A Game Of Domestic Dodgeball

Chapter 16, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

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

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

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

A Race A Day Keeps Doctor Away

Chapter 15, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

1:49.24

Stupefied, Billy and I took turns squinting at Geri’s stopwatch. It was true. There it was in big, black digital figures. The over-the-top effort had taken everything I had – and then some. My lungs ached, unable to pay a crushing oxygen debt. My lactic-acid-gutted, paper-thin legs rustled in the early spring breeze. Finally, I sat down in the middle of the track before I fell down. The kids exchanged knowing glances, probably wondering if an ambulance would be needed.

Billy stuck out his hand. I reached up and shook it. Think he was looking for a pulse.

“Where’s my twenty?” he asked, grinning.

“You couldn’t beat me … by 10 meters … if you had to,” I said, trying to catch my breath.

“You do the trash talking BEFORE the race, Wells,” said Geri. “Do I have to tell you everything?”

Billy laughed. Geri laughed. And even I laughed.

“That’s your first race?” asked Billy.

“First race in a hundred years,” I said.

“I really thought you had me that last hundred,” he said. “I mean, you were cooking.”

“You could smell it?” I asked between chuckles or were they heaves for air. “Think I deep fried every muscle I’ve got.”

“Want to go again?” Billy asked.

“No, thanks. All I got is one race a day.”

Billy looked at Geri and then at me.

“You’re going to have to work on that, Mr. Wells.”

“Call me Chuck. Only my coach can call me Wells.”

“That’s me,” Geri said. “Ya shoulda seen him when we started. Didn’t even know which way to run around the track.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Love It Or Leave It

Chapter 13, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“So what’s your excuse?” Geri asked, sensing my mood shift. “I suppose your wife makes you, right?”

That woke me.

… apparently, she doesn’t know Mrs. Wells …

“Ummm, no, I think Melinda truly hates my training. It takes time away from her and the kids. But my girls, they’re all for it. They’re all in. They like to encourage me.”

“But something tells me ya don’t care for it much,” she said.” Am I right?”

“When I was young, it was like standard practice,” I said. “It was second nature to say we hated anything good for us like running or reading or eating vegetables. Know what I mean? If you said you liked those things, you were branded as weird or not from this planet. You know how peer pressure works.”

“So why run if ya hate it so much?”

“Means to an end, I guess. I don’t dislike it as much as I say I do. That’s still a reflex thing. My body, though, does have its own ideas.”

“OK, jist so I know where ya stand. I don’t mean to discourage ya,” said Geri. “Jist the opposite. If ya work at it, I mean, your strides are good – for an old dude.”

“Gee, thanks, Coach. You think I’m going to stroke out, don’t you?”

“Knock it off, Wells. I’m saying physically ya can go a long way. And I can help ya with that if ya want. I can tell ya what to run, what to work on, that sort of stuff.”

“But?”

“But I can’t help ya with what’s between your ears.”

I looked at Geri. She was sincere. I still wasn’t.

“That’s easy.” I said. “There’s nothing there.”

She nodded in agreement.

“I can tell,” Geri said. “Ya might need someone smarter than me to help with that.”

I tried to stay positive.

“So you think I can still motor, huh?”

“Let’s find out,” Geri said. “Let’s have ya race somebody. How about Saturday?”

“How about a month from Saturday?”

Geri ignored me.

“And I know jist who to get.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Why Run?

Chapter 13 , Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Geri and I walked the last mile back to Glendale Boulevard. The workout had refreshed her – and nearly finished me. I wondered out loud what drove a 17-year-old to climb out of a warm bed every morning to punish herself. Her confident demeanor evaporated. She looked perplexed, maybe conflicted. I didn’t think Geri would answer. Or could. But after about quarter mile of forced silence, she chose to reply.

“When I was little, maybe a year old, maybe 14 months or so, I had trouble walking,” she said. “In fact, they thought I couldn’t walk.”

“Wow,” was all I could say.

“The doctors never did figure it out, maybe ten thousand neurons failing to fire here and there. Something like that,” Geri said with a dismissive wave of her had. “My mother still says it’s a miracle I ever did walk, much less run.”

“Some kind of weird polio, huh?”

“I don’t know. Could be.”

Geri shook her head and gazed skyward.

“My parents took me to therapist after therapist until they found one who said she could help. Can you believe it? Not even 2 years old and in therapy.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“That’s why I run so methodically, like a crazed robot.”

“I don’t think you run like a robot,” I said.

“No?”

“More like an android.”

