How does this happen? How does something in which I'm so interested become so far down on my list of priorities that it comes to the point that I only contribute to it about a chapter a year? I wish I knew. I wish that I could assure y'all that it won't happen again, but as I look on my recent history and the promises that I've made in recent chapters, I see how hollow any such promises would be.
I could tell you a tale of increased responsibility, of an increased workload, of hospitalizations of most of my family from time to time, all of which would be true; but we know that if this had been as important to me as we want it to be, that y'all would have heard of me before now. This past Sunday, after midnight, I had to go with Mom to the hospital. I took a notebook with me, and while there I sketched out some ideas, from which I got this recent burst of creativity that enabled me to finish this. For such results, maybe I should accompany family to the hospital more often, but I wouldn't wish such on myself or any of mine.
Anyway, for what it's worth, for anyone who's still waiting on me; here is my latest chapter.

What do we know of Miriam Pataki? Well, in Road Trip we found out that she's from South Dakota, that her mother is there, and that she was state bull-riding champion when she was a girl. In Olga Gets Engaged we found out that she was an Olympic-class swimmer. In Beeper Queen we found out that when she gets an opportunity she can make a down payment on ruling the world. From these meager threads, I've tried to spin a skein that would be my attempt at her life story. From the success I've had with Brainy's back story, I went in with a sizable quantity of hope; judge for y'allselves if I had any success.

Now, as for the reviews:
purplepincushion, one of the more recent reviewers of this story, and I'm finding one of my favorites (don't let it go to your head, though). You got what I was aiming for. I was trying for just such an effect in the movie, that montage I made such noise about. And I was trying to get people to see some possibility in Olga, like there had been in Lila. Who knows, there might even be hope for Big Bob. We'll see. I've been feeling much better (thank you, Zicam :plug: ), and thank you.
Paradox, you also got what I was going for. The balloon being punctured, Helga being oblivious, etc. I don't see Olga developing multiple personality from this; rather, I see it as a catharsis, I think that's the word. Now that she can finally face what's been going on in the family, she can come to terms with herself. Lila has been working with her toward that end as well, and with the right psychiatric help (and you know that Lila can pass on recommendations from Brainy, who passes them on from Dr. Bliss), I see some good things in her mental future, as well as some not so good, unfortunately. We'll see.
World, I appreciate your patience. I did try to get this up in one to two months, I really did. Maybe I can do better in the future. That last chapter was intense, as is this one, as might be the next one or two. We'll see. (I seem to be saying that a lot, don't I?)
Sleather, always glad to hear from you. Yeah, it might seem like all the king's horses & all the king's men can't put this family together again. That said, like I said before, I'm the resident cockeyed optimist. I'm going to try to find a way to salvage The Patakis. I don't see that it would be good for Olga to take Helga, take her away from Arnold. Like I said, I do have hope for Big Bob. I can only redouble my efforts to find out if there's anything redeemable about him. And yes, Brainy seems to be doing his own Machiavellian scheming, doesn't he? He considers it means to an end, and he knows about the end not justifying the means. This is what he thinks can be done to save the family, and ultimately to save Helga.
Taladon, always glad to see another reviewer. I am continuing; I want this family rebuilt too.
Alberto, gracias. Think nothing of your procrastination in posting your review; I know I'm in no position to hold such against anyone. You see the possibility in what I'm trying to do here. The issues you raise will be addressed, eventually. And there will be quite a few more chapters in store.
HY, of all the reviewers, I look forward to your reviews the most. You know why. I'm glad to hear about the new baby, and the other new developments in your life; I hope they're for the best. (I Wish I Could Go Back to College from Avenue Q seems apropos here, and I've never even heard it) CB being God, Brainy being embarrassed, Narnia (Must. See. That. Movie!), The Scottish Play, all went in with hopes for reactions like yours. I wish I or someone like me had been there to have been in your corner; I don't know what I would or could have done, but, I just dunno. Anyway, I went into this with the highest of hopes, and I continue those hopes. As to that ending? What can I say, you got it, HY, you got it.
Briana (hope I spelled that right), I must get to reading your stories, and to continuing mine. Shock therapy, yes, that's what I was going for; I'll try to get more into this in the next chapter. And I dunno about rewriting. I want to, but I don't really know how it'll come out on ff.n; this past chapter didn't turn out anything like I'd planned, with the asterisks and boldness and such removed.
Alberto mumero dos, I am honored that you review twice, although I'm also ashamed that enough time passes for two reviews. I will continue this all the way through to the end. I do try to understand Brainy. He's a quiet person, but one full of hidden things, kind of like me. (but I flatter myself) Recently CB himself responded to another post of mine, this one on toonzone, and I couldn't have been more jazzed.
ldypebsaby, here's the next chapter. I'm always glad to see someone new among the reviewers.
Alberto again, you do me much honor in wanting to nominate this thing of mine for a ff award. I'm overwhelmed by the positive response this has gotten. It was nominated for one of Miss Matched's awards, iirc. You can expect an e-mail from me about that info on Brainy; I do want to get this right.
blueraven, as you read this I have already e-mailed y'all. I don't want to wait for a significant amount of time either. And you're right about the video scene, and I don't know what to do about that.
LQ, the latest new review (hey, that rhymes!). Little ol' me got you hooked on fanfic? Aww, shucks & wazoo, in the words of Mork from Ork.

