Here are a few chapters you might enjoy:
In the spring of 1976, the year of the great American Bi-Centennial,
Bobby Lucero was the fastest track competitor who had ever run for the
"Roadrunners" of Caballo High School. With the banner of his schoolís
colors -- the blood red and sun gold of the New Mexico state flag -- waving
bravely against the glaring turquoise of the desert sky, the tall and slender
young man crouched in the blocks, toes dug in and calves twitching, dark
curly hair falling onto his forehead, drops of sweat already running down his
neck, and his clear dark eyes glaring with intense concentration down the
cinder track ahead of him. The pistol fired, and the crowd cheered, and the
runner leaped ahead, legs reaching forward to grab another few inches with
each stride, toes gripping the track like catclaws in carpet, arms pumping up
the momentum of his body until it felt like he was floating above the track,
reaching down to grab it with his feet to speed him faster and faster forward.
As he broke the finish tape moving at full speed on just the tips of his toes,
he leaned back and looked up to catch the blinding glare of the summer sun
full in his eyes, and for a moment he was dazed.
Around him he could see the silhouettes of people running toward him as
he jogged along the track with his arms held high over his head. The roar of
the cheers rang in his ears as though someone had put a huge deep-toned
bell over him and the people were striking it again and again. His vision was
glassy, the center obscured by the purple and green of retina fatigue from
looking into the glare of the sun. The dust rose up like a golden haze where
the fans stomped and cheered and ran toward him. The cheerleaders and
his teammates rushed to grab him, to squeeze him, and to lift him up from
the ground to their shoulders.
"It is incredible! What a race!" blared the voice of the track announcer,
the tinny sound of the speakers echoing from the concrete bleachers of the
old stadium. "Caballoís own Bobby Lucero has just broken the state record!
Our unofficial time is only two tenths of a second from the national record.
Youíre seeing history being made here today!"
Bobby submitted to them, laughing happily and gulping huge lungfuls of
air, his head hanging back as they carried him from the track in triumph. He
took a sponge from one of his teammates and squeezed water onto his face,
hair, and shoulders.
Clutching his leg, the head cheerleader pressed herself against him,
screaming ecstatically, "Oh, Bobby! Bobby! Youíre great! Youíre the
The band thumped and bleated, tooted and boomed a rousing victory
march. The many supporters of the champion Roadrunners cheered and
hooted as Bobby stood on the highest level of the winnerís platform and was
handed a tall trophy. He posed for pictures with several people, including
his coach, the principal, and a State Senator who happened to be from
Caballo. He endured a kiss from his mother, who bore a strong
resemblance to Mamie Eisenhower, and he responded to a similar
ceremonial kiss from head cheerleader Sharry Clark with a playful squeeze.
Applauding people lined the main street of the little Rio Grande valley
town of Caballo. Bobby sat up on the back seat of a red convertible, waving
to the crowd. Someone threw a bouquet at him, and he laughed and
mugged when he almost fell from the car catching it. He was saved by
Sharry and another cheerleader who sat up on the deck beside him wearing
their skimpiest costumes and doing their best to let everyone know that what
they were displaying was part of the victorís spoils. The blare of the band
echoed from the old brick storefronts of the little town. Dogs ran to nip at the
wheels of the crepe-festooned red Cadillac, barking with delight and
excitement, and the little girls from the junior high schools squealed and
swooned. "Bobby! Eeee!" Dressed like Bobby in red slacks and camel-
gold blazer adorned with the red Zia symbol over the heart, teammate Mike
Holmes rode in the front, waving his arm out to the side as though hoping to
catch one of the red-and-gold-trimmed majorettes prancing by with the Stars
and Stripes, and the state flag of New Mexico. There were other winners
like him present that day, but the glory clearly belonged to Bobby Lucero
In the living room of his mother Mabel Luceroís home, Bobby stood that
evening watching a news program covering the event. On the screen, the
parade was passing the reviewing stand in front of the County Court House.
