Rise-Chapter Six- Gabriel Arnold

By: Gabriel Arnold

“Hard to believe it’s been three months already.”

Owen remained characteristically silent for a long moment, rewinding the summer’s events like a movie reel. After careful consideration of his words, the large man said plainly, “Three months…he’s improved a lot.”

Kirra sipped from her water bottle and said in a proud tone she couldn’t hide, “He’s incredible. In June he could barely run a mile. Now he nearly has kong-to-cat leaps down.”

Owen and Kirra stopped speaking and watched quietly from a top the wall as Rusty eyed their perch, like a tiger measuring steps to his prey. The two seasoned Runners knew that look all to well. And they knew it meant he wouldn’t make it.

“Should we tell him?” Kirra asked.

“No,” Owen said, “Let him fall. Bruises teach faster than words.”

Finally pushing aside his fears, Rusty exploded into a sprint, arms pumping and cheeks puffing. Planting his right foot and heaving his body forward, he leaped off the small stone block and sailed through the air, over the gap, fingers and toes ready for the landing. But the landing never came. He fell short and crashed into the brick wall, unable to get his feet under him in time to block the impact. Bouncing rag-doll style off the wall, he tumbled down five feet and landed with a hard thud on the sidewalk below. Rusty was slow to get up, rubbing his tailbone roughly, the sting of many failed attempts still fresh on the skin.

Looking up at the pair above him, Rusty said, “I don’t get it. I’ve hit leaps bigger than this before. Why am I freaking out now? What’s different?”

“You’re thinking now,” Kirra said. “Look.” The thin dark skinned woman stood up and took a stance similar to Rusty’s before he took the run up. “You spend so much time going over the details and psyching yourself up that you miss the big picture.”

Rusty pulled sweaty strings of chin length hair from his eyes, saying, “And what’s the big picture?”

Owen cut in and stood up, saying in his deep voice, “That some movements, like this one, you can’t prepare for. They just have to happen.” The middle-aged man with the shaved head lowered himself down the wall and dropped off, landing next to Rusty without a single sound. Three months of training and still Rusty was awestruck; Owen was always, permanently, silent. Owen continued by saying, “Those movements, those moments in time, can’t be drilled into submission. They simply happen, and you’re either ready…or you’re not.”
More cryptic mumblings. Rusty may have been impressed by Owen’s power and grace, but his constantly vague answers annoyed the young man to no end. Parkour is real, your desires fuel your abilities, your mind is the key. Why couldn’t he speak as plainly as Kirra did? Rusty looked at the ground and shook his head slowly, the sign he had developed over the months that signaled when his brain simply couldn’t comprehend the Parkour logic. Owen knew it and also knew when enough was enough.

“Okay,” he said, “That’s good for today.”

Kirra, who had worked her way down off the wall by a different route, joined the two men and exclaimed, “Hey Rusty, today was your last day of summer vacation right? You ready for school tomorrow?”

Rusty forced a weak smile and said, “Yeah, got my supplies in order and classes set. Can’t say I want to go back though. I feel like I’ve learned more in three months here than in three years there.”

Kirra smiled back warmly and said, “Maybe. But lazy vaults and precisions don’t earn you a diploma.”

“Yeah, I know. Gotta stay in school and all that.”

“Since you’ll be busy with classes, we’ll have to scale back your training dates. How does once a week on Saturdays sound? We’d expect you to train on your own in between.”

“Saturdays sound good. And I’ll train whenever I can, count on it.”

The electronic television-billboard on the building above them chimed five times while a female announcer stated the time and temperature. Five o’clock, time for Rusty to leave. Packing up his worn backpack, Rusty waved goodbye to his teachers and jogged off down the street, heading for his train station. Owen and Kirra remained at the training spot, watching the leanly muscled redhead bounce down the road.

Kirra finally broke the silence by saying proudly, “He’s not a natural, that’s for sure. But he’s worked hard. He’s really grown hasn’t he?”

Owen was not nearly as impressed though. “Only on the outside. He’s still got a lot to learn inside.”

“But he has that personality mix you always talk about, determination and curiosity.”

“I know.” Owen stared off into the distance, cautiously running a callused finger across the scar on the edge of his eye. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

The hot August sun was low on the horizon when Rusty finally returned home. His thoughts were in the clouds, like usual, and he slipped through the door absentmindedly. And nearly ran headfirst into his mother, who was standing on the other side. Jolted back into the moment by the near collision, Rusty stumbled sideways and fell ass first onto the wooden steps. Hitting his bruised bone dead on, he groaned through gritted teeth and jumped up, hand swift to hold the tender spot. His mother never budged from her spot the entire time. When Rusty had regained his composure, his mother held out a mailing order slip.

“What is this Rusty?”

Rusty was dumbfounded for a moment as he tried to understand what was happening. He dropped his pack to the floor and bunched his eyebrows together, confused. “What’s what mom?”

His mother’s face was colder than he had seen in months, colder than the time he racked up three hundred dollars worth of PKFR pay-per-view events. She held the invoice out like an attorney offering proof of murder charges. “This mailing slip Russell. What is this slip about?”

