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Getting Sideways

Getting Sideways

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Getting Sideways

379 pagine
6 ore
Dec 4, 2011


Full Throttle Book 2

Getting shipped off to live with his uncle Race was the best thing that ever happened to fifteen-year-old Cody. Then a wreck at the speedway nearly ruined everything. Cody’s making every effort to get his life back on track—writing for the school paper, searching for the perfect girlfriend, and counting the days until he gets his drivers’ license—but there’s no escaping the nightmares that haunt him.

A chance to build his own car seems like the perfect distraction. Until Cody realizes he’ll have to live up to Race’s legendary status. But that’s the least of his worries, considering he doesn’t have his dad’s permission. All he has to do is the impossible: keep Race from discovering his lie until he can convince his dad that racing’s safe.

Yeah, sure. That’ll be easy.

Dec 4, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

In addition to being a YA author, Lisa Nowak is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are. She enjoys dark chocolate and stout beer and constantly works toward employing wei wu wei in her life, all the while realizing that the struggle itself is an oxymoron.Lisa has no spare time, but if she did she’d use it to tend to her expansive perennial garden, watch medical dramas, take long walks after dark, and teach her cats to play poker. For those of you who might be wondering, she is not, and has never been, a diaper-wearing astronaut. She lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband, several feline companions, and two giant sequoias.

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  • Don’t be ashamed of your need, Cody. It’s a natural part of the healing process.”But I was ashamed. I should be over it by now. And I sure as hell wasn’t gonna give Race anything else to get stressed out about.

  • Sadness welled up in me, sharp and raw, but somehow comforting. It had been with me for so long now it felt familiar.

  • Race and I were supposed to be a team now. It sucked that, just because I was a kid, I wasn’t enough.

  • Resolutions were just eloquent lies. Promises that were sure to be broken in the waking moments of the year.

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Getting Sideways - Lisa Nowak


Chapter 1

Engines howl. The scent of racing fuel, sharp and sweet, fills my nose. I squint across the infield, trying to make out what’s happening. Tom Carey’s Camaro—stark white under the sickly glow of speedway lights—clips the corner of my uncle’s back bumper. And then Race’s car is in the air. The engine revs. The underside of the Dart is exposed for one timeless second before all four tires slam down on asphalt. Out of nowhere, Jim Davis’s car appears and smashes into the yellow 8 on the driver’s door.

Bang! Something hit the desk in front of me and I jumped. Heart pounding, I blinked at the latest issue of our school paper, The Axe.

Wake up, Megan—the editor and my awesomely hot girlfriend—said, teasing me with a smile. Your story’s on page four.

Under any other circumstances, that smile would put me totally at her mercy, but I was too shook up to do anything but flip open the paper with a trembling hand. Damn. It was bad enough the dream had to invade my nights, stealing my sleep. Couldn’t I at least get a little peace at school?

But the tired feeling that had burned a hole through my brain all day disappeared when I saw my first published story, complete with byline. Foreign Exchange Students Bring Culture to South Eugene, by Cody Everett. Pride shivered through me. Race was gonna love this.

We spent the class distributing papers, and that rush stayed with me the whole time. When the bell rang to end seventh period, I took one last peek at my story before tucking it into my folder, grabbing my backpack, and heading outside.

After a cool, foggy morning, the October sunshine was like discovering half a bag of M&Ms in an old jacket pocket. It convinced me to walk to the auto restoration shop where I worked three afternoons a week.

With my school just north of Amazon Park, I could take the winding path that led along the slough for most of the sixteen blocks. The cottonwoods were starting to turn yellow, and the sun, which had warmed the air to near seventy, was baking a sweet scent out of the first of their fallen leaves. I could’ve really gotten into the walk if exhaustion hadn’t hit halfway through, making me sorry I hadn’t taken the bus.

I trudged on until I reached 33rd then let my eyes fall shut as I waited for the walk signal. Memories of the nightmare flickered across the back of my closed lids, the same sequence as always. The only time the dream was different was when it was about a funeral.

I opened my eyes to chase away the images, but I’d seen them so many times in the past three months, two weeks, and three days, they were permanently etched into my brain.

