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Fuel Season 1: Episode 4: Playing with Fire

When you play with fire, you're gonna get burnt... or will you? Find out tonight

Match Race: a contest that pits two opponents in one-on-one competition in a sport where there are ordinarily more than two opponents in a race.

23rd of September - Season 1

Bang! The slap stung, sending searing pain through his face. But as Jim Kieck stood there on the receiving side of this “assault”, he couldn’t help but think, okay, I deserved that one. He wanted to smile at the turn of events but didn’t. He knew better. He’d been here before and things usually went smoother if he acted just as disappointed in the turn of events as she was.

The Playboy, they called him. Well, there was a reason for that. Jim was currently standing in front of a very angry woman. The reason she was angry was because it was time for them to part ways. They’d only been dating for a couple of days; they’d had some fun... lots of fun but it was over. He would have felt guilty about the whole thing; he used to feel guilty in the early days; but not anymore. Why would he? He was always upfront about being completely uninterested in commitment. Furthermore, when it came to who pursued whom, he’d played the pursued far more often than the pursuer.

Yes, Jim had been with a lot of women but there was a rule he had that he’d never break: he never pursued married women. No, Jim had an appreciation for marriage. He was one of those guys that believed wedlock was like an actual lock: a device designed to keep those inside, in and those on the outside, out. Yes, Jim whole-heartedly believed in the sanctity of marriage, so he had no interest in wrecking any homes. So, it was ironic that he was currently being accused of exactly that by Formula-X fans and racers alike.

Indeed, Jim woke up every morning this week to the Formula-X Twitter feed saying something or the other about what was going on between him and John Kloof. John Kloof, driver of The Big Boot: mechanic by day and F-X racer by night; a man only interested in making some extra cash to provide for his family. His story was definitely a touching one. Perhaps that was why everyone was on his back for what happened between the two of them last week.

The racers themselves had been far less vocal about it compared to the thousands of fans… except Touch Mkhize. Lord, did that man have a mouth on him, Jim thought. Jim had said as much on Twitter when Touch would comment on something or someone unnecessarily. But The Moyeni driver was harmless compared to the fans. They were the ones out for blood; adding fuel to the fire, accusing Jim of far more than he’d actually done (which was debatable in the first place). But lucky for Jim, he only had to deal with the drama of the Fuel Speedway on Monday nights... which was tonight.

Similar to most of the F-X racers, Jim had a day job for the rest of the week that kept him occupied. He was a restaurant owner. Kieck’s Diner: a small chain of restaurants scatted across the Island Province of Azania. While he’d been involved with the chain of restaurants for over a decade, he’d only inherited them from his father five years ago when he got his Commerce degree from Ngelosi City University. Truthfully speaking, his father could have handed the keys to him when he was eighteen but no, he wanted him to get a qualification first. While Jim tried to become a chef, he found that his cooking... left something to be desired. Luckily enough, his hospitality skills were off the charts, top of the class. Some even believed that if he went into the hotel business, he could make a killing with his charm alone. But instead, Jim used his charm to get into trouble. While he ran Kieck’s like a well-oiled machine, his charm combined with meeting new people every day and his appreciation for beautiful women with a sexy smile allowed him to earn the nickname “The Playboy” very easily.

Following his well-rehearsed break up with his most recent fling and a good day at the diner, Jim made his way to the Fuel Speedway. As Jim made his way to the paddock area, he could see the fans looking at him, judging him but he ignored them. When he got to his team, they had just finished preparing The Kissed-Off: his red and black vehicle. He was excited every time he saw it. Every time he got in it; he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have this job. But his thoughts were interrupted when the tough-looking but pretty Penny Potgieter approached him.

“About time you got here,” she said. “Have you seen the racecard yet?” When Jim shook his head, Penny handed the small piece of paper to him.


