Sea of Tranquility

by Rick Beck

Chapter 2

Where's Moony?

Levi was bothered by his continued good luck. No one had said Moony pulled his hamstring or sprained his ankle. At least that would give Levi some idea how long Moony might be absent, but no one had said anything.

A hamstring pull would put him out for the rest of the season, but a strained hamstring wouldn't. A sprained ankle might keep him out for a month to six weeks, depending on the severity of the sprain. Knowing nothing about Moony's condition, meant he didn't know how long he might be absent.

Each time Levi stepped on the track, before running the hundred, the first thing he did was look for Moony Brown. He continued to be absent and after everyone picked him as the odds-on favorite to win the hundred title at the city championships, Levi moved to the number one spot.

For six straight track meets, Moony hadn't showed up and Levi won each of those hundred-meter races. With only a few weeks left until the city championships, time was running out.

According to the rules, even if Moony showed up at the city championships, he couldn't run. The qualifications were held two weeks before the championship track meet. You had to qualify to run, and Moony Brown did not show up to qualify, which put Levi in the driver's seat. That bothered him. He began thinking about a way to do something about it.

Levi didn't know if the rules could be set aside, if there was a good reason why Moony hadn't been running. Certainly, his official times would qualify him for any race he wanted to run and rules were fickle, if officials saw the wisdom in bending one.

Levi kept his ears open for news about Moony and he'd heard everything from, 'He died,' to, 'His mother died,' to, 'He broke his leg,' to, 'His mother broke her leg.' It was high school, after all where, if you were smart, you believed half of what you saw and none of what you heard.

When he asked one of Moony's teammates, "Where's Moony Brown?"

The reply was a shrug, with hands held out helplessly.

Could it be possible that the guy just disappeared off the face of the earth? Whatever happened, no one was talking about it. Levi was a live-and-let-live kind of a guy, but after winning the hundred, the first few races where Moony didn't run, Levi became more and more uneasy about it.

Levi considered walking over to Moony's team to ask the coach, 'Where's Moony Brown,' but he valued his life. The guy who was winning the races Moony would have won, didn't want to get too close to his teammates. They might think he was gloating.

The hundred was to sprinters, what the mile was to distance runners. If you won the mile, especially if you set a new city record, you were the king of distance men. If you won the hundred, you were the king of the sprinters, the fastest man. It was a coveted title, when it was deserved.

No one looked to see who won the two-hundred. That's the way it was and Levi accepted that. He ran the two-hundred, because that was his race and only parents looked to see who won the two-hundred.

When Levi was running the hundred against Moony Brown, he often found himself looking at the six-foot prototype of a hundred-meter dash man. His chest was bigger. His arms were better defined than Levi's. Where the rubber meets the road, Moony had thick muscular thighs. Levi's thighs were longer, better suited to the two hundred or four hundred meter races.

When Moony caught Levi studying him, he gave him a nod and a confident little smile that said, 'This is my race. You're in my house now,' not unlike how Levi reacted to other two-hundred-meter men.

When Moony looked at Levi, he knew who he was. He was the city's second fastest man. He knew, Levi Cordoba had a lock on the two-hundred-meter race, just like he had a lock on the hundred meters. The nod Moony gave Levi, was a sign of respect and Levi would give a similar nod back.

Respect for your competition was important, because the guy finishing second this week, might be finishing first the next time around. Levi had beaten Moony once. He didn't think it made him the city's fastest man.

Levi acknowledged no one when he was ready to race. He took to nodding back at Moony, after Moony initiated the nods. Moony only nodded at Levi. They both knew who was going to win and who would finish second. Most people in the stadium knew which boy was about to win the hundred. Moony Brown was and had been, the fastest hundred man in the city.

Levi hated losing, but it was easier, when you knew you were likely to lose, before the starter fired his gun.

The one time Levi beat Moony Brown in the hundred, they'd given each other a nod before the race, but Moony had broken the silence between them. As Levi realized he had won, he waved to the crowd, acknowledging their cheers. When he turned around to leave the track, after the race, Moony was there.

"Nice race, Cordoba," he said.

Moony extended his hand for the winner of the race to shake.

Levi's thought to himself, he's got more class than I do .

Levi wasn't in the habit of noticing other sprinters. For a second, he regretted it, but it was what it was. He was there to win races, not to socialize. If his competition wanted a friend, he needed to get a dog.

On that day, the day Levi beat Moony in the hundred, Levi Cordoba found himself admiring Moony Brown. He wished he was that cool. The respect he had for the city's fastest man had grown, after their handshake.

It was later that Levi found out, Moony slipped coming out of the starting blocks. It allowed Levi to get out two steps ahead of Moony. He won the race by less than a single stride and it had taken Levi's best start ever to finally beat Moony Brown.

