Rebuilding Kicked-Over Sandcastles


When he got to the doctor’s office, he was in for a surprise. Not that his blood pressure or cholesterol numbers had gone down; on the contrary, his weight had gone up. Yeah, he had to reluctantly admit that his shirts fit more snugly about the midsection and he tended to leave the last button undone. He found himself routinely sucking in his gut for photos, though it seemed to do little good. His pants protested as he did acrobatics to get the fastener secure and the belt around his waist.

Dammit, he thought, not changing his expression so the nurse wouldn’t see his embarrassment.

The career move required him to pass a physical and a drug test. He had never as much as lit up anything more potent than the occasional stogie, and even those made him cough profusely when he did.

He sat in the room to which the nurse had relegated him, calmly awaiting the doctor’s arrival. When the portly woman tapped the door twice and came in, he figured it was another nurse, there to draw a couple of vials of blood.

“Mr. James,” the solid redhead with the freckled face asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said cheerfully, “That would be me.”

“I’m Dr. Martinsdale.” There was an upbeat look on her face but it came off like a mask. Her eyes said something different that her smile.

“Hey, Doc.”

She went on to tell him that, because of his body mass index, she was going to have to recommend a sleep study. He was honest in admitting his wife complained of his snoring and that he stopped breathing several times during the night.

The doctor’s look was solemn. “I won’t be able to pass you on the physical until after your sleep study. By the time that’s done, you won’t be able to start training for the new position for another two months.”

He didn’t want to beg, but he knew that not asking if there was a way to take the physical, get the sleep study done, and start the job within the next few weeks, would be silly. He steadied himself for the answer he knew deep down would come.

Dr. Martinsdale lowered the boom with all kindness but we was crushed by her response, anyway. He tried his best to grin, took her recommendation on a slip of yellow paper, and made his way to the door.

Though he felt like a lonely kid kicking a can up the street, he knew the blame was all his. How many times had he promised to start working out and making better dietary choices? Instead, like most people, he made excuses.

As if on cue, the clouds gathered and began to rain. Yeah, he’d washed his car the day before, but this was about how his life was going nowadays.

“No,” he said to himself aloud, pausing in the middle of the parking lot. The droplets went from a gentle weep to an all-out cry, no sparing of the snot. He refused to allow himself to make excuses or to feel sorry for himself. People rushed past from their cars into the building, trying to avoid the downpour in which he stood statue still.

He could take the doc’s refusal to pass him on the physical as a sign that he needed to make some drastic changes. His sandcastle, which he had spent years building, had been kicked over by another kid. He could stand there like a sniveling fool, allowing the rain to hide childish tears, or he could see it as cleansing.

Leland James chose the latter.

He had no clue how he was going to break the news to his wife but he knew needed to whip his overweight butt back into shape. She wouldn’t make too much of a fuss about him not getting the new job, since he’d never left the old one. The bills would still be paid and his family would be just fine.

This was just a wake-up call.

His clothes were saturated. He already felt the trickle of water forming a river down his spine, the basin of it being his underwear. It didn’t matter if he ran to his car or not–he was soaked.

Home was only five miles away. It was August and the storm actually gave a welcome reprieve from the mind-numbing heat in the weeks that’d preceded it. He could think clearly for once. He decided to take the first step in his journey to rebuild and perfect his kingdom. A nice, long walk would give him the time to ponder and it would be some good exercise.

The doc’s news was probably the best he’d heard in a long time. And he was still healthy enough to make the needed changes.


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