22nd of March - Season 1
Lord, I love my job. That was the thought that ran through Toney Kunene's mind as she switched off her car and marvelled at the sight in front of her. She had just arrived at Engels Korta and was blown away by what she was looking at: it was a full blown festival! While she shouldn't have been surprised considering that the name of the event was Festival of the Fall, up until now, Formula-X had only been successful at putting on racing events with anything else being considered an after party and clearly weren't the focus of the night... unlike this.
As an F-X reporter, Toney had learnt how to observe, even when the F-X racers didn't want her to. So, she knew how much hard work that the Formula-X Racing Club Committee had put into this. She knew about how they'd contacted as many local food, arts & craft and entertainment companies as humanly possible to showcase their stuff at the event. There were so many vendors in fact that now, the place looked like it was the biggest flea market in the country.
"Wow, Ma. You work here?" Katty Kunene – as she preferred to be called – was Toney's sixteen-year-old daughter. She was also the reason that Toney had given up her career as a journalist back in her twenties and the most precious thing in Toney's life. She'd never regretted it and was overwhelmed when she was rewarded for her sacrifice with a second stab at her profession by coming to Formula-X.
"No, Katlego," answered Toney, "I work at the Fuel Speedway, the Old Airport." While Toney had tried to explain her job to her daughter, she'd found herself hardpressed as despite telling Katty, her ex-husband and all her friends that she was a reporter, in truth she was nothing but a glorified paparazzi. As such, she'd never invited Katty to an episode of Monday Night Fuel to watch her work.
"Okay, then what are we doing here?" Katty didn't notice her mother rolling her eyes as she'd been told about this before. "Wait," said Katty remembering, "is this that paper view thing you talked about?"
"Yes," said Toney, beaming from the idea that her daughter did listen when she spoke. "And it's pay-per-view. This one is called Festival of the Fall."
"Cool." Katty looked around at the hundreds upon hundreds of people there. In fact, she was sure that since this was only one section of the racecourse, there could be thousands upon thousands. "I've never seen the English Quarter like this."
Katty was right. Engels Korta – or the English Quarter, as it was originally known in the 20th Century – was an old part of the City of Ngelosi that was notable for its 1800s architecture which was still standing today. Frequently compared to New Orleans' French Quarter (which would go on to inspire its name), the neighborhood was first built in the early 20th century around the time of the Great War and has since been lauded for its priceless historical value hence why not a single building has been demolished or changed in a hundred years... only internally modified.
While the neighborhood had all the usual infrastructure to be considered a town – restaurants, houses, police station, fire station, post office, library, sports grounds and churches, its call to fame was its giant circular town square which was so iconic, that when it came time to upgrade the infrastructure of Engels Korta by introducing main roads, the main road through the neighborhood went around the circled square. And it was on that road that part of the P.P.V. racetrack went through Engels Korta.
Toney and Katty were suddenly interrupted by a young Colored girl Katty's age who greeted Katty with a smile. "Hey Katty. Hey Missus Kunene."
"It's just Toney, Teresa. How are you?"
"I'm great." Teresa then immediately took Katty by the hand, clearly having come for her. "He's here," said Teresa excitedly. "He's on the racetrack right now."
"Yes. He's the opening race. Come on, let's go."
"Who are you girls talking about?" asked Toney, ever the concerned mother.
"Ssshh," said Teresa. She looked at Toney. "It's not a crush," she lied. She turned back to Katty. "Now come on," she said finally dragging Katty away.
"Don't forget to keep your phone on you at all times young lady!" Toney rolled her eyes at the girls being girls. She wondered who Brenda's youngest sister could possibly be crushing on. None of the racers looked young enough for her. I guess the only way to find out would be to watch the opening race.
JUAN VAN ZONDER vs. STYLES SITHOLE vs. TOUCH MKHIZE
Armed with her smartphone and... only her smartphone since journalism had become so sophisticated since the nineties that reporters only needed one device to take photos, write down notes and record conversations, Toney used her special access to go into the pit lane and take candid shots of the race as it kicked off the show. There were four of them currently in the pit lane, each hungry to get the inside track on the latest scoop.
Sherry Detweiler, while known for her ability to be something of a bombshell while also adorable with her rosy cheeks and dimply smile was actually as ruthless as they came when it came to journalism. She was responsible for the most scandalous articles in the Formula-X newsletter including basically every article in "The Rumor Mill" article series. She had been the one to warp the rivalry between John Kloof and Jim Kieck into one of infidelity. She was currently speaking to Touch Mkhize's team.
