In the fourth grade I wanted to be good at the mile. I wanted to be faster than the fastest girl in my class: the girl with the doctor dad and the straight brown hair and tan thin legs. I would never be faster

but my football coach dad took me to practice because that’s how you get better and it’s better to try. The track down the road on a spring Saturday, Nikes wet from the morning grass

and we both jogged the same because we’re built the same: stocky legs for barreling and quickness and squats, thick necks, sturdy, athletic but not in the running way. That morning I felt faster

than ever and when I crossed the mark I bent in half, hands on knees, hands slipping off knees. I’ve always sweat so much. I stopped my little stopwatch and Dad—who was still on the track

200 yards away—shouted across sunlight: Time? 8:58, I yelled to him, and his fist went into the air, and I tasted the tang of iron or whatever the bad taste in your mouth is after running hard.

I felt happy because I was proud and dad was proud of me and I’m sure now he was proud of himself because he was a good dad that day helping his daughter try to be the fastest girl in the class. I’m sure

he told his mistress what a good dad he was and used that morning as illustration: I can be this to your girl he might have said in the bar across from her: long thin legs, thin neck, beer lip gloss—

predictable. Two years later he became that good dad to that woman’s girl, and his love for me felt conditional, a feeling I never quite shook despite all my practice.

Years and years later, when it wasn’t supposed to matter much anymore, Facebook livestreams of the girl my dad was dad to playing volleyball under the lights of an Arizona convention center and the comments

kissing his ego: what a good dad! go [girl!]; and his comments back: [girl] grew up in a fieldhouse; knows how to hustle left the iron tang of anger thick inside my mouth and my laptop levitated, left

my lap and my legs pumped and my toes struck hardwood and I found myself still running around the track down the road: springtime sunshine freckled shoulders red tank top dewy Nikes

yelling my time, my fast-for-me time, across an empty football field: 8:58, 8:58, 8:58. But the football field’s empty and Dad’s not there pumping his fist and I’m still running and for some reason I can’t


Kaila Lancaster is currently a PhD student at Oklahoma State University. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Pinch, Third Coast, and Puerto del Sol, among others.

Art by Sheila Squillante