Chapter 4 Section 2 Tales of Dead Armadillo Original Novel By Esteban Erik Stipnieks about Crosscountry Running all rights reserved  "Backs watched and leadership from the front"



Coach Noel ran into Coach Bob in the lounge. Coach Bob spoke of the conversation. Both men were not surprised about it. Meddling parents were a pain in the butt. Coach Noel said, "I would be willing to wager money it is not coming up again but that would be theft" Coach Bob said, "I hope you are right." The bell rang for class Stephen King saw Coach Bob leaving the lounge on the main hall side. Stephen then said, "A little birdie told me that any policies regarding seniors and varsity will not be implemented till next season about 9:20 last night." Coach Bob smiled "Watching my back Ace?" Stephen King responded, "Just trying to reduce hypocrisy factor of the blue." He went off. Coach Bob laughed it hard to wipe the smile he had.  Coach Noel had predicted something as if knowing more about Ace.  Only having Ace confirm it.  He quickly figured Ace's mom was on the wrong end of a game of chicken.  Coach Noel Scott missed the conversation but saw Ace leave Bob's smile.  Coach Bob replied "The only one in that family more stubborn then Dr King"   Noel Scott finished the statement "Is her son."   

Dennis caught Ace after hearing enough of the conversation between Coach Bob and Ace to figure it out.  "It looks like you will be running varsity this week" Dennis informed him.  Stephen said, "I heard." "What was that about?" Dennis playfully asked.  Stephen King replied, "Hopefully you will never know." Dennis looked at him "Looks like you and your mother had a discussion about varsity last night...and you backed up a coach." Stephen looked at Dennis irritated "You were not supposed to hear!"   Dennis said "I did though I'll Linda to chill on you. It will also help sooth the mess you and Tara kicked last week Lezlee is still upset and Linda only slowly warming to you."   In Dennis's mind Ace had just shown incredible loyalty to the team.  He knew Ace had to be irritated about a private conversation about his mother being intercepted but it was. Dennis was as stubborn as Ace was.   Dennis looked at him "We disagree on a couple things but your heart is in the right place."  

Linda saw Dennis with splint on his leg. Before class began he looked at her," I know Stephen King has riled you up a bit but lets just say he stopped a policy that would hurt the team for a season his mom was going to order Bob to put him on varsity" Dennis continued "Something tells me Ace handled his mom harder then he freaked Amanda before our first workout."  Linda looked confused.   "I heard a brief conversation outside the lounge between Coach Bob and him I was not supposed to hear." The tone Dennis voice and the crutches had made the point. Between classes Dennis ran into Leisha, "Stephen did Denton Bible proud last night." He said I would give you details during lunch. Dennis was true to his statement. Word even drifted to Jules. The news to her was a kick in the butt. Stephen rarely spoke of his faith but his actions were somewhat consistent.  He could still be Beavis but in a pinch his integrity was proven again.

By the workout, word had hit all the runners. Serg made the comment "The real rebel is Ace." Stephen replied, "Just stay out of the Police blotter." it was a reference to the party attendance of Serg. He knew it and responded "If it means district glory how dry I will be."  Ace replied "The gals are lonely even with us cheering them on!"  It was going to be Pit stop. Stephen put on his Air Maxes. Bo made a comment about Air Bricks...Stephen quipped "Yeah but I have bigger shoes to fill." Coach Bob replied, “Coach West would say you made a key block yesterday and training in the heavier shoe are not a bad idea if you continue to eat right.”

Once outside the air was dryer by a notch and cooler. Coach Bob told Coach Scott about what happened. Coach Noel Scott smiled. It had been confirmed by a memo no change in varsity policy from Central office  Finally he said "He is going to tear much of this high school apart because he knows it needs to be torn up what he wants to replace with is better." They saw the group stretch and take off.

