Gladiator USA Jr. (unlimited)

cooper's hawk

Gladiator USA Jr. (unlimited)

They loved watching Gladiator Jr. on tv. Or was it called Kid Gladiator? Anyway, mom (my gf) and her son were convincing themselves that he could get on the show if he just worked at it. (true) And maybe (floating aspirational ideas) there was a summer camp here in town just for kids who wanted to be real-world gladiators. And they would cheer and jeer at the contestants on screen. And talk about how strong our boy could get. (Okay, that’s a stretch, he wasn’t my boy, I was just standing in at the moment.)

And there were the hawks. His name became synonymous with this particular hawk. “Hey, look, a hawk,” I would say. “That’s a Cooper’s Hawk!” he would yell with glee. The first time I was curious. “What’s a Cooper’s Hawk?” “Oh,” said the eight-year-old with the confidence of an eight-year-old, “It lives around here.” So, every hawk was somehow related to his name and his fortuitous location on the planet.

Outside their rented house were all the trappings of an athletic childhood. A basketball goal with balls of varying sizes and levels of weather decay. A trampoline, of course. And one of those rope/cable things with all the climbing, hanging, jumping attachments. And three unicycles in varying stages of disrepair. “I used to ride these around and push his stroller when he was a baby.” They’d jazz up on the show for a bit and soon they’d both be out on the trampoline jumping up to the climbing ropes and bouncing each other in anticipation of their greatness. His for being a champion gladiator kid on tv, her for siring the winner. Me for, well, it was dawning on me, I was probably not going to make it into that picture. I left the fantasy to their imaginations. I was not needed.

Sure enough, she looked into the gladiator training camps in our town for one hot minute. And for a week or so the conversations would turn to discipline and training. Not so much about exercise or eating well. And the hawks of his name would fly over the house all the time.

Read more Short-Short Stories from John.

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