Going For Gold
Excerpt from "Hot Shots" by Michael P. Thomas
I was laid up with what had come to be known as my "ice dancing injury," flipping half-heartedly through a badminton supply catalog, wondering if I could get my parents to spring for an Olympic-quality horse for my next birthday, when my mother hove into the room, locked in a struggle with an upright vacuum cleaner.
"How's your ankle?" she shouted over the clatter.
"It hurts," I pouted.
After a prolonged tussle against the root beer shag, she yanked the cord from the wall, and the vacuum cleaner sputtered, clattered, and was eventually still.
"What are you doing?" she asked, jerking her chin towards the catalog.
"Plotting my triumphant return," I told her.
I shrugged. "Unless you want to buy me a horse."
"I wish you'd go back to swimming," she said. "There was very little equipment to buy."
"There was also very little sleep," I reminded her.
She rolled her eyes. "This again. My son the athlete-will do anything at all to get to the Olympics. As long as he doesn't have to get out of bed."
"I'm just saying, the Olympics are on TV all day-there must be a sport that competes in the afternoon."
"It's a question of dedication," she declared. "You must be willing to get up at four in the morning for your sport, whether you need to or not. Nobody ever got to the Olympics by sleeping in. Ask your cousin Marcel," she non-sequitured.
"I have a cousin Marcel?"
"Mmm," she affirmed, a lazy French yes. "Your auntie Francine's oldest, from her first marriage."
"Francine had a ‘first marriage'?"
"And what would cher Cousin Marcel know about setting your alarm for the Olympics?" I asked, missing the connection.
"He's been to the Olympics," she said, leaving her duh! unsaid but well understood.
"What, you mean like as a spectator?"
"You mean he's been to the Olympics?"
She nodded. "A few times. He went to Atlanta. And Sydney, I think."
I sat bolt upright on the couch. "I have a cousin who's been to the Olympics, and you're just telling me this now?" I cried.
"Have I never told you this before?"
"You never even told me about Marcel before!"
"Well, that's pretty much Marcel in a nutshell: he went to the Olympics. He was Luxembourg's first medal in like fifty years."
"Mmm. Bronze medal," she said. "He might actually have two of them."
"In what sport?"
"He's a shooter."
"What is that, like a position in field hockey or something?"
"No, a shooter." She pointed her finger at me and cocked her thumb. "Pow, pow," she said.
"Shooting's a sport?" I asked.
She shrugged. "In Luxembourg it is."
And just like that, my plan fell into my lap from the sky, fully formed and only an e-mail away. I felt like a jackass; I had never even considered the Luxembourg angle. It had been made clear to all observers that I had neither the drive nor the talent to rise to the top of the highest-funded Olympic program in the world, but I had a Luxembourgish passport-somewhere-and I was immediately and fully confident that I could be a star in what had to be a tiny program. I hadn't been to my mother's speck of a country in ten years, and I had never lived there, but I whipped out an e-mail to my long-lost bosom cousin professing a love for shooting that would not be denied, and when his gracious invitation to come and train with him appeared in my inbox, my bags were already packed; I was still on my ice dancing crutches when I hobbled onto what was literally the very next flight to Luxembourg.