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Fuel Season 1: Episode 11: Stakes of the Derby

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

After hitting the boiling point last week, Kloof and Kieck lay their stakes for the upcoming Derby

In Formula-X, skill is only half the game. If one wants to make it to the top, they need both skill AND popularity.

13th of November – Season 1

The One Kilometer Derby: that was what Glen had called it last week, Jim remembered. While he’d kept it to himself at the time, Jim had to go and look up what a derby was because he’d only ever heard it used to describe soccer matches and horse races. When he found out what it was, he was surprised to find that the term worked well for their upcoming race by both definitions in sport, it was used to describe any rivalry between two local sides while the design of the race was a clear nod to horse racing derbies.

Currently, Jim Kieck was standing next to a female F-X reporter in front of a cameraman in the paddock area trying very hard not to put weight on his sprained ankle which was still healing from his fall from last week. A few meters from him was John Kloof standing with his wife, waiting for Jim to complete his interview so that he could do his. Both Kloof and his wife wore the same look of intense loathing on their faces.

“So, Jim. As explained by the F-X Racing Club Vice President, Glenwood Jacobs last week, the One Kilometer Derby is a contest that’s raced for stakes. This means, that both you and your opponent must stipulate something that you will give up, lose, or cause you disbenefit if you lose this race. So, to that end, what will you be putting up?”

Jim hesitated before answering. “Well Sherry, I’ve thought a lot about this and the one thing right now that I couldn’t stand losing and would cause me a lot of disbenefit, as you call it, would be to not go on a date of any kind for the next four months.”

As they were standing in the paddock area, the other F-X racers were listening to the interview live and started murmuring while in the distant background, watching on the big screens, the live audience in the stands reacted with murmurs of their own creating  a loud hushing sound.

“Wow,” said Sherry. “I guess for anyone else that would be child’s play. But, for you, this does seem like a sacrifice.”

Jim gave the pretty 40-year-old reporter a smile. “It’s been almost three months that you and all these people have known me. I think you know how much I love my female companionship. So, believe me when I tell you, if I lose this race, I’m going to be a very frustrated man leaving behind a slew of very heartbroken women.”

Kloof made a loud noise that was clearly meant to voice is disapproval. Sherry swiftly walked over to him and got her mic under his chin. “You see, this, this, is why I don’t like this guy," said Kloof. "It’s not because he’s chasing after Deb. No, that’s just shoddy journalism. It’s this. He treats women like their his play things.”

Jim scoffed. “So are you saying it’s wrong to have a high appreciation for God’s good work.” Jim had to speak loudly now that the microphone was no longer near him.

Kloof simply shook his head. “You’re a disgrace to all men you know that.”

Sherry, doing her job effectively, ended the short but heated argument by asking what Kloof would be putting up. “Well, to tell you the truth, Sherry, I haven’t actually come to a decision as to what I’ll be staking.”

“Well I’m shocked,” said Jim. “There’s no surprise there. I mean, if I knew that I’d be losing this one kay-em derby too, I’d probably also be stumped. I mean, I’ve beaten you twice which means whatever you name as your stake is basically you saying what you’re going to lose that at the pay-per-view.”

“Me.” It was Debra Kloof that had spoken the words. Jim had barely noticed her fuming quietly, standing next to Kloof. “You want to know what John will be staking for the derby: it’s me.”

The silence that followed could have appropriately been named the calm before the storm because everyone fell silent, from the other racers to the live audience watching. Jim knew he had to ask the question, but he was afraid to. It was just one word, but he knew once he asked it, he’d only hear this insanity again. But he asked anyway. “What?”

The look on Debra’s face clearly showed that she was second-guessing herself but she stuck to her guns and elaborated. “If you beat my husband at the next pay-per-view, then I will go on one date with you.”

Jim suddenly felt sick. There was a bad taste in his mouth. He legitimately thought he was going to throw up. What the hell was he hearing? What wife, in the history of the world, put herself up as a prize in a race… with her husband standing right next to her! But that wasn’t the biggest gripe that Jim had with what he was hearing right now. He was more concerned with his rule.

Jim only had one rule when it came to the numerous relationships he had in his life with the opposite sex. Just one rule: no married women. He never dated them, never slept with them, never even looked at them. As far as Jim was concerned, the moment he saw a wedding band, that women – no matter how drop-dead gorgeous – might as well have dropped dead for real. He never pursued the betrothed. And yet here he was, standing in front of a woman and her man, discussing going on a date with her.

“No,” said Jim, adamantly. “No way. I’m not doing this.”

“First of all, relax Playboy. Get your mind out of the gutter because nothing that you’re thinking would happen on that date. There wouldn’t be any falling in love or making of it." Deb took note of ho this visibly confused the womanizing Jim. "Second of all, if I read the rules correctly, you can’t dictate the other racer’s stake. All of that said, you’re not going to win.”

While Jim felt a little bit better – albeit still confused as to how that constituted a date – he was still very much uncomfortable. How would this look to the fans if or when he won? Wouldn’t it be like he was making her his love slave or something? “You can’t be serious.”

