SPEEDLUST

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Chapter 20

Reese drove from the Cherokee County Airport out to his Grandma’s farm in his old Jeep pick up. This old Gladiator had belonged to his Grandpa and after his death Grandma gave it to Reese.

The old place was set back near the woods about three hundred yards from the county dirt road. The old fence was a series of patches and covered in weeds. He would have to get to work fixing that, maybe just replace that whole fence.

Reese opened the gate, drove in, then came back and latched it. This triggered a memory and brought a smile to his face…his Grandpa and his Grandpa’s brother were pulled up to the gate, Reese setting in the middle position, they sat there for a moment, when Grandpa said, “Ok, Charlie, who’s gonna get out, me or you?” They had all laughed, the moment still brought Reese a chuckle. Well, this was his gate now, his land, and that was a fulfillment of one of his boyhood dreams, owning this land.

Reese felt the deed in his coat’s inside pocket. As he drove into the yard, chickens scattered, someone must have left the chicken coop unlatched, Grandma liked to watch them roam.

Grandma opened the screen door and came out to greet him, “Lord, I was starting to worry about you.” Grandma had on her cookin apron and the smell of bread baking was permeating the porch air, as Reese gave his Grandma a hug.

“I’ve got something here for you Grandma,” Reese couldn’t help it; his voice was choked with emotion as he reached into his coat and handed the deed to Grandma.

Grandma took the papers, her dark eyes staring at Reese, “My word, you didn’t have to get me something,” she put on her glasses, which were hanging on a loop around her neck, “Now, what all is this?” She read the deed, “Is this the farm?” The expression was total surprise, “David where did you get this?” Her tone was stern.

“Why I bought it Grandma, I bought it for you and for me. We own it all now, we don’t owe a thing, it’s ours.”

Grandma put her hand to her mouth tears flowed from her eyes. “My Word!” She looked from the deed to Reese, then back to the deed, “My Word” was all she could say for a long moment, then, “But baby…how?”

“With the money I earned racing Grandma and I’ve still got a bunch left…so we are gonna have us a time!” Reese saw his Grandma’s look of relief, disbelief, and the worry of holding things together all melt away. Tears now came to his eyes as Grandma grabbed his hand, turned her eyes towards heaven.

“Lord, thank you for this blessing and we don’t accept this gift lightly…we will always…do whatever is in our power Lord to help…those of us that are less fortunate…and Lord thank you for watching over my Grandson, David and helping me and his Grandpa to raise such a fine example of human kind…Amen!”

“Now, David let’s start planning!” She turned to set in her rocker.

“Planning? Planning what Grandma?” Reese was joyous and confused.

“Planning what we’re going to do with our farm!” Grandma’s eyes were shining, her face was glowing and David Reese, professional racing superstar, was happier than he had ever thought possible.

Joe Savage was reclining on a padded chaise lounge overlooking the beautiful blue water just off of Key West. The palm trees, the white sand, the light blue sky meeting the dark blue ocean all created a picture that was a postcard.

Off in the distance Joe watched the white sails of a cutter making a downwind run. The cool breeze gently blew across him as he watched the sailboat, the gulls diving into the water, and the occasional fins of large sea life glistening in the distance.

Joe had rented, what the Realtor called, a bungalow that was right on the water. This bungalow was really a sprawling, lavishly decorated, beach house that was designed for comfort and entertaining.

The girls were still with him and they were having the time of their lives. Joe turned to where they were napping. Their new string bikinis were so skimpy that they actually were showing tan lines. Joe set up, taking off his sunglasses, and took a sip of his Corona beer.

Two rather large guys in brightly colored floral print shirts came walking from down the beach. One glanced at the girls, their breast hanging out all over, then looked at Joe, then looked away and quickly back to Joe again. They stopped, and then turned toward Joe approaching quickly. Oh, no what shit is this? Joe thought…trying to remember, when had he kicked these guy’s butts?

“Hey, aren’t you Joe Savage?” This very large guy asked.

“Yeah…that’s me alright,” Joe looked bored and sipped his beer, “what can I do to you gentlemen?” Joe’s response befuddled the two for a moment, then they responded.

“Oh, man I can’t believe this…we are your biggest fans…I mean the way you drive…this is my best vacation ever!”

The girls set up looking over, Wanda, holding one hand over her eyes, and Joe noticed she had forgotten to fasten her strap for her top as she rose up even higher.

“Can I have your autograph? Man I can’t believe it!” Joe’s fan never even noticed Wanda.

“I’ve got some photos…I’ll get them and autograph them…just wait here.” Joe got up and went into the beach house. Joe came out with two autographed photos and a cooler of beer…which he passed out to his fans and the girls…handing Wanda a shirt…she looked down at her bare breasts and giggled as she put on the shirt.

“I thought you looked…chilly.” Joe handed the fans the photos. They looked very happy to be there with Joe. The two guys sat on the sand drinking their beers, looking at the photos of Joe’s face placed in the corner photo of Rhoad/Steele’s car negotiating a turn at Sears Point.

The fan that spoke first said, “Wow, thanks Joe…you know I didn’t even know you raced sports cars too.”

Joe now was confused, the four wins, all televised…the subject of a national ad campaign…he had assumed that’s where his fans had seen him.

“What did you think I raced?” Joe now was really interested.

“Well, Sprint Cars, of course…we used to travel to every race you would be at.” Joe couldn’t believe his ears. “Yeah, we went to Devil’s Bowl…that time you were beating the hell out of Kinser…till your engine blew!”

The second fan interjected, “That was your best race…I’ll never forget that day.”

“We were at Eldora that day you won the B main, then drove up to third in the main…all the way from the back!”

“And we were at Williams Grove when you set a track record, then passed Wolfgang…man I cried when you had that flat.”

“This is some trick isn’t it…you guys are joking.” Joe looked around.

“No…we both cried Joe…you were so close!”

Joe remembered the pain of that moment, that cruel time…but he never knew that anyone knew…or cared. “I’m racing Grand American now, boys…and I am on top, hell we’ve won four races in a row!” Joe’s enthusiasm brightened them up from their sad states. “Where are you guys from?” I mean where do y’all live?”

“We live in Dallas, Joe.”

“Give me your names and I’ll put some tickets and paddock passes for you, on will-call, for our race next month in Texas.”

“Wow, that would be great!” They both had finished their beers and now got up to go. “We better go find our wives, they are just as big fans of yours as we are, and they won’t believe this!” They said goodbye and started off, then one turned back and gave a thumbs up, then shouted, “I hope you do good with this uh…Grand-Am thing…if you do maybe you’ll get back into racing!”

They walked off towards the way they had been headed to, then turned and headed back the way they had come from.

Joe looked at the girls. They were smiling happily, with rather lazy smiles. Then they both shrugged their shoulders with a ‘who knows’ gesture. Joe put his sunglasses on, downed his beer, and then said, more to himself than anyone, “I can’t believe…that just happened.”

The girls giggled and ran off to the water, Wanda shedding her shirt as they ran splashing into the water.

Across the Gulf of Mexico, a thousand miles straight west on a vast stretch of sun baked sand sat a large old sea bird, taking time from his endless job of gathering food to enjoy, his second favorite activity, watching man.

Man was an odd creature, this old bird had determined, after many years of watching and they were not all bad. Sometimes man was even nice to him, but man was definitely odd and interesting to observe.

This beach was very different from the beaches of Florida. It was even more beautiful, but it was also lonely and wild. Along its shoreline were things from all over the world, brought to this lonely place by the current known as the Devil’s Elbow, which swept into this barrier island and then rebounded back out into the Gulf of Mexico, depositing whatever it carried right onto this beach. Even the sand is different on this beach, it’s finer than Florida sand, and in fact it’s finer than any sand in North America.

