"Look," Sean tells his nephew, looking deep into his eyes. "It's all mental. If you know only yourself, you may or may not win. If you know yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss."
She barely knows herself. Marlene knows better.
"Seems like you got a decent family to me. I'm sure they can handle anything you throw at them."
Is it true? Are they her enemy? Does she know them, can she know them, and know herself, and win this battle too?
"My surgery is tomorrow. Can't I just have fun today? Can't I just enjoy the moment? See the people I love smiling big smiles without having it all ruined?"
Today, and the day after that. Take long enough and you'll get out of it completely.
"I refuse to believe that makes me a bad person!" Cathy says, suddenly, and Marlene shrinks back. Cathy Jamison wants them smiling big smiles, she doesn't want to ruin anything; Cathy Jamison had an illicit affair and is bringing the world crashing down on all of them. The whole Drain Gang. Down, down, down. How can she be both of those women at once? Can't tape them together; can't keep them apart. Can't just let go, or the world will end. Kindness is in her nature. In her genes, her history. It's the environment she creates, and controls.
Andrea sits across the field, and Cathy runs to her, smiling. Andrea's smoking again. Cathy invites her to the party. She's family, too.
"Fuck off," Andrea says, taped up and smarting. "I'm not your friend."
Paul and Adam wear matching shirts, Paul is bigger than all the other dads. He looks like a giant, hunched over Adam in that tub. Adam looks like a giant now too. Paul's fast. You wouldn't know it, but he can really move. In the last third of the race Cathy kicks one leg into the air, yanking a hammy and wincing, but she doesn't stop cheering. That puts them over the top and the Drain Gang wins by a half-length. It feels like a family.
"Testing, testing," she says into the trophy, once the party starts back at home. "Adam Jamison, can you give us a few words about your victory today?"
Sean appears over her shoulder, grinning at Adam, who nods. Even with this she can't embarrass him today, in the taped-together home he prayed for. He plays along.
"In order to win, you have to believe you have already won."
Sean loves it; Cathy just giggles. "Very philosophical! And Paul, does he have anything to add?"
"I just want to dedicate this to the woman behind the man," Paul says, brandishing the trophy. "Cathy Jamison, without you we wouldn't be here today. As for the rest of you, you're a bunch of losers!" They laugh. It's Paul Jamison.
She's been reading up on positive thinking. In order to win, you have to believe you've already won.