The crowd’s roar and applause made her cringe, the noise, so loud, so big, and so cloying. Sarah gazed through the colours, through the bobbing heads, and saw only frontrunners sprinting across the finish line.
Silver foil flashed, the sun catching it and blinding Sarah momentarily. She blinked and eased back. Trumpets bugled and hooters hooted, cheers and cries of congratulations rose over the onlookers, and Sarah glanced up at the big screen on the building opposite. She squeezed herself into a small spot on the wall and pulled her legs in close.
The winners, the frontrunners, smiled on the screen. Teeth and twinkling eyes pixelated and jumped as the competitors caught their breath and accepted adulation. Sponsors raced forward to position themselves, banners rising with winners, and products placed in advantageous sites. Cameramen arced down to legs attached to pistons and blades, shiny carbon-fibre appendages in racing black decorated with beads of sweat.
The winners had the best equipment, the biggest sponsors, the most money, and Sarah sighed.
Even pixelated the racing blades, the prosthetics, and the artificial limbs shone as state of the art. Money bought winners, and winners bought sponsors, and from the crowd’s clamour about her, that bought adoration and fame. She bit her lip and climbed into a standing position to stare down the road, but only shiny blades continued to catch the light and glare back at her.
She steeled herself, pushed the encroaching crowd away, and settled back down on the wall.
For a couple of hours she listened as the crowds cheered the marathon runners, and watched as they dwindled as the prosthetic tech became less impressive, and the sponsors less memorable.
Finally, light faded, the tech reverted, and the hum of the crowd declined.
Sarah scrambled to her feet, and clung to the lamppost beside her. She stared down the road, but the low light made it difficult to see. Floodlights suddenly devoured the dusk and Sarah blinked again, shielding her eyes from the dazzling brilliance. Black spots danced before her vision, as the big screen suddenly snapped back on and focussed on the empty road.
Sarah’s stomach lurched, and her heart rose with hope and anticipation. She pushed through the muddle of people still left, those who’d lost interest hours ago, but hung around with the hope of a last minute story. And here it was.
Sarah’s eyes glazed as a dot on the horizon grew steadily bigger. She glanced up at the screen as it pixelated and focussed. Far down the road her son approached, a lone walker, a figure shuffling forward with determination and grit. Sarah didn’t even try to stop the tears that rolled down her face. Every fibre of her heart reached out to the boy, every ounce of strength, of resolve and stamina poured down the road to her boy.
The TV screen adjusted and the image sharpened, and the remaining crowd visibly held their breath.
Sarah’s heart swelled to proportions she’d never before encountered and she thought she’d burst. Tears glistened in every eye as her son limped, and dragged his foot, his leg-brace no longer holding him steady. The buckles broken, the metal, bent, but the lad still walked with his head led high, and his brow shimmering with diamonds of perspiration.
Gasps trickled through the audience as barriers broke, and suddenly athletes, runners and racers who’d finished the marathon hours before, surrounded the boy. Carbon fibre blades, and modern artificial appendages, accompanied the teenager with the broken brace and twisted leg, and silence suddenly blossomed into cheers.
Applause echoed throughout the darkening streets, and Sarah wept as her son’s smile filled the big screen, as his shuffle moved him forward and the pain on his face diminished with pride.
He crossed the line, with as many onlookers as the frontrunners, and Sarah caught him in her arms. They both knew you didn’t need money, or sponsors, or anything more than love and belief, to win.