Chapter 2 – Searching for Day, “A Secret Discovered”

Chapter Two ~ A Secret Discovered
Joe and Tony watched the waiter set a sixteen inch pepperoni pizza on the metal stand in the center of the table. The waiter put a slice on each of their plates.

When the waiter left, Joe raised his bottle toward Tony and said, “Salute.”

Tony clinked his beer bottle to Joe’s and responded, “Salute.”

They each took a short drink from their bottles, set them down, and began eating their pizza. The pizza was New York style, thin crust, with fresh buffalo mozzarella, and pepperoni imported from Italy. Joe folded his slice and took a healthy bite. He closed his eyes for a moment as he slowly chewed it. He said nothing. When he finished his slice, he used the small spatula to take another piece and set it on his plate. He took a sip of his beer, put the bottle down and said, “Tony, how long have you know me?”

Tony was surprised at the comment. He said, “Hey, we grew up together. You’re six months older than me that makes you 29 in two more months. So?”

“You knew my mom and dad, right?” asked Joe.

Tony looked confused, “Your mom and dad were like second parents to me. I loved them almost as much as my own. I still have a hard time with the way they got killed in the car accident last month. It wasn’t right. Your dad was what, 55 years old? And, your mom a couple years younger.”

Joe took a deep breath, and began, “I know, Tony. I’m still grieving. Some days, it hurts like hell.”

“Maybe you need to go to counseling,” said Tony.

“Maybe you don’t need to interrupt me, just listen, okay?” said Joe.

Tony held up both hands in surrender, he said, “Not another word.”

Joe took a bite of his slice, put it down and then took a sip of beer. He took a deep breath and began. “You ever hear the old saying, things are never as seem.”

Tony nodded, being careful not to say anything.

Joe continued as if he were talking to a tree, “I’m their only child. They are the only parents I’ve ever known. Everything I’ve accomplished I owe to them. They were so good to me. They wouldn’t let me take out college loans. Instead, they took a second mortgage on their house to put me through to make sure I was debt free when I graduated. I can never repay them for what they did for me.”

Joe stopped talking and he looked away staring out the window into the parking lot. He felt a surge of emotions beginning to flood through him. He felt regret he never told them as much as he wanted that he loved them. He felt regret he couldn’t prevent a DWI from running a stop sign and careening broadside into them. He felt regret he was always too busy with work and his social life during the past ten years to make much room for them.

Tony sat across from his brooding friend, a thousand questions ran through his mind. Every question slamming it brakes on at a stop sign he mentally placed in front of them.
Joe turned back to Tony, “I’m the sole beneficiary to their estate. It’s no big deal. They were still paying off the second mortgage they took out for me. Dad had a 401K account, it’s worth three hundred thousand dollars. They didn’t live long enough to collect their retirement. There is a money market, savings account, and checking account all together they’re under a hundred thousand. They didn’t believe in life insurance. The driver who hit them didn’t have insurance and was unemployed. I’m going through all this stuff now. You don’t think about this stuff and them boom, it’s hits you all at once and you’re not prepared.”

Joe stopped, took a sip of his beer, then a bite of his slice. When he finished, he continued, This past weekend, I went over to the house. I want to get it ready to call a realtor to put it on the market. I don’t want to live in it. It’s painful just opening the door. As soon as I walked in, I expected to see dad sitting on the sofa watching the Sox play. I expected mom to rush out of the kitchen and hug me and give me a kiss. I can’t shake the feeling they’re still alive and will suddenly show up. You know, it’s like they went away for a few days and suddenly come back home.”

Tony wanted to tell Joe, ‘It’s going to take time.’ But, he knew better. He took hold of his bottle and took a sip, not because he was thirsty, but because he wanted to let his best friend talk without him asking a question.

Joe gave a slight, wistful shake of his head and said, “They were packrats, they must have kept everything they ever bought from the day they were married. I started to go through a large box of photos and had to stop. It was too painful. I closed it up. I don’t know what I’ll do with them. Then there’s the Christmas boxes. Mom loved Christmas. There was box after box of Christmas lights and ornaments.”

Joe stopped for a moment. He finished his slice and put another slice on his plate. He took a bite, then looked at Tony and said, “If I keep going down memory lane, we’ll be here until they close.”

