Echelon

He waited in the back of the green room, alone, dancing back and forth on the balls of his feet, psyching himself up. Shifting his weight from one side to the other and pumping his arms, he muttered his mantra just under his breath. The contest to come would be a major battle, but he knew  he was heads above the rest, in the upper echelon–and (his therapist had reminded him) not just literally, though he towered at 6’8″. Still, the competition wasn’t a bunch of pipsqueaks; they were a force to be reckoned with, but he, Chocolate Thunder, could handle them, and he could lead his team to victory. He pumped his arms, flexed his muscles, ran in place, grunted a few times–

“Gordon?!” A sharp call from the doorway. He froze.

“Gordon, come on. The whole team’s waiting on you.”

Chocolate Thunder–Gordon–pinkened but composed himself and gathered up his things: attaché case, pocket protector, graphing calculator, stop watch. “Coming, Coach,” he murmured, and went out to join the Auburn High School Math League Team for the tournament.

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Wreak

She sat down, paused, and reflected on the day. Both cats had hopped on the bed that morning to jolt her awake, in time to realize that she had slept through her alarm but not wasted the morning. The man supervising the self-checkout lines at the Acme had been kind and perceptive, keeping tabs on six electronic registers, and had jogged to the back of the store to exchange coffee brands for her so she could take advantage of a weekly special. She had tackled her mother’s recipe for sweet rolls, just in time for the holidays, and this first attempt had resulted in delicious success. She had dusted the apartment with a wet rag, tidied each room, and decided that there were mementos squirreled away carelessly in some of the still-unpacked boxes stashed in the hall closet and that her first task of the new year would be to reorganize to preserve those hidden treasures. Her back had flared with pain for the first time, and her bunion had come back to rear its ugly head in the middle of her afternoon run and to wreak havoc on her afternoon. She had taken a heating pad to bed and the old, ornery cat had come and curled up in her lap, as if to say he understood the aches of growing old and growing up. She stopped: faced with the monumental moments of her everyday life, she was overcome by their significance, their uniqueness. She logged off of Facebook, closed her browser window, and went to find something else extraordinary to do.