La Vita

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
La Vita - racing is living.

Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Finally! We caught sight of Stefano in his Ferrari just after we passed through Spoleto. I thought I caught a flash of yellow but it might have been the first golden rays of the setting sun until Di Loreto tensed up in his seat next to me. That confirmed it. The Corsa Par La Vita, the “Race of Life”, has torn through four hundred Roman miles, six hundred kilometres, and with less than a hundred to go we finally had his Modena-yellow Ferrari in sight. The brave fool had tried to drive the course alone, he must have been tiring.

Di Loreto shook off his torpor – his had been the long, fast run South from Venezia along the coast to Ancona. But these mountain curves were my speciality, the throwing of the car through turn, quicken, brake hard and turn. The Alfa-Romeo’s engine was urging us on, evening light shading waves down the long, red bonnet. Without conscious thought I braked a little later, brought the foot down a little further, took us harder into the switchbacks up and across the Apennine spine.

Soon and sooner Stefano was fully visible. We were across the top of the mountains and down-switching, and on every break in the livening trees we could see him, headlights on in the shadows of the slopes. Now four curves below, now three. Di Loreto was reading to me from the map, but I wasn’t hearing words, merely inflections, vocal tics of urgency and calm feeding far below thought into muscle-twitch braking distances and the echoing leap out and through the straights. Between my skin and the jumpsuit a layer of sweat cocooned me, inured me, and insulated away all other sensations. The only true inputs, the ruts in the road on the car’s suspension, the wheel in my hands with chassis, springs and seat all screaming, highlighted a route now a corridor of grey dust. All of me taught with keeping on it, keeping in it while the swirls of dust caught rigid in staccato shafts of reddening light. My eyes, hands and feet were one with the pedals, wheels and the road. On came the twists, closer Stefano drew.

Through Rieti in seconds, crowds parting like birds ahead of the yellow Ferrari, reforming, parting again as our red mass chased through. Stefano slowed a cautious knock but I kept my foot down through the thronging locals. His Ferrari faster but ungainly; us nimble, more able. A brief sense of an old town racked across a valley and then we were in the foothills. The road became faster, flatter; curves like a woman that allowed the holding of at speed. Stefano must have known we were there, in his mirrors, the dust alone, the cloud of it, nothing else that could be on these roads would ever move so fast. He drew just a little away in the straights, just a little closer in the turns, and each time the closing red Alfa gained a slight advantage.

The last hills passed, we flew over a long, unrelenting viaduct and then we were so near, the setting sun in our eyes, the dust from Stefano’s machine clouding it, reddening it more, bloody in our path. I could now not even see the road, just the glimmer of Stefano’s yellow sheen. Moving with him, every kick and turn taken a fraction of a second later like he was my co-driver. Not unlike the whooping Di Loreto, whose eyes were big and red, and whose feet stomped imaginary pedals while his shoulders rolled, himself only a fraction of a second behind my movements. He was yelling something, and after many repetitions it seeped through - Passo Corese! Passo Corese! Of course, Passo Corese, where the road widened in a leftward sweep. We could get alongside Stefano by braking just a little late, and the agile Alfa-Romeo would handle the sweeping turn better than the elongated Ferrari. After Passo Corese the bridge across the Tiber was narrow, he would have to fall back and we would be clear. I yelled it back at Di Loreto until he heard, and returned to being my shadow.

We crept forward, inch by inch, at 110 miles per hour. Although consumed in Stefano’s dust, we could see the road now flowed amongst fields, farm families waving, seen in an instant, only realising they were humans much later due to the speed of it, the noise of it. We didn’t know the names of the little hamlets we went through, this part of our map was scarcely notated, knowing then that if we got this far we would be so close to Rome that the only thing we needed to know was speed. The dust from Stefano’s machine rose like flames covering the houses, and in the latening light these places didn’t seem like they came from the same world as us, as the stretched roaring of the Alfa-Romeo and the Ferrari.

Finally, ahead, Passo Corese. Stefano’s distance from us could now be measured in lengths, then metres, then centimetres. He decided on the shortest distance and kept to the left. I thrilled - had he taken the middle he could have held us off, but Stefano was nothing if not a sportsman. I could brake just that fraction of a second later than him, and we could keep the speed just that fraction higher. As we drew alongside him he didn’t look over. That would mean disaster, controlling something the size of the Ferrari took every ounce of his tiring strength.

I risked a glance. Just one, just as we glided alongside him, just as the ribbon of the road dipped down through a riven bank, just as the way ahead was close to straightening, just as I knew we had to get those vital metres ahead of Stefano, just as...

Just as a local, hoping to see the machines roar through the dust stepped a foot into the wide road. Just as he leaned his weight out into our path, too slow in jumping backwards, his foot hanging, just caressed by our front bumper. Just enough. Our car just too quick, his reactions just too slow.

It was the lightest of knocks, nothing next to the ruts in the roads, but it was a knock and not a rut. A flurry in the mirror, a body flipping, turning, falling down beyond the grass verge. Di Loreto seized up. He turned to me, shouting something, but the Tiber Bridge was right there ahead of us, visible now, and I shouted something cowardly at Di Loreto about barely a touch and tried to drive out this cowardliness with the reckless rush towards the bridge. Stefano should have been faster but he fell away just in time, and wood rattled violently beneath us.

From there to Rome, through roads made narrow by bigger crowds. We could not see Stefano but we knew he was broken. Di Loreto was still, not waving back to the crowds and I tried to tell myself it was professional, that these were his roads, the straight fast ones into Rome. Into the city and its vast, cheering crowds, and I could outrun any doubts for the win. I pulled us through the Via del Quirinale and the stretched tape, and we slowed into the Piazza Venezia and then into a moment of stillness.

Di Loreto tried to say something but there was a rush and a press of bodies around us. Raising us out of the motorcar through a flashing of bulbs, men in dark suits clapped and hugged and threw our bodies up and down. When Stefano arrived he was out and graceful and gracious, and said nothing at all about anything he may have seen. The sparkling sweetness of champagne was sprayed over us and a surge brought us into the palazzo where the sound of voices was muffled in echoes, journalists shouting questions which required no thought to answer, everything I said met with laughter and cheers. I believed all of it, that in this collective joy there could be no cause for any regret. At any pause I could yell “Viva L’Italia!” and “Viva La Gara!” and a hundred voices would yell it back, drowning out any thoughts. Thrust suddenly onto a balcony, the cheers of a torchlit crowd warmed me from below as the garlands of the victor were placed around my neck.

Sometime later I saw Di Loreto’s wife alone by the bar, and I went out back to a quiet garden, where looking for a moment’s peace I found him solitary at a table behind an empty rosso bottle. My champagne sparkle drained away in an instant as he stared at me in disgust. At the speeds we went we had to have such faith in each other and the revulsion in his eyes struck hard. I collapsed into a seat across from him, shaking a cigarette out of a packet on the table. The tremble stayed in my hands as I tried to light it, and the only thing that stilled it was a nod of resignation and agreement to Di Loreto, the reassurance and regret wiping away that look of abhorrence as he spoke quietly.

“We have to know.”

I nodded again and went to get the car.


© Copyright 2017 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.

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