The Outside Groove

The Outside Groove by Erik E. Esckilsen Read Free Book Online

Book: The Outside Groove by Erik E. Esckilsen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erik E. Esckilsen
Casey, but when I saw you power-sliding across my lawn, I just had a feeling something was up.”
    â€œWill you still help me?”
    Uncle Harvey looked at his boots. He appeared insulted. When he looked up again, he wore a serious expression. “Sure,” he said. “I’ll help you. You should know one thing, though.”
    â€œWhat?”
    â€œIf people know I’m helping you, that’s not going to be such a good thing.”
    â€œWhy?” I asked, though I’d sensed, the moment I left my house to come up here, that I shouldn’t tell my family that I’d reunited with Uncle Harvey, not if I wanted my racing plans to be anything more than plans.
    â€œNever mind why,” Uncle Harvey said. “It’s a long story, and it’s got nothing to do with anything anymore. You want my help, I’m glad to give it. Just let’s focus on racing.” He looked into the sky above his cottage and hooted. “Two weeks. Girl wants to run the Demon in two weeks.”
    I resisted the urge to tell him what I was thinking, what I’d always thought: that I didn’t see how there was
that
much to learn about driving a racecar around in circles. Four left turns. Then four more. And so on until the checkered flag came out. Frankly, I was surprised that no one had trained monkeys to do it yet. It seemed that simple. But instead of presenting this theory, I told Uncle Harvey, “I just want to do my best,” which was true enough. It just so happened that I thought my best would be a shock to anyone who thought the idea of my racing at Demon’s Run was about the funniest thing they’d ever heard. They might just notice me after all—just before I put them in my rearview mirror for good.
    â€œWell all right then,” Uncle Harvey said. “I’m not going to stand in the way of a girl trying to do her best.” That light I’d seen dancing in his eyes down at the fishing access flickered.
    Just seeing that light and hearing him utter an encouraging word made me feel strangely close to him, like I’d known him all my life, which I guess I had, just not well.
    â€œSo here’s what we’re going to do.” He pointed toward his driveway. “You go and see Blodgett. Right?”
    â€œI’ll go today.”
    Uncle Harvey surveyed the cars again. “And I’ll set up a ride. It may not be pretty, but it’ll get you around the track.”
    â€œIt doesn’t need to be pretty.”
    Uncle Harvey slid the wrench out of the loop on his pants. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said, “because pretty isn’t worth much on a racetrack. And it sure doesn’t last.”
    ***
    Two vehicles sat parked outside the Demon’s Run office, a one-story cinderblock building behind Beer Belly Hill. One of the vehicles was a new-looking, red-and-chrome tow truck with a big winch, crane, and hook. I remembered a vehicle like it from past visits to the track: People called it simply “the Hook.” The other vehicle was an enormous black pickup truck that also looked brand-new. Mr. Blodgett, the director of racing, was reputed to maintain extremely high standards for his enterprise. Rumor held that he personally inspected the Demon’s Run restrooms for cleanliness every race day before opening the front gates. The condition of his vehicles supported that characterization. Only a shade of dried mud painting the pickup’s undercarriage and a peeling bumper sticker indicated that the vehicle had been driven anywhere but around a dealership lot. I knew the bumper sticker well. Big Daddy had one on his pickup truck, Mom had one on her station wagon, and Wade had one on the Red Snake and on his bedroom door: DEMON’S RUN RACEWAY—
CATCH IT IF YOU CAN...
    I knocked on the door.
    A man bellowed, “It’s open,” and I stepped into a cramped room, where two chairs behind a coffee table faced a

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