Mack
Chapter 11

Copyright© 2015 by Ernest Bywater

Second Term

School and life in general is a routine now: classes, study, exercise, and various fun activities. Mack brought his bow and arrows back from the farm and he uses them at one or more of the local archery clubs each week. He sometimes skips a week due to activities with Tanya.

Exercise Excess

In late April, a couple of weeks after returning from the farm, Mack is out walking around the area because his exercise tonight will be skipped for a planned activity with Tanya’s family so he doesn’t have enough time to go to do his full training plan this afternoon.

Just short of a half hour into his walk Mack is heading down the street on his way back to the house. He’s on the opposite side of the road and a couple of hundred metres from the house when he hears a sound that freezes his blood and makes him dive for the ground: metal snapping under tension. The sound is followed by a clang when a piece of metal hits something, a loud clunk, and a groan. Mack jumps to his feet and races back a few metres to look into the driveway he just passed. He gulps on seeing an old Landcruiser with its front down at an angle and the brake drums sitting on the wheels lying on their side. A man is trapped under the front of the vehicle, and two scissor jacks are lying on their sides beside the vehicle, one on each side.

Looking about the street Mack sees a man and a woman standing in the front yard of a house opposite and a bit down the street. He yells out, “He’s hurt, call an ambulance and come help me, please,” before he turns to race up the driveway after the woman waves her acknowledgement.

The trapped man’s arms are waving so it’s clear he’s alive and can’t move his body. Mack gives the vehicle a trial lift while looking at the wheel unit. He can’t budge it. He turns to look in the open garage behind him. On the wall are some thick wide leather furniture straps, they won’t take the weight, but there’s also a steel towing cable with D-rings on each end. He grabs the straps and the steel cable before racing back out and around the car to the other side to be closest to where the man is.

The man from across the road is trying to lift the car, and failing. The woman is coming up the drive with two large first aid kits. Mack kneels beside the driver’s side front wheel, and orders, “Get ready to pull him out from under the car when I lift it. Tell me when he’s clear.”

The about two metre tall blond man stares at the much smaller Mack while he wonders how he’ll lift the car. Since he can’t shift it he has little choice except to do as told by Mack. The man picks a spot close to the trapped man where he can grab him and pull him well clear of the car in one go when there’s enough clearance to do so.

Walking up the drive the tall blond woman shakes her head while she listens to Mack’s orders and watches him wrap the steel cable around the axle inside of the brake drum. She wonders what Mack is doing when he doubles the wide leather straps and places them across the top of his shoulders. Next he picks up the double loop of steel cable he’s created and ducks to slip them both over his head, one across his back and over his left shoulder with the other across his back and his right shoulder.

Mack squats down, keeps his back straight, and asks, “Ready?”

Both helpers respond, “Ready when you are.”

For the first half metre Mack rockets up, then the slack is out of the cable and he has the weight of the vehicle on his shoulders. He lets out a loud grunt, but he doesn’t stop. He hardly seems to be moving, but he is. Very slowly he keeps rising, and he’s taking that side of the car with him.

The big blond man watches the gap between the car and the cement drive widen, and he wonders how. When it’s a big enough gap he grabs the man and quickly drags him out from under the car. Seeing the hurt man dragged clear of the car the woman calls out, “He’s clear!” She drops to her knees and starts to check the man out. Both blonds open the first aid kits and grab different things while they work like a well-oiled team in checking the hurt man out while treating his obvious injuries.

Mack stops rising and he starts to lower the car back down. However, he soon learns it’s a lot easier to lift something from the ground than it is to put it down on the ground. He’s about halfway back down when something shifts and he’s pulled off balance. The car drops with a loud thud and he’s pulled down with the car. His head hits the fender hard enough to leave a good sized dent and knock him out.

Both blondes look up at the sound Mack makes when he hits the fender and then the driveway. The woman says, “Triage, one at a time.” They continue to work to save the man before them.

A moment or so later an ambulance pulls up in the street, then backs up the driveway a little. The emergency medical technicians (EMTs) get out and race to the scene with their medical kits. The woman stands and moves away while telling them what she’s done. One of the EMTs takes her place and continues with the treatment while she moves to check Mack with the other EMT helping her.

When the ambulance arrives the sound of its siren causes a woman in the house to look out her window, and to come racing out the back door of the house. She stops to stare at the hurt man. Other watchers soon arrive and look up the driveway as well.

