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Blond, Black and Pink – A sequel Part 22

In Part 21 Ellen accompanies Bridget to Kate’s shop where Bridget get her long hair cut into a short buzzed boy cut. Despite knowing that the girls were part of something, the true extent of their accomplishments does not become apparent to Paula until she hears from some of the other Mothers and the news from Kate when she goes in for her regular Friday evening appointment. The magnitude of the accomplishments of the swim team and the potential that they and the amigas were exhibiting was finally beginning to reach its peak with the Regional Meet in which the swimming competition has been upgraded to an official meet in which the times will be recognized nationally. This episode is about that meet although there is a haircutting scene in it.

Week 9

Saturday – The Regional Meet

“Hey Christine, we’re not shaving are we,” Melissa asked.

“No. We can tomorrow. But I would if I thought I could actually swim faster. Everybody has to wear those elastic swimming caps. I think they slow me down a little,” Christine complained.

“Are you going to be able to eat breakfast?” Melissa asked.

“Sure, but just a light one. I have one event in the morning. I’ll have my lunch a little early. My afternoon race isn’t until two thirty,” Christine said.

“I have a little more time. I guess I can eat a regular breakfast. What do you want?” Melissa asked.

“Some orange juice and that whole wheat cereal with some blueberries will be OK, Christine said.

“OK, I’ll set it out. I have to eat mine and get going, but we’ll all be there to root for you. I hear Mom. She’ll want her coffee Melissa said.

“Thanks, Melissa. I’ll be down in a minute,” Christine responded.

Breakfast eaten, Christine and Paula headed for Wasena Park with its eight lane twenty five meter indoor pool.

“How are you feeling Christine?” Paula asked.

“I’m just a little keyed up Mom. Nothing like the Wasena meet. I’ll be fine after I’ve done a little stretching and a few laps in the pool. By then I’ll be ‘centered’. The girls swim first so Tommy will be around at the beginning. That’s what I need. He knows how to settle me down,” Christine said.

“I think I’ve sensed that,” Paula told her.

When they walked into the building Tommy was waiting for them with his gym bag. They were about ten minutes early.

Paula gave her a quick hug. “Make some waves Christine.”

Christine laughed. “Where did that come from Mom?” she asked.

“I thought of that old stage saying of ‘break a leg,’ but that didn’t seem quite right, so I came up with my own,” she laughed.

“I’ll remember it. Let’s go Tommy. See you this evening Mom,” Christine said as they headed toward the locker rooms.

Paula turned just as Janet, Gail and Bridget arrived.

“Hi Mrs. Jenner,” Janet greeted her.

“Hi, Janet. You too Gail. Bridget. Let me get a good look at you. Wow. You look great with that buzz cut. I think you’re all going to make some big waves today. I’ll be there rooting for you,” Paula said.

“Thanks Mrs. Jenner. All of our Moms are coming and some Dads too,” Janet said with a grin. “They’re probably already in the bleachers.”

“We need to hurry. We don’t want to be late,” Gail urged them to go.

“Give it your best shot. You’re the best and everybody loves you,” Paula said to their backs as the headed to the locker area at a rapid pace.

Paula looked around to see if any more of the girls were were coming down this particular hallway. There were numerous other kids making their way in, but she didn’t recognize them. She walked back down the hallway to the entrance to the bleachers. It will be pretty easy to spot the Crown Point contingent, but they may not recognize me, she thought as she walked to the front and turned to scan the bleachers. Sure enough she spotted Hallie, Leigh and Michelle among several other buzzed heads all sitting together with a handful of other women. Michelle’s distinctive style was hard to miss. There were a number of men as well, who she assumed were the husbands of the women. She recognized Victor, Chris and James. They were in a group near the starting position end of the pool and would have a good view. She walked casually toward them feeling a little exhilarated and eager to show off her newest transformation. They would have a good bit of time before the first event. She paused to look around. Obviously the Crown Point contingent was by far the largest. She was surprised to see that there were two camera crews as well. Several men and women with jackets sporting a logo and wearing identification tags were in the pool area inspecting and filling out some paperwork. Someone spoke softly over the public address system testing it. Some numbers flashed on the board that gave the times for each swimmer. After a couple of minutes she turned and walked quickly to the area where her friends were sitting and chatting. She had stepped up onto the first row of bleacher seats when Michelle recognized her.

“Paula! Look at Paula! Oh my. That is a fabulous buzz cut Paula!” Michelle exclaimed.

“I love it Michelle. You did something different too. You look very good. Your eyes are so big. Now I get …..” Paula started to say when Michelle put her finger on her lips and shushed her, laughing behind her finger.

“Paula, that’s a wonderful look for you. I’ve never seen you looking so good. You look very elegant,” Hallie told her.

“Thanks, Hallie. You’re looking really good yourself,” Paula responded. “I think you’ve gotten your hair cut shorter haven’t you.”

“Very observant Paula. I think Victor has been brainwashed by Steffie and Audra. He likes my little nose stud so much he actually suggested I should get my hair cut shorter. I’m going a step shorter in a couple of weeks. I need to get used to having it all off for Steffie’s wedding,” Hallie laughed.

“Paula there are a lot of people here that you should meet,” Leigh told her. “This is Patty French,” Leigh said.

“I’m so glad you came Patty. Gail has worked so hard for this. And she has really become a champion according to Christine,” Paula said.

“After Doris called me I figured I would be in the dog house for sure if I didn’t come. It is weird to see all these women with their hair cut off just because their kids have their heads shaved. I thought it was just some teenage fad they would grow out of soon enough. I guess it’s pretty serious if Rhonda is willing to practically shave her head over it. Apparently Christine started the whole thing and now they’re all following her as though they didn’t have a brain of their own,” Patty said with some irritation.

Paula was somewhat taken aback by this outburst. She didn’t want to get into a discussion about how it had come about. She was still wondering how to respond when Iris, who had just arrived with with her husband Andy intervened.

