Book 2 Chapter 6 Section 4 Time Fading but Things Going Sweet Tales of Dead Armadillo a Novel about Crosscountry running by Esteban Erik Stipnieks

 

Thursday morning there was work and there was soreness. The brazen speed meant for sore muscles. The size of breakfasts that the team indulged in was easily in excess of 500 calories some of them were closer to the 1,000 calorie mark with orange juice was a common thread. The legs were sore from the night before. It was now a matter of getting the nutrient to the muscle to complete the cycle of the workout. Ace had negatives to process.

The team was part of championship hopes for volleyball, football and now crosscountry. Susan and Ace talked about a story and what was going on the guy’s team. The good news was that for the time being the drinking would be stopped completely on the team. Susan made a decision to send a reporter to Starke Park for the next meet. The following week it would be volleyball getting the coverage. The talk continued as negatives were processed right as the bell rang the negatives ere placed in a dryer. Stephen took a look at them and he was quite happy with the results. Ace was also quite happy they were only going to be 5X6 prints he had taken the push hard to get the shutter speed of 1/250 the negatives were then and grainy. He though would have to do a contact sheet during lunch so he could get away with the afternoon workout. As he walked to the first period class Kimber and Brett commented "So you have been handling the negatives" Stephen replied yes. The smell of the chemicals on the hands had announced it.  Kimber and Ace walked on legs a bit sore from the night before.

Unicorn traditions were being assaulted in one way. In another way they were being reborn of a purer form.  Coach Noel Scott was the rebel beneath his tie button down shirt and slacks. The father of Kimber's boyfriend was a partner in crime. Athletes discreetly were being held to a higher not lower standard.  This was a change.  Coach West's forcefulness had been impacted by Denton Bible. You could be in control and not have long diatribes. Coach Noel Scott was also realizing to his grief and regret how much he cheated the crosscountry team in Denton. The acts of Rebellion were done in Unicorn pride and were assaults against double standards that had long existed. In Noel Scott's classroom athletes were held to a higher standard of behavior and academic achievement. He had done it a couple time he would look at a student "Honor the jacket you are wearing set the example."  The paradox smelled in the hall as Ace who bled Unicorn blue had hands that smelled like negative fix. A power bar, a can of apple juice, and double ham and cheese a bag of Fritos was guzzled in the midst of making a contact sheet.

The last period crosscountry class Stephen told Coach Bob that the school newspaper would be sending a reporter to the next meet. It was half up Kohler half down crunches and pushups. Tom headed to the locker room. Bo was the watch dog keeping his team mates quiet till they hit the gym. The legs were tight so today was just going to be easy run the engines so to speak. Tom and Bo the complete poles on the team were going through the same thing in their hearts each workout was a workout close to the end in the girls locker Kimber, Linda and Amanda were staring at the same issue. Their legs were as sore as their male counterparts. The end of season was staring them in the face getting closer like the end of a train a journey that had defined them. Drink deep was the cry it seemed. The goal was to make the moment last forever knowing it was fading. The team stretched their sore legs together under a still quite hot Texas sun.

Coach Noel Scott was mixing the Exceed. Doc commented "I wonder what would happen to the cross-country team if you had not assisted with it." Coach Bob walked in "Ace would be at my throat and we would not aiming at district and the locker room would not have the coalition it has not had for years." The compliment had surprised Doc. Coach Noel Scott said "We know where we disagree yet we agree on the key issues." Coach Bob said "The team is now managing itself hope and senioritis is a strong cocktail if its moral guidance is Christian at this point I do not mind." Doc asked "What are the odds of guys making it regionals this year?" The exceed was mixed as it was Coach Bob replied "If the team stays healthy....I feel sorry for anything standing in our way." Coach Noel having heard of the legendary guilt trips from Ace asked "Where is your guilt trip as a tool?" Coach Bob replied "Tom, Bo, Dennis, Linda, Ace, Serg, Thomas and Mike all dragged Raul behind the wood shed spared me the trouble last night." He sounded like a teen the chuckle in his voice was hard to hide. He continued "When Linda got into her little brother coupled with the fact Serg, Thomas and Mike are believing made it hard for Raul to have any excuses." Doc said "What Steven Ray and Troy?" Bob said "When Ace wants to be sarcastic but once he makes the point I swear Ace stole our assistant principal's playbook or is his secret son.” Coach Noel Scott said “It has proven effective.” Coach West had walked in.  Coach Bob had hit Unicorn land in 1984.  Coach Bob then asked Doc "Any significance behind Pat Benetar Shadows Of the Night." Doc replied "Theme song first play off run in 8 years Kimber's dad's burst of glory Ace, Bo, and Dennis were first graders why."  Coach Bob then said said "Amanda told Scott to put it the jam box last night before the the guys last 800."  Doc laughed.  Coach Noel Scott laughed.  Coach Bob noticed Tara's dad's presence.  Coach West he asked a question Coach Bob was walking out "What did you tell your daughter when you moved?" seemed concerned and asked "Why?" Coach Bob said "With her talent she could be a prima donna and torn apart my girls squad instead she is a reason why Linda and Amanda were so relaxed last night Amanda and Linda maybe getting a lot of the spotlight but your daughter deserves more credit then she has been getting. I hope my youngest acts like her when she gets to be Tara's age." As Coach Bob walked off he did not notice the tear in his coworker’s eye. The assessment had been fired off matter of fatly as coach coldly analyzing performance. The delivery's coldness had driven it home. An unsentimental statement of fact delivered without pretense had been the highest compliment.