The light changed. I sprinted across Hilyard, jogging the last block to Eugene Custom Classics. The best way to forget the whole mess would be to replace it with something else—like showing Race my story. After all the nagging he’d done to get me to sign up for journalism, he’d be jazzed to see my name in print.

My mood took a nosedive when I saw that my uncle’s van wasn’t parked out in front of the shop. If Race was running errands, he could be gone until closing.

I detoured through the office, tossed my backpack and leather jacket onto the scruffy couch, and went to hunt down Kasey. She owned the place and should’ve been my uncle’s girlfriend, but . . .

Hey, Kasey, I said when I found her lying under the midsection of a ’63 Thunderbird. When’s Race gonna be back? He run to get parts or something?

No, he went home. He had a headache.

My stomach pinched in on itself. He left with the quarterly payroll taxes still due? Race had been working on straightening out Kasey’s business records for months. One of his biggest gripes was how she always filed her taxes late and had to pay penalties. If he was letting that slide, he must be feeling pretty lousy.

He finished up this morning and dropped the paperwork off with the accountant on his way to the house.

I stood staring down at the half of Kasey that wasn’t under the T-bird.

He’s fine, Cody.

"I know that!" Instantly, I was ticked at myself for letting my worries get away from me. Again. Kasey had enough to deal with. She didn’t need me giving her crap.

As usual, she ignored the outburst. Why don’t you get started on those parts over by the solvent tank? There’s at least a couple of hours worth of work there—and wear the gloves this time. Kasey was always big on safety, even before the wreck.

All right, all right. Much as I hated how those big floppy things slid around on my hands, I didn’t like the way the solvent made my skin go tingly, either. I considered showing her my story—Kasey had been reading my stuff as long as Race had, and she shared my passion for books—but I didn’t want to interrupt her in the middle of a job.

I snagged a shop coat from the rack by the office and pulled it on over my I’m marching to a different accordion T-shirt. When I flipped the switch to start the flow of solvent, the acrid, chemical scent drifted up to wrinkle my nose. In spite of it, the act of washing parts always soothed me. Scrubbing the nooks and crannies to clean away grease was a mindless sort of work, and it gave me time to think. There was something comforting about doing a job that produced dramatic results with so little skill or effort.

As I scoured black gunk from a small block Chevy intake manifold, I tried to figure out the details for a short story I was working on. But I was too tired to concentrate, and each time I focused my thoughts on the plot, they zipped off on their own, taking me back to the end of June. Why the hell couldn’t I put that night behind me like everyone else had?

Are you almost finished?

Kasey’s voice startled me. I jumped, sloshing solvent down the front of my shop coat and nearly dousing my new Converse high tops. As I turned away from the tank, her blue eyes met mine, full of sympathy. That look always made me feel like I should’ve done a better job of keeping my problems to myself.

There’s nothing to worry about, Kasey said, squeezing my arm above the top of a long rubber glove. Headaches are perfectly normal after a traumatic brain injury—you know that. Race is exactly where he should be in his recovery.

I stared down at the dusty concrete. I wanted to show him my newspaper article, that’s all.

Kasey seemed to think the headaches bothered me because I was worried Race might still keel over. It wasn’t that. At least not too much. I just couldn’t stand the way they took me back to that night.

Kasey’s fingers tightened around my arm. He’ll still appreciate your story in the morning. Why don’t you leave it on the kitchen table and I’ll read it when I get home?

I nodded, not looking up. Sure.

It’s six o’clock, she added. Jake’s heading out. He says he’ll drop you off. Unless you want to wait for me?

I slid my foot back and forth against the smooth concrete. On Wednesdays she worked late because Race and I were normally at his shop, messing around with my Galaxie.

How long are you gonna be? I asked.

Another hour or two.

I guess I’ll go now.

Kasey dropped her hand to dig some money out of her pocket. She unfolded the bills—all faced the same direction, grouped by denomination—and pulled out a ten. Stop and grab yourself something for dinner, she said, handing it to me. There’s no sense cooking just for yourself.

I jammed the money into my pocket.

And no pizza, Kasey added. "Contrary to what you and Race might believe, it’s really not the sixth food group."

