GRIP

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Ich Liebe Nahrung

The week of the big meet began smoothly. Everyone was beginning to polish their routines, and they seemed to be bonding more and more the past few weeks.

Things may not have been going great with Gable, but the older guys had finally begun to be more welcoming towards Declan, seeing his ambition and determination when it came to learning new skills had really made a difference in the way they all perceived him.

Conversely, he had become to warm up to them, he didn’t feel as ostracized anymore, and he had begun to develop sibling like relationships with a few of them.

“What’re you thinking about?” Skylar asked as he chalked up.

“Just how we’re finally beginning to click as a team.” He responded.

“Yeah, I told you they’re nice. It just takes them a while to acclimate. They’re creatures of habit, you know?” He smiled.

“Yeah, I concur; Gable is just like that.” Declan nodded.

“Please, go on. You know how much listening to you gush about him thrills me.” Skylar rolled his eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. Any way, c’mon… You need to start working on that new mount.” Skylar nodded towards the high bar.

“We’re supposed to be polishing our competition routines. Not to mention that we don’t even know if that move is legal. I’m not going to compete that skill at the invitational.”

“No shit,” he shook his head, “But you already have everything else down verbatim… Why not just play around?”

“No one is going to play around in my gym. We’re not at EGA.” Coach Johnson spat at him, “Everyone. Lend me your ears.”

“What? Is he Lincoln now?” Tommy whispered to Jason, “And if so, can I be emancipated from rings rotation?”

Jason chuckled, which triggered Coach Johnson’s head to snap in their direction.

“I heard that, and now both of you can come see me after practice for a Rings clinic.” He nodded.

“What?! Why me?!” Jason exclaimed in outrage.

“Because you laughed, so by proxy, you disrespected me, just as your buddy, Fredrick Douglass, over there did.” He retorted matter-of-factly, “Now, as you all know, this week is our big invitational, and for all of you idiots in the crowd, that means that I have sent out invitations to some of the gyms in the area. Some big, some small, some that have one gymnast, some that… Well, you get the gist. This is our big chance to garner attention, new members, and so on and so forth. I need all of you to be at 110% until the last one of you competes on Friday.” He stressed “last”.

Coach Johnson looked exhausted, as if he had been through hell and back. The gym was doing terrible financially, and the possibility of the losing the gym was ever looming. His hair a bit disheveled, he seemed thinner, he had circles under his eyes, and he smelt of cigarette smoke with hints of alcohol.

“Do not, and I repeat, do NOT think that this meet is going to be a walk in the park. I need you to show every single audience member, gymnast, coach, judge, hell even the volunteers, that we have the best fucking team in the area. We need new gymnasts, or we will lose this damn gym. Do. You. Understand?”

They all nodded in unison. It was true, registration was low, they didn’t have as many young students as they once had, their junior program was lackluster, and their team depth was diminishing. If even one of them got hurt, it would jeopardize the teams’ possibilities of medaling. If they didn’t perform well at this invitational, it could cost the gym a lot of money.

The week went by in a flash, as work out wound down that Thursday afternoon, they began hanging flyers up and sprucing up the gym in lieu of the invitational. Skylar and Declan were assigned to hang up the biggest of the banners, and it wasn’t long before Skylar took advantage of the time they had together.

“So, want to… Uh, maybe catch a movie and… Um… Maybe dinner after this?” He asked as he hammered a nail through the banner into the wall.

“That’s a great idea! We should all go out for a team dinner. It’d give us some time to hang out and socialize as a team outside of these four walls.” Declan agreed.

Skylar’s face didn’t show the sting of his suggestion, but man did he feel it inside. He’d pictured a nice night out with Declan, and maybe he’d get a chance to confess how he felt, but it seemed it just wouldn’t happen tonight.

“Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.” He responded stoically.

They finished hanging the poster, and once the rest of the guys finished up, they all agreed to the dinner. However choosing a place was near impossible. Finally, after listing almost every single place in Rio Rojo, they agreed on the Whataburger nearest to the gym.

“Are you sure it’s okay to eat a burger before a competition?” Declan asked Skylar as they all piled into the restaurant.

“Fag, it’s a burger. It’s not going to kill you.” Jason teased him.

“Actually,” Jesse inserted, “You could catch salmonella... And die.”

They all looked at him in disbelief.

“What? It’s a real thing.” He defended himself.

With a collective laugh they proceeded to place their orders. Thirty minutes later, after a few complaints, they received their food. Before digging in, they went around and each toasted and expressed their sentiments towards the meet tomorrow.

Finally, Tommy being the team captain for the upcoming meet, led the guys through grace. As he finished they all clapped and began to eat. Little did they know that the seemingly delicious meal they were consuming would come back to haunt them.


“Oh, noooo!” Karen giggled, “So, you all…”

Declan chuckled, “It was terrible. I cannot begin to explain how bad we all felt. I have never felt more like a diabetic foot, stuffed in a sandwich and left out in the sun.”

Karen laughed hysterically at his comparisons, “Oh, my shit; that’s fucking rich.”

They laughed so hard for a couple minutes, Declan snorted in between laughs. Finally, they regained their composure.

“So, were you able to compete?!” She inquired.

“Oh, it was such a shit show.” He shook his head.


“I, literally, not figuratively, cannot move.” Declan groaned as he lay on the spring floor.

