Chapter 2 section 5 Triumph amidst tragedy Tales of Dead Armadillo Esteban Erik Stipnieks All Rights Reserved



Stephen got up at six in the morning. He put on his uniform and sweats over it.  Stephen wanted to decompress and go fishing.   Stephen had built up enough speed in neutral coasted down the driveway that his car was pointed the right direction as he fired the engine up on Kerlick a right on Walnut.  Then through the park from Howard Street hanging a left he parked by the bathrooms at Hinman Island right beside the course.  In one bag he had his crosscountry gear it was on his back a tackle box in one hand his rig in the other.  The sun was starting to rise.  Stephen took himself to the cusp of the course line. He sat down on the edge of the Comal unhooked the worm. 

(picture of location mentioned December 2009 photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved)

Stephen mentally tuned into what God was doing on the calm humid morning.  He was about to interact with creation and realize there were things beyond his control.  It would also allow him to clear his head from what had happened the night before.  It was a different approach to a race.  The pre-race adrenaline boost only needed to happen for a short time before the race.  Hinman Island in addition to being a racecourse was still beautiful, the Comal River still held fish, and morning was not without its glory.  It was time to drink it in.  With a smooth steady motion he sent the worm with the 3/8 oz painted helmet sinker arcing 20 yards nearly parralel to the wall.  He was surprised he could still work his thumb to avoid the backlash.  The God Stephen worshiped was real and in action.  His thumb kept the line coming off the Amabassador 5 reel smooth and no backlash there was a nice thunk as the Berkley power worm was in the Comal.  The splash disturbed the calm of the morning.  Stephen gently worked the rod with a smile on his face realizing how odd it was fishing before a meet.  His hand gently worked the rod tip up and down as he slowly turned the handle on the reel knowing each time the crank rolled around the spool on the reel rotated a little more then five times.  There were no bites the first time.  He worked his next cast to have just enough lead in it to compensate for the river flow of the Comal and come across at 90 Degrees.  A bit fancier aim guessing the speed of the Comal and placement of the worm gave him the aim on the next cast.  The fall had happened. But grace was reconciling men and women to Christ and the creator of the scene could referred to by Stephen as daddy.  The thought crossed his mind.  It relaxed him.  About one quarter of the way, back towards shore the rod shook with a hit.  A largemouth bass had blasted the worm.  Stephen jerked back hard the hook had been set.  Stephen knew what he was in for quickly as the weight of a VW beetle suddenly felt attached to the the rod.  It was one of those larger Bass that inhabited the River.  He lifted the Rod and it bowed downward he kept the reel going.  He had 15lb test line hoping it would hold.  With crank and crank, foot by foot the fish got closer finally near the bank.  Stephen lifted the Rod.  It was obviously fairly larger then 14 inches.  Stephen worked quickly and got a stringer out He got the bass on the stringer.  Stephen decided to make another cast.  Nothing.....Stephen threw the worm with another cast he bounced the worm then Whack another hit.  The commotion was visible.  Stephen managed to land the bass.  It was another 14 inch keeper.  Stephen laughed he was catching bass at a location of meet before the race.  It was actually fun.  He looked at the watch.  He had another fifteen minutes he took a few more steps down near a big feature of the course.  It was the deepest section of the river he was going to fish. He knew what was fishing where the founders discovered New Braunfels was a creek and to the side of Stephen was the real channel of the Comal.  The cast was leisurely yet purposeful.  Methodically he worked the bait he was attuned to his envoirnment.  Life was real the river had enjoyed the decent summer rains had done enough.   It was flowing crystal clear.  He was back in the town he loved in a location he loved.  He reminded himself of that.  He made another cast.  With some struggle, he caught another fish.  The stringer was getting heavy.  The slight mist and calm was disturbed mid through reel when Coach Bob said, "You do realize there is going to be a crosscountry meet here." 

