"What do I need to tell her? Gordon already said everything," Parker replied, spitting a thick crimson rope onto the ground. He stared down at his bruised hands and tried to keep from shaking.
"Tell her what is in your heart. Never know what she'll say," Joe told him and Mali stepped forward.
"You boys done talking like I'm not here?"
"About," Joe said smiling.
Parker's eyes were wild as he tried to think of what to say. How could he tell her anything right now? He could feel her standing over him, the judges gavel in her hand ready for the crushing blow, just waiting for him to spill his words into the dirt where she could crush them. He thought about running. He thought how easy it would be to jump up before the others could grab hold of him and do like he'd done at burning man.
He thought of the man he'd met when he'd finally stopped running and what he'd said then. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and balled his hands into fists. When he started to talk, he started to shake.
For a long time there was a boy on the roads of this country, running so hard that his legs burned with acid and his brow was rich with caked salt. His hair had never grown since he left, nor his nails or his limbs. He was on the road, running. No one who runs is ever able to really grow anything. The boy knew this. He ran harder.
For a long while the boy felt as though he might be able to run forever. That no matter how bad things got before, there was always the road stretched out before him. But one morning as he crested a steep hill he could see something strange on the horizon, blue-gray and rolling. He knew it was not the road and it chilled him. Yet he was heading for it all the same. He could not stop. He would run until he plunged into it.
Parker had started to cry, looking up at Mali and shaking his fists in his lap.
"The little boy needs to grow up," she said, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"My little boy never got the chance," Parker whimpered.