Both Navigators glided smoothly up the on ramp to I-70 across the River through St. Charles in a straight line towards both the famed University of Missouri at Columbia and  Kansas City where they continued their respite by checking into a hotel in Independence   across the street from the dual sports center of Arrowhead Stadium home of the Kansas City Chiefs and Kauffman Stadium, ballpark of the Kansas City Royals for the last thirty eight years, Their accommodations within easy access of the Truman Library and Museum [1] commemorating the Presidency of Harry Truman and featuring a miniaturized version of the Battleship U.S.S. Missouri where the Japanese surrendered ending hostilities in World War II.

On the last few miles into town they passed the quaint Bates City home of the academic powerhouse Mary Magnall and her alter ego Mary Mangnall both graduates of the University of Missouri at Columbia, now allegedly living in the socialist utopia of Rhode Island and friends of Anita Abrams now Anita Wilson of St. Louis a true friend to everyone she ever met and the sole person known to all of her college classmates committed thirty plus years later to vetting stories and updates in their lives and forwarding it to their former dormitory companions and pioneers each and every one in their own right leaving home for the first time to live and learn on this beloved campus at their university.

 The memories of those first weeks their freshman  year came rushing back like the softball game where their dorm floor of King House almost beat Drake House in a low scoring softball game in the fading day one fall afternoon and before dinner, the Friday night Hayride Keggar outside of town but not quite to Boonville where Dave Haenni mashed straw down the back of the shirt of Bob Abbott who befriended an adoring smitten coed in the soft spoken and shy Pam, the girl with one name.

 The moon sliding event where the brown tile floors of King House were lubricated with water tossed from brown metal trash cans and participants stripped naked and slid down the hallway led by Tuba player and engineering student Mark Titus, whose alter ago the Martian routinely with his roommate Fred the Dog, called across campus to the women’s dormitories to pester and tease Lisa Moon, Sally Smith and the now deceased Patty Vasterling. God bless us each and everyone he thought to himself. Patty was so young when she died a recent graduate and rising star at the now defunct Arthur Anderson Accounting firm itself contaminated by Enron and sanctioned out of existence eventually exonerated but to little to late to stop the hemorrhaging of their client base; their reputation shredded like the Enron documents they destroyed and captured on video.

The names of Mike Pollack and Don Meztger seniors who welcomed him as a freshman and invited him into their dorm room to listen to simple man. Other dorm friends included Wayne Wimbish, Doug Dowden, John Rizzo, Mike Rapier, Eric Clang, who he drove to the Emergency Room at the University Medical Center and waited while the emergency medicine physician stitched his face back together prior to Eric returning and playing in the same Rugby game, Tom Chambers, Brian Shobe and Kevin Allen also known as “Fang” who he bumped into at the terminal between flights in Dallas years later.

He glanced into the rear view mirror now to view the sun glistening off the shades of Tuesday his wife and mother of their four children and the now receding skyline of Kansas City as they pushed into Lenexa then Olathe home of top fitness and glamour model Stephanie Roths before the long nine hour trek to Colorado then Denver their next layover and goof off destination.

The receding day, scents and colors jogged his recall of high school in Kansas City a cross country runner was he the memories of piling into the school bus in the fall and traveling across the state line into Kansas for the Shawnee Mission invitational one Friday afternoon. Thirty teams participated that day with his coach Bill Newland of the Oak Park Senior High School and Northmen each runner attired in their soft blue nylon shorts and matching blue and white tank tops with the letters “OP” monogrammed on the front as if on a Letterman’s jacket, no socks and wafer thin leather running shoes with small cleats the recall and rush as if there again the anxiety of lining up on that cool afternoon awaiting the sound of the starters pistol.

