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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A group of college students decide to follow a very old runner on his seemingly endless runs. Later they meet, where both he, at 92, and they, 20s, learn about the eternal values of the human condition.

Submitted: July 15, 2017

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Submitted: July 15, 2017




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Seven


When Penny called to make plans for the get-together, Veronica answered. Conrad was out on a run.

“Connie asked me tell you that he has a perfect place for the meeting with you and your friends. I’ll have him call you as soon as he comes in which should be any minute now.”

“Oh, well, thank you Mrs. Cox. Where is the place?”

“I’ll let him tell you because he wants to tell you his reasons and ask if you and the others would agree. I think you’ll be surprised.”

“Oh, how mysterious,” laughing, “this is so exciting. I certainly will wait here. Thank you both so much.”

Veronica said a few kind words and they disconnected.

Penny immediately called me and I couldn’t help catching her excitement fever; I have to say, I was more than a little pumped.

“I’ll call half and you call half, okay, Pen?”

Penny agreed, they divided the names, and went to class.


What Conrad Cox had hoped for from the weather exceeded his unreasonably high hopes.

Saturday began with the sun coming up like thunder ‘cross the East Bay hills and taking an early strike at Tilden Park, and the bull’s eye, The Brazilian Room.

Conrad had been a member of the East Bay Regional Park District for over twenty years. The other Board members insisted on giving him a cut rate for his party. Conrad gave his usual warm appreciative thanks and accepted.

The Brazilian Room, a gift from Brazil following the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939, is a fascinating structure in a unique setting, beside the Botanical Gardens, with a large terrace that offers a view of the natural treasures of the area.

Man, this is fantastic; I never even knew this was here,” I couldn’t even remember anyone telling me about it. “Wow; TM did it again. Just the perfect spot.”

All the guys were there almost on the dot of noon. TM told us we had the run of the place until midnight—twelve hours. Man, I thought, in that amount of time we could all graduate, disperse, marry and have five kids. But, for me, it was such a relief to have a definite chunk of time where I could just chill with my friends in total relaxation and let Sunday be a catch-up day.

“Does he also have magical weather powers too?” Janice gushed at Penny, “this is the best day of the year.”

Nick, standing next to them, “You know, there’s something odd in the air; feels like something magical. I mean, look at the way the sun is reflecting off the water there by the Botanical Gardens. That’s weird. The creek or channel or whatever it is can’t be three feet across but somehow the sun has managed to reflect some fantastic light all over the place.”The two women looked around to follow where Nick was pointing. 

“George, see those hills up there,” pointed Jewel, “I’ve run along the top of them up there. At one point you can see San Francisco and in the other direction you can see beyond Martinez. I started taking my phone with me and I have some major good shots. It’s like you’re running along the spine of the world.”

She was silent while George and Nick continued to stare at the hills and imagine the outrageous beauty of a sunrise or sunset from up there.


Shortly after twelve, TM asked us to come in and take a seat and have lunch. Wah. Lunch and dinner. My happiness bell was ringing in all my ears. I realized I had this goofy, smacked look on my face; but I didn’t care. In fact I suddenly realized that I was essentially free of worries.

We all sat at a long table with a white linen tablecloth with silver forks and spoons and all. There were three overflowing baskets of flowers set at places along the length of the table.

TM sat a one end and his wife, Veronica sat at the other. I felt like I was at home for Thanksgiving dinner or such. There are nine in my family, counting my mom and dad. Yeah, it was just like that when we were sitting there in the park all around that really beautiful table.

TM and Veronica had laid on help and arranged for the lunch meal. They promised pizza and beer for dinner.

I wondered what we were going to do for another seven hours or so before the pizza and beer. What were we going to talk about? I asked Johnny and he said that he figured TM had some secret plan for us.

“I’m really glad we’re here with all the French doors open onto the terrace and we can see lots of green and sunlight; otherwise it would be really creepy; like a suicide-pact last meal together, you know, like that flick.” He took a deep breath and turned to his other side to talk to Jack. I turned and talked to Geoffrey.


“Well, to begin with, all of you are a continuing inspiration to me and Veronica; you, and all the other young men and women who we see year round, every year.

“In our somewhat insane minds, we tend to view all the students that we see as being the same ones that we have been seeing over the years—the decades. Our insanity is that we think we are seeing the same people and do not expect a different result . . . does that make sense?"

