy's commitment (to join the track team) with someone I also had just met. In my case it was to convince my new friend to take an HIV test. He had been wavering about getting tested after the free county testing van came by. I knew I would test negative, but he was worried because of his drug abuse history. He was extremely relieved when he also tested negative. (He was doing really well and quit drinking and smoking. He turned his life around. Unfortunately, he died about a year later, after a drug relapse. I still miss him.)

 

I think Monica was shocked and happy that Andy unexpectedly called her 'Mom'. I think she got quiet because she was so emotional. She understands how much he feels like he doesn't belong in their family.

 

Andy misreads a lot of cues. It's called Cognitive dissonance. Intellectually, he knows he's doing well in school, but still thinks he's not smart. (I have the same problem, but I'm not anywhere near as clueless as Andy can be.) Brad, the friend I mentioned earlier, once told me he liked me because I was always smiling. I told him, 'No, I don't.' But he and our friends insisted I did. I told my therapist about the conversation and she agreed with them! (This is just one more reason I'm going to be in therapy for a long, long time.)

I really appreciate your telling us the story of your promise. Something compels you to act, to commit - and you do. How good you were to your friend then. Andy did the same for Jeff Ellison. Using the "M-word" with Monica must have been a big deal, I agree. And yes, it's clear, Andy still has some cognitive dissonance because he needs people like Kaz to describe him as he really is, in the same way a blind person needs a friend to pick out clothes that match. Thank you for your insightful comments and for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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On 01/23/2016 04:12 AM, droughtquake said:

I think it was a big step for Andy when he initiated a conversation with a stranger.

 

I once made a promise like Andy's commitment (to join the track team) with someone I also had just met. In my case it was to convince my new friend to take an HIV test. He had been wavering about getting tested after the free county testing van came by. I knew I would test negative, but he was worried because of his drug abuse history. He was extremely relieved when he also tested negative. (He was doing really well and quit drinking and smoking. He turned his life around. Unfortunately, he died about a year later, after a drug relapse. I still miss him.)

 

I think Monica was shocked and happy that Andy unexpectedly called her 'Mom'. I think she got quiet because she was so emotional. She understands how much he feels like he doesn't belong in their family.

 

Andy misreads a lot of cues. It's called Cognitive dissonance. Intellectually, he knows he's doing well in school, but still thinks he's not smart. (I have the same problem, but I'm not anywhere near as clueless as Andy can be.) Brad, the friend I mentioned earlier, once told me he liked me because I was always smiling. I told him, 'No, I don't.' But he and our friends insisted I did. I told my therapist about the conversation and she agreed with them! (This is just one more reason I'm going to be in therapy for a long, long time.)

I really appreciate your telling us the story of your promise. Something compels you to act, to commit - and you do. How good you were to your friend then. Andy did the same for Jeff Ellison. Using the "M-word" with Monica must have been a big deal, I agree. And yes, it's clear, Andy still has some cognitive dissonance because he needs people like Kaz to describe him as he really is, in the same way a blind person needs a friend to pick out clothes that match. Thank you for your insightful comments and for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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As a mom myself, I teared up at his conversation with Monica. She has to be all sniffly too. And he doesn't even realise it. It's not so strange though, since he's not had anyone to show him how decent people treat each other in a long. Being isolated like that growing up, he's had to make up his own explanations of the world and of course as a kid he believed his dad. Heartbreaking to see him so blind when it comes to Andy. Hopefully, all the new people in his life can convince him otherwise.

 

I think he should start running. If Kaz is right, there could be a scholarship in it for him!

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Thank you Parker. This chapter is simply beautiful. It is also "cute", cute in the best sense of the word.

 

In almost any other story, this chapter would be boring. Andy runs with Kaz. Andy accidentally addresses Monica as "mom". Andy makes a friend. The writing effectively invites and encourages the reader to see significance in the seemingly insignificant. We know how utterly important each small step forward is for Andy.

 

I don't know if it is the "mood", the use of language, or something else, but this chapter strongly reminds me of Arundhati Roy's writing. (Her fiction, not the political books :) ) Great mind candy.

 

And I am soooooo glad I don't have a friend like Kaz. "Suicide hill" makes suicide look good, ooof!

 

Will Andy be completely indentured to "planet running"? Will he grow gills to escape Kaz's clutches? Stay tuned :)

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On 01/23/2016 06:46 AM, said:

Thank you Parker. This chapter is simply beautiful. It is also "cute", cute in the best sense of the word.

 

In almost any other story, this chapter would be boring. Andy runs with Kaz. Andy accidentally addresses Monica as "mom". Andy makes a friend. The writing effectively invites and encourages the reader to see significance in the seemingly insignificant. We know how utterly important each small step forward is for Andy.

 

I don't know if it is the "mood", the use of language, or something else, but this chapter strongly reminds me of Arundhati Roy's writing. (Her fiction, not the political books :) ) Great mind candy.

 

And I am soooooo glad I don't have a friend like Kaz. "Suicide hill" makes suicide look good, ooof!

 

Will Andy be completely indentured to "planet running"? Will he grow gills to escape Kaz's clutches? Stay tuned :)

I am glad that there is a good sense to the word 'cute.' Sometimes I think that word gets too much of a workout. Andy may be a little sore after his workout with Kaz, but what is so lovely is his innocence about it all. He doesn't know that it was 'Suicide Hill,' so he just tries his damndest. He trusts Kaz enough that he won't put him through anything horrendously bad. Thank you for the very kind comparisons and for your very adept and perceptive remarks. Most of all, thanks for reading another chapter of Andy's life.