Hey Arnold! and all Hey Arnold! characters and concepts are created by and copyright Craig Bartlett, Snee-Oosh, and / or Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom.
Yankton State University is copyright the foundation dedicated to perpetuating its memory.
The Feminine Mystique, obliquely referenced here, is copyright Betty Friedan and her publisher.
The US Olympic team is copyright the US Olympic Committee.
Jim Ryun, Bob Seagren, the late Steve Prefontaine, Mark Spitz, the late Howard Cosell, Jim McKay, Olga Korbut, Lyle Alzado, John Matuzsak and ibn Saud are copyright themselves.
The American Broadcasting Company is copyright the Walt Disney Corporation.
The Olympics is copyright the International Olympic Committee.
CNN is a unit of AOL-Time Warner.
The Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders are owned by Al Davis.

So it had come to this.
She had failed. As a mother, as a wife, as a woman, she had completely and utterly failed.

How she got here - the bedroom - was a matter of no great certainty; her memory of between here and the kitchen was a bit fogged, and for once it didn't have anything to do with her precious 'smoothies'. Regardless, she was here, on her knees, digging around in that trunk full of memories that she and her family had once called a hope chest.
Hope, what a laugh. And if she wasn't feeling so miserable, she would laugh at the very thought.
As her memories churned in her mind - much the same way that she was stirring the mementoes she was finding again - one thought, one question, rose to the surface of her consciousness.
How did it happen?

Soon she had almost emptied the chest, chronologically arranging the paraphernalia, for that was how it went in; almost like a time capsule of her life thus far. She had arranged them on the bed; it was a good bet that she wasn't going to get any sleep that night anyway, and Bob had probably fallen asleep in his big chair in the living room, again. That is, if he could sleep after what they had just been through. For him being affected by such as the events of the evening was a possibility; she more than anyone knew that he wasn't really a monster, just someone with lots of rough edges.

As her hands touched bottom, her thoughts turned to what she found there: a family portrait. This was of the family she was born into, when she was Miriam O'Ryan.

Her father, Big John O'Ryan. The most powerful man she had ever known, in every way. He was a rancher in South Dakota, and owned a spread that was measured, not in acres, but in square miles. One of the last of the classic big Western barons, he had been her whole world as far back as she could remember.

Her mother, Veronica. She had always been a shy, quiet, retiring sort; and she still was, living on her own in a little place in a corner of the old ranch. It occurred to Miriam that it had been over a month since she had last called her mother. The thought came to her, not with the usual self-imprecation to remedy that in the near future; just a thought, an idle notice of a state of things that just happened to be.

