Today’s theme is Active… dancing, singing, sports, etc… So, I think in the spirit of all things Talladega and NASCAR I’m going to pull from Stick Shift. There’s been talk over the years that race car drivers aren’t true athletes because they sit in a car and turn left most of the time. Well, you try driving at 200MPH with 42 others driving at 200MPH and you tell me how non-athletic these guys are. And that’s when things are going smoothly. Think about hitting a wall at 200MPH… Most of the drivers and those that work with them and those that watch them would heartily disagree. The mental and physical exertion they put their bodies and minds through is amazing. Many of them train and hone their bodies to peak performance… I admire them as much as any football or baseball player, dancer, rock musician, etc…
As a writer, I should do more to improve my activity level, my mental awareness, my body’s performance on a healthy level. I will not, give up coffee though… We can discuss anything else, but coffee, no…
Lily’s heart threatened to pound its way right through her chest wall as she was strapped into passenger side of the demo race car. She’d never been so nervous or scared in all her life, and she couldn’t stop checking to make sure that the helmet was on her head as tight as it could be and that her safety belts and neck restraints were secure enough to prevent her heart or any other part of her person from becoming detached.
Cam climbed in through the driver’s side window and grinned at her. “You’re a little on the pale side inside that helmet, and your eyes are really wide. You okay, baby?”
Lily just nodded, quite certain that she wouldn’t be able to find her voice.
“Do you want to get out? We don’t have to do this. I just thought you might have fun.”
“I-I’m just a little nervous.” A little nervous, hell. More like a lot nervous. Her voice was barely a squeak, but she managed to get the words out. She had a death grip on the padded straps that looked like the harness on a roller-coaster ride and held her against the seat.
Cam reached over and curled his hand over one of hers. His warmth, his smile, the reassuring look in his eyes calmed her like nothing else could. He squeezed his fingers over hers and winked, then sat back. One of his crew helped him get strapped in while Cam put on his helmet. Attaching the steering wheel was the last thing he did before he flipped the ignition switch.
The thick lining of the helmet did little to muffle the roar of the engine as it came to life. The car vibrated around her and for a few minutes she felt as though her teeth were going to rattle right out of her head.
She turned her head as Cam’s voice sounded in her ears. She hadn’t known there was a radio inside her helmet, and if she could have him talk to her throughout this little track adventure, she felt sure she’d be okay.
She nodded at him, and he nodded back, then peeled out of the pit box. Being that there was no race and no one else was using the track, there was no pit road speed for him to be cautious of, and Lily couldn’t stop the little scream that escaped her throat.
Cam laughed. “Hold on.”
Their speed steadily climbed and never dropped, even as they took the corners. The butterflies in Lily’s stomach went crazy. Being on the track like this was like nothing she’d ever felt before.
Cam used up the whole track, riding up high against the wall, so close Lily didn’t know how he avoided slamming into it, and riding so low to the apron, she didn’t know how he kept control and never once went below the yellow line, though he seemed at times to be jerking sharply on the wheel.
“You want to go around some more?”
Lily nodded and then loudly said, “Yes.” And so, they did. Half a dozen more times, he drove at two hundred miles an hour, giving her one of the most exhilarating and thrilling experiences of her life.
She loved it. She loved the feeling, after she’d gotten used to the quivering in her belly and the thumping of her heart, of course. But she loved the feeling of flying while still on the ground, the speed, the sound of the engine at full throttle, the man in the seat next to her. She loved how he gripped the wheel because it was how he gripped her body, firmly, with utter control and confidence.
When he pressed on the brakes, she could smell a mix of rubber, dust, hot concrete, and oil. She loved that. A stock car fan all her life, she was finding a new appreciation for it. The look and feel he’d given her in the last hour between the tour of the garage area and the ride… Damn, why hadn’t she thought of being a driver?
Once they were back in the pit box, Cam twisted and unlocked the steering wheel from the steering column and slid it up on the dash. He then went to work on his helmet, tugging it off his head, then finally worked on his safety belts and neck harness.
Lily had barely gotten her helmet off when the window net on her side of the car was pulled down and one of Cam’s crew members reached in to help her with her buckles, hooks, and catches.
Lily looked up at the kid. Well, he wasn’t a kid really, but he likely wasn’t any older than Cam. That brought her up short. Looking back and forth between the two men, young though they might be, there was a vast difference in their faces. Cam had youth, but his eyes seemed older than his actual years. The man at the window helping her seemed more like a boy than a man. Cam had responsibilities on his shoulders that most men her age wouldn’t be able to handle. Cam carried the weight of his crew, his sponsors, his bosses, his managers, and his family on his shoulders. They depended on him, and he depended on them.
