Powerslide

Stamping caked clay from my boots, I enter the marshals’ cabin. It’ll be good to get out of the sun and into relative quiet for a bit. I slam the door tight closed. The sounds of crowds fall away but soon this area will fill with the roaring and screeching of cars hurtling past in a dusty haze of flying debris.

Nancy turns from her screens and nods to me. “Good job, brave girl.”

“What?” I ask.

“Getting that bloke away from the barrier.”

“Him? He was no trouble, just wanting to see up close how number six gets round the hairpin. Bit weird though.”

“I saw you. What’s it like?”

“Very loud and dusty, stones and clods of clay everywhere and toxic fumes of burning rubber.”

“What was weird – that or the bloke?”

“Him,” I frown and shake my head not knowing what to say.

“What’s his name? I like weird.”

“Dunno. He was … did you see him waving his hand?”

Nancy turns back to the screens, fists stuffed into overall pockets. “No, what about it?”

“It was … well, he said something about how strange it was to feel air.”

She watches a slight tangle at turn three, grabs her radio but puts it down again. “Was he from outer space or something?”

“Actually … um … that’s not such a strange question. He asked me what it felt like to be only in one place at a time. Something like that anyway.”

“The beer tent has been open since ten.”

“No, I don’t think it was that. He laughed and asked what it feels like to be all closed in. I don’t know what he meant but then he added that it was strange no one reacts to a noise.”

Nancy tilts her head and looks back at me, eyes crossed comically. “Everyone reacts to the bloody noise. This is a stupid place to set the marshal’s hut.”

She has a point. As the pack rounds a kink in the back straight there’s this howling cacophony of echoes between cliffs and we get all of it right here. “Not that. He made a noise. He gave it a name I can’t remember but it’s no sound a human could make…” I pause, searching for words, “and his mouth was closed. It seemed to come from the front of his chest, low – but certainly not through his vocal cords. He looked around and said ‘See? no one understands’ then he laughed and told me how this place freaked him out.”

“Drugs do you think? A dope-head or something?”

“No. I really heard the noise and … and there was a sharpness in his eyes like incandescent intelligence. Scary because he seemed entirely sane – if totally peculiar.”

She sniggers. Are you on drugs then? Oh … you are. Are they messing with your mind?”

“They’re for my knee, not my mind. They are strong though.” I lean forward and press my forehead against the window. “There it is again. That noise. He must be in the crowd now.” I start back. “Oh!”

“What?”

“There was something else. He said he was dreaming and liked this dream … though…”

Nancy does the cross-eyed thing at me again. “Dreaming?”

“Though he liked the one about a forest of lichen and poetry trees better. Then he went all vague. When I grabbed his arm to remind him to get back from the track, he woke up a bit and said ‘Sorry, I was in the blue car – that bit when they enter the tunnel and there’s a bump which seizes the steering wheel and you have a fight on your hands.”

Nancy’s eyes widen. “How the hell does he know that?”

“Well, is there a bump?”

“I’ll say there is but this is a brand new circuit since it was remade. I only know about the bump because I was taken round this morning. No one else but the drivers…” She blows a deep breath till her lips pout. “That’s very weird. Are you sure those tablets aren’t messing with your head?”

“Not a clue but then I think I’ve just discovered I don’t have a clue about anything very much if that man was talking sense.”

“Maybe you should leave the circuit and help out at the first aid tent.”

“Maybe I’ll do just that … no.”

“No what?” Nancy jerks and shrieks, clamping the earphones tight to her head. Her hair spikes like storm-torn thatching. “Maniac! Did you see that?” As I turn away from the window to check screens she points to a huge cloud of dust at turn seven. At least two cars appear to be spinning in it. “That tall woman – the one with the red pickup – just slammed two cars into the barriers and took the lead. Go, mad-woman!” She jumps and claps her hands. After a moment she’s calmer and asks, “What were you on about?”

“Who knows? I can see that weird man, there, over by … that’s him waving again.”

“The one dancing?”

“That’s not dancing, it’s posing without sanity.”

“Go get him!”

“Too weird.”

“Rubbish. You’re always complaining that you came to marshalling for the thrill but now it seems just like unpaid labour.”

“It’s still interesting.”

Nancy thumps my arm. “So says the woman who whinges about a chance she had to race but turned it down.”

“I’m not that good…”

“Listen to you! And the time you had the chance to dive in the crystal sump off Angola but went out for a meal instead? What’s happening to you?”

“Ooh, you bitch. I hate you so much.” I go to the door. “Fine then, he does radiate mystery and adventure.”

She pulls one side of her headphones away. “I missed that. Were you saying stupid stuff as usual or was it something like ‘It is better to live dangerously than die safely’?”

“I’m going, I’m going. Shut up, watch the screens and wish me luck.”

©Gary Bonn, 2019

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