* * *

I finished the oil pan I’d been working on, got my backpack from the office, and followed Jake out to his rust-and-primer ’58 Chevy pickup. It sucked, having to rely on other people for transportation, but I wouldn’t get my license until I turned sixteen in December.

Sinking back against the seat, I closed my eyes. Jake cranked the engine, firing up his country music—a taste he shared with Kasey. I’d developed an unwelcome familiarity with it in the last few months.

How’s the Galaxie coming? he asked as we pulled out onto East Amazon. Jake was Kasey’s painter—a quiet man in his forties with a crew cut and enough muscles to give Rambo an inferiority complex. He’d been with Kasey since she’d opened shop, fresh out of college, three years before.

All we’ve got left is plug wires and stuff. We were supposed to fire her up tonight. The thought of my pale yellow ’65 Galaxie brought an ache right along with the pride. All those hours spent rebuilding the engine, going through the brakes, replacing the hoses . . . I still couldn’t believe Race had bought it for me because he just felt like it when he couldn’t afford the new helmet that would’ve kept him from damn near killing himself.

It’ll happen, Jake said, apparently interpreting my comment to mean I was bummed about not finishing the car. Maybe I should’ve been, but the closer I got to driving the Galaxie, the more I realized I wasn’t ready for the project to be over. Hanging out with Race was one thing. Having him teach me was a whole ’nother deal—a one-on-one kind of sharing I’d never had with anyone else. I mean, sure, Kasey showed me how to do things at work, but her head was so full of projects I always worried I was distracting her from something more important.

How’s the karate going? Jake asked, tapping the steering wheel to the beat of Reba McEntire’s latest hit, Walk On.

Good. I moved up a rank on Saturday.

Race mentioned that. Jake shot a grin across the cab. Twice, in fact. So what does that make you, a yellow belt?

White with one green stripe. We don’t have yellow at my dojo, just white, green, brown, and black. For the kyus in between, they add stripes of the next color to our belts.

Jake nodded. Makes sense.

I didn’t want him to have to stop and let me get something to eat, so I didn’t mention it. I could whip up a tuna sandwich and give Kasey back her ten bucks. Race wouldn’t like me taking it, anyway.

After a five-minute drive, Jake dropped me off at Kasey’s place on the butte above the University. It was a big improvement over our crappy trailer, which we would’ve gone back to once Race got out of the hospital if Grandma hadn’t sided with Kasey on us moving in here.

I grabbed the mail out of the box. Bills for Kasey and a Circle Track magazine for Race. The cars on the cover, scrambling for the lead at some dirt track, put a little flutter in my gut. The season had ended in September, just a few weeks after my uncle started racing again. I missed the hot, dusty nights at the speedway, the growl of engines, and that sweet, pungent scent of racing fuel. When Dad kicked me out last May after I got busted for graffiti, the last thing I’d wanted was to hang out with a bunch of redneck gearheads, but now I could hardly wait for April, when the new season would start. Maybe Race would even let me take the Dart out for a few laps at one of the practice sessions. I’d been itching to get behind the wheel.

I continued flipping through the mail. Nothing for me. Not that it was any surprise. I hadn’t heard from Mom since August when she’d tried to guilt-trip me into moving to Phoenix, and I’d refused, telling her to drop the head games or leave me alone. At the time I’d figured I was better off without her. Now I half-wished I hadn’t shown her the door. It wasn’t that I expected her to be a real mom—and I sure as hell wasn’t going back to getting smacked around and called names—but was it asking too much for her to send a card once in a while? To step up and act like an adult, instead of being so spiteful?

A sudden rage ripped through me, making my hand clench around the magazine. I wanted to level the mailbox with a roundhouse kick, but I squelched the impulse. I wasn’t that kid anymore. I didn’t have to give in to my temper. Forcing my hand to relax, I took a deep, centering breath and headed up the driveway.

* * *

Inside, the house was silent. Race’s door was closed. I knew he’d be in there until morning, his curtains drawn to create a dark, quiet cave. I slipped down the hall, resisting the urge to knock and ask if he was okay.