Aero asked about the photos. Ace replied I got good imagery it captured the mood of last night. Tom said "I wonder what senioritis looks like." Ace quipped "More easily readable then Tara's face." She commented "That obvious." Ace responded as they cruised at a comfortable pace "Lets just day when Susan starts looking at the prints the sports writer has light duty one photo is worth a couple essays." I will probably be told to shoot some Saturday. They took it to Ohio and were crossing the parking lot.

Tom finally said "I am glad Coach Bob was playing the tunes." Stephen replied "Have you ever seen the movie Breaking Away.” Bo said “No” Watching it was our workout Friday before district. Tara laughed. She said "It would be more fitting for this team." Amanda was offended initially but asked "How so?" It is about a small town full dreamers some of the heroes of the film pretended to be more suave then they were. That hardly applied to Denton. Leisha was surprised. Tara said murders stabbings in schools oh my Denton is now firmly attached to the metroplex. A violent shift had occurred in Denton when Leisha was a freshman and in 8th grade. The Denton that had made Ace …Ace was a very different place then the Denton Leisha knew. Once again it was hammered to her.  This place offers a toxin my father is dealing with illusion of innocence. Tensions were being rubbed raw but acknowledged. The team was if anything getting closer on the run. Even Linda was having trouble understanding what Kimber, Julie and Tara had in common. Kimber responded "Thankfully we got some carriers of the anecdote in school right now and they have been liberal on the dose....including a couple guys one our crosscountry team."

Kimber then asked "What happened to your sense of humor?" Stephen once had a great sense of humor.  Ace replied "Dead at Turkey creek." Stephen addressed the murder a flippancy that was once his personalty existed only in the memories of those who knew him before. As they turned onto California the talk kind of was shocking to Bo. For Raul it was foreign. It was also all Greek to Thomas and Mike. Serg understood bits of it. Stephen echoing his former mentor replied "My image and reality are two different things." Ace feeling the tension spike then made the comment "What I found marvelous is how different people have always made up this team who normally never hung out with each other but on Saturdays found common purpose common ground and without too much talent the guys succeeded." Ace wanted unity so that comment was aimed at getting that. 

Linda realizing what Ace was trying to do then said "You stood up to your mom." Tom said "You are probably the only person on this team who would have done it." Bo said "If you are running JV district I am going to give you medal." Ace commented "Make it a gold."  Bo replied "That sounds like a plan."  The team did not see the hope he had of Raul not getting busted. Ace related how you can boil a frog he said "The heat of this town has gone beyond but people still insist it isn't" The goal of district glory united the feelings about Raul would have fractured the team around fault lines that like the ones that ran through New Braunfels were covered...quickly as the conversation shifted directions to the goal of regional’s. They made it to the base of California went up lakeview one block and looped around the house and were on their way to the field house. Tara was told what to expect at Starke Park. The course was really nothing to exciting but the black top made it faster and its rolling hills by golf course were slightly quirky. Tom said one meet at a time we need to focus on the goal but lets get hurt do something stupid between now and district. Bo chimed in Amen as they cruised through the parking lot and did two laps on the track. The crunches and pushups were done as a whole team. Stephen King finally commented "It’s good to be back." Tom replied "Glad you are back."  Tom had seen how Ace had mellowed and the conversation revealed more about him.  

Once in the locker room Bo said "I'm serious we take district I will give you medal" Raul asked "Why?" Bo said "You don't see how he's busting his butt he is making you a star, he is getting us good photos he is serving the football team when he talked to his mom and volunteered to run JV whatever anger I had for Special being busted was over he loves this team." French Fries noted the conversation. The team headed their separate ways meals had to be eaten homework had to be done and sleep had to be attained to get the district title they all wanted.