Tony waved him off with a swipe of his hand.

“I appreciate it, Tony. You’re a good friend. I’ll get straight to the point. I climbed the stairs into the attic. I wanted to make sure they were no boxes hiding up there. I found two boxes. One box was filled with tax returns going back twenty years. Why they kept them, I have no clue. I need to have them shredded. I opened the other box and it was filled with dad’s old army clothes. They’re more than thirty years old. He must have thought he’d get called back in.” Joe stopped for a moment and laughed at his joke. Then he continued, “I closed both boxes and moved them toward the attic opening. The box of taxes was the heaviest. They must have kept every tax return and documenting papers going back through every year of the marriage. It must have weighed a hundred pounds. I made sure I carefully picked it up. I didn’t want to hurt my back.”

Tony nodded.

Joe continued, “I picked up the box of clothes. It was light compared to the tax documents. When I set it down, I felt something shift inside, like a box within in a box. I didn’t see another box in there, but I didn’t poke around. I assumed it was all clothes. I opened the box and dug in and moved dad’s army clothes around. I found a metal box wrapped tight with duct tape. I shook the metal box, and I head something sliding around. I didn’t think much of it at the moment. I thought there might be some important papers I need to read regarding Mom and Dad’s estate. I carried the metal box out of the attic and took it home. I spent enough time trying to deal with memories.
“When I got home, I set the metal box on the table. I fetched a pair of scissors, and sat down at the table. Before I began cutting the duct tape, I carefully scanned the box to see if there was anything printed on it. I didn’t find anything. When I opened it, I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.”

Joe closed his eyes and he began the journey to a time when he was eight years old.


A New Story, “Searching for Dad” begins TOMORROW

A New Story

Searching For Dad


Final Chapter ~ A Wild Marathon Finish

Chapter 22 ~ A Wild Marathon Finish

Lisa was experiencing a huge inner conflict. One half of her was pleading to keep up with the Stinson runner, the other half was adamantly telling her Nicole was right. They planned this run all semester. She raced ahead without looking back, then suddenly slowed down and turned toward Nicole.

When Nicole caught up to her, Lisa said, “Let’s go the First Aid station. You’re right. I lost it. We’ll cut back a bit. Okay?”

Nicole smiled at Lisa for the first time during the marathon, “Good for you Lisa. I know how you feel. I was that way when I was your age. You remember Jill Swoop?”

Lisa said, “She was three years ahead of you, right?”

Nicole said, “That’s right. We ran a 10K after the cross country season for fun. At the time, I was the number one runner on the team and Jill was number two. Any time we competed it was friendly. The 10K wasn’t supposed to be a race, only a workout and fun. I turned it into a race. I was going to show Jill I was still number one, and besides, I wanted to win the trophy that went to the best time in our age group. It turned out that even though I won, I lost.”

“Where’s the trophy? I know all of your trophies,” said Lisa.

“I threw it away before I got home. It meant nothing,” said Nicole

“That’s crazy. I’d never throw away a trophy. You won fair,” said Lisa.

“That’s just it, I won the 10K in the high school age group. Jill came in second. But I lost a friend. I could see how hurt she was when we finished. She never said a word to me after the race and she didn’t have anything to do me after that. It took a long time for me to realize what I did was wrong, I went back on my promise to my best friend. A few weeks ago I saw Jill at a race during the season. She would have been running with her team but she injured an ankle. I went up and apologized for what happened.”

“Even though it was five years ago, Nicole?”

“That’s what I thought at first. Jill hugged me and said thanks. Then she apologized for not being big enough to let it go. We’re friends again.”

At mile marker 18 Lisa and Nicole ran through a First Aid station. This time they took Gatorade and skipped the gel. They planned on one more First Aid station at the twenty-two mile marker.

They reached Valley View when Nicole looked at her Garmin. “Yikes Lisa. We’re on pace to break two fifty. We only have five miles to go. Keep it steady. We might win the sisters’ trophy.”

Lisa gave Nicole a quick smile. She smiled a bit broader as they took a turn down Shaw Street when she spotted the Stinson runner she’d been chasing slowing almost to a walk. A minute later Lisa and Nicole easily passed the Stinson runner. Lisa gave her a quick glance. “What’s wrong with her Nicole?”

