Race Whatcha Got


Tucker Shelby entered the county jail for one last piece of business client with his client, Johnny Hubbard.  Johnny was getting released and Tucker was there to fill out some forms.  “Johnny, you get yourself in any more trouble, don’t bother calling.  You can’t afford me.”

Johnny just sat there, silent and stone-faced.  Two years ago, he got caught red-handed driving a stolen car down I-75 toward Atlanta.  Headed to a chop shop but didn’t make it.  Got busted 30 minutes in.  Damn LoJack.

Johnny told Mama Jo he’d go with the public defender.  But Mama Jo wasn’t hearing it.  She wanted Johnny to have the best legal defense possible.  And who better than Tucker Shelby?

With Tucker, it was always about the money.  Mama Jo and Johnny were jobless and flat broke.  But she owned a clapboard house and the 10-acre lot on which it sat, free and clear.  Been in her family for three generations.  She got a $25,000 loan from the bank, putting up the land and house as collateral.

Johnny pleaded with Mama Jo not to do it, but she paid him no mind.  Like Johnny expected, Tucker proved as worthless as tits on a bull.  The prosecution had him nailed and he was convicted after 30 minutes of jury deliberation.  Johnny wasn’t mad about the outcome, he was mad about the fee.  “Why’d you charge Mama Jo $25,000?” he asked.  “Because that’s all the bank would lend her,” was the response.

Tucker bought cars with the fees he charged.  His pride and joy was a 1997 BMW 8 Series with a V12 that he called Clarabelle.  “Too pretty to drive for just any old reason,” Tucker told Johnny before the trial.  “I save Clarabelle for special occasions.”

Snapping back to the present as his lawyer drove away without him in a Ford SUV, Johnny realized his release must not have been one of those special occasions.  Johnny wasn’t looking forward to getting out.  It was a cold and uncertain world.  A world where Mama Jo drank herself to death after the bank foreclosed on her.  Prison was different.  It offered stability and dignity.  He was a trustee.  Did fluid checks in the motor pool.  Got things accomplished.

Deputy Tiller drove Johnny over to the Ridgeway Motor Lodge.  It was where the indigents stayed after getting their release.  The place was a dump, but no matter.  He wouldn’t be staying there long.

Saturday morning, Johnny walked three miles to Tucker’s house.  Hidden away in the tree line, he saw Tucker walk to the garage with a bag of golf clubs.  Johnny hoped golf wasn’t a special occasion for Tucker.  It wasn’t.  Clarabelle stayed behind while he left in the same SUV.

Johnny walked to the garage and busted a window.  Inside, he gazed down appreciatively at Clarabelle.  She was a beauty.  Johnny popped the lock with a Slim Jim and hotwired the ignition.  He figured Clarabelle had LoJack and he was ok with that.

An hour later, Johnny pulled up to the North Georgia Speedway.  After the sanctioned events there was a “Race Whatcha Got” free-for-all at the end of the evening.  $20 got anybody who wanted it 10 laps of racing.  As Johnny gave him the money, the proprietor asked, “This is a damn nice car.  You sure you wanna race this thing?”

“Oh yessir,” Johnny replied.

Johnny started on the 4th row.  After 5 laps, Johnny was out front.  Clarabelle ran like a scalded dog.  At 7 laps, he saw the flashing lights of Deputy Tiller’s cruiser where the participants entered the speedway.  At 8 laps, Johnny saw Tucker beside the deputy, flapping his arms.

At 9 laps, Johnny let Clarabelle get a little loose in the corner and sparks flew from her right side as she made contact with the wall.  Johnny overcorrected and rear-ended a lapped car.  Steam spewed from Clarabelle’s crumpled hood as she sputtered across the finish line.

“You son of a bitch!  You totaled Clarabelle!” Tucker shouted.

“Not totaled,” Johnny replied smiling as Deputy Teller led him away in cuffs, “just dinged up a bit.  twenty-five grand should cover it.”

~ fin ~


Don Lee lives outside of Atlanta with his beautiful wife and three children. He likes reading and writing about characters with old-school, country sensibilities.