Book II Chapter 2 Section II Two Kinds of Fire Tales of Dead Armadillo an Original Novel by Esteban Erik Stipnieks about Crosscountry Running photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks



Mr. Thurman the principal was surprised to see the Midnight Oil 1992. The concert T-shirt as a part of regular clothing was shocking. It was symbolic he did not understand the symbol. Brad shook his head. It was a very loud declaration. 

Tia Rodriguez had seen him. She was a counselor. Down the small hall a left in the wide main hall and then a right he was soon back at the yearbook room. He asked her if she wanted to see the photos be printed. She followed him they made the quick turn into the lab after he picked up the negatives. Now Stephen took the print order marked by a red grease pencil circles on the contact sheet he had every intent of interpreting the circled requests in a less then concrete manner. Stephen quickly removed the covers from the chemicals in the dish pans he gave the tongs a good rinse and then he selected his favorite enlarger head with the best timer he grabbed an easel with a 5X7 overlay put by the negatives. He shut off the big light. He went to the cabinet and pulled 2 8X10 sheets of paper out. He went to the paper chopper and carefully lined both up he now had test strips he placed all 4 pieces of paper in the paper safe beneath the enlarger. He quickly removed a strip of negatives and he placed the negative shiny side up under the light. He quickly rolled up the enlarger head to the point where he could place the frame and the rough hazy outlines of the arms in motion filled the bottom of it. His aunt responded that is not what she asked for. Stephen had a grin. He got the shot in focus with the aperture wide open then he stopped it down darkening the image. It lengthened paper exposure time but it made a crisper print.  His aunt asked why. He explained the trick it hardened focus and allowed more control of the exposure on the paper. He turned the light off and set the timer as he put a test strip he had retrieved from the paper safe closing the safe quickly in the frame right where the royal blue of the Unicorn lettering would be.

It was the best exposure control point even if it meant things were tight. A loose piece of card board from a long discarded box was the tool better then a human hand. 9 seconds of light another third of the strip exposed 9 more seconds finally clear. Stephen quickly dunked the strip in the developer and counted to sixty the three points of the exposure were clearly visible he then placed the image in the stop bath finally sticking it in the fix. As he did he went to turn on the light of the room. Stephen was now faced with a decision. At 27 seconds image was just a hair underexposed. Stephen turned the light off. We went to the glowing timer and rotated it to 30 seconds. He opened the easel and placed the 5X7 in it. With a punch of the button the light was on and the timer controlled the switch. The only sound in the room was the timer going. Finally the paper was completely exposed. His aunt had never seen this done. The image in the developer emerged in the glow of the safe light. His aunt and flinched a bit but then started smiling his as he put it the image in the stop bath and then in the fix. When he turned on the light Susan had walked in. She was surprised to see Stephen and his aunt who she knew almost all her life as she could remember first as an elementary school teacher then as a guidance counselor. The photo of Amanda Cook showed a determination a beauty it was a tight photo. It was a bold shot in your face. Susan was trying to process. This was not cute and pretty yet the shot with its hard edge had beauty. As the wash was started for the print was obvious Stephen was proud of it.  It was not typical.  The Midnight Oil shirt had indicated Ace was on the war path with it. 

The next image had the three runners Bo, Aero and Raul racing through the Mesquite thicket side by side by side. This was an easier shot and lower potential for controversy. This shot was easier done. Time was slipping and the shot was done placed in the wash. Stephen's aunt split. The image was test stripped in and printed in under 8 minutes. It was a dramatic shot. It was not so much a compromise it was common ground. It was a cliche. Steven knew the cliche was needed and there was just enough tension a joke inside you had to look for it.   Stephen had grin.  Susan was clueless to it. It was washed and hung to dry as the bell rang.

Stephen hit a water fountain drank deep today was going to be long slow distance. He was given the assignment to handle photography for the football game publications. JROTC put him in charge of the parking lot detail he told Ron that he had an assignment and the cadet Captain got a lecture he was still a part of the unit and the unit was getting short shrift. He would have to do some politicking to get out of run through. He decided to do lunch since he had gotten the prints done. He had football team talkin to do.