He laughed again to watch himself fall backwards trying to catch a bouquet,
as the announcer reported, "In this afternoonís May Day track event at
Caballo, New Mexico, senior sprinter Bobby Lucero set not one but two new
high school state records, making him the fastest man on the track this state
has ever produced. Commenting on Luceroís last race before he enters
college this summer, coach Lenny Colson of the Caballo Roadrunners said
Bobby has a good shot at the Olympic Games coming up in 1980."
"Did you hear that?" he called to his mother through the kitchen door.
"...and in baseball, it was the Bulldogs who..." continued the reporter as
Mabel came into the comfortable little living room carrying a large glass of
milk. Like the couch and chair, the braided rugs, and the fat pillows which
furnished the room, she was rather large and soft looking, an effect
enhanced by the frilly floral-print apron she wore.
"Oh, Bobby," she said, handing him the glass of milk, "if only your father
could have been there to see you. He would have been so proud of you, to
know you were the fastest runner in the whole state...and making good
"Yeah, he should have stuck around," said Bobby...then catching the note
of bitter tension in his voice, immediately added warmly, "but you can bet he
was up there watching, Mom, sitting on one of those little clouds, maybe."
The doorbell rang, and Mabel hurried to answer it. While Bobby
continued to watch the sports news, she let in a stocky, bald, and leathery
man wearing slacks and a polo shirt.
"Oh, Coach Burke! Hey, how are you?" Bobby said eagerly, recognizing
him. "Mom, this is Eddie Burke, the head coach at the University."
"Yes, thatís what he said," she told him. "He came to see you."
"Mrs. Lucero, thank you kindly," said the coach. "I canít tell you how
impressed we are with what Bobby has done this year down at Caballo High.
What heís done for our little town is just -- well, just outstanding, thatís all.
"Why, thank you, Mr. Burke," Bobbyís mother replied, patting back her
dark blonde curls. "Weíre awfully proud of him around here, too. I was just
saying what a shame it is his father couldnít have seen him."
Coach Burke nodded solemnly. "Yes, Maíam, Iím sure heíd have been
right proud. I remember Manny Lucero was quite an athlete himself -- best
linebacker this school had when I first got here, oh, must have been about
í58. Too goddamned bad about him getting caught in that hotel fire...oh,
Ďscuse me, Maíam."
"Thatís all right, thatís very kind of you," Mabel assured him. "Could I get
you a glass of milk? No? Well, how about a beer?"
"Oh, well, thanks," said the coach. "Actually, I, uh, just wanted to get
Bobby off in a corner and bend his ear a little. Canít stay, but, ah..."
"So whatís on your mind, Coach?" Bobby asked.
The coach looked at him and his jaw fell open. "Whatís...? Aw, come on,
now, donít just stand there grinning at me like that," Coach Burke said,
giving him a playful swat on the shoulder. "You know damn well whatís on
my mind...and every other coach in the country, too. You havenít signed yet,
"Nope," said Bobby, sipping at his milk and savoring the moment. "I sure
havenít." He set the glass on the coffee table. "But I have decided where
"So come on, spill!" said the coach. "I canít stand the suspense."
"Coach, Iím staying right here at Southern New Mexico," he announced.
"Whoop! All right! Attaboy!" the coach hooted, punching at the air with
his fists. "Got dang, you had me worried there. Uh, Ďscuse me, Maíam," he
said as Mabel came from the kitchen with his beer. "Thanks. Whoo, boy,
thatís the greatest news Iíve heard all day. If you can keep going like you
have been, youíre likely to really be going places!"
"Coach, I promise you, Iím going to put this town on the map," Bobby told
"Outstanding! Just outstanding. All right, now look here, Bobby, weíve
got a big summer program planned, and I want you in on it from the start.
