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Bullring Days 3 book cover

Bullring Days 3:
Banners Flying
Wes Boyd
©2009, ©2014

Chapter 24

It took a while for things to die down around the track. There was still a lot to do, and Ginger was exhausted after about sixteen busy hours. It was well after midnight before the last of the fans had left, and the last of the race cars and haulers pulled out of the parking lot. In Ginger’s case, there was a lot of money to count, accounts to balance, and finally, deposit slips to be made out. Mel and Ray had a couple pretty heavy bags of cash to take down to the night deposit box at the bank, while Arlene and Ginger did some odds and ends.

“Is it always like this?” Ginger yawned.

“Pretty much,” Arlene said. “This one went pretty well. It was a good show, and we got lucky on the weather. We could have had a rainout and not done much of anything. So did you like it?”

“It was a lot of fun,” Ginger said. “It would have been a lot more fun if I wasn’t so darn tired. I can barely keep my eyes open.”

“Well, me either, but I’m used to it,” Arlene replied, catching Ginger’s yawn. “It sort of goes with the territory. At least we don’t have the road racers coming in tomorrow. When that happens, we’re usually here with a crew for another three hours or so picking up the trash and cleaning stuff up for them. As it is, we can let the guys do it tomorrow while we sleep in.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she replied. “I think I can stand a little extra sleep. Hey, I have to say, Ted made out all right, didn’t he?”

“He made out pretty good,” Arlene agreed. “Frank kind of shot himself in the foot on that one. Knowing him as well as I do, I think he figured that there might be a thousand dollars or so to split up. He was about as surprised as anyone at $2500. He may be a car dealer, but I learned a long time ago that when he gives his word, he keeps it. He’s been a friend for a lot of years, and the best kind of friend at that.” She let out a sigh. “What do you say we blow out the candles, lock up and head for bed?”

“I’d say you had a great idea,” Ginger smiled.

It only took another couple minutes to finish shutting things down in the track office. The big track lights had been shut off before Mel and Ray left; now only a couple of security lights lit the place, much dimmer than before. “You know,” Ginger commented as she stepped into the golf cart that Arlene used for running around the track on race nights, “Ray was right.”

“How’s that?”

“He said this place looks the best when there’s a crowd in the stands, the flags are flying, and the cars are heading into the first turn.”

“Yeah,” Arlene agreed. “He was right on that one. I never get my fill of it.”

A few minutes later the golf cart had been put away in the garage. The two of them were just walking into the house when Ray and Mel got back from their bank run in Mel’s car. “You know,” Mel remarked, “I really ought to take a shower, but the hell with it. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I’m afraid I might fall asleep with the water running.”

“I feel about the same way,” Arlene said. “Mel, let’s go to bed and think about a shower in the morning.”

“If you don’t mind, I don’t mind,” he said. “God, that was a great opener though, wasn’t it?”

“Well, I need a shower, tired or not,” Ray shook his head. “This may not be a dirt track but you get dirty out under the hoods of all those cars, and then lining up the races.”

“Catch many cheaters?” Arlene asked, starting to unbutton her shirt.

“No real dirty ones, a few close calls,” Ray said. “I gave some warnings. Maybe if Ted doesn’t want me too bad I can slide back up here next Saturday afternoon for teching.”

“Don’t worry about it if you can’t,” Arlene told him. “Your Uncle Willie told me that he could fill in for you the next few weeks.”

“Good,” Ray said. “I’ll make up a list of people he’ll need to look out for tomorrow. Not tonight. There’s a bed with my name on it.”

“I think I could use a shower, too,” Ginger said. “But you go ahead, Ray. I’m tired, but I think I’ll need more time in the bathroom than you will.”

“God,” Mel said, heading for the stairs. “I don’t know how we’ve managed to get along on just one shower on race nights all these years.”

“We’ve survived,” Arlene laughed. “Think of all the cold showers we used to take at the water trailer after the races all those years ago. I don’t know how we survived it.”

“We were young and stupid, that’s how we survived it,” Mel shot back, halfway up the stairs. “Arlene, if you want your goodnight kiss you don’t have much time for it.”

“Right behind you, Mel,” she said.

Ray and Ginger weren’t far behind the older couple. Ginger headed to her room, slowly took off her clothes and found her robe while she waited for Ray to get out of the shower. Good grief, what a day, she thought. In spite of everybody pitching in, it was a hell of a lot of work, and she had good reason to be exhausted.

She only had to wait sitting on her bed for a minute or two before there was a light knock on her door. “Shower’s yours,” she heard Ray say.

