Posted in Creative Writing.
This extract was written in 2004. I have decided to put it on-line instead of having it hidden away.
Although it was not uncommon to see two, and, occasionally, three girls amongst the usual male dominated grids of her kart races, in this particular case, Clare found herself the only female racer.
To be honest though, it was not really something she gave a lot of thought. In fact, it felt pretty normal to her; then again, admittedly, she had got used to it and, probably more importantly, everyone else had got use to her.
Opponents, whether boy or girl, were simply plain, common all garden, competitors. Okay so there were unique personalities, different driving styles, and varying skill levels; not to mention that some could be more, shall we say, forceful than others; but, ultimately, it was their race-driving ability that counted out on the track.
Or that was the theory anyway because, if nothing else, she had to accept there was novelty value in being a girl racer.
A newspaper reporter from Clare’s local paper seemed to think so. Having spent a couple of hours at Fred’s karting centre, interviewing Clare, he went on to write an article portraying a tough young girl fighting her corner against all odds. A feminine feline released amongst the pigeons; hack sawing at the wheel and embarrassing the young men, putting them all to shame. Because, surely, girls could not be expected to race karts as well as boys could?
Funnily enough maybe she had noticed that, for boys, there was one thing worst than merely loosing and that would be loosing to a girl. Still, they seemed to get use to it pretty quickly and fair play, once beaten, they generally took it on the chin and gave respect.
Mind you, when it came to it, Clare did not really relish the idea of finishing behind a female competitor either. She had to admit, however unimportant she felt her gender was, she would rather be the lead-girl than not!
Flexing her right-foot Clare floored the throttle, propelling her kart out of the pit exit and onto the track, conjuring up a cloud of tyre smoke behind her. The front three karts were already making their way around the first corner of the warm-up lap but, with some aggressive acceleration, she soon caught them up.
It was important to bring everything up to operating temperature. Flicking the steering wheel, between left and right lock, she swerved her kart from side to side across the asphalt, working heat into the tyres for maximum adhesion. Likewise, she applied some pressure to the brakes, with her left foot on the pedal, to warm them up as well.
Kart races usually have “rolling starts” and these are always a pretty lively affair. Entering the final corner of the warm up lap everyone would align into formation, two-by-two, with the pole sitter controlling the pace from the inside. On the run up to the line, and subject to a green flag being shown, the pole sitter would ‘boot-it’, pedal to the metal, and the melee would begin. All without stopping on the grid.
Up front, leading the pack around from pole position, was Little Jon; shorty by name, shorty by nature; a dwarf by Clare’s standards and she hardly considered herself abundant on the vertical axis. His real name was Jonathon although at his school, allegedly, they called him Rubber Johnny, because he always managed to squeeze and squirm his way in and out of any situation. By far the shortest and ironically, at the age of sixteen, the oldest of her opponents, Jon drove like an master, having bagged several wins, and was well on his way to graduating into car racing. Sponsorship permitting.
Sadly the maturity of his race craft was not replicated in his mentality; Jon was an annoying little swine, with an immature sense of humour.
Clare had never been able to forget their original encounter, particularly as he kept tormenting her about it after almost every race. During the driver briefing, just before her first ever championship kart race, he turned to her. “Would you like know a tip for lowering your centre of gravity?” Choosing to ask her aloud, so that everyone could hear.
“Yes please, but should you be giving out your secrets?” Clare replied quietly, very interested in what he had to say.
“It’s no problem,” he said, in all seriousness, “basically what you need to do is take your bra off!” At which point the room exploded with laugher, at her expense.
The front row was like chalk and cheese: alongside Jon, starting in second place, was Steven. A quiet and sensible young man, Steven was looking forward to celebrating his fifteenth birthday during the following week. He tended to keep his head down, concentrating entirely on his racing. A clean and fair racer, who could be aggressive when he wanted to be, but generally suffered from a lack of confidence.
Actually Clare thought he was kinda cute but unfortunately, by his very nature, not only was it hard to get his attention, it was difficult to get him on his own. Steven never had a lot to do with the other drivers; when he was not honouring his race commitments, he would invariably hang around his kart where one or more of his family members always seem to be.
Of course rare opportunities did present themselves, occasionally. One early evening, whilst everyone was packing up after the race, Clare spotted Steven sitting on his own and, without a moment to loose, rushed straight over. Clare could be a bit of a schoolgirl flirt sometimes but this was one chance she did not want to miss.
Not that she considered herself overly forward, preferring to be asked rather than asking, but if a boy needed encouraging, then so be it. As she made her way over, Clare wondered how to break the ice. Hobbies? What about music? Or the latest movie releases? No, no, no, simple ideas are the best: she would talk to him about the race.
To her surprise, he was really quite chatty. Slowly Clare began to try and manipulate the conversation but, no matter from what angle she approached it, he always seems to steer it back to a safe subject. Having failed to even establish whether there was already one lucky young lady in his life, eventually she gave up and asked him outright.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” she enquired.
“No, I have not” he replied, embarrassed and feeling very self-conscious; she wondered, for a moment, whether she had actually said something rude by mistake but reasoned maybe he was just a tiny bit shy with girls.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said, seductively. And just in case the tone and suggestive nature of her voice was not a big enough hint in itself, she gazed straight into his dark brown eyes, smiling from ear to ear. Actually, Clare had the most amazing smile: it seemed to run in the family. Her mother had it, even her geekie little sister had it, and no man alive could resist it; or so she was told.
Steven sat for a while, caught in a trance, facing Clare with his mouth and eyes wide open.
Clare waited; anticipating an imminent invitation to a date, or better still, maybe he would cut to the chase and jump straight in with a sensuous kiss; getting all excited, she fluttered her eyelids and almost started to pucker up her lips. Sadly it was all too much for Steven; initially overwhelmed, and a little shocked, he awoke from his trance, struck by fear, and broke eye contact in a flash.
Refusing to admit defeat, and believing she may not get another chance, Clare bit the bullet.
“Will you go out with me?” she asked, still smiling, bobbing and ducking her head in an attempt to re-establish eye contact again. Unfortunately, it was no use, as he seemed to have an endless supply of alternative places to look and he did so with all the vigour akin to it being a matter of life and death. Clare ran her fingers through her hair: maybe, she worried, it had grown into snakes and one brief glimpse of her eyes would turn him to stone.
“I can’t,” he responded, clearly unnerved by the experience, “we’re rivals really.”
“But you’re so cute!” Clare proclaimed, making a desperate last ditched attempt, by now experiencing the unpleasant feeling of rejection. As Steven jumped up onto his feet to escape, Clare continued, “please”, she whined, “I’ll do anything!” raising her voice as he moved away, “I’ll have your babies when I’m older!” Okay, maybe that was not quite the right thing to say.
“No,” he said with a nervous flutter in his voice, wandering away, leaving poor dejected Clare cast aside with only the view of his derrière for comfort. Mind you, she thought, it was a nice- blimey Jason, why hit the brakes so hard! She swerved across the track in avoidance and stomped the brake pedal with her foot. That was close and could have been a little embarrassing on the warm up lap.
Fourteen-year-old Jason was immediately in front of Clare, and positioned alongside her on the second row of the grid. He had the highest accident count of the season: not all necessarily his own fault, he was just a bit of a trouble magnet. It seemed that Jason got a little over excited by the whole racing thing and, as a result, tended to make mistakes that dropped him down the running order. Invariably this would lead to him tangling with others whilst trying to fight his way back to the front.
Without a doubt, Jason was one to be avoided; not only during the races, it would seem, but in the paddock too: he was a purveyor of diabolical chat-up lines and no girl was safe. To top it all, this adolescent bequest, from above to damsels everywhere, never stopped fussing over his hair and rumour had it that he raced with a comb in his pocket.
Sadly giving him a wide birth did not shield Clare from his carefully crafted snippets of modern English literature. Jason had her mobile phone number, which Clare unwittingly gave him during a moment of weakness earlier in the year, and he delivered by text message that which he could not deliver in person.
Jason’s chat-up lines were widely acknowledged to pack quite a punch; in fact, nothing produced a greater natural repulsive reaction from the female species. His wording was inspired, the hunter catching the hunted, descending his pray into a surreal state of dizziness before nausea set in.
These were the verbal equivalent of silently allowing potent gases to seep from one’s person in a crowded elevator; under no circumstances was Clare going to recall any, for fear they may then spread like a highly contagious epidemic destroying the souls of innocent young girls the world over.