Second Place, Again
KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA; OCTOBER 1977
The crisp morning sunlight pierced the amber mist that blanketed the horizon like a gentle, cotton shawl. Gone was the haze that accompanied the oppressive heat of a low country summer, replaced by the cool fragrance of damp salt air dancing off the marsh.
Walker, kneeling to retie his shoes, spied his father in the distance. Why did he have to come? Walker thought. He said he was going to play golf. But there he was, shaking hands with Eddie’s dad. Walker fed off his father’s approval, but it came at a steep price.
His father never hesitated to tell him he loved him, but it was always in the same breath in which he told him how proud he was of him. Were the two thoughts severable? Could he love him if he weren’t proud of him? If Walker didn’t perform? If he didn’t win? The pressure. The pressure to succeed weighed on every moment of every day, and the cost of losing far surpassed the joy of winning.
And then there was Eli. Always, Eli. Eli was counting on him.
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