Stephen looked at his Coach "Have you heard Special is in jail DWI?"  Coach Bob heard the voice and realized it was Stephen.  "Did you have to report that to the cops?"  Coach Bob had heard the news in horror.   He felt the attack to be personal on his team.  The voice contained a bit sarcasm.  Stephen looked at him with a stare that could almost kill "Almost ran over two cadets shit faced drunk out control."  Stephen continued, "Kind of took all other options away."  His voice was flat and carried the anger and defeat.  It also was a verbal slap across the face of his coach made without an apology.  Coach Bob had sensed this was going to come yet the brac-ing for it had not prepared him for the coolness at which it was delivered.  In the calm of the pre race with nobody around Stephen verbally slapped him across the face.  Stephen had done so with total impunity without sentiment or hesitation.  The look on Stephen’s face was uncompromising and angry showing a man who at his core felt betrayed and set the record straight. Some of the most sarcastic lines about some of the other stupidity they both had witnessed were nowhere near, what Stephen just said.  The look and tone was at best condescending.  Stephen fished out two power bars and then went to a spigot and drank some of that hard water he loved.  He fished a tag and wrote with a ballpoint pen "Fish belong to runner at crosscountry meet will pick them up with the date."  Coach Bob was surprised when he saw the stringer.  What time did you get here?  Stephen replied "6:20am."   There was a grin on Stephens face...."You better run as well today as you did fishing"  Stephen replied "Fishing was luck....nothing by chance on this race."  Stephen was sober, strong and unflinching.  The tone had a bit of reassuring swagger.  He looked at his coach realizing the forces this conversation could have on the team "We did not have this talk."  Coach Bob realizing Stephen's mom's position nodded in agreement.  Stephen pulled  chain stringer from the tackle box and went to a fallen tree in the original Comal River he stuck the label on the top rung and he went out to where some of his team would be.  

Coach Bob could not believe what he saw an angler in the humidity of the morning.  The meet had been announced in the paper.  The voice that greeted was surprising.  Stephen made eye contact the look on his face was almost angry.  Coach Bob was angry he had heard.  What followed was a look that had darkness Coach Bob had never seen in Stephen.  As Stephen's words rolled off his lips about being denied options in the matter, contempt was written all over his face.  Once his point was made Stephen grabbed in improvised runners breakfast.  He also made a note.  Coach Bob could not believe the stringer.  It had three rather large largemouth bass.  Seniors could be weird seniors were known to do crazy things.  The fishing before a meet had never been done before.  He then said "You better run as well" trying to change the subject.  Stephen disappeared from sight.  Coach Bob continued walked the course the team would start arriving soon.     


(original channel of Comal River wooden bridge as mentioned in novel part of the course photo Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved)

Stephen placed his fishing gear in his Mercury Lynx.  He also had to answer a call.  He walked across the bridge that would be part of course to Prince Solms park.The stringer was in the Comal the line between the parks.  Stephen walked and saw a couple of his teammates just arriving.

Coach Noel Scott saw Stephen and looked at him "You are holding true to mission statement."  Stephen nodded then Coach Noel Scott said "I will talk to Coach Bob you know how he will feel I am glad I took this job.”  Brett and Kimber saw him in a distance.  Brett looked at him "If it makes you feel any better you did the right thing though a lot of people will be angry about it."  Stephen nodded.  Stephen walked Tara her dad and her mom were soon on the scene.  They had not heard the news.  Coach Bob finally knew he had addressed the manner as a team.  In the distance, Dr. King had approached and Stephen had not noticed his mother.  She listened hearing the speech knowing what had happened.  She felt pride in her son.  His actions granted her credibility.  When they gathered Coach Bob approached "We will not be seeing  "Special" Tucker he got busted last night DWI there are witnesses that say he almost ran over two JROTC cadets Stephen was responsible for he was according to the cops was drunk as Stephen signaled the cops he took a swing at Stephen."  Coach Bob felt that Stephen had betrayed the team. 

