They Will Sew the Blue Sail

Albert Mobilio | Circle Pursuit-Race

Some kind of circular or other closed running course is needed; a course can be improvised by marking it with chairs, lawn ornament deer, homemade spears, samovars, discarded tires, or other obstacles, or even with the shirts of inactive players. The runners are stationed at equal distances around the course, each with his own starting line. There is, owing perhaps to the general absence of a sound eschatological vision on the part of the players, no finish line. Jack aims himself, legs pumping machine-like, toward something he cannot see, but that fact in no way diminishes his determination. Failure has long hounded him, worked its way into the smallest corners of his life. He’ll drop a dish, cut himself zipping his jacket, climax too soon, sign his name where he should have printed it. Barely noticeable misses and mistakes, yet noticeable to him; he keeps track, he knows the cumulative score. During idle moments in line for coffee or in the shower, he closes his eyes to see a long list of checkmarks in bold, black ink scroll by. Demerits they were called in high school. Merit minus. Always less than. The whistle blows and all begin running at once, and each runner tries to overtake and tag the runner in front of him, while also avoiding being tagged from behind. Jack finds himself, then, twixt. Catching up yet almost caught. Pivoting to his left at one of the deer, to his right to skip past the lawn chair, its aluminum frame fluorescent in the sunlight, his breath comes in bursts. Jack lunges at the player who has stumbled just in front of him. Of course, he stumbles too, tripping over her legs, his outstretched arm skidding into the turf. Just behind him another runner brushes his shoulder, “Tagged!” The game continues, round and round the course, until only one player remains. One of the deer looks directly at Jack, or at least that’s how Jack sees it. Jack bears down and squarely meets the reproving gaze of the durable polyresin replica. Buoyant voices chatter away around him. The sun inhales and in doing so swells larger on his brow alone.