What’s In A Word: “Defeated”
A series of short stories inspired by one word offered by others
“Look at your feet! They are so swollen, bloody, and blistered. What happened?” Hank asked with a concerned tone.
Somewhat confused, Francois responded, “De feet?”
“Yes, yes, your feet. Why do they look like that?” Hank again queried.
“Ah oui, de feet,” Francois continued, confident he now understood the American’s inquiry.
Francois explained he was an extreme racing athlete and had the day prior completed a 100-mile race in his homeland. In fact, the competitor proudly announced, “I was the victor amongst eighty-four others. I led for an hour and could see the finish, but had never felt such excruciating pain. My feet felt on fire, and I knew they must be torn to shreds. I considered slowing but, at that moment, noticed Martin, my repulsive rival, was rapidly closing on me. I resolved not to be defeated, not by my feet nor Martin, so I pushed through the pain, pressed back my rival, and grasped a glorious victory. And let me tell you, American Hank, there is no better thrill than the thrill of victory.” Francois sat back in his chair, took in a deep breath of satisfaction, and smiled.
Hank, enthralled by the tale, smirked. He thought for a moment and awkwardly replied, “I love your language, and that sounded terrific, but I don’t speak French and didn’t understand a word… other than my name and ‘feet.’”
This would have been the end of their treatise, but alas, Francois’ loving wife Sophie, fluent in both languages, enlightened Hank about the race and how she cheered her husband into victory.
Hank, mesmerized and still slightly sickened by Francois’ mangled feet, was so impressed by the anecdote he exclaimed, “What a feat!”
“Oui, oui, de feet,” Francois said frustratingly, thinking the unsophisticated American missed the point.
“But,” Hank continued, “What happened to your face? That’s quite a scrape on your cheeks and nose.” After his spouse translated, Francois, blushing with embarrassment, begrudgingly finished the story. “I was so exhausted and elated as I crossed the finish line that I tripped and fell. My face, it skidded three feet as my head bounced along the dirt-covered path.” Taking in a humbler shallowed breath he said, “It was the first time in my life I simultaneously experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And now the day after, in so much pain, I feel the agony of de feet.”
Hank paused, forced a sarcastic chuckle, then shook his head in disdain. Looking upward off the story page, he gazed with disappointment. “Really? Really, Mr. ‘Author’ (insert air quotes here), you actually went there with such a cheesy punchline. This is my debut as a character in your series of short stories and the only thing the readers will remember is your pitiful play on words and a cheesy punchline.” Hank pushed past Francois and Sophia and stormed off.
My sincerest apologies, Hank… and dear readers. I feel so defeated.
Author’s Note: this writing, although subsequently revised, was published only on my Medium page on March 1, 2021, before realizing stories could be submitted to publications. I am still a rookie, but learning.