There’s a door in front of me and it’s red. “Push it,” he says to me. I listen. I always listen. Except when he tells me to hurt people. That makes Karen sad. I don’t listen to the voice in my head when he tells me to do things that make her sad. The door seems heavy but maybe that’s because my arm’s tired. Yesterday, I helped Karen bring groceries in from the car. I always listen.
I don’t know what’s on the other side of the door until it swings open all the way. Now that it’s open, I can see the street and Mrs. Harris walking her dog. She should run with him. She needs the exercise. I’ve never been this far away from home before. I know I’ve been outside for 2 hours because the watch Karen gave me says so. I left when both hands were at the top of the dial; now, just the long, skinny one is. The fat one is two clicks to the right, all alone.
I think it’s interesting that the fat one barely moves while the skinny one moves a whole bunch. I guess that’s the way it works in real life too. I’m skinny. I like to walk around all over and I love to run, but I never leave the block. Daddy though, he doesn’t like to walk too much. But he’ll go far from the block. When he leaves, he takes his Jaguar XK8. It’s got the cherry red paint job with cream-colored seats. Daddy’s fat.
Even though I’m 16 and everyone else my age can drive, Karen told me I can’t. She says maybe one day, but I know she doesn’t mean it. Daddy would never let me drive his car.
I hear Karen calling me, I better hide. She doesn’t approve of me being this far from home – she’s warned me before. I’ll just crawl underneath this bush here.
“Josh! Josh, are you around here?!” She sounds sad.
I don’t like to make Karen sad. I guess it’s time to come out. Let me just stand up and brush myself off first. What should I say to her?
“Hello, mother dearest.” That wasn’t what I was planning on saying. Maybe something a little more 007. Like the movies daddy shows me.
“Josh! You can’t wander this far, you know how I feel -”
I’ll have to scream above her. “The name’s Parker!” Good, she’s stopped talking. “Josh, Parker.”
“Josh, listen to me. You can’t just wander around.”
“Mommy, did you like my 007 entry?”
“Yes, honey. It was beautiful. Now time to come back home.”
“I don’t think so, Karen.”
“Right. Sorry, mommy. Not yet. I think I’ll walk around a little more. I’ll see you at home in one hour and 15 minutes, when the hands on my clock both face the right. That’s 3:15, mommy.”
“Fine, but don’t be late, you have an appointment with The Doctor at 3:45.”
As soon as Karen turns around to go home, I begin to run. I haven’t run yet today. Or yesterday for that matter. Coach probably wouldn’t be happy with me. One benefit to wearing running clothing everywhere is that I can run anywhere, anytime. Today, Coach assigned me 10 miles to run. I’m usually very good about getting in all of my runs. Yesterday, I was busy reading Hamlet. Twice. So I forgot to run.
I’m running now. Running and thinking. I like to run. When I run by myself, it makes me happy. I feel good and I look good, but I’m also very fast. Sometimes I run so fast that all I hear is the wind in my ears. I like that. My captain’s name is Sam. Sam doesn’t like it when I run very fast. He tells me to save it for the races. I run slowly when he tells me to.
When I run at school, I can run around the school twice, and that will be all the running I need for the day. At home, I can’t go very far, so I have to run back and forth, back and forth, around the block until I run as much as coach tells me to. I feel like a fish in a tank. Team practices are always at school. I like running with the team. I feel normal.
Ten is a lot of miles, if you’re not a runner. If you’re a runner, like me, it’s not so many. On Sundays, we run more than 10 miles. On Tuesdays, we run less than 10 miles. On the other days, we do what coach tells us to. It’s different every day. The 10 miles are almost up, I guess I should start to head home. I’m not tired yet, but I was told to run 10 miles. I always listen.
I started running with daddy. He had a coach too. His coach told him he should start running or he would have problems with his heart. Daddy stopped running after a few weeks but I kept going because maybe if I run I can help daddy’s heart. I miss daddy. He’s usually at work.
When I get home, I have just enough time to shower. I always shower and I never bathe. If I were to take a bath, I would be lying in my own dirt. That doesn’t make any sense. So instead, I shower. I don’t take long showers, because I can’t write or draw or watch television when I’m in the shower. My showers last between four minutes and five minutes. I shower every day because mommy always says nobody likes a smelly boy.
I’ve finished my shower. Today, it took me 4 minutes and 42 seconds. I can hear Karen calling me again. She likes to do that. I won’t respond, that will only waste time. According to my wristwatch, I have only 20 minutes until we have to meet with The Doctor, and his office is five miles away. If we drive 30 mph, it will take us 10 minutes to arrive. So I ignore mommy and get dressed instead.
