Don Quixote’s On The Track

Chapter 18, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


I had heard enough.

“What the hell do you know about the right thing to do?”

“I don’t like da sound of dat … ”

“Remember the time you hit a baseball that smashed ol’ man McCracken’s windshield?”

“YOU hit dat baseball,” said Ralphie. “I wuz pitchin’. I told ya we should have scrammed, but nnnnnoooo. Ya had ta go tell him.”

It WAS the right thing to do, Ralphie.”

“So DIS is da right thing ta do, Chuck?”


“Alienate your wife, your kids, your friends because of whut – some fool notion? Sounds kinda selfish to me.”

“Yeah, I guess it does. I don’t know.”

“Then why do it?”

After six weeks of studying the question, I wished I had a clear-cut answer. Instead, it occurred to me I had entered the ill-fated quest stage, making me the ancient Don Quixote of track and field. No doubt I was the right age.

“I guess it’s the same reason Vince did it,” I said.

“And dat is … ”

“Because he could,” I said.

“Because he could?” echoed Ralphie.

“That’s right,” I said. “And did you happen to notice how his friends stuck by him? No matter what?”

Ralphie leaned back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling.

“All dis bullshit for whut?” he asked. “And don’t tell me it’s worth it. Cuz it’s not.”

“No, I can’t say that. Maybe it’s not.”

“Dat’s real progress,” mocked Ralphie. “Why didn’t ya think of dat a month ago?”

“All I know is it’s all I got left, Man.”

“Don’t give me that ‘nobody else is gonna do it’ crap,” said Ralphie. “I’m way past dat. That works only on Boy Scouts.”

“What if I told you I broke 1:49 last Saturday?”

Ralphie’s face froze in wonderment. I thought I would have to resort to Melinda’s time-tested slap upside the head.

“Dat’s crazy,” Ralphie finally said. “I’d say you were lyin.”

“More like coasting.”

I know, I know. But I felt like bragging. I had to tell somebody. Freshmen don’t give a hoot about anything. Nothing seems impossible to them – yet.

“Dat means… ”

“I can do it.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Ups And Downs

Chapter 18, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


“Invincible” told the real-life story of Vince Papali, who at the over-the-hill NFL age of 33, joined the Philadelphia Eagles as a walk-on during Dick Vermeil’s first season as head coach in 1976. After players twice his size hammered Vince until he was close to quitting, he made the key plays to help the Eagles beat their rivals, the New York Giants.

At the end, I cried. My empathy for Vince was too much. Ralphie cried, too.

“Now you get it?” I sputtered, choking with tears.

“Yeah, I git it,” said Ralphie. “I got it da first time I saw it.”

We sat there in the dark, illuminated by only the rolling credits. We were two grown men, sobbing like lost, little boys. For me, it wasn’t just the movie. The last six weeks were too much. My roller coaster of emotions careened out of control.

“So Lindy wants a divorce, huh?” asked Ralphie, wiping his tears.

SSSSCCCCRRRREEEECCCCHHH!!! Went the roller coaster.

“Say what?”

“A divorce,” Ralphie repeated.

… ha, you’re always the last to know, dude …

I stared straight ahead, but my mind ran in circles.

“Dedra, right?”

“Like puttin’ it on da ’Net,” Ralphie said.

I liked my mother-in-law. Dedra was many times more reasonable than her daughter. Often, Dedra would take my side – right or wrong – against Melinda. But this wasn’t one of those times.

“She can stay over there until the fat man takes a dump,” I said. “They’ll kill each other before it’s over.”

Ralphie pushed his hand up and down as if he were erasing a chalkboard. I didn’t appreciate the gesture.

“Stick it up your ass,” I said.

“Dat sounds like your slush fund of anger talkin’ now,” he said. “Why not jist own up to bein’ an ass and apologize for screwin’ around. Let Lindy come home. It’s da right thing to do.”

“Well, maybe ’cause I wasn’t screwin’ around?”

“Whutever,” said Ralphie. “Ya know women. They’re gonna believe da worst anyway, no matter what da truth is.”

“You think I was having sex with a high school junior?”

Ralphie paused, then sighed.

“Hope ya got more sense than dat. But look in da mirror. Ya bin actin’ pretty damned screwy, no pun intended. Whut ya think people are gonna say?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Sucker Punch

Chapter 17, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


The morning workouts gave me a vital high I clung to like a crack addict. I needed it. It was tough at night when I sat alone in a dark, quiet house. I had taken my family for granted, and I was being punished for it. Was this Olympic insanity worth the price? No, but what could I do? No one would talk to me. I reflected on it nightly into June.

It wasn’t the first time someone had left me.

“Charlie! Come here! Charlie!” My mother shouted. That tone meant business. Even as a third-grader, I could tell. I ran into the kitchen.

“Charlie, Mrs. Erny says you were acting out in class again today. Didn’t we have a little talk about that just last week?”

“Yes, Mom, but … ”

“Look here, honey, I know you miss your father. We’ve been through this a thousand times. God wanted him and called him home. If he were here now, he would be very displeased with you.”

“But, Mom … ”

“Listen, little man, you need to straighten up. I know you’re just acting out because you need some more attention. I’ll try to do a better job, OK?”


“All right now, any questions?”

“What should I do the next time Freddie says you’re a bitch?”

“WHAT? Freddy? That little shit! Punch him in the nose!”

A sharp rap at the front door interrupted my flashback. I thought it had to be a court employee with a subpoena. Everyone else was avoiding me.

… don’t even think about answering that …

A second round of knocking ensued, harder, more determined.

