By Doug Shiloh
Torin heard a click.
A weapon was being cocked. Someone was going to shoot him.
He calmly bent down on his left knee onto the cement and re-laced his right tennis shoe. From there – he’d leap. Old Lens Eye won’t know what’s happening, he thought. Old Lens Eye will not take my picture for The Golden Gilded Bird Cage Liner. I had asked nice once before. Let him take someone else’s picture for the school newspaper.
Torin pulled up his loose sweat socks. He turned his head for coordinates. The shadow of the photographer stretched across the grass in the afternoon light and almost touched the edge of the discus circle.
He saw a pair of Nikes. The large scrape alongside the calf of the girl’s leg had almost healed. She wore a gray t-shirt that read PROPERTY OF INDIANA HOOSIERS. She held onto a Nikon camera in her right hand; PAMELA was inscribed in block letters on the ID bracelet. Her gold necklace had a “#1” charm. Her dark red hair was shoulder-length and her face was lightly freckled.
“On your last throw you should have been more level, like this,” Pamela said, extending her arm to the side. “Not like this. That’s why you threw it only that far.”
“Do you know how far that is?”
“About 30 feet less than what you can do,” she told him.
How dare you, he thought.
She looked through the viewfinder and adjusted the lens, aiming the Nikon at a group of pole vaulters. She rotated to focus on a javelin thrower who had a feather attached to his javelin. She took the picture as the javelin thrower released the steel implement.
“Why don’t you give this a try?” Torin said, pushing the black rubber practice discus at her. “It seems you know enough. But then, anyone can be a critic.”
She shifted the Nikon to her left hand and took the discus from him with her right hand.
“This is a little big,” she said.
“Not like you thought, is it? Heavier. You’d better let me hold that camera. You don’t want it to slip out of your hands and break.”
“No, I’ll be fine if I can grip it. There. I’m ready.”
“Stop!” he shouted. He moved back 20 feet. “Try to keep your arm straight. I don’t think the sprinters want to get hit.”
A pack of runners were doing wind sprints on the track to their left. Torin looked around to see if it was clear for her to throw.
“Bombs away,” he said, thinking of all the poorly thrown discuses he’d seen. Twice he’d seen people get hit. The one took almost a whole top row of teeth out of the victim.
She began to wind up, still holding onto the Nikon. Her legs were a shoulder’s width apart. Her left side faced the south end of the football field. A stick with a piece of cloth tied to it moved slightly in the breeze.
“Wait!” Torin called.
“How about a wager?”
“Don’t think I can throw this 10 yards?”
“No. Past 50 feet.”
She faced the distance marker and set her feet back to a shoulder’s width.
“Well?” Torin said.
“What kind of a wager?” Pamela asked.
“No, it’s friendly. How about laps?”
“Laps. If I win,” Torin said, “two miles won’t be too much for you, will it? That’s eight laps if you didn’t know.”
She rolled her eyes.
“And if I win?”
“If you win,” Torin laughed, “I’ll run a lap for every foot from where your throw lands to where mine did.”
“How far was that? One hundred forty-five feet?”
“I’d say closer to one fifty-five.”
“You sure you want to mark it there?”
“Yeah,” he said. He folded his arms, waiting for when he’d stand alongside the cinder track and call out how many laps she had left to run.
There was nothing like the controlled abandon of running a quarter-mile, he thought. He remembered when he switched from being a sprinter and had started to throw the discus. Coach Jensen told the young writer that Torin had the long arms for it and that the Greeks considered the discus champion the greatest of all Olympians. Two seconds of coordination, power and discipline. To throw well was like writing well, Torin believed: a sustained effort made better through repetition. Then you evaluated it and changed what you had and again made it better. The next day you went back and tried again. Running far or fast and crossing the finish line with your heart ready to explode was like White Heat writing, Torin thought. But the discus: it was revision. It’s how you get remembered.
But Torin didn’t think about any of that as he watched the discus hang against the blue sky. The discus traveled 90 feet. Pamela aimed the Nikon and captured that look on his face.
“Do you like to run?” she asked.