Reads: 106

I remained in an archway of the stadium peeking around the support while Dad strode confidently onto the field, his golden discus under his arm. A row of athletes practiced their throwing techniques with discuses of various sizes, most made of bronze. My heart skipped a beat when I saw one of them was Long Lashes. 

Some of the athletes paused to stare at Dad’s discus, brows knitted. 

Dad approached a judge who lingered to the side yawning. Staying in the shadows between the inner and outer archways, I moved to where I could listen in.

  “Honorable judge, I am king Midas from Phrygia. I have a proposal.”


“I would like to give every athlete here,” Dad nodded toward the athletes practicing, “the opportunity to win gold in the form of the three standard discuses for his keeping.”

“Eh? What are you getting at? Why would you make such an offer?”

“I would like to give each competitor a chance to throw gold versions of the discuses. If one wins the overall contest, he can keep them.”

Dad gestured to the three standard bronze saucers resting on a stone platform beside the judge who raised his eyebrows. 

“I see. A contest as much about discernment as strength. Where will you get these gold discuses?”

“I will provide them.” Dad reached down and grabbed a rock. He handed it to the judge to examine while he removed his glove. He took the rock back with his right hand and passed it to his left where it instantly turned to gold. 

Mouth open, the judge took the rock again, turning it and hefting it. 

“I would need to inspect the discuses once they’re turned into gold before a competitor throws them.”

“Of course.” Dad nodded his head deferencely. 

The judge put his fingers to his mouth. “Hmm, I’ve always thought these contents should test the mind as well as muscle. I will consult with the other judges.” He turned to walk toward two other men in purple robes. I couldn’t hear the men talking, but as the first one spoke the other two glanced at Dad, raised their eyebrows, turned back and nodded.

Smiling, Dad joined the lineup of practicing throwers. One thrower stood out. He was at least a forehead taller than everyone else, with a chest like a barrel and arms like trees. He had the largest discus, made of iron. He gave the others a patronizing look, especially Dad, and flexed his arm holding the disc, causing his muscles to bulge like bags of wheat. 

“Don’t hurt yourself with that little disc, old man.”

I clenched my fists and pleaded in my mind for Dad to stay calm and go with our plan.

The judge Dad had spoken to strode out to the athletes. 

“I have a special announcement. There is a modification to the competition. You will have the opportunity to win a large amount of gold. You may choose to have your three turns with gold versions of the discuses. If you win the competition, you may keep them.

However, if an athlete throws a standard bronze discus the furthest, he wins the overall competition, and no one receives the gold. Understood?”

The athletes looked at each other, then nodded slowly.

“Those of you who wish to throw bronze, stand here.” He pointed to his left. “Those who wish to throw gold, stand here.” He pointed right. All but five of the athletes meandered to the left of the judge.

Long Lashes moved to the right, shoulders drooped. I wondered if he was thinking again about how much that amount of gold could help his village.

Dad remained in the middle.

I made my way to the middle of the stadium and stood in the first row. The rows filled up with people and their chatter. They pressed in around my shoulders and back. People had to squeeze together much tighter than in the larger Hippodrome.

The first athlete who would throw stepped up behind the rope between two posts. Like just about all the other athletes, he had big biceps and thigh muscles, a dark beard and dark eyes. An official in a fresh-looking tunic tied neatly at the waist handed him a bronze discus. The crowd grew quieter. The athlete turned the saucer around in his hands, shifting it back and forth as if getting a feel for it. He then stepped his right leg back, calf muscle bulging. He hooked the discus in his right hand, swung it up head level, then swung it back, his body twisting. Swiftly uncoiling, the man sent the discus flying toward the temple of Zeus. I lost track of the saucer until I heard a clink-thud and saw dust explode from the ground about a third of the way down the track. The crowd burst into cheers. The athlete did this with the other two discuses.

Another official crossed the track to place a yellow peg in the ground at the athlete’s furthest discus. Then some young men lugged the discuses back.

Long-lashes went third. He spent time looking down the track and closed his tawny eyes for a moment before throwing. He moved his arms and core with grace as he propelled the disc. I strained my eyes and neck to see where the official placed his peg relative to the others, but I couldn’t tell. 

Dad went next. I could see some athletes glance at each other. I saw Dad say something and I tried to read his lips. “I don’t need to win gold.”

He didn’t do too bad for an old man, but I could tell he didn’t win. 

The officials retrieved the discuses, set them near the roped area, then signaled to Dad. Smirking, he strode over, removed his glove and touched each one. The change looked like a trick of the light, like the discuses had always been gold and he simply removed shade. Puzzled murmurs arose from the audience. Dad’s accommodating judge lifted the edge of a golden disc and, staring at it, gave his head a little shake. He let the discus drop and nodded toward the other officials.

The rude brawny man stepped up behind the rope. He leered at the other athletes, then bent to pick up the first gold discus. He’d barely lifted it off the ground when his expression changed from haughty confidence to dismay. I smiled. I recalled our palace cook using his scales to show me and Mari how gold objects weighed much more than their original form. Gold is more than twice as heavy as bronze. Grimacing, the brawny man took form and threw. I continued to smile as the discus landed a pace before Dad’s peg. Face red and angry, he tried two more times, not doing much better. 

He spun toward Dad, “You tricked us!” He looked toward the audience and judges. “A trick.”

A judge held up his hands and approached the athletes. “Calm down or get out. If you are too greedy to consider the consequences of your choices, that’s your fault, not a trick.”

Brawny man snatched up his iron discus and stomped out of the stadium. In the meantime, some panting young men lugged back the golden ones as the next athlete looked at them with dread.

The rest of the athletes strained to throw the discuses which fell short of the Brawny man’s. They all left the roped area looking bitter. At the end, the officials checked to verify the furthest marker peg. I had to hide my smile when it turned out to be Long Lashes. Then I remembered that all he would get is an olive-branch crown, and I felt my smile straighten.

Submitted: January 20, 2022

© Copyright 2023 LaVonna S.. All rights reserved.


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