In the early afternoon on a gorgeous, sunny Tuesday, Kent was sitting on the beach at a lodge on the coast of Lake Vermilion. The “beach” was the size of a typical suburban backyard, but it still met the requirements with its sand and water. After a round of fishing, Kent sat in his lawn chair, which was a few yards from the shoreline, and he began reading some of the Naruto manga.
He was still in his fishing clothes which consisted of his khaki-colored cargo pants, his orange and white plaid shirt, his dark-grey fishing hat, and his brown waterproof boots. As he progressed through the manga, an old man and a girl came out of the lodge building and walked onto the beach. The girl appeared to be at a preteen age, and the man looked like he was in his seventies.
The girl was holding a frisbee. They stepped away from each other and began to toss the frisbee back and forth. Kent paused his reading and watched them. He was intrigued by the beauty and precision of their throws. It was clear that they were well experienced with the frisbee, especially the girl. She was quick and agile. Even in the shock-absorbent sand, she moved gracefully to catch and toss the disk. As for the old guy . . . Not so much.
In an attempt to snag the frisbee that sailed just over his head, he lost his footing and fell awkwardly on his back.
“Grandpa!” the girl yelled as she rushed over to him. He stayed down with his face scrunched as the pain set in.
Kent hopped out of his chair, dropped the manga, and sped over to them.
“Are you alright?” Kent asked as he knelt beside the man.
“I fell right on my ass.” The man groaned and slowly sat up. He took a deep breath and said, “I think I’m fine, but I’m probably done for the day.”
“Do you need help getting up?” Kent asked.
“That’s very kind of you young man, but I think I’ll just sit here and look at the lake for a while.”
The girl placed her hands on her grandfather’s shoulders while smiling. “We just got started. You can’t quit on me after one little fall.”
“Oh, Marley,” the man said with a chuckle. “I remember when I was young and durable.”
Kent turned to the girl and asked, “Can I toss the frisbee with you?”
Her face lit up from Kent’s request. She stood up and said, “I’ve got a better idea in mind. Wait here.” She dashed into the lodge.
“That girl is like the energizer bunny, ” said the old man. “She’s been rippin’ and runnin’ from the moment she took her first steps.”
“I can tell,” said Kent. “My time as a high school gym teacher taught me that energy like her’s comes naturally.”
“And in my case, it goes away naturally as well,” the grandfather replied.
Both men laughed. When the laughter wore off, the old man continued. “Marley’s got the heart for sports, but–”
A soccer ball slowly rolled towards them until it bumped into Kent’s foot. Marley came running after it. “Are you up for some soccer?” she asked when she reached them.
“Sure. What type of game are we playing?”
“It’s simple. I dribble around and you try to take the ball from me.”
Kent could see the excitement on her freckled face. A seemingly palpable passion resonated in her sky-blue eyes. He passed her the ball and said, “Seems simple. Ready when you are.”
“You gonna want to ditch those boots. What’s your name by the way?”
“Kent,” he told her as he untied his boots and slid them off.
Once Kent stood upright, Marley moved away with the ball and yelled, “Begin!”
She was fast. Kent charged in, struggling to move through the loose sand. When he reached her, he tried to swipe the ball away with his right foot, but he missed it as she crossed the ball over.
He went in again with the same move. She used the plantar side of her foot to pull the ball out of his reach. “Come on, Kent. You can’t take the ball from a girl?”
Kent was silent, with an embarrassed smile on his face. He tried to come in with the left, but she saw it coming and shuffled to the right.
“That’s my girl!” her grandfather shouted from across the beach.”
She turned her back to Kent. He took the bait, thinking her arrogance was going to get the best of her. As soon as he closed in, she headed to her right but then immediately switched gears and went left.
Kent’s mind and body had a dispute with one another, causing him to lose his balance and fall.
Damn, she’s good. And in the sand too, he thought as he was getting up.
He looked at her as she made some space between them. She made a goofy face and swayed her hips as she said, “Haha! You Kent catch me!”
Kent’s pride was poked by her mockery. He darted in, more determined than before. As he got closer. Marley pulled her right foot back as if she was going to kick the ball straight at him. Kent jumped to avoid being hit, but the punt never came. Instead, she gently moved to her right and passed him up.
Kent was dumbfounded. He was giving it his all, but she was still putting him in the spin cycle. His dignity was hanging on by a thread. He knew he either had to get the ball or hang his head in defeat by a girl half his size. He went in at full speed, taking another shot at the ball with his right foot.
This time he got it.
“Finally,” he said as he pulled away with the ball. At last, he was able to steal it away, but something felt off. It was too easy.
He looked back at her. She was bent over with her hands on her knees, struggling to breathe. Her grandfather was running over to her with an inhaler in his hand.
“I’m here, sweetheart. Take this.”
She grabbed the inhaler, popped the cap off, and pumped the medication through her mouth and into her lungs.
Kent asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She’ll be okay. She just needs a minute.”
The old man was right. After about a minute, Marley started to look calmer. She stood upright but was still breathing rapidly.
“Stupid . . . asthma,” she said.
Kent could feel himself giving off a look of sorrow. He could tell by her skill and determination that pity was not what she wanted. “You’re really good at soccer,” he said.
Still, with rigorous breathing effort, she said, “I play on a travel team . . . We’re gonna win the national title . . . I can only play . . . a few minutes at a time though.”
Kent took off his fishing hat and pulled a pen out of his pocket. Can you sign my hat?”
“You want my autograph?” she asked with a confused face and tone.
“I sure do. I want to always remember the hardest working and most determined kid that I’ve ever met.”
She smiled and took the hat and pen. After signing the hat, she gave it back to Kent, and he proudly placed it on top of his head.
The old man placed his arm around his granddaughter and said, “Don’t even think about selling that hat when she makes it to the pros.”