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The Wall

I ready myself, easing my feet into the blocks.  My hands are positioned in their usual spot, just behind the white rubber line, flirting with the edges of my lane.  I keep my head down and stare at the black rubber track.  I don’t care what the other guys are doing; they are not important at this point.  The crowd isn’t important, and neither are the other, non-hurdling track and field athletes.  The seven of us are preparing for our baptism by fire in unique ways.  I lean forward over my shoulders and push both feet firmly into the metal block behind me.  I glance to my right.  Five of the others are each doing the same pre-race dance as I, but no dance is the same.  There is one man on my left; I’ve run against him before.  He’s good.  Very good.

I quickly look back down at my rubber.

Set!

I hear the gun explode behind me.  My feet push me towards the finish line.  Nine quick jabs at the rubber and my right leg instinctively lunges over the first hurdle.  Down comes my right foot with a painful reminder of gravity, and then left right left, right over the second hurdle.  My chest hugs my knee over this hurdle.  Excellent form.  Coach Thorton taught me well.  Right down, left right left, over the third hurdle.

It must be because it’s so beautiful outside.  I have never hurdled so well before.  The sun is shining beautifully behind me, and there is only the slightest breeze.  I hurdle my next two obstacles without difficulty; this wall across the track is no match for any of these competitors.

Down comes my right foot with a snap of my leg, left right, left.  Game speed.  This hesitation shouldn’t be here.  No fear.  It’s only plastic.  It falls if you clip it.

Hesitation.  It kills you in a race.  My eyes seize with shock at the inevitable.  Too slowly I pull my right leg up.  My foot is caught under the plastic, and the rest of me begins to pull forward without that firm foundation clutching the ground.  I am turned slightly in air by the hurdle, and I am crashing back to earth.

I must have hit my shoulder first.  That is what seems to be in the most pain.  Or maybe my wrists and palms.  It doesn’t matter.  All I need to do is get up and finish.  It is too beautiful for this debacle.  I must have heard the gasps when I clipped the sixth wall; a small sense of shame is creeping into me as I staggered back up to complete the race.  I take a step towards the seventh hurdle.  My other two steps were covered by my crash.  I sky over this hurdle.

The last three hurdles are handled with trepidation, fear.  But they too I conquer.  I refuse to let an inch-thick piece of plastic held by metal legs hold me down.

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  1. ellielawson
    September 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    wonderful writing. leaves me wanting more…

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