As leather easy chair. He laughed and said,

As I was walking around the camp I began to daydream to get my mind off of this terrible place and go back to a more peaceful time, my junior year at Liberty High School the week of my most important track meet.

I was running. My legs were burning, and when I looked down, they were on fire. Literally. The finish line seemed miles away. Then my clock radio turned on, and my mind shifted, happily, to reality—but only for a moment. This time I sat up in bed, blue sheets twisted around me. I rubbed my eyes, finally clearing my head of the weird nightmare.

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My dad asked about the track team, and I had commented that the boys seemed to hate me. My dad had been listening to the baseball game, sitting in his brown leather easy chair. He laughed and said, as a joke, “Beat them up.

Slap ’em around. That’ll teach them something.” I had laughed and said, “Yeah right.

” Remembering the conversation I repeated those words, “Yeah, right.” I glanced out my window: clear—or as clear as it gets at 5:00 in the morning in April. I pulled on blue shorts and a shirt, grabbed my running sneakers, and snuck down the carpeted stairs. My parents didn’t mind my morning runs, but I didn’t want to take the risk of waking them up this early.

Once outside, I sat down on the old deck and pulled on my sneakers. My legs were itching to run. Quickly I tied the laces, then jogged down our gravel driveway.

Once I hit the sidewalk, I picked up my pace. I had a track meet Saturday.Soon my mind was filled with nothing. My pace set, my feet hit the sidewalk steadily as a clock. I passed my friend Lindsay’s house; it was painted white, like most of the houses in Morgan. The grass was mowed, and a well-tended garden grew in the front yard, just like at my house.

I spied Lindsay’s silhouette through an upstairs window. I waved but quickly turned back toward my house. It must be six o’clock if Lindsay was up, and the bus came at seven. As I turned the last corner and my house came into view, I spotted my brown lab, Spots, chewing my mother’s plant in the front yard. When I jogged past him, he barked a greeting at me and continued chewing.After school that day, at the Morgan High track, the team gathered around the high-jump mat. “Good,” said Jacob, a runner. “We couldn’t live without you.

“, while Mr. McCoy continued to call the roll. The rest of the boys snickered at Jacob’s comment and slapped fives. I stared down at the black track as my hands curled into fists. I tried not to punch the thing closest to me, which happened to be Coach McCoy. “Now, as you know, we have a track meet on Saturday. I would like all of you to practice your events.

But remember, boys, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Just do your best on Saturday.” Coach McCoy continued his speech about winning and losing, which nobody, including McCoy himself, believed.

Along the way, he kept addressing us as boys and men. It happened every time, but still, my stomach hardened and I clenched my teeth. “Ted, to the triple jump.

Mark, to the javelin. Curt and Adam, to the discus. Tim, Greg, and Kevin, to the track for the 100 and 200.

The rest of you, find an event. I’ll come around and help you,” Coach McCoy ordered. I walked to the pit, found my mark, took a deep breath, and ran, my hair streaming out behind me. When I got to the second mark, which is called a bar, I hopped, then took a step and jumped. I landed well, with my hands forward. I walked back along the newly sprouted grass to try again.

“Nice jump, Ted,” Mr. McCoy commented. I turned around. “Thanks, but I’ll have to do better than that to win Saturday.” “You will have to do better, to beat the West Pine Panthers. They’re pretty tough this year.

” “Oh, I see,” I said with an edge to my voice. I felt my body tremble, and my hands once again curled into fists. I wanted to scream at Mr. McCoy. Why did he, of all people, have to be my coach? “I’ve got to go see Mark now. Bye-bye,” he said in the saccharine voice he reserved especially for me.

When I was angered I always jumped better. I should have thanked him; I beat my distance by two inches. When I got home I grabbed a Granny Smith app-…


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