Nicole said, “She’s bonking. She’s hitting the wall. My guess she was too intent in beating you and didn’t stop to hydrate or take gel. You know anyone like that?”

Lisa, “Yah. Don’t tell mom or dad.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not long now, we’re three miles from the finish.”

Lisa said, “Let’s pick it up, it’s only three miles.”

“You feel okay. You look a little clammy.”

“I feel fine, Nicole. My legs feel heavy, but that’s only a head thing. I’ll think them light.

The only hard part left is Mason’s Hill. We own it. Then down to the finish line.”

“We really need to slow down. You’re making me worry,” said Nicole, her voice filled with concern.

Lisa forced herself to pick up the pace. Nicole knew she couldn’t argue with her, she stayed beside her. It was useless to argue with Lisa being so close to the finish. Nicole was sure Lisa was paler now than she was two miles back. She saw red blotches growing on Lisa’s neck and face. “You okay Lisa? Let’s slow down. Please. You don’t look good.”

Lisa said, “There’s Mason’s Hill, we’re only three-quarters of a mile from the finish. We might win the sister’s trophy. I can make it. I can make. Talk me through it Nicole. My legs feel so heavy. Please talk me through it.”

Nicole, against her better judgment, said, “Let’s count strides. We’ll count them out loud up to twenty and start over again.” Nicole felt their pace slow considerably, yet, she dared not mention it to Lisa. “Let’s start counting together, “One, two, three, four, . . . five . . .” They reached twenty, seven times when Nicole lost count of how many times they reached twenty. She knew they made it to the top of Mason’s Hill. Three hundred yards away was the finish line in Nickerson Park. They started down the park side of the Mason Hill slope when Lisa stumbled and fell. She landed first on her right knee, her outstretched arms preventing her from hitting her face on the ground. Nicole ran to help her up. Lisa waved her off. She was determined to make it on her own. She rose and started running again. This time Lisa was limping, favoring her right knee, and weaving.
With a hundred yards to go, Lisa was drifting to her left then to her right. She was zigzagging more than running in a straight line. Lisa wanted to run faster. She wanted to run straight for the finish. Her legs refused to obey her mind. She stumbled, nearly falling, but held her balance. At fifty yards to go, she fell again, this time landing on both knees and hands. She rose to her knees and looked up at Nicole. Tears ran down Lisa’s face. Nicole bent over and helped her to an upright position.

She whispered to Lisa, “Like we promised mom, let’s finish together. Put your arm around my shoulder. That’s it.”

Lisa and Nicole jogged, more like a walk, slowly toward the finish line. The spectators at the finish line were cheering Lisa and Nicole as they crossed the finish line. The EMTs grabbed hold of Lisa as soon as she crossed the finish line and brought her to the first aid tent.

Later that day, Lisa and Nicole, sat with their mom and dad, at the dinner table. Their mom said, “You gave us a big scare, Lisa. Promise you won’t ever do that again.”
Lisa said, “We promised to finish as a team. Nicole made that happen. I learned some hard lessons that will stay with me. I didn’t like zoning out and coming so close to the edge. It was scary. What was our time?”

“We did pretty well, we finished in three hours and twenty-five seconds,” said Nicole.

Lisa’s dad rose from the table, “Excuse me a moment. By the way, your finish went viral on YouTube. I saw it this morning. You girls are celebrities.”

Lisa and Nicole grabbed hold of their iPhones, tapped the YouTube app, checked trending and saw a ninety second video someone posted of Lisa and Nicole, arm in arm coming across the finish line. It already had over fifty thousand hits.

A moment later, their dad walked into the dining room, “One of the race organizers ask me to hand this to you.” It was the Sisters’ trophy for the Thanksgiving marathon.

Chapter 21 ~ Lisa Faces A Tough Decision During the Marathon

Chapter 21 ~ Lisa Faces A Tough Decision During the Marathon
On the way to the corral Lisa and Nicole met Mia and Leah. Mia and Leah volunteered as helpers for the marathon. They were going to pass water to runners at a station midway through the race.

Mia looked at Lisa and said,, “Are you guys really serious about running today? I don’t think I’d last ten miles before I’d have to walk.”

Nicole said, “We agreed it’s only a fun run. We planned to run together since I went to the university. thing.” Nicole put her arm around Lisa.

