american mens gymnastic team

An Olympic Patater Snippet

Alexei’s having a bit of a weird day.

1. He’s on a plane. Planes have never really been his favourite.
2. He’s on a plane to London. He’s never been to England.
3. He’s on a plane to London to compete in the Olympics. He’s never done that before, either.
4. He’s on a plane to London to compete in the Olympics, and he’s sitting beside the smallest member of the American mens’ gymnastics team.

Kenneth Curtis Parson is 18 years old, 5'7", 140 pounds, and America’s reigning parallel bars prince. Alexei recognizes him from a Visa ad, and realizes that he could bench press the kid if he wanted to.

They don’t talk during boarding or take-off, mostly because Kent has expensive earbuds jammed into his ears and the collar of his Team USA jacket pulled up over his mouth. This amuses Alexei greatly; it’s not even cold. He’s wearing a t-shirt.

They do talk when they reach cruising altitude, mostly because the earbuds and jacket collar are shed as Kent accepts a cup of water from a flight attendant. Alexei watches as Kent takes a sip, then turns his head slowly in Alexei’s direction, as if just realizing that he’s been there the entire time.

“Mashkov,” Alexei says like a peace offering, extending a hand. It looks huge and clumsy relative to Kent’s little fingers; Alexei feels a little brutish, but the rough callouses on both of their palms are marginally comforting. Athletes are not so different, he thinks to himself.

Kent narrows his eyes and shakes the proffered hand with a sort of delicacy that implies that grasping Alexei’s hand too firmly could result in disease. “Parse,” he says. He’s still squinting. Alexei vaguely registers that he has pretty eyes.

He’s still making a valiant attempt to discipher what colour they are when Kent looks away, back towards the strangely chaotic cooking show he’s watching on his entirely too-large phone. His head jerks back upwards when he realizes that Alexei’s still watching him, and he crinkles his nose. “I’ll fight you if you want,” he offers, as if allowing Alexei a privilege. Alexei’s English isn’t good enough to sufficiently express his confusion, but it’s not like Kent gives him time to respond, anyway. “Seriously, I’ll kick your ass. You just gotta wait until after the 17th. My event’s done then.”

Alexei’s smitten.