KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
CNF Essay: 767 words [R]

Battle of the Brians

by Megan Vered

He stepped onto the ice. Napoleon’s soldier in a blue and gold uniform, a burgundy sash hugging his waist. His chest expanded as he gathered energy. One last focusing breath and he began his program. Gliding backwards, he prepared for his first jump. Mom gasped on the other end of the phone as he aced the “tano triple lutz,” his signature jump. His left arm lifted overhead with the lightness of a feather. On shpilkes, Mom and I watched his sweeping glide, crisp jumps, punctuated arm movements. Every muscle in his body was on fire. He circled the ice in a controlled spread eagle, exhilarating the Calgary Olympic crowd.

Mom whispered, “I think this is your boyfriend’s night.”

The “Battle of the Brians” was on. Brian Boitano, the American in first place after the men’s short program, was up against Brian Orser, the Canadian in second place. This was the final night, the men’s long program, and the event that would determine the 1988 Olympic gold medalist. The margin between the two of them—for both technical merit and artistic impression—was the smallest sliver of light. Even with Boitano winning the compulsory routine, Orser was favored to win. All we could do was hope that our Brian would triumph. Mom and I were each at home, clutching the phone to one ear. If we couldn’t be together on this historic evening, we could at least act as if. We were hopeful that Boitano—a local hero, from Sunnyvale, California, and my personal skating crush—would win. He had it all: the artistry of a ballet dancer, the command of a military man, and the zeal of an ice enthusiast.

My mother, sisters, and I indulged in television pageantry with ritualistic loyalty. In September we ogled the gowns and bathing wear of women vying for the Miss America title. In March we rallied around our favorite movies, deconstructing designers, jewels, and hairdos during the Academy Awards. Mom in particular had zero tolerance for anything that characterized an unkempt appearance. She squawked about dresses that looked too much like slips, messy hair, and gaudy jewels. As we huddled around the small RCA television in my parents’ bedroom—clucking like hens—my father let out agonizing groans from under his pillow. “Can’t the females in this house watch something worthwhile?”

Despite his grousing, we hung in for the crown, the red roses, and Bert Parks singing, “Here She Comes, Miss America.” We lingered for the Oscar wrap-up by Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, or another moving-picture luminary. This tradition was so delicious that we upheld it even after leaving home for college, with one modification: we watched together by phone. Even my older brother jumped on the bandwagon.

On this particular evening, Mom and I—though separated—were delighting in the sight of Brian Boitano, dark hair rising from his forehead like a rooster’s comb, skates glinting on the ice.

When he entered his final spin there was no doubt. He had skated the performance of a lifetime. Euphoric screams draped the bleachers where fans waved oversized American flags. Chest heaving, he wiped tears from his face. I could hear Mom’s screech of happiness on the other end of the line. Boitano looked up to thank God, displayed gratitude to the 20,000 people assembled. He drank in every ounce of juice from the moment, waving to the crowd from all angles. The commentators cried out, “This was the performance of his life!”

Mom and I stayed on the phone to watch the other Brian, his competitor. Orser skated a fine program, but was no match for Boitano’s brilliance. Even so, they were neck-and-neck until the Danish and Swiss judges broke the tie. The final skater that evening was Victor Petrenko of Russia, then age 18. By the time he finished his program it was clear: Boitano would take the gold, Orser the silver, and Petrenko the bronze.

Mom and I stayed on the phone until Boitano stepped onto the podium. He graciously embraced his competitors. Then, still as a statue, he placed his hand on his heart, lips moving in sync with the National Anthem. It was faint, but I could hear Mom humming along with him on the phone.

“He did it!” I gushed.

“How about that!” Mom exclaimed.

We said goodnight. Ten minutes later my phone rang.


“Hi honey, it’s Mom again. Did you notice the gold buttons on his costume?”

“Of course. I would never miss a detail like that.”

“Whoever sewed them on didn’t do a very good job.”

—In 2013, a condensed version of this essay appeared in Tina Hoggatt’s Story Chairs installation at Jack Straw Productions, a non-profit community recording studio and gallery in Seattle, Washington.

Megan Vered
Issue 2, Winter 2015

is an MFA candidate in writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, whose nonfiction has appeared in such publications as the “First Person” column of the San Francisco Chronicle as well as Amarillo Bay, Crack the Spine, The Diverse Arts Project, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Existere Journal of Arts and Literature, The Penmen Review, The Oklahoma Review, and Lake Effect.

She was the featured essayist in Mezzo Cammin (Spring 2014), and was among the authors featured in the Story Chairs short-story installation at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle (2013).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Amen, 1909-word memoir featuring James, Megan Vered’s “second mother,” in The Penmen Review (27 August 2014)

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