“I don’t think it happened quite that way Patty. They all admired and respected Christine because she worked so hard and was so determined to be good enough to be on the Forest High Team next year. They saw how much she improved and how much she kept on improving because of her hard work and determination. And she helped them every way she could. She never said anything to them about being bald unless they asked, and then only to say that she liked being bald. Gail’s decision was her own. She just wanted to get a short haircut like that. And then my Janet and Jessie got theirs cut following Gail, not Christine. It was only later that they used it as a badge of team solidarity,” Iris said.

“Come on. We can talk about it later. They’re about to get started,” Doris said.

“They’re putting up the lane assignments,” Rhonda announced. “We’ve got three in the race!” she exclaimed excitedly.

“Christine and Janet are the favorites aren’t
they?” Heather asked.

“That’s right Heather. Janet said the only time she ever came close to beating her was when Christine had that awful case of nerves. Unless she has another case of nerves she ought to win. Janet has the second best time and she told me she has done even better in practice. And Bridget is only a little bit behind. I think she’ll give Tess a race and may get third place Rhonda,” Iris related. “I have a hard time understanding how they can compete against each other so fiercely and still spend so much time trying to help each other get better.”

“I think it’s Christine’s influence,” Doris said. “Ellen said that Christine spends as much time with her and with Bridget as the coaches do. And she helps the others as well.”

“Here they come,” Sammie called as the eight swimmers emerged through the door.

The announcer named the race, gave the rules, and stated the names of the swimmers and their lane assignment. Janet was on Christine’s left with Tess on her right and Bridget one lane over. The three of them exchanged highfives and quickly took their places behind their lanes, standing quietly and composed.

“Look, they’re not wearing those rubber caps, just their goggles. I suppose if they have really short hair or none at all they don’t need to wear them,” Paula guessed. “The other girls are wearing them.”

“Jessie, told me about the rules last night. She said that she and Janet had protested and their coach said she would get a ruling from the head referee.” Sammie told them. “A lot of the guys don’t wear a cap, just goggles. He must have ruled that girls with a buzzed or shaved head don’t need to wear them.”

The timer stood on the far side of the pool watching as several of the swimmers walked in little circles swinging their arms. Finally he announced:

“On your mark.”

A pause as the swimmers went to the edge of the pool and curled their toes over the starting blocks.

“Get set.”

They bent over and grabbed the bar for their launch.

The gun sounded and it was a fair start.

The Crown point crowd began screaming encouragement. Christine had taken an immediate lead with Janet only a head behind her. At the turn they were half a body length ahead of Bridget and Tess who seemed to be in a dead heat. Christine had lengthened her lead over Janet at the turn with a very quick turnaround and explosive kick off the wall. She emerged more than halfway across the pool. The two of them were now well ahead of Tess and Bridget, who was staying with Tess stroke for stroke. Christine touched first in just under twenty eight seconds – more than a second faster than her best time shown on the board. Janet was only two tenths of a second behind her. Much to everyone’s surprise Tess and Bridget finished in a dead heat a half second behind Janet even though Tess had a personal best time. All three gave fist pumps when they saw their times.

As they climbed out of the pool to raucous applause they heard the announcement of the results and the further announcement that Christine’s time was tied for the all time best in the state in her age category. Janet also improved on the state record for the year. All three had personal best times. They pulled off their goggles and the three almost bald girls engaged in a three way embrace. Christine immediately went over to speak to Tess. Who appeared disconsolate. After a moment she exchanged a high five with Christine.

“Paula, now you know. If there was any doubt about how good they are that just ended it,” Sammie said. “Iris, you’ve definitely got a winner on you hands.”

“I’m beginning to wonder where I’ve been all summer,” Andy, Janet’s Dad, said. “It hardly seems possible that they could have gotten this good so fast. How in the world did they get so muscular so fast. Does anybody know?” Andy asked perplexed.

“Andy, you’ve been out of it a lot more than we women have and we had little enough idea what they’ve been doing,” Doris told him. “But I know that Ellen goes to the gym and does a two hour workout three times a week and is in the pool for three hours three or four times a week. And then they do yoga for an hour on Friday so they know how to relax and concentrate at the same time. Did you notice them at the start. They didn’t fidget or walk around like the other swimmers, but they weren’t tense. I know Ellen’s arms are a lot bigger now than they were last spring. I’m just astounded at the dedication that they have.”

“How much better can they get,” Tim, Bridget’s Dad, asked. “She sure has astounded me. It seems to have happened overnight.”

“We have a long wait for the next race. According to this program its the fifty meter butterfly. That means Janet, Gail and Sharon I think. Does anyone know who had the third best time,” Iris asked.

Hal, Bridget’s Dad, was looking at a printout he was holding. “I’ve compiled all their records for the summer. Bridget’s time in the butterfly is better than Sharon’s in the butterfly, but she volunteered to give up her spot in favor of Sharon, because she’s in the freestyle events as well as the relay. It’s pretty interesting to see how they’re improved. I don’t know why getting crazy haircuts should have any effect, but they each made big improvements in the meet following their haircuts. Must be just a coincidence. But Sharon and Dana didn’t have nearly the big improvements that the others had at the last two meets.”

“Dana and Sharon don’t work as hard as the others. They’re just not into it with the same intensity. Ellen said that they come to the gym only once a week most of the time and they don’t work as hard in the pool. They’re a year younger. Maybe that makes a difference,” Doris said.

“If they do well in the breaststroke, I think that’s going to make the rest of the meet a foregone conclusion. No one is going to seriously challenge Janet and Christine in the butterfly and backstroke. Gail and Jessie are well ahead of the others too,” Frank, Ellen’s Dad, told the group.

“Paula, come on over here and meet Bridget’s Mom, Rhonda, Heather said.

“Rhonda, Paula got her buzz cut just last night. She wasn’t quite as daring as you though; she did it in three steps,” Heather said laughing.

Paula laughed in turn. “Glad to meet you Rhonda. It’s wonderful that you’ve really gotten ‘with it’ for our girls. I’ve actually been a little behind the times. “I’m probably the hundredth person who has told you how fabulous you look with that buzz cut.”

“Well, maybe not the hundredth actual person, but Tim has told me about fifty times. The more I see of it the better I like it,” Rhonda said with a big smile as she ran her hand back over her head.

