Rise- Chapter Eight- Gabriel Arnold

RISE – Chapter 8

By Gabriel Arnold

Kirra stepped from the doorway, her eyes squinted and her nose scrunched up. She hopped down the steps and stopped in front of Rusty, rubbing her ears between the palms of her hands.

“Oh man, can that woman scream. Well, Rusty, I finally talked her down and she agreed to let you stay at my place for a while. At least until things settle a bit.”

Rusty sat on the curb of the street, his head hanging low and his long, red hair hanging in his face. His few belongings were propped up next to him on the sidewalk. Without even lifting his eyes to meet Kirra’s, he said “Thanks Kirra. I really appreciate this.”

The dark skinned woman stared down at the young man, unusually quiet and cold. She looked back toward the house and finally said, “Don’t be too appreciative, I’m only doing this because Owen convinced me to. If it were my choice you’d be back inside right now apologizing to your mother. What on earth did you say to her anyway?”

Rusty curled up a little more on the curb, huddling his legs between his arms. Even though it was near noon he still felt cold, his fingertips unable to feel the denim of his jeans. He had spent most of the night on the streets, walking aimlessly through the frigid suburbs, his mind a wasteland. He was losing it, losing everything; first his friends, then his mother, now his home. He had wandered to the edge of The City before realizing the sun was coming up. That’s when he had called Kirra.

“Don’t worry about it Kirra. Just teenage drama.”

Kirra stood where she was, looking down at the boy’s huddled form. She wanted to be angry at him, wanted to yell and rant and be as harsh as Owen and maybe teach the stupid kid a lesson. He had called her, hoarse and exhausted, saying that he had run away from home. At first Kirra had thought he was playing a prank on her. Then, as he explained a little further, she realized the gravity of the situation. She’d called Owen, who had convinced her to help the young man, another unusual first for her old master. He never usually took any interest in his student’s personal lives. But he seemed especially forceful in telling Kirra to help the boy, saying, "Everyone's path is different. They travel them different ways. Rusty has fallen from his. We're supposed to help others, we can't stand by and let him suffer for a mistake."

She didn’t know what that mistake was or the whole story yet but she knew this went far beyond simple teenage drama. Still, as she watched him shiver with each gust of wind, she couldn’t bring herself to condemn him. Not yet at least. She took a step forward and slowly sat down next to Rusty, mirroring his hunched over pose by draping her long arms over her knees. As gently as she could she said, “I’m sorry Rusty. This must be pretty overwhelming for you right now but, well, I need to understand what’s going on. I can’t help if I don’t know the problem. And I don’t want to get mixed up in something way over my head.”

Rusty slid away from Kirra slightly. He ran his fingers through his hair, taking a deep breath.

"Rusty. Please."

The redheaded kid let out a sigh and clasped his hands together beneath his knees, fingers locked tight. “All right. All right, fine. The problem is…the problem is my dad.”

“Your father?”

“Yeah. See, he died a long time ago, about ten years ago. It was really sudden. I was only seven at the time so I don’t remember the details too well. I mean, I remember my dad, just not all the stuff when he died, like the funeral. Kind of a blur to me now. But I do remember, really, really well, how hard mom took it.”

Kirra was now listening intently, her dark eyes watching Rusty. This was all news to her. Rusty had never talked much about his family. She knew he lived at home but everything else was unknown. The pieces were starting to fall together. “I didn’t know that. I can imagine how rough that must have been.”

“Yeah. Mom was like a ghost for a long time. Real quiet and withdrawn. It took almost a year before she started coming back, started moving on. She never forgot him though. Sometimes I hear her, talking upstairs in her room. Acting like he's still around. When she does that she always ends up crying, eventually. She…she really loved dad.”

“So then, I’m guessing this whole fight got started because of your dad?”

Rusty fidgeted on the curb, turning his face away from Kirra but remaining seated. “Yeah, something like that. More like because of what happened to him. How he died.”

“Rusty, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to him?”

Rusty turned back around and looked Kirra dead in the eye. His normally shiny emerald gaze was glazed over, distant, as if he were seven years old again and reliving the news of his father’s death. “He fell. Fell off a roof.”

“A roof? Was he a construction worker or something?”

“No, no. He was…he was a Runner.”

This was the landmine Kirra had been digging for. Now the story was making sense. Rusty’s mother had lost her husband to a PKFR accident. And now Rusty was training, pushing himself, practically following suit. Of course she would be angry. She'd be furious.

“I’m so sorry to hear that. PKFR deaths are rare, even ten years ago, but accidents happen. They tend to get a lot of news play though, I might remember what happened. What was your dad’s name?”


“James, okay. Your last name is Klein right? So James Klein – wait a minute. James Klein, THE James Klein? JK! Your father was JK?!” Kirra yelled loudly.

Rusty slid down a little further on the curb, unsettled by Kirra’s outburst. Sensing this, Kirra calmed down and apologized, to which Rusty replied flatly, “It’s okay. Most people get a little worked up when they hear about the famous JK.”

