Running Out of Air
by David Lubar
Deeva sucked air and dug for the strength to hold her place in the middle of the
pack. One more lap and it was over. For today, at least. Stay in the middle and you
won't get killed, she thought, risking a glance over her shoulder where the
stragglers tailed out, one pair running slowly with awkward gaits, two more barely
jogging, and one last girl desperately swinging her arms in a pathetic attempt to
make her walk look like a run.
"Move it, you lazy bitches!" Ms. Pelham screamed, cutting across the track toward
the laggers. "This is supposed to be exercise." She grabbed the whistle that hung
from her neck and blew an ear-piercing blast.
"They should fire her," Kate Wilson muttered as she ran just ahead of Deeva.
They've tried, Deeva thought. She'd heard stories. They'd all heard stories. Each
fall, the first thing every girl at Smithfield High did was check her schedule to see
which gym teacher she'd been assigned. Deeva was zero for two, drawing Ms.
Pelham last year, and again this year. Across the field, near the bleachers, Ms.
Bright was teaching her class an Irish dance step.
It was almost comic. Or cosmic. Bright and Pelham. Heaven and hell. Good and
evil. Ms. Bright smiled. She encouraged all the girls. She baked cookies. Ms.
Pelham snarled. She screamed at every student, except for the few star athletes
who could do no wrong. But she saved a special level of venom for the slackers --
the fat, the weak, the uncoordinated, the sickly. If you couldn't run laps, Ms.
Pelham would eat you up. Three times a week.