Lily swayed when she stood on the ground, and the kid held on to her arm just a bit longer. She leaned back against the side of the car and took a few deep breaths.
“You okay? Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get your bearings again after a ride like that if you’re not used to it.”
Lily smiled at him. “I’m fine, just needed to catch my breath.”
Snippet 2…just because:
The green flag dropped, and the cars picked up speed over the start/finish line.
She would focus on the race. She had been in one of these cars going two hundred miles an hour, and she’d sat up on the pit box. She had such an intimate knowledge of things, more so than she’d had before, more so than a lot of people would ever know. The word “intimate” ran in circles inside her mind. Just the word and she felt her hunger for Cam pulse.
Shaking her head to try to clear it some, she sought out his car and grinned wide, yelled loudly as he flew by. More people turned to her as she cheered him on. Some had astonished faces, some just laughed at her, and some glared. She truly loved it, all of it. Cam was still in the lead at lap thirty and was coming up on lapped traffic. Things could get dicey. The flagman waved the blue flag with the diagonal orange stripe as a signal that the faster, lead lap cars were coming, but it didn’t seem to be working. No one was moving out of the way; no one was giving up the tenuous hold they had on their position.
Cam drifted down to the inside groove, trying to pass the same car that had wrecked him the week before. Lily tensed as they came around turn four, headed for the front stretch and turn one. Jake Curtis bumped the rear quarter panel of Cam’s car, causing him to swerve down onto the apron in order to not wreck other cars. Son of a bitch. Jake was trying to screw Cam again.
“I wish we had the headsets like we did down in the pits,” Alli yelled.
Lily nodded her agreement. She’d love to hear what Cam was saying, what was going on. Not for the first time, she was regretting the decision to sit in the stands.
Cam pulled back in behind Jake, and each time he tried to pass, Jake blocked. She wanted to believe Jake was just trying to keep from going another lap down, but at the same time, she couldn’t. It was no secret in the racing community that there was animosity between the two drivers, but it seemed lately that Jake was blatantly out to get Cam rather than to simply race him hard.
She didn’t understand it, why it appeared Jake hated Cam. Sure, Cam had a few racing moves that mimicked some of Jake’s from earlier in his career and Cam drove the wheels off his car every race. No one was immune to his aggressive style, but he didn’t deliberately try to wreck others. He was just out there to win. The fact that he could and did more often than not…well, she figured that rubbed other drivers the wrong way. He wasn’t afraid of nudging someone out of the way and he wasn’t afraid of payback. He liked good hard racing, the way it used to be.
Just before Cam and Jake got to turn one, Cam tried to make one more pass. He pulled up alongside Jake on the inside. He had the pass made cleanly, and then…
“Shit! No!” Lily screamed.
Jake spun Cam out by catching the tail end of the car. Cam slid down onto the apron, then back up the track, catching traffic on all sides. By the time he came to a stop, the front end of the race car had been sheared off, the back bumper and driver’s-side quarter panel were gone, and the driver’s-side door was smashed in. The cheers in the crowd during the crash sickened her. She couldn’t believe the happiness people showed at what might be a fatal crash.
She stood there on trembling legs, trying to keep from hitting something, someone, anything to get out some of her anger. The car was pressed right up against the wall, and she couldn’t see what was going on with him other than what the JumboTron in the middle of the field showed her, which wasn’t much at all.
Her heart beat wildly in her chest, and fear traveled up and down her spine. Was he okay? Was he hurt? She couldn’t think, couldn’t feel anything but the knot in her gut. Her gaze was fixated on the giant screen, which was now centered on the window net of Cam’s car. It was still up and that wasn’t a good sign. The signal that he was okay was for the window net to be down and it wasn’t. She was shaking, so scared because she didn’t know what the hell was going on with him. She’d never invested in a race scanner since she didn’t go to races as often as she wanted, but she wished she had one right then so she could at least hear what was being said on the radio. Damn damn damn.
“C’mon, Lil. We’re going to the infield. That’s where we should have been in the first place.”
Alli grabbed the small duffel bag that held their wallets, a couple of towels, drinks, and snacks. She snagged Lily’s hand and gave Lily no choice but to follow her.
“Awww, you leavin’ already? If you backed a real driver, yo –”
“Oh fuck off, asshole!” Alli sneered at the man in front of them.
Lily turned her gaze to her friend, her eyes wide. Alli was definitely more outspoken and more brash than Lily, but she’d never heard that kind of language from her. Lily grinned.
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Have a great weekend, y’all!