After another few minutes the blond man says, “Stabilised! Let’s get him to the hospital.” They’re careful when they lift him off the floor trolley he’d been on to put him on a gurney and then into the ambulance.

The blond woman says, “The kid’s just knocked out, we’ll take him as well.” She picks him up in her arms and carries him like a baby while she climbs into the back of the ambulance.

Looking at the frightened older lady standing in the driveway one of the EMTs says, “Can you get a lift to the hospital, Ma’am? We’re a bit crowded.” She doesn’t answer while she just stands there and stares.

The blond man says, “I’ll take her, Joe,” while closing the back door of the ambulance. Turning to the other spectators he asks, “Do any of you know who the boy is?”

One woman says, “I think he’s with the new family in number four.”

He smiles when he replies, “Thank you.” Turning to the older lady he says, “Go get your handbag and keys then lock up, Missus Stein. I’ll be back in a few minutes to drive you to the hospital.” She nods yes and goes into the house while he walks down the road.

A few minutes later the blond man is ringing the doorbell at No. 4. Helen comes to the door, and he says, “Good afternoon. I’m Hans Olsen from just up the road. I’m trying to identify a boy who was just taken to hospital with concussion. A neighbour said they thought he lived here.”

Helen is stunned, but is quick to reply, “Just a moment!” She turns, and calls out, “James, Mack, come here.” James comes to the door, and she asks, “Where’s Mack?”

“Out for a walk.”

She turns to Hans, “Just a moment while I get a picture.” She’s soon back with a new photo of the family, and he’s quick to point to Mack as the one on their way to hospital. Turning to James she says, “Call Tanya and tell her Mack is in hospital. I’m going there now.” James nods, and he walks away while she grabs her handbag and the keys to the Yukon.

Helen heads to the hospital while Hans goes back to lock up his house and collect Mrs Stein.

Several minutes later Helen is walking to the hospital entrance when she sees Hans park, so she waits for him and the three walk in together.

The Hospital

The blond woman follows the gurney with Mr Stein into the hospital emergency entrance with Mack in her arms. She gently lays him down on a gurney while a nurse takes Mr Stein to a treatment room. Another nurse walks up with a clipboard, and asks, “What have we got here?”

She turns to her, “Concussion, possible compression fractures, and sure to be some bad bruising, Mary. I don’t know his name. Hans will be here soon, with it, I hope.”

Another nurse walking by looks down, and says, “That’s Mack Dean, I see him at the gym all the time.” So the nurse starts filling in the form.

Mary turns to the blond, “Hildr, I take it you saw what happened?”

“Yeah. Mister Stein was trapped under that tank of a car of his when super-boy here lifted it off him so Hans could pull him out. When he tried to lower the car his foot slipped and it dropped. He had a cable on his shoulders to help take the weight. That pulled him down and he hit his head on the fender, leaving a big dent. It knocked him unconscious. I saw it, but still don’t believe he was able to lift that weight. He could have fractures and bruises in his shoulders, back, and legs. All but his head and arms were taking the weight.”

The head nurse turns to the other nurse, “Jenny, take him through to radiology for a full set of body x-rays and an MRI. We can do that while we look for a responsible adult for him.” The nurse wheels Mack away, and the tall blond, Hildr, takes a seat to wait for her ride home.

Some minutes later the nurse is wheeling Mack into a treatment room when Helen, Hans, and Mrs Stein walk in the door. Helen walks over, and is told he has no serious injuries they can detect, but they are concerned he hasn’t regained consciousness yet. The senior nurse asks Helen to complete the paperwork while they give him a close physical examination in the treatment room. The doctor arrives, examines Mack, and sends for the duty physiotherapist. She arrives and gives his back, shoulder, chest, and leg muscles a thorough check out.

Helen is called into the treatment room to discuss the treatment options for Mack. Helen walks into the room, and Mack is lying there in just his briefs. She’s not seen him without a shirt on before, and she’s surprised at how well developed his upper arm and chest muscles are. She’s seen him in swimmers and t-shirt in the gym pool, and she’s aware his legs are well muscled, but she’s not seen the overall effect before, and she’s surprised by how fit he looks. And how sad he looks lying there.

