Tonight Trent Dalton told a bunch of mostly middle-aged women wedged together on plastic chairs at the Carindale Library that it takes one thousand bad poems to prepare an author to write a 470-page book. That’s quite a quota. Trent started writing poetry aged 14 so he’s got a leap on things.

This post marks number 91 on my journey towards – what? Publication? Probably something less ambitious. I’d actually settle for mass readership, something Trent already enjoys as a journalist.
He makes a good point though. And I’ll keep churning out the posts on my laptop and phone and occasionally a notebook in search of the elusive page turner (screen scroller?). Stay tuned.
It’s been a while since I updated the world on the misses A, B and C. Let’s start with the first.

Athlete update

The Athlete is struggling. She’s scheduled to fly to China next week for the World Fencing Championships, where she’s competing as an individual and in the women’s epee team event for Australia. This should be the culmination of a year’s hard training. Instead, its the dead end of an injury-strewn highway. A stress fracture in her forearm, a dodgy wrist (brought on by the dodgy forearm) and now a bulging spinal disk sidelined her for most of this year. She’s unfit and unhinged, lacking confidence and low on fighting spirit.
In a perfect world there would be another athlete to replace her, but in a small sport where even the national team is self-funded, there’s no one else on standby.

Crisis of confidence

I visited on the weekend and late one night, curled up on a hard sofa in my hotel room, wringing her hands and fighting back tears, she told me she didn’t want to go.
A team member had ripped a ligament in her foot at the Asian champs last month, so the Australian team tilt was in jeopardy. With only her personal record on the block, The Athlete couldn’t see the point in travelling to China to be humiliated. On current form, she could do that at home. Her back is on the mend but she’s still compromised and could apply for a medical exemption.
I told her to write the email and handed her my iPad. She wrote it, but didn’t press send. Her teammate had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Tuesday when the team’s fortunes would be decided once and for all. So The Athlete, less agitated now she’d made a decision, put her withdrawal notice on hold.

When the fog has lifted

I flew home Monday and on Tuesday The Athlete called me, happy. She was on the tram, going to the pool for a swim before visiting the Chinese consulate to collect her passport and visa, waiting for news of the all-important teammate’s doctors appointment. Her voice held a welcome new note of calm.
Six hours later she called again to let me know, this time in a choked whisper, her teammate had the all-clear to compete. The Australians could mount a team.
“And I’ve lost my passport.”
“On the tram. I left it on the tram. I didn’t want to put it in my backpack with my wet bathers, so I put it a shopping bag with my contact lenses and sunglasses and I left the bag on the tram.”
This time it was my turn to whisper.
“It’s ok. We’ll sort it out.”
Only I didn’t know how we could do that. Thoughts of emergency passports plus the red tape involved with a replacement Chinese visa ran through my brain like cockroaches exposed to light.
The auto-mother kicked in with soothing shibboleths for The Athlete, while on the inside I composed an email to the Australian team management. It’s one thing to withdraw from an individual event on medical grounds. It’s quite another to let the team down because of a lost travel document.
Neither The Athlete nor I slept much that night.
The following day I waited for updates. And waited some more, finally poking her with a text. No joy. She’d called the lost property number a few times but they couldn’t help. So she told me in her little girl whisper she’d decided to walk to the tram depot and try the personal approach.
And it worked.

So now we’re back where we started on the hard hotel sofa. The Athlete will compete in the individual and team events at the World Championships. She’s undercooked and doesn’t expect any miracles. But a team hobbled by injury is better than no team at all. Now that she has a passport, she’ll travel to China and do her best.
And I will be at home with my laptop, pressing refresh on my browser for score updates, hoping against the odds for enough single hits to get her through qualifying rounds in the individual event and a solid supporting role for the team.
Whatever the outcome, I will always be her biggest fan.

Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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