In a world where everything is normal, one boy feels different; Fate or ridicule?
|The gravel under Jonathan's feet crunch loudly with each step as he runs the high school track, like teeth shoving their way through a store-bought snow cone. He thinks about that, keeping his mind off of the pounding, and the heat. Crunch-crunch—no pain for this second mile. Crunch-crunch—no heat to worry about. Crunch-crunch. "I'll make the cut. I will."
Fear of losing the team is always on his mind. Running saves him. It is the most important thing for Jonathan. Everything else is too 'out of his realm.' When an issue pops up that is too overwhelming, he runs. He does not like to think that he is actually running away from any problems, but some problems are more adult than he can handle. His problems are the team, grades, and peers. These problems are for kids, he thinks, but it does not alleviate the weight.
The crunching is good. The pain in his toes and heels is good. The sweat is good. It is hot, even in his track suit.
"You'll need new ones!" On the side of the track is his coach, sitting in his chair, just arriving to the track, and hovering over the grass.
Jonathan finishes running the 100 feet to his coach, and then stops, stooping over, dripping with sweat and breathing hard, "What, coach?"
In his fifties, the coach is of normal height, and fills up the chair like a water balloon. Jonathan thinks the chair strains under the weight, whining slightly in its electronic humming. The coach chuckles, "You'll have to get a new suit. New year, and all. Last year's sweat stains aren't gonna look too good..., on the winner's stand, you know."
Jonathan laughs a little between breaths, "Eh, yeah, Coach Hendricks, sure thing. I've got some time."
"School starts in three weeks." He smirks a little, "What's your time like?"
Jonathan stands up, feeling better now, and looks at his watch quickly. "Ugh, pretty good. I've beat my best by twelve seconds in the mile."
Coach Hendricks' torso jolts as he gives Jonathan a big chortle, "That's great! We could use a Mile Award."
"Yeah. And my relay has dropped five, six seconds." Jonathan smiles.
A surprising frown cracks the coach's face, "Sorry Jonathan, the relay won't be in the program this year."
Jonathan feels despondent over the news, "No relay?"
"Yeah." The coach looks around at the empty track, "We lost Jones. And Williams has elected."
"Terry Williams?" He lets out a big gasp and mounts his hands on his hips.
"Yeah! And Cheavers is considering, but might do the put." The coach sees the disappointment in his student's eyes, and knows that this was inevitable.
"What..." Jonathan is not sure what to say; it is another moment that might be over his head. His starts to think of the crunching. "What about Track?"
"Hm, is getting thin, huh?" The coach looks down to where his lap used to be. "We knew this would happen, didn't we? Last year, we had seniors drop out, just like the year before. And before that." He wants to spin some happiness but there is nothing that can ice the reality of this cake. "Hell, a few years ago we didn't have a team. It was sad."
Jonathan does not feel better, "Is there going to be a team this year, Coach?" He looks down at his teacher like a wounded puppy, seeing the full reality now.
Coach Hendricks moves the control stick of his chair, swinging himself around slowly, "You're here, and the track is here. As long as it's oval, we've got a team." He slowly drifts away toward the school. "See you this fall!"
Jonathan watches him float on, the humming fading away, being replaced by the taunting echoes of 'crunch-crunch.' He drops his arms, gets his feet moving, and lets the problem fall under his feet.
"Mom!?" A 13 year-old girl begs for her Mother's attention.
"Sara, I swear, if you don't shut up, I'll sew your lips shut." The young girl puts her cereal spoon down hard and huffs. Her Mother, Jessica Lane, hovers around the kitchen getting dinner started. A bowl she needs is up on the top shelf of the cabinets, so she hovers higher to reach, manipulating the controls on her chair. "I swear, we need a new kitchen!"
"What's that?" Floating into the kitchen is her husband, Barry, "I think I hear swearing!" He laughs.
Jessica spins around, "Yeah, you know what I was swearing about. We need a new kitchen, one with everything down below!"
Barry shakes his head, "Don't know what your fussing about, having a new kitchen. There's nothing wrong with this one." He moves toward Sara who is sitting at the bar on a stool, "How's it going, Pip?"
Sara keeps her stare solid, and her frown frozen, just parting her lips enough to tattle, "Mom won't listen." Thrusting her arms across her chest, she kicks the legs of the table as a exclamation to her suffering.
Restraining himself, Barry lets out a sigh, "Oh, Pip, can't you see your Mom's busy? Just give her a little time." He moves away, toward the other end of the kitchen island.
Letting out a sardonic laugh, Jessica lowers her chair to the counter, "Ha! Give me ten years, that's what she needs to do. 'Mom this,' 'Mom that.'" She slams the bowl she retrieved hard on the cheap counter top, and stares at her husband floating near her, "If we could send her away to Richmond Academy, or..., or even get a nanny..."
Opening the refrigerator door, Barry stops momentarily, "Pfft."
"Yes, yes, a nanny! Someone that can hold her back while I get things done." She stares through the almond colored door of the fridge while Barry reaches in for a small carton of orange juice, and waits for him to close the door. "Or maybe we should just get someone to hold me back." Jessica glances over toward Sara.