The crack of the pistol sets him free.
The blocks behind him a one time obstruction no longer holding sway. The pulsing of blood in his ears and the drum of his heart drowns out the crowd and footfalls behind him. He is a flash into the first turn. A gale force wind as he rounds the bend. A striding thoroughbred coming into the straightaway.
Born for this. Raised for it. Trained for it. This is his world. His life. Once threatened and now reclaimed. The others shouldn’t have even shown up. They might as well not exist. In this realm he is king, here to reclaim his throne, and no one will defeat him.
Then…the pops. The tears.
The clock under the cage says it’s 2:21 p.m. and the neon orange second hand just keeps winding. Any minute now.
On the schedule practice starts at 2:30, but Coach is always a few minutes early. The damn drill sergeant tries to squeeze every last minute out of the day, even though their practices are already three hours or more. Jesse isn’t feeling it today. As they straighten and bend back down into their stretch, he’s in a sour mood, brought on by soreness, self-imposed starvation, a massive pile of homework, an impossible to satisfy teenage obsession with the opposite sex, the fucking pimple on his forehead, lost matches, overall moodiness and frustration, and the impending onslaught of yet another of Coach Gillette’s infamous practices. Yup, not in the mood at all today.