Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Apparently Ted knew that was about all he was going to get out of the car, so he backed off after that last lap. The sound wound down considerably, echoing off into the night. He ran a couple of cool-off laps, then braked the Last Mohican to a stop in front of the grandstand, winged the engine and shut it off with a massive backfire. He started to struggle out of the straps as people from the pits began to run over to him, led by Ray. Frank turned to Mel. “The hell with waiting, come on with me,” he said, then flipped on the microphone and told the crowd as he headed down the steps. “I’m heading down to have a word with Ted Hilyard, who you just watched set an all-time Bradford Speedway track record of 11.87 seconds. That’s 113 miles an hour, folks, and that’s as close as you can get to unexplored territory around here. Never say never, folks, but if I was a betting man I’d bet we don’t see a number like that around here again anytime soon. That’s a story you can tell for a long time, how you were here at Bradford Speedway when Ted Hilyard took an Indy car around this place at a hundred and thirteen miles an hour!”
By now Ted had gotten out of the car, had exchanged high fives and a pat on the back with Ray, and had given a bow to the crowd. Even hurrying, it took a while for Frank and Mel and T.J. Wireman to make it down to him and the group that was standing there with him. Finally, Frank rushed up to him and said, “Ted, what’s it like to drive around this place at 113 miles an hour?”
“I’ll tell you what,” he replied. “This place gets awful small at that speed, but it’s one heck of a ride. The car just wanted to go faster and that was fine with me. What a great, great car, what a great track and what a great bunch of people the Austins are for helping me every step of the way with this. It was the Austins and the fans here who more than anyone else made this whole incredible experience of the last few weeks possible, and there’s only one thing I can do to thank them.”
Ted took the wireless microphone from Frank, and turned to the crowd. “I think most people here know that for a long time Mel Austin has had a dream of starting a race car museum here. He already has some interesting cars, including the MMSA cars that most of you regular fans have seen before, and he also has a vintage Indy roadster from back in the fifties that he just got an engine for in the last couple days. That’s the start of a pretty good museum, but now he has another interesting museum piece, since I’m giving him this car for his museum. We talked about it earlier this week, and he hopes to have the new building open next spring. I hope there’ll be room in the museum for the last of the Offenhausers, this car that you just saw set a track record. This time next year, you should be able to stop by the museum, point to this car, and say that you were there when it happened. That’s my thanks to Mel, Arlene, Ray, Ginger, and all the Bradford Speedway fans who made it possible for me. Thanks everybody!”
It took a while to get the show rolling after that, but nobody seemed to mind. Several eager hands helped push the orange and white Last Mohican back to the pit stall near the infield concession stand, and Economy Stock drivers started to get back into their cars after standing around and watching the scene.
Frank and Mel climbed slowly back up to the scoring booth as Ray and Arlene tried to get the next race ready to run. Frank finally settled down in his chair, got the microphone going and said, “That was quite an intermission, wasn’t it folks? It looks like it might be a few more minutes before we get the Economy Stock feature under way. You’ve got time to make a quick trip to the concession stand for one of our famous hot dogs or one of our quarter-pound all-beef hamburgers, a box of popcorn, or any of the other things on our menu. That’s not all the fun tonight, folks, there’s still a lot of racing to go.”
He paused for a moment to take a breath, and Ginger took the opportunity to tell him, “If we’re still going to do the Miss Marston gag at the drawing, I’d better get down and get changed.”
“Yeah, no reason why not,” Frank told her.
“Maybe we could just get Ray out there to do the drawing,” Mel suggested, a little out of breath from the long climb up the stands. “He hasn’t had his moment in the sun yet.”
“See you in a few minutes.” She got up and hurried down the grandstand steps and around to the office. She’d learned that if the Economy Stock feature ran clean – not a safe assumption by any means – she had just barely enough time to get her clothes changed and put on the prissy bookkeeper persona. Anything for the show, she thought as she went into the office lavatory and began to strip off her T-shirt.