As he approached the table Dennis saw him big Al (his father had been a bus driver) signaled him. He had a ham and cheeses some Gatorade and a bag of chips. Dennis asked "What's up." Stephen replied "I may need a little political help I will be shooting the football game Friday but Lt.Col Ron wants me to be in charge of the run through and parking lot unit" Dennis said "Where do we come in?" Stephen responded "Get Tara's dad to talk to Lt.Col Ron so I can get a better angle on the run through." Albert and Dennis looked at him "We are concerned what kind of pictures you are going to take." Stephen locked his eyes on Dennis and then Albert "I shoot as a jock.   Bo was starting some with Amanda I think she might actually like the shot distance running is often about desire v fatigue Amanda's facial expression had that." Stephen's hands had an aroma that was beginning to drift. Al asked "What's the smell?" Stephen grinned "Au de print lab I beat the deadline with a day to spare." Dennis "How do you eat with it on?" Stephen replied "You get used to it." It was amazing what you could get used to. Stephen was glad he still had the contact sheet with him and he handed to Dennis. Dennis looked "I can see why Bo gave Amanda a hard time better then what normally get I know what you are going for I heard about the argument with Susan glad you had it." Tara approached "Hey Ace!" Ace was Denton code.  Stephen looked at her "Lt.Col Ron has given me run through duty I need to get the cliché run through photo for yearbook." She smiled "I'll tell my dad." Dennis looked at what happened "Albert was laughing, "Why didn't you just go to your mom?" Dennis said "Because he hates her and this easier. She is his little sister and Daddy will help him on this one." Little Al laughed. Bull walked by "What's Tara doing talking to her dad after talking to us.”  Albert was surprised at the body language between the once two friends. The tone though was civil. Stephen realized knew a rant was pointless at this point. He made the point a couple months ago. Stephen would have no mercy if a drinking party was busted and football players were kicked off. Tara's dad and he had an agreement till then he was there to serve. Albert replied "Helping our press agent out." They finished lunch and Stephen climbed the area and looked at the window.

Coach Bob swung by "Ready for Pit Stop?" Stephen replied "No but when am I ever." "Was that politicking I witnessed?" Stephen replied "Setting up my next passes for Friday night" Coach Bob quipped "Yeah you are finally learning to do it." Coach Bob could not resist the comment at how Stephen was actually running a smoother race. "Why didn't you get your mom involved?" The look on his face showed utter contempt. "Just checking to make sure you have not gone to other side." Coach Bob quipped.  Steven laughed. Coach Bob walked away. Amanda Cook walked by Stephen handed her the contact sheet. She looked at the small 35mm picture. "Not what I expected." Steven replied "It’s going to be in the Hoof print Thursday." She asked "Can I have a copy?" Steven replied "5 Bucks I am playing in a different print lab tonight." Amanda handed him a 5 dollar bill and Stephen said it will be an 8X10. The bell rang and it was off to class.

The long slow distance allowed Stephen to evaluate. Coach Bob had quietly sulked about the underperformance of the male squad. Stephen realized that district was doable not just 2nd place but first. He had to make varsity or not he had to be a threat to make Varsity. Less talk more speed he thought. He suspected Mike and Thomas had talent so he could terrorize them. The trend had started. He pushed it down the long boring run applying heat not much but enough to keep honest. He quite deliberately went the full length. He had to shove things hard to make up the distance and appear respectable but hey. The run was long and draining but some of thought occurred before the haze of fatique continued.

For the girls it was Encino. While they were walking out of the girl’s dressing room, Amanda Cook had asked Tara a couple questions about Stephen. She was still trying to figure him out. The photo surprised her. Julie then said “Bo still likes you.” Kimber laughed.

