Hoof Prints Ace is not an insult original Novel By Esteban Erik Stipnieks
Coach Noel Scott knew Ace as Stephen King was now being called he was being called had only run half a season and never was fully accepted into the team. Coach Noel Scott also knew anger and shock were Stephen’s calling cards. In English he was accepted by Kara and a couple of the other freaks. Noel Scott was concerned about Stephen on the team and strategically decided to arrive early to find out more and to set the tone for the new season with this powerful person.
Ace had processed that in pomp and circumstance in New Braunfels there was also hypocrisy and that was literally killing people. Brett Stroud from Denton Bible had indicated honestly that being a jock did not come with the keys to the school even if it did mean getting a date was easier. Slowly Ace began to realize. Last year had been a wiping of the slate a crash of what was in Denton now the canvas was white. The year ahead was a black slate waiting to be written on. Ace was also processing the flaws of New Braunfels and realizing Denton had potential strengths.
Coach Noel Scott was a believer and knew his master’s voice it was time to learn or at least set up. The new principal what was of Denton West was gone now with the seniors gone and the growth of Denton Bible the foundation for the school more of it was built on the rock. The rubble over the summer had now been removed. Noel Scott was beginning to realize that Stephen King aka Ace might have something to do with the new future.
Stephen drove a Volkswagen Passat to the spot in Northlakes park. Unexpectedly Noel Scott was waiting the two sat on the picnic bench under a shelter the first shelter north of the dam. The Denton Bible mission week T-shirt was a very good sign. Noel Scott calmly asked “How was your summer” he asked of Stephen King jokingly known as Ace
Ace responded “Camp was great new beginning with my parents”
Noel Scott was intrigued “Did you realize in fifth grade my mom was physically abusive to me” the voice of Stephen emerged the tone surprisingly did not hold anger but rather mercy.
Noel Scott “Sounds like you forgave her”
Stephen King replied “Realized what she went through as a kid I would have committed suicide”
Noel Scott was surprised the voice contained tenderness. Coach Noel Scott was intrigued seeing Stephen King lean obviously in shape. He asked “What else?”
Stephen King talked about launching bluegill with a water balloon catapult and the group games how Cabin 4 while lacking physical talent smacked Cabin 5 routinely. It was not hard to imagine an English bulldog in a pack of other dogs substituting a wagging body for the docked tail. At the end of Stephen King “Two of my friends in New Braunfels died last year the other is back taking LSD New Braunfels reminds me more of Hotel California ritual whose meaning had been forgotten”
Coach Noel Scott “Becomes destructive yet Denton needs its own new stories”
Stephen asked “Why didn’t the team get a T-shirt”
Coach Noel Scott responded “We had forgotten perhaps you can design us one we need school spirit now that the seniors had taken their temper tantrum out on the whole school this year can be a new year for everybody”
Coach Noel Scott then added “You are to be called Ace”
Stephen King was taken a back “That was an insult”
Coach Noel Scott grinned “You know how to run hills you are aggressive who says it has to remain an insult besides you are junior now”
Allan Boyd, Tara West arrived Ellen arrived soon there after. Allan and Ellen were obviously a couple. Allan Boyd visibly did not bear a grudge and looked at Ace “I heard you are not taking a math this year” Ace laughed. Tara West asked “You did not go to Kuk” Ace replied “LLYC my last year as a camper” Ace had a grin he asked “How was Kuk?” Tara was surprised at Ace’s have bored half extremely interested look as she said. Shawn Adam and Luke arrived. Ace sheepishly greeted them. Coach Noel Scott than said run both lakes than we will do push ups and crunches. Annie and Caroline Kennedy joined. Last were Guirrilmo and Buga
Ace took off not wanting to get be behind Annie. It was the familiar run over around both lakes which included about 60 percent of the district course at Northlakes. Ace in his head Love The One Your With….the one he loved was 300 miles away. Denton was not pretty yet he was there. It was also hard to escape the realization that unlike New Braunfels with its rigid traditions Denton was now a blank page. Brett Stroud had made it clear. He surged a bit as the dam went to the side walk of Bonnie Brae as he realized this great truth.
To say Denton was topography free would be a great lie the contour lines though were widely spaced. From the base of the south lake of Northlakes park to the top of northern lake of Northlakes was a little less than 100 feet. Running north on Bonnie Brae was very slight but very progressing grade. The picnic tables were higher the word was subtly.
