Jim Trainer

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema Chapter 4

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

He was always experimenting. On me. He read in one of his training books that humans never accelerate beyond sixty yards. So he measured out sixty-yards counting like a farmer walking his field along the side of the highway that polluted the air with a few hundred idling cars and trucks for the two hours morning and night during rush hours. And whizzed like the side of a race track in the fast driving hours.
He wanted a straight and level track. Then he made me run on the asphalt, after he’d broomed all the sand off it so that it was smooth and had traction. I must have run that sixty yards from a football stance ten times while he counted the number of strides it took—exactly twenty-eight. Finally after a weaving station wagon nearly clipped me he walked me back to the trailer park explaining cadence.
“Like a count, a drummer. One-two-three-four..and maybe decreasing the interval so that the beat was faster. Well, see if you count out twenty-eight every time, and every day, every week, and every month we bring that interval down so that count will be faster and if its faster so will you be. Cadence is what everyone else calls speed.”
He picked an envelope off the floor.
“Ummm, hmmm, this might be innerestin’. Let’s see if you get out of Junior High.”
He smiled, leaned back. Said what he always said opening every report card. His voice a little tense because if he saw any C’s or even B’s his mood would darken and he’d spend a lot of time discussing failure in life with me. If he saw what he liked he grinned through another ritual, something he took comfort in as a sign of good luck,
“Must be another Eddie Burnett in the Santee District-this guys got an A in every damn class! Look here, he gets excellents in citizenship! Now where’s yours?”
He added something, mumbled it under his breath,
“What you do? Kill this kid, assume his identity or sumptin?”
I swallowed and forked in half the waffle so as to have time to chew awhile and let his comment disappear.
Meanwhile Dad’s smile slipped off his face and he turned to the stove.
The door thumped, the trailer groaned under the weight on the first stair, the door swung open.
“What’s up Manny?” Dad said, before Manny could answer he handed him the report card. Manny is as wide as he is tall-about five eight, bearded, a combination chin and neck that folds over under his chin to his collar bone, he wheezed at me,
“When you gonna get old enough to pay the bills around here?”
Since I was sitting down and therefore shorter than him for once Manny took the opportunity to mess up my hair with his swollen hairy hand.
“You racin’ any niggers today?”
We kept the track schedule a secret. Once in awhile Manny and his friends would read about an upcoming race in the local sports, though not often because they didn’t read the paper much, it was sports radio. If any of Dad’s friends heard about it they’d use the occasion to crowd around the finish line timers yelling racial epithets at the top of their lungs besides crowds that included black families and friends there to watch the races.
For two years I’ve been undefeated. I learned the cadence Dad discovered, could estimate the exact tenth of a second just by the internal counting in my head. With the count I could, because it could be through a kind of rhythm, bring the count down. I never even saw the runners I was racing a lot of the time. I was right in my lane, my strides going staccato and the next thing I’d time a lean into the tape. The stands at white schools and even when we visited the black schools went nuts. Dad thinks it’s the cadence, and it is. But the control of the cadence came when he started running me up inclines for power, and down slopes for ‘turn-over’. Our top secret workouts, he always went before but not very often now. But I still do them. Ten times up the incline as fast as I possibly can go. Only resting enough to jog back to the start. Then ten downhill relaxed letting the aid of gravity pulling me along until you can’t see my legs blurring down on the soft slopes at the golf course across the highway when its closed. That’s all I do, hardly ever run much farther. Very specific. I have acceleration mastered and as I get older and stronger I get faster. So the run of the mill fast kid, or the naturally fast kid without our knowledge and training just doesn’t have a chance. Humans can only get just so fast anyway, I was pretty much on my way to getting there. It was fun, but no big thing.
But you put a brotherhood of meth addict racist ex-con malcontents together at a track meet and see them take on one of my races like they ran it themselves, or could with bellies bouncing on thick belts, boots clod-hopping along. Their celebrations and loud-mouthed arguments, followed immediately by personal insults always drew a police presence who watched themselves with great interest themselves, knowing who my father was. When the dust settled all eyes would be on me.
I swallowed,
“Manny nobody my age says that anymore..”
“Nigger? ’Cept the niggers. They call each other nigga, nigger, nigger all the time.”
Dad stepped in,
“Manny, easy, he learns this shit in school and I want those A’s for him so he gets some schoolin’. He knows what time it is.”
“Niggers call each other niggers-and I can’t. Makes no fucking sense.”
“Manny, it’s a stupid argument.” he said.

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