Beads of Sweat is a fictional novel about a high school cross country team. To read previous chapters, click on the "fiction" tab at the top of the page. OTR = Organized Team Run.
-We’re running on time this afternoon. Fifty minutes. That means you’re going to click on your watches when you leave and not come back ‘til you see a five with three zeroes to the right of it. I don’t want anybody being a hero on this one. Don’t worry. There are plenty of hard runs scheduled for this week. Today I want you to do two things: one, get in a steady aerobic effort; two, explore the campus and adjoining trails. We have some big meets here this year, so knowing the terrain, the nooks, the crannies, the hills, the corners, will help us out. Pay attention out there. In fifty minutes we’ll rendezvous here for some light stretching. Then you’ll go back to the dorms to clean up before dinner. After dinner we’re going to the library.
-Coach, what are we going to the library for?
A few grumbles.
-Any more questions…Okay, good. We’re going in two groups. Keep the legs moving because Coach Pereira and I will be spying on you.
Hartman proceeded to divvy the runners into varsity and junior varsity units. Pawgoski pouted at his dispensation.
-Coach, I can run with the first group.
The team clung to Hartman’s abnormally long pause. He seemed to be sizing up the frosh.
-The first group?
-I’ve done the summer work you told me to do, and I’ve run with these guys lots of times at captain’s practices.
Hartman looked over to his seniors. They nodded.
-Okay, Pawgoski, if you want to go with them, go with them.
The bluebird relished a short-lived smile.
-It’s not Pawgoski. It’s Tinkerbellski.
Snickers from a dozen of them, even Pereira blurted before sucking back in.
-Okay, now let’s get going…and Tinkerbellski remember that this was your decision not mine.
That last statement there, unbeknownst to Pawgoski, was an open invitation to Spidestrom, Smitty, Jenkins, Torres, and Hammond to push the pace just enough to let the plebe know he was trekking with the varsity crew.
Wallan and Galiozzi led the jv group. They forged out in the opposite direction of the other guys. Galiozzi, a junior, ran the Starkfield State course twice in each of his first two years on the team and steered his group over to the open athletic fields that also doubled as the invitational’s starting line. He was fuming.
-Can you believe that kid?
-Sellberg. What do you think?
-He ran twice a day every other day.
-He did more than Coach Hartman told him to.
-He ran twice a day every other day. Even through captain’s practice.
-What’s this kid trying to prove?
-He’s gunna be the real deal, Wallan said.
-Real deal or not, I bet he’s getting his ass handed to him right about now.
Jenkins and Spidestrom led the varsity over the undulating hills on the eastside trails of Starkfield State. Brazenly to the others but not to him, Pawgoski began the run on the right hip of Jenkins, who always ran at the front of the pack. Smitty, Spider, and even Hammond were making him pay for it now, twenty-five minutes later. They pushed the pace and kept pushing it, and they all eagerly awaited a crash and burn from the freshman. Spider really rubbed his face in it as his conversational pace was close to the neophyte’s VO2 max. They barbed him with questions, and Paws stopped answering five queries ago.
-Paws, you think you’re gonna run varsity this year?
-Paws, you gonna beat Jenkins in our first duel meet?
-Paws, you gonna tell Hartman how to coach us?
They kept pushing, and Paws kept struggling.
-Paws, you have any sisters?
-Paws, you wet your wick yet?
-He has with his sister.
-You gonna take that Paws?
-Paws, what’s your mom look like?
-I saw her pick him up from captain’s once. She’s a real cougar.
-Yeah, she’s a real milf.
Smitty turned around, ran a few steps backwards, and thrust his hips out and in. The chorus moaned salaciously.
He would be cooked for the next two days (in reality they would all be a little more spent than they should’ve been due to the impromptu hazing), but he figured it out. He also realized his own hubris. The pack of upperclassmen seemed determined to drop him. He was determined to hold on for dear life. He didn’t know it, he would never know it, but Coetaine saved his ass that day. Coetaine had come to camp drastically out of shape. Nobody knew what was going on, but the junior struggled with the pace and fell thirty meters off it. Out of respect for his brethren, Torres nudged himself to the front and eyed Jenks to cool it with the machismo. Jenks got the message, and Coetaine, embarrassed, bridged the gap. Paws felt the pace slacken but knew enough not to find his way to the front.
-You okay, Deo whispered.
Everyone lightened their step.
-Cramped up on the hills, he lied, still working it out.
-Exhale when your foot strikes the opposite side of the stitch, Deo instructed him practically quoting Hartman verbatim.
-Do the damn ab work, Spider uttered under his breath, also a verbatim of Hartman’s.