The air felt salty in my lungs. Mist sprayed against my face, which I constantly wiped away with my sleeve. Sand under my shoes, I stretched out all the knots in my muscles built up from sleeping wrong on the mattress of my bedroom and lack of exercise at school today.
The sun’s light was falling into the west and the sky’s color was orange, in sharp contrast to the bright blue of earlier. Waves pushed onto the beach and back in rhythmic flow. The wind blew against my back. After five minutes, my own panting covered over the sound of the ocean in my ears.
Running has never been a profession for me, in case you’re wondering. Some claimed that running was good exercise for both body and mind. Studies indeed proved that physical exercise could be beneficial. I had read that somewhere before, in a magazine on health in a doctor’s office, probably. I’m strong enough to run for a few miles, but my speed is not great enough to be considered for the track team, or stamina built enough for a marathon. Similarly I didn’t have problems that need to be worked out, so I rarely dwelled on matters either.
I supposed the only reason was because I liked it. That and I had nothing better to do.
Starting to feel the sweat drip down my face, in the distance I could make out the familiar dock where my running usually ended. Rarely did I find any boats on the dock or people; made me wonder if it had long been abandoned. A sign that’s posted near it said “No Trespassing”, so apparently someone still cared for the useless construction jutting out in the ocean. In Vero Beach, the Indian River runs into the ocean. If I said ‘I generally run alongside the ocean,’ that was probably not the correct term, so much as ‘I generally run alongside the estuary.’
Regardless, I generally run along waters that are calm and salty.
My legs started to ache. Slowing to a walk, panting, I made my way up the path that led me through sand dunes and back toward my street. As I walked, my running shoes started to lose the excess of sand that built up on them from the beach, and left an unseen trail all the way back to my house. By the time I get home, they’ll be clean.
I took causal time walking, being Wednesday. I had no plans for the night. My days of jogging were Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, an hour after I got out of school. I found this to be when it’s cool enough – well not scorching anyway – to run without killing myself of heat stroke.
The street I live on had homes situated on both sides, having an ocean view and the other not as fortunate. I didn’t understand how being in one place or the other made such a large difference in price, the beach only being 10 feet away or a hundred depending on which side you were living on. If you wanted a view so badly, step outside your home and watch it. Then again, if I was an older man, I might have complained against such an idea with my supposed weakened legs. Like my own home, the houses were painted in a bright color, such as blue or yellow or pink, any color in the rainbow.
Approaching a house I was acquainted with, its reason being the resident sat on her porch often. As customary, Miss Daniels gave me a gentle smile and a big wave. I saw her often on my walks, and Fridays she always had me do a small chore for her. It’s a request really, but when a woman who lived on her own and pushing seventy, asks a young man of fifteen for a ‘favor’ it’s not so much a request but a command I supposed – in a gentle way but a command none the less.
I was neither happy nor upset to do a small job for her if she asked. Taking out the trash or moving one of her plants was easy work. I’m sure she enjoyed the company, but on the other hand she rarely said more than a “thank you young man” or “you’re getting taller aren’t you?” She’s not the type of older person to tell you her story for hours or show you pictures. Some said that listening to an older person was a sure way of gaining life lessons and experiences. Others told me that they can be extremely boring, repeating or rambling about events that didn’t matter or issues that have long since been resolved.
Since Miss Daniels had never told me too much of her life, I can’t say for sure whether I’d be captivated or grieved to hear about it. The work wasn’t difficult, it was just obligatory. I didn’t gain or lose anything from her silence.
So, I couldn’t say I liked or disliked helping her.
With a smile and gentle send off, she must not have had anything that needed done. I assumed she waved to almost anyone who passed on the street, but I had no way of knowing for sure. If I was one of the few, did that mean I’d made a friend out of her?
I passed her green house and white picket fence, which had an older feel to it. A simple but well kept garden decorated her home. She had no pets and could still drive.
The moment I lost sight of her, I started to think of dinner and what was for dinner. I believed we had chicken left over from Monday night. Dad worked late on Wednesday, but I wondered if he’d get fast food on the way home or want leftovers?
Leftovers. Dad already had fast food once this week and was trying to stay away from overindulgence.
I had a few more blocks to go and the sky had started to turn a deeper shade of orange. Long and skinny white clouds were stretched out over the sky like fingers in hair. I could still smell salt and the heat felt warm.
My name is Austin. Austin Locke. It’s August. I’m fifteen years old and have lived here for two years. At the beginning of summer, I had finished my first year of high school. It’s only a couple weeks until school started up again. I run three days a week, read often in my room and spend time quietly with my dad when he gets home.
Sometimes it felt like every day was a song set on repeat. The familiar orange sky. The sun resting in the west only to awaken tomorrow in the east. In a couple days I’ll run this path again.
I didn’t hate it.
Staring out toward the east, where the ocean was and watching the houses as I passed them, catching glimpses of the blue water. Not looking for anything specific. I imagined the waves pulling in and out of the shore, as they always will.
A moment passed and I stopped at the sound of music.
The sudden melody of a grand piano was a surprise, playing in my ears. It was so abnormal in my usual routine that I stopped in my tracks. It was good. Very good. The quality of it was too clear for it to have been a recording. “Canon in D” composed by Johann Pachelbel. It had just started to be played, the melody soft and slow. I listened to it for a long while, the pace of the music quickening and becoming less sorrowful.
A music fanatic, I was not, but like everyone else I enjoy it. And while I can’t play the piano, or any instrument for that matter, I could tell whoever was playing was very talented.
With a small smile I clapped slowly, acknowledging the skill of the pianist as I continued home. For once, there was something new.