Eternal Glory

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lucy's struggle with the hardship of sporting retirement

Submitted: June 08, 2017

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Submitted: June 08, 2017




Her moment stolen, interrupted by the mental jack hammering of the alarm.  Lucy had been dreaming of the one thing she had only ever wanted, Olympic Gold, to stand atop the world and bask in her long awaited glory. 

She had touched the wall in first, half a second clear of second and she knew it.  The one hundred meters freestyle was hers and as she turned to check the timing board, it all rushed to a euphoric climax.  Her body quivered, her muscle agony numbed by the ecstasy of winning her greatest ambition.

Water splashed and lashed at her face but yet through her darkened goggles she witnessed her moment.  Next to her name the abbreviation 'WR' flashed red.  She had smashed the World Record by more than six tenths of a second. 

She ripped the googles from her head and threw her arms to the air staring intently towards the board pleading silently it would not change. 

Across the pool her team mates were afoot screaming and chanting a ruckus to bring the roof down.  Lucy scaled the lane rope and saluted her audience catching the eye of her coach, a tear welling in his eye and he nodded acknowledgement swamped by a gleaming smile. 

But it was the grey haired man standing tall behind the revelling crowd who took her eye.  Her proud father now holding back his own tears had been by her side since the beginning, that first struggling lap as a child and then waiting patiently without complaint in the carpark of every different training pool spanning fifteen years.  Their eyes met and she knew his thoughts, his face said it all.

The alarm gained ferocity, growing louder by the second.

She rolled over, unleashed her frustration and the clock went tumbling across the floor.  Reality had savagely arrived uninvited.

Lucy opened her eyes and the niggling pain signalled another day as she stared at the cracks in the ceiling above her head.  Things were missing.  Her life she once knew was in tatters, swallowed by her perceived failure. 

Failure she declared.  I am a failure she muttered again.  Her eyes rolled back and she just wanted to die right there, right then.  Stay in bed and never again face the world.

Somewhere in her bedroom a muffled moan preluded a whining yawn seconds before a wet nose nudged her side.  Every morning had been the same, waking to the repetitious beat of her alarm and the ceremonious slurp of a wet tongue, a moment of affection from the one stable love in her life.  Rocky was her nine year old Boxer, black face with white chest and never far from her side.  It was him that kept her going each day.

Rocky pushed his luck leaping to the bed expecting a scratch and cuddle.  But not today!

Lucy was in one of her moods made worse by the dream.

Three years had passed since her heartbreak yet everyday felt like the first.

Depression was killing her and she knew it.

Her dream, best described as a nightmare was a subtle reminder of what she missed most in life.  That one thing she had reached for but had been stripped away at that devastating last minute by an athletes' greatest phobia, injury.

Lucy’s swimming career had been all glory, twice world champion and acclaimed residency among the world’s best. 

Day in, day out, she longed for the endless black line so many learnt to despise.  Not Lucy though, she had become one with it.  Swimming and its everyday gruel had become her life, her one true love.  It was her family, her existence until that fateful day three years ago.

The surgeon had been blunt.  The shoulder scans had done nothing to change his opinion or his words.

"I’m really sorry Lucy but it is quite simple.  You need to stop swimming and it needs to happen now."

It had been a conversation she would never forget, a memory burnt deep into her conscious realm and something she had never prepared for.  The timing had been all wrong. 

"Why me?" she would murmur each night finally sobbing herself to sleep.

"One lousy month, that's all it was.  Why couldn’t it have waited until after the Olympics?"

The pain in training had grown excruciating, her shoulder had reached its final days and her times had plummeted to disappointment after disappointment.  Frustration clung to her every stroke wrestling tirelessly with her fierce determination yet it failed to deter her.

"Lucy you can't keep going on like this, it's been a month and nothing's changed.  We have to make a decision," her coach had ranted over and over. 

However, Lucy chose ignorance and continued her battle for Olympic Gold.

But it wasn't to be. 

Instead forced retirement slammed her without mercy.  The first month she cried every morning, disillusioned by the feeling of nothing worthwhile in life.

Her swimming friends faded from her life as the interactions laid unsurmountable pressure on her to discover closure.  The constant reminder of pool life had become an incurable virus to her ears and so she banished herself leaving it all behind.

Darkness clouded her mind.  No direction and worst of all, the feeling of failure swamped her every thought.  As the weeks edged by, her bewilderment took a greater hold and desperate thoughts surfaced.  The pedestal she had once sat was no longer.  The media had abandoned her as a failure, not achieving their goals and with no thought or compassion for what she was experiencing.  The headline across the nation said it all, "Queen of the pool fails … disgrace!"

