We chose Bela Karolyi for his smile and his bushy mustache, his blue and red polo shirts, how he swept Mary Lou up in a bear hug after her winning vault, even before the judges had tallied the score, shouting “That’s a ten! That’s a ten!” He was an exotic Daddy Warbucks come to life. Our fathers shouted, but rarely with joy. They shouted at Ronald Reagan and his smug expressions, they shouted at the A’s for blowing the playoffs, they shouted at our mothers for trying to have the last word, they shouted at us to chew with your mouth closed, goddammit.
This short story, now up at the wonderful Blood Orange Review, involved my re-watching the entire 1984 Olympic women’s gymnastics competition on YouTube. And wow, it was so much more disturbing than I’d remembered!