Dennis looked and with a facial expression asked Stephen a question.  Dennis had known of the booze and could see it happening.  On one level, the team was to keep its dirty laundry to itself.  The two cadets being run over were bad form.  Tom took the news not surprised and not seeing any other outcome.  Bo commented "Its Special's fault for being that stupid." Bo knew about drinking but being that brazen showing up drunk and hot tempered to a game.   Aero seemed surprised.  Parties were not often busted.  Dennis kind of nodded at the remark backing up Bo.  Dennis had quit drinking for the season.  Stephen Ray felt that Stephen King had acted like a snake.  The girls were quiet allowing the more obnoxious side of Pirate cove to speak.  Linda felt Stephen had betrayed a sacred trust of teammates.  She felt he could have taken some heat to cover for a teammate.  Yet Coach Bob was in a tight position.  The team had looked like it had just been hit with a bomb.  Linda looked shocked.  Raul was staring evil eyes towards Stephen.  Coach Bob could feel fracture cracks and he realized he had to do something more.  "If Stephen had looked the other way he would have gotten in trouble."  Stephen was still quite angry at Special for putting him in the position. 

The JV girls warmed up with the pall of an incomplete JV boys team over them.  The JV boys would run after the girls did.  Stephen forced himself to mentally get to job at hand.  Stephen was once again profoundly angry at New Braunfels but profoundly in love with his team.  The girls had be cheered on.  The best section was the line of trees above the eastern side of the original Comal River.  The course was a long lanky loop for the girls that they would have to run twice.  There was a small reversal point so the hairpin at the end of the course worked both ways....Coach Bob's signature on course. 

Coach Noel Scott read the speech and the reaction.  Coach Bob wanted to separate himself.  Coach Noel Scott looked "I'll calm the nerves and make sure you get some first places."  Coach Noel Scott's manner was calm.  Coach Bob who realized the situation.  He looked at his new assistant "If you can think you start picking up the pieces do so."  The growl was evident.  Coach Noel Scott knew Coach Bob had felt that Stephen had just shot a piece of his team out from under him.  

Coach Noel knew what he needed to do.  Brandy’s world had been rocked as she looked at Allison.  Anna was at best half shocked till she saw Stephen almost angry.  Stephen had hints something had been wrong but whatever lightness he could display was long gone.  Lezlee the fireball seemed subdued.  Jennifer did not know how to react.  She had been trying to model she had a race.  Kim was non pulsed as if nothing had happened.  Stephanie said "He got caught it was his fault for being stupid."  We got a race to run.  The group started warming up.  Coach Noel came by, "Can anybody here do anything about last night?" was the question.  His instructions were simple "Run your best race today then."  It was not rousing it was matter of fact and had the degree of control.  Brandy was surprised to see the new assistant so businesses like calm driving yet calm.  It was the call to action.  Simple as it was it was effective.  Brandy’s mind was directed back to the course by the quick lecture. 

The instructions were given and the start began.  The turn was aggressive she wanted to be near the top of the pack at the start.  Her confusion had jacked her heart rate up.  She felt only a trace of lactic acid and the acceleration of the start was far more then she dared for.  The course was parallel to the channel of the creek that went by Schlitterbahn then across a wooden bridge.  The cheers of her teamates filled her ears along with the faint smell of fish in her nose.  The cheers of her team including Kimber and Britt filled her ears.  The team was at full strength cheering them on.  She could have made a pass on the bridge but instinct told her no.  With a right turn and down she pushed her weight forward a bit and accelerated against the runner from Samuel Clements the pass was made smoothly and quickly.  Comal Creek now the main channel of the Comal made up the boundary of the course.  Brandy thought briefly of the swim her freshman year the made.  She was now holding position through the 100-yard stretch beside the river.  She was fast but she was not burning.  She decided the heck with it go for it and she attacked the climbing hairpin.  Her aggression was being taken out on the course as her small short legs and round firm butt that drove normally drove guys wild drove the Air Pegasus against the concrete sidewalk of Hinman Island Park propelling her up and through the rest of the turn she realized she was on the hunted side of this race.  She felt strong.  She ran the decomposed granite path realizing her initial plan had gone.  What was happening was not had though she was in the top five of the race on a familar course.  She also realized the course was going underneath her feet at faster rate as she made a couple passes before the dive into a parking lot.  She saw the new assistant "Way to go Brandy keep it up."  He had different vibe calm in control but driving hard.  The cheer was good to hear from him.  Then around the parking lot again.  She was not being passed her a few moments her position the race stabilized.  She made another turn then more of a straight away as the course went right beside Hinman Island drive away.  The bend was wide and gentle the course a bit on the narrow side.  She felt strong she was slowly backing off but realized she was physically getting stronger and the intensity of the workouts had paid off.  She saw Stephens car.  The course took a dive as it went through the draw and the concrete bridge was a no passing  zone there was a long steady uphill followed by a graceful turn first mile 6:35 she was going at a good clip.  Once again cheers the sound of a camera clicking and the peculiar smell of fish slime faint it was strange away from the river.  Allison remained ahead but the bulk of the race was now behind her.  She long ago learned the art of cannon balling and as Allison lead the way the concrete bridge was dealth with again and the hills that had been agony earlier were now the strength they relied on.  The high side of the course was smooth a couple passes and girls JV were back at the front of the pack where they wanted to be.  The hairpin downhill at the end the path was now game of chicken.  The speed built up but her petite frame could sustain more as the downhill continued with hard shove of her left foot at the base of the hill beside the river her game of chicken paid off with it being right on the far side of the concrete the shorter legs helped.  She allowed the other component of the momentum drive her down the 150 yard stretch parallel to the Comal River.  She started her surge early and she exploded making a couple passes on Alamo heights Runners and then across the bridge through the woods to the finish chute.  The last hundred yards she was full stride full extension 13:30 number three in the race.   

