International Writers Magazine:
was a large twelve-year old boy. In fact he was so large he was
called Fatty by the jeering kids at school. James didnt
know why he was so big. Or when it started.
Ive always been like this, he concluded, staring
at his baby photos on the mantelpiece.
I really hate it. Tears flowed down his cheek.
James did not know
what to do. He tried discussing it with his Mum and Dad, but all Mum
So whats wrong with enjoying your food? Thats the
trouble with people today; they just dont know how to enjoy themselves.
Thats why theres so much fighting everywhere.
All Dad could add was:
So whats wrong with sitting down? Thats the trouble
with people today; they rush round everywhere and have forgotten how
to sit still. Thats why the worlds getting hotter, all this
James looked at his parents. They were both very big. They struggled
to walk and he feared they wouldnt last very long.
Why dont we try to eat healthier? he kept asking Mum,
and Why cant you take me for walks or play football?
he kept asking Dad. But the reply was always the same.
Were quite happy as we are son.
So what am I supposed to do? thought James.
It was a new term at school, and James was petrified about starting.
He was scared of being teased and bullied by the boys, and laughed at
and sneered at by the girls. His fears came true, and he endured a miserable
Tuesday came, and he realised to his horror that he had a PE lesson
in the afternoon. A new lady PE teacher had started. James was sure
she would be an Amazon. But to his surprise Miss Roughsedge didnt
give him nasty looks like his last teacher, but instead smiled at him.
She wanted him to join in a game of football. He had never been picked
before. The team captain said OK James, youd be good in
goal. Theyll never get a ball past you!
James felt strangely flattered.
Their team was winning 1-0.The game was nearly over. James had not done
much, but now a boy had broken loose with the ball and was bearing down
on his goal at a tremendous speed.
Omigod thought James, Im going to let every
one down. Theyll hate me.
The boy let fly a thunderbolt kick, straight towards the top right corner
of the goal. James felt a strange force charge through his body. He
threw himself up as high as he could with arms outstretched. The next
thing he knew he was lying on the hard ground hurting. But he could
Ive got the ball. I saved it. I saved it James repeated
The final whistle went. Fellow players came and patted him on his back.
That was such a brilliant save the captain enthused. Why
didnt you tell us last term that you were a goalie?
James had never felt this way in his life.
Im a somebody at last he thought. He glowed with pride.
A smiling Miss Roughsedge walked towards him.
Could you stay on for a quick chat after the lesson?
James thought she was so pretty, and could not stop looking at her smiling
blue eyes. Of course he would stay on. He had never had so much friendly
attention in his whole life.
James, theres no easy way to ask this she started.
James felt panicky.
Its just that, well, I dont think you are happy being
she fumbled for the word, large, are you? I mean,
would you feel better if you lost some weight?
James nodded shyly.
What I want to do, she continued is to start a school
get-fit club. Im working with the new cook on a diet and exercise
plan. What we need is a volunteer Fitness Monitor.
James, who had been busy looking at his feet, glanced up and met her
Miss Roughsedge smiled.
Well, you know what Im going to ask, dont you? '
Youd make a great Fitness Monitor. Will you do it?
James had never been anything, let alone a monitor. Now he could be
a goalie and a monitor. He really wanted to get fit and lose weight,
but he had never believed until then that these possibilities applied
to him. Maybe it was gazing into her pretty eyes that decided it. He
OK, Ill do it
Great! she replied.
After school, James rushed home for the first time ever. He burst through
the door, breathless. Mum was in the steamy kitchen cooking fish and
chips. Dad was laying back on the sofa watching a TV game show.
Guess what happened today, he spluttered. I was made
goalie and saved a goal and everyone said I was great, then the new
lady PE teacher wants me to be Fitness Monitor!
There was a complete silence. James looked at Mum and then at Dad. Simultaneously
they burst out laughing.
You, Mum said, A fitness monitor! Ive never
heard of anything so ridiculous in all my born days.
He turned to Dad.
A goalie. You! he guffawed you cant even hold
a dumpling on your fork without dropping it.
But she said Id be a great Fitness Monitor, pleaded
James. If I get fit I could be a good goalie.
Tomorrow you can tell your teacher that you cant be monitor.
Were quite happy as we are, Dad snapped.
And let that be the end of it, Dad snarled. Youre
interrupting my TV.
Yes James, Mum added, Now wash hands and Ill
give you your tea. Did you want bread and butter with the fish and chips?
Weve got your favourite ice cream for afters.
James rushed to his room in tears. Why are they so horrible to
me? he sobbed. Im not going to listen to them, whatever
At breakfast James pretended that he had forgotten all about the matter.
He was polite, and kissed his Mum and Dad before he went to school.
Hiya James! a smiling girl shouted as he entered the school
gates. Yo, goalie! another boy yelled.
James had started a new life. Nothing would stop him now. He had meetings
with Miss Roughsedge and Mrs Oliver, the school cook, who was determined
to serve only healthy food from now on. Chips, crisps and turkey-twizzlers
were strictly banned. Miss Roughsedge, meanwhile, had started a weekly
SweatClub in the gym. She and James had worked on a plan
to attract students. Slowly but surely, more and more youngsters came
to the club. They were learning to run, dance, and play sports. It was
not easy, there were many tears, but slowly getting fit seemed possible.
The new diet helped too, after early complaints, and the pounds were
being shed. James thought his new friends were already looking slimmer.
Then the strangest thing happened. One day at lunchtime, a band of very
large mums came marching up to the school gates.
Who wants chips from the shop? they yelled.
To James horror, his Mum was amongst them. They were protesting
at the new school menu, complaining that their kids were being deprived.
But thats the food she wants me to eat. James thought.
I just want to get fit.
James was not the only one to say No thanks Mum. Im fine.
For ages afterwards Jamess parents seemed sulky and irritable.
James, however, stuck doggedly to his purpose. He was actually happy
at school. He just wished he were as happy at home.
Then, one day, James came home from school to find Dad laying the table.
The TV was off. Mum gave him a big smile.
Weve got you a special tea today, James. Chicken salad.
Then strawberry ice sorbet for afters.
James stood wide-eyed.
Ahem. H-How about we go to the park afterwards son? Dad
added. Maybe you could teach me some football?
© Chris Parrish November 2006
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