Today, we are pleased to welcome “Edged” by Casey Guerin to our New Voices library. In this story, a high-school athlete struggles to come to terms with the cruelty shown by her coaches and classmates, and eventually to examine her own actions. Don’t miss this honest and surprising piece.
“Blood rushes through her head, ringing in her ears like laughter, tingling her fingers as it presses against the cold’s constriction, and when has she last felt so alive? Ahead in the clearing she sees the rounded disc of the track, the other runners stretching, Coach Kennison hunched over a clipboard discussing something with an assistant coach. They seem far away, tiny people in a snow globe, or a vision at the end of a long telescope, but then they are there, in front of her, or rather she is there, in front of them, at the end of her run. She stops her timer, looks down. 5:03:86.”
On the seventeenth lap Aisley’s toenail begins to bruise, a purpling she feels so deeply she can nearly see it through the mesh of her sneakers. On the twenty-third lap it cracks, softly, like an egg. She finishes her program, twenty five laps in total, then heads to the locker room showers where she unlaces her sneakers and peels off her socks and lets the bloody yolk run down the drain. It’s not the first toenail she’s lost, so she knows not to tug at the loose, blackened edges. In a few days the halves will fall away and a new nail will grow in behind it, just like that. She doesn’t bother checking her watch to note her time; she knows the nail distracted her, unbalanced her last few laps, slowed her down. She’s been sluggish for weeks, like coming out of a cold leaves you moving as if underwater. Coach Kennison gives her no slack so she’s here at the track on her day off, pacing herself through laps instead of running the wooded course, trying to burn out whatever is churning inside her in the open instead of on the shaded course crowded with chatty teammates and boys perched high above on the rocks they’ve scrambled onto to smoke and ogle.
Track used to be something she did to keep in shape during field hockey’s off season, but she isn’t going back to field hockey next year. She hasn’t told anyone this, has only made up her mind privately, but it is a definite decision, made one afternoon watching Brit, the JV team goalie, run around the track alone, clad in all her gear, urged on by the varsity head coach, Coach Quinn.