Lucy had rejected the medical advice and stepped up onto the starting blocks.  But when the start signalled, her life broke apart.  The injury, the training missed, had taken its toll and she swiftly fell from super star foreseen to win Gold to missing the final.  Lucy was ridiculed an embarrassment by the media.  Very few understood and most condemned her every move at the barbaric hands of journalism. The media had quickly become her everyday antagonist.

But the greatest assassin of all was herself.  Lucy's self pride had been severed.

Her life had become a shambles.  Once shrouded in stardom and self-importance she now had to become the ordinary and engage a life without the insulation of her support team.  For the best part of her international swimming career she had been surrounded by an armada of coaches, physios, dietitians, masseuses and sports scientists.  That had all ended.

Life was no longer all about Lucy and she despised every minute.

Now as she dragged herself to the floor pushing Rocky aside, she felt the aftershock of the previous night.  Liquor and meth had become her new support team.

Bourbon lined her kitchen cupboard and somewhere hidden, a small bag of crystal waited her habit.  It was another bad day, her head pounded more than the day before and she needed her immediate antidote.

Rocky raced at her side as she staggered to the kitchen but not for coffee like most people.  At the back on the lowest drawer a small clear bag had been taped to the rear edge.  Inside she found the remains of her stash, a small sliver of crystalline methyl amphetamine.  It was just enough she thought to kick start her day and render her escape.

Without the drug, life for Lucy was inconceivable and depressing.  The night before had been no different to the many before that with booze and drugs into the early morning hours.

She remembered having sex with some guy in his car and it was good.  Who he was she had no idea.  That had become her normality, drunken and drugged stupors ending with men taking the advantage.

She slipped the meth into her mouth and gulped down a glass of tap water. 

"Yeah yeah I know, don't look at me like that!" she grumbled catching sight of Rocky sitting at her feet staring up at her.

"Another fucking nightmare mate," she added reaching down to rub his ears.

"What the fuck am I gunna do?  Can't stay like this all my life."

Rocky nudged her side and pressed hard against her leg.  He sensed her turmoil and responded with a whimper.

"Oh I wish you could speak my little mate," she said sliding to the floor to embrace him in her lap.

Rocky was no stranger to her affection and revelled the moment pushing his head deeper into her releasing another long winded groan of happiness.

"Oh you're a big sook."

Lucy convulsed into tears hugging Rocky tighter. 

"I'm one fucked up human, look at me?  I'm a fucking druggie now.  I was once the best in the world but look at me now Rock and I'm calling you a big sook!  Fuck I miss my old life!"

He just stared back at her, his loving brown eyes fixated on hers.

"Rock, I miss my swimming.  I want to be there again, I want that life back."

More tears followed, this time dripping onto Rocky's nose and he just shook them away.

Something buzzed and chirped nearby.

Lucy jumped to her feet forgetting those last few bereaved thoughts.  The meth was kicking in.

Five missed calls and one unread message on her phone.

"Dear old daddy calling us again Rock.  One day he might get the message hey?  We don’t need him hassling us, do we?"

Her father had been her rock during her swimming days and then shortly after retirement things had started changing.  She wanted her own time and a clear separation from the swimming world she knew and that meant distancing herself from her father.  So she moved to another city far away. 

Rocky sat watching her flip around the kitchen like someone had just inserted new batteries in her. 

"Oh fuck!  I have to work today."

She had checked the first message.  It was her boss needing her at work pronto.

Holding down a permanent job had become insane.  Each had become harder than the last and none compared to her swimming life.  Working Monday to Friday with no goals was dull and unchallenging always ending in her quitting after the first month.

"There you go Rock, I fixed that one!" she said as she pressed send. 

Her reply message was short.  'Sorry I can't… I quit.'

"Okay Rock it's time I found someone to have some fun with!"

She started flicking through her phone and sending messages to hook up with anyone wanting to play.  She was buzzing and eager to step out, her sorrows now forgotten like they never existed. 

Her phone chirped twice drowned by a sudden loud knock at the front door.

"Fuck!" she blurted and Rocky bolted towards the door, growling as he bounded.  Her drugs were all gone so the cops wouldn’t find anything was her first thought.  She had twice been arrested for amphetamine possession and each time the same hollow threats handed down by the Magistrate.

"If you come before me again I will be sending you to prison."

She had quickly learnt the leniency of the courts and the idle bullshit they all spoke and so the deterrence was invisible.

She opened the door.

"Hey sweetie!"

"Dad, what are you doing here?"

"Well if you answered your phone once in a while then I wouldn’t need to drive two hundred miles to find you."

"Well get back in your car and fuck off back to where you came from," she responded aggressively.

