Boy climbing a rope in the gym.

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 top."

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>

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 ) -- from: James Colasanti Jr. ]

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