Keep On Truckin
(sequel to IMYOR62)
After the crash, Mack had been prohibited from going out onto the tracks to see Vee. "Authorized personnel only!" the officials had told him, regardless of his efforts to reason with them. How Doc had managed to gain clearance was beyond him. Nevertheless, the older car had literally raced out to the crash site, causing a sensation as eager onlookers, already in an uproar over the crash, cheered to see the racing legend momentarily back in action.
Mack's state of near-panic graduated to full-fledged horror as he watched the slow-motion instant replay of the crash and the events leading up to it. As Vee's crumpled form was tossed carelessly this way and that, shedding blood and oil and scraps of metal, the semi's insides felt as though they were experiencing the exact same thing. If a single coherent thought could have formed in his mind in those first nightmarish moments, it may very well have been "There is no worse feeling than this."
his best friend and his soul mate
and their baby
could very well die. Why his head didn't explode with the enormity of that realization, he had no idea. It was just too much to bear. Thinking was too much to bear. Merely existing was too much to bear. Why hadn't he just put his tire down and forbade her to race? Because he wasn't the type to boss anyone around, and Vee wasn't the type to do what she was told. He might have laughed at that answer if the situation hadn't been so dire.
Mack watched Vee being loaded into the back of an ambulance up on the big screen. Somehow, he had to find out which hospital they were taking her to, and he had to get there ASAP. If it wasn't already too late
"Mack!" Lightning was shouting to him from somewhere nearby.
Mack looked around and spotted the racecar rolling awkwardly into the pits. He rushed to meet him at the Rusteze station. His front left tire was flat, and there were scratches along his right flank from where he had sideswiped one of the wrecked cars. Mack noticed a dark smear on his cheek, like a mixture of oil and transmission fluid. Or blood. But he wasn't bleeding. And then there were the flecks of lavender paint on his ruined tire. Mack glanced up at the screen. Technicians were still working to clean up the debris. The twisted daggers of metal, the various fluids
some of which had come from Vee.
He grabbed the smaller vehicle and yanked him away from his pit crew. "You saw Vee? How is she? Is she alright? Is she conscious? Is the baby alright? TELL ME!"
"Whoa! Easy, Mack!" Lightning said as he pulled himself free of the semi's powerful grip. "Yes, I saw her, and no, she wasn't conscious." He hesitated for a moment before forcing himself to continue. "She
she didn't look good, Mack. Not good at all."
Mack's head spun with those words. He turned away, staring down at his hood, fighting back tears. Gaspar drove up to him and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He knew there wasn't a single thing he could say to help his son. Lightning sighed heavily, feeling guilty for not having been able to prevent the accident. He reluctantly returned to his pit crew to fix his tire.
"Hoo baby, I'm parched! Hey Buck, toss me a cold one quick. I gotta get back out there before the rest of these lemons."
Mack was driving toward the source of that voice even before he knew who it was. Chick coasted into the pits, not a dent on his entire body nor a care in the world, laughing. Laughing, while the most important person in Mack's life lie mangled in the back of an ambulance, put there by none other than Chick Hicks himself. It was astounding how something so very green could make a man see red.
Mack didn't care much for that Hicks character, never did. He had never approved of his aggressive racing tactics or his showboating arrogance. He cared for him even less when he learned that the love of his life shared a seedy past with the notorious racecar. But now... now he downright loathed him.
Chick never saw him coming. One moment he was idling leisurely in the pits, sipping chilled oil
the next moment he had the wind knocked out of him as he found himself skidding sideways twenty feet, spitting oil all the way.
"What the?" Before he could get another word out, Mack struck him again, knocking him clear off his tires. He rolled and landed upright. The truck was upon him again. Chick was shoved with crushing force against a wall. He tried to yell, but couldn't so much as squeak. He gasped for air that refused to enter his lungs.
"YOU BASTARD! YOU BASTARD!" Mack roared, slamming him against the wall repeatedly. Giant tires pummeled him left and right while an equally large grille kept him pinned to the wall. Stars exploded before Chick's eyes, the bitter taste of blood and break fluid filling his mouth.
Terrified screams filled the air as forklifts from various teams fled the vicinity. Several semis and pickups raced to intervene. Gaspar, who was nearest, got there first, followed immediately by another big rig. Both seized hold of Mack, but his blind fury could not be easily restrained.
"MACK!" Gaspar yelled, struggling with his son. "FOR DODGE SAKE, STOP! YOU'RE GONNA KILL HIM!"
Those words somehow managed to get through to the younger Trucker. He dropped Chick suddenly and backed away, staring down in horror at the half-crushed car. Blood, oil and antifreeze were smeared and splattered everywhere. Every inch of the stock car's body was covered in deep dents and scratches. He was barely clinging to consciousness as he looked up through black and swollen eyes at his attacker. Mack's tanks churned at the sight. 'Oh Chrysler, what have I done?'
