“I can’t do it.” Earlier in the morning I’d seen this boy clear a ten-foot double jump, arrogantly hanging the back wheel out motorcross style, without breaking a sweat. He would go on to win his race that day by more than ten yards, bunnyhopping the finish line in a display of exuberance mixed with outstanding fitness even in the ninety-degree heat. But now he was trembling as he clutched the flagpole. “I’ll drop it. I can’t do it one-handed. The flag,” he whispered, “could touch the ground.”
His mother, standing by the ground next to the tabletop jump on which her son was vibrating with fear and concern, pointed her finger up towards his face. Her tank top fell away from her shoulder and I could see the faded Technicolor of a half-dozen different philosophies in tattooing. One of them was a man’s name in cigarette-ink blue, followed by “USMC”.
“You,” she snapped, “can absolutely do it and I don’t wanna hear no excuses neither.”