No Picnic

Chapter 38, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Some way, somehow, I made it through to the semifinals with the 15th best time out of the 16 to advance. I did it with the worst race I had run in months.  As I plodded in tight, oxygen-debted circles through the Hayward grass, my coach answered questions from an impromptu gathering of reporters. Harry loved being the center of attention, and I happily obliged him.

Whenever the questioning veered toward my age, though, I spoke up and gave my standard reply.

“I’m not that old.”

… yes, yes you are …

“I’m NOT that old.”

… in your dreams …

“I’m not that OLD.”

… they’ve got moon rocks younger than you …

Drained silly by my 25-hour, emotional roller coaster, well into hour No. 26, I inventoried the post-race damage. My calves and thighs burned with charcoal-like fire, my lungs were twisted inside out, and my heart hung somewhere outside my chest cavity. Best guess, I needed about a month to recover.

I had less than 20 hours.

… tick … tock … tick ….

From circles, I switched to tramping figure eights to cool down in spite of the 85-degree Eugene heat and the smoky air irritating my lungs. We were down to the last news jackal from the local paper, the Oregonian.

“And what can you tell me that the other stories won’t have?” she asked Harry.

“Well, Honey, for the next round, we plan to have a pack of wild dogs here to chase him around the track,” said my coach in mock seriousness. “He responds well to fear.”

She took the hint, laughed and left.

As my race replayed on the video board, I was horrified. The kids moved free and easy, but it was obvious I was running through water. When we got back to the motel, Harry insisted on burying me under a mountain of motel ice while I lied flat on my back on the rock that was my mattress. A snowman stuffed up my ass would have hurt less.


Harry called the icing precautionary. From his furrowed countenance, I could see it was anything but precautionary. Squeaking his walker around my bed, he launched his version of a pep rally.

“You are one lucky bastard,” he said without blinking.

Squeak, squeak, squeak …

Sleep-deprived and now trapped, I studied the cracked, paint-peeling ceiling. I knew I had made two tactical blunders. I knew I was fortunate to advance to the next round. I knew my legs were barbecued chicken.

I just didn’t need to hear it.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang