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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Some Cal students have noticed an older guy running in the area over the past six months and some strange attraction makes them decide to follow him. Then they decide that they want to meet him.
They all agree that they have a very odd feeling that he can give them all priceless advice about the long journey of life that they are about to embark upon.

Submitted: July 12, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 12, 2016




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter One


We’d seen this older guy jogging around the neighborhood for the last six months; tall guy, muscled in a long lean way; probably over six three.

He always ran with an old Sony cassette player and some odd–looking earphones from about the same era; back in the day, you’d say. And his day was probably the fifties which would put him in his seventies.

Most times we’d see him in the morning, and depending on the hour, he was either starting out or on his way home, but we still haven’t figured out which; yet; at least George hasn’t.

I don’t think Nicky has either.

Jewel, who’s also a jogger—well, more of a runner; she runs track at Cal; she says that maybe we’re seeing him a day afterhe started out.

“Are you sayin’ this dude ran all night?’’

Johnny likes to talk black, but he’s piss poor at it.

Even Geoffrey, who is black, gives him a rap on the head every time Johnny gets tripp’in

I usually give him a few jabs myself; I’m half black and even I sound whiter than Johnny’s riffs.

Nevertheless, he’s the best: Johnny is simply: the best. About everything: he shares; he helps you with assignments, and those damn assignments here at Cal are not easy.

After all, it is one of the ten best in the country—and close to that in the world; and they don’t ease up on you, just because you’re a ball player—or any type of athlete.

In fact, to me, it seems that they lean on us a bit heavier just to rid the whole scene of any bias toward jocks.

We get together after practice.

We were on our way along Oxford Street, and here comes the old guy again; and he has the old cassette player with him and the older goofier-looking headphones; and he’s just chugging along.

You know, I shouldn’t say that; chugging, I mean; it’s insulting to this guy. He is really moving; gliding almost.

Jewel, the short lean track star told me that all good runners never have a foot on the ground, let alone two feet. He seems to float.

I know—and the other guys agree—that we just classify him as ‘this old dude’ because he has grey hair; about half grey and the other half white.

However, he runs with a perfect motion; his stride is not too short and not too long; just a steady ‘easy’ stride.

His hands and arms flow with his legs as if there is a joint joining the two, keeping both in perfect sync.

Jewel, who also packs a perfect nose and a boss figure, thinks he’s an Ultra Marathoner; which we, the guys, doubt.

However, Janice now agrees with Jewel.

I can’t believe we’re spending all this time talking about this old white dude.

Maybe he means something to the women; Jewel and Janice.

I know Janice doesn’t know her father and perhaps she sees ‘the man’; we now just call him ‘the man’; to eliminate any age prejudice . . . I guess.

Anyway, Janice, who is tall, dark-haired and pouty-mouthed, may project her thoughts about her real father into the sliding form of ‘the man’; I don’t know, but I’m going to ask her about all that; whatever it is that dadless young women miss and crave.

Jewel, who speaks and acts very tall for her height, and Johnny are still arguing about whether or not ‘the man’ is running over a whole day and night.

 Now Janice wants to follow him!

“How the hell are we going to do that?” asks George.

George is a white guy from Piedmont; very upper, but a hell of a nice guy. 

Good looking, say Jewel and Janice; and now Penny and Missy think so too.

 Me? I just shake my head; “okay; says you’, is the expression I’m thinking.

What if he is running overnight—a dumb assumption to me—how are you going to track him, especially if he goes running off into the hills; Tilden, say?

“Why are you bothering about this guy at all?” asks Nicky, which brings a level of sanity back into our lives.

We’re all sitting at the outdoor tables in the front to the Pantry, on the corner of Center which commands a view up and down; or rather along and along Oxford; where we have seen ‘the man’ on several occasions before.

 Jesus! There he is! coming right now; almost to the corner of Edwards Stadium, and now that I see him in profile, I suddenly have this thought jump into my head that maybe this guy does run all night; something about the purpose in his stride; easy and efficient; well; like he could run all day. I nudge Nicky.

“Hey, man; there he ishey, all of you,”

Only Penny and George are at the table. Jewel’s out on a morning training run. It’s about ten-thirty and between classes for most of us.

“There he goes,” and before I can clamp down my thought, it jumps through my startled lips, “I’m going to follow that guy.”

I got up and set off for my car that’s in a garage off Bancroft. I’m wearing my ASICS and they’re tightly laced.

I just leave.

Of course Johnny picked up my tab when he dropped by about an hour later.

I reached the garage in damn near record time.

I could see TM turning up Bancroft, and I figured he’d keep going, probably to Telegraph and then; I didn’t know; but I’d find out.

I hit my iPhone and reached Janice and told her what I was doing, but that I’d need help; and to round up a posse; and we could spell off each other to maintain a bead on TM.

“Are you nuts Marshall; you’re going to follow this guy? You aren’t even a runner for Christ’s sake.” 

“Well I can run pretty fast for awhile; then one of you can pick him up while I rest up or eat or whatever.”

“Boy”, sighing, “you are nuts Marsh; but I’ll make the calls and see if anyone’s interested but I doubt it. I’ll bet no one’ll play this silly game with you.” And she hung up.

I guess she thought I was running after TM, when in fact I was driving and had him in view as he was nearing Telegraph; maybe heading for the stadium; maybe Strawberry Canyon.

Before reacting to TM’s turn on Telegraph, Nicky called to say he was interested because he thought it would be a good number for his Sociology course: Age and the Limits of Human Mobility.

I agreed and told him my location; to get in the area and I’d leave the line open and he could tell me his location and I’d hand off TM to him.

Nicky agreed and set out for his car.

My iPhone beeped on the other line and it was Jewel. She’d just finished her workout on the Strawberry Canyon trail up to the Space Center and back.

However, some lost pieces of fog were sliding up the hills and the cooling had helped her revive; and she was really damn excited when I told her about Nicky and me starting the tail.

“Hey; count me in. Maybe he’ll go up Strawberry and I can stay here and pick him up at the trail head. I don’t have another class until two, so I’m on it.” 


I switched back to Nicky’s line but nothing there.

Ahead of me TM was almost to Telegraph. I slowed and held back, waiting to see which way he turned.

Right . . . Right? I thought; huhn; that’s not going to Strawberry Canyon—or even the football stadium.

Nicky came on the line, breathing deeply. “I’m on Dwight; where are you?”
I told him and he was just a few blocks away.  

“The guy’s going south along Telegraph.”

“Gotcha; do you want me to pick him up there?

“Yeah Nicky; he’s running along Telegraph now; I  can’t turn right; it’s one way. I’ll go up to Gayley Road and along Waring. I just know he’ll turn left up Dwight.”

“Okay. I see him; ah, and there you are. Okay; I’m on him and I only have my Addidas on;  in street clothes, otherwise.

“I can follow him some, but I’m not much good after twenty minutes or so in these duds. “Hey, I think he’s going down Telegraph; I wonder where; maybe to Oakland; you know; Lake Merritt maybe?”

“Hey, man; just do what you can. Jewel’s keen, but she’s over in Strawberry Canyon; I’ll call her and tell her to get to you. Between the two of you, you should be okay for an hour or so . . . I’ll round up some others and I’ll get my running gear on and keep in touch.”

“Great, Jensen. By the way, why the hell are we doing this?”

I still wasn’t prepared to answer this and just yawned and said “I’ll decide later,” and disconnected.

End of Chapter One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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