“Josh! We have to leave soon! Hurry up! I’m making you two sandwiches – one with tuna, and one with peanut butter! The tuna is albacore, the peanut butter is chunky! No crusts, whole wheat bread! I stuck toothpicks through them to keep them neat and put them on two separate plates so they wouldn’t mix! Now get your butt down here!”
Karen knows everything about me. I guess living together for 16 years could do that. I wonder what it would be like to have a brother. If I had a big brother, I imagine he would be proud of me – proud of my running, my memory, my simple rule-following. If I had a younger brother, I wonder if I would be able to take care of him. I can barely take care of myself. The other day, Alex asked me to come play Xbox with him. I told him mommy said I had to come right home after practice. Everybody laughed at me. Everybody besides for Mark. Mark took care of me.
Mark’s on the team with me and we run side by side at practice. Mark is nice to me. He’s my friend. I don’t see him outside of school so much because he lives on the other side of Richmond Ave. It’s too far for him to run and his mom doesn’t let him use the car often. When we run together in school, Mark talks to me and that’s one of my favorite things about being on the team. That and helping daddy’s heart.
We’re in Karen’s car now. “Your car smells funny, Karen.”
“No, my name’s Josh.”
“Call me Mommy.”
“Oh yeah, sorry.”
“That’s OK. Did you bring anything for The Doctor?”
“Yes.” I did. I pulled out my notebook and looked over my pictures and notes I had prepared for The Doctor. He likes when I express myself.
“Very good. Do you like your sandwiches?”
“I haven’t eaten them yet. I’m waiting until we’re five minutes away, because it takes me just under five minutes to eat two sandwiches.”
“OK, Josh. I hope you like them sweetie.”
I like it when we sit together and it’s quiet. I can listen to her hum, or I can watch her chest rise and fall when she breaths. She’s a very pretty mother, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother. Last Sunday, I kicked a man between the legs because he slapped mommy on the behind when daddy was in the bathroom. When he fell to the ground, I kicked his ear as hard as I could, like I saw in James Bond. Then mommy pulled me away and told me we’ll never be going back to that Applebee’s for dinner again. Luckily for mommy, I watch a lot of James Bond movies with daddy and I knew how to defend her.
I like the couch at The Doctor’s office. It makes me feel safe and it makes me feel comfortable. I like to look down at my running sneakers as I talk. All of my sneakers are running sneakers. Running makes me happy.
“How are you today, Josh?” The Doctor’s voice is very deep and he speaks very slowly. He makes me feel relaxed.
“I’m doing very well, Doctor. How are you today?”
“Fine, fine. Thank you. Do you have anything you’d like to tell me before we begin?”
“Yes. Well, no.”
“No? Or yes?”
“I have things to show you.”
“Wonderful! Let’s see them. When you’re ready.”
I’m ready now. I take out my notebook and open it up. The first is a drawing of a red sports car. If you knew anything about cars, you’d know it’s a Jaguar XK8. Just like my father’s. The Doctor doesn’t know anything about cars though.
“That’s the same drawing of the same car you start off with every meeting.”
“Doctor, that’s my husband’s car.” Mommy knows cars too.
“Ah…now it finally makes sense. Thanks for filling me in. That’s a very nice drawing, Josh. Do you have anything else to show me?”
“Sure Doctor, this next picture is of me stabbing a man.” It was actually a very good drawing. “I used purple blood instead of red because this stabbing took place in a vacuum with no oxygen. Oxygen turns blood red. Did you know that, Doctor?”
“Umm…yes. I knew that. Who is it you’re stabbing, Josh?”
I could tell The Doctor was uncomfortable. Maybe I should have held off a little while to show him the heavy stuff. Karen just sat there, silently listening. I think she’s absorbing the conversation.
“That’s the man who slapped my mommy on the behind. But I have another picture, would you like to see my other one?”
“Yeah…sure. What else do you have for me?”
This one is sure to set him off. As I turn the page, I keep the notebook close to my chest. This way, The Doctor can’t see it. “Doctor, this next picture is very important to me.” I drew the running team during one of our practices, with one small difference. Small, but important. I turn the notebook so The Doctor can now see it.
“It’s a group of runners.
“Why are they naked Josh?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know who they are?”
“That’s my team.”
“Why did you draw your team naked.”
“Because nudity is the most pure form of art.”
“Do you know why I run, Doctor?”
“Yes, Josh. We’ve gone over this.”
“I run to help daddy’s heart.”
“I know, Josh.”
“But there’s more. It’s also to escape everybody who looks at me funny.”
“Like the boys on the team?”
“Yeah. The other runners make fun of me. I want them to know what it feels like. Now, my whole team will be looked at funny. Now they’ll know what it’s like to be me.”