I sat frozen in my Lay Z Boy.


A moment later, I could hear a key jiggling in the lock.

… these people stop at nothing …

The doorknob creaked, and a shadowy figure crept in.

I gasped.


“Ya big Ass-wipe. Why didn’t ya let me in?”

“Where’d you get that key?”

“From the usual place in your garage, Moron.”

Reveling in sublime misery, I didn’t care to talk to anyone, not even my former – yes, former – best friend.

“Git outta here,” I groused.

Ralphie ignored me. He shuffled over to the TV, turned it on and plopped in a DVD.

“Jist give me a minute.”

“Ralphie, I don’t care to watch any movies.”

“Jist shuddup.”

He fumbled with the remote control.

“C’mon, tell me how ta start this stupid thing.”

“Go home.”

“Shuddup, I mean it. Or I’ll sit on your head and fart until you die. It’s your call.”

“Hit play.”

“Thank ya.”

“What the hell is it?” I asked.

“It’s a move, Dumb Ass.”

“I know it’s a movie. What is it?”

“It’s called ‘Invincible.’”

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

A Race A Day Keeps Doctor Away

Chapter 15, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



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

Freakin’ Fast

Chapter 14, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Off we zoomed. Billy got the better start. Already he was two meters ahead. My feet tiptoed down the track, investigated the feel – and flirted with the sensation.

… don’t look now, but you’re freakin’ racing …

A tidal wave of emotion hit.

… you bastard, you love this …


The rush, freedom, juvenile joy …

… hey, you idiot, he’s pulling away …


I lengthened my strides. Pushed them quicker, deeper.

And …

Came up even with Billy down the backstretch. The pace quickened, maybe too quick. Split times? Too smokin’ fast.

… he’s just a kid. What you waiting for? BEAT HIM! GRAB THE LEAD …

I ignored the voice and the temptation. Into the turn, I dropped behind Billy, just missing  his heels. I loped down the front stretch, inches behind.

“DING, DING, DING,” Geri sang as we crossed the line. “One lap to go!”

Billy shifted into high and cruised to a three-stride lead. No decision here. I had to go, too. I hit the pedal. To my surprise, it responded. A couple of sputters, but it responded.

I closed the gap again. Into the last turn, we roared. Again, Billy pulled away.

… there he goes …

It was now or never.

Out of the turn, I whipped into the second lane and ran like a man on fire. I was on fire. The lactic acid kicked in. My legs burned.

… burn, baby, burn …

I tried to embrace it. Every step hotter, hotter.

… DAMN, your legs, they’re melting …


… so what, GO…

I did. We were neck and neck. My legs seared. The faster I ran, the hotter they got. I smelled flesh cooking. At the line, Billy stretched. I didn’t.

It was Billy by a nose.

I didn’t collapse in a heap, but I wanted to. No way I would give those children the satisfaction. Bent over, hands on knees, I felt hungover. My head spun like a cheap propeller and my sides threatened to cave in. And then I remembered.

… you lost, you lost to a kid …

I hated to lose. I hated it. I hated it.

“Yeah, so what?” I said through teeth clenched and slowly straightened up.

… why didn’t you lean, you too good to lean, you damned loser …


The unmistakable sound of laughter sucked me back to reality. Geri and Billy were more than giddy, laughing so hard tears were rolling down their cheeks. Freakin’ bastards. Are you kidding? Furious, I pivoted to lash out.

“Guess what, Old Man,” Geri said.

“You disqualified Billy for being too young?”

“No, worse.”

“What?” I yelled.

“You two freaks just broke the school record by almost three seconds.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Get Set …

Chapter 14, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


That was the difference between Geri and me.

I saw training as nothing but pain and misery. Something to get through, an evil means to a desired end. Go ahead. Throw in your own trite cliché here. But for Geri, it was spiritual, rewarding – and nothing short of miraculous.

Seemed to me, old school got old for a reason.

In spite of my hard-charging coach, I weaseled a week’s reprieve from racing to train with renewed purpose. With my first dose of competition looming, even those devilish intervals didn’t seem so hellish. See, I was trying.

On race day, I didn’t feel ready, but I had little choice. So at 7:30 a.m. on an overcast but dry Saturday in early April, I awaited my first race in 30 years. My sadistic coach matched me against Valparaiso High School’s current 800-meter champ, Billy Tubbs,

… you have no freakin’ chance, dude …

Geri and Billy showed at the same time. Billy seemed like a nice kid, long, lanky, a natural runner. He stretched easily, doing some of the same moves I saw Geri do. And then, he did some real ball busters.

OMIGOD! Did he!

We jogged a few warm-up laps, chatted. He was mulling going to Purdue, as I had, also for engineering. I told him not to rush it. Enjoy high school while he could.

“You sound just like my dad,” he said with a rueful grin.

… you probably look like him, too …

Geri lined us up, a lane apart with Billy on the inside. She pulled a starter’s pistol from her pocket.

“A starter’s gun?” I asked, startled by the formality.

“You saw the movie ‘Seabiscuit’ didn’t you?” Geri countered, winking at Billy. “It’s all part of my method.”

“Just don’t point that thing at me,” I said and inhaled every molecule of air my lungs could hold, counted to 10 and exhaled. “All right, let’s get it over with.”

“Take your mark … ”

“Just a minute,” I interrupted. “Billy, would you take $10 not to beat me by more than 10 meters?”

Billy smiled. Geri acted annoyed.

“Make it 20,” he said.

“Meters or dollars?”

“Gentlemen, take your mark … get set … ”


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


“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 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