Doctor Lewis says, “Missus Thomas, we’d like to start the treatment of Mack’s muscles straight away. The sooner we start, the shorter the period of treatment needed. At this point in time our biggest concerns are the bruises starting to develop on his neck and shoulders, and the fact he’s not yet regained consciousness. Next is concern of overstrained thigh and calf muscles. It appears he didn’t develop any hernias, which is good news. Nor are there any compression fractures showing in the x-rays.” She points to the physiotherapist while adding “Sarah wishes to start treating the muscles right now with a special liniment to discourage the development of bruises. Whatever we do, he won’t be walking about too well for a while, due to the pain of the strain on his muscles.”

Helen looks at the developing bruises on his chest and shoulders, and nods her consent. The physio and the nurse immediately start to rub Mack’s muscles with a strong smelling liniment. The smell is so strong Helen has to leave the room because she can’t stand it.

Soon after she exits the room Helen is joined by Tanya, she’s come to find out why Mack is in the hospital. It’s at this point Helen thinks to ask Hans what happened, so they both learn about the incident and his lifting of the heavy car. Both are stunned by the account. Just when they’re coming to grips with that Mrs Stein arrives to check on how Mack is now she knows her husband will survive. He’s in the theatre to have some minor work done, but his major problem is broken ribs which will eventually heal. The four stand around to talk for a few minutes, and then they all follow Mack to the ward he’ll share with Mr Stein when he comes out of the theatre.

Soon after that the three ladies go home for the day. Hans and Hildr have already left.

Recovery

The next day Helen sends a note to the school advising them Mack is unwell. When she calls in on him at the hospital he’s awake and sitting up talking to Mr Stein. She has to smile while Mack abuses him for not using car stands instead of jacks to sit the car on while working on it.

The physio arrives, and starts work on Mack’s upper body and legs again. She’s almost finished when Mack asks, “Excuse me, Sarah, but what’s in that gunk you rub on me? It does sting a bit.”

She grins when she replies, “Be thankful of that, as it’s the analgesic in it that causes the stinging. It stings only for a little while because it gets in and affects the nervous system to reduce the pain you feel.”

“Ahh, thanks for that.”

Mrs Stein arrives mid-morning, and she has a hot apple strudel with her. She soon has it divided into bowls with some ice cream and fresh cream for all except Mr Stein to enjoy a snack. While he watches them eating he asks, “Where’s mine? Why don’t I get a serving of strudel?”

She turns to him, “Stupid old fools who almost get themselves killed because they don’t want to pay for others to do the work or for the right equipment don’t deserve any of my apple strudel!” He blushes in reply. “Anyway, this is for the young man who saved your life. The doctors tell me if you had to wait for a tow truck to lift the car you’d be dead instead of just sore. So you be nice to Mack Dean. If you ask him nicely he may let you have some of his fresh strudel tomorrow.”

Mack smiles at Mrs Stein, and asks, “When I’m out of here will you please teach me how to make this lovely strudel?”

She grins, and replies, “When you get out of here I’ll teach you how to make all of my desserts, if you want!” He smiles and eagerly nods yes.

For the next few days Mack has liniment applied three times a day, and when he’s allowed to go home late Sunday they give him a couple of tubes of the cream and they tell him to see his doctor on Friday.

Monday morning Mack is slow while he walks to school and around the classes. His first stop is the office to give them a copy of his medical certificate to allow him extra time to move between classes and to give him the option to not participate in any physical activities. A few of his friends ask him what’s wrong, and he simply replies, “Hurt myself on the weekend and I’ve a lot of sore muscles. It’ll wear off.”

Most accept his explanation and don’t delve further. Part of this is he said weekend, so they don’t associate his aches with the reports of the incident on Thursday afternoon because the accident made the news that night, but without any names being given.

For the next three weeks Mack is on limited physical activity, even the gym staff restrict what he can do to what the doctor said he could do, thanks to the nurse from the hospital who knows him telling Merry about his strain injuries. The most exercise he gets each week is walking around the sports oval during the sports afternoon.

In late May the doctor approves Mack to return to his normal fitness regimen. Mack has to get a doctor’s certificate for Merry before he can do his usual routine again.

During this time Mrs Stein enjoys teaching Mack, Tanya, and Diane how to cook her many desserts, and she gives Mack copies of her recipes. The youngsters enjoy learning these new recipes and the related skills.

School work goes as expected, and it progresses well too. Mack is in the advanced classes for most subjects, but not right at the top of them. He’s usually either just in or just outside the top ten percentile group.

