Keep On Truckin
(sequel to IMYOR62)
Mack backed the trailer into the garage at Lightnings racing headquarters. The recently finished building stood a few miles outside of Radiator Springs. He let Vee out and the two drove back to town together in the dim light of late afternoon. Neither one said a word during the short drive back. The cool desert breeze carried the scent of sage and recent rain. Vee breathed it in deeply and sighed, happy to be home again.
They arrived at Flos to the usual cheers and congratulations reserved for every return from a race. Lightning was already there with Mater and Sally, telling his own version of what had happened at the track and forgetting that they had seen it on TV. Mack braked suddenly at the sight of his former boss parked beneath the awning.
how the heck did you beat us back? he demanded.
Duh, Im Lightning McQueen! the racecar replied with a smug grin. Sally rolled her eyes.
Mack smirked. Right. Of course. I take it that means you either fell out of the trailer or you worked my dad to death to hurry home. He looked around. Where is he, anyway?
Gaspar? I dunno. He was here a minute ago. Lightning also glanced around, but there was no sign of the older semi.
Vee parked beside Sally under the edge of the awning and Mack parked on her other side. The last rays of the sun faded like dying embers beyond the Cadillac Range just as the diners neon lights buzzed to life.
Sonia Alexas having a retirement party in Houston next month, Sally said as she turned toward Vee. Her sponsors giving her a big sendoff and all the racecars in the Piston Cup circuit are supposed to be invited. You going?
Vee shrugged. I doubt it. I mean, Ive never even met her. And I seriously doubt theyd put a rookie like me on the invite list.
Why not? They invited Stickers here.
Thats right! Lightning beamed proudly before he realized what Sally had meant. Hey!
If you do go, and if its not too much trouble, here Sally lowered her voice and moved closer to Vee, do you think you could get Dale Earnhardt Juniors autograph for me?
Well sure, I can try, but
isnt Lightning going to the party?
Yeah, he is, but hes not too crazy about Junior ever since he found out Im a big fan of his.
Thats cuz youre supposed to be MY fan! Lightning said with a pout.
Oh, suck it up, you big baby, Vee told him. Sally laughed.
Tia drove up just then and stood shuffling her tires as she waited for Mack and Vee to place their orders.
The usual, Mack told her. Tia nodded and looked at the Chrysler expectantly.
Oh, nothing for me, thanks, Vee murmured and waved her away with a tire.
The waitress looked her over. Still on that diet?
Tias lips curled in the smallest of smiles. You look good, she said, and in the split second before she turned and drove back to the café, Vee could tell by the look on her face that she had meant it.
Will you can the diet thing already? Mack grumbled. I tell you every day that you look great, but you never believe me!
I know, but theres a difference between dieting to stay thin and dieting to stay healthy, Vee reminded him.
And youre already both! At least have a quart of mineral oil. My treat. You just finished a two-hundred-lap race! Youve got to be hitting empty by now.
No thanks. Im good.
Mack shook his hood and sighed. I reeaaally dont want to have to take that nozzle there and cram it down your throat again.
Vee chuckled. All right, fine. Ill bum some of your oil, if thats okay.
Tia came back a minute later with Macks super-sized order. She was about to set it down in front of him when the sound of a diesel engine made her pause. A powder blue Mack Pinnacle truck sped past on the main street, followed shortly by a dark red Superliner with an out-of-tune engine.
Woo! Yeah, baby! shouted the red truck. There was a lusty gleam in his eye as he chased the blue truck. Come ere and give Big Daddy some of that sweet sugar!
Mack closed his eyes and sank low on his axles. Aw jeez. Not again, he groaned. Vee gave his tire a reassuring pat. The two big rigs rounded the corner and disappeared behind the diner, leaving behind a cloud of dust and the ringing sound of their laughter.
The din of conversation at Flos was hushed now; everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Seconds later, the twin roar of engines grew louder as the two semis reappeared from behind Flos after having circled the block. The blue one slowed as she pulled into the lot and drove toward Mack. The crimson truck just barely slowed down, if he slowed at all, and swept past Tia with such speed that she nearly spilled the oil she was holding. Mack caught it just in time.
Sheriffs beacon flashed as he pulled forward out of his spot between Doc and Sarge. Dagnab it, Gaspar! he huffed. I swear to Dodge this is your last warning about that!
