Tales of The Dead Armadillo a Novel about Cross-country Running Book 2 Chapter 9 Rising To The Call With the Help From old Friends Novel By Esteban Erik Stipnieks All Rights Reserved


It was Sunday afternoon that Coach Bob heard the news.  It was a fear realized.  His initial reaction was"What an idiot freshman!"  He was glad that it had happened after district but the news on Monday would not be good for the team.  That meant a talented runner would not be running track that year.  It was a monumental waste of talent.  Coach Bob was fuming.  Thomas had shown some stupidity but it was almost expected.  Well at least the team had swept district.  He knew Ace knew before he did.  The only good news was he suspected Ace and Noel might be able to save it.  Workouts next week would count for Ace.  He had to tell the team Monday.  He suspected accurately that Ace would have mixed emotions about running regionals.  Ace was partially ticked at the party being busted and very ticked at Raul for being stupid. 

In New Braunfels secrets do not last and by Monday everybody realized Ace and Stephen Ray were part of the regional team.    Dennis had talked to Amanda about what would go on after the Eden Home the two teams would run.  Dennis was pleased with the plan.  Lunch was photo processing time from the district glory after the negatives were developed that morning. The yearbook staff knew but they were waiting for things to simmer.  Ace was told to go do the workout at lunch and that he was to go directly to the cross-country room.  The yearbook teacher felt Ace had earned it and she felt the need to help Coach Bob.   Coach Bob was irritated and decided what he would tell the team. 

Coach Bob saw Stephen arrive in class before Tardy bell.  He stood in the classroom with his Team in front of him "I am sure all of you know about what happened to Raul and Thomas."  "This is a lifetime sport I want you to be healthy over a life time.  Getting drunk is stupid drinking to get drunk is the very opposite of what I am about.  I want you to get into good habits that last a life time.  On a personal level I believe there is such a thing as responsible alcohol use.....you will see me drink a beer drink wine some of you had seen that around 4th of July I also think that the drinking age should be lowered.  We make fun of drunk tourists we do not and we should not act like them!  The reason why it was raised to 21 was too many people drank to get drunk which is stupid."  He continued "This team took district so after making the sacrifice many of you being in the best shape and physical condition two of your teammates decided to celebrate by getting drunk and getting caught embarrassing us."  He looked "Steven Ray,Ace stand up" the two stood up "Ace you know you are not talented but in many ways you earned it Steven Ray you are the future next year the team is on your shoulders start acting like a senior varsity its an Eden Home run it like you mean it"  

Linda felt the fury of her coach flash back something from previous seasons.  She wished her brother had seen it.  He was in alternative school. Coach Bob's fury would have been the kick in the butt. He vented his emotion it was aimed at a couple other people who had sobered up for the season.  What she did not know was that Steven Ray got drunk Saturday night at his parents house.  Things had gotten harder and she was irritated at her younger brother.  Coach Bob would not hold her brother's betrayal against her. 

Aero had been surprised.  Bo made the comment "You got one more race."  Ace replied "Sucks the way it is happening but you know I accepted the fact I will grieve over one thing I do not know how long yet I get my last waltz glad to have it....everybody else we got our bonus round!" In the single line he acknowledged the frustration but also had set tone for the new direction on the team.  Coach Bob asked "What does that mean?"  Ace responded "State we do not have snowballs chance in hell doing but man lets have the best week of workouts and best race we can why the heck not."  He briefly elaborated "We got one more week in this season do we want to wonder what we could have done differently or do we want to look back and smile Tom said "I like that attitude"  Bo replied "Leaving the way we want....being the best!"  Ace's smile said it all.  Coach Noel Scott heard it.  "Sounds like a plan." Coach Bob heard it shocked and first then processed it.  A smile emerged it made sense in cross country logic it made perfect sense. We are going to lose but we are going to out like winners. It no longer matters so the most fun way to things was the right way.