Mack calls home, and speaks to Jess and Ann most evenings as well.

June starts like normal with the school work and exercise going well for Mack and family. Merry has some concerns when she signs Mack up for the new city marathon, but does so when he insists he’s fit enough for the run. Both work hard to make sure he’s ready for the race on the third Saturday of the month, just eight weeks after the car lifting event.

The Course

The marathon starts in Campbell Street at the end of George Street by the city’s main park then goes along Campbell Street, left into Crawford Street, up to Uriarra Road, left at Kendall Avenue, left at Canberra Avenue, right into Lanyon Drive, left into Tompsitt Drive, down onto Edwin Land Parkway, left on Cooma Street, down there to turn left on Lowe Street, and up to the finish line beside the park near Morisset Street. Those doing the half marathon do one circuit and stop while the rest go around a second time for the full marathon. The way the course is set out means no part of the city is blocked from access or exit, except for a couple of dead end streets that are controlled while the runners pass by. The rest have small detours to get in or out of their part of Queanbeyan.

The council sets up well for the race by closing off as many affected streets as they can during the race and having traffic control staff on the rest of the intersections. Police manage the intersection of Canberra Avenue and Lanyon Drive. Where possible they have the one lane of the roads used closed to traffic and reserved for use by only the runners. The runners are set to start in five groups fifteen minutes apart, split up by their expected performance times. The intent being to have most of the participants finishing about the same time.

The first group to start will be those who have listed their expected times as being the slowest, and the last group will be the professional and semi-professional runners expected to be the fastest over the course, despite starting a full hour after the slowest group. Although the time spent with the start in use is longer, it’s not that much longer because the fastest runners will soon catch up with and pass the slowest runners. What this arrangement does is to have the bulk of the runners spread out along the middle of the course at the one time instead of in the first quarter of the course at the start of the race.

Two hundred and fifteen runners register, with most listed for each of the first three time slots, thirty-five in the fourth, and only thirty in the final time slot. The first group will start at 2:00 p.m. The second time slot is for all of the half marathon runners since they should be a bit faster.

Marathon Mack

Not only is Mack the youngest person in his group he’s the only person in these last two groups running in their first marathon. All of the others in these last two groups are regular marathon runners, and older.

Like all runners Mack is required to check in thirty minutes before his scheduled starting time of 2:45 p.m. He’s on hand ready to run a few minutes before 2:15 p.m. so he can double check everything is ready for the event. He’ll be carrying bottles of water and snacks with him, but more bottles of cold water will be ready for him to take during the course of the race. Merry has people staged along the course to hold them out for him to grab when he passes them.

Mack, Merry, Diane, Tanya, and Helen watch the group before him set off. After wishing Mack a good race the ladies watch him set up at the line. They’ll watch him start then they’ll move off to be ready for him at their designated support points, Merry will drop them off in the Yukon.

Many of the others lining up and waiting to line up are surprised at one so small and young as Mack being in this group. He just smiles while he gets ready to go when the gun goes off. He checks his pack is secure and well balanced. The two bottles of cool water mixed with one of the approved additives to replenish salt etc. are tight in their holders, so are the bananas in their pouch. All within easy reach while running. Most runners have special running clothes and shoes, Mack tried them, and found them too uncomfortable. So he’s running in what’s he’s used to wearing in the forest, loose trousers and shirt in camouflage colours, a giggle hat (this is an army cloth hat in jungle green), plus ankle high tan boots with a strong sole and canvas top. Most of the stuff was bought in a local army surplus shop, just as it did at home. His outfit is so different to the rest it gets a lot of attention, more attention than his size and age do.

The runners are ready so the starter gets them up and started. A lot take off at a fair jog while Mack starts out at a nice walk and increases his speed. He’s a few metres behind the rest when they pass the Lowe Street intersection on the right, but his loping stride has him catching the pack before they make the first left turn into Crawford Street.

Some of those watching don’t realise Mack is slowly working up to the ‘race pace’ he wants to run the race at, but they do see he was a bit behind to start with and he’s now catching the pack. Back in the forest he usually went between running and walking, but his planning for this race is to keep up a good mid-speed pace for most of it and to run a few sections to vary the rate and improve his time. He does want to keep all of the uphill bits to the current pace he’s at now. He’ll run on some of the flat areas, like the bulk of the stretch along Lanyon Drive.

