Hitting The Top
I have always had a passionate hatred for gym class. Whether it
was the arm-pit stained T-shirts, the navy-blue gym shorts, or the
sneakers with an odor that would put Pepe Le Peu to shame, I couldn't
say, but I know I hated it.
The twice-weekly ordeal by torture was devised to separate those
who can from those who would like to but who could not. Every third
period on Mondays and Wednesdays I would hesitantly enter the crowded
locker room. The sweat-stained air would slap me in the face as the
door swung open and I entered the row upon row of military-green
metal lockers. There I would change into my unfashionable gym attire
causing the fashion editors of GQ Magazine to go into coronary arrest.
After lacing up my high-top sneakers I would go out into the
"big room" facing the horrors of the class to come. But in actuality
every week was the same because it always began the identical way
with my worse nightmare there before me.
In truth, my arch nemeses were the thick unknotted ropes that
hung from the two-story ceiling, reaching all the way to Heaven for
some, but not for me. Not only were they a blockade, but for me they
were like an excursion to Hell.
At the beginning of each class we were instructed by the coach
to climb to the top, hit the rafter, and yell out our name. It never
happened for me. Never! Not even in my wildest dreams. My arms
would have no part in lifting me up from the floor on that imposing
sisal. Then I would have to endure the mocking jeers of my fellow
gymnasts for failing to climb the two-story obstacle.
And every week was the same. I just wasn't strong enough to do it!
Until one day, when everything changed...
The tables were turned by the good intentions of one of my
fellow classmates. The saints in Heaven would have been proud.
Jimmy was an all-city bowler. His father owned the local bowling
alley and Jimmy had bowled many a 300-game. We had both been casual
acquaintances but both of us hung around in different circles. He,
however, had a reputation as being an all-around nice guy.
He came up to me where I had shied away on the sidelines trying
to become the invisible man.
"Jimmy," he began, (my name was Jimmy,too), "How about I show
you how to climb those ropes with ease?"
"Yes," I said, "Sure, I'd love it but my arms just aren't strong
enough." In my mind I could hear Charles Atlas rolling over in his
grave except at that time he wasn't even dead yet.
"Never you mind," he said, "I'm gonna show you how and you won't
even be using your arms, except to guide you up the rope."
I looked at him bewildered -- fully knowing that his intent was
sincere but not understanding how he would manage to get me up one of
those ropes. He started his instructions by simply saying, "I want
you to wrap the rope around the back of your left leg, where your
thigh is, and then bring it around your calf to the front and then
over the instep of your foot."
No one had ever taken the time to show me or to help me. It was
always just do it or fail trying.
"You will need to pull yourself up off of the floor first while
you do this and keep the rope loosely wrapped around your leg. Now I
want you to step hard on the rope where it meets your instep and at
the same time pull yourself up like you are walking up a flight of
stairs. Let the rope slide down as you go up -- keeping it in place
-- and step hard on it again -- and pull yourself up. Just do this
exactly as I have told you and before you know it, you'll be at the
My skepticism with Jimmy's plan disappeared as I really wanted
to make this work. Not only for me but to show everyone in the class
that if you put your mind to something it really can be done.
After everyone else had climbed up and down, I went over to one
of the ropes. The coach was about to make a snide remark but thought
better of it and remained silent. I pulled myself up a few feet off
of the floor and let the rope wind loosely around my left leg. Still
fearful, I stepped hard on the rope and eased myself up. And ease it
was! As Jimmy had said it was like climbing a flight of stairs.
Step and ease up, step and ease up, little by little I went, not
wanting to get in a hurry and not make it. The sweaty crowd watched
in awe unable to comprehend what they were seeing. Then words of
encouragement spewed forth from the onlookers -- now all were hoping
that I would make it to the top.
"Go on -- keep going," came the shouts.
"You can make it -- come on."
"Just a little more..."
I can remember reaching and hitting the ceiling rafter so hard
that it hurt my hand. The sound that emanated from that "hit" echoed
throughout the gymnasium -- followed by the uproarious cheers of my
fellow classmates. A Heavenly chorus of bells must have also rung
out as well.
And then I yelled out, "Jimmy Colasanti has made it to the top!"
And I finally had. It was one of those momentous high school
happenings that has remained in my thoughts and feelings to this day
-- an accomplishment to remember.
~ James Colasanti Jr. ~
<onegooddog1 at bellsouth.net>
James is a lead clerk with Barnes & Noble Booksellers. A past
president of the Animal Rescue & Foster Program of Greensboro, NC.,
James shares his home with a housemate and 11 dogs. His stories have
appeared in New York Dog Magazine, Dog & Kennel Magazine, Best
Friends Magazine, Pasta Magazine, Guilford Record, News/Record, and
also in the archives at Petwarmers.
Please take a minute to let James know what
you think of his story: James Colasanti Jr
[ by: James Colasanti Jr
Copyright © 2009 ( onegooddog1 at bellsouth.net ) -- from: James Colasanti Jr. ]
All Rights Reserved.