Alan sneezed. An explosive sneeze that built up from nowhere far too quickly for him to do anything about. A tickling in his nose that became an irritation that became a tsunami of sensation that overwhelmed him until the sneeze blasted out.
“A-llerrr-Gic!” Came the cry from behind him. He didn’t turn, knew they were standing there at attention, saw a teacher shake his head and turn away.
Several times a day now, for weeks, they had mocked him every time he sneezed. Teachers had stopped them in some classes, but in others – as the Summer term grew to a close – had obviously stopped caring.
He moved closer to the starting line to get away from them.
“Going for gold, are you, Alan,” said Tony in a voice that only carried as far as his gang. Not that the teachers would have cared.
He hoped that High School would be diferent. It was terrifying to think that even though he might be the runt of Primary Seven, he’d no longer be one of the oldest in the school, but right back at square one. Though what difference would moving up make if he brought Tony and his gang up with him?
“Primary Seven boys, get ready!”
The teacher’s shout broke through his thoughts. Alan checked his pocket for his inhaler. Was reassured by the shape of the plastic.
Alan sprinted forwards, desperate to get away from Tony, ignoring his teacher’s earlier advice to pace themselves at the start of the 800 metres. He might as well run himself into the ground because Tony would make fun of him no matter what he did.
He rounded the first corner and was immediately passed by Gavin. He could feel himself struggling to breath and knew he’d only just started.
He kept going, trying to maintain his obviously slow pace even as James also passed him. Gavin was now a good three metres in front of him. Would the whole class end up passing him before he reached the finish line?
Should have started from the back, he thought. Then at least no-one would have passed me.
No, he told himself. Stop caring what they say. Just finish this race. I’m going to finish this race.
He focused on Gavin, now maybe five metres ahead. Tried to match his pace.
His lungs were bursting… He swallowed great gulps of air and felt his vision narrow down, but kept going. One foot in front of the other. Pushing himself forward.
He wondered if he should take out his inhaler as he didn’t seem to be taking anything in with each breath, but worried he would drop it unless he stopped and he was not going to stop!
Each corner rounded was a small victory. 100 metres round the top edges of the school football pitch and 200 metres to each side. 600 metres the full circumference and one extra length to give the full 800 metres. He couldn’t remember how many sides he’d run. Forced himself to keep going.
Then he heard someone say as he passed: “Is that Alan?”
Smallest and skinniest boy ever to reach Primary Seven, he thought. Who else could it be?
And then, there was the finish line! He stumbled over it, took a few more steps and collapsed to the ground.
At least he’d completed the race, he thought as he tried to get his breathing back under control.
“Alan, that was a good run.”
He looked up and saw his gym teacher.
“You came in third.”
He looked up uncomprehending, then looked over to the finish line and saw the rest of the boys in his class approaching. To his astonishment, the boys who had tormented him for so long were only now reaching the finish. He doubted any of them had been trying to run, but even so… James was even out of breath from his slow jog.
They also collapsed to the ground as they passed the line.
And that’s when it happened.
Out of breath from his run, kneeling on the grass, Tony sneezed.
Still struggling to control his own breathing, Alan pushed himself to his feet. Fixed his eyes on Tony and drew himself up straight.
He saw Tony give him a quick look before turning away.
Alan held himself at attention for a little longer and then relaxed. His breathing was still rapid and he felt a little light-headed, but for the first time ever, he’d ranked in a race!
Maybe High School would be different after all…
Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/friday-flash-fiction-a-llerrr-gic/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.
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