“We asked God to take away these burdens from our souls, and he took them away.”
“Yes, he took them away.”
“Everything happens for a reason. It’s part of God’s plan.”
“Yes, it’s part of his plan.”
Cooper adjusted the starting blocks. The sky was filled with a menacing darkness. The night arrived soundlessly like a ghost. He remembered how he felt in the school play when the bright lights glared down on him.
Mariah. It took him a month to ask her out. She only accepted his invitation after Jason asked someone else.
The black boy next to him shot out of the blocks in a practice start and ran a few yards down the track. He returned and smiled confidently at Cooper with teeth so white they looked unreal. Cooper was nervous as hell. He tried not to show it, but he felt naked in front of the others. They spoke between themselves, all the races they had run, things he didn’t know, would never know. Small school, small town—he was nobody. This was his first big race. He watched the others do their stretches. They all knew this was the last chance to make the State finals.
The starter called the runners to their mark. Cooper’s mind went blank. He was down in the blocks. A split second later he pumped his legs and arms, sucked the cold air through his mouth, worked to find his stride.
The quarter mile was a minute of pure torture. There was no letting up, but at the same time Cooper knew he had to hold back something for a strong finish. By the time he found his bearings, he realized he was near the front of the pack. The black boy had disappeared. Cooper was now in a race with only three runners. They were all within a yard of each other.
They quickly rounded the last turn. He looked at the final straightaway. Everything stopped. He glided along like a deer. It lasted only an instant. His body rebelled. He fought with his legs and his arms. He fought the pain in his chest. He pushed himself harder than ever before. He thought he would explode into a thousand pieces.
There was no one in front of him. He swished through the finish line with his arms held high. Mariah waited for him with a smile. He reached out to her. There was nothing but air. The scratching sound of a needle carelessly jerked from a record in the middle of a song. Everything went black.
His coach ran out but nothing could be done. Cooper was dead.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
“Yes, on earth as it is in heaven.”