Authors: Lisa Nowak
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Boys & Men, #Social Issues, #Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, #Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Friendship, #Physical & Emotional Abuse, #Values & Virtues, #Sports & Recreation, #Extreme Sports, #Martial Arts, #Young adult fiction
Running Wide Open
Full Throttle Book 1
Published by Webfoot Publishing at Amazon.com
Copyright 2011 Lisa Nowak
Kindle Edition, License Notes
All rights reserved
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be resold or given away. No part of this ebook may be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
When 15-year-old Cody gets shipped off to live with his uncle Race, he’s sure he’ll be in for the same disappointment and abuse he’s gotten from every other adult in his life. The last thing he expects is for Race and his speedway buddies to become the family he’s always longed for. But can Cody get a handle on his super-charged temper before it messes up his last chance to get his life on track?
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“The roar of engines practically explodes off the page in this compelling, heart-thumping debut. Cody Everett is a straight-shooter with attitude, smarts, and whip-cracking wit; he doesn’t pull any punches, and neither does author Lisa Nowak. The collision of Cody and the world of stock car racing makes for a great story, one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
Running Wide Open
is a book not to be missed.”
- Christine Fletcher, author of
Ten Cents a Dance
“With characters that are as real as the dialogue is authentic,
Running Wide Open
is by turns both heartbreaking and hopeful. Readers will race to the finish of this powerful coming-of-age novel.”
- Casey McCormick, author of the popular YA blog,
co-founder of WriteOnCon, and creator of the Agent Spotlight series.
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This book is dedicated to the memory of Eugene Speedway: the drivers who raced there, the crews who helped them, and the fans who cheered them on. In particular I would like to honor Tom Mace, Mary Haddock, and the rest of the folks from the now defunct Auto Marine, as well as the Ashleys, all of whom taught me that family is everything to racers, and if you lack one, somebody will take you into theirs.
The hiss of a paint can sounded like a roar, even over the rumble of traffic on Sunset Boulevard. Tim’s drunk-assed laugh snagged my attention. His fingers shook as he used a can of Krylon royal blue to put the finishing touches on an anatomically correct and obviously proud elephant.
“Dude,” I said, “his shlong is longer than his trunk.”
“Why do you think he’s smiling?” Tim busted into another giggle fit, doubling over and clutching his gut.
“C’mon, Cody, you’re supposed to be
,” prodded Mike. “That’s not a picture.” He was kind of an ass, but it’s hard to blow off a guy you’ve hung out with since third grade.
“Pardon me for being able to communicate with words.”
“Is that a giraffe?” Tim said. He was sprawled on the concrete now, staring up at Mike’s neon pink animal as it brayed a string of four-letter words across the zoo wall.
“No, moron,” Mike said, “it’s a zebra. Can’t you see the stripes?”
“Looks like a giraffe.”
“It’s a frickin’ zebra!”
Mike planted the toe of his Adidas in Tim’s ribs, and Tim tried to nail him in the balls with his rattle can. Then they were both rolling on the sidewalk, thrashing each other.
Why couldn’t they shut the hell up? Beer buzzed through my skull, making everything go sideways. The words spilling out of my spray can had a crazy tilt to them.
A siren shrieked. I jerked back and dropped my paint.
“Cops!” Mike was up in a second, bolting down the sidewalk for the woods. Tim wasn’t so fast. He’d messed up his knee last fall when he totaled his stepdad’s Jeep in the Terwilliger Curves.
“C’mon,” I said, grabbing his arm. Red and blue lights flashed around us as I dragged him down the sidewalk—no easy feat, considering he had five inches and fifty pounds on me.
The siren got louder. I risked a peek over my shoulder. They were close, but if I ditched Tim I could make it.
He stumbled, wrenching my arm.
“Move it!” I said, yanking him up.
Behind us, the car screeched to a stop. Doors slammed, and footsteps pounded the asphalt.
We reached the end of the zoo wall, but I knew we couldn’t make it through the trees in the dark and stay ahead of the cops.
“Shit, Cody. I can’t get busted again!” Tim panted.
I remembered the last time—how his face had looked when his stepdad got done with him.
“Then get the hell out of here,” I said, shoving him into the bushes.
As he disappeared I turned to face the cops.
“Good evening, officers!” I called. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to discuss this like gentlemen over a dozen donuts?”
I glanced around the crowded bus terminal and wondered if I’d made a mistake. After the thing with the cops, Dad had given me two choices: military school or living with my mother’s black sheep brother—the only one in the family willing to take me in. I figured it was a no-brainer, but what if the guy turned out to be just like Mom?
The thought of her ticked me off, so I drop-kicked it to the back of my mind where it bounced off the other parental offenses, including this Greyhound business. A mere hundred miles between Portland and Eugene, and Dad couldn’t be bothered to make the drive. Not that his lack of fatherly commitment had been any shocker. Until Mom had bailed on us a month ago, he’d looked the other way every time she went postal on me for hanging a towel up crooked or talking during her favorite TV show.
At least I didn’t have that to deal with anymore. No, all I had to worry about now was living with a total stranger. The stink of diesel fumes hung in the air as my eyes swept the bus station: vending machines straight out of the ’60s, back-to-back rows of orange plastic chairs holding people so bored it was a wonder they hadn’t slit their own throats. No sign of my uncle.
I hadn’t seen him since I was five and I didn’t remember many details. Just that he was ten years younger than Mom and they didn’t get along. When she’d called from Phoenix to finalize the arrangements she was too pissed to talk to me, so I’d had to rely on Dad for information. He didn’t know much more than I did: my uncle was an artist, he was into stock car racing, his name was Race.
Anxiety rippled through my gut. What if he didn’t show up? Our family wasn’t known for reliability, and no one in the terminal seemed remotely like the person I was looking for. But then I wasn’t sure what to expect. A redneck in a John Deere hat? A moody artiste wearing paint-spattered clothes?
, I told myself. At least he wasn’t standing there holding some stupid sign that had
scrawled across it.
A flash of sunlight glinted off the door. I turned and knew instantly that the person standing in the entrance was my uncle. He was in his mid-twenties and had a casual way of holding himself, along with the sort of build that made a guy look fit even if he didn’t work out. Shaggy brown hair hung in his eyes as if he’d let an open car window do his styling for him. His jeans and Valvoline T-shirt were streaked with grease, but in spite of his slacker appearance, he looked like a younger, male version of Mom. Or maybe an older, taller version of me. I’d been fortunate enough to inherit the Morgan good looks but had gotten stuck with Dad’s short, wiry build.
Race grinned across the room at me, and there the resemblance to my mother ended. Mom hardly ever smiled, except at her friends and the guys she flirted with. Race beamed like a little kid who’d asked for a stuffed toy but had gotten a real puppy. My apprehension flickered for only a second before blazing back up. Even if the guy turned out to be decent, he was sure to send me packing before the week was out. I should’ve opted for military school and saved myself the hassle of a second bus trip.
In a few long, loping strides Race made it across the terminal. “Cody,” he said, with the grin coming through in his voice. I noticed that he had the same eyes as Mom, dark and full of feeling. They could sell you on anything, even if it cost your last penny, but I’d gotten pretty good at resisting that particular voodoo. Those eyes scanned me now, taking in my
Everyone’s entitled to my opinion
T-shirt. He chuckled. “Good one.”
I managed a nod. Part of me wanted to give in to his friendliness, but I couldn’t work my lips into a smile. It had been a long bus trip. A long two weeks since I’d gotten busted. There wasn’t much to smile about.
“I’m sure coming to stay with me probably wasn’t at the top of your agenda,” Race said, “but I think we can make it work. I’m pretty easy to get along with.”
If he was that optimistic, Mom obviously hadn’t filled him in on what an ungrateful little smartass I was.
“And I know my sister’s probably told you all kinds of horror stories about me,” Race continued, “but I’m really not the villain she makes me out to be.”
The comment sent a twitch through my paralyzed lips. So he knew how she was.
“You ready to go?” Race asked.
“C’mon, let’s get the rest of your stuff.” He reached out to clasp my shoulder, and instinctively I ducked. Other than the smacks Mom gave me for smarting off, nobody touched me much.
Race’s grin dimmed by a good sixty watts. For a second his hand hung in the air, then he pulled it back. Well, what did he expect? He should know better than to get all touchy-feely with someone he’d just met.
I followed him over to the package claim counter where we piled my boxes onto a couple of hand trucks.
“Whoa,” Race said. “Whaddaya got in this one, rocks?”
No—books, but I’d be damned if I’d fess up to it. It was bad enough having Mom give me crap all the time for reading, demanding to know whether I planned on becoming a complete geek, like Dad. I lifted the box out of Race’s hands and dumped it on top of the others on my dolley.
“Well,” he said as he searched for clues in my expression. “I guess we better go.”
I trailed him out the door into the blazing May sun, my conscience nagging as I wrestled the hand truck over the rough asphalt lot. Maybe I should give the guy a chance. Maybe it would be different this time.
Race stopped behind a van that might’ve been green sometime before I was born. Paint chipped off in big flakes, and splotches of primer marred every panel. One of the back tires was low. Okay, so he wasn’t rich like my grandparents, who Mom was always hitting up for cash.
“Nice wheels, dude.”
“It gets me where I’m going.”
Race unlocked the rear doors of the van to reveal a rolling scrap yard. Tires, toolboxes, and an assortment of car parts littered the inside. Most of it was housed in milk crates that had no doubt been pilfered from behind some grocery store.
Race slid his stuff around to make room for mine, then, while I piled my boxes on the floorboards, he squeezed between the side of the van and a VW Bug to unlock the passenger door. The parking space wasn’t nearly big enough for a vehicle the size of his beater, and you’d think the “Compacts Only” sign would have been his first clue. But I didn’t figure I’d win him over by blurting out a remark about his ability to read.
I wedged myself through the door of the van, settled into the torn bucket seat, and pulled out my pack of Camel filters as Race slithered his way behind the wheel.
“If you’re gonna smoke in here,” he said, “open your window.”
I waited for him to go on, telling me how cigarettes were a lousy habit, and they’d kill me before I graduated from high school, but that was all he had to say.
I rolled down the window. It was too hot to be riding around with it up, anyway.