The drug use over the past few months had decayed her attitude, degrading who she was and instilling hatred towards society and everyone in it.

Her father stood watching and cringing at the sight of what his daughter was becoming.  She looked ill, skin the colour of milk and her once powerful muscular frame now dwindled to skin draped over bone.

"Lucy you need help."

"I don’t want your help, that Lucy has long gone, get that in your head," she barked turning to head back inside.

"You can't hold down a job, what's it been about eight jobs this year you've quit," he called to her.

She stopped and spun around.

"Fuck I can't believe this.  Have you been checking up on me?  You can't just let me go, can you?"

"I care about you Lucy, I am always going to watch over you, that's my job as your father.  I don’t want you suffering and it's clear you're not handling retirement."

An awkward silence followed as she stood glaring at him.

"I have someone with me in the car you might like seeing," he quickly added seizing the opportunity while she was quiet.

She looked over his shoulder and acknowledged the silhouette of a person sitting in the passenger seat.  The door opened and an elderly grey haired man pulled himself out and onto the footpath.  He was well into his eighties and struggled to walk without a crippling hunch in his back.

Her father raced to his aid.

Lucy stood watching, fighting the meth running through her veins.  She wanted to leave, go find some place she could forget her life yet here she stood waiting.  Though the drug had control something more powerful held her at the doorway watching the old man walk towards her.

"Bill, is that really you?" she called.

"Hello Lucy," he replied clearly short of breath.

"I can't believe this, all these years," Lucy almost shouted and ran to him, bracing him like long lost lovers.

Old man Bill was where it all started for Lucy.  He was the one who taught her to swim and he was the one who coached her to her first national title as a thirteen year old.  It was Bill who instilled her with the love for swimming and it was the same man who taught her the fundamentals of working hard to be the best.  He was hard core and unforgiving in his approach to her training but it educated her nothing but toughness.

Then a few years later he grew ill and stopped swim coaching. 

Lucy had lost contact.

They embraced and the memories came flooding back.  She had been a young inexperienced fourteen year old swimmer when he left, leaving her to a new coach and the upward step towards stardom.  But it had been old man Bill who paved the way and made it all possible.

"Why are you here Bill?  What's going on?"

They went inside and momentarily sat down.  Lucy was on edge, up on her feet again pacing the room.

"Lucy I want you to do something for me?" Bill asked.

"Huh!What?" Lucy asked reaching for her phone to check the reply messages.

"I would like you to consider helping my grandson."

"Help in what way?"

"Coaching," he stated watching her reaction.

Lucy started shaking her head, "No!"

"Hear him out please," her father interjected.

"Mick runs a swim school not that far from here and he could really do with your input.  If you don’t do it for me then do it for yourself, give it a go.  What do you have to lose?  You might be very surprised how it feels and how it can help you."

"I don’t need help," she lied.

Another knock at the door and it flung open.

"Hey baby, where are ya?"

A tall skinny man not much more than a boy covered in tattoos walked in heading straight to the kitchen.  Lucy's father pounced to his feet to confront the intruder.

"It's okay, this is Zak, he's a friend of mine.  Zak this is my father," Lucy responded.

"Hey man, what's up?"

"And that's Bill, my old coach," she added.

"Yeah damn old alright," was his only remark before adding, "You ready, let's go."

"Hey Zak, maybe you haven’t noticed but I'm here visiting my daughter so whatever it is, can wait."

They were now toe to toe facing off, Zac a good two inches taller than Lucy's father.

"Dad calm down, I'm going with him.  So whatever it is you want, can wait."

"Lucy, Bill only has a few weeks left, the cancer has come back and doctors can't do anything," her father blurted out as she was heading to the door.

Old man Bill turned to him, "John let her go, she is as high as a kite.  Nothing we say will mean anything to her at the moment."

The old man may have been in his final days but he still had his wits about him.  He had seen the effects of drugs and knew when someone was whizzing on speed.

"Lucy wait," her father called.

"Sorry dad, I can't deal with this right now."

She left and the sound of tyres screeching into the distance was a subtle reminder of how things had changed.

Later that night she returned drunk from an afternoon of bourbon to an empty house.There was no ceremonious greeting from her best friend. 

"Rocky… hey I'm home," she called.

No scurrying paws answered her call.  Rocky was gone.

A note on her kitchen bench offered some relief.

'Sorry Lucy but we really want you to try this.  I will return Rocky when you have.  Mick's contact details are below.  We have lined you up to meet him at his pool tomorrow at 3pm.  Love Dad xx'

Next to the note was an old creased black notebook with yellow post-it notes clinging from a few pages.