Leah looked at Lisa, “Take it easy today. You outworked and out ran all of us the past three weeks. You have nothing to prove today.”

“I feel great. I think I can run two marathons,” said Lisa.

The four chatted for a few more minutes, then fist bumped. Nicole looked at Lisa, “They really like you. They don’t want you to wear out. Their good friends, listen to them.”

“I know. I think we should get in our corral,” said Lisa

Lisa and Nicole found their places in the corral for runners aiming at 3 to 4 hours. They talked about the route the marathon took. It started in Nickerson Park, two miles from their home, circled through town before connecting to the river trail. The route left the river trail and turned on to country roads leading toward the small town of Carlyle. The race circled around Carlyle Fairgrounds, over to Lassiter State Park where the runners ran around Sweet Water Lake over to Valley View before heading back to Nickerson Park. The course was mostly flat. There was a hilly section in the Lassiter State Park. The race finished back in Nickerson with Mason’s Hill a mile and a half before the finish line.

Lisa nudge Nicole, “They’re getting ready to start. I don’t see why we have to wait for the first two groups of runners. It’s not fair.”

Nicole said, “For the one millionth time, it’s a fun run.”

A blasting air horn signaling the start of the race blocked out the last part of Nicole’s sentence. The runners were off. It was fifteen seconds before Lisa and Nicole crossed the starting line.

Right away, Nicole could feel Lisa wanting to push faster. Three times in first two miles she cautioned Lisa and said, “It’s twenty-six miles. It’s a fun run.”

Each time Lisa answered, “I feel like I’m walking. I haven’t run this slow since I was in sixth grade.”

When they entered the river trail at the four mile mark, Nicole checked her Garmin,

“We’re right on pace for a bit over three hours. It’s a perfect time for us. How are you feeling?”

Lisa turned her head slightly toward Nicole, “Can we pick it up to a six thirty pace? Please. I feel great. I promise I’ll tell you if I don’t feel good.”

Nicole rolled her eyes, “You heard what Leah and Mia said. They don’t want you overworking on the run. It’s your first marathon, remember?”

“Come on Nicole, the seasons over. After today, we can rest all week. No running, just hanging out together.”

Lisa didn’t wait for Nicole to answer, she picked up the pace, Nicole stayed with her, keeping one eye on the trail and the other on Lisa. She promised her mom they’d finish together.

They approached the first aid station at the 5K mark four miles outside of Carlyle Fairgrounds, Nicole called to Lisa, “Lisa, let’s grab a drink. We’ve got to stay hydrated.”

Lisa pushed forward, “The next station Lisa. I’m feeling good.”

Nicole said, “I’m going over, come on.” Nicole headed toward the first aid station, grabbed a drink and looked up to see Lisa thirty yards ahead of her. Nicole picked up the pace and soon caught up to Lisa. “What are you doing Lisa? You promised mom you’d run with me.”

Lisa said, “I saw a runner from Stinson, I can’t let her finish ahead of me. Besides, I feel fine.”
Nicole shook her head, “Next station Lisa, we hydrate. Run through it, grab eight ounces of water and a gel pack. I’ll tackle you if you don’t.”

Lisa  knew Nicole meant business.

Lisa and Nicole grabbed an electrolyte infused drink and gel pack at the first aid station at the 10K mark prior to the entry to the Carlyle Fairgrounds. Half way around the fairgrounds, Lisa said, “Thanks Nicole. I needed that. How’s our time?”

Nicole looked at her Garmin on her right wrist. “The last two miles we ran at a six fifty pace. We’re on track to finish around just under two hours. Perfect.”

Lisa said, “I feel really, really good. Let’s pick up it just a bit. There’s the girl from Stinson, she’s only fifty yards ahead.”

Nicole knew there was no reasoning with Lisa. “Two miles and that’s it, then we’ll do an awareness check. That’s what Coach calls it. You do a quick body scan to see how you feel.”

“Okay,” said Lisa lengthening her stride. Her eyes on the back of the Stinson runner.
Nicole caught up to Lisa, and said, “See the red barn off to the right? That’s where we cut it back.”

