Round And Round

Chapter 17, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Geri had transitioned to afternoon practices and meets, so I was limited to running with whomever showed up in the morning, whether they be humans or wild dogs. Sadly, it was none of the above – it was just freshmen.

They had the option of training in the morning or waiting until early evening when the varsity was finished. Many opted for mornings. It wasn’t bad. I had someone to run those damned intervals with – and bitch after each one. Yeah, we bitched. Man, did we bitch. You would, too, if you were high on lactic acid.

I felt wicked. A gaggle of eight children with me in the middle, all cussing like convicts for 30 odd seconds, then dashing for 45 seconds more, slowing to a crawl and letting loose again. I wish we had a video of it for that television show. We would have won the top prize. On the other hand, there would be some angry parents when millions saw their little Johnnie swearing on national TV. Remarkably, no one reported us. We were obnoxiously loud and the music we played during practice was louder, mostly Maroon 5, Daughtry and our favorite by Justin Timberlake, “What Goes Around … Comes Around.”

On Saturday, I’d race whatever sucker wanted to try and beat me. The prize was $20. Even with head starts, though, no one could touch me, least of all, freshmen. No one else tried. Racing for money was illegal, of course, but I never had to pay. It was good practice. Staying out of box traps, sprinting the last 200 meters to the finish and setting the pace when the race was slow, I tried to invent every situation imaginable and some that weren’t.

Could you tell? I was bored. But the daily dose of training proved therapeutic, keeping my mind off the chaos in my personal life for about 90 minutes. Also, I loved the limited socialization it provided since Melinda, Ralphie and my other friends were shunning me. Only my daughters came around to see me. My kids, my job and my running were all I had.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

It’s Not Cheap To Be An Athlete

Chapter 17, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Short of 15-year-old fishing line, have you ever seen anything so snarled and screwed up? The steep price of being an Olympic athlete was climbing by the minute. Melinda took the kids and moved in with her mother, Dedra, nine blocks away, over on Franklin Street.

I tried calling. She hung up on me.

I tried visiting. She wouldn’t answer the door.

I tried writing. She sent the letters back, unopened.

I talked to Dedra, who said Melinda refused to listen. “Never has, never will.” Dedra then chastised me for being so selfish and ignorant about women. She had an inkling of what happened, but her real motivation was personal. Dedra wanted Melinda out of her house as quickly as possible. Soon, a week peeled away. My daughters came over a handful of times because they missed me. I sure missed them. I missed their mother, too. Melinda didn’t seem to care. She made the kids promise to leave if I dared bring up any “issues,” Shannon said.

After two weeks, I begged Geri to go over and tell Melinda the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She did. Melinda listened politely and then told Geri that her lawyer would contact me. Midlife crisis she could overlook. Adultery she could not. Melinda wanted a trial separation.

And who was having a midlife crisis?

Meanwhile, I left it all on the Valparaiso High School track. Melinda’s last words about the Olympics hung in the air, haunting me. Now I would do anything I had to make it. And that included running intervals with freshmen.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

‘Little Girlfriend’

Chapter 16, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


“What are you doing?”

Without looking up, Melinda shook her head.

“You’d think in a town as small as Valpo, you’d have the decency not to do something like that out in the open.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

That made her stop. I expected the suitcase to fly at me next.

“You can deny it all you want.”

“Where did you hear such a thing?”

“Carol just called. She told me all about your little girlfriend.”

“Carol from work?”

“She heard it from Alice.”

“And Alice saw me?”

“She heard it from Susan.”

My mind raced. I didn’t know any Susan.

“And this Susan,” I said. “She saw me?”

“No,” Melinda said. “She overheard Mrs. Price at Town and Country Market, talking about you and her daughter.”

“Mrs. Price?”

“Yes, Mrs. Price.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Why she would let her daughter run around with a 48-year-old asshole like you is way beyond me.”

Determined, Melinda returned to her packing. I cowered in the doorway, waiting for Shannon to show. Maybe she could talk some sense to her mother.

“Just a DAAAAAMNED minute,” I stammered.

“What is it now?” asked Melinda, irritated by a new interruption.

“Mrs. Price’s daughter is a high school junior.”

Melinda walked over in front of me, stood toe to toe and …


I bet Mrs. Fuqua heard that one. Melinda slapped me so hard, my head spun like a weathervane in a Midwestern windstorm.

“You SICK ASSHOLE. Taking advantage of a child.”

Melinda started packing again. I counted stars.

“You’re really sick, Mister.”

My head came to a rest. I tried again.

“I told you I was working out with her.”

Melinda stopped again.

… oh-oh, that didn’t come out right …

I took a step back, then another.

