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My 15 Minutes of Fame (A Cliche Story)
Today was the big race and I was jogging on spot preparing to launch myself to the finish line. I had been shedding my blood, sweat and tears over this one competition. My coach had given me the good old pep talk earlier but winning this race was easier said than done. There were only three participants left in the game. As the announcer of the contest drabbled on to pump up the excitement within the audience, my thoughts took a turn for the worse and I immediately began wishing we could cut to the chase. I tried to distract myself drawing my attention towards the poster of a famous runner that my brother was holding in his hands. I was that runner’s biggest fan. I wondered if I could ever be as amazing as he was.
“What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”
I turned around to take in the enormity which is my opponent; Jack Nicholson, a six foot giant from the Collegiate Institute miles away. Jack Nicholson was the type of person who liked to beat around the bush when what he actually intended to do was drive you up the wall. He was also the “big man on campus”.
“No, I was just curious.”
“Well, you know what they say, curiosity killed the cat.” He sneered. “But you’re more like a little puppy dog, aren’t you?”
“You just wait, Jack Nicholson,” I shot back. “Mark my words. I’ll win this race in a pinch. It’ll be as easy as 1-2-3.” Ironically, I could vaguely see my sister waving her number one fan glove at me with my peripheral vision.
His laugh boomed through overhead the crowd. “Really now?” he said sarcastically. “Sounds to me like your all bark and no bite. But, go ahead. Make my day.”
“Just you wait,” I retorted stubbornly. “I can beat you with my eyes blindfolded.”
He smirked, “In your dreams,” and stalked off to the starting line.
“And your nightmares,” I muttered to his back.
I attempted to cool down my hot head and continued pacing on spot as the announcer droned on. The wise words emitted by my coach during practice, when he kept us as busy as bees, flowed through my mind, “Life’s a b****, Wayne, but you got to nip it in the bud. No pain, no game after all. You know what they say: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I want you to stick out like a sore thumb and dash to the finish line like there’s no tomorrow. I don’t want you to be the low man on the totem pole; you understand what I’m saying? I want you to look before you leap, be careful and wary of your opponents. That Nicholson is state champion. And that other boy, he may be the strong silent type but sure as hell, he’s fast and furious. You’d do best to not judge a book by its cover, kid. If those boys tease you, I want you to put your foot down and show them what you’re made of! You hear me? I know this is only your third competition but, you know, third time’s the charm.”
“Yeah,” I remember saying. “But, after three strikes, you’re out.”
Nevertheless, I had soaked in his words like a sponge. I glared back towards Nicholson. I may be like a puppy, I thought harshly, and it looks like I’ve just barked up the wrong tree.
The whistle sounded for us to line up together. I hurried over and bent down on the white line in my starting position, eyes full steam ahead, my face aligned with the others. Nicholson was on my left while Sammie, my other opponent, was on my right. I noticed Nicholson eyeing my worn out sneakers distastefully, “Look what the cat dragged in.”
“Oh, give me a break,” I groaned back at him.
“I just wanted to wish you luck,” he said, his tone light, innocent. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I simply don’t think you have what it takes to survive. Remember, its survival of the fittest, not endurance of the idiotic.”
“For your information,” I snapped back. “Scared dogs bark the most.”
“Oh, so you’re afraid?” I blanched, surprised and speechless at his comeback.
The guy who I had assumed was giving me the cold shoulder, Sammie, muttered to himself, “Great. First the tire on my car pops and now it’s raining cats and dogs.” His eye flicks over to mine. “That guy’s as stubborn as a mule, so just shut your trap and focus on the race.” My mouth instantly zipped shut. “Ah. Silence is golden.”
“Party pooper,” I heard Nicholson growl.
My heart began pounding in my chest and it felt like my heart was about to explode. The referee raised the shotgun signalling that the race would start any minute now. I had butterflies in my stomach, that much was certain, but I realized I was scared stiff. I had gone out on a limb just to make it to the final round but now, here I was, shaking in my boots. Or, as Nicholson had courteously pointed out, my worn out sneakers.
“Winning is everything,” my coach had said. “There’s a state champion born every minute. That one-in-a-million guy is you, Wayne, I can feel it in my gut.”
But, what if I didn’t win? My stomach lurched drastically.
“Ready—“the referee called.
Eye of the tiger, Wayne, I told myself, eye of the tiger.
Everything stood still.
The earth moved.
Nicholson and Sammie sprang to life dashing forward without a seconds notice. I fidgeted perplexed for a moment, then followed pursuit. They were easily ahead of me and I automatically comprehended that there was no way to catch up. All I could see were their backs. My breath came out uneven and I pushed myself forward. I could almost imagine Nicholson screaming, “catch me if you can!” and Sammie rolling his eyes while saying, “Sorry, I must’ve overestimated you.” I tried to remember my coach’s influential words, “Try your best, kiddo. The sky’s the limit.”
The crowd was cheering but it was indistinct. Then I heard laughing from up ahead, “Take your time, Wayne!” Nicholson jeered, breathing heavily. “After all, slow and steady wins the race!” His taunts sent my blood boiling.
I gritted my teeth and pushed my legs harder, faster, forward keeping my nose to the grindstone. When push comes to shove, the shoved run faster; which is exactly what I did. My timing improved. Harder, faster, forward. My stamina increased. Harder, faster, forward.
I passed Sammie’s mystified expression in a stroke, then the shocked Nicholson after a second plunge. Harder, faster, forward. I overtook both, eyes straight ahead towards the goal. “Eat my dust, Nicholson!” Harder, faster, forward.
“Wayne!” Harder, faster, forward. “Hey Wayne!” I stopped running, panting.
“What?!” I called back, my voice as cold as splintering ice.
Sammie and Nicholson were trudging slowly behind me. As if he was unwilling, Sammie shrugged towards the finish line, “Turn your frown upside down, man. Because you passed the finish line already. You won.”
I blinked, utterly incredulous. “I did?” The crowd was cheering. It was so loud, why hadn’t I noticed that before?
“That was amazing,” Sammie said in awe. “You took off like a bat out of hell.”
Nicholson shrugged, “Looks like this pup has grown up to be a fine pit bull.”
I still couldn’t believe my ears, “Well,” I managed. “I guess...every dog has its day.” I earned myself a small smile in return.
“Whoa, don’t get too confident there, sonny Jim,” Nicholson continued. “You’ve had your fifteen minutes of fame, but I’m planning on stealing my title back next year. God must have had a change of heart to let you of all people win. If you’d like to take a trip down memory lane, you’ll recall that I can easily take back my title.”
“Really now?” I said amused. “Sounds to me like your all bark and no bite. But, go ahead. Make my day.”
“I’m not a dog,” he said flatly.
“Takes one to know one,” I laughed. “But, don’t worry. You know what they say, all’s fair in love, war... and varsity sports.”