Stephen was at the line.  His face had a scowl.  The haunting of Pink Floyd sorrow the song mirrored the situation.  This time though the step was not faltering.  He had sensed some of the hostility coming his direction from teammates.  If anything Stephen was for once happy completely.  The well worn Huaraches were a daring selection.  The lack of traction was not so much issue stability was.  He would push them.  Near the start of the race as Stephen felt the hostility.  The anger drove him.  Innocence was permissible naiveté was killing this town.  Now was his opportunity.  The JV race now ceased to be about team glory but rather personal glory ...the Unicorns were a team member short of a full squad.  The gun went off. 

The first section of the course was a gentle uphill a turn then a down hill over the bridge.  The acceleration was a bit faster Stephen knew he was adrenalized he knew his first mile time would be screwy so what was left was to feel for lactic acid and put do the best course line he could.  The race instructions were simple.  There would be no chaos at the start of the race.  Once the gun went off Stephen was rolling through the course.  He was the hunter the last 4 years had made him who he was patient deliberate and focused.  Acceleration was faster then normal but that was not suprising.  Instantly Ace took over.  The initial race plan had been blown to pieces Stephen thought  up through the trees and then down by the bridge.  A new plan was being formed quickly.  He could have made a pass on the narrow wooden bridge but the throttle slam would have put way beyond the Lactic acid threshold way early he instead arched inside used form adding a bit of distance to the court and cannon balled the small downhill and then his cruise worked as he zipped past where he caught fish.  The move worked on the momentum of the hill to provide the extra punch of acceleration then the turn imitated early beginning with a longer stride was aggressive the Air Huaraches were being subjected to a little more stress on one axis then they were normally.  Stephens long legs were in their over drive setting.  Coach Noel Scott shouted "Way to go Stephen keep it up show you love the team."  There were the two runners in front of him and the runner behind the beauty of where he spent many an hour fishing.  They saw the beauty of the park in which he caught his first bass in.  The course was wide enough and the three passes happened in the blink of eye.  He made a pass and then he started the climbing right turn he saw another pass he had to make and in doing so he was forced to go wide.  The passion was there yet behind it a voice of instinct built up over every single run every single race that had been dissected in their most minute details.  The pass was made on the first half of the chubby hair pin the line on the second half was cut.  His cycling prehabs now down to 3 times a week 20 minutes still lead him to have great speed the pass was made quickly and be was soon back on his intended course he returned to his long stride its own beat as sweat built up and went into his eyes.  He saw his car and three runners from Alamo Heights were stringing themselves in front of him.  Stephen noticed he was coming up his car.  He could see Coach Bob in the distance.  The idea of using the car an extension of the course was crazy but effective why not he thought.  He closed the gap He placed one stride on the front bumper another stride on the hood finally the left foot shoved the fender placing Stephen passed the blockade.  "Way to use your car Stephen!"  Coach Bob was surprised.  He was suddenly trying hard not to bust a gut laughing.  He realized Stephen King maybe a force out of control but Stephen loved the team.  The runner in the blockade who recognized Stephen thought still crazy.  The look of intensity on Stephen's eyes was just that of a hunter.  The push off the front left fender of the Mercury lynx put Stephen right in front of the runners from Heights his right foot touched the decayed granite bearing the weight and the drop in elevation.  The mind that devised adjusted the form for the descent and the stride was lengthened.  The lower entry of the race meant things stabilized.  Down hill around then climbing on the sidewalk beside Hinman Island drive to a wide turn  that began almost at the San Antonio Street.  5:25 Not too far out of whack Stephen thought. 

