Steve had been fascinated with racing cars even before he was sixteen. He’d learned to drive on the farm, cutting doughnuts in the cow pasture in his dad’s International 1950’s truck. When Steve married Patricia at sixteen, he had a two door used Plymouth Road Runner, and they frequently flew down the highway with the engine roaring, wind blowing in the rolled down windows, and bugs splattering on the windshield. It was exhilarating to both of them.
On the weekends, they were at the racetrack, where Steve tinkered with every sort of race car made, and often raced himself. Most of the time, he won and had the nickname of Speed Racer, because of his dark hair, white racing suit, and the number five painted on the front doors.
Steve had finally shattered his leg racing his car when it was bumped by another car on the fifth lap, hitting the wall and flipping five times; he crawled out of the crumpled fireball to everyone’s amazement. Patricia hadn’t seen him crawl, but was running through the stands and onto the field as fast as she could. She went with him in the ambulance, now a no-no, and stayed by his side until she knew he’d be alright. Contrary to doctors and nurses, Steve walked again, though he walked with a limp, and as years passed, with a cane.
It their modest 1500 square foot brick and wood rancher set on five acres, Steve’s collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were displayed on the shelves in the living room and spilled over into their bedroom. Their children couldn’t reach them, and the original boxes were all on the shelf in the closet next to the pistol intended for a would-be intruder or rattlesnake in the yard. Through the years, Steve would take one or two down when no one was home, roll them around on the floor, an end table, or on the bedspread, pretending.
Though Steve had earned a regional racing reputation, as well a reputation for fixing race cars, he went increasingly less to tracks. That didn’t stop people from coming to his house on Highway 55. There, he’d tinker with cars under his added on carport and invite people to drag race right in front of his house. By then, his children were grown and gone, and Patricia had passed from an aneurism while picking tomatoes. Their Collie had barked to the point Steve thought there might be a snake when it was Pat.
When people came to race, Steve would listen to the police scanner, waive a yellow flag if he heard anything to the drivers, and call the spotters on walkie-talkies. There had been a few times the police were close, and the race cars were parked under the carport and covered with tarps. If the police ever checked, they would’ve felt the hot engines underneath the hoods.
One Sunday after services, Steve’s daughter found him disoriented in the floor playing with cars. She put her hand to her mouth and fought back tears. At his check-up, they diagnosed him with advanced Alzheimer’s, and as the months passed, he stayed in the floor more and more playing cars. It seemed to the care givers and his daughter he liked the white Mach 5 the best, and he would not speak to anyone unless they called him Speed Racer.
Bio: Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over a hundred and fifty literary magazines all over the world including PIF, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, With Painted Words, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released. His website is www.nilesreddick.com