“I knew I wanted a buzz cut, but I thought I had to do it in steps. Yesterday I decided the time had come. My two baldies were very enthusiastic about it,” Paula said. “I think these buzz cuts look wonderful, but you should see Steffie. She’s a real knockout and she perfectly bald. Hold on a minute I need to ask Hallie if she’s coming.”

“Hallie. Is Steffie coming,” Paula asked.

“She and Louis are both coming. She couldn’t make it before about ten. She should be here before the next race,” Hallie informed her.

“Come on Rhonda I want to go talk to Michelle. Have you been introduced to her yet? She’s one of the soccer Moms. Her Cindi is a great soccer player. Michelle just got her long hair cut into an interesting style. She did something else too that I’m not allowed to mention yet,” Paula laughed.

“I haven’t met her, but I’m eager to get to know all these women. They certainly seem unusual to say the least,” Rhonda laughed.

All of the women were in a large group chatting. The conversation had returned to Michelle’s hair style and how it had been changed since the original cut. Heather turned to Paula. “Do you know?” she asked. Paula touched her finger to her forehead above one eye and nodded ‘yes.’ They shared a smile.

“Heather, meet Rhonda, who recentl
y joined the buzzed bombshell bunch. Rhonda, Heather was the first of our group to get a buzz cut. It sort of broke a logjam so to speak,” Paula told her.

“I like your buzz cut Heather. It is very youthful and flattering.” Rhonda said.

“And yours is seriously sensational. I don’t know why being blond makes it look so good but it does. And it sure is flattering. Lot easier to take care of too,” Heather laughed. “Let’s see if anyone else has figured out what Michelle did,” she laughed again.

“Actually I haven’t done a thing to my hair. Cindi wanted hers cut again last week, but I wanted to wait a week. We’re going on Monday morning,” Michelle told them.

There were a number of perplexed exclamations as they tried to solve the mystery.

“I’ve got it,” Leigh shouted laughing. “You don’t have any eyebrows. “That’s a very interesting look. You can’t help focusing on your eyes and and then you don’t notice that there are no brows. Where in the world did you get that idea Michelle?”

“Kate has a whole section in the back of one of her books with a lot of different hairstyles shown on models with no eyebrows. I was intrigued and wanted to try it. I wanted to see how everyone would react. The lady who shaped and lightened them showed me how to make them disappear entirely. It’s just a little bit of some makeup stuff that they use in the theater. It forms a sort of thin film covering the eyebrows. Then a little makeup and they disappear. I still have them, they’re just a good bit lighter now. What do you think? Does it look too weird? Michelle asked. “James never did figure it out, although he said I looked especially nice. I finally had to tell him.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say it looks weird, but it does draw attention to your eyes,” Heather said.

“It will take a little time to get used to the idea,” Doris told her, “but it certainly does emphasize your eyes. I’m beginning to see how it could be quite arresting, especially with a hair style like yours Michelle.

“I used a little more eye makeup than usual, so that may have emphasized them a little,” Michelle responded. “I’m going to keep trying it out now and then to get people’s reaction. I actually like it quite a lot. I may end up keeping it like this. I can always add brows whenever I want.”

“That’s right. I hadn’t considered that,” Doris said.

“Look at Hallie. You really don’t notice her eyebrows much at all and I’ve always thought she was really good looking. I have told you that haven’t I Hallie?” Michelle said.

Hallie laughed. “Well, I think you may have mentioned it once or twice. You know that Whoopie Goldberg doesn’t have any either. And no one seems to notice it. Years ago I used to keep mine shaved off like hers. You look good Michelle. Maybe I’ll have to try it again.”

“You can count me as one who actually likes the look Michelle. Kate and I had discussed it when I had my brows lightened. I didn’t have the nerve to actually try it,” Paula confessed. “Maybe now I will.”

“Here comes Steffie,” Leigh announced.

“Hi everybody. Has Christine had a race yet?” Steffie asked.

“She was terrific Steffie. She won the fifty meter free in the best time ever in the state for kids her age,” Iris told her. “Janet came in second and she had her best time ever. Bridget did the same. The team is terrific.”

“Steffie you got here just in time to see Janet, Gail and Sharon in the butterfly,” Paula told her.

The board showed Janet and Gail in lanes two and three, with Sharon in lane five. Their best times were listed as well. As they emerged the Crown Point cheering squat completely drowned out the public address system. They quieted down quickly during the rest of the announcements.

Janet, Gail and Sharon exchanged. High fives Janet and Gail had goggles, while Sharon wore the tight cap to cover her hair. They seemed relaxed, but focused.

It was a fair start, with Janet in the lead by a slight margin, but she was setting a furious pace that Gail could not quite match. Janet hit the wall and made a quick turn and emerged ten yards from the wall. Gail emerged a half body length behind her and made a determined effort to close the gap, but Janet held her off. Sharon tried to overtake the Wasena swimmer but could not quite do it.

Janet touched looked around, pumped her fist and immediately turned to congratulate Gail. They both looked for Sharon and swam over to her to give her a high five for her performance. The stands were still in an uproar as the Crown contingent yelled for their three girls.

“Look at Janet’s time,” Sammie exclaimed. “She beat her best by more than a second and so did Gail. That’s amazing.”

Andy was thunderstruck. “Those are unbelievable times. She’s only been swimming on a team for a couple of years and she never seemed seriously interested. She almost came in under thirty seconds! And Gail was less than a half second behind!”

“Janet almost set a new state record in her bracket. They both beat the best time in the state for the past year.” Hal announced.

Come on everybody, we have only a few minutes until the soccer preliminary begins. We can talk about the swimmers later,” Michelle said, eager to cheer for Cindi and the amigas.

They continued their conversations while the scrambled down from the bleachers and headed out to the soccer field. They managed to find a section of bleachers near midfield that was not occupied just before the game began. The scoreboard said it was Crown Point Bulldogs versus the Cloverdale Cheetahs.

“Did Cloverdale play this morning.” Doris asked.

“No, that was Keystone and Fox Run. Whoever won that match will play Wasena this afternoon. They flipped a coin to decide who would play who in the preliminaries. We got Cloverdale in soccer and whoever won this morning in volleyball,” Leigh explained.

