Natural Athlete


I spot him out of the corner of my eye. He's dressed in faded shorts and threadbare cotton sweater, a faded version of red, which has probably seen the inside of a washing machine once too often. I observe from a distance, move closer as he engages in a sprint.


He is a natural athlete.

I know one when I see one.

"That was pretty impressive," I offer as he halts close to me.

He stops, looks at me, uncertain and suspicious. I inspect the design on the front of his sweater, the familiar Run For Life logo, a runner crossing the finishing line, bordered by a circle.

"Oh, thank you very much," he's the epitome' of respect, unassuming. "I've seen you before, haven't I?"

"I come down to the grounds quite often," I respond.

"Pretty impressive, huh?" He repeats the words, as if he's never heard them before, then shrugs his shoulders.

He is barely out of his teens, maybe even nineteen at the most, with caramel skin, and hazel eyes that warm to the compliment. He speaks with a distinct accent, sounds northern African, and he stands erect, proud and dignified.

"I'm training for the upcoming regional finals," he offers, very matter-of-fact.

I am not surprised.

"You enjoy running?"

"Oh yes, definitely. Sprinting actually."

I've watched him before. Many times. I don't tell him this.

"Do you always train here?"

"Yes, everyday, twice a day, morning and evening," in a single breath.

I have a hunch about this kid. I've seen his kind before.

"I don't have much time now," I explain, "but I'd like to chat with you… I'm a coach."

"Okay… anytime… " He appears cheerful but looks sceptical, a youngster who has learned not to trust anyone.

I know raw talent when I see it. I've watched him in full flight. It's in the details that remain hidden from the untrained eye – head held high, in line with the spine; chin down, not out; shoulders held down; mouth relaxed, jelly jaw… and a hundred other minutiae.

Yes, definitely a rough diamond. The only question is, does he have that X-factor, the lucky spin of the roulette wheel of genetics, matched with considerable dedication and sport smarts?

I suspect he might.

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This is a 375 words fictional piece in response to the prompt over at Write On Edge.


  1. Barbara @ de rebus, via Write on Edge on October 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Very interesting! I especially enjoy the way your story builds to the end… at first I couldn't tell if the narrator was stalking your athlete for good or bad purposes. Not sure if that was your intention!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:07 am

      At this stage of the story, let’s just leave it at stalking… period… and not go too deeply into the whether the motives are good or bad… what if I told you that it’s a little of both… ?

  2. Jessie Powell on October 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I found you through the <I>Red Writing Hood</I> prompt.  You seem to have a really strong sense of dialogue, and I love how you use that to develop the story here. I also love the concise way you reveal something about your main character, the coach. When the coach reveals, "I've watched him before. Many times. I don't tell him this" I felt like I knew something about that character in just a few words.

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for the thumbs-up on the dialogue, Jessie. I love the use of dialogue in the story development process.
      It’s all about what characters say… or don’t say (where readers have to read-between-the-lines) that can add depth.
      I still battle with dialogue, though.

  3. Valerie on October 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I love your writing style!  It's very tight and descriptive, and your words are so well chosen.  One of my favorite parts (of many!) was the opening paragraph.  And this sentence is wonderful too-
    "I know raw talent when I see it. I've watched him in full flight"
    It evokes a desire in me to know what the future holds for this young athlete.  Well done!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for the compliment. And I’m happy that your curiosity has been aroused to know more about the youngster.

  4. Venus on October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Nice!  Like another commenter, I was really unsure of the narrator's motivations until the end, and I like that – it kept me invested. 🙂

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

      It’s heart-warming to know that your interest was sustained until the end. 🙂 Thanks Venus

  5. Nancy C on October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Oh, very cool. I love the authentic voice here…somebody who has been down this road before, but still gets excited about the possibilities. 
    And the voice of the runner is also so  pitch-perfect. I can hear him, despite (or perhaps because of) the conscise nature of your words. 
    So well done. 

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Wow! Thanks for the awesome concrit Nancy. I really battle with the concept of writing”voice” . Your comment means a lot to me.

  6. (FL) Girl with a New Life on October 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I particularly liked your description of the runner–all the little nuances that only an experienced person could spot. Jelly Jaw. Shoulder down.
    Stopping by from Write on edge.

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Yes, that’s what caught the coach’s eye… after observing the runner on a few occasions. Thanks for swinging by. 🙂

  7. Carrie on October 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    This was a great piece. You kept the reader guessing about the narrator's motives and that helped ramp up the tension.
    Small critique: the dialogue in the middle isn't easy to follow. You need to add another dialogue tag to identify the speaker. I had to read it a few times to know who was saying what. If these both lines are the kid talking (
    "Oh, thank you very much," he's the epitome' of respect, unassuming.
    "I've seen you before, haven't I?") you just need to move the second line of dialogue up to follow unassuming. No need for a new line 🙂

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:22 am

      Thanks for the concrit Carrie. I don’t know how I could have missed that glaring error. I will sort it out shortly.

  8. Nicole Rivera on October 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    So interesting! For some reason I didn't pick up AT ALL that the narrator was a coach. Awesome. That was a real surprise to me. Brilliantly done – upon going back and rereading, all the clues were there, so you did a really excellent job. Impressive.

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Nicole. I’m happy that you were surprised on discovery of the narrator’s true identity. And thanks for the reread to check out the clues.

  9. Stacy S. Jensen on October 28, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Love the topic. Made me think I should run …. Instead, I'm typing. 

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

      I admire people who run… I’ve never participated in any form of athletics… except for aerobics, in my late 20’s & early 30’s… if that counts…
      And hey, typing is cool… let the fingers do the running… LOL

  10. lisa on October 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Love it!  You words painted the perfect picture.  Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

      *smiles* Glad you enjoyed it, Lisa. Hope you pop in again.

  11. Susie on October 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I really enjoyed this, particularly the description of your runner. So detailed, I could picture him in my mind, down to the way he was standing. I also love that you called him a "rough diamond." Great job!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:33 am

      I’ve always loved the phrase ‘rough diamond’, but never ever got to use it before… this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Thanks for being so immersed in the story that you could actually picture the runner.

  12. Shauna on October 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I loved the sentence about seeing him in "full flight." Perfect.
    And secondly, I wondered briefly if the narrator was a pedophile! Which I don't think is a bad thing, but instead a testiment to the intensity of his (her?) focus and observation as well as a hat tip to your success at slowly revealing the context of the scene. Nice!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

      To be honest, I hadn’t thought about the “pedophile angle”… that would take the story in a (possibly) whole new direction… gives different options for the plot development… thanks for bringing it to my attention, Shauna. 🙂

  13. The Drama Mama on October 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    You weave little pieces in here about your character (the coach) that reel me in with all these little secrets the runner doesn't know. It makes me want to read more. Great writing!

    • mish on October 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks Drama Mama. Seems like you took the bait and are now hooked. So glad you want to read more… 🙂

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