In my room, I dropped my backpack and jacket on the bed and sank down beside them. I wanted to take a nap, but with where my head was, I knew sleep wouldn’t come.

The thing that bothered me the most, the thing I couldn’t understand, was why everyone else seemed to have a handle on the situation while I couldn’t get over it. The nightmares, the prickling anxiety—all that had made sense right after the wreck, but why now? And why me? Race was the one whose life had been trashed. The one whose career as an artist had been sidelined when the head injury screwed up his fine motor skills. Compared to that, what did I have to bitch about? I hadn’t lost anything.

But it sure felt like I had. And it wasn’t just the wreck. It was all the changes—moving in with Kasey, getting used to the subtle things that made Race different, knowing if I ever let my guard down, my world could get knocked out of orbit again. All I wanted was for life to go back to the way it had been last June when it was just me and Race, and I felt like I was in control.

Well, feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to fix anything. What I needed now was a little karate to shake me out of this funk. I slipped into some sweats and went outside.

From low in the west, the sun cast bronze rays over the trees on the hillside behind the house. The birches were beginning to turn gold, and the maple at the north end of the patio flamed scarlet.

Listening to the sounds of nature around me, I concentrated on my breathing. I drew a fresh breath deep into my chest, then exhaled from the belly, forcing out the old, stale air. A few minutes of that left me lightheaded from the surge of oxygen. My fingers and toes tingled, and I felt a rush of anticipation knowing this would be one of those times I entered that magic zone where my workout gave me a high.

I started slowly with a series of kicks, warming up my body, getting it used to the motion. Front kick, roundhouse, side kick, back kick—the moves flowed together, and after a few repetitions I put more force behind them, adding some snap. The world fell away as I focused on the physical. There was no room for my feelings—my anxiety—as perfecting the execution of the moves became the only thing that mattered. For a few brief moments everything came together.

But after I went back inside, as I sat in front of the TV alone with my tuna sandwich, the worries came creeping back. The Galaxie was almost finished. Race wasn’t going to wake up tomorrow magically restored to his old self. And as much as I wanted him and Kasey to be together—as hard as I’d worked to make that happen—I wasn’t sure I could handle not having my uncle to myself.

Chapter 2

The dream didn’t bother me that night—I hardly ever had it two days in a row—but I was so worn out I overslept the next morning. When I went into the kitchen, I found Race awake and standing over the sink eating a Twinkie. Usually, he slept until the absolute last minute then had to rush to get to work on time.

Where’d you get that? I asked. Frozen Twinkies used to be his favorite breakfast until Kasey put a stop to it.

I’ve got a box of ’em down in the basement freezer. Under that bag of mixed vegetables.

I snorted. Those veggies would probably be there until the next millennium. There’s not much I’ll turn up my nose at, but I draw the line at lima beans and anything that’s rubbed shoulders with them. Race felt pretty much the same way. While Kasey was an excellent cook, there was a limit to what even she could do with something that disgusting.

As I pulled a box of Cheerios down from the cupboard, I snuck a peek at my uncle. With his dark hair and eyes, he looked so much like me we could have been brothers—except I’d lost the genetic lottery, coming out short and skinny. Race seemed tired, but he didn’t have that set to his jaw that always told me when he was hurting.

The truth was, as much as I obsessed over every little headache and memory lapse, Kasey was right about how Race was doing. Especially considering how bad those first few days had been, when no one could tell us whether he’d live, or if he’d wake up, or what sort of permanent problems he might have. Whenever the dark, panicky feelings started to close in on me, I tried to remind myself of how much worse things could be.

Sorry about last night, Race said as I opened the refrigerator.

I shrugged and reached for the milk. It’s no biggie. I had a ton of homework anyway.

Not that I’d bothered with it. I’d gotten caught up in flipping through his sketchpads again, wondering how that kind of talent could just vanish. For a long time, I’d been scared Race had lost more than that. The doctors had warned us people were never the same after a head injury, and Race was so short-tempered at first that I’d figured his sense of humor and easy-going nature—the things that had led me to trust him—were two more casualties of the wreck. It took every bit of my resolve to stick by him until he worked through his anger.

