Friday, March 25, 2011

Chapter 14: First Practice after Camp Week

Beads of Sweat is a novel about a cross country's adventures. To access prior chapters, click on the Fiction tab at the top of the page.


He opened the locker room doors at 2:30.  By 3:00, all his runners would be on the track waiting for him to tell them what to do.  In the interim, they knew what to do: run four laps and start stretching.

            Camp Week was the easy part.  Just the team.  No distractions.  Now this is where Hartman earned his keep.  They were reentering a world of grades, part-time jobs, girls, and parents.  A world much more complicated than the one provided on the island of Starkfield State.

            The first complication arrived in the form of the team’s assistant coach.  Fitts called Hartman over the long weekend and told him that he’d be unable to continue with the team this year.  Some stuff came up.  He felt bad.  He was very sorry for the short notice.  Hated leaving the team in the lurch but there was really nothing he could do.  Hartman took it all in and when he was done, he set the receiver down and stared at it for a good two minutes.  He thought about Fitts’ waning dedication over the last year but didn’t think an eleventh hour resignation was in his character.  The guy was young; he just got engaged, who knows what could’ve happened.  He took a deep breath and extended his arm back toward the phone.

            The team bandied about the track crackling about last trips to the beach, the weekend drama at Cinders, and the funniest moments of Camp Week.  Sellberg streaking the quad at two am donning nothing more than an amalgam of shaving and whipped cream seemed to take first prize.  Hartman pretended not to hear.  He smiled to himself.

            -Get going with the stretching.  Hammond lead them through it. 

            He gave them six more minutes to jostle and nudge and maybe stretch.  As they did that, he worked out his remarks in his head.

            -Okay men.  We’re going to multitask here.  I hope you can stretch and listen at the same time. 
            -Ah…Coach?
            -Yeah Jenks?
            -Where’s Fitts?
            -That’s the first order of business.  Fitts called me over the weekend.  He won’t be with us this year.  He’s resigned.  He wanted me to tell you that he wishes you all well for this upcoming season, but some personal things have gotten in his way. 
            -He just quit on us.
            -He resigned. That’s it.  It has nothing to do with you guys.  He cares about you all very much.  Said he might even come to a few meets on the weekends.
            -I can’t believe this.
            -This is bullshit.
            He gave them room to stir and grieve.  They needed to air out, and he waited sixty seconds for them to move back into the present. 
            -Do we have another coach?
            -I’m working on that.  For now you’re stuck with me and me alone.
            -Oh shit.
            -Oh no.
            -Oh jeez.
            -Oh man.
            -Don’t worry.  It’ll be alright.  I’m not gonna cook ya and eat ya, you know…Well, Sellberg I might.

            The mood lightened.

            -Okay, second order of business: we have two major days ahead of us here.  We have milers tomorrow and on Saturday we’ll be doing the annual co-ed practice with the girls’ team.  For those of you who don’t know, we call this practice the Yellowjacket Relays.  Ask a senior to find out why.  Hopefully, Jenks, your team won’t come in last again this year.

            This last statement evoked a cauldron of memories all of which made Jenkins the punch line.  Fiercely competitive, the senior hated losing anything, and the team relished the opportunity to poke fun at him.  Not often did they have the chance.

            -Come on now.  Keep stretching.  You can do two things at once, can’t you now Wallan?
            -Wallan, I’m kicking your ass on Saturday.  Lindsey’s too for that matter.
            -Hey now don’t make Coach call a veterinarian.
            -Okay, okay.  More news for you.  We’re doing something different this year.  We are not having practice on Thursdays.  We’re having practice on Sunday mornings instead.
            -Wha?
            -No way?
            -He can’t be serious.
            -This will make a little more sense to you once you get our schedule.  We have duel meets on Wednesdays.  You’ll have your day off after that meet.
            -Are the Sundays optional, Wallan asked.
            -I don’t get why we’re doing this.
            -We need a long day.  Sunday’s make sense, Jenkins said.
            -He’s right.  Too many of you ran out of gas in the last half-mile last year.
            -So we don’t have practice Thursday?
            -I’m giving you a week to get used to this idea.  So this week is a normal week.  If you usually do something on Sunday mornings, adjust your schedules for a nine am practice.

            The boys looked around their semicircle with incredulous faces, faces that said he’s always up to something. The seniors smiled and shook their heads.  Wallan’s countenance was solemn and vacuous.

            Smitty finally burst out, “All this is nice, but what are we doing today?”

            -Glad you asked.  Forty minute run.  Easy to steady pace.  After twenty minutes I want you to do a five-minute tempo just to get your legs moving a bit. Get them ready for tomorrow.  The last fifteen minutes should be a few hairs faster than the first twenty.  Don’t come back until you’ve run at least five miles.  Freshmen: you’re doing thirty-five minutes.  Fifteen-five-fifteen. 

            -Where are we doing it?
            -Jog over to the park.  I want you on soft surfaces.  Be careful crossing the street.
            -Are we going in one big group?
            -No.  The trails are too narrow.  Three groups: frosh, jv, varsity.  You know who you are.
            Not exactly everyone knew who they were, but Smitty, Hamz, and Jenks would let them know within the first hundred yards. 
            -One more thing.  Goal sheets.  I’ll be collecting them at the end of practice.  And upperclassmen: I’ll see you tomorrow morning in the Dank Tank.
            -That was two more things.

1 comment:

Muddy Puddin' said...

I found myself wanting to print out the meet schedule (from last chapt)and pencil them in on my calendar. Then realized what the hell I was doing and how weird that is. That's a compliment to you, dude.

Keep 'em coming!

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