Once in a species? +++++++++ A short story
Jeremiah Jumper, like his grandfather, was an unusually shaped human being but unlike his grandfather, he was six feet six inches tall, and his legs were sixty-six percent of the total length of his body with long elegant thighs that rippled with beautifully defined, sinewy muscles, and when he walked his steps were more like effortless gliding than walking even on his size fifteen and a half, specially made shoes.
Another difference between him and his grandfather was that Jeremiah was extremely but strangely gifted as an athlete. He was a great jumper but when he tried to run, he looked like a clumsy frog; his legs seemed to get in each other’s way, each one trying to bound forward at the same time.
The boys at school were always picking at Jeremiah because of his very long legs, his short, wide-shouldered upper body, a very large head, and the odd way he often moved. There were times when some of the cruelest boys would really try to humiliate him by grabbing at him and trying to throw him down but Jeremiah would jump at them, jump over them, or right into them so quickly that it scared the bejesus out of them and they’d just run away yelling whatever mean thing they could think of, just settling for taunting him from a safe distance; of course, he had never hurt a single one of them. By the time he was thirteen Jeremiah just quit caring, he gave up on the kids at school. He would interact with them in whatever ways he needed to or had to, but that was all; he decided he had his family and that was enough.
Jeremiah’s appearance and his family kept him mostly safe and protected from curiosity seekers and his sheer size helped too, especially, since he was now well over six feet tall and his mother had helped him figure out the kind of hat he needed to, in his words, make his big, size nine and three quarters head and face look rounder and more human; however, in spite of this off-putting public mask they’d fashioned for him, Jeremiah’s desire to connect with people gave him an innate confidence and wisdom that helped hide and soften much of the distrust he’d learned interacting with adults and children in the past. He would guardedly open up with careful warmth, honesty, and kindness in hopes of receiving acceptance but even in what seemed to be the most well-meaning people Jeremiah felt he could always detect some kind of ulterior motive, even, when they would fawn over him, he could tell they were straining to help him to be normal, more like them and their kind………
Jeremiah was very sensitive to people’s motives and would politely and warmly keep his distance.
By the time he got to high school, Jeremiah was a super athlete at anything that required jumping but the only people he had to play with was family, his immediate family, and some of his extended family, which meant he spent a lot of time alone.
The summer before he started high school, he had grown to almost his full height of six feet six inches and spent a lot of time thinking that maybe he could become a great basketball player, so he would go very early before anyone else would show up at the courts and shoot baskets. He had an uncanny, natural talent for shooting and his broad shoulders and powerful long arms were so strong that he could hit a swisher from any place on his side of the half-court line with ease and wonderful grace and when it came to layups, within a couple of days instead of dunking the ball he could just jump up on the basket rim and drop the ball through the hoop.
Jeremiah’s mother understood him very well; she knew that of all the great physical talents he possessed, they were small compared to what lay hidden yet in him and what his future could be. So, without offering excessive admonitions and instructions, she communicated her faith and confidence in Jeremiah with love and acceptance, she believed in him. Jeremiah received the message and understood very well, so often a beautiful thing between mothers and sons.
After a while, even though he was thoroughly enjoying all the things he could do with the basketball, Jeremiah knew he could never be a great basketball player because he could hardly run; he would always be way behind the rest of the players as they quickly changed ends of the court from offense to defense. He knew that he could
probably be the greatest half-court player ever but that wasn’t real basketball. He talked to all his family but none of them had any idea of how to help him. He became very depressed seeing that there were no sports teams of any kind that didn’t demand the players be able to run fast, how could I be so dumb to not see this, he thought to himself. So, like all the other limitations that his peculiar impairment placed on him, sports was one more thing he could add to the list.
However, a talent like Jeremiah’s could not go unnoticed very long; another early bird kid like Jeremiah had seen him performing his incredible basketball circus and wasted no time in rushing over to the office of the school’s head coach, George Powell, and telling him all about Jeremiah.
There is an old Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” and after hearing the fantastic story about Jeremiah, coach Powell was compelled to investigate.
A coach is always excited about new talent to help their athletic program and build up the reputation of the school and after meeting with Jeremiah and his family and hearing their whole story he was anxious to get Jeremiah on the basketball court and see this purported phenomenon for himself. Jeremiah certainly looked the part of a potentially fine athlete, so George told the family about how he had developed the talents of several young men over the years and helped them land college athletic scholarships and that if everything worked out, he was certain he could help Jeremiah realize a dream like that too. Coach Powell could see the bright excitement his words were putting on everybody’s face, but he couldn’t see the dark dread in Jeremiah’s heart.
