I had nearly forfeited my match to Romaine Lewis of South Central High because my nose wouldn't stop bleeding. The ref had to interrupt the match in both the first and second rounds because my nose wouldn't quit. If he hadn't called a pretty fast pin at the start of round three, he would have had to disqualify me before Romaine drowned in my gore.
I called Dr. Livengood from school the next morning. I had gone to him all through high school for my physicals and injuries, and he had cauterized my nose in my junior year. He said the nosebleeds were caused by anemia and that I had lost too much weight, dropping from 165 to 147 that season. Because I was eating so little to get my weight down to the next class, I wasn't getting enough iron. He prescribed Cream of Wheat and spinach. I couldn't eat the Cream of Wheat because I was having a tough time holding 147 and I couldn't take all those calories. So I had no choice but to go with the spinach. I hated it. I had spinach breath, my teeth were turning green and I couldn't always predict when I would have to go to the bathroom. I kept telling myself it was worth it. Not only could I probably make it to the state tournament at 147, but I might even beat somebody once I got there.
The spinach treatment did seem to work. Six days after my match with Romaine, I'd had only one bloody nose. My dad accidentally whacked me with a cold turkey leg as he was getting it out of the fridge. I was standing behind him, peering in at the goodies—cold cuts, ice cream, soda, cheese—reminiscing about what a gustatory orgy Christmastime had been for me at 165, and wham, I get this big brown greasy turkey leg square on my beleaguered schnozzola. It only bled a little and I didn't really mind. The turkey smell was so delicious I didn't wash my face until I came back from my evening run.
I ran early that night because I had to get plenty of sleep. The team bus left Spokane for the drive to Missoula at five the next morning. I was a senior then and it was the last road trip I'd ever take at Evergreen High.
In the back of the bus the younger guys giggled and flung orange peels and apple cores out the windows at the snowplows we passed. It was going to be a long two days so I sat in front trying to sleep. The older you got the more toward the front of the bus you went, until you were right up there with the coach. Those were the best seats on the bus, the seats of honor, reserved for seniors. I also liked the fresh air trickling in under the door. My nose got dry if I couldn't get a little fresh air blowing in my face.
It wasn't quite daylight, but almost everybody was awake. Kuch was reading Motocross Action magazine, Schmooz had rock music playing softly on his tape player and Otto was looking out over the Spokane River. The closer it got to daylight, the more the river reflected the mountains. They seemed to grow right out of the snowbanks into the gray water. Coach Ratta snored lightly under his old hunting hat. He had the ear flaps down and looked like an advertisement for the serenity of a collective farm.
The Missoula trip was the big road trip of the season because everybody got to go. The varsity had two matches, the junior varsity had two, and everybody was lined up against somebody close to his weight. Our jayvee team wrestled Custer High at two that afternoon, which was why we had to leave so early. We wrestled their varsity after that, then the third and fourth men wrestled until it was time for the Lewis and Clark Battleground Academy matches in the evening. The next day the losing teams wrestled in the afternoon and the winners went in the evening. It would be a lot of fun for everybody.
From behind me I heard a muffled summons, "Hey, Davis!" It was Norty Wheeler crawling up the aisle on all fours. He looked spacy. His eyes glinted. He had just dropped from heavyweight to 185 so he could wrestle first-man jayvee against Custer. Otto Slate and Howard Fontaine had beaten Norty consistently for the No. 1 and No. 2 heavyweight spots, but he had dropped to 185 and whipped up on Craig Martin for No. 2 in that weight class. However, Bulldozer had thrashed Norty so bad in their wrestle-off for No. 1 that Norty may still have been disoriented.
"Hi, Nort," I said.
Otto turned from the window. "Mornin', Dog Breath," was his friendly greeting for Norty.