“Great, thanks,” she said. It was almost a struggle to get up, but she managed it.

One of the good points of waiting until after Ray had done his shower was that the hot water was already there from the water heater in the basement of the old farm house. That meant she didn’t have to wait for it. She pulled on a shower cap – although her hair was less than perfect, she didn’t feel like drying it out – and headed for the shower herself. It was a quick job, but she felt better when it was over with a few minutes later.

She headed back to her room, took off the robe, and pulled on the T-shirt and panties she usually slept in. The bed was going to feel good, she thought as she turned out the light.

Good, but empty, her mind added as she thought about watching the two teenagers making out at the top of the grandstand earlier in the evening. She was tired tonight, and right at the moment, the thought made her feel lonely.

Before she headed toward the bed an impulse hit her. She didn’t even think about it; it was a good idea. She turned around, and walked up the hall to Ray’s room, and opened the door slightly. “Ray,” she said, “are you still awake?”

“Yeah,” she heard him reply. “Not for long, though.”

“Good,” she said, walking into the room, careful to close the door behind her, remembering the last time she’d done this. “Slide over,” she told him. “I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”

“Ginger?” he said softly. “I think you know I’d like to do what I think you want to do, but right at the moment I’m too damn tired to make it what it should be.”

“I’m pretty tired too,” she said, “and I really don’t think I’m up for it, either. But I’d just like to feel you up close to me.”

“I’ve been wanting to do it, too,” he replied. “And yeah, I’d like to feel you up close to me, too, but I’ll warn you, it’s not going to be long until I’m out.”

“Me either,” she whispered as she slid into the bed next to him, “but somehow I’m going to know you’re next to me.”

*   *   *

Ginger tried to protest her internal alarm clock’s waking her up, but it was not all bad. She discovered she was snuggled up to Ray, who was still out like the proverbial light. It was nice to just be there close to him, to feel his warmth, to be next to him. She’d done that once before, but this was even nicer. A girl could get used to this, she thought as she lay there half awake.

But all good things must come to an end, and the bathroom was calling. She lay there a long time balancing the comfort of being next to him with the discomfort in her bladder, and finally her bladder won.

As she finished up in the bathroom she noticed the time – a couple hours later than she normally got up. After a day like yesterday, the sleeping in felt good. Still, considering the time, it was probably a good idea to be getting up and around, so rather than going back to bed with Ray, she headed for her room, got dressed and went downstairs.

Arlene and Mel were sitting at the kitchen table with cups of coffee, sharing the Sunday paper. “Did you have a good night’s sleep?” Arlene asked conversationally.

“Very good,” Ginger smiled. “I needed that.”

“Ray up yet?” Mel asked, a grin perceptible on his face.

“No, not yet,” Ginger replied, trying to keep things conversational. There could be no doubt they knew where she’d spent the night. “He’s still sawing them off.”

“Can’t say as I blame him,” Mel sighed. “Race nights are always busy and opening nights more so. Everybody’s a little out of practice.”

“Coffee’s hot,” Arlene smiled.

“Good, I need some,” Ginger replied, beginning to realize that she wasn’t going to get teased about her bed partner of the evening. Not that she expected it, but it was nice to not have to put up with it, too. “So what’s on the lineup for today?” she asked, to change the subject while she poured herself some coffee.

“Not a whole lot, thank God,” Mel replied. “The big thing is to get the trash picked up before it starts raining this afternoon. If that stuff gets wet it gets even worse than it is.”

“I didn’t notice it being a real mess,” Ginger said. “I mean, some trash spread around, but not real bad.”

“Any is bad enough,” Mel told her. “If we don’t keep after it the place looks like a pigsty. Bob and Lonnie are supposed to be along in about half an hour to help out. With the weather pushing, I think the three of us ought to be out there, too.”

“I asked Shae to come help,” Arlene added. “You know, the tall kid who sold all those tickets? Her dad is going to drop her off about then.”

“She sure was pushing those tickets,” Ginger observed. “She’s not very shy about being tall, is she?”

“No way,” Arlene grinned. “Did you notice she was wearing heels last night? Not real high ones, but still. She’s already six-four and the doctor says she’s not done growing yet.”

“I’m really looking forward to girls’ basketball next season,” Mel grinned. “She’ll be a freshman next year and I know she’s going right onto varsity with her sister. I might even go to a few games.”

“So what else besides picking up trash?”

“Well, there’s some paperwork to do but there’s no reason it can’t wait a little,” Arlene said. “Ray needs to run over and pick up that travel trailer, so I suppose we’ll have to put a little time into getting it set up for him. I think maybe we’d better make sure he has a couple pots and a few cans of food he can open. Maybe some sandwich makings. He isn’t much of a cook, so I’d expect he and Ted will be eating out a lot.”

