Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
The next day, Sunday, was a working day around the Bradford Speedway too, although not as busy as Saturday had been. An ATV club had the little track rented for their spring shakedown, which included some racing. Ginger wasn’t very clear on what it involved, and even Mel and Arlene didn’t seem to care very much about it. The ATV club ran the races, providing their own officials, so there was little involvement from the Austins.
Bradford Speedway provided one guy – Lonnie, in fact – to stay down at the track with a pickup and some tools in case some crashing ATV dug too big a hole in the dirt race surface. From what Ginger could figure out Lonnie spent most of the day hanging out with some guys he knew, and as far as she could tell he hadn’t actually done anything useful. Still, having him there was part of what the club paid for, so he had to be there. The track also provided a couple of the band booster mothers to work in the little track’s concession stand, which was enough to keep the hot dogs, pop, chips, and the like going out through the windows. The track also provided the ambulance and hired an EMT to stay with it, and that was probably more useful, since there were several crashes but nothing really serious. Apparently, he handed out a few Band-Aids and otherwise caught up on his nap time. Mel, Arlene, Ray, Ginger, and even Ted put in a token appearance at the session, mostly to make sure everything was going all right, but they took it easy and enjoyed a nice dinner.
On Monday, Ray and Ted got back to work on the Eagle, working through a list of mostly minor items uncovered in the test session on Saturday. Mel and Arlene headed back to their jobs, and Ginger got back to work on the list of items that had to be handled to get ready for the season opener, now just six days off. She and the helpers had made a lot of progress on the list over the course of the last week, and while everything they wanted done wouldn’t be, all of the “got-to” items would probably be under good control when the time came.
Once again, the weather didn’t seem too promising, at least for Tuesday and maybe Wednesday; if that happened, mowing the many acres of grass around the place was again going to be a real priority. So Ginger spent most of Monday outside in the chilly wind, working on things she couldn’t do if it was wet. While Lonnie had been lazing around the little track on Sunday, Bob had come in to pick up loose trash around the infield, putting it in the garbage containers that people should have used to begin with, and doing a few other clean-up chores. Ginger hadn’t been very impressed with the job that he’d done and spent several hours dealing with things that he’d overlooked, but the grounds looked neat and clean when she could finally get on with other things. It all added up to a pretty good, if low-pressure day.
When Ginger looked out the bedroom window on Tuesday it was raining again, as had been predicted. There’d been plenty of that this spring, and she was pretty sure that everyone else in the house hoped the rain would finish in time to have a decent opening day on Saturday.
She stretched two or three times, once again considered going down the hall to wake Ray a little more intimately than had been the case the last few days, but again rejected the notion – it just didn’t seem like the time was right, not just yet. She finally accepted the fact that she would have to get up and get moving, rain or not, so peeled off the T-shirt she slept in and began to get dressed.
When she got downstairs she found Mel and Arlene sitting around the kitchen table – that didn’t usually happen; she and Ray tended to get up a little later to stay out of his parents’ way. “Wow, you’re up early,” Arlene exclaimed.
“Just didn’t feel like lying in bed much longer,” Ginger yawned, heading for the coffee pot on the kitchen counter.
“It’s just as well you got up,” Mel replied. “I forgot to tell you last night. The garbage truck should be here sometime this morning. Could you go out and unlock the front and back gates so he can get in to the trash cans?”
“Yeah, sure,” Ginger yawned again. “Anything else I need to remember for today?”
“Not a whole lot,” Arlene told her. “I hope you’ve got some inside work planned for today.”
“Yeah, pretty much, mostly at the track office. I’ve been saving some stuff up for a rainy day and this is it. Some books, some cleaning, stuff like that.”
“Well, if you run out you can head over to the grandstand concession stand and help the gals from the band boosters do that cleaning,” Arlene suggested.
“They’re getting a handle on it,” Ginger replied, knowing that cleaning the grandstand concession stand was the biggest job of the three. “The truck from the wholesalers is supposed to be in tomorrow and they should be ready for it.”
“Good,” Arlene said. “That means we’re really getting down to business.”
“Hey, Ginger,” Mel interjected, “got something for you to put on your list. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple days but I’ve never remembered to tell you. I noticed that the infield is getting quite a bit of dirt and grit scattered around. There’s probably nothing you can do about it today, but when it dries out later in the week have one of the kids fire up the track sweeper and take a pass through there. There’s no point in letting it get too bad.”
“I could probably do it myself if we need to,” Ginger said, appreciating her coffee. It tasted good, as always. “I’d have Ray show me how.”