George Powell was a dedicated coach, and he was excited about finding another fine athlete for his school’s program, an athlete that he could have a big part in forming into perhaps a great athlete and a fine human being; However, when he got Jeremiah onto the basketball court, he was flabbergasted not only by the absolute miraculous talent of the boy but also by the mind-boggling contrast of his inability to run more than two or three steps at a time. Jeremiah would try to run but it was three steps and he’d stumble, catch his balance, then his feet would come together, and he’d jump, then two or three more steps and he’d stumble again and then another jump or a hop and then repeat the series or fall down. Jeremiah traveled the whole length of the court and then back trying to get his leg to do what his brain was telling them to do. It made the coach exasperatingly tense, pulling his own body into a knot, grimacing, and gritting his teeth watching Jeremiah. Coach Powell blew his whistle and motioned for Jeremiah to come over to him and couldn’t believe how graceful the boy moved as he walked toward him.
Coach had recomposed himself as Jeremiah stopped Infront of him and awaited the verdict on his tryout knowing it would be terrible, but George was beaming with a big smile as he patted Jeremiah on the back and told him how much work they had to do, hiding all his discombobulated emotions, knowing in his heart that this boy, without some sort of miracle, would never play high school basketball.
Jeremiah never became a high school, college, or big-time pro basketball player but coach Powell, being the dedicated coach he was, worked diligently with Jeremiah daily on different track and field events and the running forms they use; he also combined normal coaching exercises and techniques he found researching scientific sports programs until to everyone’s joyful surprise Jeremiah could run, uninterrupted by his crazy handicap, fast enough to become a long jumper on the track team. Jeremiah could never be a real basketball player but by great new training methods, modifying his approach to the take-off board, and lots and lots of hard work he could, as he loved to say, fly.
Jeremiah said what he thought helped him most was his powerful concentration on an imaginary line and a point at the end of the line that he aimed each succeeding stride at, trying never to even blink an eye. Then, secondly, instead of trying to run full out down the entire runway for the jump, he used a modified triple jump technique of the hop, skip, and run a little further and then jump. He said he was able to get the most momentum that way and he was almost always able to land with his big feet squarely on the take-off board springing into flight.
Amazingly, all the hard work came together for Jeremiah in his senior year of high school when he broke the world record for the long jump of twenty-nine feet four- and one-quarter inches with a jump of thirty-one feet six-and one quarter inches.
Jeremiah’s jump was heard and seen around the world; a high school senior breaking a world record by more than two feet, the world was astounded, and Jeremiah was vaulted into the stars; running and jumping was two of the most amazing things all humans, all little kids first did in the world; it was like discovering fire or the wheel again; breaking the record by more than two feet blew everyone’s mind because the world record for the long jump had been hovering a little over twenty-nine feet for decades. But, later, when it was reported by an alert reporter that Jeremiah had, unofficially, (he wasn’t even signed up for the high jump event) also broken the world record for the high jump by a foot and a half while just horsing around at the high jump station and had only taken three steps to do it, people were just stunned, almost speechless.
Jeremiah, at eighteen years old, instantly became the most famous person in the world. His family had to hide him out in a remote location to protect him. There was every kind of offer imaginable coming in for him, everyone wanted to see, hear or touch this young superman, what would he do next? Finally, after several weeks Jeremiah was able to come back to his now fortified home and begin to resume some semblance of his old life.
Practically every university on earth was offering full scholarships and anything else Jeremiah wanted to come be a student-athlete with them and those without an athletic program promised to start one just for him. Needless to say, Jeremiah, his family, and the whole town had from the start been befuddled as to how to deal with this phenomenon, so they didn’t, they just trudged through one day after another waiting for it to be over, there was no controlling it or fighting it. As hard as it was to deal with; the traffic, the people, and constant disorder there was hardly ever heard a negative word about Jeremiah, they knew they had something much bigger than the Hope diamond, more like a gold rush. Jeremiah’s appeal was not yet describable, and he hadn’t even said a word to the world yet.
Jeremiah, his family, coach Powell, and professionals from town, and some out of town got together regularly to cover all things, Jeremiah.
After much consideration and counseling Jeremiah turned down just about everything; all he wanted to do at this huge juncture in his life was staying with his family, continue his training with Coach Powell and start preparing for the coming Olympics. For sponsorship and financial aid, he accepted his hometown and state, and the local precision equipment manufacturing company where his father was the CFO.
Jeremiah had thought about dating before the great tumult interrupted his life but he nor the girls could seem to find a starting place to warm up to each other so they just always did a little dance of nodding, bobbing, and looking; however, now he felt like a free sample at the candy store and he kept his hat as low over his eyes as he could and thought to himself like his mother was always saying, “in due time, in due time”.
The Olympics came around and Jeremiah was ready, he was right on schedule for what he and Coach Powell had planned for, they had decided that he could jump thirty-five feet in these games, and he was ready to do it. He had slacked up on the hard work and was concentrating more on the therapeutic exercises and form. He knew he was more ready than ever, but he also knew he must listen to the doctors too if he was to reach his really big goal in the next Olympics four years from this one.
