6th of December –Season 3
Jim looked at his watch nervously. It was nearing 8 o'clock and he still had one customer to take care of before he could leave for Fuel. While he knew it was common restaurant courtesy to serve any customers still in the building after closing hours, surely this was pushing it. She'd been here for two hours already!
The woman sitting by her lonesome in the eating area was gorgeous with dark chocolate skin and a nice smile. Jim thought how much of a pleasure it would have been to get to know her better if he wasn't in a rush to get to Fuel. So he decided to do something he hated and went over to prompt her to finish and settle up.
“Hello, Miss. Is everything to your satisfaction?”
Jim missed the lady’s smile, hearing only the complaint. “What seems to be the problem?” said Jim, forgetting that he needed to close the place and instead remembering that the customer’s needs always came first.
“I came here because I had a craving but I’ve yet to satisfy that craving.”
This time Jim saw the flirty smile but resisted going from restaurant manager to playboy. “And what craving is that?”
The lady had been slowly making her way through her dessert which was an ice cream with a cherry on top. She seductively put the cherry in her mouth before pointing the stem at him. “You.”
Jim finally broke into a flirty smile of his own. “Well we can’t have that, now can we?” However, as soon as Jim sat down, the lady revealed herself.
“I’ve wanted to meet you ever since the first time I laid eyes on you. And since then, I’ve been very impressed with you.”
Jim didn’t lose his smile but he did dial back the playboy. “So you’re a fan of my work on Fuel?” She nodded. “Well, I hope to continue to entertain you.”
“Oh, I know you will. In fact, I hear that you have a reputation in other areas too. Legend has it that you’re entertaining there too.”
Jim still didn’t lose his smile. “If you’re speaking about my sexual prowess, then yes,” said Jim, unabashed about his reputation. “Unfortunately, just to be upfront, I don’t sleep with fans. Now, we’re about to close but you’re welcome to finish your meal and I implore you to take your time.” This was a mind game. Jim knew now that the lady wasn’t going to get what she was really looking for, she wouldn’t be sticking around.
True to Jim’s presumptions, not five minutes later, the lady was gone but not without leaving her number on the back of her receipt and throwing Jim a few more flirty looks, perhaps hoping that he’d remember her and change his mind. The irony was that Jim would remember her. She was gorgeous. But he wasn’t interested in complicating his life. He’d drawn a line between fans and lovers that he wouldn’t cross. As far as he was concerned, this would have been a huge step backwards.
AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY
Once Jim finally arrived at the paddock, the show was already on. The moment Glen spotted Jim, he shouted at him. “Kieck. Where the hell have you been!? You’re late.”
“Sorry Glen,” said Jim, trying to disarm the Club Vice President with a smile. “But chill out. It’s not like I’m in the opening race.” Glen gave him a stare that made it obvious that this was exactly the case. “Oh.”
“Oh? Jim, Moodswing is out there doing a middle-stage segment just to buy time for me to figure out what to do with our first race.”
“Oh crap,” said Jim, amending his statement. “Okay, well I’m here now. I’ll quickly go change and then get down there.”
“Not so fast. Your race,” Glen continued, “is ‘Pick-A-Partner’ and you’re the one that’s doing the picking for your team.”
Jim had heard of these races. They were meant to be relay races except dolled up in order to beef up a rivalry which made it obvious that the other picker would be Penny. “Well, who did Penny pick?”
“Savana,” said Glen, in a bit of a rush.
Jim made a face. “Savana, the new girl?” Jim couldn’t help but recall that she was hot.
“Yes, yes, the new girl,” said Glen. “Now if you’ll tell me who you pick, then we can get a move on.”
Jim thought for a moment then realized that there was nothing stopping him from choosing the biggest shark in the tank. “I choose Queen Stevie.”
Glen gave Jim a look, as to ask if he was being serious. When he saw that he was, Glen sighed, contemplating now having to find the Formula-X Queen and tell her that she wouldn’t in fact be getting a night off, and left. Meanwhile, Jim quickly got changed. As he changed, he listened to Moodswing’s monologue through the PA system as the crowd booed him about his explanations for his PPV bookings of the title races. And he wasn’t done.
“Many of you have called for me to explain why I added Touch Mkhize to the feature race for the F-X Crown at the Year-End Bash. Well, for one thing – and I’m sure you know me well enough to know this to be true – it makes for good television.” Moodswing went on to say that he was a fan at his core and didn’t want to see a rehash of something he’d seen before. He also name-checked his wife as inspiring the idea of monarchs being fighting champions.