“YOU WHAT?” Melinda snapped.

“I think I told you we were training together.”

“You most CERTAINLY did not.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You said you were working out with someone named Jerry. Now I know it was just a lie, a cover for all of this.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Geri. G-E-R-I, Geri,” I said. “Geri Price. She won the state in the 1,600 last year.”

That was enough. Using both of her fists, Melinda hammered the pile of clothes into submission and zipped the suitcase shut.

“What did you do?” she asked derisively. “Tell her you were going to the Olympics?”

Then Melinda scooped up the suitcase and walked out.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

A Game Of Domestic Dodgeball

Chapter 16, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


That 1:49-plus cemented the idea in my cracked brain that maybe I did have a chance. A second here, a second there – that wasn’t asking for a miracle, now was it? I thanked Geri and Billy for their help and headed home, hoping to catch 20 winks. After all, it was Saturday.

Exhausted and sore, I lumbered in the door to have a flying book smack me between the eyes. Melinda was red-faced and ready to rumble.

“How could you?” she screamed.

A black, spikey high-heel helicoptered toward me. I dodged it. My wife had one helluva arm, but she took way too long to wind up.

“What the hell?” I yelled as I dove behind the Lay Z Boy.

“You freakin’ ASSHOLE!” she screamed and fired another book at me. It skipped over my left shoulder and fell harmlessly to the floor.

“Want to tell me what this is about?” I shouted. “Or do I have to guess?”

I swear I had no clue. In spite of the flying objects, I tried to stay calm, but my heart wanted to jailbreak out of my chest. My wife stopped to catch her breath.

“You didn’t think I’d find out, did you?” Melinda growled.

“Find out? Find out WHAT?”

“You are one cool customer, YOU ASSHOLE!” Melinda said, firing another book as she shouted “ASSHOLE.”

It crashed into the wall behind me and also fell to the floor.

“Calm yourself. You’re going to wake the children.”

That just made it worse as a lamp came flying overhead. It missed, but the plug on the end of the cord struck my arm. Now I was angry. Couldn’t help it. I was under attack, but I didn’t know why.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I bellowed.

“ME?” screamed Melinda. “It’s YOU! You’re having a damned midlife crisis. I told you. But you wouldn’t listen.”

“What are you talking about?” I was beyond exasperated.

Melinda lasered me with her glaring, blue eyes.

“Are YOU, or are YOU not, running around with a younger woman?”

“Wwwwhhhaattt?” My mouth hung open.

Melinda waved her right hand in disgust and stomped into the bedroom. Stunned, I stood there. Either this was someone’s sick idea of a joke – or one colossal misunderstanding. Afraid of more missiles, I stole a peek into the bedroom. Melinda banged the second dresser drawer shut. On the bed, she had her suitcase pinned under a mountain of clothes.

“What are you doing?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

You Only Live Once

Chapter 15, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Geri started her workout. Billy and I rehashed the race. He said I needed to sprint the last 200 meters and not wait until the last curve to make a move.

“You’ve got maybe two chances to accelerate during an 800,” Billy said. “You can’t wait or you’ll waste them.”

Gobbling everything the young track star fed me, I craved more. I was starved for feedback. Who knew the fount of knowledge just happened to be this tousled-hair, 150-pound kid who scampered like a scared rabbit. What I wouldn’t give to be 17 again, have his wheels and know what I knew as a 48-year-old.

“Tell me. How do I shave off five more seconds?” I asked while Billy gave Geri her split times.

“Five seconds?” he repeated, taken aback.

… yeah, we know, world record territory, big effing deal …

“All right,” I said. “How about three seconds. No need to be greedy.”

Billy frowned.

“For starters, let’s get you some decent shoes,” he said, making a face at mine. “Are those from the Seventies, too?”

Brand new out of the box, my Pumas were a gorgeous red with white trim. Now they were a disgusting, rusty brown. Not wanting to make myself sound any older, I didn’t answer as Geri flew by again. While she did propel herself with an exaggerated arm and leg movement, she ran easily, sailing down the track.

“Tell me how I could run like that, and I’d hand over my firstborn,” I said.

“I’m still waiting for that twenty,” Billy said. “So you got kids?”

“Yeah, don’t tell anybody, OK?”

“Nobody would believe me anyway,” he said.

“Geri keeps telling me I need to find somebody to run with. I think she’s tired of my holding her back.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Billy. “But starting next week, there’ll be a mess of freshmen out here every morning. You can always run with them.”

“Thanks, Billy. But won’t an old guy like me just get in their way?”

“I wouldn’t worry,” he said. “They’re just freshmen.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang