The Seneca Lodge, dark and mysterious looking, an enormous log cabin like structure was a traditional stop for winners at the Glen to celebrate their victories.
The ancient victory wreathes from long ago Formula One races, hanging silently, decaying in the rafters, now had a new addition with team Rhoad/Steele’s victory wreath.
Joe stood on the bar as the crew and fans spewed beer and champagne all over him and each other.
The dark, almost black, wood absorbed the exuberance being displayed by all. The laughter and the energy was soaked up by the logs, sustaining this building through all the lonely times, remembering the many celebrations of all those exciting young people, many who have passed this way never to return.
Jake reflected on that, wondering if these walls could speak, what would they say to him? Would they speak of the many champions that stood on that bar, in Joe’s place, celebrating possibly their greatest victory?
The energy was there; Jake could feel it, as he rubbed his hand along the rough log surface.
The post race festivities had been wild, but friendly, even ‘Snake’ had congratulated Reese and Joe, this after an altercation with Sandy, when ‘Snake’ had tried to pass Sandy as they entered turn five, at the end of the very fast back straight away. ‘Snake’ had dove in on the right side of the track intending to force his way in, passing Sandy in the process, but the girl was having no part of that and held her line, forcing ‘Snake’ to brake and ‘Snake’ was pinched into the retaining wall, exploding the nose piece off his car on contact, spewing debris everywhere. Sandy drove off determined to win and she almost pulled it off.
Joe had toured the track displaying his checkered flag then drove into victory circle, where Sandy and ‘Snake’ had already parked their cars.
Everyone was jubilant, congratulating Reese and Joe on their drive to victory.
Sandy had raced clean and had pushed hard. She had no regrets, only joy at doing what she now knew had been her destiny all along…and Jake had made it all possible.
Sandy and Jessica celebrated for the team and showed no disappointment at their second place finish. The crew and sponsors were, of course, ecstatic and the ensuing interviews lasted throughout the afternoon.
Spewing champagne, uncontrolled laughter, happiness, crazy antics are all part of the winners circle.
Sexy curvaceous trophy girls wearing tight clinging outfits and sometimes that sultry lustful look in their eyes were also a part of the scene.
Shining gold and silver winners cups, gleaming monuments to this day to be taken and put into a case, looked at occasionally or when you get old…a reminder of the day when you were the best.
The colorful flags flying in the breeze against the blue sky and the yellow/orange haze of the rapidly setting sun, ending your day almost before you realize what has happened, certainly before you can absorb the far reaching impact.
An impact that really is just an illusion for with that setting sun the slate is wiped clean with the harsh morning light comes the realization that nothing has been settled.
You must go forth from that point and prove again and again your worth, your skill, and your value, until one day…you fail.
How many champions had stood on that podium and then later on at the Seneca Lodge bar? How many teams had shared that feeling one has from being victorious, only to disperse upon the winds brought by their very success…never to return again.
The track emptied out with the setting of the sun. The massive crowds, the screaming engines all gone. The colorful flags had all been taken down; the pavement had now grown cold. A night breeze blows a scrap of a paper across the track into a chain link fence.
A silent old man walks out onto the straight away near the flagman’s stand and looks off to his left, towards turn eleven.
Standing there in the darkness he remembers other races, other success, and failures. In his mind he hears the roaring engines and wonders when will be his last time and when it comes will he recognize it?
Jake ordered his steak prepared ‘Pittsburgh’ style, a specialty of the Seneca Lodge. Steele sauntered up and sat down beside Jake.
“Where the hell did you disappear to?” Steele asked, matter-of-factly.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. I guess time got away from me. Have you seen Sandy?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen her.” Steele motioned the waiter over, “I’ll have whatever he’s eating.”
“Sandy left with Suzanne, the Stoudenmires, and that Jeffery fella…about an hour ago…off to New York City, I believe.”
Jake sipped on his ice tea, his face revealing nothing.
Steele studied his partner and read more there than anyone else could have. Steele’s cell phone rang, it was Reese, after a brief conversation, Steele hung up.
“They’re all coming over…Reese and the guys.”
Soon they arrived, Jake had everything set up at a long table near the rock fireplace.
Everyone had left to get cleaned up, now they were hungry and still in a festive mood. Joe had his arms around Sheila and Wanda. Jake began feeling sorry for himself, missing Sandy. Suddenly he was over it.
Jessica was there with some new friend; she was wearing a low cut burgundy blouse and was giving Jake seductive looks across the table.
The Jukebox was playing and the place was packed, some people were dancing on the little dance floor.
Jessica looked straight at Jake and ran her tongue across her upper lip very discretely.
Jake looked back, and then suddenly arose and walked around right passed Jessica and her friend. Jake then asked Sheila to dance. As Jake walked by, he caught Jessica’s look and it wasn’t nice.
Jake was having fun now, dancing with a good-looking woman, no strings, no expectations, and no commitments. Jake was just living in the moment. Why did all the women Jake showed interest in play games? Maybe that’s the only ones he took note of?
The problems melted away into the night. The good times ruled. Smiling faces, jokes, and salutations cleared the air of any apprehensions and animosities from the past.
Jake found himself with Jessica in his arms and she felt good.
“You were teasing me weren’t you Jake?” She asked so timidly looking up into Jake’s eyes.
“Do you want to dance or talk?” Jake asked as he spun her quickly about.
“Are those my only options?” Jessica’s eyes were bright with sexual energy.
“Now who’s teasing?” Jake responded, holding her tightly.
“Not me, not now,” Jessica’s voice turned serious.
Jake looked into the beautiful eyes of this very desirable woman and said to himself, “Jake you must be crazy.”
“Jessica you’re the most beautiful, desirable woman I’ve ever met, but I’m in love with another,” Jake continued dancing and having fun, but the danger was gone, the thrill of risk like he felt when entering a corner too fast on the edge of out of control, that thrill was gone now. Jessica felt safe…safe, but good in his arms.
Jessica had not responded to his confession or changed in any way. She was living in the moment and having a good time…a good time now…for what would tomorrow bring?
Later Jake came out of the men’s room and overheard some racers talking. “Yeah, well look at how that Jake Rhoad gets women…he pays ‘em by letting them drive.” Much laughter ensued.
Jake grabbed the speaker by the scruff of the neck, spinning him around, no one he knew.
Jake released him and looked into the faces of each of the men in this group, “Those girls drive for me because they’re the best there is and they sure kicked all y’all’s buts!” Jake threw back his head in laughter and walked away thinking, “Jake you are getting mellow in your old age.”
A creeping red line out the window was breaking the blackness of the night, to his left.
Jake looked around the plane and everyone was asleep, Steele was snoring softly. Jake resumed looking at the blackness out his window, broken only here and there by the lights of some rural community. It would be good to get home. Homecomings were always better when one was victorious, he could sure remember some when he had gambled, losing it all. Returning home broke and defeated, but he had never questioned his actions. No, in those times he was always too busy finding solutions…it was times like these that were usually spent on analyzing where he was headed and why, but not this morning.
This morning Jake just existed absorbing, relishing the moment, the sounds, the sights, and the feelings knowing that with this rising sun the feelings would rush away chasing the darkness to the west.Now his thoughts turned towards home and he found himself wishing she were there.