This medical thing had almost thrown him at first but his mom and dad, coach Powell and the whole family had bolstered his confidence and his faith to where he knew now it was just a matter of following the program, following the process —- he knew his hips were vulnerable, but he knew all the treatments were also strengthening them. It seemed so unfair when he learned the price he was having to pay to learn how to run and the threat that he might be in a wheelchair one day from it, but he really didn’t care, he was going to get every inch out of his talent he could. He felt sure it was why he was born.
Jeremiah finally began dating and now had settled on seeing just one girl; she was Coach Powell’s niece and Jeremiah loved all the things he saw in her that reminded him of Coach. She was definitely a chip right out of the Powell family, but a lot prettier than Coach.
In the Olympic games, each long jumper is given six jumps unless there are more than eight participants, then the jumpers only get three jumps. For this Olympics, each jumper would get six; however, Jeremiah, Coach, and the doctors agreed that Jeremiah would jump no more than four times no matter whether he reached the thirty-five-foot mark or not. Jeremiah was not happy with this decision, but Coach brought in mom and dad to finally get him to agree.
To say the world was curious about Jeremiah and his appearance in the Olympics was probably as big an understatement as has ever been made. Jeremiah had been examined from every possible angle except in person, possible being the keyword here because he had had no big, probing interviews or small phone interviews for that matter; contact with any media had been very guarded for Jeremiah, Coach Powell, the family and anyone who could shed any real light on the mysterious, beloved phenomena of Jeremiah Jumper; however, the rummers, as anyone can imagine, were astronomical, everything from his origin to his health to his beautiful warm smile coming from under his big black hat, and his big black hat too. Jeremiah did promise the media, through Coach Powell, that after these upcoming Olympics he would give an in-depth, personally delivered account, as boring as it will no doubt be in a final analysis, of who he is, his hopes, dreams, and fears and answer any questions he can that aren’t too personal.
The day for Jeremiah’s appearance in the Olympic games finally came and for a twenty-year-old, he was very calm and collected. He took a lot of extra time to do his warm-up exercises before his first jump, then he was ready. His broad-shouldered, six-foot six-inch form with those powerful long legs cut a huge figure as he stood at the mark of eighty-eight feet that Coach Powell always set for him on the runway, he never used the whole length of the runway, it didn’t take it for his approach to the take-off board. He was tense but well under control. Everyone gave him a big thumbs up as he began bouncing for his take-off. His feet hit almost perfectly on the take-off board, and he was airborne, flying as he always described it, legs and arms digging into the air for every millimeter of distance he could achieve. Jeremiah sprang up from his jump with both thumbs up. In a couple of minutes, they called out the distance as thirty-five feet seven inches, more than four feet longer than his old record and the whole world howled madly with disbelief and enormous joy.
That was the only long jump Jeremiah took that day. To celebrate his big success, he went to the high jump station and talked to his teammates there, and bested his high school, unofficial, record by six inches. The world was watching and talking but he was just having fun before he had to deal with his success. When he was asked why he hadn’t entered the high jump event he said he thought he should save some gold for someone else. Most claim that that is probably the greatest phrase ever uttered by a sportsman in such a situation.
Jeremiah fulfilled his promise of a complete talk about himself and his struggles. Much of the talk was about his family and friends that had helped him reach his goals so far and what the plan was for the future.
Jeremiah was only twenty years old and most of the wisdom he shared came from his family, teachers, and friends, but it wasn’t like it was really new to him but like he was remembering it from a time far in the past so he repeated it in all earnestness but he felt sure that he did have one new piece of wisdom and that was his memory of his decision to just quit caring when he was only thirteen and he explained that it wasn’t that he didn’t feel love for people anymore but that he stopped having expectations of them anymore, he just accepted them for who they were as he saw and understood them. He said he just let them be and knew everything would work out as his mother always said, “in due time”.
Jeremiah reached his big goal in the next Olympics of jumping forty feet and immediately announced to the world that he was retiring; not because he wanted to, but he had to or be subject to severe hip surgery at an early age and possibly end up in a wheelchair a few years later. Without hesitation, he looked straight into the camera and said, “that really scares me”. He said his athletic career had been only second to God in his life to this point but now he would be dedicating himself to his wife and family and all the track and field athletes that were following him in sports. “But you’re not married Jeremiah”, cried a pretty young girl in the audience. Jeremiah held out his hand toward Ruth, Coach Powell’s niece, and said, “no I’m not but Ruth has accepted my marriage proposal and I can’t wait for my wedding day. Ladies and gentlemen, my fiancée, Miss Ruth Powell.”
There’s little doubt that Jeremiah could have capitalized on his achievements and become a billionaire if he had wanted to, he had unlimited offers; however, he chose with the utmost care where he invested his time and money and everything, he touched turned to gold anyway.
He made many appearances and speeches and he loved to end them with the story about the man who said that Jeremiah, by setting the long jump record so high, had completely ruined the event for everyone and Jeremiah would laugh and then say, “I still can’t believe that a gifted athlete doesn’t know that records are only here to inspire and to be broken.” He looked into the audience and said, “It was only when I stopped caring about other people’s records and what they said that I could get the best out of myself.