This story is found in the comments section of "What Poetry Teaches Us About Writing Prose."
written on Feb. 25, 2013
Sweat trickled down my neck, and as my timer echoed out its countdown, I considered wiping the sweat away. At least I could go out semi-comfortably. I glanced down at my arm and realized that comfortable had fled about ten minutes ago.
The numbers meticulously lowered. Two minutes and ten seconds. I could feel the weight of defeat clamping down around my throat already. My grip on the plastic handles loosened, and I hoisted myself a little higher. Up, down, in, out. Repeat. Then spin around and hold. The hold part was what was killing me.
At thirty seconds left, the warning chime rang out. I was almost finished, and I let my mind wander for a split second. The image of victory flashed into my mind, and if my face hadn’t been strained from all the work I was doing, I would have smiled. In those short, several milliseconds, my focus wavered and my spin spun out of control. My eyes darted to the time. I was going to fail with fifteen seconds left. I panicked as I felt the sweat from my palms mingle with the sweat running down my arms. All that worry and sweat made me lose my hold and I dropped. Five feet of air, and my feet plowed into the mat. My body crumbled into a pile and I lay there, unable to move even as the buzzer officiated my demise.
“Jackson, are you alright?” I felt my coach breathing fire of anger even as he spoke the words softly. I moaned in embarrassment. “Get up.” His command wasn’t helping matters any. I just wanted to go home.
“Coach, I’m sorry.” He helped me stand, but one step off the mat proved my landing had been anything but graceful. “Ow. My foot—” We both looked down at the mat and saw my left toes and ankle, pointed in the wrong direction and already swelling. I felt relief all at once. With a broken foot, I wouldn’t be able to compete anymore. If I played this right, maybe Dad would think pursuing my own dream was his idea and he would stop trying to compete through me.
“Son, let’s get you to the doctor. You’ll be okay. You might not get to compete anymore, but we’ll find a new dream for you.”
I smiled as we hobbled away from the crowd.