“How does this match stack up,” Andy asked.

“I’m pretty sure we’re the better team by a good margin, but you never know what might happen. They could get a couple of lucky goals or someone on our team could get hurt,” Michelle told him.

That’s good to know. I’ve heard from Bridget that they’re really good. I look forward to seeing them play,” Hal responded.

“Well there they go. The amigas are all in the game,” Leigh said.

Cloverdale had the ball and made a determined effort to have a good start and finally managed to take a weak shot on goal which Audra easily stopped. The Bulldogs headed down field and maneuvered trying to find an opening. Melissa got around one defender and took the ball toward the goal. Two defenders converged on her, but Cindi had broken into the open from the right side. Melissa saw her, faked a shot and sent the ball to Cindi who made a left footed kick toward the left side of the goal. The goal keeper had anticipated and with a last lunge had gotten her hands on the ball.

There were three more exchanges without a score. The Cheetahs had the ball and were coming down field. This time they made the mistake of trying to get the ball past Penny who anticipated the pass, intercepted it and sent it to Melissa who was already in full stride heading toward the Cheetah goal with Cindi and Beth only a step behind on the wings. Melissa easily outmaneuvered one defender. Cindi drew another away with a fake toward the goal. As she approached the goal, Melissa headed toward the right then shifted the ball to her left foot where two strides later she had a clear shot to the left side of the goal. Her shot was just inside the goal and on the ground. The goal tender had no chance of stopping it. The score was 1-0 in favor of the Bulldogs and the Crown Point contingent yelled and clapped. Fifteen minutes later the score was 3-0 as Melissa assisted on two more goals, one each to Beth and Cindy. Penny had intercepted yet another Cheetah pass, and Audra had stoppe
d two other shots.

The second half was much like the first. Cloverdale made a valiant effort and finally scored their first goal after having stopped Crown Point twice. They could not do it the third time. The Cheetahs had begun to assume that Melissa would pass to one of her teammates and her defender had left her alone. Cindi maneuvered to find an opening and passed to Melissa who got it in perfect position and sent a bullet into the upper right corner of the goal. With the score 4-1 with twelve minutes left, Cindi was taken out of the game so she could be rested for the volleyball game that would occur in the afternoon. It did not slow down the Bulldogs. Once again Melissa worked her magic. She had passed to Denise, Cindi’s replacement, who returned the ball to her. As she turned toward the goal, she drew two defenders toward her, and passed the ball between them to Beth who scored easily.

After several more exchanges, the Cheetahs scored again, but it was too little, too late. The Bulldogs immediately answered with a score of their own when Melissa found Denise with a perfect centering pass which she converted into a score. The Cheetah’s made one final effort to score, but were thwarted when Penny kicked away one pass and disrupted another. A desperation kick was easily handled by Audra. The Bulldogs simply passed the ball to each for the last minutes. The final score of 6-2 Bulldogs was unequivocal evidence of how much the Bulldogs had improved in two months.

The Crown Point contingent yelled, clapped and stomped for several minutes before they quieted down.

“Hey, we had better get going if we’re going to see Gail’s race. I for one want to see what she and Christine do in their events. Gail and Janet had the toughest schedule, swimming back to back races, but I’ll bet that Gail will put on a show, and there’s no telling what Christine might do,” Iris said.

“Patty, I think you’re in for quite a show. The breast stroke is her best event. Jessie says she has been improving a lot, especially the last month. Jessie used to be able to beat her sometimes, but doesn’t think she can now,” Sammie said.

“I don’t know much about swimming. I had no idea that she was into it in such a big way. I guess I have to believe you when you say she’s a good swimmer,” Patty responded.

“Let’s put it this way. In these events there is no high school in the state that can compete with them if the information I have here is correct. Of course the high school teams swim a lot of much longer events and these girls haven’t worked on them yet,” Frank explained. “I expect that if they got a little coaching to help them pace themselves they would be competitive in the two hundred meter events right now.”

They continued to chat after the medals had been awarded. There was a lot of speculation about how much better they would get during the school year. The guys formed a pool for to see who could predict the times in the next races. The next race was Ellen’s first chance to win an individual medal.

Finally the time arrived. The three girls exchanged highfives and stood behind their lane. They had the same lane assignments as Janet, Gail and Sharon had occupied in the previous event. At the gun they were away cleanly with strong launches. Jessie took the lead by a head over Gail and Ellen. Gail inched her way up to being neck and neck with Ellen remaining a head behind. At the turn Gail moved ahead slightly and Ellen fell behind a bit more. At the end Gail made one final surge and touched the wall followed by Jessie and Ellen. She was under thirty five seconds by a significant margin at thirty four point six. Jessie’s time was less than a tenth of a second slower and Ellen had nearly broken thirty five seconds herself, more than a second better than her previous best. There was no other swimmer close to them. The closest was almost a body length behind Ellen. The three girls pumped their fists. Climbing out of the water they had a group hug before waving to their families.

“There you go Patty. She just broke the state record, just like Christine,” Iris announced as the event board flashed this information.

“What does that mean exactly,” Patty asked.

“It means that you just saw your daughter swim that event faster than any girl who is in her age bracket and who lives in this entire state has ever swam it,” Hal said. “That is a remarkable achievement, because she has never been part of a serious swimming program until this summer and even that was not serious until those girls made it serious. And she has three years in high school to get better, if she doesn’t end up in a major swimming program before that which, if she gets a lot of support and encouragement, she probably will.”

“I guess I had better talk to Bob about what’s going on,” Patty said.

“Good idea, Patty.” Hal was determined to make an impression on Patty. Gail was improving at a pace that would put her in elite company in a year, not that she would necessarily continue improving at the present pace, but he expected that it might continue for a while.

It was a quarter past noon and the last swimming event was not until two thirty. They anticipated it being the event of the day. No one brought up the subject of Christine’s terrible case of nerves, although it was on their minds.

At Melissa’s urging Paula had brought her own lunch consisting of a tuna salad sandwich on a whole wheat bun, a yogurt and a fresh peach purchased on Friday.

