#4 Fresh Air, Long Run (1/3)
Welcome to Story Press #4. If you missed the third edition, click here to read the story of the boy who dreams of Vietnam.
This week, I share with you the first of a three-part story, serialised over the coming editions of Story Press. Today, we meet Michael, a strange young man with a bad memory, a passion for running, and a protective streak for breakfasts.
#4 Fresh Air, Long Run (1/3)
What we know is this: on the morning of July 21st, Michael Kravets laced up his trainers, pulled his clean white socks up about his calves, windmilled his arms, raised his legs repeatedly until his thighs tightened, and started on his routine run down to the bottom of his road and into the park.
Ordinarily, I would tell you what he saw in the park, whether he ran fast or slow, whether the air was fresh and clean or if it was raining and dark and uninviting. I’d tell you if he waved good morning! to the friendly faces he saw on every run: the father of the family with the pug-faces walking their West Highland Terrier; the old man down the road who brought a coffee to the same bench every day and blew on it to cool it down while reading the newspaper; the young couple who smiled, their arms interlinked like they’d die if they separated. I’d tell you if the grass was well-shaven, unkempt or perhaps sunned brown and shrivelled like an old Spaniard’s neck.
Of course, I can tell you that where I was on that day, I believe there to have been clean, sea-blue skies dappled with a few clouds and a light breeze. But that is all I can say because for me it was as much as any other day (and a long time ago, at that) - but for Michael, there was nothing ordinary about it.
We know nothing of all of that because Michael remembers nothing. That in itself is the crux of things: not what happened and when and to whom, but the absence of knowledge of what happened and when and to whom.
And from there, truly, the story begins.
Returning from his run, Michael met Mrs Goodenough as she careened down the stairs. Her broad, discombobulated frame tilting from side-to-side as she took each step, and she had a constant grimace on her face.
‘See anything intrestin’?’ she asked with her usual disdain.
‘Not nearly as ever,’ Michael replied, pulling apart his laces and slipping his trainers off.
‘You’re blind as anythin’. You never see nuthin’ good and I never hear ‘bout it. But if I go out, I tell yer, I got four or five stories to tell.’
‘Maybe that says more about you than me.’
Michael flew up both flights of stairs, took off his clothes and climbed into a hot shower. He washed and dried himself and brushed his plaque-ridden teeth. He trimmed his toenails, their spawn leaping across the bathroom for freedom.
‘Stop it!’ he muttered while squinting to make them out against the pale tiles.
He returned to his room and introduced a fresh tee-shirt and jeans, clean socks and a jumper. He had taken to an inconsequential slug mustache in recent weeks, and he’d a mind to comb it regularly during this time. Now, every follicle hung straight down in quiet obedience and, at this, he smiled.
Sometime later that morning (I cannot tell you exactly when), Michael went down to breakfast and plated up his usual concoction of eggs, sausages, a fried tomato, mushrooms and fried sliced potatoes. He ate it with a steaming coffee beside him. He was a big believer in breakfast as the superior meal, so much so that he said to me when we met, I’d kill if I didn’t have my breakfast. It would drive me mad. So, that tells you everything you need to know about Michael’s breakfasts: he loves them more than anything, and a breakfast foregone should be a warning to everyone.
It wasn’t until he was halfway through his third egg when Mrs Goodenough carried herself into the kitchen with a look of what I can only describe as terror in her eyes. Of course, Michael took no notice until he heard the tremor in her voice.
‘There’s bin a murder, Michael. I just saw the old lass next door, Mrs Dougal. She says there’s bin a murder this mornin’.’
‘What do you mean there’s been a murder?’ Michael put his fork down, sipped his coffee and looked up at the bitter old wreck.
‘I mean what I say, fella. A woman’s been murdered in the park. And not so long ago, as well.’
‘What are you talking about? Like overnight? I just went for a run in the park, I didn’t see anything.’
‘You never seen nothin’. I keep tellin’ yer. Apparently she was murdered this mornin’, not so long ago. Police swarmin’ all over it. You can hear it out the front.’
‘What? No, that’s rubbish. I just got back from my run and didn’t see or hear a thing.’
‘See for yerself.’
Michael slid his chair back and wheeled past Mrs Goodenough, opened the door and stood out on the steps. His ears didn’t have to adjust. She was right. There it was: the sound of a distant police siren getting closer, voices through the trees speaking loudly - someone through a megaphone telling people to step back!
He looked up and down the street, families - including the pug-faced lot - stood out on their front steps, faces drooping, mumbling to one another, speculating about the events.
Michael shut the door and turned back to his breakfast. As he passed Mrs Goodenough, he muttered, ‘Rubbish, what are they making such a big deal for?’
‘What they makin’ a deal fer? There’s bin a bloody murder, Michael. Yer daft git. Right under our noses.’
‘So what’s all the talking gonna do about it? We don’t know a thing. Better to wait and hear more. They’ll tell us everything in good time.’
‘I’m surprised you don’t know a thing about it. You were in that park less than an hour ago. How could you not have seen nuthin? What did you see if you didn’t see nuthin?’
‘I don’t know. I can’t remember much of it. I was running, I wasn’t sightseeing.’
‘What’re you hiding?’
‘I’m not hiding a bloody thing.’
‘You got that look in yer eye, Michael. I don’ like it.’
‘What are you jabbering about?’
Michael stood, tossed his plate into the sink and left the room without another word, coffee in hand, its trail of steam floating in the space about him.
Thank you for sharing the first part of this serialised story with me. For those joining late, you may be able to jump straight to the next edition by clicking the link below.
Next time, we hear more from Michael and his friends about what sort of person he is, what he knows and what he doesn’t, and what he plans to do next.
For all of you, please do share this with anyone who may enjoy my stories: the bigger the club, the more fun it is!