“It’s a little tricky,” Mel said. “Maybe if Ray finds some time later in the week he could do it himself.”
About that time, Ray appeared from upstairs, yawning and scratching himself. “Yeah, I could do that,” he said, heading directly for the coffee pot. “Crappy looking day isn’t it?”
“I’ve seen better,” Mel agreed. “As far as I know, Ted isn’t up yet. You two have a big day planned?”
“Not really,” Ray shook his head. “When you get down to it things have gone pretty well. Better than I expected. But he’s getting nervous again, and he’s starting to get to me a little. I wouldn’t mind having something that would let me get away from him a little.”
“Come up to the track office later in the morning,” Ginger suggested. “There’s a light up there that’s been flickering. I think it just needs a new bulb but you can tell him I think it’s something in the wiring. That’d give you an excuse to get away for an hour or two.”
“Great idea, Ginger,” he replied, sitting down at the kitchen table. “I wouldn’t mind hanging out with you a little. Since he’s been here there hasn’t been enough time to do it very much.”
“I’d like that,” she smiled. “Maybe I can find something else up there for you to tell him you need to fix. Like, maybe, the toilet isn’t flushing very well. It’s OK, but you don’t need to tell him that.”
“Sure, Ginger,” he smiled. “In fact, that sounds like a great idea. About one more day and then we can start packing stuff. We need to make sure we take everything we’re going to need.” He shook his head. “I’m sure not looking forward to staying in a motel down there, and I’m damn sure I don’t want to spend three weeks living in his pickup camper. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice enough guy, but he’s about half nerves. After a while he starts getting me jumpy.”
“Are they going to let you park a camper or something there in the infield by Gasoline Alley?” Mel asked. “They didn’t used to do that.”
“Guess so, there were all sorts of motor homes and shit parked there all month long,” Ray said. “I guess Ted checked into it.”
“No reason you couldn’t do that,” Mel said. “I mean, I know you don’t have a camper, but I’ll bet Jim Enerson would let you borrow his travel trailer for something like that. You could tow it down with your truck.”
“Not a bad idea,” Ray admitted. “I’m afraid I don’t know Jim well enough to ask him about it though.”
“I do,” Mel said. “I could ask him on my break hour.”
“Sounds like a good idea, then,” Ray said. “It’d give me a little peace and quiet, anyway. Those damn motels get to be party central sometimes. One night of it is fine but some places it goes all month long.”
“All right,” Mel said. “I’ll give him a call a little later. I guess I’d better be thinking about getting out of here, too. Thank God I’ve only got a year and a month of this stuff left. The kids seem to be more of a pain in the ass every year.”
“You know, you’re going to go nuts without having the kids to bitch about,” Arlene teased.
“Maybe so,” Mel smiled, “but at least I’ll be doing something I like.”
“Yeah, spending all day out in the shop messing around with old cars,” she shook her head. “You know, there are other things in life.”
“Could be,” Mel shot back. “Maybe I’ll have to retire to find out.”
Both Mel and Arlene were getting ready to go to work. “So, Ray,” Ginger said. “You want a real breakfast, a half-way breakfast like cereal or something, or do you want to go down to the Chicago while these people head out to earn a respectable living?”
“I wouldn’t mind going to the Chicago,” Ray said, “but I think maybe we spend enough time there as it is. Do you mind making something?”
“Of course I don’t mind,” she said. “That’s why I asked. I’ll take any excuse I can get to put off having to go outside in this miserable weather.”
“I can understand that,” he said.
“I know there’s some sausages left in the freezer,” Arlene offered as she pulled on a raincoat.
“Good, that’ll do for a start,” Ginger said. “Eggs and toast with that?” she asked.
“How about if I peel some spuds instead?” he replied. “As long as we’re going to do it we might as well go whole hog.”
“Better than peeling spuds, there’s some boiled ones left over in the refrigerator,” Arlene said as she picked up her umbrella to go do battle with the elements. “That’ll be a little quicker.”
“Sounds good,” Ginger said. In a moment, both Arlene and Mel were gone.
“Gets a little wild around here first thing in the morning sometimes,” Ray said as the door closed behind his parents. “Don’t hurry with that breakfast. This is the first chance we’ve had in days to be alone together, just the two of us, and there’s no point in rushing it.”
“Yeah,” she said, turning toward the stove but taking her time about it. “I’ve kind of missed it, too. I have to admit, the last few days I haven’t felt your mother pushing us quite as hard as she was there for a while.”
“Oh, her mind is still on it, no doubt about that,” Ray grinned, taking a seat at the table, coffee cup in hand. “But you know, I’ve been thinking about it, and it seems to me like she might not have such a bad idea there.”