(Encino as viewed running 2009 view very similar to what Tara would have seen photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved)

Tara had gotten use to the run that had once intimidated her. She still was learning on the run tricks of momentum and undulated terrain. Each run had its own lessons. Encino was still teaching her.  She was an eager student.  Medina Valley and performance of the guys had added a bit of joy.  She may not have been the star of the team but gold team medals were nice. 

Stephen had to go south and then back north to near Schertz to find his old mentor’s place. Stephen King’s love for the man was that of a boy for his father. Stephen saw him for what he was a mature man in Christ while they would differ on some points in theology they agreed more then they disagreed. Talk drifted about Denton. Mr. Frisenhan recoiled as he heard the trail of blood from a year ago. That part of Denton stunk. The brazen hypocrisy Stephen was seeing had made him appreciate what he left behind in Denton. Even that gulf was noticeable. Mr. Friesenhan processed what he did not want to. He also saw Stephen was holding back. The world Stephen had come back from was fast intense wild. Only later Stephen King would find: out as decedent as Denton appeared to be be as it was it produced less drug use and stronger faith. The Old Man’s world was both destroyed and reborn by the young man he shared the print lab with. One camp out Stephen learned not to worship the man but the values that made him. That shocking revelation had lead Stephen to find the Old Man's king.  The relationship had been torn without notice. Now the shoe was on the other foot Stephen King was now visibly holding back not wanting to destroy who he loved with bad news.  The cowboys Frieshahn knew would not have recognized him in Denton.  The New Braunfels Mr. Frieshahn loved was but memory. 

The prints were shot by someone aggressive but had a feel for the struggle. In the lab Stephen King was less about process more about outcome. The explanation of the projection print scale made Stephen appreciate the device. In two hours the 8X10s were printed and dried.  He was given an extra projection print scale as a gift. The old man gave a fellow craftsman a valuable tool.

As talk drifted Stephen talked about his adopted sister. Talked drifted to what was being done right Noel Scott, the boy’s team possibly making it to the regional meet. The conversation also included the new people. Like others before him the new people were mysterious to Mr. Friesenhan. Stephen assured him. Church was not talked about much to the relief of Stephen. There was the playful suggestion of fishing before the meet Saturday. Stephen King loved it. It ended with glad you are back do not be a stranger.

Wednesday prints were handed out at lunch and after school money was taken the team liked the work.

Once home the ever present need for calories was there. Stephen was pushing near 3,500 calories a day. He ate a pint of Blue bell homemade vanilla Ice cream and cooked a burger. He got his grapefruit juice early. Then he drank a large glass of milk all done with more then 2 hours before they would hit the track.

The sun was beginning to fall when Stephen drove to the athlete’s parking lot. He saw Kathrine Whe. Her older sister and Stephen's older sister were good friends. Stephen's turn to the right in political leanings and his love for town put him on the conservative side of the team. Katharine was probably the most cynical member of the cheer leading squad. Kathrine knew who was on run through beside Stephen. She smiled "I got it under control if you promise not to do something stupid like wear yourself out Friday night you direct the cadets to follow my directions if they do not I will tell you who." Stephen King smiled. A deal was made. Tara heard what was going on. The ease of conversation struck Tara by surprise. Kathrine had something of the personalty that Tara. They made it to the track. The band was in infield Stephen snuck a couple pictures. Brandy Svenson and Allison the return in persona to the old school days of 1991 were there.

Coach Bob explained the workout while Coach Noel was mixing Exceed. The stretch was on the black rubberized surface of the track that that was thick over the concrete that had been poured years before. Stephen snuck a couple shots he metered them at 1600 ISO under the stadium lights. Then negatives were to await him the following day. This was a yearbook shoot so the rush was not intense.  The night was going to be a crosscountry 8, 4, 2, 1. They would run for 8 minutes followed by a watched recovery, this would follow by 4 minutes, then 2 minutes finally one minute. Tom did honors of the stretch. There was talk kidding around. Stephen Ray let loose a joke. Stephen was just barely varsity. Bo and Raul looked at him. Tom then said.” Stephen hated speed workouts his face was painted with a grim determination to drive. Thomas and Mike were talking about the party then they looked at Stephen, "We better shut up your mom will bust us for not being Unicorn enough."