“If they’re not going to be running the Eagle down there a lot, I don’t see why they need to be down there so soon,” Ginger observed.

“A couple reasons,” Mel explained. “Ted has to get a little experience at Indy, and then he needs to be able to run his driver’s test. They make all rookies run some laps under observation, and he’ll have to get that out of the way. But just the being there is important, too. Remember, he’s going as much for the experience of being there as for anything else. And it won’t hurt Ray to make a few contacts while he’s there, too.”

*   *   *

In the light of day Ginger realized that Mel was right – there was more trash strewn around than she’d noticed last night, but cleaning the place up wasn’t quite as bad a job as she’d expected.

The greatest amount of trash, not unexpectedly, was under the bleachers – but being on the side of a hill, the bleachers were cunningly designed with the footboards and seats being placed above a slanted concrete slab. Anything that fell down under them slid right down to a well under the bottom row, which was easy to clean out. “Thought that one up myself, and had to fight with the architect about it,” Mel explained. “I’d seen how crap collects under the bleachers at other places, and some places aren’t too good about cleaning up. This makes it simple.”

“I can see that,” Ginger marveled.

“I wish it was as simple down at the little track, where we’ve got regular bleachers,” Arlene added. There you have to go under them with a rake and watch your head.”

“Big thing you have to look for is the pop and beer cans,” Mel went on. “With Michigan’s can-recycling program we have to separate the valid ones. We get a lot of Indiana cans here, and they’re trash. But the majority of cans are from Michigan. We get ten cents apiece back on them, so we try to look at each one and separate them out. Five cans at ten cents a pop isn’t worth the effort, but when you’re talking five thousand or more it starts to be worth something.”

“There’s been nights where making a profit or taking a loss rode on the pop cans,” Arlene added. “Not every night goes as well as last night did.”

“Boy, you think of everything, don’t you?”

“We try to,” Arlene smiled. “We haven’t thought of a way to clean up under the bleachers at the little track that well. We’re going to replace them in the next few years. They’re leftovers from the old track and getting pretty beat up. Maybe we could think of something.”

Ginger thought about it for a moment. “You know,” she said, “at Hawthorne High School, they’ve got some portable aluminum bleachers. They’re real light. Four guys can just pick them up and carry them off. You could just move them to clean up under them.”

“That’s an idea,” Mel smiled. “Hadn’t thought about that. Maybe we could work out a way we could move them with fork tines on the loader. I’ll have to think about that one.”

“Not a bad idea,” Arlene said. “Portable bleachers like that, you could move around between the little track, the kart track, the road course or wherever they were needed.”

“True,” Mel nodded. “Have to look into the cost on that one. It could be worth the effort.”

Getting the cleanup done was a lot of work – the bleacher seats and footboards had to be patrolled for trash left behind, and there was a lot of trash to be found in the pits and the public areas – really any place where people had been. The six of them working at it had it all pretty well cleaned up a little after noon, when the cloudy skies began to drizzle some rain.

“Good enough,” Mel said. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way I’m going to take the rest of the day off, read the paper, maybe see if I can find a ball game on TV worth watching.”

“And take a nap while it’s on,” Arlene snorted. “I’ll be right with you on that one, too, right after we have dinner.”

*   *   *

As expected, it rained lightly but steadily all Sunday afternoon, and nothing much was done except Ray going to get the travel trailer, but everyone was still ready when the time to go to bed came. Ginger again joined Ray in bed. Once again, it was sleeping together and nothing more – well, not much more, a little intimate touching and hugging and kissing, but with little discussion they agreed that the time was not yet right to do more than that.

The weather was better on Monday. Ginger worked on a few chores out around the big track, but spent a part of her day helping Ray and Ted get ready to leave early the following morning. The guys had decided that there was no point in leaving today and having to find a place to stay in Indianapolis when they could just leave early and be at the Brickyard in time for the gates to open on the first day of practice.

Because of the early start the guys were turning in early, and Ginger decided under the circumstances to go back to sleeping in her room. She was just getting set to turn out the light when there was a light knocking at her door.

“Ginger?” she heard Ray say.

“Yes, Ray?”

He opened the door and stepped inside, “I don’t know how I should say this,” he said shyly in a low voice, “but I was kind of wondering if you were going to join me tonight.”

“I didn’t think I should,” she told him. “I figured you needed your sleep.”

“Well, yeah,” he nodded, “but after the last couple nights, I guess I’ve sort of got used to you being there. I don’t know how well I’d sleep alone.”

