Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BLESSED (03/07/19)
- TITLE: How Turtles Win
By Francy Judge
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Mr. Short, the gym teacher in Lincoln Elementary, had warned the class Monday was the first day of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Tiffany’s heart raced and she wiped her sweaty hands on her pants. She’d rather take a math test or any kind of test other than gym. Every year she dreaded spring. As soon as the first robin sang, they would have to march outside, shivering in shorts and a t-shirt and practice pull-ups on the monkey bars for the President. The name alone sounded intimidating. Would the president read her score?
The night before the fitness test, Tiffany ate a lot of spaghetti like Carly did the night before every race. She did twenty push-ups, mostly keeping her back straight and butt down. She struggled through a hundred jumping jacks and thirty sit-ups but felt strong before going to sleep. All night, she dreamed a purple tiger was chasing her but never caught her. She thought it was a sign. She was ready.
Mr. Short pushed open the heavy metal gym doors, and the class filed out into the sunshine. The air smelled of honeysuckles and cut grass and tar from the new track. Seagulls squawked above her. Tiffany wished she could fly with them.
As the boys played tag and girls turned cartwheels, Mr. Short blew his mean whistle to gather the class and give instructions. They would race, lining up in two parallel lines and running against one classmate from the other line. As he clocked the times, Barbara, the assistant, would record all scores on her clipboard. Tiffany felt like she would throw up her spaghetti.
When it was her turn, Tiffany looked to her right. She was against Margie with her long, skinny legs that could stretch twice as far as Tiffany’s. “Oh, great,” she mumbled, hoping no one heard her.
They stood with toes behind the yellow line and waited for what seemed a long minute. In that long minute, Tiffany prayed for God to help her win. She could use an angel or two to help her soar across the finish line.
Tiffany pumped her arms and stretched her legs, faster and faster. She looked to the right and didn’t see Margaret who was a couple feet behind. Tiffany couldn’t believe it—she was going to win. The finish line was only five feet away when Tiffany’s legs tangled. They felt too fast for her body. In a whirlwind second, her body toppled forward, skinning her hands, knees and chin. She could hardly hold back the tears as she felt a hand help her up.
Ronnie looked at her hand in his. “Are you okay?”
Tiffany sniffled and shook her head yes, though she didn’t feel okay; she felt like bursting into tears. And if she was honest, she wanted to yell at God. Why couldn’t she win just one race? She was so close.
“You ran fast. You were going to win.”
Mr. Short inspected her cuts. “Ronnie, please escort this young athlete to the nurse’s office for some bandages.”
Tiffany wondered if her cheeks were as pink as Ronnie’s as they stood frozen.
Mr. Short waved his hand shooing them away.
Ronnie turned toward the door. “Okay. Come on, let’s go.”
Fifteen years later…
Lila burst into the kitchen and startled Tiffany. “Hey there, kiddo. What happened?”
Lila slid her backpack off onto the chair and sobbed into her palms. “I was racing Becky and I tripped. I must be the slowest kid in sixth grade.”
Tiffany wiped the gravel from Lila’s bloody knees and cleaned and bandaged the scrapes. “Have I ever told you about the race I had at your age?”
“Yes. Dad used to call you Tiffany the Turtle. And I’m a turtle too.”
“Well, the point is…I wanted to be blessed to win the race, but God had a better blessing waiting—”
Ron opened the door. “Hi, hon. Did I miss something?”
“No. Perfect timing.”
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