THE SKINNY MAN’S AUDACITY
An essay by Alison Teed ©June 10/10
A young man stood pensively waiting at a starting line. Shaking out any tightness from his limbs, he moved from one foot to the other. His mind was set not on the start he would make, nor on the race itself, but on the finish line. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the ion charged air. He turned toward the crowd, reaching his long, fit arms up over his head he gave the cheering crowd a wave—a promise he wouldn’t disappoint them. He glanced at his opponents now lining up along the start line in the outside lanes. He smiled at them nodding; he knew now that the gold was his for the taking.
Then a gangly man trotted up and took his place alongside the crowd’s favorite on the very inside lane—he was a skeleton of a man, really. But he displayed confidence as he waved to the still cheering crowd. The crowd was dumb-founded at the sight of the skinny contestant alongside their favorite. Mocking laughter began to sweep through the crowd, some jeering insults. The more polite spectators in the crowd merely scowled, whispering back and forth. But the skinny man waved the more, apparently oblivious to the crowd’s disapproval.
An official strode to the starting line raising his starting gun. The crowd hushed.
“On your mark!” came the command.
The runners took their stance on the starting line.
They planted their feet, tensing their muscles and owning their positions—they were ready….
The runners leapt from the starting line and sped off down the track. Sure enough, the crowd favorite moved into the lead—swift and sure he streaked around the track. The crowd cheered him on.
The skinny man had a slow start and stumbled, almost falling. The pack was already far ahead, leaving him to regain his balance and find his pace. It was evident to all that he didn’t have the slimmest chance. By the time he reached only half the first lap the favorite had already passed him, the others close behind. And then again, crossing the starting line for the first time, the favorite sped past him once more.
The crowd cheered for their favorite, turning on the skinny man, laughing and shouting out their contempt. Now—the rest of the runners passed him by, one by one. The crowd made such a racket it was impossible to tell which one the crowd was jeering and which one they were cheering—other than those who had something to say. Shouts came from here and there.
“He’s not fit for this race!”
“Somebody, get that skinny guy off the track!”
The skinny man kept his pace and gave them a cheerful wave, reassuring them that he was good to go on. He’d now run one-and-a-half laps.
Very quickly the favorite passed him again, heading down his third lap—one to go! Feeling confident and feeding the frenzied crowd, he whizzed past the bag-of-bones, leaving him in his dust. The crowd laughed louder and cheered on their favorite. Then, another passed the bag-of-bones and another and another until the last runner brushed close to the skinny man, knocking him to the ground.
“Are you crazy? Get off the track wimp, before you get yourself hurt!” he chided as he sped past.
Medics rushed to his rescue, ready to rid the race of this nuisance, but the bag-of-bones stood to his feet just as the medics reached him and began once more to move forward, bloodied knees and all.
A woman called out from the crowd. “You got your nerve! You’re ruining the race, you fool. Who let you on the field?”
The crowd applauded her.
He gave her a wave, reassuring her he was a contender—he would make it.
He’d made two laps and he was determined he would make it all the way.
The crowd’s favorite strutted past the skinny man on his final lap.
What’s this guy trying to prove, anyway? he thought, scowling at the skinny man as he passed him by.
The crowd clapped enthusiastically cheering their favorite on. The skinny man, now feeling a burst of energy, picked up his pace and sped alongside the favorite a short distance, dropping back again, winded and appearing wobbly on his feet. Finally, the remaining pack passed him by one last time. He glanced over to see the crowd’s favorite, now on his home stretch.
The crowd cheered and applauded as their favorite victoriously crossed the finish line; then one by one they cheered on the others as they finished close behind him.
But the race was not over—there was the skinny man. His burst of energy had moved him forward and now he had just over one lap to go and the crowd was intrigued and could not resist egging him on. They began to chant.
“Go bones, go! Go bones, go!”
The skinny man waved to them as he passed by heading into his last lap. He clasped his hands over his head in a victory sign and plodded on, straightening his shoulders and pushing his chest forward. Someone dashed out onto the track pressing a bottle of water into his hand. He drank and drank and drank until the bottle was empty. Refreshed, he picked up his pace—half a lap to go!
“Oooooh!” the crowd resounded.
He had stumbled again and staggered a bit, but then straightened himself and pressed forward.
The crowd was now on its feet cheering feverishly, as he only had half a lap to go. But his second burst forward quickly waned and the finish line blurred; he felt faint. But the crowd cheered and screamed and shouted.
“Don’t quit now!”
“Go bones, go!”
“Don’t give it up now, man!”
The skinny man moved forward as though in slow motion—one foot in front of the other—one foot in front of the other. He was gasping for air. His legs wobbled like rubber bands. But the finish line was getting closer—now only inches away!
The crowd was frantic. They could see he was fading and they’d put up with this bag-of-bones all this way—he’d better not quit now!
“Don’t quit now! Don’t quit now! Don’t quit now!” they called out in unison.
Someone shouted, “Tenacity, man. Tenacity! You can do it!”
Then a roar arose from the crowd as the skinny man finally crossed the finish line, collapsing into a heap of bones. He lifted an arm and waved to the crowd reassuring them he was ok.
The crowd rushed the track lifting him to his feet and then up onto their shoulders, chanting, “Go bones, go! Go bones, go! Go bones, go!”
One guy called out, “This is the best race I’ve ever seen—that’s for sure. You’re cool, man. You’re cool!”
The woman who shouted at him on the last lap called out, “Whatever you got, I want some!” She clapped her hands wildly and cheered his victory.
The crowd began to disperse high-fiving and shaking their heads in unbelief at the audacity of the tenacious skinny runner.
“Who did he think he was?” one man accused.
A man from the crowd answered.
“He thinks he’s a winner,” he responded. “The skinny man knew he’d won his race when he crossed that line—as surely as the man who crossed the line first. A year from now we won’t remember who crossed first, but I assure you, we will never forget who crossed it best!”