It turned out that she had plenty of time – there were a couple wrecks in the Economy Stock feature that slowed things down – but she just sat behind her desk listening to Frank on the loudspeaker, until she heard the calls for the finish of the feature. She slipped on her high heels – she still wasn’t comfortable wearing the damn things – and headed out to the front of the grandstand, carrying an empty green ledger book, one of Miss Marston’s trademarks. The drill was that she never appeared around the track in the Miss Marston getup unless she was playing the part, but after the earlier excitement it seemed like a rather minor thing.
Her timing was about perfect – she came up to the gate and steps that led down to the track just as Frank was coming down the grandstand with the wireless microphone in hand, again extolling the virtues of the track concession stand. Once again, Shae, the very tall eighth grader, well, ninth grader now, was the top salesperson, and she was carrying the bucket of tickets and the stack of bills that Georgia had prepared for her. “What do we have?” she whispered to Shae.
“Georgia said $487,” Shae whispered back.
“OK, thanks,” Ginger smiled, then followed Frank down the steps and across the track, her hips going hard in Miss Marston’s trademark sashay.
Only as they were crossing the track did she realize that the routine that she’d worked out with Frank wasn’t going to work quite the way they intended, but there was no choice but just to go ahead with it and see what they could make of it. They got down to the bottom of the track, where at least it was easier to stand in the high heels, and as Frank held the microphone out to her, she started out in her usual way, “Mr. Blixter, I can’t believe you would do something like that.”
“What is it now, Miss Marston?” Frank sighed.
“An important occasion like this, and you’re not wearing a tie,” she huffed. “Mr. Blixter, what will people think?”
“They’ll think it’s a race track,” Frank shook his head. “How many ties do you see around a race track?”
“Not enough, Mr. Blixter, not enough,” Ginger prodded. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Think of all the impressionable children that you see who will think that it’s all right to go around dressed casually at a formal occasion like this.”
“Formal occasion?” Frank snorted. “This is a short track race, there’s nothing formal about it.”
“Of course there are formalities,” she protested. “You, of all people, an important person around this place, you ought to know that . . .”
Somehow they managed to drag the gag out for two or three minutes, drawing some laughter from a crowd that was already in a pretty good mood. “Miss Marston,” Frank protested finally, “We could talk about this for a long time but there are people out there waiting to find out who’s going to win this drawing.”
“Whoever it is, I hope they’re wearing a tie, at least if they’re a man,” she sniffed haughtily, opened the ledger book and carefully studied it. “But I suppose you’re right. The count came out correctly tonight, so we have $487 for the winner.”
“No, Mr. Blixter, four hundred and eighty seven dollars, unless, of course, you’d care to buy twenty-four tickets at the last minute.”
“Good grief, Miss Marston, I can’t win.”
“Not around me, you can’t,” she prodded back.
“Well folks, I suppose that we’d better get on with it before Miss Marston can find something else to pick at me about,” Frank laughed. “Drawing the ticket tonight will be Ray Austin. Now, Ray has been a fixture around here off and on for a good many years, but among other things for the last two years he’s been chief mechanic on the Indy car you watched earlier tonight. Ted Hilyard told me that he couldn’t have done everything without all the careful work you put into that car, so you’re a part of the success here tonight, too. Is there anything you’d like to say?”
“Well, yes,” Ray replied, a twinkle in his eye that Frank didn’t notice. “There is one thing I’d like to say, but I’d like to say it to Miss Marston.”
Now what? Ginger thought, starting to pay a little attention as she watched Ray take the wireless microphone from Frank and step up facing her. “Miss Marston,” he said, “will you marry me?”
I didn’t hear that, my God did he actually say that, oh my God, in front of all these people . . .
“Oh my God,” she said, tears coming to her eyes as she threw her arms around him, holding on tight since she felt so unstable and weak in the knees, unable to stand on those high heels. Ray reached out to grab her, they fell into each other’s arms, and their lips found each others’. It felt so good to just be in his arms, to kiss him wildly.
She didn’t even notice when Frank pried the wireless microphone from Ray’s fingers, and stood looking wordlessly at the two for a second. “I don’t know, folks,” he said finally. “I didn’t actually hear her say yes but that sure looks like a yes to me. What do you think?”