The next stretch was down and around.  Once again by Hinman island drive it was form down the hill the bass before the Comal was crossed then deep around climbing back up along Hinman Island drive.  Sweat had already made the uniform stick to Stephen.  The dent on the hood and fender was visible.  A grin appeared on Stephens face.  Coach Noel shouted keep trucking Stephen pass that runner from Heights.  Stephen worked on a pass on a runner from Heights.  He knew he had to do it on the highline the down hill hairpin had too many issues with it.  The course was winding down finally 6 yards he went to the inside and started working the turn free of traffic.  He hung the turn he was passed but he made a couple passes Thomas and Mike were coming into view.  The hairpin Stephen had almost wound up swimming from so only through the first half of the turn did he allow some speed to build up.  As the turn completed he accelerated just a hair and then decided to risk his knee.   With a single push off the side movement was arrested.  The Hurrache's service life was shortened.  A small tear occurred in the shoe.  The next stride was forward through 150 yards then back up making another pass.  The second mile was 11:15.  The turn back through the section was shorted this time and about 20 yards from where his bass where.  On the bridge he saw Thomas and said "passing outside."  Thomas moved to the outside cutting Stephen off.  Once on the wider section Stephen figured out that what was going on.  Stephen was upset but understanding.  He made the pass and accelerated passed Mike on the straight away.  Stephen realized what had happened.  Stephen could feel lactic acid building in legs he also knew he had gone past the point of no return.  At that point he would have rather been the hunter now he was the hunted.  His leg strength built a lead up on the climbing hairpin.  He tried to push it on the straight away fearing he would be closed on.  Past the playground he kicked his weight forward and accelerated like a bat out of hell caring the speed through he wide circle then hearing the sounds of footsteps behind him he went full juice on the climbing concrete bridge and he exploded with what he had on the up hill trying to gain enough cushion for the down hill right turn to the end the race.  18:00 minutes flat he was in the top 10 of the race.  There was a huge dry heave. He did not get enough distance to get Thomas or Mike.  His camera did capture Stephen Ray and Troy. 

Stephen's mom appeared with the exceed.  Stephen then said "By the way there are a couple new dents in the car Heights were trying to block the course."  Stephen said matter of factly.  He walked off knowing the temper tantrum that was about to start.  Coach Bob was laughing "You amaze me."  Coach Noel then said "I am not surprised by the way that little stunt of yours probably cost them first place in the team standing."  He had a smile on his face.  Stephen started walking to the cheer on the Varsity girls.  "A skinny runner from Heights approached Stephen.  "We thought you had mellowed....where have you been?"  Stephen replied "2 years in Denton don't think I did that just because of the color of your jersey."  Stephen then said "I was burning bridges my freshman year I hate blockades on courses glad I parked there for my morning fishing."  There was a pause "That was your car you went fishing this morning?"  Stephen replied "Yeah this ex Winston Eagle likes fishing."  Their was a surprised look on the guys face.  He quickly understood much about Stephen.  Finally he his brown curly hair said "I guess we seniors are crazy by nature?"  Stephen nodded.  The two rivals understood each other and shared a bond.  Being a senior on JV was an odd position.  Before the next race began Stephen went to another section to cheer on the girls. 

Tara's dad asked "You smell like fish."  Stephen then said "Caught three keepers this morning."  Tara's mom then said "If you fillet them I will fry them we can have a fish fry at our place."  Stephen was grateful for the offer and replied sure.  The gun went off and the girls started.