Amanda took off her world was getting more and more disturbed. Stephens grin greeted her and they stretched in a circle. Tara was by Stephen "Staying true to your commitment I see." She had heard the news.  Though not surprising to her she wanted to encourage her friend.  Stephen nodded "Too many dead people too many lies." The conversation was quiet and private.  Tara replied "Dennis sealed the mouth of those who were criticizing you about Special."  Ace was not sure he it made up for the night he was a jerk to a person who was now dead but it sure felt good. 

 Leisha asked "Stephen how does it feel to be filling Dennis's shoes for the time being." Stephen King responded, "I will try not to cost us too many places." The line rolled out it made Raul and Serg notice in respect "You mean I honestly can I am not that fast all I can do is my best." They took off.

Tara, Linda, Leisha and Amanda had been given the honor again. Tara had felt the kick she took off just a bit faster. She was still irate ate herself for what happened at UTSA. Then the actions of svr had been a battle cry. Leisha had been unaware of happening with the growth of a church off University Blvd. In front of her were two examples hardened disciplined perspective that were a shock to her. If anything that made her feel less connected to the city she once called home. Their had been shame on the girls. The rain and the fun in valley had been now but today the whip was cracked. Tara seemed to be running faster at the start. For Amanda what had happened at UTSA had irritated her she trusted Tara to watch her back yet defeat still stung. The storm was now raining in her head. Adrenaline always bettered runs. Sunday, Monday, Saturday and now the news of what happened with varsity. Her world was well in the process of being torn. Those tearing it seemed only mildly aware of it and at times took pleasure in its destruction. For Linda she could hear the riff of a new song and realized that possibly it might be good. Dennis reaction to the news surprised her. The fact that Stephen had not stabbed his mom in the back had earned some credibility. Now! The girls were running the 5 mile route in emotional turbulence. For the girl’s squad it was heat seasoning.

Stephen took off harder then he would have. He was aware of the line between courage and stupidity he was inching closer to it. He had to get faster and these workouts mattered even with the rehab he had been doing. The cooler air allowed him to juice it just a hair. This was still going to be long boring and well not much he could do about it. Each stride brought run closer duty was heavy but a skirmish had been fought and won. It would never be known in JROTC but the team was being shaped by him. He thought of those who had Od'd and committed suicide....anger was the emotion such thoughts triggered. He continued trucking all the way to the point.  He congratulated Raul, French Fires, and Bo as they started their return leg. Thomas and Mike cut it short. Stephen went all the way pushing it just a hair the girls wound up following him. Now he had to catch Serg Thomas and Mike he began a bit of a surge carefully just a notch or two above lactic acid threshold but enough to start eating up the ground. He was feeling a bit on the mean side. He opened it up a bit on the cattle tunnel the rate of closure increased.  Thomas and Mike realized what was going on. A challenge to their places had been made. Further around Serg had been caught. Stephen accelerated more by the Oakwood Baptist church. Serg commented "asshole" Stephen responded "Go hard or go home." The quip was old from Luling bit it worked. He was feeling his legs burning he was tight but no retreat no surrender was a battle cry that Stephen King and learned to live by. Coach Noel Scott in Denton had once chided him for softness. It was once and only once. A beam of the apartment complex Stephen hit what was left of the burners. Finally Thomas and Mike faded away.  A party had caught up with them. 

Dennis and Paul were in the training room. They were talking as KZEP played in the background. They had been signed in and treatment was described. They were sitting on tables while the electro unit was at work. "Taking Care of Business” filled the warm cinderblock building in addition to the sounds of football practice. The turn over in coaching staff had occurred but the trainer was still there. They were concerned about the cross-country team. Paul mentioned how Amanda was irritated. Dennis then said, "I heard what happened it will not happen again" Paul was curious. Dennis said, "I would not want to cross Tara." Dennis had remnants of southern honor and his voice meant he was scared of the daughter of the coach.  Word had slowly gotten out about her black belt. She was a very Christian version of Kathrine Whe. Paul nodded. The statement could be taken to the bank.  He said I wonder how Amanda is dealing with Raul. Dennis replied, "She will not let on but I suspect that she is happy she is not the lone star on the team." Doc made the comment "Yeah the star never wanted the status but accepted it the guys team means she does not have to carry the burden." Coach Bob walked in "I see it I believe it but I am still amazed." Dennis asked what happened "Stephen is the process of beating Thomas and Mike in." Doc made the comment "Never underestimate a man on a mission." Coach Noel Scott said "He chickened out on a long run before.” The story had been repeated before.  He confirmed it.  The statement was to clarify a record he felt needed to be clarified.  Dennis and Paul looked at each other surprised. Doc replied, "Never underestimate a senior on a mission.” The news of chicken out had been a surprise to the team. Coach Noel paused a moment and hoped the transition was not a return to running out of rage.  The two coaches had to see it end.

