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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Still Running
By Jason Elliotson


Pat, pat, pat, pat.

The rhythm was almost hypnotic, and at his age he needed it to be. He smiled thinly and inhaled through his nose.

Pat, pat, pat, pat.

He was more or less on autopilot at times like this. It gave him a chance to think. Tonight he was reminiscing.

Lewis remembered chatting with Nouhoum before he left. He’d grown very fond of the rangy Malian with speed to burn. Nouhoum was as friendly as he was talented, polite and courteous, eager to learn. His bright white smile was as big as he was easy-going. Nouhoum had often joked about his skin tone, “Coach, if I did not show you my teeth you would lose me in de dahk.”

Lewis smirked.

He remembered Nouhoum breaking school records, running sub-10’s over 100 meters almost as a routine. And he hadn’t even really learned how to run yet.

“Loosen up, Nouhoum! Drop your jaw!” Lewis would yell at him as the young man flashed past him. Nouhoum would hit the finish in 10 seconds or less and Lewis would shake his head as the kid shrugged, laughing. “No sweat, Coach! I will succeed next time,” he’d say.

When Nouhoum came to him, he was a distance runner who could barely speak English. But he’d come a long way with his speech and Lewis knew he’d found his true calling as a sprinter.

Nouhoum, very unintentionally, made it tough for Lewis to retire. They’d become friends, and Lewis wanted to be around when Nouhoum found his stride and hit the mainstream. But Nouhoum understood. There were other things for him to do now, other things to use his knowledge and experience for. “Coach, I know you will continue to run de good race,” he’d said.

Pat, pat, pat, pat.

Nouhoum’s knowledge of his own country had been invaluable to Lewis since he’d retired. He would write him again when he returned to his village.

The steady rhythm of his feet on the winding mountain trail was interrupted as a loose rock seemed to come alive under him and flee. The pack on his back shifted and his reverie was broken as he struggled to keep his balance. The mountain fell away quickly along his right here as the trail began to descend. A false step here could be costly. He was glad for the moonlight. It made his journey a little easier.

Thirty minutes later he could see the fires of the little village ahead. They were waiting for him. He smiled broadly now. He always loved how the children climbed on him, how the men clapped him on the back, how the women brought him water to refresh him and refill his canteen. He would empty his pack and they would clamour for the little Bibles it contained. They were so thirsty and so very thankful.

It was always the same, no matter which village he went to. He would long to stay, but after praying with them and receiving a little bread, he would turn back. Another three-hour run and he would arrive home, just before dawn. He would sleep then and rest his tired, old body until the next shipment came in.

As he neared the village he thought about Nouhoum’s words, “...continue to run de good race.” Yes, indeed. He was stilling running.

Pat, pat, pat, pat.

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This article has been read 567 times
Member Comments
Member Date
c clemons09/18/09
This slice of the coach's life still needs a little filler here and there. A fleshing out of the character. Good writing though.
Mary McLeary09/19/09
Loved the ending as I realized the full circle of events.
Shilo Goodson09/21/09
I liked your story. I especially like the "Pat, pat, pat, pat" which keeps the rhythm of the story.
Mona Purvis09/24/09
Jason, I had not read this entry until today. I love everything about it. You are a good storyteller offering a special lesson with intrigue and sweetness. I look forward to more of your entries.

Charla Diehl 09/24/09
Congratulations on winning with this entry. I, too, will look forward to reading more of your writing.
Chris Janzen09/24/09
Congratulations on your first place win! It is a well deserved honor for a great story...loved it! Original and inspiring...good job!
Karen Pourbabaee 09/24/09
Congratulations on a well deserved win. I loved the "heart" of your main character.
Machele Harrison09/25/09
Wow! First in level 2? Awesome! Are you sure God hasn't called you to write? Congrats!

Lori Robbins09/29/09
Congrats on your win! The story was ver well written. I agree, the pat, pat, pat kept the story moving. It took me awhile to connect but I finally got it.