Amanda had been rattled by the news.  Tara seemed indifferent.  Special had been on edge.   Amanda was upset at Stephen for getting Special arrested yet she had her race to run.  As the gun went off Linda was ahead of her.  She slowly hung a right she was at number 2 position.  She would see Tara behind her.  The right turn lead and down over the bridge.  She noticed even Linda was moving at a faster clip.  Noel Scott was there cheering further down on the course.  He did not seem rattled by the event had was calmly cheering her on urgent focus.  His approach was more intense the Tom but not abrasive.  As she ran she liked his style.  Her senses told her she too was moving faster then normal.  The river was beautiful she thought as Linda continued ahead of her.  Oddly enough the force of the team was forcing the competition inside the team.  She was aggressive and angry as she took the uphill hairpin.  The familiar ground of a park she had played at was beneath her feet.  She wanted to make the pass before she saw her dad and slowly too slowly the ground was being made.  She dared not go faster she was not stupid.  She could see Stephen's car a couple fresh dents in it wondering how they happened.  Linda was about 20 yards ahead and only by inches was the gap decreasing both girls knew the form of hill running and handled it as it was second nature.  The rate of closure froze on the uphill section.  "Come on Amanda beat Linda" was the call from her father filled her ears frustrating her.  The first mile was 6:15 a bit faster then normal. 

She sped up a bit and extended her stride just a bit more to catch Linda.  A few yards later Coach Bob was cheering her on.  She gunned it at the base of the section.  This allowed her to accelerate just a bit more and make the pass on the uphill along Hinman island drive. 

The dent on the fender of Stephens’s car was noticeable.  She was now in the lead.  She decided now was a time to start accelerating through the high section she did so without much effort she knew the physics of the downhill turn and her five nine frame made handling that downhill hairpin something done with caution.  She wanted to put just a more ground she extended her stride some and let more speed build up she decided to allow more speed to build and soon she realized the amount of momentum she had built up.  She barely powered off the concrete retaining wall to avoid an unscheduled swim in the Comal.  She knew she was in a surge zone.  The coordination of force driven per stride was instantaneous and the lengthening of stride.  She knew she was above the lactic acid threshold she was also within 400 yards of the finish.  Max stride length max stride rate the metabolic equivalent of burner.  She had to stay up front.  The distance down the river went by fast.  The uphill to the wooden bridge was powered up and through the finish line.  Time 12:00. 

Linda was soon behind her followed by Tara and Kathrine Whe.  The Unicorns dominated the early places in the race.  The girls would probably win that race.  Stephen got some photos.  The shock had odd effects.  The team being rattled wound doing better in the meet.  Coach Noel Scott was happy.  Coach Bob's moodiness was now visible.  Stephen was aware of what was going on.  Stephen walked by Coach Bob and apologized "I should treated you with a little more respect.....if my mom starts leaning on you to make me run varsity tell me....we do not need new policy right now because of my status."  The boys varsity race was about to start. 

Bo had a race to run it was that simple.  Coach Noel Scotts pre race spiel was different but backed up his plan and helped him adjust to the plan he wanted to put into play anyway.  Serg growled "that man is too normal doesn't he realize he is in New Braunfels."  There was a brief bit of laughter in the box.  It was him and Raul at the start along with Paul up front. 