Knowing the truth about his win, Levi took congratulations in stride. He didn't expect to beat Moony again, because Moony was faster than he was in the hundred, and he wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

Terry sat in the window of 1909 2nd Street, where he'd lived all his life. These days he only left the house to see his doctors and they did him little good. They'd saved his life but had left him paralyzed. He watched the cars coming down 2nd Street and turning left to get to the main drag.

Once in a while, a police car, or an ambulance cut down 2nd Street, to get around a traffic snarl on the main street that cut across Southside. Once, a transit bus turned down 2nd Street, for the same reason.

His mother brought him breakfast at eight thirty, helping Terry out of bed, into his wheelchair and over to the chair in front of the window. He would sit there until she helped him get back into bed in the evening. He could watch the TV from his bed. [What about bathroom breaks?]

It was hard for Emily Brown to see her son become helpless. A few weeks before, everything was peaches and cream, but in one of those instants no one sees coming, Terry's life changed, altering all the lives at the Brown house.

Alvin, Terry's father, had insisted Terry eat dinner at the table, when he was able to get home for dinner.

He'd told Emily, "Allowing the boy to sit in that window all day, wasn't doing him a bit of good. There needs to be some normalcy in his life. No one died and we're still a family, in spite of Terry's injury."

That's the day when Terry began eating dinner with his parents again. It was awkward getting him out of the wheelchair and making him comfortable enough for him to eat, but once they figured out the logistics, it was no big deal.

Terry was a senior who made good grades, when he turned down an offer to allow him to go to school, Terry opted for lessons being sent to his house. They would allow him to use a computer for his homework and tests. Any written work would be picked up at his house if it couldn't be dropped off at school.

His coach and some of his teammates had come to the hospital, once they got the news about Moony. He'd accepted that sort of thing as necessary for them to see he was alive and out of danger. The problem for his teammates was they thought they were indestructible. Looking at Moony had them question their indestructibility. The looks on their faces showed it.

The looks on their faces had Moony asking them not to come back. He would need a while to rehabilitate himself and then he'd be back, but everyone knew that there wasn't enough time for him to make a comeback this season and graduation would end shortly after the final track meet of the season.

Since coming home from the hospital, he allowed the coach to call once a week to check on him. He asked that his teammates not visit and except for a teacher delivering his assignments to the front door of their house and taking away his homework and other things that were due, no one came to see him.

His father made it clear to the coach and to school officials, "The less said about this incident, the better. If you don't want to be stirring up a hornets' nest, you'll simply not comment on Terry's injury. It could head off violence."

Terry knew that what happened to him was an accident, a mistake. The boy who shot him, hadn't meant to shoot the city's fastest sprinter. The reaction to him shooting the city's fastest sprinter was swift. He'd been shot and killed a few days after he shot Moony. Moony blamed himself for the boy's death. He didn't send a message, there is to be no retribution for my accidental shooting.

After the fact, he knew that's what he should have done, but he had still been dealing with being paralyzed from the waist down. His wound hadn't gotten well enough for him to be off the medications they were giving him and, in that atmosphere, he never gave a thought to the repercussions over him being shot.

Moony Brown didn't need to wait to grow up to become somebody. Moony Brown was somebody in Southside. Moony was leaving his mark on high school track and field. He'd become Chicago's fastest human. No one shot someone who had become somebody. If you did, there were people who would deal with you.

The word to his team, 'I'll be back,' were uttered, without anyone who had half a brain believing it. The boy could'tn walk. How could he possibly run again?

He wouldn't go back to his track team. He'd be lucky to walk again. The doctors said, "Maybe."

Most of the doctors didn't know who Terrance Brown was. The ones who recognized his name, knew it from what was written in the sports pages of one of the local newspapers. Few linked Terrance Brown with Moony Brown. Unlike baseball, football and basketball, track and field wasn't widely followed, unless it was an Olympic year, and many people would look to see who won the hundred meter race.

Doctors wanted to be able to tell Terry, "There's a chance you might walk again."

Doctors didn't like to lie either. If there was a chance he could, there was a good chance he wouldn't, and they said neither.

In high school, if you were the teams fastest man, people would know your name. Once you disappeared from their midst, what you were was part of the student body memory. The student body had a habit of moving on from high school and the longer you were not heard from, the less you were missed, until no one remembers your name.

Terry gave thought to this reality after being shot. A team was a little different from the entire student body. When you're the guy scoring a big hunk of the points the team scored in a track meet, you're missed in a different way.

Your team scores fewer points without you, winning fewer events. They would think of Moony and what he meant to the team but no one wants to see a cripple and Terry had no desire to be seen as crippled.

It worked out nice that way.

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