She purchased a can of iced tea from a machine.

When they all sat down to their lunch, Sammie looked at her and asked, “Paula aren’t you having something more than that can of iced tea?

Paula laughed. “Melissa gave me strict order that I was not to get anything from the machines here. So I made my own like all the kids do. I’ll bet Jessie fixed something for herself too.” Paula opened her shoulder bag and retrieved her tuna salad sandwich, yogurt and fresh peach. Several of the women looked at her lunch with some envy.

“She did,” Sammie said. “And she suggested that I should make something too, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve noticed that she has almost stopped eating any of the snacks that she used to take to her room and she actually asked me to fix some vegetables that she never used to eat.”

“I think they’re all doing something like that,” Michelle said as she opened her bag and retrieved sandwiches, fruit and a light desert for James and herself. “Melissa started it I think, and now none of the amigas eat any meat. I discovered that some of the meat substitutes are actually quite good and James doesn’t object much. Cindi has sure been growing and she certainly looks better than ever. She’s very fit and looks terrific in a bathing suit.”

Leigh and Heather had set out their lunches for their Husbands and themselves.

“Do you all do this when you go to their meets?” Iris asked. “Janet said that she’s doesn’t want any meat anymore and gave me a little recipe book that uses tofu, nuts and some other things that are high in protein. Most of the time she fixes her special dishes herself. I fix them myself a couple of times a week. We’re certainly not eating meat nearly as much as we used to.”

“They must all be doing it. Bridget usually skips taking any meat and simply adds more vegetables. She asked me to buy some veggy stuff too. She hasn’t told me that she doesn’t want to eat meat though,” Sammie said.

“I for one am not going to become a vegetarian any time soon,” Hal said. “But it’s hard to find fault with what they’re doing and what they’ve accomplished. They certainly appear to be in terrific shape, have plenty of energy and must be quite healthy.”

“Ellen told me she wants to be a vegetarian. I argued with her a little, but she had her facts in order. She said she would help fix her own meat substitutes, and she has. She never wanted to help in the kitchen before, but now she does it. I checked with a dietitian that was recomme
nded by my doctor and he said that her diet was absolutely OK so long as she gets plenty of calcium. She already knew about that and told me what vegetables were high in calcium. I buy soy milk for her that is calcium fortified. Anyway she’s growing like crazy and is amazingly strong and healthy. Frank and I haven’t been convinced that we should be vegetarians, but she’s making a pretty good case for it,” Doris laughed.

“I think it’s all nonsense.” Patty blurted out. “I told Gail that I’m not buying any of that stuff for her. If she wanted it she would have to buy it herself and use her allowance. I guess she does. And fixes it herself too. It’s just a ridiculous fad and I’m not going to have anything to do with it.”

“That’s not fair, Patty,” Iris said. “Lots of people are vegetarians, and they’re healthier than the rest of us. You don’t have to be a vegetarian yourself, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or should be criticized.”

“Well, I doubt we’re going to resolve this today, but I for one am prepared to go with what they’re doing as long as they continue to progress and there is no reason to think it does them any harm. I’m pretty sure that all of us could benefit from a healthier diet, and that’s what they’re trying to achieve,” Andy proclaimed.

“We still have a little time on our hands,” Leigh said. “I think I’ll take a walk along one of the trails they have here.”

“I’d be delighted to join you Ms. Singletary,” Ray spoke up.

Several other couples stood up and headed out the door. Paula joined them. She couldn’t understand Patty’s extreme reaction to what Gail was doing and her indifference to Gail’s extraordinary accomplishments. Gail deserved to be supported.

Patty had not joined them on their walk. Paula overtook Iris and Rhonda and their husbands. They were discussing Patty’s reaction. “I don’t get it Rhonda. Why should she be so upset about Gail. You could hardly ask for a girl to be acting better than she is. I know they’re all very dedicated. They aren’t running around with guys or anything that could be criticized. And Gail is about as determined to succeed as it is possible to be,” Iris said mystified.

“I have no idea Iris. Tim, you’ve talked with Bob a bit. Maybe it would be helpful if you told him just what a terrific swimmer she is. She’s never been in trouble, and she gets good grades according to Bridget. It’s a shame she has to do it without any family support,” Rhonda replied.

“Bob has never shown any interest in sports that I know of. He seems pretty wrapped up in his electronic projects over at E-Works, but I’ll talk to him when I have a chance,” Tim said.

“Well, somehow we need to find a way to be supportive of Gail. I don’t have a good idea at the moment, but, like you said, she shouldn’t have to do it without any support except from the rest of the swimming team,” Paula said.

“It’s almost two. Let’s go back to the pool and see what’s happening. I want to get a good seat for this event,” Rhonda said. “Jessie said that every time she has a time trial with Christine, they both get better. She can’t catch Christine, but she’s gotten a little closer. I think they’re likely to put on quite a show. It’s hard to know whether Christine is pulling Jessie, or Jessie is pushing Christine.”

“I doubt if they know. I think it’s both. I think they’ve got their minds made up about something and are not going to stop until they’ve achieved it,” Paula said.

The found bleacher seats in a good location along with some of the others who had already arrived. Michelle, James, Heather and Chris were already there. The remainder of the group came in a few minutes later. Patty was not with them.

“Patty said she had some things to do and left,” Iris said incredulously. “I was shocked. Isn’t Gail in the relay at five?”

“She is. According to Christine she’s taking the breaststroke leg. That’s her best event although she’s good in the fly. They had a real problem deciding who would swim the other three legs. I think they’re going with Jessie leading off with the backstroke then Janet in the fly followed by Gail with Christine anchoring with the free. Christine said she wished she could have led with the backstroke, but the others persuaded her to anchor,” Paula explained.

“Janet told me that Christine didn’t want to be in the spotlight, but they persuaded her to do it. That combination gives them the best time, because Jessie is so good in the backstroke,” Iris said.

“I guess we’ll find out how good they are in a few minutes,” Andy said pointing out that the girls were emerging from the locker area.