Once the gun went off his strong legs accelerated his small mass the way the engine beneath an F-16 did.  He then went into the turn through out the descent he built up speed and he made passes.  He was in the top three of the race with Raul ahead of him as the wooden bridge was crossed.  Bo knew tricks of hill running it was obvious Raul did not know.  The distance was closed.  Aero's footsteps grew more distant.  The straightaway long and gentle by the river Bo was at fast cruise the angle he took to it maintained some of the momentum he had built up on the down hill segment.  Stable was Bo's impulse.  He was at a good clip and the 200 yards went by smoothly.  Bo's stride shrunk a bit as it began the climbing hairpin.  It could have been worse Guadalupe River had a hairpin on gravel.  The width of the hairpin actually made it a little better less steep and the speed built up through the 2nd half and soon on the decomposed granite Bo was back at a fast cruise on top by Hinman Island drive.  His fourth season flowed.  He was near the top of the race and the fewer runners on the course made things just a bit easer he could choose his race line which was slick.  He was a bit overpowered for his small frame accentuated by brown curly hair and blue eyes.  He though knew the luxury of energy management was available so he did take advantage of it.  This worked through 4 turns near the two parking lots.  With form he closed in on Raul who was leading the race.  He was less then one third the heat and sweat were noticeable.  He followed one of the two extensions that was the boy’s course and then the grade uphill to the junction of another road was done with smooth steady stride.  The big loop at Prince Solm's Park was cheering in his eye a snapping of a picture and brief smell of fish.  Then the course reversed directions.  His first mile 4:90 was good.  The whole almost half mile additional loop before the reversal served a good purpose.  The last runner was entering when Bo was heading back down the concerted sidewalk by Hinman Island drive.  The game of cat and mouse was playing itself out.  Raul had talent but he did not the finesse of dealing with courses.  Bo was slightly slower but despite his happy go lucky exterior he was a student of the sport.  Determination filled every step.  So far his venom had not flowed there were no slackers this year.  Stephen's regrets about their cruelty to a sophomore their freshman year were not shared.  In Bo's mind the guy was a poser and brought the team down.  The drive was an intensity that was no less then Stephens.  He was strong and talented but that meant he pushed harder.  Instinct was guiding him.  Not learning from each race to Bo a near unforgivable sin.  Each terrain future the distance closed each straight away the way the distance faded.  10:20 on the second mile.  The cheers from his teamates were loud and welcome.  He came back around the short chute came by one last loop by the river.  He made a pass and he could only Raul ahead.  Bo realized he was in the top two.  Raul had been number 2 a few minutes ago.  It felt good all his extra summer time training had paid off.  The last mile was like a training run except he ran it beyond the lactic acid threshold.  Bo Being a senior the course to him was intimately familar.  The smaller loop was familar down by the river then exploding to Hinman Island drive decomposed granite then the concrete a right turn.  He had done it in 15 minutes flat.  The dry heave followed.  Stephen was there congratulating him. 

Bo said "You smell like fish!"  Stephen responded caught 3 this morning.  "What happened to your car" Bo asked.  "Alamo Heights was blocking the course." Stephen replied.  Tom heard that.  Stephen had made the sentence with the tone so matter of fact Amanda started laughing.  Tara shook her head knowing full well the reason why the flat tone in his voice.  Dennis and Aero were grateful as the team swamped them with their congratulations.  Raul asked "What?"  Coach Bob said "Alamo Heights were trying to be jerks the strung themselves across the course blockade so Stephen used his car as part of the course for 2 steps I guess you caught some of that spirit."  Tom heard.  Coach Bob was actually laughing about it as started "I could not believe it till I saw it I then realized Stephen was being Stephen he made the pass.” Stephen helped the situation "The discipline of this team isn’t all bad the Varsity guys did it because whimpiness is not tolerated."  Stephen knew the tension he had put on the team and was trying to loosen some of it.  Tom leads the way along with Dennis.  Even Bo had to acknowledge the dents were extreme even by team standards.  Coach Bob acknowledged while he may not be able to control Stephen totally Stephen was far from a dark force.     

The Award ceremony was after the race.  There was tension on the team Paul knew Stephen was happy and word had drifted about the dents in the hood and fender from the foot.  Kimber initated some of it and Tara still visibly treated Stephen like a brother.  Brett appeared "That is the first time I knew of a runner using their car as a part of a course."  He smiled "Good call both times."  Tom decided to force unity.  The team was almost completely one.  Girls had won varsity.  Raul joined in Thomas and Mike could see a bit of  shift so the team walked as a unit and cheered the three victories. He looked at Bill West let me get the fish.  Coach Noel would call in the results. 

The fish were in the back laid out on plastic.  The stringer was heavy.  Stephen walked what was the course when he retrieved them.  Stephen followed Tara's to her parents their place. With his car.   It was the house that once had been a teamates house before she moved to Euless.  Stephen pulled out his scaler and stripped the scales from the bass.  Stephen omitted that line about the house's history. 