Twenty seconds later they were five strides behind the Stinson runner. The Stinson runner looked over her shoulder and picked up her pace. Lisa didn’t ask Nicole, she matched the Stinson runner stride for stride. They passed the red barn without either saying a word. Lisa and Nicole stayed just off the Stinson runner’s right shoulder on the road over to Lassiter State Park.

When they entered the state park, Nicole checked her Garmin, “We’ve been running at a six minute ten second pace for four miles. We’ll refresh at the first aid station. Then we’re cutting back, we still have a bit more than eleven miles to go.”

“Nicole, she came in second at states. I can’t let her beat me,” pleased Lisa.

Nicole said, “It’s not a race. It’s supposed to a fun run with you and me.”

Lisa got stubborn, “I’m not slowing down.”

Nicole said, “I’m going to stop at the First Aid station. I’m going to stop running if you keep this up.”

Chapter 20 ~ It’s Marathon Day

Chapter 20 – It’s Marathon Day

Lisa and Nicole planned to get to bed early. Like most plans, life gets in the way. After all, who could sleep with the excitement of seeing each other for the first time in four months and the Thanksgiving Marathon tomorrow? Lisa and Nicole stayed awake until eleven catching up, taking turns describing each of their races, and talking about the marathon, strategy. They made plans to hang out together the entire time Nicole was home. Lisa didn’t fall asleep until 12:30. Her mind kept playing how Nicole and she would run in the marathon.

Sunrise was at 7:10 a.m. The race started at 9 a.m. Nicole’s coach told her that she and Lisa needed to have a powerful breakfast four hours before the race. It meant they had to be up early. They asked their mom to get them up at four thirty so they could eat the race day breakfast meal Nicole’s coach suggested.

Lisa was up at 4:15 and in Nicole’s bedroom shaking her. Nicole opened her eyes and looked at Lisa, “You’re already dressed? What time is it?”

Before Lisa could speak, their mom’s alarm went off.

Lisa said, “I heard mom making breakfast in the kitchen. I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep for 15 minutes, so I got up. Can you smell the bagels toasting? I’m starving. Hurry up and get dressed. Remember, your coach said to eat four hours before the race?”

Nicole gave a big yawn, sat up in bed, and stretched her arms out over her head. She looked at Lisa, “I’ll meet you in the kitchen in ten minutes.”

“I’ll wait in my room. Get me when you’re ready so we can go to the kitchen together,” Lisa said.

When Lisa and Nicole walked into the kitchen, they already had their sweats on. Their mom said, “You girls are ready to go. Breakfast will be ready in five minutes. I squeezed fresh orange juice, it has a lot of potassium and I read online where that is very good for runners.”

Lisa and Nicole fist bumped their mom, then sat at the table. They drank their orange juice without taking a breath. Their mom brought two plates for them. Toasted bagels were on the plates surrounded by raisons, and sliced bananas. A large jar of peanut butter was open.

“Girls, I read online about breakfast and I’m going to make sure you eat enough to make it through the marathon. No skimping,” the mom said.

Lisa said, “If I overeat I’ll have to go to the bathroom during the race.”

Nicole gave Lisa a gentle push with her right hand, “Mom’s right Lisa. You’ll run great for the first ten or so miles, then you’ll bonk. You won’t have the energy left to make it. Do it for me, okay.”

“Okay Nicole. I hope you’re right,” said Lisa.

“Don’t worry about that, there will be plenty of Porta Potties at the park. We can use them right before we enter the corral,” Nicole laughed.

At 8:00 a.m. the sisters hugged their mom and dad and started off jogging the two miles toward Nickerson Park. The designated parking lots were already packed. Runners were warming up on the streets. They arrived at the park at eight twenty and checked in. Three trips to the Porta Potty later and Lisa and Nicole headed to the corral.

Nicole said, “We’ll line up with the runners who are aiming for three hours.”

Lisa frowned, “Come on Nicole. I bet we can do a two forty-five easy.”

Nicole put a hand on each of Lisa’s shoulders, “We promised Mom to take it easy and make it a fun run.”

Lisa said, “Okay, okay, you’re right. But if we feel good at mile fourteen can we pick it up a bit? Please?”

Nicole said, “We have to both feel good. And, if we need to slow down we’ll cut it back a bit. Deal?”

Lisa fist bumped Nicole, “Deal.”