She picked it up and flipped it over.

Tears immediately welled in her eyes.

Her hands trembled as the memories rushed in to sober her drunken mind. 

"Wow, can't believe dad kept this," she thought out loud massaging the cover of her first training diary.

She opened the first few pages and the tears streamed down her cheeks as the memories flooded back.  As a twelve year old she had been vocal in her writing and not timid in expressing her feelings on paper.

Nostalgia mixed with moments of laughter filled the next hour before Lucy slipped into a deep nightmare free slumber.

Early next morning she woke to the irritating drone of her phone's ring tone.


"Morning Lucy, sorry to ring you so early."

"Huh what time is it?" Lucy mumbled. 


"Dad why are you ringing me so early, what's wrong?"

Before he could answer, the previous day flashed before her eyes.

"Rocky!  Is he ok?" she blurted out madly scanning the darkened bedroom to confirm her recollections.  No sign of Rocky, no wet nose nudging her or sleepy morning yawn.

"You had no fucking right taking him, I'm so pissed with you right now!"

"Well you know what you have to do but that's not why I called.  I have some bad news Lucy."


"Bill passed away last night," her father announced.

More silence…

"You there Lucy, did you hear what I said."

"Yes," she slowly responded, tears overflowing.

"I'm real sorry Lucy, are you okay?" he asked.

"Yes, I guess we knew it was coming.  Call you later," she answered and hung up.

She fell back to her pillow and into the deep abyss of long lost thoughts she had chosen to bury. 

Her hand brushed against the training diary and through blurred teary eyes she opened to the pages earmarked with post-it notes.

Her young life opened before her eyes scribbled across the pages, session after session shadowed by her harsh critique in red ink.  Like the scrutiny of a school teacher, she had always graded her performance in training, never letting up on improving and always first to slam herself with criticism.

But the post-it notes had symbolism.  Words of wisdom and motivation preached daily by old man Bill were scribed in bold down the pages. 

She flicked to the other earmarked pages and each presented the same message yet it was her last words that ignited a fire deep in her belly.

A few hours later Lucy walked into her meeting, her mind and attitude bordering on different.

She looked around the pool in astonishment.  Scattered at each end were posters the size of billboards showcasing swimming in all its grandeur.  She paused stunned at first, staring at life-size images of herself, some in action while others clutching medals.  But it wasn't the famous shots that had stolen her eye.

Off to the side one poster had been mounted higher than the others.  It showed an old oversize scratchy photograph of a young girl with a smile the size of her head.  Around her neck she brandished a shiny medal hanging loosely on a thick ribbon.  Standing next to her, tall and proud was her coach, old man Bill.

"He used to say that gold medal was one of his most memorable moments in coaching," a voice broke from behind.

Lucy spun startled by the sound. 

Bill's grandson stood facing her.

"I remember that day clearly.  I’d scraped into the one hundred meter final with the slowest time.  Then somehow, I swam a four second PB for my first ever State medal."

She paused and glanced back at the photograph locked in thought.

"That was a huge day.  I had just turned fourteen and had never won a medal at states.  To take the gold was a complete shock to us but to break the state record was something else."

He nodded and said, "That record still stands you know?"

"Wow really, I don't think I've ever been happier than that moment,” she added suddenly remembering why she was there.

"Oh please forgive me.  I am so sorry about your grandfather," she said shaking his hand in greeting.

"It was his dream to have you coaching here.  He talked about it all the time to me."

"Yeah okay but coaching isn’t really my thing, I'm here because it was his wishes," she replied.

"Okay sure but I want to show you something," he said leading her to the far end of the pool where a small group of young children were swimming laps.

She stood watching as the odour of pool chlorine seduced her memories and one by one the kids stopped swimming.  Some recognised her immediately and slipped into an idolising trance while the others quickly caught on.

"Everyone, do you know who this is?" Mick said.

They all nodded, some giggling with adoration.

One little girl underneath a bright pink swim cap broke from the group.

"Are you going to coach us?" she asked.

Another girl chimed in, "I want to be like you, the fastest swimmer in the world."

More chanted in excitement, "No I wanna be the fastest."

Lucy glanced over at Mick who just shrugged and said, "I didn’t say anything."

She smiled in return as a sudden warm rush of exhilaration cleansed her inhibitions.  It was a feeling she had long forgotten but it was one she needed desperately to survive.

Later in the stillness of her home she opened her diary to the last page to reflect on her morning's reminiscence.

Written in bold at the age of fourteen were the words.

'One day I will be the best coach in the world like old man Bill'

Her new goals would now feed her continuing hunger for glory.


© Copyright 2018 Paul Gilmour. All rights reserved.

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