RUNNING WITH MARTY
by MARTHA BROOKS
I’m standing on the lawn of this tacky cottage at Wasagaming, watering the grass for Valdeen, Dad’s latest girlfriend, when who should walk up the driveway all red and perspiring with a backpack sliding off his shoulder but Martin Faykes.
“Hi Elizabeth,” he says, just like he’s walked over from a couple of blocks away to see me. He then falls into the chartreuse lawn cart and gasps, “Get me a drink.”
“My gawd,” says Valdeen when I go into the kitchen, “what a surprise. Why didn’t you tell me you’d invited him?”
“I didn’t,” I reply, and I leave with Marty’s Coke.
Marty is the only boyfriend I’ve ever had. I started going out with him because he asked me. I figured, by grade nine, I was abnormal; nobody I liked had asked me out yet. Marty and I have been seeing each other for almost a year. In that time my dad has split with my Mom and Valdeen is his fifth girlfriend.
This cottage, beside the others that all look alike, belongs to her. She’s a widow with a son who’s two years older than me and has a summer job, back in the city, at 7-Eleven. Dwayne is too cool to notice me. Probably he’s gone through this before, putting up with the children of his mother’s latest.
Until my dad started dating he was actually pretty decent. Then he went off his rocker and started dating everything in sight. Valdeen has lasted the longest: four months. I swear he has absolutely no taste. What man in his right mind would get serious over a woman named Val-deen?
We’re here at Valdeen’s cottage because Dad says I need a normal family vacation. He’s talking now as if Valdeen of the Clairol hair is part of our family! I wonder what my Mom would think of that. If she thinks at all, living with that bald fat musician she prefers to her own home.
Marty’s parents have sex several times a week and hold hands in Safeway. The longest fight they ever had lasted a day and a half and gave him a nightmare. I told him my parents never fought. In fact, for a year before Mom left, they were hardly ever at home so how could they fight?
Sometimes Marty just makes me want to smack him, the way he worries about everything when it’s my life that’s falling apart.
Marty looks like your typical ninety-eight pound weakling. But he runs fast and has muscles that don’t show. His eyes are a peaceful green. He has large lips and not too many zits. Theatre is the biggest thing we have in common. His parents don’t go; neither does my dad, and Valdeen-give me a break – thinks Shakespeare is the name of a restaurant. Marty is a track star, likes tinkering with his dad’s old truck, and wants to be an actor someday. The first time I saw him, he was wandering around in this finky-looking cape. Some of the kids I know think he’s weird, but you just have to get used to him.
I don’t mind kissing Marty. He has very convincing lips.
Mom says I should hang onto him, but then she makes bizarre statements like: Friendship is more important than love. And: Never trust a silent man. You really can’t count on the opinion of a person who’ll break up a sixteen-year marriage without giving some advance warning.
Mom likes Marty. Dad, if he has an opinion, keeps it to himself and mostly ignores him.
“So, what do you think of my earring?” says Marty, as I hand him the Coke.
“Good grief,” I say, noticing it for the first time. It’s silver with a dangling cross. “What did you go and do that for? It looks pretty dumb.”
Marty tugs at the earring. He looks momentarily wounded. Then he brightens and pulls me down beside him on the lawn cart. He puts his arm around me and makes me cuddle up. We sit like that for a while. He chug-a-lugs. I fold my arms, tight, across my chest. We watch the small, whirring lawn sprinkler. It spritzes idiotically around, covering about three feet of ,lawn. This is why it has to be moved about twenty times to get the whole thing done. It occurs to me that everything Valdeen owns is tacky.
“Terrific lawn sprinkler,” says Marty, who thinks of himself as a Renaissance man. “That sprinkler comes right out of the Fifties. Where does Valdeen find such neat stuff?”
I get up and walk over to the tap at the side of the cottage. Icy water dribbles off my hands and down my legs as I shut the thing off.
“Why don’t we go for a walk?” Marty suggests, because he sees that I’m a little tense. So we leave, cut across a couple of streets, and go down to the lake. We walk along the beach together. Marty’s in no hurry; he’s slow as a slug. He breathes expansively, taking in the piney air. I get a little ahead and kick the sand. We don’t talk.
At a quiet part along the lake, far from the crowded downtown public beach, we find a sunbleached log and sit. A sailboat with rainbow-coloured sails glides by. I watch Marty watch the sailors – a man and a woman in identical white shorts and tops and wearing orange life preservers. Marty waves. They wave back.
I say to him, “Marty, I think we should break up.” Simple as that. And the smile he’s been wearing slides from his face like water off a rock.
“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while,” I say, looking at the sailboat as it edges away. “I think, you know, we’re too young to get serious.””What do you mean?” he says, his voice sort of dead. “I thought we were serious.”
“It’s better,” I say, ignoring this, “if we see other people.” I turn my head back and continue, “Even my mother thinks so.”
This of course is a lie but I need all the ammunition I can get.
“Your mother ran out on you,” says Marty, “when you were in bed with chicken pox. Hey! Look at me.” He’s smiling like crazy now, but tears have started to tremble along the lower rims of his eyes. “Don’t you think I know what you’re scared of? Elizabeth, I came all this way – for you. Holy cripes, what more do you want?”