“Well, me too,” she smiled. “I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t think having Ted around here, and then you going to Indy for a while, is such a bad deal in a way. It’s giving us a chance to feel each other out a little bit without her breathing down our necks.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Ray nodded. “It could have come at a better time, but once I get done down at the Brickyard things ought to slow down a little, and maybe we can find the time to do a few boyfriend-girlfriend things.”
“ Dinner-and a-movie-type things?” she grinned. “Or are you talking something a little bit more physical?”
“Yes,” he smiled. “I mean, with you living right here it’s a little bit hard to pick you up to go out on a date. Things are kind of funny.”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t think dating like that is all that important, under the circumstances,” she replied. “After all the point of dating is as much to get to know each other as it is anything, a chance to be together, and we’ve got that one pretty well under control as it is.”
“Yeah, but we need to be able to do things together. Not just work on stuff. I realize this is a really stupid thing to say, but what kinds of things would you like to do?”
“I know this isn’t going to be very helpful,” she replied, “but just being with you covers a lot of ground for me. I mean, granted, we’re going to have a lot to do on race nights, but that’s not every night. Don’t I remember you saying there’s some places around here that race on Fridays? Maybe I can help you get your Modified ready and we could go race it someplace, just for the hell of it.”
“You’re starting to get hooked on hanging around race tracks, aren’t you?” he laughed. “If you’re going to be like that, maybe I ought to think about getting you down to Indy once or twice while I’m there. It’s really pretty interesting. But maybe we’d better do that dinner-and-a-movie thing once or twice, too.”
“I wouldn’t mind,” she told him. She spun the sausages around in the frying pan with the spatula she was using, turned to him, and said, “And, Ray, I wouldn’t mind some of that physical stuff sometime, too. That’s a part of being a boyfriend and a girlfriend, you know.”
“I realize that,” he said. “I kind of thought you were hinting at that a little before. The hell of it, Ginger, is that it feels a little awkward to me to be doing that kind of stuff while the folks are around. It’s one of those things where having you living here makes it a little complicated.”
“There is that,” she agreed, “but you know, there have been any number of times that I’ve gotten up after your folks have gone, and I’ve been tempted to come over and get in bed with you. But somehow it doesn’t feel quite right. I guess getting caught that time has made me just a little gun-shy.”
“Well, if you do decide to wake me up like that, you’d be welcome,” he said. “Just so you know where it could lead.”
“I’m aware of what could happen, and that’s part of why I’m trying not to do it,” she replied. “Because, I’m really looking forward to where it could lead, but when we get there I want to do it right. That’s going to take another few weeks.”
“What are you meaning?” he frowned for a moment. Then, enlightenment hit him. “Oh, yeah, the pill, right?”
“For sure,” she smiled. “I mean, if you’re ready by then?”
“What makes you think I’m not ready now?” he laughed. “But I’m perfectly willing to wait till you’re ready.”
Along about midmorning, Ginger was working in the track office when she heard a pickup pull up outside and heard a door slam. She didn’t worry much about it, since she knew Ray was planning on working his way up to the office sometime. Sure enough, a few seconds later the door opened and Ray walked in. “Well, Ted’s finally up,” he reported. “He was making sounds about wanting to head down to the Chicago for breakfast, so I let him drop me off here and take my truck. Hopefully he’ll hang around there for a while.”
“I’m starting to get the impression that you don’t particularly like him,” Ginger said. “He seems like a nice enough guy.”
“Oh, yeah, he is; he’s just getting on my nerves,” Ray shrugged. “Let’s face it, he’s nervous about this whole thing. I get the impression he’s down to about his last dime, and that means he’s going to have to get his money’s worth. So he wants to fiddle with things, check things over and over again, and mostly drive me about half bats. I’m not sure how much I’m going to want to hang around Indy with him. There’s really only so much we can do down there.”
“Why do they take so long? It’s something I’ve wondered about.”
“Hangover from the old days,” Ray shrugged. “Known as the ‘We’ve always done it that way before’ system. In the old days they used to show up there with the cars only about half done, and they’d have to work out all the bugs, so they’d take the three weeks to do it. We’ve got a car that’s already got about all the bugs out of it that are possible at this point, and we’d be shooting ourselves in the butt if we run it too much. That means a lot of hanging around, shooting the shit. I don’t mind some of it since you hear some great stories of the old days you’d never hear any other way. Some of those guys hanging around the shops there have been coming there every year since the first year Dad was there, or even before. I think my big job is going to be to get Ted out enough to get used to the speed, without letting him wear the car out any more than it already is. It may be exciting for someone who’s never been there before like him, but I know there are other things I could be doing with my time.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“Oh, there’s several things,” he said. “Like, Mike has been talking around to people how great the mill I built for his Late Model is, so I’ve had nibbles on building some for other racers. I wouldn’t mind finishing up the Mod, just to get it out of the shop. There’s this gal Dad knows over at school with an older Pontiac that she really likes, but it really needs an engine teardown. It’s getting set to cut loose any day now. I could probably do the job in a couple days and charge her five hundred plus parts, but I sure can’t do it while I’m sitting on my ass down at the Brickyard.”