Stephen replied "You are 18 why not write Phil Gram about stupid law and highway dollars that has our state legislature in Abramsed." The line was a reference to a quote from General Abrams grab by the Balls their hearts ands minds will was a joke no one got. Amanda Cook "So you are waiting to drink till you turn 21." Tara was surprised when Stephen said "Yeah the law is stupid I would have drink with a meal and chilling with friends." Tara looked confused. Stephen replied "It is not what a man takes in his body that makes him clean or unclean but what is in his heart that makes it so." Stephen took a shot of the drum major and the band milling around just a bit. Alcohol had been a fact of his life around his family never abused.  The call of a far off distant land resided deep in the soul of Steven King.  An oratory that historian would have loved to read wound up in a trash can in Denton Ryan high. It was about America's policies to the Baltics.  In one week it had been rendered obsolete.   

The team gathered on the line Stephen took the outside knowing that about half the team was faster. Speed workouts no longer terrorized him the way they once did. He even let Amanda Cook get ahead of him. Go Coach Bob called out. The bike workouts of Stephen still gave him the ability to do the metabolic equivalent of skipping gears. It made the first 20 yards interesting especially with the goal going into a firey zone of lactic acid fermentation.  The high end though was limited and this needed to be changed. With stride length, it was like a car going through gears: first to third to fifth extending the stride. The longer stride required more force but it covered a greater distance per shot. The 8-minute part was to be run some distance above the lactic acid threshold. Stephen wanted to see if he could a mile and half in the time.

The dark was falling and the white light of the stadium lights was filling the field and track the light reflected off the aluminum benches hammered onto the wood frame bolted to the steel of the stadium.  The band was playing its half time show. In the music selected was Rocky. The band a mess of human beings traced the shapes on the football field the view from the stadium and the view from the track were two different things. The song had adrenalizing quality. Tara had seen Stephen pull ahead of Amanda and he was doing all he could to keep it. The high fat cake that Tara had packed for her lunch was inevitably becoming carbon dioxide. Tara's mom added an extra egg and a couple extra sticks of butter to the standard cake mix the result was pleasure to the mouth but lead shot to the stomach. The long strings of fat were broken down into two carbon chains and taking through the assorted metabolic processes that generated ATP which was being broken down back and fourth. Behind Tara was Katharine Whe. The sound a bull horn buzz punctuated as they ran home stretch. Coach Noel Scott was keeping track of the laps. The first became the third the fourth and fifth and three quarters lap for Stephen. Stephen lapped Kimber, Brandy, Allison, Lezlee, Jennifer, and Anna. He was also closing on Leisha when the first eight minutes ended. He was coming up. Coach Noel’s voice was encouraging and calm.

Stephen jogged to the aluminum bench to pick up the cam as the strange math of band played out in his ears. He had a cup of Exceed in one hand the cam in the other. He had an eye for line. The blue and white uniforms and his height made adjustments on the cam as he rolled from a little zoom to wide work. The light worked. The winder angle of lens was a nifty tool allowing a more wide open fstop. He snapped a couple pictures of expressions of freshman struggling but slightly bewildered and a couple seniors trying to lead. He felt for both. He placed the cam back down getting four pictures he had done five. The multi tasking thing worked well. His pulse was coming back down from the stratosphere and it was time for the 4 minutes.

