Let’s call him LJ. He was tall and pale and kept his blonde hair buzz-cut. Stubble-faced, stud earrings, early to mid-thirties. His constant white t-shirts (maybe just the one, worn every day), as well as the basketball shorts, were always oversized, which made him seem larger than he already was to us children. He hid his eyes behind black shades and his voice was quiet, grumbling from low registers.
We were instructed to sit in an even block, straight-rowed, as he sat atop a red rubber ball and waited for chatter to die. His patience was overpowering, and instructive in how much a man could relate of himself without a word or noticeable motion. He’d sit there, hands folded together, until we were cowed, and when all was noiseless save for the dim sounds of the surrounding neighborhood floating over elementary barriers, some untraceable counter inside him would finally ding and he’d say, sans inflection: “Three laps.”
And so we’d run. There was a huge chalk-drawn ring by the space LJ had us congregate and we’d circle that however many times he’d arbitrarily declare. When that was done, and we were once more before him, gasping on the block, he wasted no time in saying: “Twenty-five jumping-jacks.” […]