Chapter 4 A Line from Jimmy Buffet will go just Fine Now Tales of the Dead Armadillo Copyright Esteban Erik Stipnieks

 

Stephen would pass his check ride and become a private pilot the team would grow stronger with each workout.  Meet the Unicorn night sponsored by the all sports booster club arrived.  All high school athletes would introduce themselves to the town at Unicorn stadium.

The evening of meet the Unicorn night was a renewal for some the last ride for others and the first ride for many Dentonites.  Meet the Unicorn night was ritual in the city of New Braunfels.  It was an important ritual.  The team was a collection of radically different people.  Tara West's family was getting introduced the town.  For Noel Scott it was his official introduction to New Braunfels as assistant cross-country coach.  Dennis and Paul would have to go through two lines since they played both football and ran.  Twice they would be on the track and announce their role on the team.  There were two cheerleaders and a Monoceras doing the same thing.  The cross-country team remained a collection of people who happened to run.  For Stephen King it was a reminder of one shot he had this year.  Coach Bob had located a couple T-shirts for Tara and his new runner from the valley.  He gave the extras to make them appear part of the team.  The microphone would be passed down the line as the team was introduced on the home stretch of the track facing Unicorn stadium.   

Coach Bob looked at Stephen King and said "Remember I gave the letter you are a returning letterman."  Coach Bob may not have totally been a big fan of New Braunfels he understood how it worked.  Ace's smile revealed without a word he would comply. 

Ace's ensemble for meet the Unicorn night screamed Unicorn.  He had slightly faded blue jeans.  His old racing shoes from his freshman year that had been cleaned...Unicorn blue.  The Team T-shirt from 1990 had been pressed and looked somewhat fresh.  The joke was 8 days out of 10 Ace would ignore fashion this changed during track and cross-country season.  There were sometimes the annoying attention to detail that dressing up required was merited in Ace's mind.  He understood some aspects of dressing up and sending a signal.  His clothes were sending the signal quite loud. 

Amanda said "I thought you disliked tradition." 

Stephen replied "Tradition that people have forgotten its source is worthless. A ritual whose meaning is remembered is beautiful."  He continued "My blood never ceased being Unicorn blue."  Tara chuckled there was a lot of truth the statement.  Stephen loved and hated NBHS. 

A little earlier Tara  and her dad arrived at Unicorn stadium she made her way and recognized Stephen.  She commented her dad was a bit nervous.  He was the new head football coach.  Stephen replied as they walked to where Coach Bob was with Coach Noel under the stands "They'll love him they are willing to give him a chance he is at his core traditional values."  Amanda could see the smile on Stephen's face.  The blue jeans and battered blue and white Air Pegasus were definitely a statement.  Amanda Cook was surprised it fit the person who mocked New Braunfels and it was if he was emitting Unicorn spirit.  The clothing had been selected deliberately.  Coach Bob was happy.  Amanda Cook could see a tear in the eye of Stephen.  His smile revealed the depth of joy.  Linda noticed it as well. 

Bo said upon seeing Stephen King "It's like you missed this place." 

Stephen smiled "The band is warming up for the last waltz my lady wants to dance." 

Tara commented "Lots of people in the stands not just parents." 

Stephen nodded as he said "The town loves their Unicorns its got advantages in the grief of the mess I had forgotten them."

Amanda asked, "Is that an apology?" 

"Just a statement of facts" came Stephen's response.  The sentiment vanished instantly.  Amanda Cook took a step back.  Two loud contradictory signals had been sent. There was a razor's fine line between the two.  

The steel structure of the stadium was above them with its wood planking on concrete piers. They were on the asphalt under it the bathroom and concession stand were all familiar sights now sweet.  Stephen then said "Being in a town that ignored the high school was not without its distinct advantages."  Tara was confused at the double pivot she just saw It was as if he was correcting his sentiment.  She was having a hard time defining the line that the long lanky figure known as Ace was dancing on either side of.  Noel Scott gathered the team.  Coach Bob joined him again.  They would give their names number of season where they are from.

The team walked from underneath the stands and was joined by Brandy, Bo, Paul, Kathrine, and Anna.  The cross-country team remained a composite.  The whole team had T-shirts of various vintages of the team's recent history.  Blue was the color theme with white. 

Tara made the comment "Its getting hard to believe you hold this place responsible for the deaths."  It was a sharp barb that no one else but their former head coach heard.  As they walked out on the track Stephen King responded with a line from the jacket from Jimmy Buffet's Where Is Joe Merchant "I just want to live happily ever after now and again."  Tara understood the wistful look.  Tonight her older brother in Christ was going to be a little kid trapped in teenager's body.  Noel Scott knew the sentiment displayed would define Ace's love for the ideal....he had hoped people would realize the anger was at the half hearted willingness to chase them.  For public consumption Ace was on key and in tune.  Ladies first they walked to the spot on the track where a microphone was they faced the home side of the stadium reasonably full.  They called their names.  That little kid would relish being called a Unicorn and savor the pomp and circumstance of an imaginary world.  Coach Noel Scott knew it was not acting it was regression....regression at an appropriate time.  Ace as Stephen was called in Denton was home.  The girls formed up first.  They gave their names. 

When the microphone came to Stephen his voice was true to the emotion he held in his heart "Stephen King Senior Freshman letterman 2nd season with the team back home in the land of the Unicorn."  As the team walked off Coach Bob smiled "Good one Stephen." 

The group was heading out under the stadium Bo asked "Did you have a publicity agent write that for you."  Coach Noel Scott replied "No it was just coming for 2 years."  Coach Noel Scott chuckled Bo looked surprised. 

What Stephen did not know but Amanda Cook did know was in the crowd a man in a wheel chair who had been their PE teacher years before.  He heard the voice he recognized the name and was thrilled to hear what he had heard.   At church the coach that introduced her to running long in 2nd grade would encourage her on her final season and make a comment about another student.

For Tara she was the third player on the girl's squad.  Not being a cheerleader was awkward.  She went to registration and it dawned on her how the school was actually constructed.  Amanda and Kimber helped her find her classes after registration and gave her a feel for the three parallel halls running parallel to loop 337 the new wing by the new cafeteria that had the novelty of windows.  She was shown the science hallway and the other area by the gym.  The place had remnants of the sixties and 70s oozing through the hallways making a permanent reminder of the past that yet to vanish.

Stephen King had to go through registration he got his classes AP English, JROTC, Yearbook, Government, Economics, Algebra II he got the honors classes.  As he walked through the halls to his locker and started practicing the combination he was surprised at his near instant hatred for the building itself.  Memories from his freshman year were instantly recalled.  The building was familar and old annoyances emerged as if they had never gone.  He ran into Tara "You weren't joking about this place." Stephen King chuckled a bit.  "I had forgotten the fun of life of the Cold War."  The Cold War ended when his Eastern European family who lived on the Baltics was free.  That event occured at the start of Stephen's first year in Denton.  He found himself facing the fact he hated the building and in doing so he was shocked when realized he found himself missing Denton already. His aunt had heard the quip.  Welcome home.  She laughed she knew the story.  Stephen King introduced his aunt to his adopted sister.

Stephen King liked the church it was demanding for him intellectually he was expected to be impacting his school for Christ.  There was informality about the church and the implied expectation to serve.  He called his old youth pastor about it.  He laughed about the church with smile in his voice gently encouraging.  The word was encouragement and the simple realization of go for it....the season was upon him and he had gotten his prayers answered.

 

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