And How Bad Was It?

Chapter 24, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


“Pops,” I repeated. “Just how old do you think I am?”

He squinted me up and down.

“Maybe 63, 64. I’m not a good judge at that sort of thing.”

“I bet you’re about 12,” I said, spiking with irritation.

Junior didn’t like that. He shook his head and jogged away. This 2007-style trash talking was juvenile. But what did you expect me to do? Act like roadkill? It didn’t matter. I lumbered home a distant fifth in my semifinal heat. Junior took second.

Despite my performance, another kid in a baby blue polo with “UNC” on the breast pocket wanted to harass me. He introduced himself, claiming he was an intern for the Atlanta Constitution. He sought a feature angle at the meet and stuck a micro-cassette recorder under my nose.

“You really 63?” he asked.

“What the hell do you think?” I asked.

“I think I better find another story.”

“Come interview my friend,” I said. “He’s the real athlete. And he’s just 62.”

“First, tell me why you’re out here running against guys half your age.”

“I’m not 63.”


“Try 48.”



I told him about my Olympic quest, convinced that would kill the story. He thanked me for my time and went looking for his next ambulance. Done for the day, Ralphie and I were in the mood to drink heavily. So Ralphie drank seven or eight Jack and Cokes, and I downed countless Diet Cokes at a midtown dive. On Sunday, I was a full-time coach as Ralphie took fourth with an Olympic-qualifying toss of 20.3 meters. Just don’t ask me to convert it into feet. I was happy for Ralphie, but I was ready to go home.

About 6:30 a.m., Ralphie dropped me off in my driveway. Limping to the front door, I saw the living-room light still burning. Inside, there was Harry snoozing in my Lay Z Boy. He awoke and started rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Weeelll,” he began with the finality of a hangman. “How bad was it?”

“It was bad,” I said.

“Exactly, how bad was it?”

“I got more than my feelings hurt,” I said.

“And what precisely does that mean?”

“It means my legs are knotted like 3-year-old fishing line.”

“Is that all that happened? That is simply lactic acid, my boy,” Harry said. “That will wear off by the time you reach my age.”


“Did you suffer any mental trauma? Or perhaps, you are more brain dead than I suspected.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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