Race turned and leaned back against the counter, licking Twinkie guts off his fingers. That’s an impressive article, he said, waving his other hand at the table where I’d left the school paper. You painted a great picture of that exchange student from Brazil.


Yeah. He grinned, pride adding extra wattage to his trademark expression. Before I’d come to live with him it was pretty rare for anyone to be proud of me. But Race wasn’t like all the teachers and counselors who’d tried to get me to give up my evil ways. From the start, he’d respected me instead of treating me like some punk kid put on this earth for the sole purpose of annoying him.

I sat down with my bowl of cereal and spun the newspaper around, my eyes fixing on that byline. It sure was cool to see my name in print.

You ready to finish up the Galaxie tonight? Race asked.

But it’s Thursday. Is that gonna be okay? Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays were our days for working at the shop. Back when we were bachin’ it, we could hang out there every night if we wanted, but Race said if we were gonna live here we had to show some class—not treat the place like some kind of hotel.

I didn’t mind too much. It was nice having a bedroom that didn’t smell like gear oil and a bathroom big enough to get dressed in after a shower. But I sort of missed the freedom of our old life. Being able to watch trashy TV shows like Married with Children without feeling like a cultural leper. Not having to worry about whether there was a coaster under my drink.

Race hid the Twinkie wrapper in a wadded-up paper towel and tossed it in the trash. I’ll probably regret this, since every time we make plans Kasey uses it as an excuse to work late, but I think she can spare us this once.

* * *

After dinner, Race and I went to his shop, located in an industrial complex in west Eugene near the speedway. That was where he kept his race car and where he’d done the welding that supplemented his income back when he was a graphic artist. It was also where we stored the Galaxie.

On the drive I had to endure Jimmy Buffett’s Songs You Know by Heart because even though I kept hiding the damned cassette, Race always managed to find it and stick it back in his cheesy K-Mart stereo.

I’m gonna burn that tape, I threatened.

Race’s grin taunted me. Go ahead. I have three more just like it.

The sad thing is, you’re probably telling the truth.

It was nice to have the shop to ourselves. Sometimes Kasey came to help, or Race’s friends Jim and Denny stopped by, but I liked it best when it was just me and Race. And not only because I had more respect for most one-celled organisms than I did for Jim. He’d totally run out on my uncle after the accident, not visiting once the whole two weeks Race was in the hospital, or the six after that, while he was stuck at home, struggling to put his life back together. But, Jim’s betrayal aside, the biggest reason it was best to be there alone with Race was that, for a few hours, I could pretend everything was like it had been last spring.

There wasn’t a whole lot left to do on the Galaxie, just fill up the radiator, install the spark plug wires, and set the timing. I topped off the water with an old antifreeze bottle as Race shook the plug wires out of the box. He fumbled with them for a minute then pushed away from the car to head for the workbench, muttering.

What’s wrong?

Ah, I used to know the firing order for a 390, but . . .

. . . he couldn’t remember jack lately. I knew I should be grateful it was mostly little things like this that had changed, but I didn’t want Race to be different at all. One-five-four-two-six-three-seven-eight, I said.

He raised an eyebrow at me as he pulled a Motors manual off the shelf. How’d you know that?

Well, see, I work for this chick who restores cars . . .

Race had the book open now and was flipping through it. You’re right, he said, not bothering to hide the sharp note of surprise in his voice.

His lack of faith sort of miffed me.

"I know all the common firing orders."

Oh yeah? Race glanced up with a challenging quirk to his grin. Then how ’bout a 327 Chevy?


He paged through the book. And a 340 Dodge?

Same thing. All Mopar and Chevy V-8s had that firing order. AMCs, too.

Really? Even big blocks?

Yeah. His question sucked a little of the fun out of my bragging. Was this something else he’d lost, or was it that he didn’t know because he hardly ever worked on any cars but his own? At Kasey’s shop, he stuck mostly to the business stuff and welding.

Race shook his head, struggling with the slick pages. Okay then, smartypants. What’s the firing order for a ’63 Cadillac 390?

"I said I knew the common ones. When do I ever work on a ’63 Caddy?" The words came out a little harsh, but Race didn’t seem to notice.

Sighing, he thumped the book down on the workbench. Well, you’ve still got me beat.