A crowd was quickly starting to form, a din of engines and voices all around him, from shrill whispers to angry shouts. Several security personnel, mostly stocky SUV's, plus a few cars, came barreling onto the scene. Their take-charge demeanor visibly withered when they saw what Mack had done, and they approached the much larger vehicle with utmost caution. One particularly brave SUV instructed Gaspar and the other semi to "keep a firm grip on him" before reading him his rights.
Reporters and photographers oozed in through the gathering crowd, assaulting Mack and Chick with bright flashes of light and shouted questions. Few were courageous enough to get very close to Mack. Field medics pushed their way through next to get to the injured racecar. All of the ambulances were still busy out on the tracks. As the crowd and the uproar grew, Mack felt himself being pulled away from the chaos. A too-small parking boot was attached to his front right wheel, but he didn't even feel the pinch. He'd gone numb. His eyes glazed over until the barrage of lights and frantic cars became no more than a colorful haze. Words refused to form on his tongue, let alone in his mind. He'd gone numb. Numb, dumb, deaf and blind.
Gaspar and the other truck led him away from the scene, closely surrounded by security personnel. Mack did not resist. His father was saying something to him, but he couldn't hear the words. His grim tone said enough. Mack felt a sudden emptiness on his left side, and realized that his father was no longer there. If he hadn't been so utterly numb, he would have understood completely why he had had to let him go.
Gaspar turned away, blinking back tears as his pregnant daughter-in-law was taken to the hospital and his only son into police custody. He turned on his headset cell phone, hesitant. A state away, his wife and friends would be watching the race on TV. If he didn't call them, they'd be calling him. Any minute now.
Sure enough, he heard a ring. Without even waiting to hear who the call was from, he answered it. Midge's panicked voice filled his ears.
"Gaspar! I saw the crash! How is Vee? Is she alright? What's going on? Where's Mack? Is he okay? For Dodge sake, tell me what's happening!"
"Honey, calm down! They took Vee to the hospital. Doc went with her. I haven't had a chance to see her yet. It all happened so fast."
"What about the baby?" Midge demanded. "That crash looked really bad. She could have a miscarriage!"
Gaspar sighed. "I know, but
well, all we can do is pray. Vee's tough. I know she can pull through this. And the kid's half semi. That's a plus."
There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment. Gaspar didn't volunteer any more information, hoping to delay the inevitable for as long as possible.
"How's Mack taking it?" Midge asked quietly, and his tanks churned. If only someone else could tell her. But no. It was his burden to bear alone. His wife, his son, his burden.
"Not very well," he said after a pause. "He had a bit of a breakdown and he
" Gaspar cleared his throat, which had suddenly gone dry. All the moisture seemed to have gone to his eyes. "
took it out on Hicks."
"What do you mean?" Midge asked fearfully.
By this point he had to force himself to speak. "I mean he attacked him. Beat 'im up real bad."
Gaspar winced. "Yeah. Real bad. Hicks is pretty messed up. Looks like hell." He looked back at the scene he'd left behind. "They're loading 'im up in an ambulance now."
"Well that's I can't b where's Mack now?" Midge stammered, her voice raising in both pitch and decibel.
Gaspar refused to look in the direction they had taken his son. He sighed heavily, voice and eyes both brimming with tears that he managed (just barely) to control. "Arrested. He's goin' to jail."
Nothing that had happened that day hurt nearly as much as the sound of his wife crying over the phone. Her sorrow was loud and clear, yet she was so very far away. It pained him not to be able to hold her close and comfort her the way he so longed to do.
"I'm sorry, hun." After a long and weighty silence peppered by Midge's sobs, he spoke again. "Listen, I'm gonna go to the hospital now, check on Vee. Then I'm gonna go see what I can do about our son. I have a feeling I won't be home for a while, 'cuz I don't think either one of 'em will be released anytime soon. I don't wanna just up and leave 'em all alone here."
Midge sniffled. "I'm coming out there," she announced.
"No, honey. Don't. I'll handle it. You just stay home."
"I'm coming," she said again, with conviction. "It's our family, Gaspar. I want to be there."
Gaspar sighed. "All right. Lightning's staying at the Four Seasons on Beachfront. I'll meet you there when you get in, 'kay?"
"Okay. I should be there in three hours. I'm leaving right now."
Gaspar hung up, then looked down to see Lightning standing in front of him, his flat tire replaced. For a long moment the two men just stood there, exchanging solemn looks. There were a million things that either one could have said to the other, but the heavy silence did not break, even for an instant. Gaspar merely nodded, then turned and drove away, knowing full well that his friend would follow.
Chapter Fifteen: [link]
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A/N: I changed the title of the previous chapter because I forgot that that particular title was supposed to be used for an upcoming chapter.
P.S.: The title of this chapter is a pun on the word 'truck'. 'Truculence' is defined as "feeling or displaying ferocity; fierce; cruel; savagely brutal, aggressively hostile; belligerent."