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Itís a three run day; itís a three run day. If you say it fast enough it sounds like "a three rum day." That sounds more fun, like being young again, more carefree than running three times to de-stress. And just what I am so stressed about?

RUNNER, BY LINDA ARMSTRONG
RUNNER
by Linda Armstrong

Well it all began at my neighborís party, being with the twenty-something crowd, realizing Iím not one of them anymore, that Iím getting near the end of the thirty-something crowd; dare I say it, forty is just three shy years away... there I said it, itís out in the open. Okay, now I can be young again, right, itís cool when youíre young to admit your age. No oneís afraid of the numbers when they're young, everyone is ahead of you, so many years, like stars twinkling in the future; the future you canít touch when youth is on your side.

Just how did I get old? Donít know. I always prided myself on being youngĖat-heart, playful, keeping the kid inside alive. Iíd rationalized that having the kidís imagination is essential for a writer... canít get old, wonít. I refuse.

See, I have this kid inside me. I see wizards in the woods out of the corner of my eyes, and when I see three pennies on the road they become the keys to the universe, the one within the universe, the one where I am still young.

I look in the mirror after the first run. I ran down the beach to the pier, talking the whole time with my husband about work, saving for a house, increasing our income. We sounded like adults. What happened to the days when we ran, watching the waves and staring at the sky, seeing the shape of a womanís face or seeing visions of the alphabet in the clouds?

I come home and look at my face in the mirror. There is no change... no after-sweat glow. My skin looks dry, the area under my eyes is puffy, the dark circles look darker than they used to after a sleepless night, and those circles seem so old.

I eat lunch and work on the novel. The three pennies become a sign from the grandma in my book. She is communicating with her grandson, when he is lonely and missing the love of his life. The pennies are aligned in the direction of the phone, pointing toward the door and at his car keys. And he smells a hint of jasmine and knows his Grandma is steering him in the right direction.

She wasnít old. Sure, she was by age old, but she was a wizard and wizards are never stuffy and old; they have magic, the magic of youth.

I feel better. I go on run two. I smell the neighborís roses. The red ones of love are the most fragrant, and the yellow ones, theyíre for friendship. They remind me of honey and Winnie the Pooh. Oh yes, the kid is coming back.

Just as I near home I find a guitar left out for the trash, I strum a few chords; I am a folk singer. I see myself wearing a deep purple beret, faded blue jeans, and a black t-shirt. The guitar strap is slung over my shoulder, the guitar is balancing against my chest and knee as I strum and sing a deep-throated song, in a dimly lit cafe. It is a dream, and not mine. I have so many dreams, I live them as a writer by day, writing promotional copy, twirling the selling and marketing words, and at night when I write, sometimes Iím a grandma wizard, or a man who is communicating with his girl friend telepathically, or a girl who has fought a would-be child molester and knows what it means to be strong, and who still dreams of flying. She is just trying to figure out how to convince her arms that she can.

I carry the guitar upstairs to my neighborís house. The couple that lives there is my age. Theyíve each worked in the same field for twenty years and told me just last night how they need a change. They donít realize it, but they need a dream. I knock on their door and hand Russ the guitar. He asks how I found it, and I simply say it is magic, so he strums a few chords, that little kid in him, the one who once wanted to be just like Rod Stewart, is smiling.

I go home and look in the mirror. My skin looks flushed; it glows. I am young and in way better shape than those twenty-somethings at the party. To prove it, I go on run three. I run fast and as the cold, coastal air chills my ears, I run faster. Looking at the stars, sweat pours down my face; I take my sweatshirt off and tie it around my waist. I have wings now. I am flying. I can touch the stars, when there is magic inside.

Julie Shapiro is a freelance writer in San Diego. Her non-fiction work has appeared in health, computer, education, and commercial and residential real estate publications. Featured short stories have appeared in Megæra, MillenniumSHIFT, Orgease Journal, Pacific Northwest Potpourri, Alternate Species, storySouth, Science Fiction and Fantasy World, wORD rIOT, Universal Personality, Seven Seas Magazine, The Green Tricyle, and All Things Girl.


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