Jessie and Christine were the last to inter. As they walked toward their positions Tommy slipped through the door and took a seat at the rear beside the Crown Point swimming coach. After exchanging high fives with Dana and a double one with Jessie Christine, Jessie and Dana conferred briefly with their coach. They took up positions behind their starting lanes. Christine turned briefly to face the rear. Paula saw Tommy give her a quick thumbs up. His hands rested in his lap.

“On your mark.” All of the swimmers were in the water. They grabbed the grips on the start blocks and pull their feet up so they were crouched.

“Get set.” They pulled their heads forward so that their chins were almost on the grips.

The gun sounded. Christine exploded backwards, most of her body out of the water. She re-entered the water and used a butterfly kick. She reemerged at almost fourteen meters from the start and began her powerful push-pull strokes. She had gained a half meter lead on Jessie who was fighting to stay with her. They were alone in the pool as they approached the turn. Christine make her usual efficient turn and once again stayed underwater for the first twelve meters. When she emerged she had extended her lead on Jessie, who was ahead of Tess by a full meter, The Crown Pointers were making all the noise they possibly could. Unbeknownst to them most of the soccer and volleyball players had arrived just before the start of the race and were at the other end of the pool. They were contributing mightily to the noise.

When Christine and then Jessie touched, the noise increased if that was possible. Christine and Jessie gave fist pumps and then congratulated each other. As usual Christine swam over to Dana to give her a high five for ending with a respectable showing in fourth place. She turned and spoke to Tess who had bettered her best time by a small margin. They spoke briefly and exchanged hand slaps.

Tommy had come to the edge of the pool and Christine clasped his hand for a moment while he said something to her. As though just becoming aware of the noise, she turned to the stands and waved to them with a smile.

Hal had been watching the timer as it flashed numbers during the race. He had continued to stare at it for a moment. Only Rhonda heard his astonished “Oh my God.”

The noise subsided somewhat and Rhonda looked at him. “What happened?” she asked.

“Look at her time! She broke thirty seconds. She lowered her time by one point two seconds. And Jessie lowered hers by almost a second!” Hal stopped to listen to the announcement that Christine had set a new state record in her age category for the event and hers was the best time achieved in any age category in the year beginning last September. Jessie had bettered the time in her age category for the past year also.

There was a continuous buzz of chatter as the results and implications passed from person to person. They were all looking forward to tomorrow when the hundred meter events would be held.

The kids gathered around the adults listening to the chatter and adding their own.

“Christine was super wasn’t she?” Melissa said.

“She most certainly was,” Frank said. He had heard Melissa’s question and turned to answer. Your big sister is destined for something special if she stays on track. She’s been inspiring all the others.”

It was great that you all came to cheer for the team,” Paula said.

“They always cheer for us, so we wanted to cheer for them. We have to go change into our volleyball clothes now. See you later,” Melissa said as she turned and headed to the entrance followed by a stream of kids.

“Melissa has certainly been inspiring all the soccer kids and a few more besides,” Leigh told Frank.

“Let’s go over to the gym so we can get good seats for the volleyball match,” Victor said. “I’ve never seen Audra play.”

“She’s a terrific player Victor. I’ve watched all their matches and she is probably the best on any of the teams. She wants to play basketball and would be good at that, but she’d be a terrific volleyball player if she stays with it. And she’s such a good goal tender in soccer. I would hate to see her not be part of the amigas,” Michelle said.

“What about this match,” someone asked.

“They beat Keystone easily a couple of weeks ago, and they didn’t use their best players much. So I don’t expect much of a problem. Cindy and Audra probably won’t play much,” Michelle explained.

The made their way to the gym and were greeted by the swim team. They had all switched back to their regular cloths in order to cheer for the volleyball team.

“Oh, Christine you did so great,” Paula told her as they embraced. “You all did fantastic.”

The other girls were being embraced by Moms and Dads, except for Gail who was standing off to the side looking a little forlorn having realized that her Mom had left.

Paula saw her and immediately went over and put her arms around her. “Gail, you were wonderful. Your are a real champion for sure. You know that we’re proud of the team and you. You’re a real winner you know,” Paula reassured her.

Gail hugged her and Paula saw a tear trickle down her cheek.

“Thanks Ms. Jenner. My Mom and Dad aren’t interested in sports at all. They think I’m just being a stupid kid and that I shouldn’t be associating with people like Christine, because she’s putting stupid ideas in my head,” Gail said.

“Someday they’ll understand. You just have to prove to them that you’re part of something special and good. It will all work out. Don’t give up your dream whatever you do. We’re all behind you,” Paula encouraged her.

Janet and Ellen had realized that Gail was distressed and came over to offer their support. Soon the entire team surrounded her, followed by Iris, Sammie and Rhonda. Hal put his arm around her shoulder. “That was a terrific swim that you did Gail. I wish I’d been here at some of the other meets. I guarantee that I’ll be attending from now on. I wouldn’t miss you guys for anything.”

Gail smiled at him. “I’m going to do a lot better Mr. Haskell,” she said with conviction.

“I certainly have no doubt about that. You and the rest have something special going. Keep the flame burning. And I think your haircut is absolutely terrific – one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Hal said laughing.

Gail laughed in turn. She did a quick swipe of her eye with the back of her hand. “Thanks Mr. Haskell,” she said laughing.

Several of the women spoke to her quietly, praising her accomplishments, dedication and giving her words of encouragement.

The volleyball game was about to start. As expected, Cindy, Audra and several others on the team were on the sidelines while Melissa, Penny, and Beth were all in the game. As expected Keystone was not at the same level as Crown Point, which had quickly built up a ten to four lead.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be very close,” Heather said. “Melissa is a good setter and those two big girls are pretty good.”

As Heather made this statement Keystone made a good play and scored. When they served the ball was lofted to Melissa who had gotten into position from the back. A beautiful set and a spike was the result. Three more points followed. Audra had been in for only about five minutes, just to give one of the other girls a chance to catch her breath. She blocked one shot and soared high to register an impressive kill. The final score was fifteen to six. The next game was a repeat, except that Penny and Beth made several exceptional saves. Cindy entered late in the second game. She blocked a shot back across the net which fell to the floor for another score for the bulldogs. By the time the score was ten to three, the Keystone players were demoralized. The final score was fifteen to four.