That was, of course, a huge understatement. To PKFR fans of a decade ago, hell, even up to the present day, JK was a hero, a legend. His name was said in hushed, awed whispers. Three time, back-to-back-to-back winner of the World Parkour-Freerun Championship. Undefeated in any Pro/Am competitions he entered. The first man to successfully nail a running gainer to cat leap in competition. Star of the most watched online videos of 2015 and 2016. And also the co-creator of the most widely used shoe in the sport, the La Libertas. In short, he ranked right up there with the old giants, like David Belle and Danny Ilabaca.

Kirra fumbled for words. “Wow, um, okay. So that explains a lot then.”

Kirra didn’t need Rusty to explain anymore. The Fall of 2018. The death of JK had been a huge blow to the PKFR world, a great tragedy. JK had been in the heart of The City on top of a high rise, helping film a commercial for a non-profit health group. According to eyewitness accounts, he slipped on a rail and fell off the roof. The safety net below broke loose and JK was hurled off the side of the building, plummeting dozens of stories to his death. A dark day for the world. It was considered a freak accident. But that did little to console the family he left behind.
Apparently, Kirra had somehow stumbled into training the son of one of the greatest Runners of all time. Also, apparently, his mother didn’t approve of her son’s sudden, exploding interest in the very thing that destroyed their lives years earlier. Kirra didn’t need a crystal ball or Owen’s intuition to figure that much out.  

Leaning back and taking in the sudden enormity of it all, Kirra whistled an awestruck tune quietly to herself. She picked herself up off the ground, dusted off her pants, and held a hand out to the tired and shivering Rusty. Rusty looked up, a little confused by the small smile Kirra gave back to him. She said, “You may not believe me, but I understand what you’re going through. At least a little. And right now, the thing you need the most is a safe place to sort your head out. Come on, we’re going to my place.”

Rusty did his best but only mustered a grim grin in reply. He took her hand and stood up, legs shaking underneath him. “All right. I know where it is so I’ll come by a little later. I have something I need to take care of first.”

Kirra nodded and collected his things, telling Rusty they’d be waiting for him at her apartment downtown. She waved goodbye and Rusty turned to walk the other way, heading for the train station.

An hour later, he was standing in his high school’s auditorium, leaning on a small folding table, while a crowd of young men and women filed in behind him. A large sign tacked up on the wall behind the table proclaimed “New Year’s PKFR PRO/AM Contest: Sign Up Here!” A middle aged man with graying hair sat behind the table and placed a thin stack of papers in front of Rusty. He spoke in a tone as if he’d said this same thing hundreds of times before.

“Sign on the first line here, the last line on the next page, and initial on the third. This is your first time in the contest so you’ll want to read over the rules and such before arriving. Event date is two months from now, on New Year’s Eve. I suggest you take the time and train hard, competition will be fierce this year.”

Rusty nodded his head silently and filled out the forms as instructed. His heart was in his throat and it took all his concentration not to stab the pen tip through the table top. What was he doing? This was a bad idea, it was insane. This Pro/Am was practically ruining his life. Why was he still signing up? And yet, Rusty couldn’t stop himself, even as he finished the final K of his initials. Something, a feeling, a desire, almost like a raging wildfire, was building in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t back down now. He had come too far. And, and…something more. An unshakable, yearning force had been awakened, driving him forward. Rusty couldn’t name it, couldn’t place his finger on it. But it seemed hungry, starving, dying to unleash itself. A need…to move. He was interrupted from his dream state by the annoyed cough of the man behind the desk. Sliding the papers back to the older man, he was about to turn and leave when the man called out.

“Excuse me, Mr. Klein. One question: you wouldn't happen to be related to James Klein, would you? JK?”

Rusty felt a twinge of foreboding but answered anyway. “Yes. I’m his son.”

The gray haired man’s eyes got a little wider and he said “Really? Well that’s very interesting, is this your first competition? Where have you been all these years?”

“I’ve been around. And yeah, this is my first contest.”

“Well now, the son of JK, making his glorious debut. That’ll be a crowd pleaser.”

“Yeah, right, whatever. Look, don’t make a big deal out of it, okay? It’s still kind of a sore spot, you know? I wanna lay low.”

“Right, right. No worries. We’ll try to be discreet. Have a good day Mr. Klein.”
Rusty had just left the auditorium when the gray haired man touched the button of a small square device at his waist. The speaker bud in his left ear switched on and he dialed the number of the PKFR League’s advertising bureau. Skipping through channels until he reached the vice president’s office, he was patched through by the secretary and heard his right ear bud, the microphone, switch on with a burst of static.

“Hello, Mr. King? Yes, yes I hear you. This is David Aames at the Pro/Am signups, at The City High School. Fine, thank you. Listen, remember how you were looking for a new spin on the amateur portion of the contest? Yes, you said how you wanted a fresh face and angle, someone and something that would look good in ads and things around town. Television and E-Billboards, right. Well, I think I may have found our boy…”

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Written by Janine   
Friday, 30 October 2009 08:14
Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 21:44