Chapter 4 Old Bets Unexpected Glory Section one Wet Run in the Gaudalupe Valley novel Esteban Erik Stipnieks all rights reserved

 

 

Coach Bob was surprised to see the boys doing decent. Coach Bob was angry at Thomas and Mike who should have been doing better.  He hoped that two weeks worth of healing would put Dennis and Paul back into the varsity line up. The news could delay  a call from Stephen's mom asking about the policy on running varsity. Coach Bob did not tell Stephen about it. Stephen had ripped him a new one in private and had called Coach Noel Scott sir without thinking. Yet as he thought about Stephen take a step on the bumper then the hood then shove off the fender a smile emerged. The move to varsity Stephen King reacted in a familar way he rose to the occasion. His times were faster. Coach Bob had seen a less tolerant Stephen yet less lording emerge. Ace would rip a sarcastic comment out when someone had earned it then leave it at that.  Stephen's workouts were guilt trips given to some people.  Ace's deeds spoke louder then his words.  The howls of of laughter at retreat were now a distant memory.  He set the tone quietly and trusted Tom in many respects. Bo was the joker Stephen was the German shepherd of the pack. Raul was still abusing his talent. Raul could be a fair amount faster.  It was fear that Raul and Aero would be busted at a party. Thomas and Mike had shown to be somewhat expendable. The Varsity girls had their bad race. He had seen the cheap shot. He had heard Tara tell Amanda it would not happen again. Coach Bob believed Tara. The mark was not a flamboyant bark but a low growl of a rottie protecting her puppies.  That low growl meant all hell sat in reserve.  He graded his papers and went to bed early Monday was another day of fun. It was however going to be at Guadalupe River State Park to make things fun and break up the monotony.

Stephen was glad to be at school. He was away from his folks. You can not argue with people you are never around.  UTSA had been a bad meet for the team but as he was a bright spot. It was a paradox for Stephen. He decided to head to the JROTC center. Brad was waiting for him. Lt Col Ron greeted him warmly. Stephen was distantly ambivalent. The cadet Captain had little use for the perks of the position. If anything that was how the son of superintendent was yielding his power in a mighty way.  The tension about allegations of that Stephen King believed was there. The young man and old man knew it. The cross-country team while being far from pure as the wind driven snow was one of the less intoxicated institutions at New Braunfels high. It also had a reputation for rowdiness and being Pirate cove. Fellowship of Christian Athletes with a couple exceptions had a decently high blood alcohol level. Kimber Wilkins the crosscountry runner was the president and it quietly frustrated her. She hoped the gospel would work from the inside out to transform. Yet the brownie points of being in the club in terms of gaining some blind eyes acted as insulation to facing the need for Christ. Kimber felt while the girls had taken a blow the team would be stronger. She also had been pleasantly surprised as new hero was emerging. Stephen King and Tara while being a bit harder edged seemed like prototypes for a new future. Yet that was FCA. They told her after the season they would join.  Stephen was at that moment trying to reconcile two worlds JROTC and the field house.