Mack turned, very reluctantly, to find his parents now parked on the edge of the lot. The crimson truck had one tire hooked around the blue trucks tire and was pulling her close for a kiss. He stopped when Sheriff yelled at him and turned around. About what? he asked innocently. The speeding or -
Speeding AND public indecency! the squad car clarified, pulling up to him and shining his searchlight in his face. Gaspar squinted and backed away from his wife.
Thanks, Sheriff, said the blue truck. Her voice was deep but pleasant. I tell him no but all he hears is yes.
Thats all right. I aint blaming you, Midge, Sheriff replied. He kept his light on Gaspar, who was now trying to edge around the much smaller car and make a break for it. You, on the other tire
he glared up at the big truck, but said nothing more. He drove back to his spot, leaving the two semis alone. The blue one sighed and shook her hood, giving her husband a look to match Sheriffs. The two trucks drove off to find a parking spot.
Gaspar went over to Mack and slugged his fender. Ha! Didnt think your old mand beat ya home, didja? Mack growled and slugged him back, and the two fell into a little father-son wrestling match. It quickly ended in a stalemate in which each man had the other in what looked more like a loving embrace than a chokehold. They both chuckled, then let go of each other.
Midge drove up to Mack then and nuzzled her sons grille. Mack returned the gesture with a contented purr. Vee smiled. It always warmed her heart to see how close a family the Truckers were.
Macks mother parked across from them and settled on her axles. Beside her, Gaspar gingerly inched his way closer to her. When their sides touched he began to brush his tire against hers. Midge pointedly ignored him as she asked Vee how the race had gone.
Oh, not bad, she replied, her eyes on Gaspar. She tried not to smile at his attempts to rouse a response from his wife. The twins came out of the diner at the same time, one to collect Lightning and Sallys empty cups and one to take Midge and Gaspars orders.
Can I getcha anything? Mia asked the two trucks. Gaspar quickly withdrew his tire from Midges and grinned big at the little car.
Yeah, I think Ill have a couple gallons of coffee. Strong black. I have a feeling Im gonna be pulling another all-nighter. He winked at Midge, who rolled her eyes.
Gaspar lowered his voice. Oh, and how bout a double helping of Miata on the side? This time Mia rolled her eyes. Midge glared at him and he chuckled.
Im just kiddin, hun, he assured her. You know youre the only one fer me.
After the waitress left Gaspar promptly resumed caressing her tire, though she seemed more determined than ever not to respond.
Mm, thats right. Just keep ignorin me, babe, he purred. When I get you alone tonight you wont be able to ignore me, even if you wanted to. And you wont want to, I guarantee you that.
Midge pulled her tire away from him. Im sure I dont know what youre talking about, sir, she mumbled sarcastically.
Gaspar pressed closer to her. Oh yes you do!
Hmph! She turned her nose up and looked away.
Gaspar chuckled. Aw cmon, baby. Dont be like that. He hooked his tire around hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. Hey, whos my sexy lil Midget? Midge said nothing. Mack blushed and groaned. Lightning snickered.
Come ooooon, Gaspar prodded her. Whos my gal? He gave her big, pleading puppy dog eyes. She glanced back at him and smiled.
I am, she answered proudly, and allowed him to kiss her cheek.
Mack blushed darker than his dad and started to back out of his parking spot, but Vee caught his tire with hers and smiled up at him in a way that always managed to make him feel more at ease.
Ramone pulled into the lot just then and Flo came out of the diner to greet him. He gave her a peck on the cheek, then turned to survey the dinner crowd. He spotted the two semis nuzzling each other affectionately and grinned.
Hey, Big G! he addressed Gaspar. You still wanna get that tattoo for Valentines Day?
Midge turned to her husband with a look of surprise. What tattoo?
Gaspar blushed slightly and gave Ramone a dirty look. That was supposed to be a surprise! he growled through gritted teeth.
What tattoo? Midge demanded again.
Oh, its nothing, really, he murmured. I uh, I was just gonna get a little heart on my side here with your name in it. Thats all.
Ramone drove up to them. Hey man, dont forget the pinstripes! Remember, you said you wanted the Von Dutch style on your -
Gaspar waved a tire to silence him. I said it was a surprise! he growled again.
Ramone backed away and turned to face Mack and Vee. His impish grin returned. So what about you? he said. You two got plans for Valentines Day besides rockin the casbah?
Mack blushed and Vee chuckled. We do, she replied, but Mack wont tell me what they are. Will you? She looked up at the big rig with a seductive smirk. Mack was still blushing, though the smile he gave in return promised a very special Valentines Day indeed.
Chapter Three: [link]