But their main rival of Raytown South led by the wizard of running Alan Adams leading the charge to win after win at seemingly each and every invitational or head to head meet the Northmen paced by Jeff Press and Doug Johnson iconic as runners during the early seventies. He smiled as he reminisced about how Jeff and Doug saved him one afternoon as Kevin Watson and Bruce Cummings were set to issue the standard hazing and pink belly of sophomore runners. He knew his angels in absentia Janet Pilcher and Barb Elliott, seniors and friends, intervened that day to prevent the initiation and how he skipped the Letterman banquet his Senior year and automatic letter awarded that evening embarrassed that his friends had lettered as sophomores and juniors and some like his locker mate since Junior High Gene Wendland sporting medals and other chest cabbage, his letter on his soft and navy blue combination Jacket barely visible underneath the football pins and wrestling medals. He had yet to learn that the success is in the persistency and not the length of the journey. His letter awarded unceremoniously and privately the next day in the gym locker room outside the office of Coach Bill Newland, who inquired as to why he hadn’t made the previous evenings award dinner. He lied and told the coach he was baby-sitting.

He smiled and laughed to himself as he recalled how as a ninth grader at Antioch Junior High School in Kansas City North he was dumped by his first true love Laurie Barker or was it  just prior to boarding the Greyhound for the class trip to Six Flags over Dallas. Swell!  He pondered the lives of his favorite teachers like Kenneth Monach at Antioch and Lynn Blair at Oak Park who guided his interest in the class small group video project with a foursome of classmates including Greg Smith, the all-star tight end of the football team, into appearing as gangsters and piling into the trunk of a car arriving at his home to toilet paper the front yard in the middle of the afternoon all under the watchful eye and guest cameraman Lynn Blair who then trained the camera on the arriving Gladstone Police while uttering profanities under his breath. The edited for class version of the tape won the award for best short video but the Police sequence somehow misplaced and never recovered.

He recalled delivering the Kansas City Times at two thirty in the morning and the Kansas City Star in the afternoon after school walking past the Tree to the paper delivery truck and converted camper parked in the driveway of a suburban home and later in high school scoring four tickets gifted by Mr. Quigley, his boss, to attend the first Kansas City Royals home game in their new stadium. To young to drive he invited Mike a classmate to chauffer his dark green high performance Chevelle SS to the ballpark.

Janet and Barb accepted the invitation and the evening was set. They arrived in style and rode the escalator to the upper deck found their seats and watched the game. For a moment in time he was on top of the world on a double date with two senior babes who befriended him and drove him to school each day. He had made the cut and as a sophomore was grooving and ready to enjoy his next two years of high school as a king of sorts until the iron rule of unintended consequences arrived in the form of forced humility as the drunk fan seated directly behind him blew lunch in his hair. Barb Elliot and Janet Pilcher went into action wiping away the mess with Kleenexes but too little avail. They left to move to new seats and he to the restroom for a head dunk and impromptu shampoo in the sink at the ballpark that night. One in the offending party stood up and in a typical alcohol fueled voice meant to wake the dead yelled hey you’re not leaving because my friend puked in your hair are you? The rest of the upper deck in unison turned and stared at the commotion. A new bottom of his life now breached his friends offering complete support not a word was ever spoken at school or ever again.

He glanced into the rearview mirror and watched the glistening in the sun of the red rosary beads hung over the rear view mirror of the chase car piloted by his adorable and insanely beautiful wife She of Serbian and Russian heritage and a convert to Catholicism.

Their black puppy Spitzer sighting upright in the passenger seat facing daddy and their three children now seated side by side in the rear seat watching a video from the fold down player. He glanced behind him and Chad was napping in the back seat the other pup Parker also anchored firmly in the front facing directly ahead as the white lines came and went one after another mile after mile the sun slowly receding over the flat Kansas horizon the day turned into dusk, then twilight and finally night as they drove over the horizon, then another and another until resting in Denver where he initiated contact with his agent in Las Vegas. His realtor quickly added him to a waiting list for a Pardee Home in the Southwest side of the Valley.

Page 2                     Shinedown ~ Leave a Whisper 2013.13

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