After the run was over it was time for a yearbook conference at UNT and return to the photo labs of UNT. That was done by bicycle since parking at UNT was such a pain! Colorado to Woodrow and Shady Oaks was the first phase. The hairy and fun part of the ride in the 12 speed was the left turn which involved crossing 2 lanes of traffic on Dallas drive to make the left turn onto Eagle Drive. The trick meant getting the right timing and the near speed limit speed to make the lane change than coming to a stop by the light. Ace grinned that was fun.
Ace got a review of procedures with the chemistry and got to shoot some additional pictures. He did sneak a cappuccino at the Kharma he also photographed some airplanes. The first day elapsed fast.
The next day beginning with the cross-country workout it was hard to escape the feeling of a new beginning if anything Ace found himself looking forward to the season. There though was the trip planned on Friday which meant he might skip a workout. Coach Noel Scott joked “You can do the Unicorn cheering of you teammates just call it Bronco and slide in a quip about Marcus Ace. He called Coach Bob and asked if they would not mind a Bronco tagging a long. Coach Bob laughed sure Ace was welcome.
The workout run with Dennis and Tom leading was Eden Home. Dennis was visibly taking control of the team. He welcomed Ace as bit of an old friend. Coach Bob quipped “He is a friend of the team” Eden Home had a magic Ace rarely spoke about an early run when him and Bo hit it off was in a large daytime heating shower that despite the heavy rainfall managed not to have lightning. The run itself retained its magical quality even if it was in dry heat. The run though was beautiful Ace saw four deer. Ace though watched the interaction of the team and realized how different it was from the Bronco team. Ace appreciated being with old friends. The three day time period was shocking. Broncos did not openly compete with each other for glory….Coach Noel Scott was in charge in short the Bronco team was boring very boring but the boringness was not quite bad. New Braunfels on the other team seemed like a supercharged engine. While Unicorn land seemed fun Ace could see the functionality of the Denton approach. As Ace slept in his cousin’s room she had gone to Germany for a year as an exchange student he had to admit Denton’s approach was not without its merits even if Denton could use some good ol fashioned school spirit.
The last week for school had a long run down Bonnie Brae Coach had driven 4 miles north of the park. Coach Noel Scott caught Ace walking by Windsor instead of running in. There were a couple people way behind him. Coach Noel Scott quipped “Way to show your heart Ace.”
Coach Noel Scott had made his feeling about profanity clear the previous year. Everybody under the shelter at Northlakes remembered Coach Noel Scott half glaring calmly saying “Make that 40 push ups for Shawn and Adam.” Ace found himself grinning he was now appreciating the style of Scott low key but definitely in control. The team was fun. Annie was cool warm friendly. Allan was the affable calm leader. Droopy and Ponse in their own way made life fun. The team fell into a pecking order. Ace had shut up long enough to realize what their was not the team….personal rivalries over glory. Driving back home that one fact looked large in Ace’s head. Be them ever so boring the Broncos were cool.
Day 1 of the new school year you could tell a new principal was in charge. Ace sensed a lightly more savy version of the principal at New Braunfels high school. There was not a will nilly academic but a former football coach. The bitterness that hallmarked the seniors only year at Ryan Campus was gone. It was hard to escape the promise. For a very early birthday gift Ace got a new tool 80-200mm zoom lens. The yearbook staff needed someone willing to shoot sports.
Ace asked his yearbook teacher to shoot the team. Most of the time physically being present last period of school in yearbook room was not a total necessity as long as work got done. The defacto last period athletic was born…if work was done during lunch during her newspaper time. There was also the local papers. The new routine was early yearbook read Outland catch the papers delivered to yearbook handle photo work in the morning and sneak in do work during lunch.
The roll of practice shots for the cross-country team were good. Ace could sense and feel where the action was his photography was evolving. It was tighter shots more aggressive crops more on face more on the drama of the physical action. The football team practiced during lunch. The new 80-200 lens 400 ISO allowed for a good tight facial shots as Tara’s dad and the two track coaches who were the football coaches Ace within three weeks of school had successfully handled the first load of jock shots. The first meet of the new season awaited.
