Spin And Win

Chapter 19, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



The next day at the Valparaiso High School track, Ralphie met my racing buddies. I think he scared them. But one squeaky-voice joker named Henry asked Ralphie if the Incredible Hulk were his uncle. Instead of turning green with anger, Ralphie went purple with laughter. It proved infectious. The kids laughed and nicknamed Ralphie Hulk Junior – or Junior for short.

Ralphie adored it.

While the runts and I melted through another hot session of interval training, Ralphie heaved a shot put into the orangy, dawn sky. Spellbound, the big kids studied his technique. Ralphie’s tosses more than doubled theirs. They covered their ears as his grunts rumbled across the early-morning landscape. Ted, a beanpole with swimmers goggles for glasses, asked Ralphie if he ever tried to spin when he threw, such as a discus thrower. Ted cited statistics that more than 28 percent of high school shot putters spun a turn and a half across the circle to create more force. Ralphie shrugged.

On the next throw, Ralphie spun through the circle and tumbled flat on his face. But his throw flew four more feet, digging a crater far beyond the high school mud hole, near 65 feet. Yep, I thought, Ralphie will be ready for Atlanta.

But will I?

After burning through the last interval, I scurried home, showered and hustled to work. With Ralphie onboard, I needed that weekend off for Atlanta, maybe string four days together. I had put off making the request because I would have to ask my boss, Mr. Barnacle. When a schedule needed changing, he was as understanding as a guillotine operator.

The silvery-haired crab shoved his chair away from his mahogany desk buried by blueprints and barked at me. I decided to be assertive. It was the new me. I noticed the running gave me more confidence.

“Hey, Chief, you DO owe me the time.”

Barnacle’s dollar green eyes popped wide. He rubbed his red, bulbous nose until I thought it would fall off.

“Wells, you’re wasting your time. Even I could beat the likes of you.”

… why you pompous sonvabitch …

I counted to 10.

“You? You couldn’t beat my dead grandma,” I said, not thinking.

He started to foam at the mouth.

… oh-oh, brain hemorrhage at 3 o’clock…

Then he lost it. Barnacle guffawed so hard his nasty, yellow dentures flew into my lap.

“Go, ahead, Wells,” he spitted. “Knaa yoursell oudd.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Olympic Obsession 2

Chapter 19, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Ralphie’s face twisted into an ugly knot. Could he be serious? I’m sure this was the same mope who swore the Olympic Games were a sham existing only for rich kids and other pathetic losers. Didn’t Ralphie say he had more productive things to do like getting drunk?

So I had one question.

“What the hell made you change your mind?”

Ralphie pushed to the edge of the sofa and stood up. His brown eyes burned brick-oven red. His lower lip quivered at 90 mph. The last time I saw him like this, he was getting married.

“I wunt ta give it a try, Chuck,” he said. “Damn, I could kill ya for starting this, putting this thing in my head. I thought it was a bunch of crap. And I still think it’s crap.”

“High-grade crap, that is.”

“But now, I can’t git it outta my head.”

“Obsessed, huh? And … ”

“And if you can make it, I wunt ta give it a try.”

Book it. I was going to Beijing. If I didn’t qualify in the 800, I would go as the coach for America’s newest shot putter. Whenever Ralphie put his mind and heart into something, just get out of the way. Shot Put Mechanics 1, here I come. Better yet, I had an idea.

“Let’s go online and see which meet we should start with,” I said. “I think there’s one in Atlanta in early July.”

“But that’s less than a month away,” said Ralphie. “I don’t know if I can be ready.”

“Ralphie,” I said. “The real question is will they be ready for you?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang