Chapter 42, Blog 1
By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang
Even though Hayward Field was a couple of discus throws away, it took us 15 minutes to get there. Harry and I pointed our fan club toward Gate 12 where Melinda and the girls, and Uncle Fred and Dedra would climb near the top of Section M in the East Grandstand. Harry and his new assistant coaches, Ralphie and Nicky, escorted me to the Bowerman Building. Surprise, surprise, the guard knew me. I had a full two hours to get loose – and fret. My nerves radiated like quasars as I sat in the middle of the warm-up track.
I wanted it. I wanted it so badly I was making myself sick. A thousand terrible scenarios bolted through my head, so I rushed into Tai Chi mode and soaked in every bit of earth chi and heaven chi my feet and head could hold.
I tried to visualize winning. I couldn’t do it. I tried again.
… who are you foolin’ …
“C’mon, you gotta believe. Please.”
… why now …
“Because I need your help.”
… good luck with that …
I conjured Russian long forgotten from the CDs Harry had made me play at night.
I hummed “California Dreamin.’” Oregon songs? I didn’t know any. I did have an ancient U. of O. track jersey on, thanks to an equipment manager, who dug it out of a locker-room closet. As Harry said, the Trials honchos didn’t appreciate my advertising diapers on my jersey, but I wasn’t going to give up my lucky T-shirt. Instead, I wore it underneath the green and yellow singlet.
… now you do look like a racing senior …
“Thanks for pointing THAT out.”
Ralphie saw I was struggling.
“OK, Asshead, lissen to me,” said Ralphie, “Dis is da only time I’m goin’ to admit it.”
He pulled a piece of cardboard with red, white and blue ribbons from his pocket.
“I stole yar gold medal for da 100-yard dash from our kid Games,” he said.
I took the tattered cardboard and ribbons, and studied it. In big, black letters, it read THE WELLS OLYMPICS 1968.
“You know, I always wondered what happened to that,” I said.
“Da hell ya did,” Ralphie said.
“OK, maybe I didn’t. What about it?”
“Jist pretend it’s yar backyard and ya’re runnin’ against da Zolvinkski kid again,” said Ralphie. “Isn’t dat why we’re here anyway?”
“Because we held the Olympics in my backyard?”
“Dat and ya’re tryin’ to relive yar childhood,” Ralphie said with a wink.
“Well, if you hadn’t stolen my medal in the first place …”
“Jist pretend it’s yar backyard. Ya’ll be fine,” he said.
Harry’s message was simpler.
“Just let her rip, Princess.”
Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang