Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oil & Hay - 13

I sat at the back of the pits at Les Essarts with my hand in my race suit pocket, rolling the soft ball of hashish between my fingers. Von Schlosser had given it to me before taking his turn at the wheel of our newest Star.

"Have you smoked?" he had asked me in his oddly melodic accent.

"Ever? This? Before?"

He nodded.


"Empty out your cigarette a little bit. Put the hashish inside. Smoke it."

"Thanks, Jürgen."

I decided to do as he said. I was done driving for the day, after all. There was naught to do but watch the car come in and out of the pits, to stand over the motor with an expression of thoughtful concern, to occasionally bow my head into the cockpit, pretending to understand my German teammate's breathless observations.

I took it out back, in the paddock by the lorries. Discreetly ground out some shag from a Gauloise and packed the cylinder with crumbs of the claylike material. I lit it up. The thick, sweet smoke settled into my lungs like a fog. I erupted into a fit of spasmodic coughs and as soon as it was over a curious warmth spread over my face and neck. My mouth grew dry. In the distance I heard the Apogee engine whining against the gears as Jürgen wound through the Forêt de la Londe.

It was a grey day. The cold air moved around my arms in streams as I walked back to the pits. Tex was seated at a table, ruminating.

"I been thinkin' 'bout puttin' wings on the car," he declared.

"Wings?" I exclaimed. "Good Lord. Are we now permitted to fly?"

"Upside-down wings. Think about it."

"Won't that slow us down?"


My mind was aswim. Tex bit off a new cigar and spat the tip of the butt at the cinderblock wall.

"It'll slow us down in a straight line," he said. "Ya get my drift?"

I felt my heartbeat quicken. "No."

"But speed us up around a corner."

As I pondered the implications of his remark I felt as though a new world were opening its doors.

"How'd it feel out there, Mal?" he asked after some time.

"Smashing. Bit of understeer." Why did I say that? Had I said the proper thing? It seemed like a reasonable thing to say. I was aiming for maximum plausibility.

Tex clamped down on his cigar and scrutinised me warily.

"Why, Schlossie just told me he got oversteer."

"That so?"

"Mal, I need your ass back out there."

"Beg pardon?"

"You an' the Kraut, ya gotta getcher stories straight. Car ain't that temper-mental."

I felt the cold sting of panic overwhelming my soul.

"Putcher helmet on, Limey," Tex said as he navigated his wide girth off the chair and back towards the track.