On A Spring And A Prayer

Chapter 23, Blog 4

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



I skittered for the starting line. Of course, I was in the first heat. I stripped off my Walmart warm-ups and lined up with the kids in their slick, neon outfits. Only the bearded guy in lane four noticed I was old enough to be his daddy. He grinned like a hungry shark at the clueless wonder wearing No. 613 on his old-school T-shirt, trembling in lane five.

“Runners, take your mark,” the starter called.

Balanced on the tips of our toes, we inched toward the line.


My first three strides chopped into the turn as I hurdled vibrating nerve endings. But on stride No. 4, the nerves went poof, and it was go-time.

… so, knucklehead, GO …

I wanted to share my excitement, but there was no one near. Everybody else was at least five yards in front and pulling away. At the blend line, there was no one to blend with. Instead of moving over, I ran diagonally toward the next turn. Runners do that to help minimize the distance they have to run. I did it out of desperation.

… take it easy, Seabiscuit, pace yourself …

… catch ’em one at a time …

… oh hell, JUST GO …

My stride lengthened. I accelerated. The pack drew near. I caught the nearest runner as we crossed the line. The bell clanged.


Up I shifted and caught the next one before the turn. I stuck in the second lane down the back stretch. No boxes for me, thank you.

I had to pass two fighting rigor mortis through the last turn. A no-no. But I had no choice.

… see ya …

I slingshotted past another out of the turn and veered into lane four to avoid traffic.

Down the stretch, I scrambled.

And stole third place.

Crossing the line, I smiled – and crumbled in a heap. I was spent.

Next thing I knew, Ralphie had my arm on his shoulder. On Slinky legs, I bounced along for the dressing room.

“Took it easy dat time, huh,” he said.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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