To hell and back with a cigarette break in between

We were teenagers: 13, 14, 15
when the random thought came to us.
I’m not sure who had the idea.
I think it was Jeremiah,
but it may have been Robbie.
I’m fairly certain it wasn’t me.

Let’s go running.

I don’t know.
Up to Nollie Road and back.
That seems a ways.
I’m not sure I can make it.
Then we can stop for a bit.

We ran.
We conquered.
We upped the distance.

Let’s run to 666 and back.
I definitely don’t think I can make that.
Then we’ll stop and take a breather.

We ran in the middle of 727,
slipped off to the edges when
a vehicle appeared, made it
to Nollie Road, down the dirt road
to the end, shot back out on 727,
and inched our way toward 666, sweat dripping from our brows.

Let’s take a breather, Jeremiah said, when we made it, easing his body down onto the bank under the trees leading toward Red House. He pulled out a pack of Camel cigarettes, tapped the bottom until a filter appeared and the cigarette drew up, handed one to me and Robbie, then passed around the lighter; we smoked three cigarettes a piece, then rose from the bank off 666, and returned home.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated,, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.