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Chapter 5

The sign stated loudly in neon orange letters, ‘The Pit Grill’. “How many greasy spoons like this have I eaten at?” Jake grimaced, thinking of all the bad food consumed on his road to greatness. Greatness? Not yet, but maybe someday.

The team was supposed to meet here this evening at seven. The dumpsters in the shell-covered parking lot were overflowing with garbage. The streetlights had bugs swarming around them. It was hot, after the a/c of the rental car, hot and sticky.

Against his better judgment, Jake went in. There was his team scattered along the windowed wall that was the front and sides of this eatery. How can we have a team meeting when we can’t even sit together?

Steele shouts out, “Over here, Jake!”

Jake saunters over and slips into the booth, that is built for one and a half average size people, on each side, that now, with the addition of Jake has four big men squeezed into it.

“How did we wind up in this joint?” Jake’s tone communicates his disapproval.

“Well, the generator in our bus is broke, we’re waiting on parts, and this is the only restaurant in this area, besides the clerk at the motel says they have the best food in the world right here.” Steele’s enthusiasm can be rather sickening, at times, Jake thinks about that for a moment, interrupted by the waitress.

“Y’all ready to order now?” Then before they can answer she ads, “Well of course not, I haven’t even given y’all a menu,” then giggles this revolting plastic laugh. “Y’all must be with the racin’ series.” She pats the side of her rather tall, stiff hair with her right hand smiling, showing white teeth against her dark red lipstick.

“How did you know that?” Bob, one of the mechanics, asks, exuding all of his charm.

“Why, honey that’s easy, it’s all them there patches on yawl’s shirts.”

Bob looks down at his team shirt, festooned with sponsor and series patches, along with oil and brake fluid stains.

“Besides, when there’s racing at the track is the only time we get some excitement here in these parts!” She smiles and pats her hair again, winking at Bob, whose face turns red.

The waitress swishes off to get menus. Her too tight uniform/dress is so short, that when she bends over slightly to pick up the menus her red panties show.

The waitress comes back with the menus, placing them in front of each of them. Bob, now recovered from the wink and smiling almost as big a smile as the waitress, now assumes a flirtatious demeanor and says, “Darlin’, what do you all recommend?”

The waitress, whose name is Doris, by her name tag, leans over, displaying her ample bosom for all to see, and points out on the grease speckled menu, “That there chicken fried steak is to die for.”

“No one wants to die here,” Steele interjects, chuckling. The humor is lost on Doris, who changes her mood like flipping a toggle switch, “Well, I guess you could have the chili, if Hank still has some left, that is.”

Everyone ordered the chicken fried steak. Bob, only after inquiring about the seafood platter, “Is that seafood fresh or frozen?” The nearest ocean was over 500 miles away, the place we were in made Denny’s look like the Ritz-Carlton, so it did seem ridiculous for Bob to ask such a question.

The waitress responded, “Yeah, it’s fresh honey, the boat just pulled up to our back dock!” Then she stopped chewing her gum long enough to smile and wink. Bob ordered the chicken fried steak also.

“Now, down to business, we need to discuss some important issues…”

“Sweet tea?” Doris yells out over Steele’s opening remarks to just four of us, “Or regular?” “I myself like the sweet tea, but it’s really a preference thang.” She paused about three seconds, then added, “Well, what is it?” Her voice losing some of her southern twang, as though our disgusted look at her had soured her disposition.

We settled on the non-sweetened variety and she looked disappointed and left to get different tea.

“As I was saying,” Steele was looking very business like, now, “we need to discuss some importa…”

“I just love it when you racers are in town!” Doris was back. “You all got them big shiny haulers and them there cars, that cost so much money. I bet y’all all are so rich, y’all could show a girl a good time, I betcha!”

Steele’s patience was holding up fine, but Jake’s was gone. Jake didn’t want to be here, Jake didn’t want to eat here, and Jake didn’t like Doris.

“Lady we are trying to have a meeting, so why don’t you pour our tea before our ice melts, button up your blouse and your mouth, then go check on our steaks.”

Jake’s chastisement had its affect and Doris left with a, “I can see you boys ain’t no fun!”

Bob said, “What did you do that for Jake?”

Steele added, “Yeah, Jake, I bet you hurt the girl’s feelings.”

Eddie says, “Besides all that, now we have to worry about her spitting in our food. Jeez Jake don’t you know nothing, insult the waiters after you get your food!” Eddie was a chassis man, analytical, and always approached life from a scientific, yet practical, stand point.

The conversation waned, the meeting of four never continued, the steaks came and were slammed down by Doris’s replacement, a big manly looking woman, with five o’clock shadow, and a nasty “Anything else?”

Eddie looked at Jake as if to say, “SEE!”

Jake pushed that greasy thing around on his plate, it’s breading separated from its dark grainy meat. The gravy over everything had a different color surface than underneath. Everyone tore into them as though they hadn’t eaten for days.

After wolfing his down Bob asked, “You gonna eat that Jake?”

Tired of looking for spit, Jake said, “You can have it if you like Bob.”

Bob swapped plates with Jake saying, “Thanks, Jake, I don’t want to look like a hog.” Bob ate that disgusting meal in two bites.

The group went back to the track after supper. As Jake waited for the team to rally, he stood in the dark just outside the light of his paddock area, starring off at the stars. Down the way a team was still working, firing their engine and revving it up. That sound was one of the things Jake had missed about racing. That sound he had heard, in his mind, calling him back, the electricity in the air gave him a thrill. The challenge summoning him onward, the camaraderie, the fellowship, these were why he was here, answering his calling, but just who was it that was calling?

Jake and Steele were now at the helm of the best team either had ever been a part of before. Their competition automobiles, their own design were state of the art Daytona prototypes. The team consisted of an artist, physicist, fabricators, mechanics, and racing enthusiasts that overcame any lack of experience with a zest for being a part of something special.

The automobiles had taken shape with form following function and were now Grand Am approved as the Rhoad/Steele design.

Development in the body styling had continued from the concept computer drawings, right through wind tunnel testing with changes being made.

The chassis was Steele’s design, constructed from steel, square, rectangular, and round tubing. All created in house, at the Rhoad/Steele performance shop in east Texas. As the chassis progressed, Steele would talk to it. No one knew this; of course, as he did it in his mind, as he would caress the steel, admiring the workmanship.

As the automobiles progressed, the team formed around them. Each member unique, each with their own special skills, the only common denominator being the desire to succeed in a world that success was ever more difficult.

What cards would be dealt to team Rhoad/Steele? What would happen could only be predicted by their experience and the one thing Jake knew was at this level, one made his own luck.
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