The Sound of Thunder: Chapter Four
The next day dawned bright and beautiful and early. It was only 6 am when they made their way out of the bus. Breakfast had been a bowl of cereal and Angel was already feeling a bit rushed. Little Al, Dylan’s bodyguard, met them just outside the door. Angel thought the name wasn’t appropriate for the man. Huge was a better description of Al. He was over 6’5” and she guessed he weighed close to 280. None of it was fat though that she could tell. The man was all muscle.
Regardless of his size, from what Angel could tell, Al was nothing but a teddy bear. She had grown comfortable around him the day before and by that morning, they were kidding around and he was giving her Indian head rubs. She liked having him around. Somehow, she knew with the big man near that she was safe…
Big Al had been Dylan’s official bodyguard for more than five years. Loving his job, Al had stuck by the driver with the bad temper and the taste for ditzy women only because Dylan was like a brother to him. Sometimes, Al wanted to slap the tar out of the kid, but he never had. He looked at the latest chick Dylan had brought around and realized she was the first woman he had ever felt truly comfortable with. He hoped that Dylan would keep her around for a bit, because he was already becoming attached to the deep, dark beauty with big brown eyes.
Al sat back in the golf cart as they made their way to the media center. He kept a keen eye out for over zealous fans. He could remember many a time when a few people had turned into an overwhelming crowd and finally had become a danger to Dylan’s well being. This early in the morning, however, he wasn’t too worried. Most of the diehard fans had been up late partying. Still, he could never stop keeping his eye out.
It was very unusual for Dylan to not have Little Al at his side. When things got out of hand with a fan, or a person who didn’t like him for that matter, Al always came to the rescue. Though most of the time, he was the big teddy bear Angel thought he was, Al could be dangerous. He had served in Viet Nam, and taught self-defense classes before joining the NASCAR circus. If put in the wrong position, Little Al could be a big threat…
Several hours went by as Dylan finished what needed to be done at the media center, and Angel was getting impatient. She had never been good at sitting for long lengths of time and today was worse for her than usual. Joking around with Little Al, she had finally grown fidgety and wondered off on her own. The garages had slowly filled up with crew members and fans. Feeling much more comfortable then the day before, Angel wandered aimlessly between cars.
Occasionally the start of an engine made her jump but she was growing accustomed to it and had actually found that she adored the noise of the high rpm engines. The smell of the exhaust and burnt rubber lingered in the air. She found herself smiling as she walked up and down, taking pictures with her camera and occasionally striking up a conversation with someone standing near.
The sudden realization that she liked it here hit Angel full force. She felt at home among the stock cars and the tires and wrenches strewn across the floors. It wasn’t like home where everybody knew your name and scrutinized every move you made. So far, no one here even knew her name.
Years before, when she had been young and full of dreams, Bob and her had longed to be part of all this. They would joke about Angel being the first female crew chief. It made her smile to remember.
A crowd had gathered near Dylan’s garage as Angel approached. Several men in various driver t-shirts were standing on the outskirts of the crowd as Angel made her way forward. “Hey honey, wait your turn for an autograph.”
“I’m not here for an autograph.” Angel stated. “As a matter of fact, I am here with him.”
The guy in the black T-shirt of some other famous driver laughed. “Honey, keep dreaming! In the mean time, get out of our way.”
Suddenly, Angel was fuming. Who was this guy anyway? She pushed past them and tried to make her way to the front when someone pushed her hard from behind. “Hey!” She hollered.
In the blink of an eye, Angel was on her hands and knees and the people were forcing her closer and closer to the ground. No one seemed to even care that they were stomping her fingers and stepping almost on top of her. All she could hear were the people hollering, “I want a signature.”
Angel tried yelling for help when she realized she was unable to regain her footing, but to no avail. Somebody kicked her in her ribs and she wondered if she would get out of this without broken bones…
Little Al turned when he heard someone shout for help, but the crowd was too thick to see. He pushed his way into the bystanders and saw Angel almost lying on the ground with tears running down her cheeks. He grabbed a hold of her in one motion and threw her over his shoulder. Walking back into the garage area, in a burly, angry voice he yelled at the crowd. “Listen up people! If you can’t be courteous, there will be no more autographs!”
He sat Angel down on the ground and turned to her. “I’m all right Al. A little scuffed and my pride’s hurt but I’m good to go.”
“Good.” He smiled at her through his reddish brown beard. “Glad to hear it.” He turned back to the crowd and said, “Didn’t anybody hear me? Be gone!”
Slowly the crowd dissipated and Angel felt herself sigh with relief. She knew the day had only begun and she had already made mistake one.…
As qualifying neared, Dylan took Angel’s hand as he left the bus. He had explained to her that she would walk him to his car and then come back to the garage area when he rolled out to qualify. What he didn’t explain to her was the hordes of fans asking for his signature or the cameras. Angel had decided that after this trip, she didn’t care if she ever saw another camera again.
