Enjoy the opening pages of my upcoming novel A Reason to Run and let me know what you think! (email me here)
A REASON TO RUN
A Novel by Mike Magluilo
Copyright © 2023
1989 Illinois High School Track and Field Regional Finals
3200-meter race (eight laps), minutes before the start
Nine months ago I was dead. That’s no excuse if I fail today. I need to place in the top four to make it to state next weekend. Before rehab, I never ran continuously for more than ten minutes. Today’s race will be over in nine.
I toss my warm-up gear behind Coach Rip and slip through the carnival of athletes crowding the grass infield on my way to the starting area. The buzz from the stands makes it all so real and confirms I have nowhere left to hide.
Family and friends look on as I join my competition in a final shake-out of pre-race jitters. Lots of people helped me get here. Many are everyday heroes, some are everyday assholes. The taste of iron in my mouth triggers a fear of what awaits—like in the minutes following my accident. Questions of survival have become questions of identity. I began running to recover. I kept running when I discovered I was good at it. I’m running today to slay the self-destructive flaws that led me to the sport in the first place.
The starter takes his position and calls us to the line.
“On your mark!”
I lean forward, draw a deep breath and smile in the torturous pause between the starter’s command and the firing of his gun.
August 1988 (nine months earlier)
The stench of disinfectant scrapes the lining of my nose, jolting me awake to the rattle of wobbly wheels and the squeak of rubber on vinyl. I want to scream, but the strobe of ceiling lights passing overhead lulls me into submission. I mistake the people pushing my rolling bed for pallbearers until I notice their urgency and matching blue uniforms.
“C-cold,” I bleat.
“Hello there!” A woman shrouds me in a coarse cotton blanket, no thicker than a beach towel. “We lost you for a minute.” Her gesture warms me more than the fabric.
I attempt to sneak back into unconsciousness, but the chills and pain and all the squeaking and rattling and those goddamn strobe lights make closing my eyes impossible. The guy at the front of the gurney kicks open two swinging doors, and we roll into a hushed room, dark except for a large disk-shaped lamp directly above me. Beeping sounds fire from beyond the curtain of light encircling my bed. A rotation of doctors and nurses jam their heads into my face and ask questions.
A man introduces himself as my anesthesiologist. He’s going to add a drip to my IV to relax me. A second dose will put me under so the surgeon can operate. Beep . . . beep.
A nurse punches a needle into my left arm like it’s a juice box and asks how old I am. Seventeen. Beep. Another Capri Suns my right and asks my name. Sam. Samuel Bagliarello. Beep. How do you spell that? She must be kidding. The first one asks where I go to school. Enough with the fucking questions . . . and all the noise!
Fragments of memory return, and I tell the doctor I drank a few beers tonight. “In case you need to know. Before the drugs.”
“Oh good,” he says. “Then you will really enjoy the happy juice I’m about to serve you.”
I release a muffled laugh with my last bit of energy. The juice kicks in and from behind my closed eyelids I float through a slow-motion replay of how I got here.