First Sergeant with his balding head and glasses said, "That is what I want out of our PT team commander." Stephen seemed awkward in the spotlight. He was smart the medal of the team placed in the blue and white letter on his purple jacket. Stardom and power on the crosscountry team often were different. Stephen was declaring loyalty to his Alma Matre.  Raul was a superstar but he had no leadership role. Stephen thanked him and said I could have done a couple things different. Stephen knew the spotlight allowed him to get more of the change he desired for the campus. The sarge knew contradictions. Stephen had his own laundry list of things he did wrong on the course. One of them the course his line was off at the base of the UTSA track and he went into autopilot for a couple minutes. The medal did though look good on the letter jacket. Brad commented, "I see you made varsity" Stephen replied, "It was foisted on me." We got two good people out stress fracture and knee issue. First Sarge then said, "Take up the slack cadet captain that is an order." Stephen responded, "I got miles to go be better that means its week of each workout better be the best." 1st Sarge was not happy “Then do it keep charging hard as I heard you have."  Talk of his worth ethic and ability to give a guilt trip had oozed out through Tara’s dad. Ace has he was now called in New Braunfels had moral force now.  Stephen came to “Aye Aye sir." The old first sarge had made a point.   Brad was attuned the fact that Stephen while having power he seemed loathed to trust the fame or use his power. Stephen did not like the letter staring him in the face. The fact the letter would help him get objectives accomplished was lost in the pity party. First Sarge developed an understanding of team dynamic. Steven read about the shrinking USMC and the cold war was just a nightmare. Stephen was slowly processing the fact that the Cold War was over. He had his own conflict. Sarge looked at him and said "Honor Dennis and Paul in doing so you will prepare yourself to serve us." Stephen King replied "Aye Aye sir" Brad seemed confused. The sarge was like departed uncle speaking much truth.  Stephen noticed that so he was having fun as he left the bell rang. As he walked, he was amazed at the whimpyness of the first front of the season things were already hot and humid...the workout was going to be fun.

Before lunch, he saw Dennis in the hall and informed he would be praying for a speedy recovery. Dennis thanked him and then said, "Keep up what you are doing." The two friends passed Dennis did not hang with Stephen but in the hall words in passing fit. The work had been turned in. Stephen had signed up for a speech and debate tournament two weeks after district. The day went by fast until lunch. At lunch, Stephen headed to yearbook. The following week he had been scheduled to fly. He saw he would be shooting the JV game the day of the meet.  He developed a plan and schedule to deal with the commitments.  In doing so he could go directly to cross-country class. 

Stephen sat beside Tara. The sheets with the information were handed out. Stephen realized what else he could have done differently. He was in pursuit of the perfect race many where. There were some in the team who hung on talent. The idea was to use his brains to get what he could. His aviation background made debriefs a vital part. Coach Bob announced they were going to run at Guadalupe River State park that day. They were also reminded to be quiet when they headed to the dressing rooms straight down the science hall down through the main hall and through the gym to the dressing room. With that that the group headed out. Stephen had beaten Thomas time wise by 5 seconds.

Once they hit the dressing room Coach Bob said "The the thing is we are one third down and we do not have JV.” Stephen replied, “I am praying my stint on varsity does not last too long...unless I get faster.” Serg says you hope Stephen Ray’s father works a miracle. Coach Noel Scott said I know what Stephen is praying for. The group changed Coach Noel got the small bus and drove it to behind the gym/old cafeteria. Coach Bob was enjoying his assistant. The workout at the state park would provide a change of pace and break the monotony that had been established.

Tara was forced to sit with Stephen the group doubled up on seats. Stephen asked her if she wanted to get next to the window. She said no. The bus took advantage of a break in traffic, headed across loop 337, and headed Highway 46 westbound. Stephen was relaxing seeing the gray clouds he wondered if he would get to see rain. As they got further out of town Stephen started pointed out to Tara stories of a stolen sign from his freshman year on one location of a run and he continued pointing out locations of camp outs and descriptions. With each tale, he was recalling the land seemed to be almost living and he was renewing his attachment to it. He looked out the window not looking at her. He was enjoying himself. He was also coming back into contact with his roots. He did seem revulsed at the development finally near 281 the development of that section seemed to stun Stephen King a little bit the bus made the drive finally arriving at the state park. His once isolated back road was becoming more like something he had seen in the Dallas Forth Worth area. 

Once outside the school bus Stephen sensed it ...rain was coming. The air was humid and warm. There was just enough lift to create a rain shower. "Its going to rain" Stephen said as the group started stretching out. Bo responded "Mr. Wilderness here." Aero laughed. Stephen saw a persimmon with fruit on it but the idea of eating it before a run was not wise.  It was tempting.  He pointed that out.  Rain was coming. He knew it the valley would be a scene of incredible beauty which he would eagerly part take in. Tara was surprised as Stephen had managed to dial into something and appeared to be profoundly comfortable with it. Ace was homing in on signals Kimber and Tara were only vaguely aware of.  The humidity and the conditions were filling the air.  The signal Ace was homing in on was deafening in its own unique sort of way.  Rain was coming the park was nearly empty something was about to happen.  The expectation hung in the air.  Renewal was coming to a dusty land. 