There was a cascade of cheers and whistles and hoots from the grandstands.
“Looks like it to me, too,” Frank agreed with the crowd. “I’ll tell you what, he’s gonna have his hands full with her, but it looks like he has his hands full of her, anyway.” There was a good laugh from the crowd at that, but it didn’t slow the wholesale hug or kiss down any.
Frank just stood back watching for another moment then said, “Shae, why don’t you draw the ticket? If we have to stand here waiting on them we could be here half the night.”
After a couple days Ginger didn’t really believe it had happened. In some ways it all seemed like it was out of a dream. She vaguely remembered Ray carrying her back up the track to the grandstand, getting congratulations from lots of people, congratulations from Mel and Arlene. For once she kept wearing the Miss Marston outfit until the racing was over with; Ray was at her side, and she only discovered later that Ted had grabbed Ray’s worksheet with the lineups and lined up the races the rest of the evening.
In theory both of them should have stayed around afterward to help with the cleanup, but no one faulted them for disappearing down to the house. It was only after an extremely intense round of lovemaking that she managed to gather her thoughts a little. “Good God, Ray,” she said as they were lying together on his bed. Well, a little more than that – they were nude, hot, sweaty and at least a little bit unwound – although a thorough unwinding was yet to come, and she was lying on top of him to make sure of it. “Where did you come up with that? How long have you been planning that?”
“About ten seconds,” he grinned. “It just struck me that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Anything for the show, you know, and something you’ll never forget.”
“Mr. Austin, you sure got that right,” she giggled, bouncing up and down to get a better feeling of his body and its effect on her. “I mean, we’ve talked about it in general terms for a couple months, but that came out of nowhere.”
“Well, it did for me, too,” he admitted. “But let’s face it, Ginger, we’ve been heading that way for a while and it was time we quit beating around the bush with each other.”
With that decision out of the way, there were many others to make, but new ones – when and where and how to get married, where they would live, and other things of that nature. About the only thing they decided that night was that there was no point in trying to decide them right away – there was a racing season on, and a business and buildings to build. They hadn’t even found time to go get her an engagement ring yet – there’d been just too much else drawing their attention. About the only thing they managed to do on Sunday was to agree with Mel and Arlene that they needed to sit down together and make some serious plans as soon as possible. Arlene took time off from her job at the doctor’s office on Monday, and they were gathered around the Austin dining room table to deal with things. The session had gone on for a while, and one thing seemed to lead to another without any real resolution.
Finally, Ginger had had enough. “Look,” she said, “if I can turn into Miss Marston for a couple minutes, we’re not getting anywhere like this and we’re not going to get further without some direction. We’ve got a lot of things to decide and we don’t even know what they are, yet. We need to set up an agenda, we need to agree to it, and we need to stick to it, or we’re never going to get anything done.”
“You tell ’em, Miss Marston,” Arlene smiled. “You really do have a little streak of that, you know.”
“I suppose,” Ginger smiled. “You folks all know about racing and I know nothing. I hate to say it, folks, but as long as you’ve been in business, I think I’m more business oriented. Let’s just take ten minutes, work up a list of what we have to talk about, and try to roll the little items into the big ones. I know it sounds weird with all the other things happening, but I think the shop is about at the head of the priority list. We have to get set up and moving on that, since we need to see some cash flowing on that before Ray and I can even think about setting a date, finding a place to live, or things like that. Does that sound all right?”
“Sounds fair to me, Miss Marston,” Mel grinned. “You’re doing fine, you’re chairing this meeting as far as I’m concerned.”
“All right, that’s item one. Next item for consideration, track improvements, which doesn’t include the shop but does include the museum. I think after Saturday night that’s fairly high priority, but behind the shop. Still, we need to move right ahead with all of them . . .”
In ten minutes, Ginger, well, Miss Marston in this case, had brought order where there was disorder. “All right, let’s take up the shop,” she said. “I know we’ve talked about the building some and we should talk about it some more, but I think we need to formalize the business aspects.”
