Gail had been Alex Krol’s girl since high school. She fell for him before she learned that he risked his life on dirt tracks during the summer months to the delight of the fans who paid to see cars crash—the more spectacular the wreck, the taller they stood on their toes and craned their necks to see the carnage. When Alex makes his dream to drive in the Indy 500 come true and he witnesses the death of two drivers in his first start, he must ask himself if his quest to win the world’s greatest race is worth not only the physical risk, but also losing the woman he loves.
“I’ve never danced with a boy before,” Gail whispered in my ear as the band played “Goodnite Sweetheart Goodnite,” a Spaniels song that was popular. I couldn’t believe how wonderful Gail felt in my embrace.
“That’s okay,” I said, “I haven’t either.”
Gail laughed, the sound tuneful.
“You’re funny,” she said.
“Well, looks aren’t everything.”
“No, they’re not.”
“Although I have to say, you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.”
When the song came to an end, we made our way to the punch bowl.
“You know,” Gail said after taking a sip, “you’re my first date.”
“Not to call you a liar, but I find that hard to believe.”
“Oh, I’ve been asked once or twice.”
“Only once or twice?”
“Okay, several times. But I’m very choosy.”
“Huh,”I said, with a grin. “And here I thought I’d done the choosing.”
“I could’ve chosen to turn you down, you know.”
“True enough. So how come you said ‘yes’?”
Gail blushed and looked down.
“Oh, my… Be still, my beating heart,” I said. “Do you do that often?”
“What?”she asked, looking up at me again.
She rolled her eyes and said, “Unfortunately, yes.”
“Well, I think it suits you. I hope it’s something you’ll do only for me.”
Gail smiled and blushed a deeper shade. I came to her rescue – that’s who I was in my youth, a rescuer.
“So why did you say ‘yes’?”
“Promise me you won’t laugh?”
“Scout’s honor,” I said, holding up my right hand, palm out.
“I liked the way you looked at me yesterday when you asked.”
“How was I supposed to look at you?”
“I’m not expressing myself well.”
“That’s okay; I have that effect on people.”
Gail laughed. “I imagine you do.” And then, “It was obvious when you looked at me that y’all liked what you saw. But you were respectful.”
“Why wouldn’t I be respectful?”
“You didn’t leer at me.”
“Oh. My turn to apologize. Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake.”
“Telling me I looked like Gail Russell didn’t hurt your cause.”
“I’m very honest,” I said.
“Uh-oh…, there’s an ‘and’?”
“I’ve seen you around school, and you seem one of the better boys.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“What, that you’re one of the better boys?”
“No, that you’ve seen me around school. That would mean I’ve missed seeing you, and I can’t believe that.”
“Do you always flirt so outrageously?”
“Only with you.”
Just then, the band segued into “Honey Hush,” a Joe Turner song that had been popular in 1953.
“Come on,” I said, taking Gail’s hand. “Let’s dance.”
The evening came to an end all too soon. We danced and talked and got to know each other, and we liked what we learned.
We held hands as we made our way across the parking lot to where her dad sat behind the wheel of his idling car, a 1950 Ford Zephyr Six.
We stopped about ten feet from the Zephyr Six to look at each other; I held both Gail’s hands in mine.
“What I wouldn’t give to kiss you,” I said.
“Why, Alex Król, what kind of girl do you take me for?” Gail said with a smile.
“The kind I’d like to kiss.”
Gail grew serious. “I know,” she said, glancing at her father, who was seated in the car with his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel. Perhaps he knew this day had been coming, when his little girl would grow up to meet the young man who might take his place.
Gail rose up on her toes to kiss me on the cheek.
“Another time, I promise,” she whispered. Then she gave me a quick hug, her breasts feeling firm against me, and made her way toward her father’s car.
J. Conrad Guest, author of: Backstop: A Baseball Love Story In Nine Innings, January’s Paradigm, One Hot January, January’s Thaw, A Retrospect In Death, and 500 Miles To Go has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to write stories of action, love, mystery and morality; tales that cross genres, seizing the imagination of the reader. Though his novels are varied and original, the reader will find that each is full of life’s lessons—full of pain and humor, full of insight and triumph.