The group walked to the track.  Tara noticed the smile on the guys wondered what happened.  Serg simply said "Live it up!"  The girls walked with the guys sensing the different tone.  Amanda seemed confused Bo said "us guys know the odds are against us who cares we are going to have fun we are going to run our best race have our best workouts because we want to end it that way live it up!"  Tom had a smile on his face as they arrived.  The pirate attitude had arrived and was flowing.  It was more surprising Ace had initiated it.    

The attitude of the guys had caught like 5 gallons of gasoline on a wood pile.  Bo took a burning twig to it and: Fwoopf! There was a sense of fun along with a sense of purpose it filled the circle.  The group loosened under the overcast sky.  They then took off on the Eden Home.  The girls were aware of the feeling the guys had.  Amanda could not help but smile as she took off and guys took off exuding a pirate air to them.  They took off and she followed.

Bo was irritated at Raul Coach Bob's emotions had crackled yet Ace did not dwell and his tone was simple....district glory was good the attitude of we got a bonus week was catching.  By the time they had stretched Bo had embraced it...the seriousness that had taken them to district glory had served its purpose. Now it was time to enjoy the simple extra week of workouts and a race on a hated course.  The flippancy why not put the effort and pride into the workouts why not run the best race it was going out on the terms under control.  Eden home was just fun.  The whole line he ran through Eden Home was just nailed.  French Fries had taken lead but not that much.  The attention level was high through the run.  For his height and mass he ran the run as near to the perfect line.  His pacing had been pretty close to being perfect for the conditioning run.  It did not matter he realized so it was to be enjoyed.  He appreciated the simple act of giving high fives he floored it down Ohio coming back to Unicorn stadium.     

Ace took off cruising rapid acceleration to high speed cruise.  Last year he had trained for regionals as an alternate this time it was for real! He went down the small incline and set the angle to the parking lot.  This was his run his team his last week as a runner.  Bo was out front with Aero who had been rattled but the guys team had taken the shock but pirate cove feeling caught thankfully.  UTSA was a bad course but it was another race.  He was on Ohio Mike just ahead Steven Ray just behind the girls behind.  What followed for him was an Eden Home that was ordinary yet extraordinary.  The temps were in mid sixties clouds hung overhead.  The grief had faded of the end of his career he was going to enjoy the sweetness.  Running the turns with the right angles the right form working to perfection was fun.  Congratulating French Fries, Bo, Mike, Tom , Steven Ray, Amanda, Linda, Tara, Leisha, Kimber, Kim, and Kathrine was fun as they made the circle.  He was with the team.  He wound up at Unicorn stadium tired but happy.

The rest of the team arrived the girls.  The football team was not using the Matt room so the crosscountry team used it for pushups and setups.  Thankfully side stitches had been rare that year which had made it successful Amanda was mindful of her plan had set things to carry it out as Ace went back to get his gear as she did from the locker room.

Amanda saw Stephen emerge from the locker room.  Her letter jacket was protected by a dry T-shirt. She called Stephen over. "An old face wants to talk to you about the regional meet.”  Her face was serious.  She continued "Think Seele an old PE teacher wants you to visit him care to go."  Ace's face exploded with a smile.  Without a word Stephen started following her to the car.  Ace knew who she was talking about and was more then happy to deal with it.   He had an idea who it was.  Once he closed the door "Coach Bingham has been watching you every time you are Lakeview Blvd."  The car took the two the familiar route their feet had been pounding.  He asked "How long have you been talking to him."  She responded "He goes to First Baptist."  He and Coach West had been talking.  He had been treated like father by Coach West she explained.  They arrived at the non descript house off Lakeview circle it was near the crown of the road beyond the dip and near the peak that defined the midpoint of Eden Home. 

Amanda pulled into the driveway right off Lakeview circle.  They walked the shoulder they had run many times including that day this time the two with letter jackets on walked up the steps.  Amanda rang the door bell.  A woman in her late sixties greeted the two and off to the side a voice barked "Get over here young man I got something to pin your jacket.”  The voice had been tough demanding and loving at Seele. 