What had been started on the bus was now in full bloom. The long bus ride westward had tightened legs even though the consensus was that stretching was not effective in loosing up Tom who doubled as student trainer, and Goalie had shared that the stretching was ritual then practice. Stephen went on as the group did going through the motions then slowly starting the run as Coach Bob drove down to the base of the valley.

The run began the real work of loosening up. The acceleration was slow and as the heat built up in the tissue and blood flowed into the muscles the force of their contraction was increased. The heat and humidity were helps as the blood was going to the extremities fast as heat was building and it needed to be wicked from the core of the body. Stephen found himself much to his surprise dialed in to the world around him. It made him comfortable. The team was the only group of people in the valley. The hill country was only somewhat tamed. The grass was gray the clouds were gray and the drought was still evident yet anticipation  filled the air as they went down the hill that lead to the parking lot. When they arrived they were sweating the run training was about to get intense.

Coach Bob outlined the section he wanted run they would run the river front trail then go up through the campgrounds down the hill he made clear what he wanted the technique was cannon balling a long stride pushing off the hill extending it barely making contact with the next point pushing off.

This technique built up a whole lot of speed very fast. The warm legs took off through humid air that was pregnant with promise. It was the promise of renewal to the parched land Stephen was keenly aware of it it was growing. Stephen had made mistakes here before they were fresh and the mistakes were with him voices of experience guiding his line and speed. The line was wide and the breaks were firmly applied controlling speed hard as they went through a downhill hairpin. Stephen chuckled Coach Bob always took his anger out the world in courses he designed. The hairpin was a single curse. Stephen did not allow too much speed to build up before the hairpin was almost completed then and only then and his line was a bit wide through it but he was hard on the speed control after the bulk of it was finished then and only then, did he allow his weight to shift forward and stride to lengthen. His time in the cockpit was reflecting his approach to running. He was still aggressive but the aggression had become more controlled and focused. His 140lbs cut loose on the shallow downhill surged forward as the final degrees of turn was completed on long strides pushing Stephen to the outside. Courses were to be run smoothly like a flight a race was to be flow natural small corrections made in advance. He was on the outside of the group where he wanted to be he would be wide on the uphill hairpin. There was dip as a draw crossed the trail on its way to the Guadalupe River. Then there was an uphill. The uphill was a stronger point. Even though the knee had stopped bugging Stephen time on the recumbent bike workouts and their effects were still fun.  Longer stride was possible. The Air Max cut through the caliche driving up small clouds of dust. He zipped past Amanda Cook on the uphill, as his stride had not shrunk too much. The dirt was being moved but he was making progress. This course always had the feel at this point. As the turn was completed, the grade was steep and his long legs were near full extension. The course briefly leveled through a walk in campground where someone was practicing Tai Chi: Raul, Bo and Aero surged ahead. Coach Bob was waiting on the top of the hill.

The group briefly paused as Coach Bob started "Any of you watch how Ace runs down hills?" He was looking at French and Raul the wonder two who thought they knew it all. Tom suppressed a grin. Tara had heard the explanation but this was the first endorsement of the style from a coach. Coach Bob continued, "He shifts his weight forward and extends his stride and goes screaming down the hill when you run this course as a race I want you to do it." He looked at Aero and Raul "Watch him as he starts and goes screaming he has it down" He told the crew to run. Coach Bob for the first time was explaining the form quirk that had allowed others to seemingly pull away from them. Tara noted it and realized she too could probably refine a bit on her own technique.