Rusty finally took a solid glance at the slip and realized what it was: an order for a pair of PKFR-specific sneakers, the brand new Libertas. The realization hit him harder than a baseball bat. He had ordered the shoes last week, a gift to himself for completing a summer’s worth of hellish training under Owen and Kirra. He had sent the shoes to an anonymous mailing box at the postal station, but had forgotten to have the bill sent there as well. And now his mother had found it…a woman who had lost her husband to a PKFR accident and had forbidden all forms of training for her only son. For Rusty, his mother finding that shoe order was the equivalent of declaring himself a professional Runner while simultaneously burning the house down.

“Well Russell? Care to explain this?”

“Uh, well…mom, let me explain…”

“I am Russell. And it better be good.”

“They’re…they’re for Lee.”

Rusty’s mother stared blankly at her son. “Lee? Your friend Lee?”

Rusty hadn’t told his mom about the problems with Lee, about him and Jenna. Why was Lee the best excuse Rusty could come up with? Why…?

“Yeah mom, Lee. See, they, um, the shoes, well, they’re a new style. And Lee, he, uh…wanted to test them.”

“…Lee doesn’t train PKFR Russell.”

“No, no he doesn’t. But, uh, you know he still loves it. And he loves science and stuff, but uh, he’s been getting into this kick about applying science to PKFR stuff. You know, clothes, shoes, stuff like that.”

“Then WHY did he want THESE shoes?” Rusty was going to lose the lie any second.

“He, he wanted to experiment with them, test ‘em you know. Like I said.”

“So why did YOU order them? Why didn’t he do it?”

“Well, he lost his wallet. Didn’t have his credit card. So I told him I’d get them for him and he could pay me back.”

“…Then these aren’t for you?”

“No mom, of course not.”

“Don’t lie to me Russell Klein. Don’t you dare lie to me.”

“I’m not mom, I swear.”

Rusty’s mother looked him up and down with her shining emerald eyes. Finally satisfied with her son’s answer, she pushed the invoice into his hand and said, “Fine. But they don’t come in my house, understand? They stay at Lee’s. Is that clear?!” She practically screamed the final two words.

“Crystal.” Rusty squeaked. As quickly as he could he gathered his belongings and bolted up the stairs. He dove into his room and locked the door behind him, breathing heavy and hard, a cold sweat on his forehead. That was close, way too close.

Back on the first floor, Rusty’s mother looked up the stairs where her son had disappeared a moment before. Quizzically, as if asking herself the question out loud, she said, “Why did he groan as he jumped off the stairs? Where have I seen that before…?”

The night passed and a swift dawn arose, and with it, the first day of senior year. Standing outside The City’s largest high school, Rusty gazed up and out at the huge complex. Steel and wood and open space melded together to create a seamless line of gymnasiums, science labs, training fields, and study halls. An impressive display of academics and athletics, working in harmony. Though a public school and thus open to anyone and everyone, City High was widely regarded as the home of the best youth PKFR team in the state, possibly the entire country. With the painted iron bar jungle gym in the front courtyard spelling out PKFR, it wasn’t hard to see why. The place was simply packed to the teeth with movement possibility.

Piecing his way through the first day crowds, Rusty happened to spy Jenna, Lee, and several other students standing beneath a floor-to-ceiling poster. The poster was announcing The City’s tenth annual Professional/Amateur PKFR competition, this year to be hosted on City High’s own grounds.

A young girl with tightly wound pigtails exclaimed in a high-pitched ring, “Can you believe it, it’s gonna be here! Here! All the best Runners in the country!”

Another girl chimed in saying, “I even hear Andre Levy’s gonna come! He’s the World Champ right now! This is going to be so cool!”

Jenna spoke next, saying, “Andre huh? I’ve always wanted to meet him. He’s always so smooth and strong when he’s moving, and…”

Lee cut her off and said jokingly, “Jen, you better not say good looking.”

Jenna teased Lee and said, “Why? Afraid I might fall for him over you?” Jenna’s two friends chuckled under their breaths. Lee became agitated.

“Come on Jen, that’s not funny.”

“Oh why not Lee-Lee? You’re always so paranoid, lighten up. Don’t be intimidated, even if Andre is kinda sexy…with that long hair, the hazel eyes, and that, that…”

Jenna’s pigtailed friend finished the sentence for her. “That ripped body?” 

Rusty grinned inwardly. What a treat. Lee was well known for his biting jokes. But Rusty knew two things about Lee that few others did: one, he hated it when people returned the favor and made fun of him. Two, he was the jealous type. The extremely jealous type. So when he brushed off Jenna’s remarks and walked away in a huff, Rusty was happily smug to know it was because Jenna had gotten to him on multiple levels, even if by accident.

Leaving the blond girl alone with her friends under the poster, Rusty stuck around just long enough to catch Jenna saying to them, “Ugh, why does he always do that? Oh well, he wasn’t that far off. I do have a weak spot for Runners…”

Bingo. Like a flash of Einstein-level genius, Rusty had his ticket back into Jenna’s heart. Shouldering his heavy pack, the inward grin reached out and spread across Rusty’s lips. The plan was forming. He knew what he had to do.

He had to win the Pro/Am contest…

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Written by Janine   
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 10:50
Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 21:43