“Shut up, Wells. I’m trying to be real here, and you’re giving me crap.”

“Sorry.”

“So the short answer to your question – what motivates me, why do I love to run?”

“Yes?”

“Because I can.”

“I like that.”

What else could I say? I was embarrassed I had asked in the first place. I was trying to be conversational. Instead, I got a confessional. For sure, I thought I would hear a shallow “I’m just good at it” answer or “I did it to meet guys.” Perhaps, “I’m just an old-fashioned masochistic girl.” Now I was ashamed. Yes, ashamed I took my God-given talent for granted. Why didn’t I take more pride in it? I put my head down and trudged along, wondering why I was like that.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Bang! You’re It

Chapter 11, Blog 4

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“And that is … ”

“State Champs, of course.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right.”

Dumbfounded, I tried to recall how many track state champions the Vikings might have. I counted the ones I knew on one hand.

“Small club, for sure, Girl. How did you know about me?”

“The sports editor looked it up for me last year. I was thinking about doubling this season. I’m looking for a new challenge.”

“A new challenge?”

“Yeah. And your name came up.”

“You’re going to do the 800, too?”

“Nah, 3,200. 800’s for wimps.”

“Thanks.”

“Ya know what I mean.”

“You’re a junior, right?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve got way too much ambition.”

Geri laughed in a high-pitched hee-haw. I wondered how I would get back to my training  without seeming rude. I needed to get to work by 8:30.

“And speaking of ambition, what are ya shooting for?”

Without thinking, I said, “I’ll take anything under 1:47.”

That froze Geri in her tracks.

“1:47? For an 800?”

… way to go, Motor Mouth … ”

“I misspoke. Probably anything under two, you know.”

“1:47? That would qualify you for … ”

“A Master’s performance meet, right?”

“No … ”

I could see her crunching the numbers in her head. If Geri were a true aficionado of everything track, she would guess what I was targeting just by that number. Within seconds, her eyes widened. Her mouth flapped open.

“I think you need to be 50 for the Masters. If you ran in the Seventies, you would be under 50. Unless you flunked or … ”

“You can see I don’t do well with math.”

“The Olympics? You’re … ”

“No, I’m just trying to get into shape.”

“I’d say. 1:47? Who’s your coach?”

“Don’t have one.”

“You’re gonna need one. 1:47?”

“Got anyone in mind?”

“Do you want a coach?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.”

Geri whirled in front, pointed her index finger at me and pulled the trigger.

“I said I needed a challenge.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Price Is Right

Chapter 11 , Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“Didn’t Rockard tell you? I got permission from him yesterday.” I dug for my note.

She stopped and shot stares of total disbelief at me.

“No, Mr. Rockard didn’t say anything about letting a bum stay here. What’s your name?”

“Wells, And I used to own this track.”

That made Pigheaded glare a hole through me.

“Look here, Mister, I own it now.”

She tossed her cellphone in her gym bag and started what I thought looked like a series of stretches straight from Neptune. At one point, she had her feet behind her head, and I’m sure something went “Snap, Crackle, POP!” The human pretzel girl freaked me out.

“Now, let’s see what ya got,” she said.

She darted down the track. I followed. The pace proved quick. It took a supreme effort, but I kept up with her. She had a machine-like stride with no wasted motion. “All legs and arms” knew how to use them. After two quick laps, she slowed to a brisk walk. I hurried to keep up, breathing hard. She breathed without effort.

“So, training for the Masters season?” she asked in a businesslike tone.

“Not exactly.”

… Masters? Jeezer, geezer, how old do you look …

“I’m just seeing what I can do.”

“Sorry I yelled at you,” she said. “Had some trouble with a homeless guy last fall. Tried to follow me home. My dad said the next time just call the cops. So … ”

“So that’s all right. I know. I get that a lot lately.”

“You ran for Valpo, huh?”

“Yeah, Chuck Wells, 880.”

“880?”

“It’s the 800 now. When did everything get so metric?”

“Don’t know. Long before my time. That’s for sure. You ran in the … ”

“Seventies.”

“The Seventies? Dude, that was way before I was born.”

“Don’t rub it in. Say, what do you run?”

“Are ya kiddin’?”

I stopped. Thought for at least a Eugene, Ore., minute. And then I remembered.

“Price. Geri Price, right?”

“Si, senor.”

“State champ in the 1,600.”  Now I was embarrassed. “You went undefeated last year. You’re always in the paper.”

“Yeah, Wells, you’re not as dumb as you look,” she said. “And I suppose, technically, I should treat ya better. We do belong to the same club.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang