The phone rang. I looked at the clock. It read 9 p.m..
“Are you expecting a call?” I asked, getting up from the sofa.
“Not me,” Richard said, following me into the kitchen.
The phone rang again. I glanced at the caller ID, S. Malich.
I mouthed, “It’s Suzy.”
I picked up the phone, “Hi Suzy, to what do we owe this pleasure?” I asked.
“Fannie darling, I’m calling in a favor,” Suzy said, sounding amused.
“A favor?” I asked, intrigued. “What kind of a favor?”
“You’re mom and aunt were in here last week,” Suzy said. “You’re mom told me about your belt sander drag racing competition coming up.” Suzy laughed. “The craziest idea popped into my head and I want you to help me with it.”
“I’ll bite, what is it?” I asked. Richard watched me from the next stool.
“I want to sponsor a belt sander for your drag race and I want you to be my driver,” Suzy said.
“You want to sponsor a belt sander?” I asked, stunned. “What for?”
“Haven’t you ever wanted to do something off the wall?” Suzy asked. “Well this is the one for me. And before you say anything, I’ve already bought the belt sander and painted it with my logo and lace pattern.”
My jaw worked up and down for a moment as my mind recovered. “Wow, Suzy, I’d be honored. Out of curiosity, how much pink is there?”
Suzy laughed. “Knowing your love of all things not pink, there’s only a pink accent,” she said, “I’ll have it at the shop tomorrow if you want to stop by.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Richard stared at me for a moment. His devilish grin spread across his face. “Did I hear you right, Suzy is sponsoring you with a belt sander?”
“Yup,” I said. “It’s too bad you’re going to scout the park with the boys tomorrow, or I’d invite you to come along.”
“I’m allergic to salons,” Richard said, his blue eyes dancing.
“Well then, I guess I’ll take Bunny with me,” I said, winking.
One parking space remained next to a pink and white Cadillac parked in the reserved space outside the pink and white building. Above the door, a gilded frame showcased a cursive sign reading Chantilly Manor. Off-white lace drapes graced the windows filled with wigs of every description. Large french doors with polished brass knobs crowned the entrance to Gig Harbor’s best kept secret.
Walking through the door the familiar scent of hair spray and perfume greeted me like an old friend. The buzz of over two dozen women filled the lobby and salon.
Ladies it’s so good to see you,” said Suzy. Wearing her pink and white smock and batting her oversized black lashes at us. She wore a matching pink scarf rolled into a thin tube tied over her head augmenting her blond bouffant. In a conspiratorial tone, she said, “Welcome to my parlor. Follow me.”
Suzy ushered us through the heart of the salon. Walking passed a dozen women sitting under pink and white hooded hair dryers reading magazines. Stylists and their clients chatted at styling stations with pink and gold leather styling chairs. Opposite the chairs, mirrors framed in ornately carved gold gilded frames.
We reached the back of the salon. Suzy lead us into the back room.
“Suzy, in all the years my family has been coming here, I don’t think I’ve ever been back here,” I said, looking around.
Fluorescent lights reflected off the polished cement floor. Institutional gray metal shelves lined the walls filled with supplies. A belt sander, painted in an intricate ivory-colored, lace-floral pattern, sat on the work bench in the back. When we got closer, we could see the pink and gold logo reading, “Chantilly Manor, Gig Harbor, Washington.”
“Suzy, honey,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head crowning her statuesque figure. “This is the most beautiful belt sander I’ve ever seen. How on earth did you do it?”
“My daughter’s a graphic designer,” Suzy said, her eyes glowed with pride. “She did it for me.”
“This looks more like something for an art gallery than a drag race,” I said, running my fingers over the fine lace work, “you know this could get damage during the race?”
“I’m not worried,” Suzy said. “I just want to do something a little crazy. Really, how many salons do you think sponsor belt sanders?”
“None,” I said, shaking my head. “Are you going to be able to make it to the race next Saturday?”
“I wish I could, but I have a wedding next weekend and can’t get away,” Suzy said, tugging at her smock. “You’ll have to take pictures and tell me all about it when you get back.”
The sun rose to a rare cloudless sky over Wilderness Lake in Maple Valley, Washington. A bald eagle hopped from the branch of a fir tree, wings extended, and dove at the mirror surface of the lake. Talons extended, it smacked the surface of the water. It’s wings pumping, creating a spray. It heaved a largemouth bass from the water. The fish flailing in the air leaving a trail of water behind.
“Richard, did you see that?” I asked, pointing.
“If I’d have know it was open season up here, I would’ve brought my fly pole,” Richard said, his blue eyes twinkling. “Does your zombie avatar have enough hands to carry your coffee and your belt sander?”
Running my fingers through my short brown hair, I nodded. My morning eyes, still swollen slits.
“Follow me,” Richard said, leading the way.
I jumped from the passenger seat. Landing without spilling my coffee. Richard met me at the back of the truck.