We can begin getting you pre-registered right away." He sucked the top half
from the glass of beer. "Mmm. Canít stay, really, Iíve got to go, but you get
up to see me before the end of the week, all right? My office is in the main
gymnasium building." He paused, smiled like a pleased papa, and finished
the beer. "Boy, oh, boy, sure glad you made the right decision."
"Thanks, Coach, Iím sure I have, and Iím sure Iíll be a real asset to the
Wranglers," said Bobby magnanimously. "Actually, Iíve got to get moving
too...hot date tonight. I think the cheerleaders are going to raffle me off."
"Bobby!" protested his mother.
"Itís all right, Mom, Iím a runner...stamina, remember?" he said with a
self-indulgent chuckle. "Donít look so surprised, Coach...football players
donít get all the action." He punched the coach lightly on the shoulder, then
took his hand and shook it. "Iíll get up to see you for sure," he promised.
While Mabel showed the coach to the door and they exchanged
courtesies, Bobby raised his glass and slowly downed the last of his milk.
Then stood there for a moment with his eyes closed. "On...The...Map!" he
whispered to himself with confidence and pride.
A few weeks later, Coach Burke stood beside the track at Southern New
Mexico University watching a group of runners, his stopwatch in his hand.
His best runners sped toward him, feet churning the cinders as they gave it
all they had. As they flashed past the finish line, the coach whooped to see
Bobby Lucero leading the next runner by several feet. They jogged a few
yards to warm-down, and the second runner trotted back to the coach,
gasping for air. "Jesus," he said, "that kid is unbelievable."
Bobby strutted and jumped, accepting congratulatory slaps on the back
from his admiring teammates. Sharry Clark, the new freshman on the
cheerleading squad, stood nearby and gushed, waiting with broadly-
expressed impatience for practice to end.
"All right, you wham-oís, thatís it," the coach called out. "Hit the
As Bobby trotted past Sharry headed for the gymnasium, he motioned for
her to run alongside him. "Momís out for the afternoon," he told her. "Stick
around a few minutes and we can go to my place and take a real shower."
A few minutes later, Bobby trotted out to the parking lot where Sharry was
waiting beside his new car. Mike Holmes and another of his teammates
capered and skipped alongside him as they went to admire the racy little red
"Wow, Bobby, what a sweetheart," Mike said breathlessly, shaking back
his long brown hair. "I bet sheís some joyride."
"Iíll say she is," said Bobby, winking at Sharry. "Hottest thing I ever threw
a leg over."
"And the school bought you this?" Mike asked.
"Naw, not really -- they canít do that," Bobby assured him. "But they did
put in a good word for me down at the bank, if you know what I mean." He
held open the passenger door for Sharry, then stepped around the car and
hopped over the side to slide behind the wheel. "Hey, Iíll see you guys
later," he said with a wave. "Sharry and I have got some homework to catch
Revving up his engine and squealing the rear tires, Bobby zipped flashily
through the parking lot. He drove the few blocks to his home with studied
wildness, accelerating and decellerating from corner to corner with tires
chirping at each gear change, and brakes keening on the edge of a squeal.
As they came into the living room of Bobbyís home, he tossed his books
onto the couch and turned around to see Sharry peeling off her blouse.
"Wow, I thought I was fast," he laughed. He took her in his arms and kissed
her neck as she continued to pull off her clothes as fast as she could.
They sat a few desks apart in a literature class, and both were enjoying
the fact that they couldnít keep their eyes off of each other, and everyone
knew it. "...and as a playwright," the lecturer was droning, "his contribution
to English literature was...Mr. Lucero, do you suppose you could try to keep
your mind on George Bernard Shaw for just another twenty minutes? Then
you may return to the more important things in your life." The class giggled,
and Sharry blushed with delight. Bobby sat up contritely, brushing his dark
curls back with his hands. "Thank you. Now, Shawís work began to receive
critical acclaim when..."