When Mack takes the curve from Crawford Street into Uriarra Road he’s passed all but five of his starting group, and his loping style is very deceptive because it still doesn’t look like he’s running fast, just a quick walk. He’s at his pace for the bulk of the race and he’s chanting when his feet hit the ground; to many it sounds like he’s calling out “Nang” when his left foot hits, and “Chow” when his right foot hits. However, what he’s calling out in the tribal tongue is their travel chant which literally translates as ‘Walk strong’ and means ‘Walk well’ or ‘Travel well.’

Mack catches and passes the two leaders of his group before Crest Road, surprising the woman and man concerned because they’re regulars at running marathons and they’ve now reached their main travel pace. They’re smart to stay at their usual regulated pace while they watch Mack slowly pull away at his slightly faster pace.

Approaching the turn into Lanyon Drive Mack is passing the tail of the group before him. A little later he tops a rise and he sees most of this group spread out along Lanyon Drive. He grins, this is an area he plans to run, so he takes a few metres to increase his pace and is soon at his top speed while he goes along Lanyon Drive. Those he passes are surprised he’s running now because they’re all pacing themselves; no one runs full out for a whole marathon. Even running full out his loping stride is very deceptive. He slows back down for the turn into Tompsitt Drive.

During the run so far, Mack has been sipping on his drink as per the plan, not as per his thirst. He and Merry worked out how much he should be taking and about where, so he has a lot of small sips. The result is one of his bottles is ready for replacement at his first spot set up at the roundabout with Edwin Land Parkway. Reaching the spot he tosses his empty into the bin beside Tanya and he grabs the refill she’s holding out.

He puts the new bottle in the holder and takes out a banana to eat before having a long drink. He’s not hungry or thirsty, but the plan is to keep his reserves up for the whole race by replenishing before he has to.

Mack maintains his race pace along the Parkway, into Cooma Street, up the hill to Karabar, and down the slope on the other side. The ground flattens out on the approach to Lowe Street, so he changes up to a run for the length of Lowe Street. By now he’s passing most of the runners doing the half marathon, and at the speed he’s going many think he’s one of the half marathon runners. So they get a surprise when he keeps heading down Lowe Street instead of turning into the park at the finish line. He’s still running when he turns into Campbell Street, but he slows down to his race pace on nearing Crawford Street and he exchanges a drink bottle.

Soon after turning into Crawford Street again Mack starts to pass the runners from the first group to start. The group is well spread out and he passes them in ones and twos for the next few kilometres.

Mack is soon entering the large roundabout at Lanyon Drive. This area is under police control and they stop the traffic for the runners to go by. A couple of cars are waiting to go straight ahead when there’s a gap in the race for them to go through and the police officer will let them go. A loud screech of brakes followed by a louder crash makes all aware a motorist wasn’t watching what he should have been. Mack glances over his right shoulder. He can see a car has crashed into the back of a car heading into town and pushed that into the one in front, and so on.

All of the runners glance at the crash, but they all continue as they are. All except Mack. He takes a longer look, then he races ahead a few paces to grab the arm of the young woman just ahead of him and he drags her off to the left of the road. She starts to struggle, but stops when she sees the cop in the intersection racing for the middle of the roundabout. Mack has the girl almost to the left-hand gutter when the front car waiting to go ahead is pushed through the area where she was running, and would still have been except for Mack grabbing her. The rear car was going so fast it hit hard enough to push three vehicles several metres forward against their brakes. Both Mack and the woman give the cop their names and get going again, because they have a race to run.

The incident at the intersection cost both of them some minutes in time lost while standing still, plus time and distance lost while getting back up to pace and back into the right mind-set for the race.

Starting down the rise in Lanyon Drive Mack goes back to running. He slows back down to his race pace just before the turn into Tompsitt Drive this time, because it’s where Tanya is waiting with his third drink bottle. The fourth and last will be with Diane at the Karabar shops. When he grabs the bottle Tanya shouts out, “Only four ahead of you.”

Mack smiles, because the only ones ahead of him now started in the first group and he can see them while he heads down Tompsitt Drive, the front runner is only about half a kilometre ahead of him. He passes them all in Edwin Land Parkway.

Taking his final bottle from Diane Mack grins when she paces him while yelling, “You’re first through here. But there’s two from the last group ahead of you time wise, they should catch you soon.” He waves a hand to acknowledge he heard her.

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