Back for the Track Attack
By Mike Stevens
Ah, the roar of the crowd. To Johnny Ray Wray, there was nothing like it when you won the race and climbed out of your race car! It had never happened to him, personally, but it sure looked like fun for the winners. That was his dream; to win a race and get that kind of adulation for himself. And now, thanks to his neighbor Red, he would have a chance to win one. He had been working, mowing acres of grass surrounding Wide Slim’s Patio Furniture Warehouse, bored out of his mind and resigned to a life of tedious monotony, when his neighbor Red came knocking on his door, asking him if he (Red) built a race car, would he (Johnny) be interested in driving it? Yes, back for the track attack!
They had worked their fingers to the bone, and, after finishing their 6th case of beer, over several days, at last were done with their racing car; the racing car on which Johnny had all his hopes and dreams pinned for any kind of a future for him. It looked as good as they were capable of making it look, although it seemed pretty pathetic to Johnny. Their homemade paint job was streaked and lumpy, and the number 1 they had painted on the hood looked more like a crooked 7 to him, but it ran, at least for now. Today was qualifying for the Stylish Siding 500, and they had unloaded the car from the flatbed trailer on which it rode. They’d endured incredulous looks and what looked to them like open laughter driving in. Well, no one would be laughing after the won the race.
Unloading the race car in the pits, they saw fellow racer Ned Tungsten looking disdainfully at their car.
“You guys surely aren’t serious about racing that hunk of crap, are you? If you are, Johnny, I hope your coffin will fit inside, because you’re going to need it; that thing’s a deathtrap!”
“She might not look like much, but she can fly.” replied Johnny.
“Yeah, apart maybe!” added Tungsten, as he walked away, shaking his head and chuckling.
They had driven the car up to the person who certified the car as fit to race.
He said, “This is a joke, right? Who put you up to this, was it Stan? Good one Stan!”
Johnny and Red looked sheepishly at each other, and Johnny said,
“No, sir, Stan didn’t put us up to anything, and this is no joke. We built this car ourselves.”
The grin vanished from the guy’s face, and a laugh died in his throat. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I thought this was Stan playing a practical joke on me. This car is in no shape or form ready to race; I mean, look at it. Besides being lop sided, the safety devises aren’t up to our code.”
“Excuse me, but I don’t see what the problem is,” said Johnny.
“Well for starters, there’s got to be more than a seatbelt. There’s no roll-bar, and no fire extinguisher, just to name a couple.”
“Oh, we must have forgotten those things. We’ll just run home and grab them.”
The exasperated race official replied, “Run home and get them? The roll-bar takes a while to build into the car; you can’t just throw it in later.”
“Well, who made you the sheriff?” Johnny then asked.
“You can call me all the names you want, but there is absolutely no way this car will race in this race. There is about 100 reasons why, pick one.”
Johnny and Red were both pissed, but there was nothing they could do.
If an official race wouldn’t let them drive, they would have to keep Johnny sharp for racing in the meantime. They found a ½ mile straight stretch of road, with a twisting, turning stretch immediately following; which would be perfect. He could let the car run b**** out on the straight stretch, then downshift and brake when he hit the curves. They placed the car at the beginning of the straightaway, and Johnny eased himself into the rather cramped driver’s seat. Making sure his seatbelt they had installed was securely fastened; he gripped the steering wheel and knew he was ready. Red handed him a bottle of cheap champagne and told him it was for after driving, but Johnny thought there was no time like the present.
Red said, “Are you sure that’s very wise? After all, you’re just about to drive a racecar. You’ll want to keep your senses clear.”
Johnny replied, “Oh, one little drink’s not going to hurt; besides, I’ve driven before after a couple of drinks, perfectly fine.”
Red started to reply, “Yeah, but those cars weren’t racecars. I don’t thin—”
“Oh, quit worrying! I’ll be fine.”, and opening the bottle, Johnny said, “Here’s to good luck”, took a healthy swig, and tried passing the bottle to Red.
“I pass.” he said.
“Well, suit yourself. That leaves more for me, bottoms up!” Johnny answered, hoisting the bottle high into the air, guzzling till it was ½ gone.
“Whew, does that ever hit the spot!” Then he drained the remaining liquid, told Red to time it until he returned, and floored the gas, with a “Yee-haw!” yell.
He raced down the straightaway, until the car looked to Red like it was almost flying. This car was a rocket. Faster and faster it went, with Red expecting to see Johnny apply the brakes.
“Now, Johnny, now!” he whispered.