At a minor meet, one of the first of the season, Bobby ran well ahead of
all of his competition, not just content to win, but pushing the clock with all of
his confidence and effort. As he once again took the finish tape across his
chest, the crowd cheered, and he pranced back and forth before them, arms
raised, head thrown back, drinking in their adulation.
When he had squeezed water across his neck, soaked and shaken out
his hair, and tossed a towel casually across his shoulders, he took a seat on
a bench and leaned against the concrete base of the bleachers. After a
couple of minutes, Coach Burke strolled over and sat down beside him.
"Nice race, kid," he said. "We needed those points. If Teddy or Jeff can
take a first in the hurdles, weíve got a damn good chance of sweeping the
"Yeah," said Bobby with a wide grin of satisfaction. "Didnít I tell you Iíd
put this place on the map?"
The coach nodded, kicked at the turf. "Right. Well, youíre sure as hell
an asset to the team, no doubt about that." After a pause, he said, "I thought
you looked a little off your form today, though. You feeling all right? Getting
enough sack time? Or too much, maybe?"
Bobby laughed self-indulgently. "Come on, Coach, it builds endurance,
"Some guys seem to think so," Burke conceded. "How about your
"What is this?" Bobby demanded, laughing again. "You after my motherís
job? No booze, no dope, no pills -- Iím practically a Boy Scout. And Iím
pulling good solid Bís." He leaned back, pulled the towel from around his
neck, and popped it at the backside of a passing teammate. "Hey, donít
worry about me, Coach. You just keep an eye on the finish line, and Iíll keep
getting there first, OK?"
"OK, kid," the coach said, standing up and slapping Bobby avuncularly on
the thigh, "but you start looking sloppy, and I start kicking ass. You got it?"
Laughing with delight, Bobby and Sharry rode in the little sports car,
hurtling along a winding desert road. The car dropped down into a little
arroyo, then swept up in a tight turn around one of the mesquite-covered
rolling foothills of the Robledo mountains west of the valley. The high-
powered little engine howled and the tires screeched as Bobby down-shifted
and accelerated into the tight corners. Close behind them Mike Holmes was
riding his motorcycle, trying his best to get around them. The curves came
up frighteningly fast, and Bobby was driving with daring abandon, scattering
gravel from the edges of the pavement and cutting back and forth across the
road in front of the cycle. Sharry screamed and squealed with terror and
delight, her eyes flashing with the thrill. The wind blew her skirt up, and
Bobby laughed and stroked between her thighs, his hand snapping forward
to shift gears.
The motorcycle quickly darted around the car to take the lead on a
corner, and as it passed with engine snarling, its rear tire flung up a stone
which struck the windshield and sent a jagged crack across it in front of
Bobby. "Oh, yeah, you think you got it now, do you?" Bobby yelled. "Donít
look back, sucker, but..." Suddenly the car was out of control. Sharry
screamed and Bobby fought the wheel to recover, but it was impossible to
tell what was happening. The lights flashed crazily at desert shrubs, flying
dust and gravel, and a jagged outcropping of rock. There was a lurching
crash, a shattering of glass, and the car flipped over abruptly. Bobby threw
his arms up to protect his face as the windshield burst in front of him. Then
he was in the air, and for a second he feared he would fall ahead of the car
and it would roll over him. The ground rose up unexpectedly and slammed
against his face.
It was peculiarly quiet except for the buzz of the motorcycle coming back.
A way off the headlights of the car stabbed crazily through the settling dust.
"Bobby!" yelled Mike, jumping from his bike and running to where Bobby lay
in the gravel beside the road. "Jesus, man, are you all right?"
Bobby groaned, rolled over slowly, then let Mike help him sit up. "Oh,
holy samoley," he gasped in pain. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Ow! I think Iíve
broke a rib...or two."
"What happened?" Mike asked.
"I donít know," Bobby said, shaking his head. Then he suddenly looked
anxiously around. "Where is Sharry? Oh, God!" He tried to get to his feet,
stumbled, then staggered toward the car, which lay on its back crumpled
against a culvert guard-rail pillar.
