One Out of Ten Isn’t Bad

From January 2008.

I’m not sure this is really a piece of fan fiction. I could just as easily have stuck different names on it and made it an original piece, but I know Mihaela would just say “Elizabeth and Darcy” in her head so that’s what I wrote. This is really more an experiment in writing movement that I did earlier this week. Blame it on Pamala. She was watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships and I made a comment about men in shorts. She made a comment back about the beauty of Roger Federer’s forehand and I said that I found a certain event in athletics just as graceful. This is what came as a result. I wanted to see if I could make the reader “see” what was happening.

One Out of Ten Isn’t Bad
It was a straightforward assignment. All she had to do was write an article previewing the upcoming conference track and field championships, and an interview with the reining Pac10 and NCAA decathlon champion was a requirement. Once that was done, she could do her piece and move on to the next story—and study for finals. Sometimes the life of Elizabeth Bennet, reporter for the university student newspaper and senior majoring in journalism, was a little hectic.

Elizabeth was pretty excited for a shot to work in the sports department. She relished the challenge of breaking into a male dominated domain. While not a “jock” in the classic sense, she enjoyed going to games with her friends and had a pretty good grasp of the “cover 2” defense the football team liked to run.

In high school, while not a standout, Elizabeth had run track for four years. It was a great way to be fit and to be a part of a team. She had been elected team captain her last year, even though she had never won an event. Her teammates respected the effort she gave and the support she always offered to them. The last time Elizabeth has stepped foot on a track was four years ago. Today she would watch practice, have a few words with the coach, and then meet with Will Darcy once he was done with his workout. Why was it that she had to make things more complicated?

When she arrived, the team was already stretching and jogging to get loose. Elizabeth noticed one man off on his own, earphones in place, walking towards the discus/hammer ring. She recognized him from his team biography. It was William Carey Darcy IV, the next hope of the American decathlon community.

The United States had a long and proud history of decathlon dominance Elizabeth knew. She had done some research on the subject in preparation. Beginning with incomparable Jim Thorpe and continuing through Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, Bruce Jenner, and Dan O’Brien, the US had always had a strong presence in the event. Today the Czech’s were on top, but it was hoped that one day Darcy would claim the title of the World’s Greatest Athlete.

Darcy put his bag down and pulled out a several discuses—two kilos of steel-rimmed discs made with the majority of the weight located in the perimeter to impart high spin. Those things were not the implements of a beginner. It took years of practice to learn to release the discus correctly, with enough velocity and at the right angle to make it fly through the air.

Elizabeth sat transfixed as she watched her subject pass the discus from one hand to the other, always rolling it off his ring fingers, as though he was reacquainting himself with an old friend. She could imagine the calluses he must have developed over the years. He tossed it up in the air a few times, easily catching it before he stepped into the ring.

Darcy walked around the small piece of concrete. The diameter of the discus ring is 2.45 meters, creating an area all of 7.7 meters2 within which to work. He set his feet at the front of the ring and took a few warm-up throws from the standing position. Each effort landed further from him than the one before. After six throws, he walked out to retrieve the discuses and came back to try again. This time he did a few shadow throws, not releasing the discus tucked in his hand while he got his body ready to do it for real.

When he was ready, he took his place at the back of the ring; all around him hung protective netting except for the area to his back. Stretching out beyond him was a sector 40° wide. Letting out a breath, he twisted his torso to his left, until his extended left arm pointed to his right. Immediately he uncoiled and turned his shoulder the other way. Now his right arm was where his left had just been, his hips rotating over his left knee, and he stepped with his right toward the center. His hips continued the rotation while his shoulders lagged behind. Gracefully his left leg dropped to the ground and the rotation of his shoulders continued and finally caught up to his hips. With a controlled grunt, the discus was released and spun away from the human lever. Darcy’s body continued with the spin, and he left his feet only to return to the ground facing the away from the landing area. He did not stop there, and another 180° turn later, Will watched the discus land on the ground about forty-two meters away. Satisfied with his first attempt, he picked up another one and began the process all over again.

When the discus landed, Elizabeth released the breath she did not know she was holding. She knew enough about the event to know that it was very technical and very difficult. Only those who were skilled to could make it look so easy. What she was watching was beautiful! She had heard the ring called a dance floor, now Elizabeth found that analogy apropos. The grace of the man has he moved across the ring struck her as similar to a dancer. She also knew that the discus was one of his weaker events. If he was this good at his lesser events, what must he be at the ones in which he excelled?

