Say When

Chapter 30, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

Ever the master chef, my coach loved to turn up the heat. Some of his best recipes required a pressure cooker. Yet, out of the hundred worries cooking in my brain, only one had caught fire: Did I kill myself for more than a year for only a weekend in Iowa?

Worse, Ralphie didn’t need to go to Des Moines nor did he want to. His invite to the Olympic Trials was already in the mail. No question, my best friend also was still angry about the inordinate attention I was getting from The Times a.k.a. Sheila and the rest of her sports department. So that meant …

“No. No. No. You are OUT of your mind,” insisted Melinda. “I don’t have time to go to Iowa.”

“But …”

“What do you think this is, Charles? You think I can take off whenever I feel like it.”

“It’s only three days,” I said. “Harry doesn’t want me to drive. And he sure can’t.”

“Why put me in this spot?” she asked, wringing her hands. “I don’t need this.”

“Lindy, you’re my agent for Pete’s sake. You’re supposed to look out for me,” I said as I stroked her arm. Melinda glared at me. She didn’t appreciate my calling her “Lindy.” She never did. I should have known better.

“In that case,” Melinda said, wresting her arm away. “I’ll get you a ticket. A bus ticket.”

“Gee, thanks. How about a Depends commercial, too, while you’re at it.”

“You sign with Depends, and I will carry you there.”

“The hell you will. I’ll walk to Des Moines before I wear diapers.”

Melinda called and ordered two roundtrip Greyhound tickets to downtown Des Moines. When she drove us to the old, paint-peeling bus depot on Thursday, though, Melinda had a change of heart. She couldn’t do it – to Harry. Whatever. So on Friday at sunrise, Melinda called off sick, the girls played hooky, and we piled into our gun-metal-blue Jeep Cherokee. Pinched in the back seat between Jessie and Shannon, I wondered what magic my Iowa track of dreams had for me.

Six hours later, we splurged to get a room at a new Hampton Inn no less than 15 miles from Drake Stadium. It was the least I could do for our reluctant chauffeur. After we checked in, Melinda and the girls went for a swim while Harry and I drove over to take a look at the stadium. Two years earlier, the Drake facility had undergone an expensive makeover, resulting in a track and field beauty. Topped with a new Mondo surface, the reconfigured track exceeded most standards, boasting 48-inch-wide lanes. It was big, blue bursting with speed.

The decathlon competition had wrapped up, and the stands were about three-quarters full. With my old, stained sweats on, I jogged a Sunday-drive pair of laps around the infield to get the feel of the place. While I circled, Harry bumped into some old buddies and chatted. My OCD kicked in, and I needed to confirm my race time on Saturday, so I hunted for someone official to ask. Lucky, I did.

“Harry!” I interrupted. “I’m supposed to run. NOW!”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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