“I was wondering about it myself,” she smiled, getting up to go join him. “I’d much rather be with you than be alone.”

Arlene and Mel were still up, downstairs watching TV, when Ray and Ginger walked down the hall to his room and headed directly for the bed. In seconds they were cuddled up together, like they had been the previous two nights. “Ginger,” he sighed. “I don’t exactly know how to say this, but I really enjoy being close to you, but I guess I feel awkward with my folks downstairs or right up the hall, or whatever.”

“Well, I feel that way a little, too,” she responded. “But Ray, let’s face it. They know what’s going on, and they haven’t said anything.”

“I know,” he whispered, “and I think we both know why they haven’t said anything. They’d still like us to get together, and I’ll admit the more I get to know you the more I think it’s not a bad idea.”

“I’m getting used to the notion, too,” she smiled. “Ray, I really enjoy being in bed with you now, and when we can do it, well, a little more intimately, I know I’m going to enjoy it even more. I mean, if you want, I’m ready, but I think I’d like to wait a little bit so we don’t need a lousy piece of latex between us.”

“I agree, I’m ready, except for that,” he said. “I’d almost say the hell with it, let’s go for it, but . . .”

“But you don’t want to risk that extra bit of pressure for us to get together,” she understood. “Don’t get me wrong, Ray. I like you a lot, and I hope it’s going to work out between us, but I don’t think either of us is ready to risk having a baby pushing the issue.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” he said. “Ginger, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t known you all that long, but I really like you too. I’d almost be willing to say the hell with it, but I don’t think we’re quite ready to be married yet. I mean, not that I don’t think it’s a good idea or anything, it’s just that I’m still not in a position with a job and all where I think I should consider it. I feel like I’m sponging off my parents pretty bad as it is, and I don’t want to make it worse.”

“I think I understand,” she said. “I’d feel awkward about it if I were in your shoes, and in a way, I am. If anybody’s sponging off your parents, I’m the one.”

“Not really,” he said. “You’re carrying your share of the load. But the problem is, unless we’re both willing to consider being involved with the track on a more or less permanent basis, we just don’t have the money to consider anything different.”

“I suppose,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s quite that bad. I get the impression there’s something else coming, something your parents haven’t thought out all the way yet, or maybe something that they’re waiting on us to announce that we’re doing something permanent.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I’ve picked up some hints about that, too. I’m not sure what it could be, and I’m not sure I really like the idea. I mean, I’m thinking maybe it could be more of the same, something else that would tie me down here even more than I am now.”

“And would that be so bad if it’s something permanent?” she asked. “I mean, something that would allow us to be together?”

“Well, maybe not,” he sighed. “I just don’t know. I wish I knew what it was, though.”

“You know what?” she asked. “Maybe the thing to do is to not worry about it right now. Let’s face it, Ray, you’re going to be gone the next three or four weeks, and I’m going to really miss you when you’re gone.”

“Hey, I’m going to miss you, too. I’m especially going to miss you lying in bed next to me like this.

“I am, too,” she smiled, “but look on the bright side. When you get back, we’re going to be closer to when we can do what we want to do without that lousy piece of latex being involved.”

“Yeah, trust you to look on the bright side of things,” he laughed. “Knowing what’s waiting for me will make the time go faster. You’re going to come down to the Brickyard to check things out, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” she smiled. “Not after all the stories I’ve heard about the place. I’m thinking I can drive down early on each Sunday. That way I’ll be here for the racing on Saturday nights. Maybe I could stay over and drive back real early on Monday.”

“It’d be nice to have you,” he said. “At least then we wouldn’t have my folks looking over our shoulders. We won’t have quite as much room in that little travel trailer but we ought to be able to make do.”

“I think you have me convinced,” she grinned. “Tell you what. When the waiting period is over with, let’s find an excuse to go somewhere and get a motel room or something. I don’t think I want your folks looking over our shoulders that evening.”

“Me, either,” he smiled. “We’ll think of something.”

“Ray,” she sighed. “I’m really going to miss you.”

“I am too, babe.”

She lay there for a moment, turning an idea over in her head. It felt like a good one. “Just a second, Ray,” she said, throwing back the covers and sitting up.

“What?” he said as he watched her peel off her T-shirt in the low light of the room, then get back under the covers.

“Even though we’re going to put it off till we’re ready, I should at least give you a going-away present.”

He could feel the hard nubbins of her bare breasts pressing up against his chest. “Yeah,” he said softly. “That’ll give me a good reason to looking forward to coming home.”

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To be continued . . .

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