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On 01/23/2016 05:20 AM, Puppilull said:

As a mom myself, I teared up at his conversation with Monica. She has to be all sniffly too. And he doesn't even realise it. It's not so strange though, since he's not had anyone to show him how decent people treat each other in a long. Being isolated like that growing up, he's had to make up his own explanations of the world and of course as a kid he believed his dad. Heartbreaking to see him so blind when it comes to Andy. Hopefully, all the new people in his life can convince him otherwise.

 

I think he should start running. If Kaz is right, there could be a scholarship in it for him!

For Andy to use the "M-word" with Monica, especially accidentally - purely naturally, for he noticed it after the fact - would be a big deal both for him and for Monica. And good for Kaz for trying to help Andy see himself more clearly. Thanks for your comments, which I truly appreciate. And most of all, thanks for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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It's difficult to say anything, since I'm here so late. Everybody has said it all.

 

So just a few things which affected me.
"Mom" was obviously big. Saying it unconsciously was probably bigger.
Joining the team was no surprise to me. I knew Andy was doomed the minute Kaz first mentioned it. :)
Andy conquered a lot of uphills today, not the least being befriending and encouraging Jeff - Kaz is more of a teacher than Andy realizes. :yes:

 

A great chapter Parker! Thanks for sharing.

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On 01/23/2016 07:25 AM, skinnydragon said:

It's difficult to say anything, since I'm here so late. Everybody has said it all.

 

So just a few things which affected me.

"Mom" was obviously big. Saying it unconsciously was probably bigger.

Joining the team was no surprise to me. I knew Andy was doomed the minute Kaz first mentioned it. :)

Andy conquered a lot of uphills today, not the least being befriending and encouraging Jeff - Kaz is more of a teacher than Andy realizes. :yes:

 

A great chapter Parker! Thanks for sharing.

Andy was doomed...I love that. The inadvertent "mom" must have hit Monica like a ton of bricks. Would dearly have loved to have been watching her when it happened. I totally agree that Kaz is as good a teacher and coach as he could ever hope for. Many thanks for your review, and for reading another chapter in Andy's story.

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Very nice chapter, Parker!!! I feel as if we're watching Andy slowly shed away the depressing, demoralizing, degrading baggage he's been made to carry for soooo very long!! So good to see him learning to trust and laugh and smile...and use the word..."Mom"!!! Loved this one!! :D:thankyou:

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On 01/23/2016 08:13 AM, Onim said:

Very nice chapter, Parker!!! I feel as if we're watching Andy slowly shed away the depressing, demoralizing, degrading baggage he's been made to carry for soooo very long!! So good to see him learning to trust and laugh and smile...and use the word..."Mom"!!! Loved this one!! :D:thankyou:

It's like Andy is shedding an old skin and emerging all new. It's a slow thing to watch, as life usually happens slowly. But then one can look back and wonder if this was the same kid who wrote about deserving whatever bad happened to him. Thanks for your kind words, and for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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Another great chapter Parker!! So many firsts for Andy, his life can only get better from here on in. Making new friends too.

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On 01/23/2016 12:25 PM, slapshot said:

Another great chapter Parker!! So many firsts for Andy, his life can only get better from here on in. Making new friends too.

I am so glad you liked this chapter. Kaz coaching Andy to see himself more clearly was a highlight in writing this for me. Lots of good things happening, yes, and he is doing them on his own. All the better. Thanks for reading another chapter in Andy's life.

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When you're abused you are stupid, groveling, afraid, but when it ends over time, you shed that skin mostly and you find out the creature under that defensive blanket, is bright, funny and capable.. Andy is shedding that blanket .. He is becoming...
nice one Parker

 

tim

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Just a wonderful chapter Parker.. I love Mikesboy review, he said that perfectly..

 

I'm really happy for Andy, and I'm glad he's joining the team. Knowing who he is apart from Zander is extremely important, so the opportunity to make his own friends, be a part of a different social group is not a bad thing.. He made a friend and there was no ill consequence at this party. Yay!
Loved that he slipped and called Monica mom, he's comfortable and that relationship is a meaningful one to him even subconsciously..
Looking forward to more, even as I know Carlsberg is on the horizon..

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On 01/23/2016 05:09 PM, Mikiesboy said:

When you're abused you are stupid, groveling, afraid, but when it ends over time, you shed that skin mostly and you find out the creature under that defensive blanket, is bright, funny and capable.. Andy is shedding that blanket .. He is becoming...

nice one Parker

 

tim

This review speaks exactly what I have been trying to portray in this and the past few chapters. I thank you for saying this so succinctly. Andy emerging is one of the most wonderful things to imagine (and for me to write about). Maybe that's what I found compelling about this segment of his story; his becoming. Thanks for your piercing insight and for continuing to read the slow chapters of Andy's life.

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On 01/24/2016 03:14 AM, Defiance19 said:

Just a wonderful chapter Parker.. I love Mikesboy review, he said that perfectly..

 

I'm really happy for Andy, and I'm glad he's joining the team. Knowing who he is apart from Zander is extremely important, so the opportunity to make his own friends, be a part of a different social group is not a bad thing.. He made a friend and there was no ill consequence at this party. Yay!

Loved that he slipped and called Monica mom, he's comfortable and that relationship is a meaningful one to him even subconsciously..

Looking forward to more, even as I know Carlsberg is on the horizon..

Tim said it perfectly, indeed. Andy's growth here is incremental, slow, and terribly significant in all the little things that happen. Others might not think much of their importance, but we can. And for the moment, Andy can know a taste of love, contentment and an almost-normal life. Thanks for your remarks and encouragement, and for reading the chapters of Andy's story.

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