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SPEEDLUST

By Joel W. Jackson All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Action

Chapter 1

The glistening black serpent slithered across the sandy desert floor setting off in one direction straight as an arrow flies, only to veer suddenly for seemingly no purpose, turning sharply to the left, then back to the right, in a far reaching loop heading up a hill.  The desert terrain was rough here, strewn about were boulders with sharp, black, jagged edges, and millions of smaller rocks with scrub brushes and weeds, all baking in the merciless red hot sun, just now peeking over the mountains, taking the chill from the night out of the air immediately with it’s scorching arrival.

The only sound was the wind, blowing across the mountains, whispering something, intangible to him, something he could almost understand, all the while searing his face with its hot breath, only heating him more, as this wind continued its journey onward to the sea.

The shadows of the mountains were moving quickly now, rushing across the hill before him, the boulders, buildings, and towers creating their own shadow effects, adding detail to this magnificent vista bordered by the distant mountains.

The wind died now and not a sound was made, nothing moved for an instant, even the shadows seemed to lock in place.  Then Steele broke the moment with one phrase, “FIRE IT UP!”

Instantly the calm was shattered by the snarling malevolent explosion of a vicious racing engine, the mechanic blipped the throttle again, and that engine sounded not like the sewing machine hum of an engine under a sustained load, through a muffled exhaust, but rather like thousands of mini explosions, reverberating off the walls of the race course, and the sides of their trailer.  Snapping and biting, ruining any peace this part of the earth had experienced.

Now the driver came out of his motor home, zipping up his multi-ply, Hinchman, one of the best driver uniforms ever made, and only good for about thirty seconds of protection in a fire, which he prays he will never have to endure.  Donning his Bell helmet and Hans head restraint, that aren’t really needed, as he knows that what could, will never happen to him.  He then slips into the cockpit and begins lashing himself into his foam fitted driver seat, with his TeamTech safety harness.  Then he slips into place, his quick release steering wheel, pulling back violently on it to ensure that it was locked into position.

On the radio, Steele’s voice comes through too loud.  The driver adjusts the volume down. “Now just take it easy and heat your tires.”  The driver depresses the clutch pedal and pulls the shifter, as he lets out the clutch pedal, driving off down pit road.  The vibration comes into his body through his hands, feet, and his butt.  The shaking feels horrible.  The squeaking and squawking make him glad he has earplugs.  Imagine what the clamor must be like if he did not have those.  The clanking from the Wiseman gearbox was enormous as he worked up to speed through the gears; zig zagging down the straight-aways, flexing those Goodyear slicks, forcing those molecules to build heat through friction.

Now, the racecar began to smooth out, the vibration changed to an electric motor feel, power on demand and fast.  The sound was much more high-pitched, deep, mellow, powerful, buzz.  As the R.P.M. reached red line, the driver would shift, with a flick of his wrist, keeping the engine on its power band, blipping the throttle to engage the gear, downshifting into the turn, braking hard, back on the throttle, standing on the gas, HARD!  Accelerating up through the gears, through turn nine now down the straightaway, flashing past the pits.

Steele eyed the racer as he went by, that driver was SLOW!  Well, he thought, he had told him… to take it easy, still, this driver was mediocre, at best, without distinction, and Steele certainly wasn’t going to win any races with this guy.  Steele caught himself thinking like a racer again, this wasn’t about winning races, not even about competition, no this was just about a payday, just another corporate executive on an ego trip.  The racecar just went along with his image, just like that blonde bimbo that drapes herself around his driver, as he walks about the paddock.  Feeling down, Steele grimaces, and thinks, just like me, I’m just another trophy on this guy’s mantle, nothing but a glorified coon dog!  Disgusted by this thought, disgusted at himself for becoming what was, in his mind, basically a motorsports whore.  Steele takes his frustration out on his executive wanna be, racecar driver, and sternly says into the radio, “Is that all you’ve got?  Drive it Man!”  Then ads “Push it, beat it up!”  Regretting his lash out immediately, Steele looks across the track and awaits a retort, but the answer wasn’t verbal, no the driver decided to show Steele just what he was made of.  The tires were protesting loudly now, screeching through the 90-degree left hand of turn one, down a short straight to a right hand turn two, known as the rabbit’s ear.  The racecar was clawing for grip through the left hand turn three, up the hill, climbing almost 200 feet, back to the right around turn four.  This guy was putting on a display, dancing on the pedals as he works through the gears, through the turns, placing each wheel precisely where he wanted it.  Down the hill he roared, turning left at the bottom, blasting out of turn five… thundering down Monroe Ridge.  This was his best lap ever!  The sunlight flashed off of the glossy paint of the speeding hell bitch, now racing into the wings leg when, suddenly, erupted a blinding cloud of dust!  Then out of this enormous cloud of dust, way up high, twenty feet above the track emerged Steele’s racecar.  The topside of the racecar was facing Steele.  It was flying end over end, only exposed for a fraction of a second; it was then swallowed up by the storm of dust it had created.

The ambulance crew was already speeding around the track to the accident.  Steele’s crew was also rushing across to the entry of the sweeper.  Steele remained frozen in place.  How many times has he seen this?  How many broken racecars?  How many shattered lives?  Shattered by a sport that he had spent most of his life in, a cruel sport that will use you up and spit you out… a broken wretch, then move on without you, leaving you behind to suffer… showing you no pity, no mercy, and soon forgetting that you ever existed.

Well, that driver bought that car; Steele ponders the situation… if he lives.  This thought crosses his mind involuntarily and thoroughly disgusted with himself, he moves to go and direct the scraping up of the situation that he helped create.

The emergency crew had extracted the driver and he was a bloody mess.  All the blood was from a cut on his chin, a cut caused by the metal zipper on his fire suit.  He was shaken, but the medic assured Steele he would be ok.

As the emergency crew loaded the driver into the ambulance, the driver caught Steele’s eye and motioned him over.  Steele warily approached, wondering what the driver had to convey.

“I feel horrible about your racecar,” the driver said with anguish in his trembling voice, “If my crash deposit doesn’t cover the cost, then I will pay the difference.”

Steele looked hard at this middle-aged wreck of a man, now feeling guilty for the lash out on the radio.  The driver then adds, as they push him into the ambulance, “I had a fast lap going, but… I just ran out of talent.”  The crew closed the door to the ambulance before Steele could respond.

The ambulance speeds away leaving Steele standing, looking after it, thinking, “What would I say? Yeah, you were fast alright” or “you no driving son of a bitch, you could of killed yourself!”  No, Steele, oh buddy, you did best by keeping your mouth shut!

The racecar looked demolished.  The debris field was over 100 yards long with shards of the composite body and suspension parts everywhere.  However, the main chassis was still intact and the crash absorbing attenuators had saved the driver’s body and his life.  Now it was just a matter of picking up the pieces.  Pick up the pieces of his racecar… pick up the pieces of his life.  Where do I go from here?  Steele stared off at the black snake squirming across the desert floor, but no answer came, just the whispering of the wind and the longing for something he had lost.


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