34 Joey's Gold Medal
(By Perry P. Perkins)
（译 / 萧蕊）
It was in summer, 1988. I volunteered to work with the Special Olympics and was assigned as a trainer for a young man named Joey. He was 18 years old, had Down's syndrome and was a delight to be with. He wore a pair of thick glasses and a perpetual smile, and was quick to laugh and give a thumbs-up to everyone he saw - Joey was everyone's friend.
His race was the long one-quarter-mile run, the full lap around the track. At each practice, I stood at the finish line and called out, "What are we going to do, Joey?" as he rounded the final corner. "We're gonna win!" he shouted back.
We hit the track every Saturday for the six weeks preceding the race, and his time slowly improved until he was making the finish line in just under three minutes. We would follow up our practice with a trip to the local burger joint, where every time he would tell the waitress that he couldn't have French fries. "I'm in training," he said proudly. He always added, "I'm going to win a gold medal and could I please have a salad?"
As the race neared, the girls at the restaurant would all come over to talk to him. "What's your best time so far?" "How did practice go?" They patted him on the back and wished him luck. Joey basked in their adoration.
The day of the race, I picked him up in my van; his mother kissed him good-bye and said she would be there for the race. We loaded his gym bag and drove to a local high school where the Special Olympics were being held. Joey was so wound up he could hardly sit in his seat, his hands drumming constantly on his knees. We arrived, parked and signed in, and received our race assignment and number. On our way to the sidelines , I realized that something was terribly wrong. I asked, "Where are your glasses?" Joey stared back at me, blinking, "I dunno ..."
I got him started on his stretching and went back to search the van from top to bottom and end to end.I found no glasses.I walked back throgh the parking lot searching the ground,but there was no sign of them.When I returned to the field,Joey had finished stretching and was jogging in place.Knowing that he was nearly blind without his glasses,my heart was breaking as I sat him down on the bench.
I don't know if you're going to be able to race today,I began as his chin began to tremble."I just don't think it's safe,"I continued."Without your glasses,you could get hurt."His eyes began to fill."But we're gonna win,"he said,voice cracking,"I'm going to win a medal!"
I sat there for a moment, struggling with my own disappointment and Joey's anguish . Then I had an idea. "Come with me." We walked over to the track and I stood him in his lane. I pointed to the white line on his right, "Can you see that line?" He peered at his feet. "Yes."
I pointed to the line on his left, "How about that one?"
Okay, I said, "Now this is very important, Joey. When you run today, you have to keep your eyes on those two lines, and you have to watch very carefully, and not cross over them. Can you do that?"
Still unsure if he could do it, but out of options, I led him back to the starting area. He walked haltingly, squinting badly, one hand slightly out in front of him. "Is Mom here?" he asked. I scanned the bleachers until I found her and waved. She waved back. "Yeah," I said, "She's in the stands watching." He waved in the wrong direction.
The other coaches and I got our runners into their lanes and then headed down toward the finish line to cheer them on. The starting gun fired and they were off! Joey was doing well, holding steady in second place until they rounded the first corner. Another boy swerved from his lane into Joey's and Joey lost sight of his white line. I winced as I watched one sneaker catch the back of the opposite leg and send him sprawling onto the ground.
He had fallen before and seemed okay this time. He scrambled to his feet and, pausing to squint at the track, found his lines and started again, limping slightly on his left foot. The rest of the boys had passed him and he was about a quarter track behind. He ran doggedly around the far corner,arms pumping at his sides, and into the straight way. Just as he was starting to gain on the last boy, his foot slipped again and he dropped to the track.
I groaned and started forward, but Joey rose to his knees again. He was crying now, and almost started back the wrong way, but he turned toward the finish line as the crowd yelled to turn around. He was limping badly, worn out, arms hanging limply. Twenty feet from the finish line he fell again.
It was too much for him, and I was going to stop it. As I stepped out onto the track to lead him to the sidelines, I felt a hand on my arm. Joey's mother, her eyes full of tears, was standing beside me. "He'll be okay," she said, "Let him finish." Then she stepped past me and walked over to stand next to the finish line. "Joe," she called over the crowd, "It's Mommy. Can you hear me?" His sweaty, tear-stained face came up, searching blindly through a sea of blurred faces.
Joey, she called again, "Come this way, honey." I watched as he rose to his feet for the third time, his palms, elbows and knees scraped and bloody, but he stood up and began hobbling toward the finish line again.
This way, Joey, his mother called again, and his face broke into a smile like the sun through the clouds, as he crossed the finish line and fell into his mother's arms.
As I ran toward them through the roaring applause of the crowd, I could hear him telling his mother again and again, "I won, Momma. Did you see me win? I won... "
Joey won one gold medal that day, not for his race but for best spirit.