The Runner

The Runner
by Miles
Rost

These streets are my home.

I know each of the houses by heart, knowing the secrets that each of them share with the rest of the world, and those they keep inside. As I lace up my shoes, I notice that Mrs. Coleman in the pink house on the corner is out with her hand-held crane. She’s going to make some apple pies today. Maybe, if things go right after this, I can go back and buy a pie from her.

I put in my earbuds and shoot down the street. The neighborhood I live in is pretty rough, but I think it’s a great place to live if you know how to survive. As I cross over Tremaine Avenue, I run past a blue two-story house where Mr. and Mrs. Parkinson argue about which one will take out the garbage. They love each other, and it’s the small arguments they have which keep them in each other’s arms. Though it only takes me about a second to blaze past their door, I already know that by the time I’m done with my work, they’ll be up in the bedroom doing what couples do best.

Many of the houses I pass in my neighborhood are abandoned, the price paid for an economy that was all eggs in one basket. The city had a thriving cardboard and paperboard mill, and that kept things afloat for nearly 110 years. I can see the former glory of the neighborhood as I cross the next avenue, Waterman Boulevard. It’s a vague memory compared to what I see now, but when I was young, this area was a big one.

After I crossed the street, I passed by Mr. Brody, the postman. He’s been around here longer than I have, and we call him “Dirty Harry”, due to his demeanor and gruff exterior. He is a Korean veteran who is still doing his job at 79. He’s the only one who is willing to actually go around these streets. Not even the drug dealers off Wilkinson Avenue will touch the man. When he goes, there will be no more postal delivery for this area.

I keep running past houses, each one telling a story about the area I live in. I focus on the music in my ears, as I pick up the speed and sprint down the street. I am able to cover 3 blocks in 30 seconds, which gets me closer to the edge of the neighborhood. I slow down and cool down with a slower run over the next two blocks. By the time I reach Townline Road, I can see the empty fields where farmers and vineyards co-mingle like folks at a movie.

I decide to take a moment while figuring out which way to go. I’ve put distance between myself and my home, for sure, and I am not sure which way to go. If I go north up Townline, I go towards more farmland. If I go south on Townline, I will reach the highway. If I continue straight across, I’ll meet up with a hill and eventually a dead end.

I look back behind me, and I can see some movement. Flashlights and chains. Not a good combination in this area. And I know why I can hear them.

I decide to head up the hill, straight ahead. I think if I sprint hard enough a couple times, I can lose them in the trees.

It’s a pain in the butt to try and leave a neighborhood that you’ve lived in all your life. Especially when it’s a prison, run by one of the worst street gangs in the world. But, I think I can get out of this place once and for all, and start my life over again.

Jukebox Hero

by Miles Rost

A rainy and cold night was typical in this part of the world. This neighborhood, in particular, kept being hit with rain.

When it was rainy and cold, many people would flock to their neighborhood diners and have comfort food. It was one of the few things that was normal in this part of the city. People were able to be people for a while at these places, without having to hide or deal with the mish-mash of politicians and authoritarians attempting to brainwash people with the musical excrement called “nue pop”. They heard of a revolutionary legend, a “jukebox hero“, but they knew it was only a legend.

At the Central Diner, there was a packed crowd of people eating in silence. Folks that ate their chili and soups looked out at the dreary rain-soaked streets, wondering if there was any possible way to make their world better. They sighed, and continued to eat.

The bells on the door chimed, as another patron walked through the door and took his seat next to an old jukebox in the corner. He looked up at the bored, blonde bombshell of a waitress came over and asked him what he wanted.

“I’ll take a Pepsi.”

“We haven’t had that for years.”

“What type of sugar do you have?”

The waitress looked at him blankly, and walked over to the short-order chef. After a minute of animated conversation, she walked back over to the young man. She leaned down and whispered into his ear.

“We have one Jolt left. It’s in the back. You’ll have to go back yourself to get it.”

The young man did as she mentioned, and walked back. With help from the short-order chef, he found the Jolt Cola that he was looking for, and proceeded to walk back out, hiding it in his trenchcoat sleeve. He proceeded to sit back down at the end, and gave the waitress an order for a double bacon cheeseburger with a tower of pickles. She looked at the order, looked up at him, and just sighed.

The young man looked amused, and turned around to look at the jukebox. It was currently sitting idle. It was plugged in but not turned on. It was a Wurlitzer Zodiac, and it looked like it was of the newer variety before they stopped being made a few years ago. He looked at the songs and the names on it, and noticed one of the listings written in.

“Revolution Song” was the name written on it. Where the artist was, was written the name of “Preston Black”.

The young man flipped the switch on the machine, knowing it would take a few seconds for it to start up. No one actually noticed as the jukebox powered up, or as the young man took a swig of the concealed Jolt Cola. After about 15 minutes, and just as his double bacon cheeseburger arrived, he stood up and whipped his trenchcoat and hat off. He was dressed in a leather biker jacket, with his hair combed in a greaser-like style. For those who may have been a bit older, he looked a lot like The Fonz from the old TV show “Happy Days”.

One of the patrons just happened to look up, and notice him. He gasped, and proceeded to point the man to anyone he could. Within a minute, all of the eyes of the diner were on the young man.

He smiled, and proceeded to kick the jukebox in a “sweet spot”. Within about 15 seconds, and after he took a big bite of his double cheeseburger, a cacophony of sound came blaring from the jukebox. Many of the people in the diner winced, but then returned to normal. They realized very quickly, that this was not any of the “nue pop” that was being propped up by the current media-government. This was classic stuff, and the people knew about what was happening.

As the guitars and mandolins in the song played, the young man kept devouring his cheeseburger and the fries that came with it. As he finished, he pulled out the bottle of Jolt from his jacket and proceeded to gulp it down.

The people were astonished, first that a guy like this could actually drink a bottle of high-caffeine, high-sugar, high energy Jolt Cola, but moreso that they were in the presence of a legend. They were in the presence of the last great American singer: Preston Black.

“My song is called The Revolution Song for a reason,” he called out to everyone, “It was a call to arms. To reject what was being offered by the media and those who want to control you. Today, it’s your day to stand up, and send them a message. Reclaim the Central Neighborhood for your own, and help others reclaim their neighborhoods!”

He raised his hands, and the people in the diner cheered.

The song ended, and as he left the diner, he kicked the jukebox one more time. It was now in the people’s court what they were going to do, now that they knew the legend of Preston Black, the Jukebox Hero, was true. He was, in fact, back. And now, the people had to act.