Stephen was still warm he shifted his weight forward extended the stride forward and everything his body told him he was right at the limits. Stephen knew he was not in total control he also was alert making things super smooth lest a wipe out happen. The course leveled out a bit Raul was in the back watching this he was a whole lot faster but he actually wanted to watch Stephen's form. They went through the parking lot and Stephen backed off in preperation for the downhill hairpin getting speed and momentum back under control. Raul and Aero had passed Stephen up. He was back through the hairpin instincts alive. He started gaining on them as the up hill. Most of the energy came up as a cloud of dust. Stephen was coming up on Bo and closed as they continued up hill. Raul and Aero were now having to huff it, as the verticality of the course was Stephen's friend. Bo on the uphill section was closed on as Ace's longer strides kept steady closing the distance kicking up a small trail of dust. It was a small rate of closure but it was persistent. Ace was getting familiar with an old friend. Finally, they crested the hill. He continued to close then Weight forward stride extended pushing off the hill and allowing some of the energy deposited on the hill to be collected. The long stride here helped Stephen as the course leveled out Raul and Aero had a fifty-yard window to catch Stephen they did. Coach Bob had been watching above the parking lot and was looking for form he shouted "That's it Raul!" Ace was leading by example. Ace thought nothing when Raul passed him just ahead of the hairpin. Raul's small body was easier to control as he slammed on the breaks and cut the line very tight. Raul and French Fries (Aero) joined Bo and Tom at the top of the pack. Stephen smiled a bit. The kid was learning.  The third cycle fatigue was starting to manifest itself. Amanda Cook had actually established herself slightly ahead. Stephen found his eyes drifting towards her butt. His eyes bounced as he focused on running a bit faster trying to close the distance and work on his speed.

The lift could not be continued the sun was dropping the atmosphere was cooling and clouds could not remain and the rain came crashing. Water descended from a translucent coating of gray started painting the empty spaces between solid features. The sound of rain filled everybody's ears.   His wet skin was rinsed by flowing water gallon sized drops falling from the clouds so low they almost were in reach. As the dry white dust began turn to white oozing mud around everybody life was flowing from the skies. The cliff ahead the green being coated with translucent sheet of grey. The only sounds in the valley were footsteps running and rain falling. They were a very few people in large area that was empty the rain was oblivious to them and deep within Stephen an awareness of life returning was screaming. Limp leaves quickly grew firm. It hit Stephen's soul and the euphoric feeling of running in the rain was now full force. The rain the run the renewal of creation God's glory were the only things and they filled the senses the heat being wicked away with each rain drop the sights the sounds. Tara was beginning to realize what Ace had tuned in on. Ace had taken it for given that God was constantly working on his creation though it be fallen it still echoed his attributes. Ace had gotten upset when he had gotten somewhat dulled but LLYC had kept him somewhat current.  The rust built up in the DFW metro area had worn off.  At the moment of his rebirth the skills simply had been met with a living heart. Tara was slowly realizing what Ace had talked about. God was indeed working.

Bo always liked running in the rain. The rain on a cool down lap was nice. Ace was right. The rain made Bo feel alive. He enjoyed the rain. He could feel the lonilness they were few people in the large state park and the sound of the rain filled the valley of the Guadalupe. This was cool. He drank the Exceed and headed for the wading area where the team was relaxing.