Giant wind swept dunes provides sanctuary for many forms of wildlife and concealed beneath them lay much of the history of man, waiting to be found.

The hull of a rusting ocean vessel, only partially exposed, juts out of the deep sand at the base of a gigantic dune. The Gulf breezes raked across what remains of the focus of so much human energy…and dreams. The naval architect that planned it, the shipwrights that constructed it, and the men that traveled the oceans of the world on her, until some untold disaster took their ship…their dreams, and possibly their lives. That powerful ocean that possibly brought about its ruin…then tossed…what was left on this wild shore joining many of its like…waiting until the day that no vestige of this once magnificent ship even remains. Returned once more to the earth from whence it came.

This hulk, Steele pondered over, seeing what happens eventually to all the creations of man…leaving behind only memories of our deeds. These thoughts ran through his mind as he sat on the tailgate of his Range Rover, tossing bread up for the hungry sea gulls. The powerful breezes coming from offshore enabled the gulls to hover above him, each politely awaiting their turn in line, their chance to catch a morsel of bread…for a change of diet.

Steele never tired of feeding the sea birds…he had been doing that, when his life allowed him time, since he was a young boy. Steele stopped only when his bread was gone.

Four days Steele had spent here and he hadn’t seen anyone except an old man riding a bicycle, totally naked, that had waved as he pedaled his beach bike pass Steele, on his way south, back to civilization. The old man’s skin appeared to be the color and texture of old saddle leather with shaggy gray hair and beard, his bicycle had baskets attached to it fore and aft, which were brim full of sea shells and interesting items the old man had found. Poles were sticking up from the extremes of the bike that apparently were folded beach umbrellas.

How he could even negotiate the extremely thick sand on that bicycle, Steele did not know…especially without wearing pants!

Steele chuckled to himself at the memory of the old man…that sighting had been three days ago and that was the only human contact he had experienced since he dropped off the end of the pavement, four days ago leaving civilization and the black pick up truck that had been following behind him.

Who was in the black truck? Well, he didn’t know…or even for sure that they had been following him, but the sand had quickly claimed the pick up, swallowed it up to the fenders…you see, this beach was difficult to drive in a Jeep or a Range Rover and it was impassable at times. A regular pick up or automobile didn’t have a chance.

Steele took out a can of tuna and now that he had fed his friends the last of his bread, he ate his supper right from the can. Watching the sun setting over the dunes, from his perspective, sinking into the Laguna Madre, illuminating the western sky with a myriad of Steele’s favorite colors, in a last powerful assertion before finally yielding to the dark…for a short while. Night came very sudden unrolling a carpet of stars in the eastern sky.

Steele gathered driftwood into his circular campfire spot, over near a dune. Soon the hungry flames were eagerly devouring the dry old wood. The firelight reflecting off the dune, casting weird shapes and shadows that seemed to be alive with each flicker of the flames, the wind carrying off burning embers along with the smoke.

Steele hung his coffee pot on his cooking tripod, and then waited with his old metal cup in hand, brushing out any old grinds or sand anticipating that brew that he loved so much.

Steele didn’t think of his race team, his future or his past…not now, this was not a time for reflection and there was no conscious effort on his part to not think. For now he just existed. He was just there. This is what he came to this place for and that’s all he wanted, that and his coffee.

Steele’s seamed, leathery face took on the appearance of hammered copper in the golden light, shining, flickering light…from his campfire. The sounds from the wind and waves mesmerized him as he stared into the fire.

The shadows made each line, each crevasse on his face stand out. These etches were worn with pride, earned in countless battles with the problems of his life, each adding to the character, each a building block to the man…just a man…known only as Steele.

Steele shrugged into a jacket now and rubbed the four day gray stubble on his chin. He huddled closer to the fire now, a small isolated patch of flickering light…surrounded by the darkness.


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