Sunday, July 10, 2011
How things had changed from my early years at the Milford park, where homemade root beer flowed for a nickle a cup, and orange Sloppy Joe sauce lined the lips of every kid in town. Year after year I found a reason for not participating in the foot races, afraid of suffering the humiliation my other class mates annually subjected themselves to at the hands of Tom Bradshaw. He was short, but quick, and had proven unbeatable for at least four years when I walked with killer determination flowing through my veins on my way to the starting line the summer before fourth grade. I was tall, with long speedy legs and had convinced myself after a number of subtle speed checks on the school play yard, that all things being even, I could beat him, and so I prepared for battle. Shedding my shoes and socks to make me even faster, I took my place on the line and waited for the starters gun to sound.
"On your mark, ...get set," the man barked loudly. My heart was well out of my chest and all the way up in my cottoned mouth, pounding with such a fury I thought I might pass out just waiting.
The gun exploded and every muscle in my tense body sprang forward as if to cover the hundred feet or so in a single bound. "Surely I would once and for all show Tom who was the fastest kid in our grade," I told myself, but suddenly the damp morning grass beneath my toes gave way, leaving my driving legs with nothing but air to push against. Horror slammed me in the face even before the grass carpet did as on the far side I caught sight of Tom, fully upright and lunging ahead of the rest of the field.
I secretly carried that defeat more heavily than any other for the longest time, as the following summer our family moved to another town, removing any chance for a rematch from the realm of possibility.