<<>>
Practice was over, and Elizabeth sat in the bleachers talking to Will. The coach had introduced them and left the pair alone to finish the interview. Elizabeth asked the basic questions about how long he had been involved in the sport, when he started the decathlon, and even talked about his future goals. Conversation then came back to the practice session. After the discus, he had spent time on the long jump, and then worked on his sprinting, particularly coming out of the blocks for the 100 meters.

“I really enjoyed watching you work out.” Elizabeth admitted.

Darcy laughed. “I would think it would get boring rather quickly.”

“Not at all! I was never very good, but I ran track in high school. I guess I still enjoy it enough to appreciate what I’m seeing.”

Darcy shrugged. “We don’t get many spectators, unless you count the ones working on their tans.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. There had been people obviously there only to soak up some rays. “I was very impressed with your discuss. You made it look so easy.”

“It is. Or I should say, it’s supposed to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you do it right, it feels effortless. Your entire body is working in perfect coordination, and the power you generate when it happens is amazing.”

“Do you get that feeling often?”

“No, but enough to know what it is and to work to have it happen again.”

They finished the interview, and Elizabeth collected her things to put in her backpack. Will waited and then offered to walk her to her car. They walked along in silence, and she wondered why he bothered to escort her if he wasn’t going to say anything.

“That’s mine,” she said as they arrived at her vehicle. “Thanks for the interview and for being a gentleman to see me safely to my car. I’ll email you the article after I submit it.”

“I look forward to seeing what you come up with.”

Elizabeth smiled and got in behind the wheel. She turned on her ignition and rolled down the window preparing to close the door. Will closed it, but instead of walking away, he squatted next to the door with his hands at the bottom of the window opening.

“Uhm, I was wondering if maybe… if maybe you would like to have a cup of coffee with me or maybe even dinner?”

Wow! That was a surprise. Elizabeth hadn’t thought he was interested.

Her face broke out in shy smile.

“I’d like that, Will.” He looked relieved. “There now, was it so hard to ask?”

Her candor broke the ice, and they both laughed. “No, but it did require a bit of effort.”

“Keep practicing, and I’m sure it won’t be take long to before you do it with as much ease as you do things over there.” Elizabeth motioned with her head to the track where they had just been.”

“That would be good. Are you free tonight?”

“I’m sorry, but I need to get this story out of my head and into my laptop.”

Will stood.

“Tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

“I don’t have your number.”

“I’ll email it with the finished copy of my story. That should be incentive for me.”

Will smiled and backed away so Elizabeth could leave. “I’m really glad they gave you this assignment so we could meet.”

“Me, too. Bye, Will, you’ll hear from me very soon.”

She emailed him the completed copy—and more importantly—her phone number that very night.

<<<>>>
Seven years later…

Elizabeth Darcy sat on the edge of her seat. Part of the reason was three-year-old William Carey Darcy V fidgeting next to her, the other was the sight of her husband walking towards the discus cage. Wearing the red, white, and blue Team USA uniform, he tossed his favorite discus once, twice, in the air before stepping into the ring.

An amazing thing then happened, and only Elizabeth recognized it for what it was. Will began to spin with a fluidity he had rarely achieved. Elizabeth knew before the gyrating discus landed that it would be far. It carried, and carried, and carried until it hit the ground and skidded further away. Her eyes flew back to Will as he stepped out, looked to make sure there was no foul flag, and waited for his distance. Suddenly, he jumped in the air, pumping his fist. 55.87m—a new record for the decathlon and the push he needed to edge ahead of the competition.

That night he would stand on the top of platform adorned with five interlocking rings, a medal around his neck, an olive wreath on his head, as he watched his nation’s flag raised to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner. He had finally done it, and now he wore one more thing that came with the gold medal, the title of the World’s Greatest Athlete.

Elizabeth watched as well, her tears matching his.

It had not been easy getting here. They both had sacrificed so much. He had missed the birth of their son because of a meet, and she was not there when he won his first world championship. They worked hard on his career and on their marriage, and through it all, they learned that being a being a family wasn’t easy, but when everything worked the way it was supposed to, when you truly love each other, it was the most natural thing in the world.

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