Touch Mkhize (The Moyeni) Drag Demonstration

Jim Kieck (The Kissed-Off) vs. Penny Potgieter (The Dollar Coin)

Thawn Oberhauser (The Devil’s Advocate) vs. Brenda Koek (The Amazing Grace)

Solo Magubane (The Abominable Seduction) vs. Styles Sithole (The Cursed Conundrum)


Second race of the night, thought Jim. I guess I can’t complain. Last 2 racers should feature the 2 Tourney finalists. “Hmm, Solo and Thawn are facing each other’s first opponents from 3 weeks ago.”

Penny rolled her eyes. “That’s not the takeaway here, Playboy.” She pointed at the paper. “We are facing each other.” Jim shrugged at her comment. “After the next race.” On cue, the crowd roared as presumably Touch made his way out onto the asphalt. It was clear that Jim was distracted as Penny picked up on it. “I hope you’re going to give it your all tonight. Me kicking your ass means nothing if I don’t do it while you’re at the top of your game.”

That got Jim’s attention. “Well, I wouldn’t worry about that, Penny. You won’t be kicking any ass tonight.”

But Penny still wasn't buying it, squinting her eyes. “So, is it true? Were you really checking out Kloof’swife?”

Here we go. “That’s not what happened.”

But she wasn’t buying that. “Hey, I wouldn’t blame you, Playboy. She is quite the looker. And you do have quite the reputation.”

Jim gave her a hard look. While Jim wasn’t easily insulted, that definitely touched a nerve, considering the rule he had. It was worse because that’s not even what happened. It was in the Winner’s Circle last week where Jim had simply remarked that Kloof was a lucky man to have such a beautiful wife. It was him who completely misunderstood. But at least he had a reason to give him grief. Unlike Penny here. No, he was just going to have to give her a piece of his mind.



As Jim sped around the speedway at 200km/h, he couldn’t help but wonder about the capacity crowd. While they had been on his mind since last week, what with the “controversy” and all, at the moment he was just wondering why they weren’t cheering (or even booing). They’d been cheering for Touch just a few minutes ago and he didn’t even have an opponent, thought Jim. But then again, Touch had also started some beef with Darcy Stevens on social media over her drag race demonstration last week so there was a vested interest in what he was doing. It seemed these people only take high interest when there’s drama.

As Jim tapped his brakes coming towards the bend, he watched his rearview mirror to see what Penny was up to. He had to admit it: Penny was a pretty good driver and not just for a woman but overall. She was doing everything she was supposed to as the attacking driver: putting pressure at the bends; playing with his blind spots in the stretches. So, it was no surprise when she managed to come side by side with him going into the second half of the race.

Jim had the inside lane which meant he had the advantage going into the bends. But that wouldn’t matter if she got ahead of him. Jim’s jaw tightened as he focused on every little move she made and every twitch he made in return. He watched the road as all the markings blurred past him. Their wheels were closer than Jim would have liked as just one move, one twitch could turn this into a horrific accident... but that was the job.

Unfortunately, Jim watched in despair as Penny pulled away by inches in the last lap, turning her lead into a victory at Jim’s expense. It took this loss to realize that perhaps Penny had been right: he hadn’t given it his all. His head had just not been in the right frame of mind. Jim’s mind had been on everything else that was going on... John Kloof, these people blaming him for things. But perhaps if he just spoke to Kloof and explained that he hadn’t been checking out his wife then this would all...

Unfortunately, just as Jim took off his helmet and looked up, he realized that none of this was going away. At least not any time soon. Right up there on the big screen was Moodswing holding a microphone in his hands. It was his smile that made Jim know that this was about to get pear-shaped for him. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to announce that due to ongoing feedback from you, the fans and demand for the race, The Playboy, Jim Kieck will take on his partner from last week, John Kloof in a ten lap match race at Formula-X’s first pay-per-view, Arbour Games.”

While Jim stood there for a moment, contemplating what happened, he wondered if this was as bad as it seemed. It was just a race, wasn’t it? But then Jim turned around only to see none other than John Kloof locking eyes with him all the way from in front of the paddock area. He wasn’t on the racecard tonight meaning that the only reason he was here, this close to the racetrack, at this particular moment... was for him. No, this was far from over between the two of them.

Jim only had one word to say. “$#!t.”

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

Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
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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