Belinda Baartjies was another fellow F-X reporter who was the youngest of all them at 38 years old. And she was also the most serious. Unlike Sherry and Toney herself, who had gotten the job because Moodswing was willing to accept older people with gaps in their resumes, Belinda had a vast amount of experience. In fact, Belinda had peaked very young and became Editor-in-Chief of a popular Cape Town newspaper at the age of 24 and held the position for 13 years, eventually leaving because the job wasn't fun anymore. Formula-X fit the bill of fun for her. So it wasn't shocking that she had written most of the headlining articles in the newsletter. While there was no such thing as Chief Editors in Formula-X, if there was, Belinda would be first in line for the job. She was currently talking to Styles Sithole's team.
The fourth and final member of the team, besides Geeza Gabashe who exclusively did Winner's Circle interviews and the Q&A section of the newsletter, was Wikus Rothschild who, despite having a name that wouldn't be out of place for a comic book villain, was probably the most noble of them all and the most open to working together. He was the one guy who would willingly give a story to one of them if he felt they were better suited to writing it up. Just like Belinda, Sherry and Toney herself, Wikus was quite good-looking for a man pushing fifty. He was currently talking to JVZ's team.
Realizing that she wasn't going to be able to break any story on this race with the others having already gotten the jump on all the avenues of investigation, Toney decided to move on, but not before taking some pictures. One picture she took showed Katty and Teresa Koek in the background holding up a colorful sign with the letters JVZ written on them. Toney rolled her eyes, realizing that she no longer had to guess who Teresa's crush was on.
SOLO MAGUBANE vs. JOHN KLOOF vs. DARCY STEVENS
After taking a look at the racecard and seeing who was next up, Toney made her way to the paddock where Solo, Kloof and Stevie were waiting to take to the racetrack. Toney smiled as she realized that she had the pick of the litter with this one. All three of them had a story to tell.
There was Solo Magubane – the only racer in the series to participate in Auto 1: the biggest open-wheel racing series on the continent of Africa. Toney could see herself writing an article about how Solo would love nothing more than to return to Auto 1 as Formula-X King and how rewarding it would be as he'd been wanting the Throne since he arrived. Yet, as Toney thought about it, something about the article felt... repetitive.
Then there was John Kloof – the family man who'd gone through so much to get to this point, right here in this high profile P.P.V. race where he was sharing the racetrack with bona fide feature-racers. Unfortunately, as Toney used her expert powers of observation, she saw that Kloof wasn't alone here today as his young daughter ran into his arms followed by his wife Debra who gave her husband a kiss. It was a beautiful thing to watch after seeing the turmoil they'd been through earlier in the season. No, Toney wasn't going to bother them and their family time. They deserved it.
Lastly, there was Darcy Stevens – who was currently buzzing from the news revealed by Geeza that she'd recently aligned herself with 'The Impaler' and former Formula-X King, Thawn Oberhauser. Man, now there was a story waiting to be told and there were so many angles? Conspiracy: was Thawn just using Stevie to wriggle is way back onto the line of succession? Blackmail: was Stevie being forced to work with Thawn and do his bidding? Romance: were Thawn and Stevie sleeping together? Remembering that Stevie was nineteen, Toney shivered just from the thought. In fact, all three angles were giving her the creeps and she realized that whatever that story was, perhaps Sherry was the better person to tell it. It was time to move on.
PENNY, DUCHESS OF DRAG vs. DIME
By the time that Toney had located Penny Potgieter and Dime, the second race had begun which meant that if she wanted to interview either Penny or Dime, then she would only have the duration of the Magubane/Kloof/Stevens race to do it. Unfortunately, Toney was distracted by Geeza who was taking a break from the Winner's Circle.
"Hey Toney. Don't you look lovely."
Toney blushed. She should be used to this by now. Geeza was always flirting with her. Toney was too polite to tell him that she wasn't interested in getting involved with anyone or in anything... not while she still had a teenager to raise. "Hey, Geeza."
"How you enjoying the festival so far?"
Toney shrugged. "I haven't really," she said honestly. She lifted her phone to indicate the reason. "Working."
"Trust me, I know the feeling. But I think that I could make your job a little easier." Before Toney could ask what he was talking about, Geeza handed her his phone. "Check these out."
Toney took the phone which had the gallery app open and a photo on the screen. Toney's jaw dropped when she saw a picture of Thawn and his ex-girlfriend, Rebecca Msomi talking casually. This was noteworthy because Rebecca had infamously cheated on Thawn with Jim Kieck at the V-Day Ball at Heart-Attack. By the looks of the picture, it had been taken here, somewhere crowded.
"When did you take this?"
"When I got here. But that's not the most interesting part."
"I'm not sure I want to know the most interesting part, Geeza. You know I'm not interested in scandalous stories, especially if they're going to wreck relationships." This was a moral rule she'd created herself, having never really gotten over the things that had ended her marriage.
"Yeah, I know but that's just the thing. This won't. Check out the next picture." Toney did as she was told and her jaw dropped again when she saw a picture of Jim Kieck making out with another woman behind the festival stage. "You see, you wouldn't be breaking up anyone because I think these guys are already cheating on each other."