Tara West was a glam queen in Latin 2 honors Ace did not have to wonder what she was thinking. Despite her Black belt she was happy as JV cheerleader. Tara was shocked with Ace talking Pink Floyd, Nirvana and U2 with some what she considered freaks during work time. Ace was applying quiet times to evangelism. His life experience had allowed him to see the polar differences between with Christ and without his evangelism was sharing the good news. Ace also knew full well his world of cross-country the battle between will and exhaustion. In a way brother and sister were in a collision course.
The first race of the season was 1.5 mile relay through Norbuck Park north of white rock lake. Ace hated the drive through near restaurant row in North Dallas. Dallas could be both chic and bland at the same time. Ace liked the course. Norbuck park had elevation it was as close to Ace’s preferred courses as one can get in the North Texas area….not that the Denton home course was bad. A glove would be handed down the team. Technically speaking it was varsity race.
Ace knew the vantage point for his shout with the 80-200 he focused a zone now it was time to cheer and to photograph the girls race. Handling manual focus equipment Ace had practiced but was still developing his touch with the camera. Shooting an image required a lot of split second decisions being right. A person popped into the view finder Ace had a fraction of second to decide the person was a teammate and the composition was right. In this batch surprisingly there was a quality shot. It was hardly glam of Tara whose expressive face had both exhaustion and well she had not received her recent black belt for nothing the look of intensity of the eyes was laser like. Ace did not know it at the time totally but felt good about the shot. Since Ace was slow he got to shoot some of other guys running to finish before he had trade his camera for running duties. Denton finished 4th overall 2nd to Allen.
Monday morning before class the negatives were developed. There was no rush by Thursday the printing began. Life went on the school gave the impression of lacking the power that NBHS had as a collective but Ace could see some old Denton emerge. Their was less bullying and even though he may not have been best buddies with all his classmates jock, freak, prep and nerd at least did not mock each other incessantly.
It was than Ace called Susan Hambrick into the print lab. Susan Moore was long tall blond who also did debate senior editor of school news paper. Hambrick would later be Ace’s boss at Taft high school as Ace was in a holding pattern to teach at Winston School. Susan Moore looked at the negative the full on enlarged projection on the empty 5x7 frame. The face in negative looked exhausted but the area around the eyes. Ace had a grin on his face. This shot was the assistant coaches daughter looking exhausted and focused. Ace explained that this being his third season the shot said everything he wanted to about the sport. She reluctantly approved the shot. It would go both in yearbook and school newspaper.
The first pep rally for Ace was depressing. Ace had wisely avoided the first years. Quickly he found himself wondering why he did not continue the practice. There were some things acoustic wise that allowed NBHS pep rallies to get louder. The Denton gym had three basketball courts full size….This simple size allowed the noise to grow diffuse. NBHS had a single court. There though had been a near complete amnesia of real pep rallies loud very goofy. Denton was oh so subdued and oh so serious. Tara did notice as well as Leisha’s older brother. Tara was highly irate at Ace since word had gotten out at the picture it was good to be in first period Latin with the freak.
What Tara would later tell Amanda Cook in the land of the Unicorn had the seeds planted in Latin. Tara did not like her glam image be superseded but the unglam shot of her.
She growled “Why the picture”
Ace replied “It says what I want to about cross-country”
Tara looked confused Ace continued “This is my third season cross-country is about the battle of desire versus fatigue and discomfort the discipline to push through pain I got the shot that defines it your face is expresses in a single picture cross-country running is defined for all”
Tara was confused than she said “You embarrassed yourself at the pep rally”
Ace quipped as drew out the new team T-shirt for cross-country a horse and arrow purple horse Golden arrow with the letters CC in the center. The shirt was hardly inspired did not have the dead armadillo. Oddly enough the simple utilitarian nature of the shirt was a point of conversion internally to Denton standards. Ace though vocalized for the first time to Tara his complex feelings to his home place
“It was lame everybody forgot Pep rallies are supposed to be goofy and fun I miss pep rallies with 90 decibel sound levels even if they occurred at school where two people died in six months”
The news shocked Tara. Tara West was a lousy poker player and Ace thought high maintence.