Jack Bianchi, the psychiatrist-to-be, and Penny’s present escort, remarked with a firm tone. “It certainly does, Conrad, just a rewiring of the same false perception, a delusion.”

“Well, I’ve had plenty of those over the years,” smiled Conrad Cox, “I still carry a number around and think they help in the present; like the delusion that I‘ll run the New York Marathon in a couple of years." We all laughed laughs of appreciative respect.

“Anyway, I received all your questions and I decided not to answer most of them and let me tell you why.

It’s because this meeting is about you twelve, not me. You are the ones who will do all the exciting questioning and discover the new paths to follow for a happy and productive life.

“You asked me to join you beginning with your seeing me run a lot. That’s nothing; all of you can do that. But when you read my Wikipedia page, ninety percent of your questions would be about episodes in my life, but I,” shaking his head while pursing his lips, “there are so many more interesting stories than mine. I don’t say that with false modesty because at my age, my eyes tend to fall on the obituary page a bit more than when I was sixty.

“There are always fascinating stories in the Chronicle but more often in The New York Times.

“But I’m still here and so every day gives me another chance to add to my story. So. Enough abut me.

“I would like to hear each of your stories.  

We all—including Conrad—laughed and took the laughter break as a break in which to have to eat our really fine lunch.

“Let’s start at the end of the table you are . . . ?”

“Jewel; Jewel Simmons.”

From that point until lunch finished, and well beyond; maybe two-three o’clock, each of our twelve told their story in detail while the others reacted with sighs, tears or laughter. Every story was worthy of publication; each had drama, triumph and disaster, conflict and resolution, storm and calm.

We took a break and some started to walk alone; many together. The rest of us, maybe three or four, just flopped on chairs on the patio, absorbed all the vibes of nature, and thought.


As the evening began, a form of magical veil fell over the group. Things we wouldn’t tell our best friends—even a priest—in a confession, we told our best friends; our group. We had more than a lot of embarrassments. Everyone confessed to shortcomings—and we all forgave them. 

By the time of ‘last call’, everyone had spoken and with their revelations, had acquired eleven other soul mates, as well as the admiration and respect of Conrad Cox.


When he and Veronica began to talk about their amazing party, Conrad had tears in his eyes while he talked about all the changes that had happened in university life since they had attended, as well as the new morality on campus.

“But they’re still kids, darling . . .  no, that’s insulting; they’re still young men and women; and full of hope as well as beer and pizza.” He added the last because he wanted to bring himself back from the edge of the pit of sadness that all of us could so easily fall into when we tend to be overly sentimental.

“Wasn’t that amazing when you and I asked a lot of questions about texting and the whole social media thing? Not surprisingly, eh? I think they were all participating with the exception of two. Remember: those two had abandoned the daily ‘check-in and keep-up’ and decided to study more—and drink more,” laughing again, “but they all had Smart phones and apps and all the appendages to that form of socializing didn’t they.” 

Veronica took up the thread. “I now understand that the social media is nothing more than that; socializing. All of their friends are instantly available without having to be at the same place at the same time.

“All of them are weaving even their social ramble around and between the things that they really like to do, things which are as diverse as the members of the group. They are everyone from swimmers to rock climbers to self–acknowledged geeks who pass their recreational time both inside and out, playing games with or against people in New Zealand or China.

“But it is still a recreation for them.

“All the bad press and heavy sighing about how the young are texting their lives away is nonsense. They have managed, for the most part, to incorporate social media into their lives, not the other way around.

“Even—I shouldn’t say ‘even’---the athletes, including the athletic scholarship ones—there are four; two men and two women—have managed to wend their way around the sirens of social media and hit the books when necessary. Not a laggard in the whole twelve. In addition, a number of exceptionally bright young people.

"My opinion of the future changed radically after I had heard all of their stories and I had answered the few questions that I agreed to answer.”

“Ah yes, the fabulous four we discussed before our meeting.”

Conrad Cox sighed, took a long drink of his wine and pulled Veronica closer to him.

“Yes. Those: would I do anything differently; was I afraid of dying; what have you planned to do next; and what advice can you give us to have the best shot at reaching your age. And you heard my answers—again. Still the same. And here they are again. I hope this is the last time I have to say them.”

End of Chapter Seven

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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