While Toney was definitely more interested now, she still didn't feel right about reporting on scandal. She looked at Geeza. "You do know that I'm the investigative journalist between us, right?" she said playfully. "Why are you taking candids of people?"
Geeza shrugged, smiling. "Just being helpful, I guess."
By the time they'd finished talking, Penny and Dime were gone, making their way to the racetrack for their race. "Well your timing could have been better. I was gonna interview one of them for my next story."
Geeza scoffed. "Argh no, those two are old news," he said dismissively.
Toney realized that Geeza wasn't wrong. Penny brought Dime into the series as her partner. They failed to win the Relay Baron titles. Penny would go on to become Duchess of Drag. Dime got jealous, turned on her, came out of the closet, challenged her for the title and Penny got herself suspended for punching him. This was the return race. The story had pretty much been told in full. Toney was willing to let one of the others report on this one. Toney needed something fresh.
KING MANDLA XULU vs. JIM KIECK
By the time the feature race rolled around, Toney realized that if she wanted a good story that would speak to her, it wasn't going to be on the races, which was a good thing because Sherry, Belinda and Wikus were all over them. And they could take them if they wanted to. Toney, instead, was going to do something she hadn't done in a long time, which was going to enjoy the feature race as a spectator.
She found herself immediately rooting for King Mandla. While she hadn't told soul (and never would), she had a secret crush on Mandla. There was just something about a confident, good looking and strong Zulu man that she couldn't resist. To Toney, Mandla was like Shaka Zulu reincarnated... He just oozed boldness. So she couldn't dare root against him. She wanted him to win. And after seeing what Jim had been up to earlier today, she wanted nothing more than for Mandla to whoop his ass and leave it in the dust.
As an F-X reporter, Toney knew a little more than the audience as to what was really at stake in this race. For both of these competitors, there was a good chance that if they won, that they would be leading the way on the road to The Formula-X Grand Prix. While it was meant to be a secret, Sherry had discovered and revealed that the committee was planning an epic marketing campaign for the eight weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. And the face of that campaign would be none other than the Formula-X King. And even though there was still another P.P.V. to go before the Grand Prix after this one, there was a good chance that whomever came out of Festival of the Fall as King would continue to be the face of the campaign right through to the Grand Prix.
So when King Mandla came out on top, Toney cheered along with the rest of the fans, believing that the right person was not only on top of the food chain but also the face of the franchise heading towards the biggest event of the year.
AT THE FESTIVAL
With Katty still enjoying the festival with her friend, Toney decided to walk the English Quarter and was surprised by just how far the committee had gone to put on a good show. They had deliberately asked that the food and arts & craft vendors make use of the circular town square and told them that they had a plan to get the people there. True to their word, the committee had set up a parade for the F-X racers to be brought on floats down the main street through the neighborhood and right into the square.
It was a brilliant move as the parade had successfully driven fans that were on the other side of the race track right into the heart of the festival where they would eat, buy and be entertained. Before, Toney had believed that the committee had asked too many vendors of the same kind to participate. But now, seeing the thousands upon thousands of people filling up the neighborhood, Toney realized that they'd done their homework. In fact, the brilliance of how they'd set up the food, arts and entertainment could not be downplayed. It dawned on Toney what her next article was going to be about.
As the gathered crowd enjoyed the splendors of the musical entertainment on stage, Toney began interviewing some of the vendors, trying to discern whether they'd made any profits. Every single one of them reported no less than two hundred percent profit and praised the event for bringing in massive amounts of business. To bring it home, Toney lastly interviewed the 21-year-old Club Committee's Events Officer who seemed to be incapable of standing still as she continued to organise things. Despite the enormous amount of stress she was under, Ellie also reported the overwhelming success of the event and claimed to be happy despite the all the work as she felt it was good practise for The Formula-X Grand Prix.
By the end of the night, Toney had reunited with her daughter who was as happy as she was. "So, how was it?"
"Ma, you have the best job in the world."
Toney's eyes almost watered from the praise. "That's good. Did Jay-Vee-Zed losing his race not put a damper on Teresa," said Toney, teasing Katty about knowing their secret.
"Argh no. In fact, I don't even think she noticed that he lost. She has full-on gu-gu eyes seeing him. In fact," said Katty, sniggering, "she wanted me to ask you if you could arrange some sort of meet and greet with him."
Toney rolled her eyes."Listen here," she said playfully. "I'm not going help turn the poor girl into a stalker. But if she wants to meet him so badly, there's going to be a fan convention in a couple of weeks. She can meet him there." The fan convention was another part of the epic marketing campaign for the Grand Prix.
"Cool," said Katty already texting the info to Teresa, "she's gonna love that." Done texting, Katty turned to her mother. "Otherwise, how was work? Just another day at the office?"
Toney smiled. "Yep, another day at the office." But what a day it was. Lord, I really, really love this job.