At dinner Tara was greeted with "Coach Bob talked to me about you." She seemed surprised. Her father continued "When I am told by another man he hopes his daughter winds up the way you have turned out it can only mean by daughter has been honoring me in deed with no one watching." Tara's dad continued "Coach Bob did so matter of factly that makes it more sincere."  There were tears in his eyes. Keep it up I am enjoying the fruits of your quiet times. Tara had no clue what she was doing the lessons would be learned much later. She was just trying to keep the team relaxed she had very little idea of the dynamics.

Friday at its pageantry had a couple twists. Anna was wearing her crosscountry T-shirt with the name Royal blue nickname "Trouble" in the back. Tara had "Black belt" as her nickname. Kimber wore "Coach's kid." Julie had "Born again girl." Ace had changed the color of the c in the nickname to Denton purple it was barely noticeable. It was homage to the high school where glory bought no perks and where his faith was refined under a blow torch.   It was a memorial to the girl whose summer would indeed last forever. For Tom, Ace Serg and Bo who hid it were increasingly bittersweet.  They saw the purple and did not make a scene about it.  Ace had earned the right to put purple in a minor place.  It was an acceptable way to render credit to a place that had earned credit.  Ace had earned Denton nickname in New Braunfels.  The end was coming and coming fast. For the seniors on the girl’s squad it was no different. Anna had the right to wear her crosscountry T-shirt over her skirt. Brandy and Kathrine Whe had also gotten similar permission. The letters told it all. The racing shoes were also on their feet. While the football teams were the stars there were prints of the crosscountry to be done JROTC duty that night and more football to shoot the work was done and Stephen got to run with his team.

Stephen was glad to be back in the locker room with his team a half up six strides quarter down was the workout. Without a word the seniors were sharing the common feeling of the end coming. Glances expressions it was hard to believe it was all coming to an end. Two meets to district. The team was not cocky they knew better they had not gotten soft they had hope and that hope would be acted out. In the mean time this workout albeit light had a purpose. Its purpose was borne out as the experienced runners as they ran the half were little then pilots doing a run up on a piston engine airplane before takeoff. They whole host of cues from the body were all analyzed. Then strides had the same purpose in a different manner the 30 yards as the lactic acid threshold was crossed in pasting was another systems check. There was concentration on form as well. Coach Bob and Coach Noel watched making the occasional about form. The girls and guys were serious senior craziness was growing and Scott hoped that Stephen could steer a course in the midst of sentiment he was without the aid other Christian voices on the team Brent Boyd had driven him crazy but the two were blood brothers by Christ. That set the team in Denton. Stephen learned fast and had quickly appreciated the strengths of a town that did not give a care. The idea of being even an assistant on a dominant team was a dream. Coach Noel heard of Fellowship Bible and its mark was being felt. For that he had been grateful the three round trips up and down the football field were completed then the half down some sweat but the teams two elements would be clumped at the Pep Rally together.

As Ace walked back to the locker room the much shorter Coach Noel Scott shook his head with a grin on his face Coach Bob asked, "What's so funny?" Coach Noel said, "Take a close look at that c in ace next time." Coach Bob said, "I am surprised you had no comments about Anna's nickname." Coach Noel related the unofficial but preferred soccer shirt for the girl’s soccer team. Coach Noel quoted from memory the line "Why is it good for a guy to marry a girl's soccer player?" The pause had a point "They do it for 45 minutes straight." Coach Bob was blushing. The news was a surprise to him. Twelve years later a status update on facebook a female soccer player referenced a bad flare up of herpes. Noel Scott would not know about it. A girl he knew would suffer and Ace would grateful for remaining a virgin.

The matter of fact tone was also surprising to Coach Bob. Coach Noel said, "You learn to pick your battles but then you wonder if you are selling yourself out for expediency." He walked off. Coach Bob shook his head. He understood both the new soccer coach and had an appreciation for him with the simple exchange.

The grief and purpose of the purple C made the Pep rally so more pleasurable to Stephen King. He was back traditions once departed from were all the sweeter when tasted again. It was also hard not to get hope from seeing Coach West. Brett wormed his way over. He saw the purple letter and smiled. Friends performed and the team saluted its own. Every member knowing how quickly time was now passing the seniors drinking deep very deep for a time was soon to come when only memories would remain. The meet was mentioned and the team took the cheers with grace loving every second of it then it was over.

There was photos taken football players patched JROTC detail taken care of in addition to dance routines and cheering at the football game that Friday night. The bulk of the team in various forms was at the victory for the Unicorns at Unicorn stadium that got a decent amount of rest that night Seguin awaited. The football game helped Stephen King fall asleep. The victory made things nice at Tara's house. Tom was happy Dennis was looking forward to his return to the team they were tired enough to get to sleep soon after the game ended.

 

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