I suggest coldly, “Maybe we could be friends?” Marty all of a sudden gets to his feet, grabs a stone off the beach, and chucks it hard into the lake.
I follow him back to the cottage. Valdeen comes out wiping her hands on the hem of an apron that says, “Over Forty and Feeling Foxy.” She looks at him, then at me, then back at him, and says, “You staying for dinner, Marty?”
“Valdeen,” I say with a withering sigh, “he’s hardly going to go back to the city now – it’s a hundred and sixty miles away.”
Marty, looking tired and white, says angrily, “Yeah, I’m going.” He snatches his backpack off the lawn cart.
“But the bus doesn’t leave until seven o’clock,” I protest.
He’s hauling the pack over his skinny, wiry frame as he says, “I didn’t take the bus. I hitchhiked.”
Next thing I know, I’m catching his shadow as he quickly vacates Valdeen’s property.
Hands in her apron pockets, Valdeen eyeballs me and says in the coldest voice I’ve ever heard come out of her, “Elizabeth, you are one dumb kid. If you let that nice boy hitchhike back to the city, you are going to hate yourself for a very long time.”
“I already do,” I say, crying. I start for the cottage. But she takes hold of me with those hands of hers – the ones with the long purple nails – and wheels me around to face her. “It’s time you started thinking of somebody else’s misery instead of enjoying your own so much,” she says. “Your dad allows it. Your mom allows it. But I’m not going to allow it.”
“You can’t make me do anything,” I snap back. “It’s my life. You can’t run it.”
“Oh yes I can. You stay right here. Don’t move.” Valdeen goes into the cottage for her cigarettes. Coming back, she hollers at my dad, “Elizabeth and me are going out. If we’re not back in ten minutes, check on that stuff in the oven.”
My dad, probably from the chair where he’s always reading, calls, “Wait. Where are you going?”
“None of your beeswax,” replies Valdeen. She hauls off her apron, tosses it over the back of the lawn cart. I am ushered, by my elbow, out to the car.
“So what am I supposed to say to him?” I ask. Valdeen starts the engine. Hangs a Craven M out of her purple-to-matchthe-nail-polish mouth. “You’re a smart kid for somebody so dumb,” she says. “Just start talking. It’ll come to you.”
We back speedily off the driveway. Away down Ta-Wa-Pit Drive is Marty Faykes, running very fast and looking very small.
Behind a cloud of mentholated smoke, Valdeen mutters, “Damn,” shifts, and steps on it.
When we’re almost on him, Marty stops running, turns, sticks out his thumb, sees it’s us, turns around, and runs again.
I’m hanging out the open window as something small and fierce breaks inside me. “Marty! Stop!” I yell.
“Why?” he says. We’re right beside him now. “Give me one good reason.” .
“Please stop. I have to talk to you.”
“You’ve already done that,” he says, and looks straight ahead. He’s breathing hard. His runners make a smacking sound on the pavement. Balls of perspiration have begun to course down his face. “I didn’t mean it,” I tell him. “You’re right. I’m really scared and it makes me crazy, but I’m okay now. Okay, Marty?”
Out near the curb, pushing a weed bar, is a lady with stiff beauty parlour hair. She gives us a look, frowns as we pass – Marty puffing, me begging. Valdeen smiles sweetly and gives her a slow, queenly wave from the elbow.
“Please Marty,” I say, “I don’t want you to go.” My mother has always been of the opinion that I take her good advice for granted.
He slows up a bit. Valdeen furiously flicks ashes out of her window. “You getting out?”
“Yes,” I say. “Stop this car.”
“Suits me fine,” she says, and pretty soon I’m outside running with Marty.
Later Dad sits at the table and glowers over his dinner. Valdeen has another cigarette going beside the stove. She serves Marty next. With shrill gaiety she tells him. “This’ll put meat on your bones!” and she eases a double helping of Pigs-in-a-Blanket onto his plate.
Marty gives her a smile like he’s deeply grateful. He forks a sausage out from under its blanket of dough, suspiciously rolls it over on his plate, inspects it briefly like it’s a small turd.
Valdeen says uncertainly, “It’s my specialty.”
I sigh and say, “Marty, I’d like some ketchup.”
He reaches over with the plastic squeeze bottle, then right in front of Valdeen and my scowling father, squirts a slow artistic heart onto the middle of my plate.
Your Assignment (20 Marks)
Using the information you have gathered, write a 2-paragraph response to the following question:
Do you agree with Valdeen’s advice?
Why or why not? Your answer must be supported with evidence and details from the story.
Things I will be looking for when grading:
2 paragraphs (or more), of at least 5-10 sentences each
a brief discussion of the piece of literature (e.g: The story “Running With Marty” was about…)
a brief explanation of Valdeen’s advice (e.g: Valdeen advised the narrator to…, and an explanation of your opinion of that advice (eg: I feel this advice was… because…)
a brief explanation of Elizabeth’s decision (e.g: Elizabeth decided to…), and an explanation of your opinion of that decision (eg: I feel this decision was… because…)
Evidence quoted directly from the story to support your opinion of Elizabeth’s decision
writing that makes sense and words that are spelled and punctuated properly
Try it now!
How it works?
Follow these simple steps to get your paper done
Place your order
Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.
Proceed with the payment
Choose the payment system that suits you most.
Receive the final file
Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.