“You know, that makes me wonder,” she said. “Isn’t there enough of that kind of business that you could stay pretty busy at it if you wanted to?”
“Well, yeah,” he nodded. “Maybe not frantically busy, but pretty busy. Believe me, I’ve thought about that a lot. I think I could just about make a living doing that by itself.”
“Then why not?”
“A couple different reasons,” he said. “The big one is that I’m mostly borrowing Dad’s shop and a lot of his tools. I mean, I have a lot of tools of my own, but some of the work needed can’t be done without the specialized stuff he’s collected over the years. Having to buy some of that stuff, rent or buy some shop space, and all of a sudden it starts to look a lot less appealing. I mean, I’ve kind of bootlegged Dad’s shop space for jobs like Mike’s mill and Ted’s car, but there are limits of how much I want to ask out of Dad.”
“Yeah, I guess,” she said. “That would sort of put a damper on it. But maybe it would fit in with running the track.”
“Looks good until you start to think about it,” he shook his head. “Mostly, it means the summers are busy as hell, then things get slow in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, Ginger, I’m not rejecting the idea. It’s just that it needs to be thought out some more till it’s settled.”
“Well, that’s good to know,” she sighed. It wasn’t the first time the idea had come up. She would have been the first person to admit there were some drawbacks, but it seemed like a possible solution to the lack of a full-year income for him if the problems could be worked out – especially the problems in his own mind. This was something else she didn’t want to push him on. Let things go at their own pace, she thought, just like putting something together with Ray. Still, it seemed like part of the package . . .
Her thoughts were diverted by the roar of a truck outside the building. It proved to be the garbage truck they’d been expecting, come to empty the trash cans around the track. There weren’t many full ones up here in the grandstand area since it hadn’t been used much, but there were a few filled with routine trash from the concession stand and track office cleaning.
“Boy,” Ray grinned, looking out at the guy that got off the back of the truck to empty the trash cans. “Being a tail gunner on a garbage truck strikes me as a perfectly shitty job anytime, but on a day like today it’s got to really suck. That poor shit looks like a drowned rat. At least the guy driving the truck seems warm and dry.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “Seems to me that someone would have to be awful dumb or awful desperate to take a job like that. Maybe both.” Her curiosity was aroused just enough to swing around and look outside at the scene. Ray was right; the guy in back looked damn miserable. He looked familiar . . .
“Shit!” she said, with a huge grin on her face. “Oh, my God, that is perfect,” she exulted in an excited voice. “Oh shit, that’s wonderful!”
“Ginger,” Ray asked, taking a little more interest in the scene. “What are you talking about?”
“The tail gunner,” she said. “God, he really looks like shit! It could not be more perfect.”
“Ginger, what the hell?”
“The tail gunner,” she laughed. “That’s Terry Phipps, the guy who used to be my shift supervisor at McDonald’s.”
“That guy who was such an asshole to you? The one who got fired for making you work off clock?”
“The very same!” she laughed. “God, Ray! You don’t know how good it makes me feel to see that.”
“Maybe you ought to let him see that you’re warm and dry,” Ray suggested, a grin coming over his own face now. He remembered how miserable she’d been on that job, what a bummer that he’d made it for her.
“No, too late now,” she sighed, seeing Phipps load the last can onto the truck and set the empty down beside the concession stand, then head on down the hill. “But shit! Maybe I ought to think of a way to rub it in good!”
“Just doing that job is bad enough,” he said. “He may not want anybody to find out about it.”
“You know,” she smiled broadly. “I haven’t been to Hawthorne since the day I left the Mickey-D’s. Maybe I ought to go to town sometime. I don’t think I could stand a burger, but maybe a cup of coffee.”
“Sounds like it has potential,” he grinned, getting the drift of her thinking, “but there ought to be a way you could rub it in a little more personally. You know, let him know you’ve got a good job while he’s busting his ass.”
“True,” she giggled. “God damn Ray, it’s so good to see that! That makes my day. Hell, it makes my week!