Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Oil & Hay - 7

I parked my car before the royal box, as is the custom, and stepped out of the cockpit in a daze. As I slowly removed my goggles, helmet and fireproof gauze, Tex, the Star team boss, ran over from the pits. When one of his cars won he usually cheered it at the checkered, leaping and tossing his Stetson in the air. Today he hadn't.

"Malcolm. Good race, pal," he said, panting.


"And Lorenzo Maldarelli's dead."

I sighed. "Just like that?" I asked. I can only think of stupid questions about death.

"Just like that? I dunno what you mean by just like that. He exited the track."

"Into the sea?"

Tex nodded. "Musta slammed into somethin' first."

"He crashed the wall?"

"He crashed the wall."

"Rolled over? Caught fire?"

"You know how the story goes."

"Then he plunged into the Mediterranean Sea?"

"Frogmen retrieved his corpse."

"What killed him? The fire or the water?"

"Jesus, Mary'n Joseph, Malcolm."

"Are you telling me he couldn't swim?"

"If he coulda swum, he'da swam, goddammit!"

"Did he suffer?" I hadn't meant to ask this question. But then I heard it out my mouth.

"Did he suffer. Jesus motherfuckin' Christ. He died like a man!"

I found myself pressing the point. "But Tex, it's import–"

"Of all the ghoulish goddamned questions! Did he suffer. I dunno. You ever die before?"

"Yes, but – no, but I mean–"

"Mal, he's dead. He died."

A moment passed. I hung my head.

"Thank you, Tex."

The buildings reverberated with the sonorous drone of the announcer revealing to the masses the tragic end of the great Lorenzo Maldarelli, hereafter consigned to legend. There followed a minute of silence. One could hear the rustle of the trees.

Then the speakers came to life anew. It was me they celebrated now. Malcolm Wood of Britain in his Star-Apogee. Winner of this twenty-fourth Grand Prix de Monaco. A blonde darling in a miniskirt and go-go boots approached me and placed a wreath around my neck.

I ascended the royal box's felted steps as the prince and princess stood to greet me. Grace, resplendent in blue and rose and a flowered hat, extended her hand to me and smiled.