Focal Point

The morning humidity bled into a dry, heated afternoon that left clothing clinging uncomfortably to slick skin recently doused with luke warm water that had laid just outside the mercy of the shade cast by a nearby chair. The now empty bottle baked, forgotten in course grass, next to half a dozen bottles that had met the same fate in the late afternoon sun. No one paid attention to the collection as heads craned up, watching as the bar was raised higher into the sky; the uprights holding it swaying in the breeze that stayed 20 feet above the ground, much to spectator and athlete’s dismay.

The grass snapped and crunched, the sound interrupted by the occasional clang of plastic on metal, as feet moved swiftly from the small bottle graveyard to the people tying off the bar. A nod confirmed the 29 feet height; the momentary relief the water granted dissipated with the quick movement. Announcement of the height and cheers drowned as the athlete went through the motions, loosening trembling muscles while trying to calm the roaring heartbeat threatening to burst through muscle and bone.

Gripping the borrowed handle, and adjusting the 12lb weight, the athlete’s head drifted back, staring at the bar so many feet overhead. With a deep breath that rattled through the athlete’s body, the athlete took 3 steps forward: left, right, left, before stepping wide one step to the right. The athlete’s eyes found the water bottle graveyard, a foot from the empty chair that had given the athlete reprieve from the ache in too taught hamstrings. One, the athlete whispered, sunglasses encases eyes boring into the recently discarded bottle. Two, the whisper caught against the back of teeth as the crowd slowly sank away, the bottle growing bigger in the athlete’s sight. Three, the wave of fatigue hit the athlete, allowing only the mouthing of the number, but never breaking the athlete’s gaze. Four, and the wide swing of arms forced the athlete’s feet off the ground, the bottle suddenly smaller in view.

The sound of the athlete’s scream tore through wearied vocal chords that begged for more water, for rest. The soaked bandana on the athletes head felt heavy as the 12 pounds was released into the air; the athlete’s chest straining for air against water-logged material as the weight flew over the bar. The athlete smiled, finally aware of the spectator’s roar and a hand that clapped a sopping shoulder. The athlete laughed, stepping away as the bar moved to the next height. A new hand slipped the athlete fresh water and congratulations.

The athlete finished the bottle, screwing the cap tightly and dropping it into the pile. A quick wave before beginning again; wearied eyes finding the new bottle in the grave.

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