“You can’t move? I’ve thrown up my entire life… Hold on.” Skylar rushed off towards the bucket that was placed next to their bags and proceeded to vomit his innards.

They were reaping the consequences of their decisions; they’d all been infected with food poisoning, and had been vomiting for the past six hours.

“I swear, I can’t even muster up the energy to go throw up.” Jesse groaned.

“This is your fault, fag. I blame you.” Tommy muttered from under one of their chairs.

“My fault?! I didn’t even… You know what? I don’t have the energy to protest that allegation.” He muttered after an acid laden burp.

“I can’t even bring myself to whine about this.” Jason burped.

“Get up, the lot of you.” Coach ordered, “We are the host gym for this meet. THIS ISN’T FOR YOU; THIS ISN’T FOR ME. IT’S FOR THE SAKE OF THE GYM ITSELF. You guys felt like going out and eating burgers like a bunch of football throwing motherfuckers? Then you are going to buck the fuck up, start warming up, and compete your asses off. If ONE of you fucks up today, you’re running a mile. For. Each. Time. You hear me?”

They all groaned in unison. Declan, Jason, Jesse, Skylar, Tommy, and Trace were basically dead. There was no possible way they could compete in a few hours, but they had to.

“You guys are pathetic. I’m going to go get some more medicine from the trainer, and by the time I get back, I want all of you ready to warm up.” Coach said as he stormed off in a huff.

“He has got me, what? Fucked up.” Declan muttered miserably.

Skylar and the other guys laughed, and that seemed to liven the mood. As Coach Johnson walked back, they each started standing up and getting ready to warm up for the day. It wouldn’t be a fun meet, but they had to honor their contracts at the gym. Now that they were on the competition team, they had to compete, unless injured.

The competition loomed over their heads, and they were still feeling like death warmed up, as they attempted routines. Declan, Skylar, and Tommy were throwing Yurchenko timers, their faces flushed of color as they forced their bodies to perform the death defying skills they’d worked so hard to learn and perfect, but no matter how hard they tried, the strength of the food poisoning was proving to be a hindrance of astronomical proportions.

The rest of the gymnasts that’d been invited to compete began to file into the gym. Each apparatus now had a number of gymnasts lining up to warm up. Once they announced the WTGA gymnasts, they delegated themselves to their individual rotations.

First up to compete was Skylar. He chalked his hands again, and waited for the judge to give them the clearing to go. The judge lifted her hand, Skylar saluted and ran down the runway towards the horse. As he neared the springboard, he suddenly ran off the runway and vomited next to the vault table.

“Not again…” Skylar shook his head.

Gasps were heard throughout the entire gymnasium. He finished vomiting, stood up, nodded towards the judge, returned to the beginning of the runway and saluted again. Flustered, the judge signaled him to go, and he did. Skylar managed to land his vault, saluted and returned to his seat next to Declan.

“You’re up.” Skylar advised stoically. Declan could barely make himself move, but he knew he had to compete. He took his tracksuit off and walked towards the runway. He could hear their coach berating Skylar, for his uncouth behavior.

A couple volunteers cleared Skylar’s vomit, before he was allowed to take his place at the foot of the runway. After a few minutes, he was given clearance to mount the apparatus.

Declan looked at the judge, she signaled him to go, and he saluted. His stomach flipped in his stomach, he felt the color vanish from his face… His mouth dried, like the water retreating into the ocean before a tsunami.

At first, he thought it was just nerves, but it began to work its way up his throat. He walked over to a trashcan, vomited, and then walked back to the runway.

The judge shook her head in disbelief and impatiently signaled him to attempt his vault again. Declan saluted again, ran down the runway, dug his feet into the springboard, blocked off the table, flung his body over, but failed to complete rotation.

As the shock subsided from landing on his behind, Declan stood up, and looked wide eyed at his teammates as he approached them. Skylar neared him, but before he could say anything, Coach Johnson’s fingers dug into his shoulder. Declan, still stunned by his landing, turned, and, before he could say anything, vomited all over his shirt. Gasps and groans of disgust resonated throughout the gymnasium as they had before with Skylar.

Coach stared at him in disbelief, likewise, Declan stood frozen.

“I need a moment.” Coach Johnson whimpered. He released Declan’s shoulder and walked off.

The crowd whispered furiously amongst themselves, as Coach Johnson exited the competition hall, and thirty seconds later a muffled outburst was heard. Tommy burst into fits of laughter, followed by Skylar and soon the entire gym was filled with laughter.

The mood livened up after that, and luckily Declan was the last one to vomit for the remainder of the meet. Even Coach Johnson seemed a bit more lax. However, mistakes and balked landings, landed them in fourth place; out of medal contention.

“I just hope you guys are prepared for Hell Sunday.” He said as the gym emptied out, “I asked you guys to be here 110%… I honestly don’t think you gave me more than 30. I expect each and every one of you there by seven in FULL competition attire. Heads will roll, and who knows, maybe you’ll have to say goodbye to a teammate.”

They all looked at each other, was he being serious? Would someone be cut from the team because of food poisoning? That would risk the teams medal contention. At least, that’s what they hoped he’d realize come Sunday as they began to pack up.

“WTGA on three.” Tommy muttered. They chanted, and labored out of the gymnasium.

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