I step forward. Take a deep breath.
Everybody’s lined up behind me, and I can feel it almost like they’ve pushed all the air aside and against my back. I can sense Edna’s gathering anxiety behind me and feeling my own crackling around me. And something else. Adrenaline.
It’s a damp, overcast late afternoon, but I’m not at all cold, even with just shorts and a T-shirt on.
In fact I think I might actually incinerate myself, the way my cheeks are burning. I note that with resentment. It’s like my face is coming to terms with my impending failure.
Well, I’m not.
I wipe my hands. Another breath in, sharp and cold.
My eyes focus on the path before me. The bouncy black rubber, tiny white markings crawling across it.
I start to run.
My body feels awkward and clumsy but my pace is controlled, tight. I keep my eyes on the line. I feel my breathing in my ear. And then my feet arrange themselves, totally disconnected from my mind. They do it well, snapping into place, performing the right functions, everything I imitated and rehearsed so many times before, but I know it’s off because I’m not commanding anything.
One skip. My knee lurches under my weight, like it didn’t expect to be called on for this task. Oh no.
Somehow it survives and launches me up again. My other foot stretches out for a hold on the runway.
And then it’s down to one jump, and still the runway stretches before me, the sand only faintly visible on the horizon.
I throw myself forward with all my might.
And I’m flying. And falling. Too soon. My feet are about to graze black rubber instead of soft sand.
And then, the miracle of all miracles. Someone or something reaches out from the heavens and gives me wings for a moment. Or maybe just an undignified little push.
I skid. The sand is flying.
Success. I land hard on my butt, but with sand underneath me.
It’s a miracle.