a Broken Other-World story
When the man approached the athlete and asked for a moment of his time, the athlete assumed he was another reporter eager to speak to a potential Olympian. The training facility at Lane Community College was no stranger to members of the press and up-and-coming track and field stars were no strangers to the occasional interview request.
They sat down and, as expected, the man asked a question, although it was not exactly the one the athlete as expected.
“So” he began, “You’re not exactly from around here are you?”
The athlete’s hands pointed downward as if to clarify if the question was about if he was from Oregon.
The man smiled, shook his head slowly from side to side and then pointed skyward.
“I see” replied the athlete. “How did you figure it out?” he asked amiably.
“Well, your tight short shorts were a giveaway” the man said with a chuckle.
The athlete looked genuinely surprised. “I was led to believe that a large rig was an asset to a male. What’s the point of having one if can’t let people know it?”
The athlete’s use of the term ‘rig’ made the man laugh out loud. Composing himself he began his explanation. “When you were in grade school you won your district championship. By a narrow margin. Two tenths of a second I believe. When you were in high school you won your state championship by an equally tight margin. College? You won Nationals. By four tenths of a second. And now you just qualified for the Olympic Games… by three tenths of a second.”
The athlete looked at the man as if asking for some sort of summation.
“My point is, you have won every race you’ve ever run. Each time by the slimmest of margins. We both know that if you were to race a cheetah you would win… by one or two tenths of a second of course.”
The athlete just smiled.
The man continued, “I’m guessing you saw Superman as a child and realized that you’d better keep your true origins and abilities a secret. A little discretion goes a long way, am I right?”
“Well, now that you ask. I was actually a lot more influenced by a scene in The Princess Bride” and with that he went on to do an eerily accurate impersonation of André the Giant; “I just want you to feel you’re doing well.”
“I see” said the man. Clearly it was not the answer he expected. There was some chin rubbing involved. A deep breath or two and perhaps even a small sigh.
“Can I ask you a question?” asked the athlete.
“Only seems fair” replied the man.
“What is an itch?”
Again the man laughed. “I wish I could help you, but I have no idea.”
“Whenever I feel one, I like to pretend I’m a planet, all round and hanging in space, and that the itch is a volcanic eruption on my surface.”
Smiling the man rose and, after lightly slapping the athlete’s knee a couple times, began to walk away. “You know” he said looking back, “André the Giant ended up losing that particular fight.”
The athlete nodded, his grin remaining intact.
“Your secret is safe with me” said the man before leisurely disappearing around a corner.