A picture of her first horse, Chestnut. She remembered that at the time some of the hands had laughed at that name; it had taken her years to find out why. But she didn't really need the picture; a girl never forgot her first horse, right? The ones who were lucky enough to have a horse.
Her Daddy had been against it; he didn't think she could handle riding a horse. Right, her being his daughter. Her mother didn't like the idea either, but you convince one parent and the other will give in too, right?
"Daddy, I really think, I can do this; I can ride as well as the next girl." And she did, oh, did she ever!

Proof of that was also here, in the collection of cold metal she ran her fingers through. Those buckles, each one signifying that she'd won, that she was the best, eventually the best in all of South Dakota. She knew she could have done even better, on the national level, if things had happened otherwise. After awhile, she'd had more buckles than belts, and had to switch them out.

That yellow sheet of paper - it had been white - where she'd kept a list of the greatest challenges in that ring, the fiercest bulls she'd ridden, and broken.
Atomic Wedge. Almost Legal. License Revoked. Mixed-Up Nuts. Better You Than. Bull-Der (that one was owned by the McGintys; they liked being cute with their names). Cherries Jubilee. And those foot-bulls, like Nitschke and Yankton.
Yankton. How significant that name was to be in her future.

Mementoes of her career change, if you will; in which she switched sports from bullriding to swimming. Those medals brought back a welter of memories, and the emotions associated with them.
At first the water was therapeutic, or that's what she had gone in believing - a remedy for her sore muscles from the times she'd been thrown, and even the times she hadn't. But it became something more, as she discovered how at-home she was in the water. As it turned out, she was good, damned good. And it wasn't just her saying so, not if those medals were any indication. She found out that she could swim, and so she swam, and swam, and swam.
All through high school, there was no competition. No meet that she entered had a chance of denying her the gold. Mir-maid, she was starting to be known as, and the college scouts were out in full force. There were at least a dozen of them at every meet she participated in, and everyone knew why. Why she'd chosen piddling old Yankton State she didn't know - no, that wasn't true; she did know. It was because of... HIM.

That picture, the first one, the first time she'd seen him. That man, the man who would become so much of her life. He would turn out to be her weakness, her addiction, that which was dominant. How strange it seemed now, how long ago that life was, almost like another lifetime ago...

The late '60's was a turbulent time, but not here, not on the O'Ryan ranch. Here it might as well have been the 1890's as the 1960's. Oh, Daddy didn't try to keep her in her place; there just wasn't much opportunity to find out what was going on, much less to get caught up in it. And there wasn't really much effort into putting down someone who could have her way with a 3-ton force of nature like she could. Mummy? She was the compliant sort anyway, so forget that.

But he. He was from the outside. He was an older man, some college boy from Yankton who had landed a summer job on the ranch. She'd heard that he was from New York, from Brooklyn even. Daddy had hired this big city boy personally. He was a tenderfoot through & through, no doubt about that, but there was no denying that he wanted to succeed, to please Daddy, which he did. It was obvious that he thought the world of Daddy, and vice versa.

Was that why she'd fallen for him, because of the mutual admiration society between him & Daddy? Was it because he kept trying to make himself into a carbon copy of Big John (well, just look at the name)? A girl wants a boy who will be a man just like her daddy, right?

Then there was that damned stubborn streak. While it had long since become part & parcel of Bob the Bully which steamrolled everything in his path, at the time she had found it endearing. Especially when she was seeing it from a standing position, above his hospital bed.
That's right, his stubborn streak put him there. He'd heard about her bull-riding feats, and of course he figured he could anything a woman could do, so of course he got on a bull, and of course that bull proceeded to stomp a mudhole in him.
She'd gotten not a little schadenfreude, visiting him in the hospital. Oh, he was in traction, and her heart had gone out to him. That said, her inner feminist - she had just recently started to read that Friedan book, almost a half decade late - just had to pick at him a bit, point out that it took a girl to save him, speculate about his future with the football team. That got a panic reaction, as the coach couldn't have been happy with one of his defensive stars trying to ride a bull. What was his name again? Eh, it wasn't important.
No, what was important was that big lummox, how he was getting to her. He was getting under her skin. She was letting him get close to her, and closer, and closer.

