Turning Point

Seeing a fellow student being bullied set Andrew on a trajectory that landed him in the Summer Olympics. Will he throw his opportunity away?

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two men wrestling

It all started with the threat he’d shouted at his manager yesterday.

“I’m going off-grid!” he’d screamed, throwing the uniforms off the hotel rooftop garden as far as he could.

“Andrew,” his manager said. “You’re really going to throw everything away? Look at what it’s taken to get here. Just because this regulation singlet is the colors of a country you don’t support, isn’t reason to give all this up.”

He thought about Tom’s arguments. It had been a long road to this moment. All the losses, the hard lessons. Then there all the wins. He wouldn’t be here in Indonesia if he hadn’t been a champion.

Thinking back, Andrew never would have believed that he could have achieved any of this a mere five. years ago. He’d been a nerdy skinny kid that all the jocks picked on. They mercilessly harassed him, called him names generally made his life a living hell. HIs only escape had been when he finally scrambled off the bus each night, ducking lunch leftovers and whatever trash the jocks could lay their hands on.

Early on he had tried to talk to his folks about the relentless hazing. Andrew’s dad had told him to grow a pair and to stop letting the guys get the best of him. Betrayed and abandoned by his own protector, he never mentioned the abuse again at home. He resolved to keep his head down and get through the year to graduation.

Day in and day out, Andrew dodged the jocks as much as he could, constantly on the lookout for their loud obnoxious herd in the halls or the commons. As hard as he tried to avoid them, a day rarely passed without some kind of verbal or physical assault.

On the last day of his senior year, Andrew slipped into the school lunch room to grab a sandwich. He planned to take his lunch to the school theatre and eat in peace in the semi darkened space away from the taunts and threats of the jocks.

As he was leaving the cafe, he stumbled into a knot of jocks, circling Josh McCarther. Josh was paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

Something snapped in Andrew. These guys were unbelievable.

“Hey, why don’t you pick on someone who can actually defend themself!!” he shouted at Frank Dulmt, the ringleader. As soon as the words left his mouth, Andrew wished he could disappear. It was too late now.

“You think you have what it takes, Quimbley?” Frank snarled.

Andrew couldn’t believe what came out of his mouth. “You and me, Dulmt!”

Frank sneered at him. “Well fellas, looks like little Quimbley has himself a deal. Gather ’round and keep a lookout for faculty.”

That was the moment Andrew learned he could fight. Righteous indignation fueled his body and he had laid into Frank. What the rest of the jocks saw Frank was clearly loosing they tightened the circle intending to join in the fray.

Just then Coach Philmac came out of the cafeteria, waded into the circle and grabbed Frank and Andrew by the collars and dragged them to the principal’s office.

Andrew smiled at this memory. The day after graduation Coach had stopped by his house.

“Andrew, I saw what you did to Frank in the hall. Have you ever considered freestyle wrestling?

This short story is part of a daily 36-minute freewriting exercise I’m committing to. I used the following prompts:

  • Character: An Olympian
  • Action: Throwing laundry
  • Setting: A rooftop
  • Phrase: “I’m going off-grid.”