“Formalize?” Ray said. “We’ve already got work lined up.”
“Yes, you do,” she replied, “but it’s all been informal stuff, for cash. You’ve gotten away with it so far, but once you start letting people know that we’re doing it as a business, there are several things that just won’t work anymore.”
“I don’t see why not,” Mel shrugged. “I’ve been doing shade-tree work on people’s cars longer than Ray has been alive, but it’s all been informal, sort of under-the-table stuff, person-to-person, you know?”
“There’s a lot more of it than anyone wants to admit to,” Ginger nodded. “It’s called the ‘underground economy.’ But if we’ve got a sign out in front and ads in the paper, we’re not going to be able to do the underground-economy thing any longer. There are all sorts of penalties that could cause more trouble than we want.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Mel said. “I hate to admit it, but I’ve often wondered if maybe I wasn’t setting myself up for trouble.”
“You were,” she said. “I think I ought to tell you right up front that I have a pretty fair amount of book knowledge about that kind of thing, but very little practical experience, so you probably ought to not take everything I say as the gospel truth.”
“I think we understand that,” Mel told her. “But in spite of doing it all these years, we don’t have the book knowledge that you have. We’re not even sure if we should be doing this as one business, or multiple businesses, or what.”
“Well,” she began. “Let me start off by asking what kind of business arrangement you have for the track now. I mean, sole proprietorship, corporation, or what.”
“Nothing very formal,” Mel told her. “I mean, up till now the track has just been Arlene’s and my business, no corporation or anything like that. I don’t know if you’d call that a sole proprietorship or what.”
“Wow,” she said. “I can tell you right now that you’re making a mistake. You should at least set up a Subchapter S corporation. That will separate the track and its business from your personal business. As it is, if something goes wrong, it’ll be on your neck personally, while if you have the track set up as a corporation it at least leaves you a little protection.”
“It comes back to us anyway,” Mel said. “What’s the difference?”
“Let’s say something happens,” Ginger told them. “Something totally stupid, like a fan falls out of the grandstands and sues you for twenty million bucks. I assume you have insurance, but anything the insurance doesn’t cover comes out of your pocket personally, right?”
“That’s always a concern,” Mel said.
“OK, just for the sake of talking, let’s say that the track is being operated by a separate corporation, which can on paper consist of the four of us. The corporation leases the track from you and Arlene for a reasonable sum. It’s just moving money from one pocket to another, all right? Well, the lawsuit would have to be against the operators of the track, since the corporation holds the lease. It can’t be against the people leasing the track to the corporation, even though you’re the same people. That limits your personal liability. The lawsuit can only go against the assets of the corporation, which are effectively nothing, so for practical purposes the insurance money is the limit of the corporation’s assets that can be sued for. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, and the catch fence has to be a little stronger than I explained, but that sort of describes the concept. You’d want a lawyer to set it up for you in any case.”
“You know, I’ve wondered about that,” Mel said. “I’ve always thought that we were taking a risk about that.”
“You really are,” Ginger told them. “Then we get into tax issues, and that’s where having things separate really stands out. If it’s handled right, you can take a loss on the corporation just on operating expenses, and that loss turns into personal profit. Again, I just know the concepts, and you’d really need a good lawyer to set it up for you.”
Arlene shook her head. “Ginger, I hear your words but I don’t understand what you’re saying. Most of the routine paperwork has fallen to me over the years, but I just try to total things up and give them to the accountant to make sense of them. How can you turn a loss into a profit?”
“It’s that different pockets thing again,” Ginger said. “Look, let’s talk about the shop business since it’s a little easier to keep simple. Now, you and Mel own the building and the tools, right?”
“Pretty much,” Mel said. “Ray has some tools of his own, but it would be a small part of the total.”
“That’s what I figured,” she said. “Now, if you keep this a simple family business, you just loan the capital assets, the shop and tools and stuff, to Ray out of the goodness of your heart. That’s pretty much what you were planning on doing, right?”
“Well, yes,” Mel said. “It is a family thing, after all.”