Late summer, 1971. She was at the top of her world. Her sophomore year at Yankton was coming up, and she had just received her invitation to the biggest event yet, the validation that she was one of the best: the US Olympic Swim Trials. It was just a formality, and then the next year, she would be representing her country in Munich.
So, the man in her life had talked her into a little celebration, just the two of them. It had snuck up on her that there was a man in her life, that she had allowed this lout to mean that much to her. It wasn't very feminist, especially with a troglodyte like him. That saw about the fish and the bicycle kept running through her head, but he had pointed out that the bicycle had equal need of the fish, and that by that logic he didn't need her either, and he definitely needed her. So she's let him get close to her, too close. Which had ultimately brought them to this picnic, which had turned into something else.

She had breezed through the swim trials a few months later, of course. At her physical afterward, though, something had been discovered. Or should it be said, someone.
She wouldn't be going to Munich. At the time of the discovery, it had been suggested that she could get it taken care of, quietly. But she couldn't. No matter how discreet it would have been, it would eventually have gotten back to her strongly religious family. And what about him; he had a similar upbringing, when his parents had been around. He had confided in her that he had been orphaned while still in his teens, that when the time came that he was a father, he would stay alive and be there for his children, no matter what. And something in her told her it wasn't right. So she wouldn't be going to Munich, which as it turned out might have been for the best.

Munich. It was a place she had been looking forward to seeing up-close, but she was having to content herself with seeing it on tv, with him by her side, usually. He was supposed to be at training camp, but his football career had come to naught when his ankles gave out, so he was with her. And it was a good thing, because she would need someone to lean on.
The whole Olympic experience turned out to be one international scandal after another. It was 1972. The world it seemed hated America, or so B. said; and there was plenty of evidence as he would point out one instance after another of what he called the Great International Screw Job. Ryun, screwed. Seagren, screwed. Prefontaine, screwed. And don't get him started on that basketball final. Spitz was not to be denied, but had it not been for him, the US might as well have not even sent a team, according to B.
But the worst was yet to come. It would happen, away from the tracks and the fields, in the Olympic Village.

Had she made the trip, she had planned to meet with some of these same people. An interest had been awakened in her, an interest in her mother's Jewish heritage, an heritage which one had but to look at her name to see its continued would-be legacy in her. Toward the end of exploring same, she had written to some of the Israeli team, and they had written back. Oh, she'd had no intention of converting, but it would have been interesting to find out where that particular part of her had come from.
So maybe she would have been allowed to visit that team had she gone. Maybe she would have been there when it all went down. Or maybe some of them would have visited her, and thus been spared. No one would ever know.
It had started so suddenly, taking the world by surprise. As things unfolded, it seemed that America, maybe the world, had come to a stop and was glued to their tv sets. She could still remember that nasal whine of Howard Cosell eloquently expressing the outrage of millions, and millions. Who were these people? How dared they violate the international sanctity of these games? Didn't they know that this was the Olympics, that it was off-limits? How could anyone?
She could remember looking back at B, who was holding her in his strong arms, and seeing the same welter of emotions on his face that was raging within every fiber of her being all at once: shock, disbelief, rage, helplessness. A sick, heavy feeling was in the pit of her stomach and radiated coldly through her frame; one she had never felt before and hoped to God never to feel ever again. It was a wonder she hadn't miscarried.
Then there was the comforting voice of Jim McKay, as he picked up the baton from Cosell as it were, and began his shift, the shift that seemed to go on forever. He stayed on the screen, covering the event that would ultimately give birth to CNN and every other news & talk tv channel (for better or worse), until she heard those infamous words, in McKay's plaintive bleat:
"They're all gone."
She couldn't take it anymore, couldn't watch, couldn't listen. She went into hysterics. Within an hour she was at the hospital, giving birth to Olga, named at her insistence after that gymnast she had been watching just days before. She was determined, amid all the ugliness, to have some memorial of the beauty that the Games were supposed to have been.
That was all that could be salvaged. That and other spontaneous births amid similar circumstances was probably the best legacy that these Games left, and they would have happened anyway in due course.

