Merlot

“Chu do it?” Asked Enrique. All the way to work I’d been rehearsing my answer to this question in my mind. I was obviously going to play it cool. I’m actually really really humble which I hope people find surprising, particularly as I’m excellent at so many things. It’s ironic, you’d expect me to be a right big-head because I’m so great, but nah, that’s not my style.

Did I do it? I thought, an interestingly phrased question. There was nothing to be gained from lying. Humble’s one thing but when you’re asked straight out it’s another. “Ah, okay, I won actually,” I said like it wasn’t even anything at all.

“Wha?”

I tried to keep my response level and calm. I tried to use the same tone I use when people ask me how it went and I didn’t win which is pretty much, well, literally, every other time because last night was the first time I’ve ever won a running race. “No, I won, yeah,” I confirmed. Enrique didn’t believe me. He studied me with narrowed and searching eyes. He had so many questions but I really didn’t want to make a big deal about it. So I won a running race, big deal. “It’s was fucking windy too,” I told him, “on the way back. Really tough.”

Jersey is one windy cocksucker of an Island. I was checking out the winds in the rest of the UK. In London the wind’s never above 10mph. In Jersey the wind is never below 10mph. It’s normally more like 20mph. I mean, a still day in Jersey is a really windy day in London. If you run in London you don’t even know what wind is. Or running.

“So…” asked Enrique. He was confused.

“I’ll tell you what I did, Enrique. See, normally I start a race and I go off like a twat, you know? But last night I’d told myself to just take it easy – don’t go off like an idiot. I read something the other week and it said to be where you want to be in a race at the three-quarter point because from there nothing much changes, you know? Sounded like good advice. No good being where you want to be after the first quarter. Understand?”

“No,” replied Enrique. That was fair enough, you have to have done some races to truly appreciate the intricacies of what goes on, the mental toughness required to run the perfect race like the one I ran last night.

“See, it was going to be windy for the second 5k, back from St Aubin. I knew that. It’s all too fucking easy to go out too hard and have nothing left for the second half, you know?” I asked. I didn’t want to baffle him with science. “So the race started and a couple of guys took up the running but I didn’t panic, I just tried to relax. I mean, ten kilometres might not sound far but after twenty minutes of running you’re going to be tired. You know? And then you’ve still got a fair way to go.”

Enrique had his thumb slightly up his nostril and was rubbing the outside of his nostril with his finger. No, that’s not fair, the thumb wasn’t up nostril but he was sort of pinching his nostril. The thumb was the support. He wasn’t picking his nose.

“First couple of miles were fast, really rapid because it was a tail-wind and so we were really moving but I had to keep telling myself that it would be a headwind on the way back. I didn’t want to go into the red so I kept relaxed and when the other guys slowed I still felt good and without going for it I found myself at the front!” I looked at Enrique to ensure I hadn’t lost him. I hadn’t, he nodded. “‘I still couldn’t get carried away as I still had the headwind to come and I could still blow my nuts off in that, you know? I got to the turn and I had a gap of a few metres from the next guys. Now, there were couple of guys together and they’d be able to do the headwind together, they could take it in turns to be at the front and I thought they’d catch me into the headwind so I didn’t give it everything because if they did catch me I wanted something left to stay with them, yeah?”

“Yeah,” said Enrique.

“All the way back I was expecting to hear footsteps catching me but I didn’t, Enrique. I didn’t. And I wasn’t worried even if they did catch me because I still felt good.”

“H’okay!” Said Enrique, clapping his hands.

“Yeah, it was okay, but I was checking for shadows sneaking up on me, I didn’t want to look back because I was just concentrating on my form, keeping my cadence up – that’s leg speed – and getting to the finish. Even with 100 metres to go I was expecting to be caught but I actually had something left for a little kick and then I’d done it. Yeah, I’d actually won.” I went over the moment again my my mind, for perhaps 20 seconds. I was smiling broadly when I looked up at Enrique. “I won,” I told him. “There were people there clapping. Not many, not huge crowds.” I chuckled at the memory. There had been three people clapping. “I got a trophy and a bottle of Merlot which is what I drink anyway and when I got home with my trophy the kid asked me if I’d won and I said…” I took a deep breath. “I said ‘yes, your daddy won. He’s the best,'” and then I watched Traffic Cops while drinking the Merlot and, serious, I don’t know if it was an expensive bottle or not but it’s never tasted sweeter.”

“Cool!” Said Enrique, he faked to move away and his face suggested he was asking me if I’d finished talking and if it would be okay if he went.

“I wore those new shoes, the Mizunos I got cheap.” I then remembered Enrique didn’t know a thing about running shoes. If he felt how light they were he’d shit for sure. It was then I remembered I’d brought them with me in my rucksack so I could show people if by chance I did happen to mention my win. “Wait there!” I told Enrique and I went into the office to get the shoes. I would let Enrique hold them and marvel and their lack of heft. I chuckled as I took them from my rucksack. I stroked them and then headed out into the bright lights of the shop floor. Enrique wasn’t there and so I went to Paula. “Where’s Enrique?” I asked.

“He’s gone out.” She replied but her eyes flicked to the hoover cupboard. I put the trainers on the hot food counter and did a fake yawn.

“How did you get on?” Paula asked.

“Ah, I won,” I told her. “No biggie.”

“The beans? Enrique’s been going mental.”

“Oh, right.” There was a delivery of beans last night but the truck driver’s pallet truck was fucked so he couldn’t put the pallet in the store room. He’d left it around the back. I was supposed to carry them inside but I hadn’t bothered because it would have tired me out for my big race. “Feel them,” I said to Paula holding my shoes at her. She took them. “Light, eh?”

“Are they?” She asked.

“Yeah.” I replied. I went to put them back in my rucksack, pausing at the hoover cupboard. “Doing the beans now,” I shouted at the door.

“H’okay!” Came the reply. While moving the beans I pretended I was being interviewed by a journalist. I just thought of generic questions and I think I answered them honestly and impressively.

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