“That’s all well and good,” Ginger said. “Right now, the way you’d be doing it would be that any money left over at the end of the week would more or less go into his pocket, right?”
“That’s pretty much how we’ve always done it,” Mel admitted.
“Just for the sake of talking, let’s set Speedway Auto Service or whatever we decide the name is going to be up as a corporation for a few minutes,” Ginger said. “Rather than doing it the simple way, at the end of the week the corporation would issue Ray a paycheck. It might be Ray doing the writing, but he’d be doing it as an agent of the corporation, not as just himself. To the corporation, that makes Ray’s paycheck a business expense. Now, what happens if the corporation leases the building and tools from Mel and Arlene Austin for so much a month. That’s a business expense, too, right?”
“It just seems like a more complicated way to do the same thing,” Mel shrugged.
“It is, but there’s a reason,” Ginger explained. “Now, let’s suppose that the corporation brings in enough money to make Ray’s paycheck, but not enough to make the lease payments, and falls behind.”
“I’d hope that wouldn’t happen,” Ray said.
“Different pockets, Ray,” she smiled. “What actually happens is that the monthly payments you couldn’t make would become a business loss for your parents. Not really, just on paper, but to a bookkeeper or an accountant or the IRS what’s on paper is real. They’re not actually out any real money they wouldn’t have had otherwise, since they already own the place and it’s paid for. But when tax time rolls around, that paper business loss can be deducted off their taxes, which means that the money they wouldn’t pay in taxes stays right in their pockets rather than going to the IRS.”
Mel shook his head. “I think you’re right,” he said, “but you couldn’t prove it by me. In my book, that ranks right with someone knocking the wheel weights off someone’s car and telling them they need a front end job.”
“In one sense you might be right,” Ginger told them, “but that’s how the system is set up to work. It’s totally legal, and it’s done all the time in the corporate world. Sort of a legal loophole if you want to think of it that way. A lawyer can probably explain it to you better than I can. What we might want to do is to set up a holding company that owns both the repair shop corporation and the track operation corporation. That just shields you a little better and gives you more pockets to move money between to your advantage.”
“Something like Austin Enterprises, which owns Bradford Speedway Operations, Inc., and Speedway Auto Service?” Ray asked.
“Exactly,” Ginger smiled. “For the most part everything is straightforward; you operate about like you always have done. But when tax time rolls around, there are some huge advantages.”
“Well, I’m for not paying any more taxes than I have to,” Mel said, “but I’d want to keep everything legal, too.”
“That’s why the system is set up the way it is,” Ginger said.
“I think we need to look into this,” Arlene said. “I can see how there could be some advantages. Can you help us with this?”
“I can help, but I don’t think I should set it up,” Ginger told them. “You really need a good lawyer and a good accountant to set it up. I can go along and help interpret, if you like, but I really shouldn’t be the one setting it up, mostly because I don’t have the practical experience with some of the ins and outs.”
“Frank has been telling us for years we need to do something like that,” Mel shook his head. “I guess I should have listened to him.”
“I’ll warn you right now, it’s going to require some good record keeping,” Ginger told them. “We have to have good records right from beginning to end, or the IRS will decide we’re up to something funny and then we really will be in trouble. Up till now you said you’ve mostly done this stuff under the table. We won’t be able to do that anymore. We at least have to have good raw records that a bookkeeper can make sense out of, both for income and expenses. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I can probably set up a system like that, one that will take care of all the basic record keeping needs. It’s not that hard.”
“It may not be for you,” Ray said. “It sounds like an enormous pain in the ass to me.”
“To you it probably would be,” she smiled. “But I’ll tell you, it’ll be a worthwhile pain in the ass if you ever get audited.”
“That much I can understand,” Ray shook his head. “It isn’t simple, is it?”
“I think I can keep it pretty simple,” she said. “Just so long as you can keep a legible record of basic income and expenses. If we have that, I can come along later and sort them out.”
“Well,” Mel said, “I think I can tell you who the business manager of Austin Enterprises is going to be, and it’s someone who isn’t named Austin yet. Anybody disagree with me on that?”