As the cycle, ended Coach Bob was waiting with Exceed. Despite being cool they were still quite thirsty and five gallons of Exceed was quickly drank as multiple 12 oz cups were drank then thrown into a large plastic garbage bag. The team had some time and they made their way to the wading area of the river. Ann and Lez their bosoms along with Kim's long firm butt had Stephen's attention briefly and what God had put in him and his flesh combated finally after a couple second and third look he cast his eyes around the valley still soaking up the rain. He realized he was sliding down a hole.  As he looked, the struggle continued between the lust and the beauty around him the team played in the shallow Guadalupe. Stephen's gaze dropped to Lezlee Hankhouses bosom firm and round. She was stout five two 120lbs dense rock hard muscles. Tom was smiling "You were right Stephen.” He said that in the presence of Raul and Aero. It was a senior backing up another. Tara approached Stephen looked at her face as he sat on a rock in the shallow flowing river.  "I can see why you missed this area." Stephen reflected on the nights he spent near this valley. Stephen was drinking it in. His eyes covered every inch of detail of the valley his ears open. The 30-foot high cliff to the north its fungus covered rocks and indentions as the limestone pocked and marked. Upstream and down stream the gray of the rain was offset by green and harsher shapes of the terrain rugged. As he calmed down a deep pain hit him. Grief returned to his face a memory of a fallen classmate was on his mind again. The time became bitter sweet. It was an awesome event but realities were stubborn. The gray slid over that the river was swelling flowing east and south the greens and grays filled Steven's eyes as the conversation and rain filled his ear as he ate a yogurt. The post workout hunger made him eat even this bland bit. The Texas hill country was in renewal as the rain kept coming down. It was not as bold and as wild as it once was but it still had more then a little bit of beauty. For a few minutes the pain and joy mingled. God was renewing his creation and the Tara and Ace were witnessing it. Ace commented "Its is easy to see out here it is to my discredit that I should have been more sensitive in Denton. He gazed at the short body of Lezlee and Anna again eyeing their firm curves big for their size and kicked himself for enjoying the view white wet T-shirt clinging to a sports bra.  He repentented for being stupid.

The time was brief then it was back on the bus for the ride home. Hot bodies slowly cooled in the bus. The Gin Blossoms filled Stephens’s ears. Then for each of them it was home for a shower towel and dinner. The cleansing after the run was something important to avoid a cold. Tara had seen Stephens eyes. She also saw the struggle. For her the run was fun the rain and the beauty of the hill country was hard to deny. The rugged side was beautiful. When she started on her English homework, she was relaxed and the paper started coming out easy on the computer. It was a piece form Kerouac and she had to write a couple paragraphs about it. She wrote with a bit more insight about the subject matter.

For Dennis and Paul the day had been bad. A clear stress fracture was in one of his calves and a severe shin splint was developing on the other. It would require treatment with doc and it would mean three weeks no running. He had a chance at clearing up by district but he would have to behave. He was also told he would have to kick out soft drinks. Paul was disgusted at the news a tendon had been torn no more football for the year and crosscountry was out. They would have to go in and fix the damage to the knee pretty soon.

It was 9pm when Stephen heard his mom call Coach Bob asking about varsity. She grew angry. Finally, she backed off. Stephen had gathered she was asking about the policy on Varsity running. Coach Bob said it was on times. The fact that seniors was not included his mom brought that up. She then backed off. Stephen King looked at his mother, as she put down the phone happy. "I thought you were sent here to clean up the double standard" She said, "You are going to letter this year." Stephen replied "Yeah because of Dennis and Paul not the circumstances I wanted." She looked confused. Stephen had read the situation "You were going for a policy change because of me....not on my watch you got here to clean up the mess instead you were going to start it for my benefit." Stephen was visibly upset. He looked his mom dead in the eye.  "They heal soon enough I will volunteer to run JV in front the team."  The tone of voice was flat.  The stare said it all.  It was not a threat it was a promise made on the grave of classmate.  Dr. King replied "I can't"  Her husband was now staring at her.  He knew the face.  The exact same face and attitude that had effected his career in the army.  Long time ago his son like himself would not back down.  He though had made his point. It had been made in private and his mother had not lost face.  The threat to volunteer to run JV in front of the team an ace in the hole that Stephen King played without hesitation. He had all the subtlety of growling pit bull.  His mother gave in.

Coach Bob put down the phone. He had only hoped that Stephen had heard the conversation. He had reason to believe that Stephen would have interfered. Little did he know the conversation that was going on as he thought about it before he got back to work on the lesson plans and put his five year old to bed.

Stephen though wired with the confrontation found sleep easy that night.  He visited his own cruel words as a non believer he went in his head to the grave of the girl who overdosed and knew of other friends fighting pills.  Promises made in anger were honored.  Promises kept were relaxing. 

 

 

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