I canít recall the first time I met Runner. It may have been while I was hanging upside down on the monkey bars at Claymore Elementary. I used to do that a lot in the 2nd grade. My mom said it gave me brain damage. I liked the way the world looked when the clouds littered the ground and my sweaty, dirt-covered friends dotted the heavens.
Maybe it was during choir at church. I canít remember a time when we werenít side by side, usually sitting in the corner as punishment for some ill-devised scheme we had cooked up. Neither of us could stand choir. Singing was for sissies.
Rev. Skinner was our director. He said Runner and I were his ďDisruptive DuoĒ.
We had no idea what the name meant, but we wore it with pride.
Where and when we met really doesnít matter, I donít guess. What matters is that we were closer than brothers. You never saw one without the other. We did everything together. Runner was there when I lost my first tooth. I remember because he was the one who knocked it out. We were fighting over a fishing spot on Luncefordís creek. He got a shiner. I got a dollar from the tooth fairy. We took turns fishing that spot.
He was there when I fell head first in like with Lucy Roffler in 6th grade. To this day, Lucy couldnít pick me out of a crowd of one. I knew deep down that she would never give me a second look. So did Runner. He never told me how stupid I was being as I sat on my front porch staring into the distance listening to Air Supply.
We bought our first car together. We worked all summer to save $300.00 for it. The passenger door was wired shut with a coat hanger. Duct tape held the roof liner up.
It leaked oil faster than we could pour it in. In our eyes it was a Cadillac. We traveled the world and planned our futures sitting on the hood of that old car.
When Runnerís dad was killed driving home from preaching a revival, we sat on the hood of that old Plymouth til sun up. Neither of us uttered a word. We didnít have to. As close as Runner and his dad were, I was surprised that he never cried that night.
After college Runner married Lucy Roffler and went into the family business. His dad would have been proud. I took the degree I earned in theater arts and headed to California. Later, Runner and his family became missionaries in Korea. I moved to New York and managed a pretty good living working shows off-Broadway.
We called each other on holidays and sent e-mails from time to time.
I always regretted not taking him up on the offer to come see him. Always another show starting up. There never seemed to be time. A funeral is never a good reason to get re-acquainted, but at least we were together again. It was good to see Runner. He had a beautiful family.
There were so many things I wanted to tell him about New York. I wanted to know about his life in Korea. As Runner walked toward me, I noticed a small cross pinned to his collar. At once it came flooding back to me where Iíd seen it before. One day after choir, Rev. Skinner offered each of us a cross pin and told us how Christ died for our sins. He asked us to come to the altar if we wanted to know more about Christ.
As he came closer, I noticed Runnerís eyes were filled with tears. I didnít understand. He hadnít shed a single tear when his father died, yet now he was weeping. I felt the dampness of his tears on my shoulder as he walked away. ďStay awhile!Ē, I wanted to shout. ďThere is so much I want to tell you!Ē.
Runner faded from sight as the casket was lowered into the ground. As I lay there in the darkness, I finally understood. Runner never cried for his father because he knew he would see him again. We had both gone to the altar that day. I went because thatís just how we did things Ė Together. I laid my cross back down as we walked from the church that day. Runner didnít. It was the one thing we didnít do together.
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