One a day: In the middle

In The Middle

“Think of the smiling dolphins making all the kids smile. Think of Luke. The marathon will be a breeze if you keep them in mind.” Flo pushes a water bottle into my chest. “And don’t forget this. It’s hot out there. Drink little and often. You have another run tomorrow morning before everything kicks off.” I stare at my wife. My beautiful gir. The bags under her eyes aren’t quite so dark now, her skin not so pale and she has dyed her blonde roots her favoured chestnut brown again. It’s shiny and I can smell the coconut shampoo she lathered into it this morning, after she had massaged muscle rub into my calves and thighs and we had had gentle sex, the first sex since Luke’s death.  We both look at my t-shirt, with the glowing face of our first born on the front and a number underneath to call and donate to our cause.

“Buddy, looking good!” Gary said this even when I’d come out looking like I’d been dragged through heaps of Satan’s own shit. “How much now?”

“Seventeen thousand.”

“Fuck me, that’s excellent! How are the blisters doing this morning?”

“Not so bad. Let’s go.” We hardly talk as we move from concrete to grass to woodchips to woodland back to concrete again, but the steady, quiet thud of feet when they hit the ground and breath coming out in long and measured keeps my focus on the goal.

Upright posture, slight lean forward. I repeat the words my Dad said to me when I was in the running team in school. The audience becomes a writhing mass in the shimmering haze. I focus on the road ahead, then a chicken moves in front of me and a bloke in a sumo wrestler suit. I go through the motions of leaping from one leg to the other for miles, before something hurts. Something tears in my chest and a Buzz Lightyear is jumping over me. The concrete is blisteringly hot. I can’t manage a whisper, even when an attendant is checking my details. I can’t manage a hello when Luke sits on my stomach, dressed in a t-shirt with my face on it.