He pulled Chantilly Manor from the bed of the Love Wagon. A red Ford F150 with queen futon and miniature disco ball. He held onto it until I confirmed my grip. He picked up his box, which contained Alvin. A small smile touched the corner of his lips.
We crossed the parking lot. George and Bunny Gutierrez climbed out of their black 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300. Devon, Clarissa and Zack Taylor climbed out of the cavernous back seat.
“Hi guys,” I said, as we approached them.
Flipping his strawberry blond locks out of his face, Zack said, “Hey Mrs. C. That is the coolest car ever. We didn’t even touch sitting three across. And have you ever seen the trunk? You could fit four bodies back there.”
“Well, Zack,” I said, laughing, “I hope we never have to test it.”
George opened the repurposed mausoleum, handing everyone their belt sanders. Knowlan and Kissee pulled into the open space three cars down.
“Sorry we’re late,” Kissee said, carrying a pink Borracchini’s pastry box. “There was a line this morning.”
The smell of hot apple fritters mingled with the damp fir. Knowlan carried a cardboard box. The top of Simon’s glasses and head just visible.
Kissee wore a Mariner’s baseball cap keeping her thick brown hair out of her China doll face. She spotted the sander in my hand. Her intelligent brown eyes dancing with mischief, she said, “Fannie, what on earth did you do to that sander? That’s just wrong.”
“What? You’ve never heard of belt sanders and lace before?” I asked, laughing.
Clarissa laughed. “Belt sanders and lace sounds like a Stevie Nicks’ song.”
“You mean, Leather and Lace?” Bunny asked, her blond pony tail bobbing behind her head.
“That’s the one,” Clarissa said, her short red curls framing her round face.
“Oh lord, that’s gonna be stuck in my head all day now,” I said, laughing.
“Better that, than ABBA,” Richard said, groaning, “I’m still whistling Mama Mia.”
George cleared his throat. “They’re setting up the race track, shall we go?” he asked, with his soft spoken Texas accent, a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. A pencil thin black mustache and goatee framing his mouth.
We crossed the parking lot. Following a paved path we came up to a clearing on the left where volunteers set up the race course. George approached the registration table.
“Is this your first time?” the man behind the table asked.
“Yes,” George said.
“Well there’re a few rules you need to know about. This is a double elimination race. We have three categories for the sanders, best decorated, stock and modified. When you fill out this form, you will have to mark down if you are stock or modified. The judging for best decorated is before the start of the race. The tables are over there. You put your number on the sander for the judges. Do you have any questions?”
George shook his head.
“Good luck to you,” said the man behind the table, handing George his number.
After registering, we placed our sanders on one of the tables for judging.
A woman in an oversized jeans jacket and her husband walked over to our table.
“Chantilly Manor,” she said. Nudging her husband, she said, “Well that’s a bit racy don’t you think?”
“I like it,” he said, goosing her on the rear end.
“Stop that,” she said, swatting him on the arm. They walked away laughing.
We walked the length of the course. Course officials strung yellow caution tape around the race course.
Winking at me, George said, “The yellow line of death just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
By 9 a.m. the judging started for the belt sanders. A man and woman with clip boards walked around each table making notes. After they finished they walked away from the crowd. Ten minutes later they returned. They handed over their results to the race official. He walked up to the podium.
“Welcome to Lake Wilderness. We’d like to thank everyone for coming to our IBDA sanctioned event,” the man said. “We finished judging for the best decorated, and we like to pass out the awards.” Taking a breath, he said, “Third place goes to number 89, Ken Walker, and his Monster Truck No. 123. Second place goes to number 27, George Gutierrez, and Arithmetic. And first place goes to number 29,” the man paused. He put his hand over the mike. We could hear him say, “Is this a joke?”
The female judge said, “No, that’s her real name.”
Bunny hugged me. Clarissa and Kissee jumped up and down.
The race official returned to the microphone. “Sorry for the delay. First place goes to number 29, Fannie Cranium, and Chantilly Manor.”
The crowd laughed. I bowed.
The track official’s posted two boards with brackets. The winner’s bracket and the loser’s bracket. The race official drew numbers and assigned people to their first heat.
Zack landed in the first race of the morning. He placed is belt sander bearing, Latios, a Pokemon dragon, on the track. He plugged his sander into the extension cord. His opponent was the monster truck. The track officials positioned themselves on either side of the track.
The race official said, “Gentlemen, when the light turns green, hit the power button. May the best man win.”
Red. Yellow. Green.
The belt sanders blasted down the track with a puff of sawdust. Devon and Clarissa held hands. Clarissa bit her lower lip. Bunny, Kissee and I jumped up and down, shouting encouragement. Latios wobbled back and forth between the melamine guides. Monster truck coursed straight down the track. Crossing the finish line two feet ahead of Zack’s sander.
Zack’s name was entered onto the first slot of the loser’s bracket. George put his hand on Zack’s shoulder.