What happened in the years after that, though she had the appropriate documentation, was still a blur to her. The shotgun wedding. How Bob had been set up in business by a relative, something to do with electronics. How she'd devoted herself to raising Olga. Bob's 'alien incident' up in North Dakota in the late '70's, and how his refusal to keep quiet about it had gotten them laughed out of the Badlands; fortunately her Daddy wasn't around to see it. Oh yeah, that had happened too, back in the mid '70's.
Their move to the Seattle area. Olga discovering her potential, being an entire Gifted & Talented program all by herself. That first spelling bee, then all that followed. Perfect attendance, no grades below an A since third grade, awards, certificates, plaques, trophies; all the accolades, doing her mother proud.
And her father too; Bob had dared to dream for himself. They had started the Super Bowl about the time he'd started college; he'd had hopes about football glory. But those had gone with his ankles; damn those steroids. She knew he was taking them at Yankton, him and that Alzado kid. Maybe it was for the best that Bob had never gotten the chance that he and that Matuzsak kid from Tampa had gotten. He would have been a member of the Raiders, holding his own with the worst of them. And at what cost. No, it was better that he could glory in his daughter's accomplishments than his own, or so it seemed. And all along, getting bigger, and louder, and more bullying. And she unable to cope, retreating into those 'smoothies'; when had she discovered 'that frozen concoction that helps her hang on', anyway?
Her chasing a foolish dream to be in the Olympics after all, a dream shot down with the Moscow boycott. And then, eight years later, another go-round of the same dream. Of course that came to a halt when they'd found out about Helga.

Was she resentful? Was that why she had never really concentrated on Helga like she had on Olga? Or was it because she had wanted Helga to grow up without all the fuss, strong and independent? And apparently it had worked; Helga was her own person, not really needing anything. She could take care of herself, and her personality - if that's what you wanted to call it - didn't have the the eggshell fragility and brittleness of Olga's. Patakis don't cry, that's what B had always said, but Olga did. But not Helga; she was strong.
But now Olga was the one being strong, telling them how they'd destroyed Helga's life. And she knew that it was all true, and she was so sorry. She'd never meant for anything like this to happen.

Whose fault was it? Herself, for letting herself get seduced? Bob for seducing her? The team at college for introducing him to steroids? Those mobsters who had killed his father, back in Brooklyn?
Or maybe it had been Munich; neither of them had been the same after that. She had been wrecked, and he had been, well, even now she wasn't really sure. Damn those terrorists, and with one exception, the Israelis had made sure that every one of them were. Although they just wanted their ancestral home, same as the Jews, if it was really their ancestral home and those rumors she'd heard about them being refugees driven out of Jordan were just that: rumors. Maybe the Jews should have taken that advice from Ibn Saud and taken a state or two out of Germany for their homeland; it was the Germans who had tried to exterminate them from the face of the earth, right?
But all the geopolitical gymnastics going on in her mind didn't really matter now. None of it changed the facts which were right there in front of her, the ones which now demanded her full attention: that her family, all that she had left, was about to implode. And she couldn't let that happen. She still loved Bob and didn't want to abandon him, but something had to happen, to save the family.
Something had to be done.

And that's the story as it currently stands. As you're reading this, though, I'm working on the next chapter. It has the title: "Jack Greene, Meet Tim Bayliss". Hopefully, the reason for that title will be obvious by the time you're finished reading it. Until then, I'm Nftnat. On e-mail, I'm And on IM, I'm Nftnat. Cya around, and Merry Christmas.