Stephen turned and saw the man in a wheel chair ravaged by time and the tree that had fallen on him years before.  The love on his PE Teachers's face was bright as the sun.  As Ace got close to him his old PE teacher wrapped two arms wrapped around him and the face he respected and loved had tears in both eyes.  "Thank you! Dennis gave this medal to Amanda he wanted you to have it."  It was the first place medal from district.  His wife gave him the first place medal that Dennis had given Amanda.  Stephen King kneeled realizing what was going on.   His old coach’s still strong fingers pinned the medal below the crosscountry logo on the NB letter. Stephen had tears in his eyes.  His old PE teacher from Seele barked "Wear it with pride you earned it Dennis said so and I say so is that understood?"  Stephen replied "yes sir Coach Bingham!" echoing words he said as 2nd and 3rd grader at Seele years previous.

Two glasses of Gatorade had been poured for the two runners.  They sat down on the couch.  They moved to a couch in the living room.  Coach Bingham asked "What did you learn in Denton."  Stephen gave his testimony before what happened in Denton and then detailed what was like living in a town where high school sports were not that much of town life.  He spoke of Denton Bible and the constant struggle of faith being a Christian on the campus was.  Amanda heard for the first time and understood the ferocity and focus that even Tara had remnants of.  The fact that at the house Stephen had to struggle in Denton made him desire the truth so much more.  Denton produced a degree of intolerance and impatience with folly. What had emerged was something fire tested and beautiful that what Stephen displayed. Coach Bingham listened asking probing.  The story was intriguing to him.  In it he found many a prayer answered.  The man loved his students and had spent many an hour in prayer for them even long after he left his classroom duties.  He then simply said "Rudy ultimately wanted to be on the team."  The older brother in Christ paused for emphasis "You want the team to succeed and cherished participating now I ask that you continue to let your love for the Unicorns dictate your behavior and know how much I have cheered you on over two seasons my heart will be with you every stride at UTSA both of you."  The man's love for his two former students filled the room.  Stephen and Amanda responded surprised by the depth and sincerity "Will do coach we love you thanks." 

As the two left Coach Bingham said "Thanks for letting me pin the medal on Ace and bringing him by here."  Amanda responded "A workman is entitled to his wages both of us were made better by you."  Stephen nodded in agreement.   He said "This visit was like the rain we ran in at Guadalupe River state park renewing and enthusiasm filling thanks coach.”  The two left.  He had heard tales of how rain made runs sweet and he knew the glory of the park when a drought breaking rain hits it.  He had just aided Unicorn coaching staff which pleased him to no end.  He felt a part of the team. He had seen not an end but a new beginning. The Coach got to be a coach the seeds sown in faith 9 years previous were bearing fruit delicious fruit.  He thanked Christ.  A loyal servant deserved a taste of what was to come.

Amanda dropped Stephen by his Car.   Coach West and Coach Scott had been let in on the surprise.  They were waiting Susan herself had her camera with TMAX film.  She snapped two pictures the story would be run.  The Gold medal hung on the letter jacket near the CC.  Ace was beaming.  Coach West simply said "I could serve two brothers in in Christ"  Coach Noel Scott said "Traditions whose meanings were remembered and cherished are precious."  By Thursday the story of the "Un Rudy" would be run in the hoof print.   

That night Amanda called Coach Bob who was still upset at what happened with Raul.  Coach Bob said "Good publicity for the team in the school?"  Amanda responded "Yes."  His next question was "How did Stephen react?"  She responded "He got his reprieve the Ace we love."  Coach Bob then said "Thanks...for backing me up you might want to consider coaching."  He put down the phone with a slight smile on his face and said, “seniors they never cease to surprise.”  His wife asked him "What happened?” Coach Bob related the story “Amanda her dad Tara and Scott set it up where her and Ace’s PE teacher pinned the medal on him from district that Dennis wanted him to have the story is going to be in the hoof print.”  He then said "Crazy Jesus freaks watching my back."  Coach Bob was happy Coach Noel had been an influence that Monday from grief and anger about Raul to the tone set for regional in a times span of a conversation.  


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