The next afternoon, Bobby sat in his motherís living room watching the
news on TV, bare-chested and heavily taped, and showing bruises on most
of his exposed skin. On screen, an attractive and efficient-looking
newswoman was describing the accident, with a cartoon of a wreck on the
panel above her shoulder. "...former Caballo High School cheerleader
Sharon Clark, nineteen, was listed in critical condition after being injured in a
high-speed accident last night. The driver of the car, apparently in a race
with a motorcycle, was Southern New Mexico Universityís top freshman track
star Bobby Lucero. Lucero received only minor lacerations and bruises, and
according to the Wranglersí head coach, Eddie Burke, he will not miss any
of the seasonís competitions. For Channel Nine News, Iím Barbara
The program cut away to a babbling commercial, and Bobby sat staring
at it for a long time, seeing nothing. Slowly he put his hands over his eyes.
"God, what a jerk," he said softly to himself. "What a dumb jerk."
Just before dawn, Bobby sat up in bed in response to the soft pinging
sound of his digital alarm clock. He pushed the button on the top to silence
it, slipped out of bed, put on a running suit and shoes, then quietly left the
room. He paused long enough in the kitchen to fix himself a small cup of
instant coffee, then stepped quietly out into the crisp pink and gold of the
desert morning. He ran smoothly along the streets and sidewalks of the little
town, then turned along a dirt road which led out into the mesquite and
creosote covered hills east of the Rio Grande. Though he ran at a pace
most urban joggers would have struggled to keep up, it was an effortless and
thoughtless motion, and he was hardly aware of his surroundings as he ran
staring at the ground in front of him, his face taut as though his mind were
far away in a state of inner turmoil.
He followed a sandy arroyo toward the craggy granite peaks a few miles
away, then took a path which wound up the side of one of the scrub-covered
hills. As he reached the top, the blazing disc of the sun broke across the
bald granite crest of St. Augustine Peak. He stared directly into it for a
moment, then closed his eyes and sank to his knees. Tears welled to flow
across his cheeks, and he began to sob softly. After a little while, he
became aware of the warm light of the sun on his face, and he opened his
eyes and looked around at the clean, sparse lines of the desert, and the
frugal and tenacious life that clung to it. Though he had lived in Caballo all
his life, he found himself marveling at the beauty of the landscape, and the
grandeur of the sky. He rose to his feet, stood tall and straight, and let the
sun warm him. Then he gave a great shuddering sigh, turned, and began to
run back along the trail the way he had come.
In the days which followed, whenever he was working out on the track,
Bobby made a special effort to push himself as hard as he could. Again and
again, he drove his legs and lungs to -- and through -- the point of pain to
get around the track just a little bit faster. The fatigue cut deep lines into his
face by the end of each workout, but he drove himself harder, crossing the
finish line clawing at the air with each stride, forcing the last effort from his
body. When he was not on the track, he could be found in the weight room,
driving stacks of iron plates up and down with his legs.
"You keep it up, Bobby," Coach Burke told him one afternoon. "Iím
beginning to think maybe you really are Olympic material."
With a big hunk of pizza in one hand and a glass of milk in the other,
Bobby sat at the kitchen table one evening about three weeks after the
accident, immersed in a textbook. From time to time he put down the milk
and used a marker pen to emphasize a line in the text. Mabel came in from
the darkened living room, wearing a shapeless terrycloth robe. "Bobby, itís
so late," she said. "Arenít you ever going to bed?"
"Yeah, pretty soon, Mom," he told her. "Iíve just got to make sure I know
this stuff. Iíve been getting pretty puffed-up about my running, but I know
Iíve only got so many years to run, then Iíll have to rely on what I know."
She stepped close to him and gave him a hug around his head. "Youíre
absolutely right, Sweetheart, but you donít want to burn yourself out before
you get the time to use it, now do you?"