The cheering was subdued. The Bulldogs were so superior that a lot of cheering seemed out of place.

The swim team headed back to the locker room to change back to their swimming gear. They had only about thirty minutes to change and warm up. The volleyball team rushed back to the locker room to change so they could cheer at the last match of the day. They had about forty five minutes. Everyone else had a half hour to walk back to the pool to see the last event of the day – the medley relay. .

Other than Patty, no one had left. There was a little discussion about the possibility of heading to the Herb Garden afterwards, but that idea was abandoned when they realized there would be more than twenty-five of them. They would need one of the two rooms, but both would be open for regular service on Saturday.

Rhonda headed to a quiet corner to try to make reservations for the following evening.

They arrived at the pool and occupied they same area they had sat in earlier. Crown Point would be in lane three, Wasena in lane four. Lanes one, seven and eight would be empty.

“This should be interesting. They’ve only practiced this for the past two weeks. It would be easy for someone to take off too soon and disqualify the team,” Hal said.

“Goodness, Hal. Don’t even think about anything like that,” Iris admonished him.

“Here they come,” Andy announced. There was no mistaking the Bulldogs swimming team. With their mostly bald heads they were very distinctive.

The teams gathered around their coaches for final instructions. After a clasping of hands, Jessie stepped forward a couple of steps to just behind the starting blocks.

“On your mark.” Jessie dropped into the pool, grabbed the bars and pulled her feet up into the crouched position.

“Get set.” She pulled herself toward the blocks.

“Crack!” The starter’s gun sounded and Jessie launched herself backwards, entered the water and executed two kicks before she emerged half-way across the pool. She was already ahead of Tess by a head. Now she propelled herself with powerful, rapid strokes. She knew how many strokes she needed to reach the wall. When she touched she was already into her turn, which she had practiced diligently with Christine. She had maintained her lead over Tess and now began to lengthen it. By the time she touched she had a lead of nearly a meter. She had not quite equaled her performance of earlier that day.

Janet was watching Jessie and launched herself precisely as Jessie touched. She emerged halfway across the pool, dolphin kicking while underwater. She lengthened the lead established by Jessie. It was nearly two meters when she touched and Gail launched. Gail also emerged halfway across the pool and began a furious effort to draw away from the Wasena swimmer, which she continued to do as she made her turn and drove herself through the water to the waiting Christine. Christine launched as Gail reached out to touch. She emerged more than halfway across the pool and drove the last eleven meters making a fast turn and underwater push-off. The lead was now three meters and increasing. Christine continued her pace and hit the wall almost three and a half meters ahead of the Wasena team. The other three members of the team were waiting at the side of the pool. The moment she touched they jumped in the pool to congratulate each other, to the yelling, stomping and clapping of the the Crown point contingent. Gail received hugs from each of them individually and collectively. She had actually improv
ed on her effort from the morning. The others had been within a few hundredths of a second of their best time.

The swimmers showered and dressed and greeted their friends and parents exuberantly, exhilarated.

They paid special attention to Gail, who had so dramatically demonstrated her determination to let nothing deter her from her goals.

“Gail, you should come with us. We’ll stop by your place to let you off,” Rhonda told her.

“OK, thanks,” Gail said obviously relieved.

Christine and Melissa were energized on the way home. Paula made plain how she proud she was of them, but her thoughts kept returning to Gail.

It was three in the afternoon when Kate made her decision. She had been mulling it over all day. She finished her customer and told the three who were waiting that she would be back in less than five minutes. She retreated to her little counter and pulled out the phone that was tucked on a shelf under the counter. She dialed a number.

“Could I speak to Tara please?”

“Hi, Tara, it’s Kate. I need a favor from you.”

“Sure Kate, what is it?”

“I need a haircut. It’s a special occasion. Could I come over there after I close up the shop here?”

“Sure Kate. My last appointment is at quarter to five and I won’t be finished until probably quarter after. When do you think you can get here?

“Well, if I get a couple of customers just before I close at five I might not make it until close to six. Would that be too late?”

“I have an idea Kate. I’ll come over there. It’s on my way home anyway. That way we can keep the waiting time to a minimum.”

“That should work. Thanks a bunch for doing it for me.”

“No problem Kate. What are good friends for. I’ll be there about five thirty.”

“Thanks, Tara. I’ll see you then.”

It had been a busy day. Several of her regulars had shown up in the morning including April, who was beaming. She had had lunch twice during the week with a man her age, who was a widower for the past three years. They hit it off well and he had invited her to go to the local theater to see a play. Elaine had shown up with Georgia and the two of them had gotten their cuts refreshed.

She had hardly finished one cut when another customer arrived. A couple of teenaged girls came in. One, the one with almost black hair, wanted a Louise Brooks style bob. The other eventually ended up with a short spiky crop with long sideburns.

At four thirty Kate almost put up her closed sign, but was unable to do so as she realized that two young Mom’s with a pair of boys and a young girl were coming in. One of the Mom’s wanted her hair cut as well. So she had four customers in line. Now she did have an excuse to put up her closed sign. She finished the brush cut for the young man who was waiting when the two women and their kids had arrived and began renewing the bowl cut on the older of the two boys. The girl was next and she and her Mother had agreed on a short pixie for her brown hair. Kate learned that her name was Ruth and she was a friend of Sandy. Her Mother Meredith was acquainted with Jan. Her young brother Kevin ended up with a buzz cut with the front left long enough to comb to one side. Meredith sported a shapeless layered collar length style that she said she could not make look right at all. She had worked her way through several possibilities in Kate’s scrapbooks without coming up with anything she liked. Finally Kate asked how short she was willing to go. Further discussion resulted in a simple style that had the top combed forward into thick bangs that curved to the side, sides that were to the top of her ears with just a little taper and a moderately short tapered back with a soft nape. Kate had used only scissors to achieve the style. Meredith was delighted at the final result. Kate had obviously won another returning customer.

It was just past five thirty when Kate brushed Meredith off and removed the cape. Kate had left the door unlocked for Tara, who walked in just as Kate was making change for her two customers.

