Because I was always

busy writing when we were home, my

    son and I did our best

talking in the car. When he was six

   we drove from Thaxted

to Cambridge to do the laundry, and I

    told him about

running the 440 at Exeter, how

    I raced in a JV meet

against a runner named Bill Best

    from Dover High School

whom I determined to beat. I sprinted

    for the pole and was timed

at the 220 mark two seconds

    faster than I ran

the 220 by itself in practice,

    but blacked out as I rounded

the goal posts on the final turn,

    finishing dead last,

and vomited behind the stadium.

    Later the old doctor

said that my heart was enlarged (untrue)

    and switched my sport

from Track to Marksmanship.

                                               I told the story

    excitedly, eloquent

or proud with remembered failure—

    and looked across

the car seat to see my son’s face wet with tears

    and heard his passionate

voice implore me to practice again

    for the 440, running

on footpaths among Essex farms,

    to approach the finish

line kicking, Bill Best a yard ahead.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 14 Number 7, on page 28
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