Today is March 9th, 2019. My name is Hunter (aka Rattlesnake Wallace to literally one other human) and I’m a reclusive dude who likes to run and write. I live in my parent’s house in a small mountainy lake town situated in the forests of northern New Jersey called Ringwood. Just a couple days ago I self-published my first book, titled Running: How To Torture Yourself And Enjoy It, on an internet platform that allows me to do so. It’s a short self-help/philosophy-ish diddy about running, how the sport has vastly improved my life, and how it can improve your life, too.
I gaze through the window and watch as Uncle Bill walks back up the road, garbage cans in hand. G-Mah has yet to acknowledge the fact that her cat is airborne so I ask her about it; she looks at Mango, winks at her, and then looks back to me, verbally wondering what I could possibly mean.
In Running, in order to properly show the reader how running has helped me, I told the story of my life up to the point of the book being published. During this roller coaster of a tale I mentioned I had a friend named Zak with whom I ran cross country in high school. After hearing the news about the book, Zak’s father texted me inquiring about getting a printed copy of Running for Zak, adding that it would mean a lot to him if he could get one. I replied, “It’s funny you asked, I was planning on getting him one anyway.”
The thing is, Zak lives in North Carolina, roughly a twelve-hour drive from my spot in Jersey. I could just ship the book to him; a month or so ago I sent him a 1964 foreign auto repair manual through the mail (he loves Volkswagens and there was a bug on the cover) and it got to him just fine. He even texted me saying that he appreciated it.
But that was just some random book. Reclusively mailing Zak a copy of a book starring him that I wrote myself? That would be kinda lame.
So, the thing about Ringwood is that it’s weird; we have a healthy population of mountains here that are all very high in quartz and magnetite concentration, which is slightly abnormal as far as I understand. In the woods by my house I constantly find balloons stuck in trees that seemingly appear out of nowhere, leading me to believe the area is a naturally occurring wind vortex. Back in the BC times, the local Lenape population revered the area as a paranormal and mystical hotspot; considering this local lore and the strange things that happen around town (haunted buildings, UFO sightings, spiritual happenings, etc.), Ringwood is likely an energy vortex as well. I say that to say this: when one lives in this town, one tends to get anchored in this town, one’s very being weighed down to the earth by a powerful metaphysical force that most are blissfully unaware of, unless they’re just not willing to admit they’ve noticed it, too.
What I’m really trying to say is, although I do love Ringwood, I find myself stuck here like a fly trapped on one of those nasty strips of flypaper dangling over the kitchen table at your great-great-gruncle’s house on a sweltery summer’s eve when the air conditioner’s suddenly stopped working.
As my Uncle Bill walks in through the front door, Mango drops back to the floor. The pads of her paws strike the carpet with the force of a thousand suns and she vanishes in a shower of orange sparks and feline hair, locked in a sprint towards the other side of the house. Uncle Bill sits down and nonverbally offers me a handshake before he starts intently flipping through a newspaper that he wasn’t carrying when he walked in. He doesn’t acknowledge G-Mah; in turn, she doesn’t acknowledge him right back. I’m left alone in the cold darkness, forced to acknowledge their mutual lacks of acknowledgement towards each other.
My dad grew up in Ringwood and Mother grew up in Monksville before it was flooded. Together they moved to Highland Lakes, another northern New Jersey town, and four years after I was born we moved into the first Ringwood house (that my dad built from scratch, in case you were curious) and proceeded to live there through my graduation from Unspecific Regional High School. During my freshman year of community college, with gleaming silver bells on our toes, my family & I packed up and moved to the other side of town. We may or may not have been forced to sell the first Ringwood house because we may or may not have been ensnared in a legal boobytrap that was set up before I was born by a certain someone who is no longer with us, but regardless we still had to move… so why leave the stomping grounds, right?
The only schools I’ve ever attended that weren’t in Ringwood were preschool (because we didn’t live here yet) and high school (because Ringwood doesn’t have a high school in town). I’ve had three jobs in my life: one as a warehouse worker, one as an extra hand at an auction hall, and one as a cross country coach at my old high school; both of the formers were located in Ringwood and the latter was based one town over because, again, Ringwood doesn’t have a high school in town.
I usually only leave town once a week, if that, and I’ve left New Jersey only a handful of times in my life. The last vacation I took was literally three years ago and I didn’t leave the state for that either, shout out to Atlantic City. The days all melt together, the scenery only changes with the seasons and although I hike a lot, it is currently March. There’s snow on the ground and the leaves are still buds; the forest looks more like the sticks than the woods, and it’s so cold that when I do go out to hike, I can feel my bone marrow freezing and expanding, splintering my skeleton like the first layer of ice over a frozen lake.
I n e e d a b r e a k.
Zak doesn’t know this yet but I’m going to drive down to his parents’ house in North Carolina to hand-deliver the first printed copy of my first book to him, which I also autographed because ego. I’m also going to spend a few days down in the NC catching up and hanging out with him and his family because superego. Then I’m going to drive back and write a book about it, because
what is a vacation if you’re not neurotically trying to accomplish something the entire time you’re supposed to not be accomplishing anything? id.
This Is Roadtrip
I got back yesterday, March 20th. What a trip; laughs were had, tears were shed, friends were reunited. It was the first state-crossing road trip I’ve ever taken by myself and it certainly won’t be the last; next time, I’m going even bigger. But that’s then and this is now, and now, all that’s left is my writing of the book. But uh… boom, look at that. You’re already reading it.
This is Roadtrip.
“Is it?” G-Mah asks, chin in her hand. Mango, back in the kitchen, is shedding as much of her own fur onto my legs as possible
“Yeah, this is the book,” I say, assuming G-Mah got lost in my reading because she is old and I am young.
“Well duh,” G-Mah laughs, summoning Mango to her side with her free hand. “But this is the second introduction you’ve read to me now, when is the story going to start?”
I’m embarrassed so I say nothing. After a moment of my relatives looking at me, I squeak out that I need to edit the Preface a bunch and that I’ll need a few minutes before we continue. I hear G-Mah turn and bring her now empty coffee mug to the kitchen sink, and then comes a muffled clack. I look up and see that G-Mah has accidentally knocked a magnet (and the grocery bill it once pinned to the refrigerator door) off the refrigerator door, presumably with the armrest of her wheelchair.
As G-Mah spins herself in a rush to grab the fallen magnet, Mango plays the power move and consumes the magnet whole. Then, she decides to cancel her subscription to the laws of gravity and apathetically floats inches above my grandMother’s head. With a hearty sigh, grandMother grabs the bill off the floor and takes it to the sink, using it as a sponge to wash her coffee mug.
I’m still not done editing when she comes back – how could anybody work with all this wild excitement going on? – so grandmother turns on the television. Uncle Bill flaps his newspaper in protest but continues reading without a word. Following his example, I get back to work.