This was done over brown paper grocery bags.  Tara seemed surprised at how easily Stephen had done it.  It was as if a section of him he had denied was coming to the surface.  Her dad offered to help.  He had a fillet knife and with single motion Stephen cut to near the spine of the bass a worked his way down to near the tail.  He flipped it over and did the same thing.  Tara's dad asked "Boy scouts Troop 153 St. Peter and Paul."  William Frieshahn's lab was where I processed those 8X10s.  He has stepped down from being a scoutmaster.  Its carcass was quickly tossed into a plastic bag.  "Why did you go fishing?"  Stephen replied "I wanted to clear my head."  The look on his face showed pain.   Tara said "You are angry at him."  There was a nod Stephen replied "How many insults aimed at the football team have been made in the guys locker room?  We all signed that paper stating that policies are for everyone.  Special betrayed the trust when he almost hit two of my cadets." Soon the scales of another bass removed and the motion two sides finally the last fish was death with.  The fillets were enough to feed the group a respectable meal.  Filleting left a lot of meat on the bone but the fish were big enough.  Bass were not particularly good tasting anyway.     

Tara's mom had put together the batter.  Stephen went to the backyard where a big lab was waiting.  The dog was eager with enthusiasm greeting Stephen.  Stephen was relaxing.  He took a coke.  The love and absence of tension in the house for Stephen was odd but he knew what he liked.  The dog was friendly and took Stephen for an easy mark.  The dog liked the attention.  Stephen helped the table cloth.  He also helped set out the tartar sauce they would be having bass po boys.  Stephen smiled "Hey the boys won varsity."  There was joy.  There was shock.  The sandwiches were good.  The corn batter was a good choice and definitely Southern.  Tara's dad said "Well what do you think?"  Its Nice being a part of a talented boy’s team. Tara's bored in "You did the right thing yet you are angry at yourself."  Stephen nodded.  He drank the water.  As the meal started Stephen gave a thumbnail view of the history of the town.  Stephen then quipped really my ties are really closer to Denton.  I am one of the ohslanders who the locals are slow to accept.  Tara's father was intrigued when he found out Nazi scientists were in the town and had been hidden after WWII.  Stephens fathers two careers had put them at a strained relationship.  His mom being a school district employee made her acceptable.  Yet the town was now a suburb.  Sunday they would go down to the fair.  Stephen had no desire to.  Tara was being treated like a little sister.  Stephen was evasive about it as if hiding something.  He was visibly awkward.  The warmth was nice the absence of tension was freaky to Stephen.  He did not know how to act.  Stephen was grateful for the meal.  He did ask that Tara follow him he would rather not take her in his car.  He looked at Tara's dad...she is my sister my protégé. 

Tara's dad had played with cars in the fifties and sixties.  He had some basic body tools.  Tara's dad was old school country.  He saw a fatherless boy in his house.  Without cussing or fan fare the dents were methodically pulled out in 45 minutes in the driveway of the house.  Stephen was visibly awkward yet a smile grew.  Working on a vehicle getting a project done had never been so painless no cussing no yelling and screaming it freaked Stephen King out!  When it ended he said simply "Tara needs a brother and glad you are stepping up to the plate thanks for filling us in I just paid the teacher"  The car was driven back to the house.  Stephen's mom was surprised that the dents were gone.   

Sunday morning’s paper had the story of the DWI...a little drama it also had the race results.  Brinton Boyd was a senior at Clark.  He asked Stephen how Friday night went.  Tara was introduced to the group.  Stephen told him.  Brinton was being courted by the Air Force.  Pete heard the story of what happened that night.  Pete was a church elder from South Texas.  Kimber and Brett was becoming a pair of trusted associates.  He had a young family.  Pete made it direct that Stephen King had done the right thing and was irritated at the obvious second guessing Stephen was doing and that he should be more on the moral high ground and stop being such a people pleaser.  The call for the member of the church to impact the culture for Christ was real.  The dents in the car showed a degree of commitment to the team.  Fellowship Bible Sunday service was a time of strengthening and additional peace in the midst of storms.  The quiet times had some role drifting but the spine was weakening till that Sunday.  What LLYC was Fellowship Bible was.  Keith would have been happy for what Stephen had taken that Sunday. 


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