"That doesnít matter, Mom," he said with a confident smile. "Iíve just got
to be the best, thatís all. The best or nothing."
The first few races and intramural events of the season sped by. Bobby
set another record, chest straining at the finish tape, crowd screaming.
Bobby catapulted out of the starting blocks, legs stabbing at the ground like
pistons as he took a quick lead, his face a study in fanatical determination.
As Bobby drove through the finish tape again, a runner close behind him
collapsed and sprawled tumbling to the track.
In the first of the long cross-country races, Bobby led the pack of runners
across the rugged desert hills of Baylor Pass. He ran smoothly along the
winding path which led through the yucca, cholla, and mesquite plants
beneath the towering granite peak of the great Soledad mountain. He was
pressing himself to keep up a pace he knew would tax him to his limit in the
last mile of the race, but he ran with confidence and pleasure, enjoying the
bright colors and bold shapes of the rocks and plants of the desert canyon.
Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, a pattern of shimmering blotches of
light began to appear in the center of his vision. For an instant, they made
the colors and shapes of his vision fade and blur, as though someone were
splashing drops of shining water onto a water-color painting. Startled, the
runner lost his stride and shook his head back and forth. The experience
passed, and he continued running, but keeping a slower pace, and with his
attention then turned inward to worriedly watch his body and its sensations
for other such strange changes. As the finish line came into view half a mile
ahead a few minutes later, he forgot about the incident and pressed for the
mark, his body crying out in pain to him that he had won and he could back
off his driving pace, and his will snarling like a Marine DI that he must ignore
the pain, and drive his leaden feet and shuddering muscles to one final
supreme effort. His vision was glassy with washed-out colors from the
oxygen-starvation of his demand -- a sensation with which he was long
familiar -- but when the strange bright patches again began to obscure the
center of his vision, he felt a twinge of fear, as though receiving an evil
premonition. Squeezing his eyes shut, he forced himself to sprint faster
across the last few yards to the finish, and through the tape. Ignoring the
cheering crowd of news collectors and track fans which had driven up from
Caballo to wait at the finish line for him, he jogged another forty yards to
lean against a boulder, rubbing at his temples and breathing in great gulps
"Hey, are you OK?" asked Coach Burke, jogging up beside him.
"Yeah, yeah, Iím all right, Coach," the runner told him. "It must be the
It was only a few days later, as Bobby sat studying late at night in his
motherís kitchen, that the blotches of light again began to bubble forth in the
center of his vision, not so bright that time, but more profound -- like holes
melting through the film in a movie projector, and leaving a dull nothingness
behind. He rubbed at his temples and blinked. He got up and splashed cold
water on his eyes. With a sense of increasing dread, he tried to read his
textbooks by following the words to the sides of the blotches in the center. It
was clumsy at best, and he found his reading speed decreased to about the
same as his typing speed. "Oh, God," he said softly, staring into the
darkness in horror, "I donít need this."
The ophthalmologist he visited the next day put it to him mercifully
straight. After dripping drops into his eyes, holding lenses before them, and
setting an ocular pressure guage onto them, and running a series of other
tests, he said, "Bobby, what weíve got here is rather unusual, but it is very
well defined, and there is not much chance of my being wrong about it. I
wish I could be wrong, because Iím afraid itís rather serious."
"How serious?" Bobby asked, wishing there were some way he could
avoid having to know the answer.
"It is called macular distrophy," the doctor told him. "It means that certain
parts of the eye...retinal tissue...just become defective. The tissue simply
"But...you can treat it, canít you, Doctor?" he asked.
"Iím sorry," the doctor said simply. "Iím afraid the truth is that we really
canít do much about it at all. It could take a few months, or a few years."
"And...and then what?"
"I am afraid that...itís very likely that you are going to lose your vision."
Bobby sat for a long moment dumfounded. "No, you...you canít," he said,
perplexed. "You canít tell me that. There has to be something!"
To order BLINDING SPEED in paperback, click HERE.