Oh, sure, I said rushing to cover up my surliness. "I can remember numbers, I just can’t do anything with them. Geometry’s totally kicking my butt. All those theorems and corollaries—they don’t make any sense."

There was a certain irony to the idea that I could rattle off strings of numbers from memory, while Race, who used them all the time doing Kasey’s books, had to keep his phone number scribbled on a scrap of paper in his wallet. He couldn’t even remember what he was supposed to do on any given day unless he carried a list.

Kasey could probably help, he suggested. She’s the math genius.

I’ll get it figured out.

I tightened the radiator cap and reached for the plug wires. Race had bought the kind you put together yourself, because the standard ones were always too long. But attaching those tiny metal connectors was bound to give him fits.

Here, I said, handing the wires over. You measure and cut them to length, then I’ll crimp ’em. It’ll be faster that way.

It took less than an hour to get the plug wires hooked up and the timing set, then came the moment I’d been dreaming about since that misty day in June when Race gave me the Galaxie.

Well, what are you waiting for? he asked as I continued to stare at the engine. Crank her up.

I slid inside the car and stuck the key in the ignition. The starter whined as I pumped the gas. After several long moments, the engine growled to life, noisy at first, lifters clattering, then smoothing out as oil pumped through the system. I felt a crazy grin spread over my face. This was my car—my car—and it ran!

We’ll have to keep her at a fast idle for about twenty minutes to break in the cam, Race said as I joined him by the fender.

"I know that."

He smirked. Oh yeah, I forgot. You work for a chick who restores cars.

As exciting as it was to hear that engine running, I couldn’t squelch a little feeling of regret. Now there’d be no excuse for Race and me to spend so much time together. Kasey had been rounding up the stuff she needed to build a Hemi for her ’68 Charger, and knowing Race, he’d feel obligated to help with it. The thought of having all that spare time on my hands kind of freaked me out. Without anything to keep me busy, the worries that were constantly clawing at the back of my brain were bound to take over.

When Race was satisfied that the engine was sound, we bolted on the hood. I slipped behind the wheel, the faint, sweet odor of old car interior filling my nose as he rolled the door up out of the way. His race car, a ’74 Dart, was blocking me in, so I waited while he moved it.

It felt strange to let up on the brake and ease through the bay door. As many times as I’d sat in the Galaxie and stared through the windshield, I’d never done it while in motion. Race pulled his car into my old spot, locked up the shop, and sank down beside me on the enormous bench seat.

Let’s go, he said.

I gave the Galaxie a little gas, and it lurched across the parking lot. Nice. I wasn’t used to having that much power. The only other vehicle I’d driven—other than while taking the Dart off the trailer—was Race’s van with its wheezed-out 6-cylinder. But horsepower wasn’t the only difference. It was weird being so low to the ground, looking out over that huge expanse of hood and having the wheels way out in front instead of right under me. I also wasn’t used to the automatic transmission. But I only slammed on the brake once, expecting it to be the clutch.

After a few minutes, I started getting used to the differences and feeling more comfortable.

So what’s it like to be driving your own car for the first time? Race asked.

Pretty sweet. I cut him a sideways glance. I don’t suppose you’ll let me take it to school tomorrow?

I don’t suppose you somehow turned sixteen and got your license while I wasn’t looking?

My breath whooshed out in a long sigh. Race was about as lenient as a person could get and still be a guardian, but there were some issues he wouldn’t budge on.

He let me drive around for half an hour, and I was careful to obey every traffic law to the letter, even though I was itching to open her up and see what she’d do.

As we headed back to the shop, I reached for the knob of the ancient AM radio and flicked it on, twisting through yards of static and a few grainy stations playing country music and talk shows. Yuck.

I’m definitely gonna have to get a stereo, I said, giving Race another look. And when I do there’s going to be one very important rule. No Jimmy Buffett in my car.

He shook his head. You know, this prejudice of yours is completely unfair.

"No, what’s unfair is subjecting me to Cheeseburger in Paradise twenty-million times a day."

When we got to the shop, I pulled in behind the race car. The two of us sat for a minute before getting out.

So I guess this is it,

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