“Tell us a story, Jack,” someone said in the room. It had become a new ritual that if Jack were in the lunchroom at lunchtime, he’d tell a story from his past. The stories were passed from person to person throughout the day, the week, until Jack had another story. The microcosm of a company is small, and people focus on the odd things, the unusual. Jack sharing his stories had fit that mold. At first, his stories were related to his business trips, but as he had more people listening, he started to pull from his entire life. Diane had become an ardent lurker, wanting to listen to all his stories, but not wanting to be obvious about it.
“So that’s what this has become, ‘Storytime with Jack’?” I guess I can deal with that.
“Once upon a time,” he started, and there were a few giggles,” No really, this happened, too. There was a racetrack in Texas, out in a city called ‘College Station,’ where Texas A&M is located. Anyway, this track was known throughout the country as one of the great race tracks. Back in the 1960s, it hosted a series called NASCAR, some of you may remember that from your younger days. Anyway, the track fell to disrepair in the late 20th century. We ran there for three years at an annual event where every year we were told the would be the last time we’d ever get to race there. It became a running joke.
The first year we were sad because we thought it was the truth. The second year we were glad because we knew that the track wouldn’t really die, that we’d get to race the next year. The third year, we sensed the impending doom, and our sadness was more for a loved one than for a neat old building that was finally getting torn down to make way for condos,” he paused realizing that he was comparing a lost race track to a deceased person.
“Anyway,” he continued, “a hurricane hit Houston, which is only a few hours South of College Station, Harvey, I think the name was,” there was a look of confusion of those closest to him, “Oh, yeah, they used to name storms back then. Something about making people more aware of the danger. First, it was hurricanes, then winter storms, then every single time it rained. That was during the ‘Fake News’ epidemic of the 21st century. Named every goddamn thing, and it got silly. Anyway, this hurricane was named Harvey.” He paused for a few laughs,” Yeah, as it turned out, Harvey was a motherfucker. He dumped some 60 inches of rain in the area in a day or two, caused flooding that would make Moses uneasy,” he looked at the same group that had been confused about his other references and teased, “That’s from a book called the Bible. You should probably know that one,” more laughter.
“So what took out the racetrack – Texas World Speedway, that’s the name,” he had just remembered it fully from reminiscing about the time,” ‘TWS’ as it was called by the locals, so TWS was always being threatened to be shut down, as I mentioned, but it never happened. Until Harvey literally blew into town. But the storm isn’t what finally did TWS in, nope. The owner, who had set his mind on developing the area, only to find out that 40 years of race cars and fuel storage made the site not fit for humans to live on, found his way out in the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. More than 3 million cars were destroyed in the resulting flood. All of Texas drains into the Gulf of Texas, and through Houston mostly. So all that rain for three days ended up in Houston with nowhere to go, and it flooded and flooded. We joked that were looking for an ark,” again looking at the younger group, ”That’s from that Bible thing, too.”
“The owner started storing the damaged flood cars. There’s nowhere for them to go, you see? Insurance had to be involved, and those cars needed to be stored somewhere. And the owner got a dollar a day per car, supposedly. So here was this fantastic racetrack that we ran on year after year, and it had been turned into a massive, 200+ acre flood storage junkyard in under two weeks. By the time the cars were moved a year later, so much damage had been done that no one could afford to rebuild the track. I was even involved in trying to find enough investors to bring it back. That was right before they banned driving. That was the beginning of the end for racing,” Jack looked down, briefly lost in thought. He had raced a lot in those days.
“Racing was a lot of fun, I still miss that track, as a matter of fact, hold on,” he pulled out his phone found a video of himself racing TWS, and shared it to the virtual screen in the lunchroom. “Storytime and movie time with Jack, here you go. This is me racing a Ford Mustang at TWS with a group called NASA. Not the guys who colonized Mars, this was a racing association. Anyway, enjoy, this is inside my car.”
People had seen videos like this before, but none had ever known the person actually racing, or driving the cars. No one else in the room had actually ever driven a car. They were all born after the time cars had been banned in order to finally quell the annual road death count. The room was hushed, only the sound of a race-bred V8 engine being wound out at every single straight. The action in the cockpit of the car was furious, the steering wheel sawed back and forth in the driver’s hands, cars were only inches in front of the car being shown. A car spun right in front of Jack’s car, and he darted right, underneath the spinning car, to avoid it, missing it by inches. There were “oohs and ahhs” from the room.
Jack watched the video. Although he had seen it hundreds of times, he hadn’t watched it in years. Every time he saw it, he remembered how great the feeling was to be behind the wheel, pushing the machine to its limits, trying to outmaneuver the other drivers. He had taken third place in this race, directly behind first and second places. It was his favorite race. He watched intently. Diane noticed the change in his face. He was lost in the memory, reliving being in the seat. She wondered how someone changed from someone who could run a car that aggressively to someone who seemed to be in pretty decent control, considering.
Jack was all smiles as the race ended, “That was a fun one,” he said, and turned off the video. “Thanks, everyone, talk to you all next time, I got work to do!”
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