First-Place Friend

by Torry Martin

Dear B. Log,

Today I participated in the 7th Annual Odyssey Triathlon. The race began with a 500-yard swim, followed by 5 miles of cycling and finished with a 2.5-mile run to Whit’s End. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had trained to do my best. (It’s amazing how far I will run for one of Mrs. Ulily Mae Manners’ cookies.)

I arrived at the lake a few minutes before the race began. You could feel the excitement in the air. Or maybe it was just the mist from my breath. I gritted my teeth and crouched into a dive position. The whistle blew, and we were off!

I had only run a few steps down the beach when I heard the sound of children crying. I looked to my left and saw Miss Lackman at the lake’s edge, surrounded by kids from her day care. She held a broken air pump. Now all of the plastic sharks, whales and sea horses were going to stay completely deflated—just like the kids were now. I quickly ran up, grabbed the inflatables and started blowing them up myself. By the time I finished, I was 24 minutes behind the other racers.

I completed the swim and ran to the park to change clothes and jump on my bike. I pedaled as fast as I could through the Odyssey countryside, when I came upon Connie standing next to her car. She had run out of gas on her way to Whit’s End. She protested when I stopped because I was in the middle of a race, but I told her to wait while I biked to the gas station. All my training sure paid off, because the gas station had really good cookies, too. When I got back with the gas, Connie hugged me and continued on her way.

After finishing the cycling, I parked my bike and started to run the last few miles of the race. On my way to the finish line, I stopped to help Mrs. Drake change a flat tire, delivered two pizzas for Bobby, filled the bird feeders for Mr. Albertson, weeded a flowerbed for Mrs. Wedgewood, trimmed the hedges for Mr. Aiken and fixed Barrett’s skateboard. By the time I reached the park, I was drenched in sweat and covered in dirt.

Needless to say, I didn’t win the race. In fact, I reached Whit’s End three-and-a-half hours after the race ended. The good news? I wasn’t alone when I got to the finish line. Miss Lackman, Mrs. Drake, Bobby, Mr. Albertson, Mrs. Wedgewood and Barrett had all come to Whit’s End to congratulate me.

Connie patted me on the back and handed me what looked like the biggest ice cream sundae in the world. She told me it was my reward.

“Reward for what?” I asked her. “I didn’t win.”

“No, but you’re still our hero,” she said with a smile. “You stopped to help us, and that means way more than winning a race. Wooton, you’re a first-place friend.”

This article first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Torry Martin. Used by permission. Illustration © Gary Locke.