But Johnny had already tried the brake pedal; nothing. The brake pedal went limply to the floorboards, and stayed there. In a panic, he looked up to see the first turn rapidly approaching. He flew into the turn, and it seemed the car went up on two wheels. Protesting metal somehow stayed in one piece, as the car barely made it through. Wow, that had been a clos—suddenly, he was already approaching the 2nd turn. With a sickening feeling, he realized there was no way the speeding car was going to make this one. Into the turn he went, turning to no avail, as the car went straight for a stand of trees lining the roadway. S***-o-dear! He desperately swung the wheel hard to the left, as the car left the roadway, somehow narrowly missing the trees, and sailing out into a vacant field. The car struck hard, as Johnny fought to control the steering. Still going very fast, the car went into a parallel trench, then went airborne and smashed on its top, and started rolling. Something struck him a glancing blow to the face, then the car, or rather the drivers seat and the steering wheel, which were both somehow still attached to the frame, came to a sliding stop, after several rolls. Johnny sat, adrenaline coursing through his veins, staring at the open sky above him, and the unobstructed view of the vacant field, stretching away from him on both sides. He glanced down at his feet, and, unbelievably, the empty liquor bottle, which he had carelessly thrown on the passenger’s seat when he had finished it, was lying there, unbroken.
He had survived the crash, physically unscathed, but a mental wreck. He had been extremely fortunate to walk away from the incident, and he knew it. Now, he wouldn’t even ride in a car, let alone drive one. He’d already lost his job after the wreck, because he had been riding to his first day on the job, and suddenly had a flashback to his terrible wreck, freaked out, and screamed for the guy driving to pull over and let him out. There’d been a message on his answering machine, once he had walked home, telling him that because of his no showing up on his first day, they were forced to let him go. How in the hell did he end up like this?
Once again, his mother had called to invite him for Sunday dinner. He had silently swore, and said that sounded lovely, except for the fact he was no longer driving and wouldn’t be able to make it.
“Oh, we can fix that. Why are you no longer driving? Your father will stop by your house after his poker game with the guys, and pick you up,” his mother replied.
Fab-u-fricking-tastic! “Oh Mom, I couldn’t ask dad to go that far out of his way, and I’m no longer driving because I was involved in a bad wreck. I’m okay, but it really shook me up.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re okay; and nonsense, he drives right by your place on his way home. It really wouldn’t be a problem.”
Crap! “Okay Mom, if you’re sure it’s not a bother?” Please agree that it would be!
“No, it’s not a bother; he’ll stop by there on his way by; looking forward to seeing you tonight. Bye, Johnny Ray.”
“Bye mom, I guess I’ll be seeing you tonight.”
S***! Oh well, he had to learn to deal with his new fear of even riding in a car.
The knock came at his front door, all-to-soon. Damn, his bitching father was here, already. Johnny went to answer it, and his father didn’t even say hello; just said,
“Well, are you ready to go, There’s something wrong with my foot, it feels like it’s broken, and standing like this, or walking, sends pain shooting up my leg and into my groin.”
'Here we go', thought Johnny. It was the start of his father’s personal pity parade. “Yeah, I’m ready” he replied.
“Then, let’s go,” his father then said. He turned, took 2 steps, and grabbed his leg with both hands. “Oh b***s, does this bitch hurt!” he shouted.
This was embarrassing! They somehow made it to the car, his father grimacing in pain.
“Oh, you’ll have to…owe….sit in back. A couple of the guys I play poker with needed a ride home.”
Oh. He slid into the back, and immediately started to panic. He couldn’t do this. His father caught a glimpse of his terrified face in the rearview mirror and said,
“What is it? Does this have anything to do with your now being a pansy about riding in the car?”
That royally pissed him off, and he forced himself to remain seated. There was absolutely no way he was going to show fear in front of his father. “No, I’m fine Dad.”
“What’s the matter?’ asked the man sitting next to him in the backseat.
“Oh, my son has decided it’s too scary to ride in the car.” his father replied sarcastically. “Oh, by the way Johnny, this is Harry Teal, and the man sitting in the front is Dave Isthmus. Gentleman, allow me to introduce Johnny Jr., my son, although I’m embarrassed to admit that.”
Great introduction, Dad! “Nice to meet you both,” he said.
They both acknowledged him, and the car pulled out onto the street. Immediately, Johnny forgot his anger and felt black waves of dread wash over him.
“Stop the car, I have to get out!” he yelled.
His father applied the brakes, shouting, “Owe, my leg,” then “What’s wrong? Owe!”
“I just cannot do this; it brings a flashback to my wreck!”
“Oh, for crying out loud, just get out, you whine about everything, and I, for one, am sick of having to listen to it.”
“Me, I’m a whiner? That’s just wonderful, a complaint about my whining, from the King of Whiners himself. “Oh my leg”, or “My leg’s draining so much pus.” You should know about all about whining, you do enough of it.”
“Get out, now!” demanded his father. Johnny was getting disgusted looks from the others in the car.
“You see what I have to deal with….,” said his father angrily as the car pulled away.
Johnny had a long walk back to his house, and he was angry, but it was sure beginning to look as if he’s damn well have to get used to walking everywhere, because this scared s*** wasn’t going away, anytime soon!