It was once again on the line. Stephen had a gutsy plan he knew that 3 minutes was about max anaerobic capacity. There was a time for raw nekkid aggression and Wednesday nights were the night of guts. This was a speed workout, for Pete sakes he would fade after the three-minute mark but the heck with it. Seniors could ignite and Stephen knew the score he would have to. Tom saw Stephen go beyond him huffing it. He was closing on Aero. Coach Bob shouted "Go Stephen" Coach Noel Scott was at the top of the track. Raul seemed surprised to hear Stephen's name called in close proximity to his. 45 seconds out of 4 minutes did not mean much. Stephen was exhilarated and scared. The time marked the distance and each second seemed to take an agonizing time in one respect the quarter mile track seemed too long. He passed the flagpole by the high jump pit. As he passed by the new band director, the warble of a bullhorn assaulted his eardrum. Stephen wanted to go faster but he was near full sprint and fortunately the speed the brought him out of the noise. Coach surprised to see Stephen whiz passed looking like he would assault the gates of hell with squirt gun. The hack time was about 65 seconds. The legs were beginning to burn. Harder the dream the flame left in the valley was burning bright in his soul.  The flame was giving heat that Stephen would have dared not imagine. He loved a place he kept going. His stride was full out. It was quite clear he was going full burner. He would slow down some next quarter. Then gun it later. Coach Noel saw him come around at the top...this was acceptable time for an 800. Raul was placed fixed distance. Tara and Amanda Cook had drifted further behind him. The lapping of slower girls and Troy could happen. Stephen then started gaining on Bo and Raul. The next hack time was given 2:30. This would put Stephen varsity 800 team. Stephen whose legs were now burning like a couple blow torches he backed off some. Raul was slowing some too. The next straight Stephen was noticeably slower. Near the top Stephen was aware of the 45 seconds passed and went has hard as he could. The molecules of glycogen had been broken down many of in lactic acid. The legs muscles were not capable. Stephen pushed himself without mercy. He was back in Unicorn and he wanted to earn Varsity. He made it passed Coach Noel one more time. His heart was pounding the sound of the band was working the Alma Matre at least the cam was in easy reach.

Raul asked, "Why you bring the camera?" I must shoot band tonight. Stephen worked quickly knowing what he wanted to get not just a snap shot but also the angles and despite the sarcastic reputation of athletes to band nerds, he wanted something to celebrate them. Special quipped "Why are caring about band nerds?" Stephen replied, "We are all Unicorns." The comment was delivered in blunt. Raul was surprised that loyalty had depth even beyond the team.  Stephen got a couple good pictures. His legs still felt a fire.

The inclination would be to punt the two-minute segment...Stephen knew the purpose of speed workouts. He held the speed in for less then an 800 it wound up being a little past a six hundred. The two-minute period only meant real lactic acid accumulation for at best 1 minute fifteen seconds. For a distance runner at that point it was strange. Track was boring for crosscountry runners you lock into a power setting and keep it there.

There was one briefer period. The team had a minute of what amounted to an all out sprint Stephen finished fifty yards short of a quarter mile. Troy smiled. Michael and Thomas were surprised that Stephen had actually finished a head of them a couple times.

Stephen grabbed a cup of exceed. He drank it his legs were on fire. Leisha smiled Tara congratulated him. Tom said, "Trying to set the tone?" Stephen responded, "Words are worthless without actions." Dennis quipped "You keep this up we might have deem you a full blown senior on this team." Coach Bob said "He lettered in Denton last year...he lettered here his freshman year he bleeds Unicorn Blue now all he needs to do is take his role of leadership on the Team." Coach Noel Scott was surprised. Raul was visibly surprised. Amanda then said, "I don't think I have ever told you welcome home." Stephen smiled. "Thanks great to be back." Many faces around him he had genuine love for.  Coach Noel made a comment "Surprised what you did with the 4 minutes?" Stephen responded, "This season is not going to last forever only Cara will be 17 forever." Amanda looked, "Will you leave that behind?" Stephen replied, "It will not leave me second takes on this season." Stephen wore an air of Charles Bronson in White Buffalo. His Latvian roots had set in the hill country he was single minded.  Amanda nodded feeling the dirge start. Stephen's words had an echo of truth she could not deny. "No second takes this season."   Dennis, Tom and Bo were reluctant a truth had been spoken. He drank his Exceed up up and headed home.



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