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