Ace told the story of the freak who was looking for friends Ace had his own voice heavy with regret as he told his role and how the gun shot was heard as he talked to daughter of a teacher. Ace than quickly told of the girl he flirted with in Algebra 1 dying of an overdose his sophomore year. He also spoke of the friend of his on drugs again. Tara recoiled. Ace commented “I miss the pomp and circumstance I do not miss the cost of dreams gone awry” after a pause “I am going to bring some of the traditions and old fashioned school spirit here but keep the hypocrisy there” he smiled.
Tara was confused a bit. She asked
Ace pointed to the rough outline he had drawn out with a ball point pen “The new cross-country Team T-shirt” she smiled
“Looks neat” the bell rang.
It was time for US history with Doc Bowman.
Stephen King was getting used to the fact he was being called Ace and the fact that Ace was no longer an insult he could not stop it so he decided to embrace his new name.
Lunch meant surprise film to be rolled for shooting at Fouts field for the first time he was attending a Denton football game he was disappointed at the lack of JROTC participation. The 80-200 was actually too small of lens. Ace hated the game was at Fouts Field but the deal had been made.
Ace was still an object of derision among some football players but Brett Stroud and Allan Boyd were reducing it. In a single night it would change. Coach Noel Scott kidded “Don’t get banged up tonight we are running Plano tomorrow” Ace nodded then Noel Scott added “You are running varsity someone has to look at LeTournau scholarship you are next in line time wise”
Ace drove the New Volkswagen to the parking spot far off as told him by the yearbook teacher he than walked the distance to entrance and showed his pass he was shooting his first football game. He quickly realized how off he was but he was trying. The football players cast at first suspicious glances but soon saw the photographer trying….trying for what. He was asked. Ace simply said “If you lose tonight my job is to make it look like you 21 zero this the first I am trying” The response was surprising “Thanks you will get better” There were 40 pictures exposed 8 lost as negatives touched and four usable. The yearbook teacher remarked “You tried you learned you will get better”
The race at Plano was on flat 1.5 mile rectangular course. Ace did a Denton best time. The girls were hopelessly behind a bunch of girls except Annie, Nina and Tara but the competition in North Texas was fierce. Things with Droopy and Ponse were run though.
It was in a post race conversation at Panchos that Coach Noel Scott gave away one of his big dreams. Coach Noel Scott quipped “You realize I dated the older sister of Allen’s cross-country coach”
Shawn laughed “No”
Coach Noel Scott than said “I want them to go down in district this year I want a trip to Lubbock”
The idea of Coach Noel Scott dating the older sister of the younger coach of Allen and hanging out in the pool and little brother being upset. The story was believed and was funny. Everybody knew the rival was Marcus. Marcus was to the area what New Braunfels high school was in its district. Ace was learning it was oh so much fun to hate Marcus. Denton cross-country had been beaten by Allen but the margin was shrinking.
Ace had determined he admired his head coach, his yearbook teacher and his history teacher. The second year of his English teacher was interesting. American lit was more fun than Brit lit. As his pleasure of school was growing so were his grades. The other good news was the Denton Broncos were now 2-0.
Lunch was interesting but some of the sophomores were now strangely enough resorting to what Ace called Holy huddles. Even four weeks into the school year life at Denton Ryan had changed and changed for the better instead of the bleak lost horizons of the previous year there were signs of life and hints of school spirit. This was already irritating not only Ace to the older brother of one of those sophomores. Ace decided not to do lunch in the commons anymore.
Life at Denton Bible continued to be island of calm in the see. Brett Stroud and other friends discussed school. There was a runner from Lewisville who attended Denton Bible. The Word was out even though Denton competed with Lewisville when a Marcus runner was sighted varsity or Jv the pass would be made at the same time by both Farmer and Bronco till after the Marcus runner was passed. Ace snickered realizing how Samuel Clemens high out of Schertz and other schools hated the New Braunfels Unicorns.
The Junior Bible study was interesting the Sunday night Bible study demanded more of Ace with Rob. It also allowed a haven from the parents. Ace was figuring out the activity level avoided arguments with the higher activity level the futility could be avoided even if other stressors increased. Ace was also learning to be a team player as seniors at Denton Bible were playing their own roles in impacting the campus culture for Christ even if the sophomores were already showing a great reluctance to get involved. The second group of seniors was taken the command to mentor seriously. Ace found himself talking to a couple about what he was doing on the team regularly. Ace also figured Coach Noel Scott was definitely a believer and the team while he did not watch it practice was made in his image. The third meet ahead looked fun.
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