“I may be able to help you with the wobble,” George said, “come with me.”
They disappeared into the parking lot.
Devon went next. His belt sander, Extremely Abrasive, sported my race bib from Santa Runs Tacoma with the number 666 on it and all of the metals we earned from our mini triathlon. He won his race, not repeating the tragedy from the previous weekend.
Richard and Knowlan’s numbers were called. They shook hands. Alvin on the left wearing a leather fly helmet with ear holes, a matching brown leather bombers jacket, goggles and a white scarf. Simon in his blue sweater sat on mini speakers on the right.
The race official said, “Okay folks, it looks like we have dueling chipmunks this round. May the best chipmunk win.”
The light turned green. The belt sanders sped down the track. We could hear, “Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang” coming from Simon as they raced down the track. The track official laughed so hard he accidentally tripped the power switch stopping the sanders mid-track. The crowd booed.
“Sorry about the folks,” the race official said, “in all fairness to the competitors, we will repeat the heat.”
Richard and Knowlan retrieved their sanders. The sanders were seated at the starting line. The light turned green. In a cloud of sawdust they bore down the track. Knowlan’s sander developed a bit of a wobble bouncing off the guide rails falling behind. Alvin crossed the finish line first, scarf flailing in the wind.
I jumped into Richard’s arms. “You won,” I said, a tear streaming down my face.
Thirty minutes later it was my turn. I was paired with the woman in the jeans jacket. Romeo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sat in a Barbie Convertible on top of her sander. I placed Chantilly Manor on the track.
I wiped the sweat from my palms onto my jeans. I plugged in the power cord and took the power switch from the hook.
I could hear Bunny and Clarissa singing, “Is love so fragile, and the heart so hollow…”
Laughing, I relaxed.
The light turned green. My heart pounded in my chest like a herd of stampeding elephants as I pressed the switch. Romeo took the lead and never looked back.
George and Zack returned in time for George’s heat. He placed his sander on the track. Mounted on the sander, a miniature geodesic dome with a plastic rat propped up through the top holding a vanilla ice cream cone. His opponent’s belt sander supported a Seahawks football helmet.
The light turned green. George’s sander traveled straight down the track toward the finish line. His opponent’s helmet came loose. It flopped over to one side derailing the sander from the track. The belt spinning helpless in thin air. George’s sander crossed the finish line and rolled to a stop.
George and Bunny shared a fist bump to celebrate.
We worked our way through the brackets. In a weird twist of fate, I beat Knowlan in the next race. Zack won his next two races, but lost his third. Devon lasted four additional races. Richard and George won every heat they entered.
By mid-afternoon, the brackets narrowed. Richard and I found ourselves facing off. We shook hands. I placed Chantilly Manor on the right side of the track, Richard placed Alvin on the left.
As I plugged my belt sander into the power cord, a choral group, lead by Clarissa, sang, “Lovers forever, face to face, my city or mountains, stay with me stay. I need you to love me, I need you today, give me your leather, take from me my lace. . .”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the race official said, over the microphone, “it looks like we have a husband and wife competition here. Richard Cranium versus Fannie Cranium.” He tried to suppress the grin as he said, “May the best Cranium win.”
The crowd laughed. Richard laughed. I rolled my eyes.
Red. Yellow. Green. Holding my breath, I pressed the power button. Chantilly Lace pulled ahead of Alvin. They reached the halfway point of the track. POP. Smoke poured from Chantilly Lace and she stopped. Alvin zoomed passed her to the finish line.
One of the track official’s grabbed a fire extinguisher. The race official stopped the power. White, cold powder poured from the extinguisher onto the sander. The smoke dissipated. Richard walked around the track and gave me a big hug.
“Suzy will be so disappointed,” I said.
“Fannie, she won best decorated,” Richard said, “How proud of her daughter do you think that will make her feel?”
One of the track official’s handed me the singed sander.
“At least I can make sure it’s clean and shiny when I return it to her,” I said.
By 3:30 p.m. Monster Truck beat Richard, leaving George as our representative for the final heat.
George placed A.R.I.T.H.M.E.T.I.C. on the right hand side of the track. Monster Truck sat on the left.
“This is it folks,” The race official said. “We have our final two contenders, George Gutierrez with A.R.I.T.H.M.E.T.I.C. and Ken Walker with Monster Truck No. 123. Gentlemen, please take your positions.”
The lights flashed down, red, yellow, green. The belt sanders launched down the track in a fanfare of sawdust. A.R.I.T.H.M.E.T.I.C. pulled ahead of Monster Truck. George’s belt sander increased the distance. Crossing the finish line three feet ahead of Monster Truck.
We jumped up and down, cheering. George and Bunny bumped fists, then hugged.
“Congratulations George. That was so amazing,” I said. “Why do you thing you won by such a large margin?”
Winking, George said, “Fannie, it’s simple arithmetic. I won because Monster Truck had to carry all the numeral.”