Jim managed to finish getting dressed in lightning speed and was already making his way to the racetrack when Moodswing finished and found himself wondering if Moodswing had really said all of that off-the-cuff. It had felt rehearsed. Of course, how could he not be prepared on some level as all people had been talking about all week was how Queen Stevie went from having one opponent at the PPV – who had already earned her spot there – to having two when Moodswing had autocratically added Touch after Touch had goaded him. However, Jim didn’t have time to worry about all that because it was time to race.
Relay races were a strange concept for Jim because he didn’t understand their spot on any racecard. Sometimes they existed to give others something to do and other times they existed to further rivalries. As such, here Jim was and he was going to do his best to afford himself some momentum heading towards his race with Penny at the Year-End Bash.
As Jim waited for all of them to take their places, he couldn’t help but notice that he was surrounded by women. Wow, maybe this is a dynasty? First, there was Savana, who Jim saw would be taking the odd numbered laps for her team. Savana had only been in Formula-X for over a month but was already being touted as a future feature racer. And this race was certainly going to help with that.
And then there was Jim's rival, Penny Potgiter: the lady who started a dynasty this season and won the first-ever Speedway Derby. It was too bad that she failed to use her ‘speeding ticket’ to capture the Crown last week. While she’d said in an interview during the week that she was still proud of the dynasty she created, Jim sensed weakness which was why he’d challenged her.
And finally, there was the F-X Queen who had just signalled that she was okay with starting the race in order to allow Jim to get a piece of Penny and for the fandom to get their money’s worth. It had been a long road for Queen Stevie as well this season with the target on her back seemingly getting bigger as her reign continued. But she appeared to be growing through it, becoming more and more comfortable headlining events. So Jim was glad that he’d chosen her for his partner in this race.
The race felt like a hit from the word go. As Jim sat on the sidelines, watching the Queen do her work, he thought about his season so far. While he’d done some reflecting towards the end of the last season about whether he was taking all of this seriously, it was this season where he needed to show it. But had he done that so far? TAG! It was Lap 2 and Jim didn’t relent.
There had been no clear leader in the first lap meaning that Jim and Penny were neck and neck going into the lap. As Jim tried to get ahead of Penny, he thought about his rival and how defeating her next Sunday would propel him back towards the top. The lap ended with no clear leader as well. As Jim sat and watched again, he had to give kudos to Savana for being able to keep up with Queen Stevie who had two years more experience than her not to mention that she was at the top of her game.
The race continued in more or less the same fashion with no true leader on their side until Lap 13 when Queen Stevie finally showed why she was ‘The Diamond’ of F-X and pulled a brilliant move to take the lead. This allowed Jim to enter Lap 14 with the lead which he managed to hold onto.
The race continued on like this with the closest threat coming from Savana in Laps 17 and 19 who momentarily took the lead only for the Queen to garner it back before the end of the lap. It was a sweet cherry on the cake when Jim won the twentieth and final lap along with the race, defeating Penny to do it. Now it was on to the Year-End Bash.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Jim didn’t go home straight after his race. How could he when there was one race that he was looking forward to? It was another relay race except this one was a three-way race and it would quite literally feature all participants of the Formula-X Cup Race. After building this six-way PPV race for the better part of the season so far, it was clear that this was a big deal. However, before they got to tonight’s race, they needed to find out who the sixth racer was.
Moodswing went onto the middle-stage once again ahead of the feature race and announced Solo Magubane as the last participant of the race as the winner of the award for OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE AS FORMULA-X KING.
As Jim listened to the words by Moodswing, once again on the middle stage, Jim was joined by John Kloof who looked at the picture of a depressed man. “It makes you wish you’d worked harder throughout the year, doesn’t it?”
“It makes me wish they’d told us what we were working towards. Maybe we all would have been trying harder.”
John gave Jim a rare smile. “Well, there’s always next year. January is around the corner and with it comes the Scramble Race. Win that and you’re in next year’s Cup race.”
“Speaking of the Scramble Race, are you going to be able to compete what with The Big Boot out of commission?”
John shrugged his shoulders. “It doesn’t look good. And I can’t think of any other way of fixing it without borrowing the money for the repairs.”
Jim scoffed at his oldest rival. “Have you learnt nothing over the past three years, Kloof?” When John gave him a confused look, Jim planted the seed. “There’s one way to make the money you need. You win it.”
John was already shaking his head. “There’s no race, even on pay-per-view, which would pay enough for all that.”
“Oh, there is. But I’m going to let you figure that out.” They both left the conversation at that and instead enjoyed the feature race which saw friends and carpool buddies, Solo and Styles win the race. Watching the friends bond, made Jim think of rivals and how he’d settled things with John. Perhaps he had grown up; perhaps he was now ready to ascend to the top.