Unfortunately for Jim, when Sherry did her job this time, she made the situation worse not better. “If that’s your final decision,” she said watching Deb nod, locking in Kloof’s stake, “then we have ourselves a derby.”

As Sherry walked away, absolutely glowing from all the juicy elements of the interview she’d just had, Jim looked at Kloof and noticed that he was still looking at his wife. He’d been looking at her since the moment she’d spoken and put herself up as a prize. The expression on his face, frozen in place as if incapable of putting a stop to all of it. That expression, was the same one that everyone had: shock.

 

LATER IN GLEN’S OFFICE

As Jim waited in the waiting room area of Glen’s office, he listened to the conversation that Glen was having with Brenda Koek who still wanted a piece of Penny Potgieter after her betrayal a month ago. The conversation went back and forth until Moodswing walked past him and into the office and offered Brenda a consolation prize. He told her that Brenda vs. Penny was still a stale affair but Brenda vs. Penny vs. Touch for the new Duke (or Duchess) of Drag title was a whole different story. Moodswing – ever the smooth talker – sealed the deal by saying that the build-up to the race would give her what she wanted: a match race with Penny next week. Brenda agreed on the spot. But before Brenda left, Moodswing told her that in order to get to Penny next week, she’d have to beat Touch this week and that her race was next.

As Brenda bolted from the office to go prepare for her race, Glen called Jim in like a doctor calling for the next patient. When he walked in, Moodswing was going over the night’s racecard. “King Thawn vs. Styles Sithole, check. Dime vs. Latitude, check. Up next: Brenda Koek vs. Touch Mkhize followed by the feature race of the night: Solo Magubane vs. Darcy Stevens.”

“Don’t forget about the contract signing for him and John,” said Glen, referring to Jim.

Jim had forgotten that him and Kloof still had to go onto the stage out in the infield and sign the contract for the One Kilometer Derby in front of the live audience.”

Moodswing snapped his finger and pointed it. “Oh yes. And that goes before the feature race.”  He turned to Jim. “If it isn’t the Playboy. What can we do for you, Mister Kieck?”

“Actually, it’s about that One Kilometer Derby,” said Jim, wearingly. “I don’t think I can go through with it.”

“Why not?” asked Moodswing.

“Because it’s wrong,” said Jim as if it were obvious.

Instead of showing understanding, Moodswing smiled. “It’s not wrong. It’s sports entertainment.” He then took Jim by the shoulder as he led him out of the office, away from Glen like a man closing a deal. “Jim, you’re looking at this all wrong. You’re taking this all in like it’s a documentary. Like what you’re seeing, what you’re experiencing is factual or absolute. But it’s not. This is a reality show. Our job,” he said before emphasizing, “your job, is to put on a show. So go put on a show.”

“But Moodswing…” started Jim.

“You can say no to this One Kilometer Derby. But if you do, it will negatively affect your racing career in this series. So, before you make up your mind, ask yourself this: do you want to be Formula-X King one day?”

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

In the end, Jim had gotten up on stage and signed the contract. He’d decided to put his career ahead of whatever misguided moral crisis he was having. But whatever doubt he had faded completely when Kloof had joined him too. Because it occurred to Jim that Kloof must have had the same moral dilemma as him and questioned going through with this too. Yet, here he was signing the contract. Because he knew the good this race could do for his career. Of course, he’d have to win to gain anything. And Jim was going to make certain that he didn’t.

After the contract signing, Jim went back to the paddock to watch Solo and Stevie face off in the feature race. It was a beautiful race that showcased why these two deserved to the main event of the night. The Diamond in the Rough managed to lead the first half of the race before The Franchise executed a beautiful overtake in the 10th Lap. With a whole 5 laps to go from there, there was still plenty to look out for. And true to that note, Stevie took her lead back in the opening seconds of the final lap, with the crowd on their feet, cheering her name. However, Solo did the unthinkable when he made the final overtake halfway through the lap and took the race.

Jim took note of the crowd’s cheers. While they had been cheering for Stevie, they had also been cheering for Solo. As it turned out, when both racers were fan favorites, the crowd didn’t care to pick sides. Then again, everyone looked like a fan favorite next to the F-X King. Jim turned to catch a glimpse of King Thawn, who held his Crown under his arm, smiling at what he’d just seen. He’d also been watching the race and why not. Solo and Stevie currently held the honor of being the top claimants for his Title.

Jim wondered if he’d ever get there himself one day. Number One Claimant. He’d mentioned to Brenda how weird the term was last week, but now, after chatting to Moodswing about how this One KM Derby could boost his career, he was liking the expression more and more. He’d never admitted it until now, but he wanted that title. He wanted it badly. But if he was going to get it any time soon, then he was going to have to go through John Kloof, his wife’s insanity be damned.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All stories are Copyright © 2016-2020 by S.T. Kubheka (also known by the pseudonym Bernard "Beesting" Bayede). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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