“Looks like I’m just in time Kate,” Tara said in greeting.

“I think you are Tara. I just finished doing Meredith.” She indicated Meredith and her two children.

“Thanks for this great cut Kate.” Meredith said as she exited with her kids.

Kate closed and locked the door and began sweeping up around the chair where a substantial amount of hair had accumulated. She had been in something of a rush to get though the last four cuts and had not swept up between them.

“What are you thinking of doing,” Tara asked as Kate continued her sweeping.

“I’m getting a buzz cut. A number four on top, number two on the sides and a number one taper around the ears and in the nape,” Kate answered without any hesitation. “You can do that better than anyone I know.”

“You said it was a special occasion. What’s so special that you need to get a crewcut?” Tara asked as Kate took a seat in her own barber chair.

“Well, it’s all about a group of girls and their Mom’s from over in the Crown Point area. A couple of the girls got their heads shaved. They’re really special kids in a lot of ways and they’re super good athletes. So after a while some of their team mates got various short and partially shaved styles. Then some of the Mom’s got buzzes and things kept going from there. It’s the swim team that has gotten me going. There are these six girls who are doing amazing things and have gotten the attention of some of the top coaches in the area and even the state. Anyway their Mom’s, most of them anyway, have come in to get buzz cuts as a way of expressing their support for the kids. I’ve given all of them their haircuts and shaves although they keep their heads shaved themselves now, but I’ve gotten to know them and I know they’re special because of the way they work together and support each other. They all came in last week when one girl had decided to get her hair cut. She was nervous, but they didn’t push her at all, just told her to do exactly what she wanted. If she changed her mind that was OK. She finally got a super short buzz, and her friend immediately got hers buzzed just as short. They’re having a regional meet this weekend and I’m going to it tomorrow. I want them to know how much I admire what they have accomplished,” Kate explained.

“Didn’t they get in the paper a couple of weeks ago. I seem to remember some pictures of bald girls and a swimming meet,” Tara said.

“That’s right Tara. There’s another swimmer named Tess on a different team. Her Mom wanted her shaved bald after she saw some of the bald kids from Crown Point. You probably saw a picture of Christine and Tess together. Tess was expected to be the best swimmer in the summer leagues, but Christine and Janet, another Crown Point swimmer, have both beaten her in her best events. Christine says that Tess has great potential if she worked out the way the Crown Point kids do,” Kate went on enthusiastically.

“That’s probably what I saw. I remember that they looked kind of sweet with their shiny bald heads. You’re going to look good Kate. I kind of envy you. You get all the business in super short and buzzed women and girls. I like these short cuts on women and girls, but I rarely get to do one. How do you do it,” Tara asked.

“It’s mostly word of mouth. Still only about a quarter of my cuts are really short. Most are fairly ordinary short styles, maybe with a clippered nape or short sides and back,” Kate answered.

Tara had used Kate’s clippers to buzz the top and sides. Now she was in the process of using scissors and comb to finish the taper on the sides and back. Like Kate she was very meticulous in her work. She worked the sides making sure that the taper was as perfect as she could make. She went over the back with the same care. She had finished it except for edging around Kate’s ears and outline the nape. She looked critically at the overall result.

“Kate, I think I should redo the top a
little. I think I can give it a little better shape if I cut it a little shorter. Have a look and tell me what you think,” Tara told her as she rotated the chair so Kate could see herself.

Kate looked at herself critically. “You’re right Tara. It’s a little too high in the middle. Go ahead and take it down some,” She agreed.

Tara exchanged the eighth inch guide for a three eighths inch one. “I’m going to leave the front the same and I have to do a little blending with scissors afterwards,” she told Kate.

Several runs from front to back had achieved almost what Tara wanted. Now she took up comb and scissors to quickly (quite slowly by her standards) achieve the exact oval shape that she was looking for. Finally satisfied she used her small scissors to trim around Kate’s ears and taper the hairline. Reverting to Kate’s small trimmer, she shaped the sideburns and along the hairline in back being careful to keep the soft effect at the nape. She inspected her work carefully.

“I think I’m done Kate. You look really terrific, if I do say so myself. I hadn’t realized how good you would look with a buzz cut like this,” Tara said as she rotated the chair so that Kate could see herself. “You could use a little more eye shadow and maybe a bit of blusher. That would make it look even more interesting. I like your new nose stud, but you should be wearing your gold hoop earrings too. Why aren’t you wearing them?”

Kate examined herself critically then felt her head. “I think you’re right. I’ve given that same advice to some of my customers. I was in a rush this morning and left them out. Let’s see the back. The front looks great. I wonder why I haven’t done this before? I think I was afraid of scaring off some of my more conservative customers,” she laughed.

Tara handed her the mirror so she could see the back of her head. “You did that very nicely Tara. It’s quite neat but doesn’t have too hard of an outline. I like it. I think I’m going to have to schedule regular appointments with you so I can keep it looking sharp,” Kate said.

“Good idea. You do look a good bit younger. That is a mysterious thing, Kate. Every time I’ve given someone a buzz cut, they end up looking five or ten years younger. Is that your experience too?” Tara asked.

“I completely agree with you. One of my newest customers comes in every Saturday for a clipper shave. She’s fifty three with prematurely white hair. She barely looks like she’s forty. It’s amazing,” Kate said. “Come on, I’ll treat you to dinner and a glass of wine at that new deli. My kids say they have some good vegetarian things there. Ernie’s still out of town isn’t he?”

“He arrives back at eleven tonight, but by the time he picks up his luggage and drives back here from the airport it will be after midnight. When did they get to be your kids?” Tara queried her with a laugh.

“I don’t quite know. They come in for their haircuts, show me a picture of what they want and are already prepared for me to want to call their Mom’s to be sure they have permission. The seem so self disciplined and serious about what they are doing, and yet they are full of energy and fun. I’ve just gotten attached to them. Their Mom’s come in for cuts and tell me about how well they did in the most recent meet. I guess you just can’t help getting drawn in. You want to see them succeed so badly,” Kate answered.

“I think I’d like to know some kids like that myself. Let’s get to the deli. I’m taking you up on your offer.”

To be continued in Part 23

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