Stephen King's aunt had seen some of the drama unfold. Nothing was kept secret in a high school. Her daughter had been surprised about it. Stephen had privately blasted his mom but a football player had over heard a comment made to the coach.  The Assitant principal that Scott and talked to was surprised. He had not stabbed his mom in the back. The conversation between his coach and him was supposed to be private.  Whatever it was the nephew she had raised as a son seemed to have changed a whole lot. He was making noises by what he was not doing. She was also proud of it the two sisters disagreed about varsity status for the boy.  How the news got out and its implications rattled cages she wanted rattled in a way that no one but her nephew could have done.  Brazen servant leadership was a bold act of rebellion.  Windows had been shattered with a gentle smile. 

The unplanned race in the boy’s ranks had played out in front of the girls. Tara surged everybody accelerated in kind, to what to see what was happening. Amanda had memories of the hoof and heart award winner. Yet this was pushing it. She was pushing it hard and she knew she would have to eat a big chunk of red meat that night. Linda saw Amanda slide ahead and Tara close along with Leisha. They were not racing but they were not unhappy and the intensity among two seniors and two juniors was putting pressure that the boys had known on their team. The action in front of them was a burden lift.  The girls sped up as the boys team started acting like men.

The two coaches watched it unfold.  Coach Bob was now laughing a bit.  Noel Scott commented "Is it just me are some of the girls trying to speed up as well."  Bob looked "They are because the guys are finally showing they got a pair."  The news of what happened a couple times in Denton had filtered to New Braunfels.  Coach Noel Scott finally said "Ace wants to hand you district victory on a silver platter."  The guys finished.  Coach Bob did not believe him.

Coach Bob walked by Thomas and Mike...he could not resist "Thomas remember what Luling crosscountry had on their T-shirts?" Thomas said, "Yeah go hard or go home.”

Then came quip,” To bad the line is taken.” It was a casual kick in the butt to emphasize a tone.

Coach Noel caught Stephen "Leading by example again?" The smile on his face was obvious he let emerge since encouraging right behavior was a whole lot easier then blasting wrong behavior. His little brother had just done their adopted father proud.

Stephen responded "A kick given two years off Bonnie Brae still echoing and we got the same playbook." Coach Noel had touched remembered the moment smiled. Coaching done faith years before echoed. He smiled He was upset at himself for laughing at Coach Bob's crassness.

He drove back to his place with papers to grade and lesson plans to fill out. Stephen King shot some picture of the JROTC drill team practicing. With homework that had to be done Stephen King was asleep at 10pm. The day included knee preventative work and then a long day including an evening workout. Coach Bob took care of the runners who had a full day of school he indulged and ran with them he also made sure they had something to drink Exceed.

Amanda felt relieved after the workout. The explosion of tension about the race at UTSA and frustration had ignited with a good result. When she recovered from the workout by a big hefty meal that would have even surprised a football player it included liver onions and tomatoes her father had grown in her backyard. The mash potatoes had sour cream cheese and bacon it was rich. Government AP Bio and Physics

Thomas had been chastised a bit. He was upset a bit. Yet he decided to shrug it off. Stephen was a nutball pushing himself hard. He did his homework and headed for bed. Tomorrow would be painful he knew whatever had been planned tomorrow would not be fun. The team was battered a bit one third into the season.


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