It seemed every where they went in this God-forsaken place, there were crowds of people begging for Dylan’s undivided attention. He seemed to automatically begin signing the cars and the pictures without even thinking. However, Angel was overcome by it all. People were on all sides of her and constantly she had to fight back the claustrophobia she had had since she was small. Every where she turned there was someone sneering at her and the attacks were getting harder and harder to control…
Dylan unaware of the phobia Angel was experiencing just kept pulling her along with one hand and signing with the other. He laughed when one of the girls went into a hysterical fit when he put her marker top in his mouth. It always amazed him the way the fans reacted to him. Most days, he actually enjoyed the attention, especially from the women, but today he found himself unhappy with them.
The incident earlier had upset him greatly. Angel’s hands had been skinned badly and her chin had cement burn at least three inches wide and four inches long. Her reaction had surprised him. She shook it off as nothing but it didn’t take him long to come to the conclusion that she was not only embarrassed, but upset by the whole thing.
He turned around to look at her and saw her fighting the terror that showed in her eyes. He pulled her closer to him, wondering what was wrong and made his way past the rest of the crowd. Several of them were hollering about him leaving and the unfairness. “Hey guys! Give me a break! Damn, let my girl have some air for crying out loud!”
The crowds sudden agitation with him only made him angrier and he began to push people aside. There were days he wished he could just race and not deal with the idiots he always seemed to stumble across.
It was then that he heard the official’s warning whistle that a car was coming their way. Forgetting about Angel, he began to push against the crowd to get out of the way. Barely missing him and brushing against his uniform, he felt a stock car brush past him.
“Dammit, you guys! Get the hell out of the way before you get me killed.” He grabbed Angel’s hand tightly and led her out of the crowd and on to pit row.
After kissing Angel before he got in the car to qualify, he strapped himself in. He loved this part. Dylan had always been somewhat of a speed demon anyway. Since he was a kid, he loved knowing he was going fast. It had led to countless accidents over the years but it was his love for speed that had gotten him here. He slowly pulled his way out of the pit area and began to speed up shifting as he went. He could feel the rumble of the engine throughout his entire body and it gave him goose bumps. There was nothing in the world like controlling a 3500-pound car with 800-horse power. No, nothing like it in the whole world.
The walls became one big whir as he pushed the car to the limit after rounding the track for the first time. Doc was asking him for statistics and he was reading them back over his radio. The car was handling great for a change and as he rounded turn 4, he knew his time would be in the top ten. One more lap to go. Qualifying and practice always went too quick for Dylan. He’d been doing this for ten years and still he found himself pounding with adrenaline as he drove. He had never done drugs in his whole life but he knew in his heart, that they couldn’t give him the high driving did. Nothing could, he decided…
As predicted, Dylan qualified well. He secured a position in the fifth row and was happy with the way the car ran. Maybe Dega would be different this time around. Just maybe he could win there for the first time in his career.
Breaking the train of his thoughts, he looked up to see Kat Stevens, Doc’s wife standing there. He took his helmet and his Hans device off quickly and sprang out of the car. He walked up to her and hugged her like he always did. Kat always stunned him with her beautiful eyes. He had grown fond of her over the last ten years and would often look to her for advice.
Kat was giggling from Dylan swinging her around in circles. That’s when he caught Angel’s eye. Confusion was written across her face and Dylan realized it was time for a quick introduction to put his girl’s mind to rest. “Ang, this is Kat, Doc’s wife. Kat, this is my new girl Angel.”
Kat winked at Dylan knowingly, and Dylan shied away with embarrassment. “Well, honey, you definitely are a looker. Hope you keep this one around for awhile Dylan. Seems anymore I just get to know them and you are kicking them to the curb.”
With one of his devilish boyish grins, he replied. “This one’s a keeper Kat. Besides, you know you are the only one who can have my heart.”
Kat shook her head at the last comment. “Sorry babe this heart belongs to only one man and speak of the devil, here he comes.”
Doc grabbed Kat as quickly as he could and kissed her full on the mouth. “Yup, Killer her heart belongs to me and don’t you forget it.”
Angel hadn’t said a word the entire time and Dylan felt bad. “Hey babe, come here and give me a hug…”
Hours later found the two of them preparing for Dylan’s dirt track race. Angel’s mind was a blur with the days’ events as she held his hand and watched. Event after event, heat after heat she sat and watched. It seemed like every time they turned around there was another fan and another autograph to sign. To her, Dylan’s fame was never-ending.
He won his first heat but wrecked shortly thereafter, leaving him in a bad mood. Cussing through his teeth, he had sat down next to her. “Honey,” she had said quietly, rubbing his shoulders, “You win some, you lose some. I think you did great.”
“Thanks baby.” She could feel him relax under her fingertips and she kissed him on the cheek…