The sun scoured the football field for his next victim. He had a decent amount of fun with the asthmatic girl, even more with the boy who blew pineapple chunks. He noticed them sitting on the bleachers in their regular clothes, defeated. Which one will it be today? He perused all 52 options. None suited his fancy until the 325 pound boy waddled onto the field.
Justin lowered himself onto the turf, his joints creaking under each pound. He looked down at his Jordan’s, one of the laces coming undone. He struggled to get ahold of them, the ends slipping from the stubs he called fingers. The PE teacher hovered over him, providing him with temporary shade. He checked his name off the roll call, “So Mr. Blanchard, are you going to trot the mile today?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Justin kept his gaze on his shoe, not wanting to give his teacher any satisfaction. When his teacher walked back down the aisle, he muttered, “Asshole.” He looked up at the cloudless sky. Why did I fuck up so badly?
Justin Blanchard had sported an F+ since the third week of the first quarter. The occasions he and his friends decided to bless the teacher with their presence, they refused to finish the run. He enjoyed catcalling at the girls and badmouthing everyone. When he was with his friends, he felt untouchable. He could care less about what people thought of him, especially his PE teacher who got paid to sit on his ass all day.
But then his friends left. Well, “left” put it softly. Expelled is more accurate. What could José have expected when he lit the new girl’s hair on fire? Mid-April, and he had no one. His friends weren’t there to fail with him. His counsellor called him up to her office. All you need is a D, she iterated, then you’ll never have to take P.E. again.
They lined up at the 50-yard line. Five words ran through his mind faster than he could ever dream to: One mile. Four laps. Done.
The snickers passing Justin in the mile couldn’t amount to a tenth of the heat running through his body. He blinked the sweat dripping off his forehead out of his eyes, the salt irritating them. When he blotted at the sweat on his cheeks with his sleeve, he cursed under his breath at the recurring sunburn. He looked down at the ground beneath him, praying his sore legs would keep moving forward. He felt his head pulsing with his elevated heart rate. He rounded the corner, relieved.
Then it hit his lungs.
His breaths shortened, wheezing with each successive step. His lungs searched the air for relief, but every breath they could muster fell short. He collapsed onto the football field, the turf sticking to his face.
The Sun laughed at him from above, enjoying the performance the marshmallow gave him. The teacher kneeled beside Justin. Checking his stopwatch and his clipboard, he whispered into his ear, “Three down. One more to go.”
— Caeli Benson, BFR Staff