Chapter 1: Going Home
“Just Call Him Cupid X”
Authors: lcopperfield and Janee Rutledge
DISCLAIMER: All SPEED RACER characters are property of Speed Racer Enterprises, Inc. This is a comic follow-up to “Challenge of the Masked Racer, Revisited.” Again, kudos to my co-author/editor, Janee Rutledge, for helping me set the body of this slice of Racer family comic chaos---including a few of Spritle's pranks on Speed! Some more Rex/Spritle and Rex/Speed brother-bonding in later chapters...
Chapt. 1 Going Home
Boy, am I ever glad to be out of that hospital bed! If I don't see another IV line or have to deal with any more shots for the rest of my life, that'd be fine with me---I HATE hospital stays. What I hate even more though, is being told to stay in bed even when I know I'm perfectly ok.---But hey, I'm a Racer. And I guess we Racer men just don't make very good patients. (Just ask my mom and Trixie about that!!!)
---Speed Racer, on hospitals, IV lines, and staying in bed longer than necessary----
The day after the Trans-Country Race Speed was sent home from the hospital, under strict orders from his family physician to rest in bed for the next three to four days. No overexcitement, nothing strenuous...And definitely, no driving. Just complete bed rest.
Not that Speed could squawk much about it. He was still too wiped out from yesterday's events, to put up much of a fight---although he did protest loudly in front of his family and Racer X last night, that much he did remember. Thankfully, the physical damage from the kidnapping/fire/race was minimal: some nasty rope burns, a small amount of smoke inhalation, considerable dehydration and an extreme case of exhaustion. Mentally, however...
...That was a different story.
It hadn't been an easy night for the young racer after his family and friends had left his hospital room. Encouraged by his nurses, Speed had tried to go to sleep on his own, and for a while had succeeded in doing so---until his sleep was disrupted by a terrifying nightmare around one in the morning.
It wasn't the actual kidnapping that bothered Speed, although he could still feel the achiness and tightness in his wrists long after Racer X had set him free. He also could still hear the cruel taunts of his guards rattling his mind. It was the fire in the basement---the accidental inferno that nearly cost both him and Racer X their lives---that terrified him the most. The brutal images kept assaulting his mind like a set of sharp daggers, twisting over and over. The dream sequence was so vivid and disturbing, his screams could be heard all the way down the corridor outside his room to the nurses' station. Shortly afterwards he'd been given a mild sedative, and back to sleep Speed went.
So it came as no surprise the next morning, that he was still a little groggy when Trixie came to take him home. “Knock, knock!” a smiling Trixie called out, entering her boyfriend's hospital room. She carried with her a bag containing a fresh change of clothes for Speed, and a small tape recorder. “How's my favorite racing star?”
A groggy Speed looked up from his breakfast. He was sitting up in bed, no longer hooked up to the IV---it had been removed an hour before, once Dr. Wilson had given him the okay to go home. He grinned tiredly when he saw his favorite girl walk in. “Hey, Trixie. I see you got my message,” he said, reaching over to hug Trixie. “Other than still being sore and awfully tired, I'm a lot better than I was last night.”
She laughed. “That's putting things mildly. Your mom was a little surprised when you called about seven-thirty this morning to say you were coming home,” Trixie said, her eyes sparkling as she set the duffle bag on the bed. “And yes, I did bring the tape recorder. What'd the doctor say when you asked him about taping your testimony for that meeting today?”
“Actually...he thought it was a good idea. Thought it might help me get over what happened, quicker. He even offered to ask the questions.” Speed paused, then pushed aside his breakfast tray. He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and stood up, albeit rather shakily. Trixie held onto him, trying to steady him. “Now, let me at my clothes, will you?
Trixie giggled. “Not until I give you...This.” She gave a startled Speed a quick kiss on the cheek.
Speed blushed. A quirky grin crossed his face. “Okay, that...That makes me feel a lot better. But I think, something's missing.” He proceeded to sweep Trixie into his arms, surprising her with an unabashed long kiss.
Trixie looked a little stunned. She hadn't expected that...! “What was that for, Speed?”
“That...was for standing by my family yesterday. And this...is because, I feel like it.” Speed kissed her again.
Uh, huh. Your typical teenage romance. So what else is new?
Just then, there was a knock at the door. It swung open, and in walked flame-haired Mrs. McAllister, the head nurse on the morning shift. She had come to do one last vitals check on Speed, before his doctor came to see him. As the fifty-something woman was the old-fashioned sort when it came to romance, one could just imagine her reaction to the two teens sitting on Speed's bed, locked in a very romantic embrace and generally acting like a pair of lovebirds. “Mr. Racer!” the nurse exclaimed, a look of shocked disapproval registering on her face when she saw what was happening. “I know you're happy to see your girlfriend, but this is not Inspiration Point. Nor is it some cheesy motel room. This is a hospital, which is most certainly NOT a place for public displays of affection! I suggest that you save the romance for when you get home!”
Speed and Trixie looked up, horrified. Quickly, they broke apart when they caught sight of Mrs. McAllister's stern gaze. Busted...!!! “Uh...Hi, Mrs. McAllister!” Speed gulped, his face turning a bright red.
“Now there'll be no hanky-panky or other such nonsense, while I'm in this room,” Mrs. McAllister admonished, pulling a blood pressure cuff from the pocket of her uniform. “Hold out your arm, so I can take your blood pressure.” She wrapped the cuff around Speed's upper left arm, and proceeded to check his blood pressure. She also checked his temperature and pulse as well. “And you may want to get dressed when I'm done here. Dr. Wilson will be down in ten minutes, with your release papers and home care instructions.”
Speed couldn't stop blushing. By now, his face was completely crimson with embarrassment. “Ummm...Yes, ma'am!”
Finally, the nurse was finished charting his vitals. “All right, Mr. Racer. Everything looks good, you're free to get dressed,” Mrs. McAllister announced.
Immediately, Trixie began to help Speed unpack his clothes (how many blue polo shirts, pairs of white pants, and red socks did this kid own, anyways??) from the duffle bag on the bed. “Here. Let me help you with that, Speed.”
Speed smiled. “Thanks, Trixie.”
Suddenly, someone coughed behind them. “A-hem!!”
The couple turned. There was Speed's nurse, standing with one hand on the curtain and frowning at them. “Young lady, I'm afraid you'll have to leave,” Mrs. McAllister said crossly.
Trixie was mortified. “But...But I was just helping Speed get his clothes out!” she protested.
“It doesn't matter! It's not proper for a young lady, to see a young man in the nude. Unless of course, they're married. And I highly doubt, you two are married.” The matronly woman motioned for Trixie to leave. “Now leave the room, miss. Or I will escort you out, myself.”
Speed looked worriedly at Trixie. She stood there, clenching her fists and fuming. “No, I won't leave the room!”
Speed sighed, and shook his head. After all the pleasant nurses who had taken care of him last night...He had to get one whose temperment rivalled Pops'! There had to be a way to end this stalemate...
Suddenly, a solution came to him. “Listen, Mrs. McAllister. I've got an idea,” Speed spoke up, grinning broadly. “Trixie can go sit in that armchair over by the TV set. Then I can close the curtain, and get dressed. Besides---it doesn't take me that long, to change.”
The nurse thought over his suggestion. At length, she grudgingly agreed to it. “Oh, very well!” Mrs. McAllister mumbled, pressing her lips together. “Just be quick about it. And NO funny business!” Pulling the curtain close around Speed, she then walked out of the room, muttering to herself something about “these unchaperoned teenagers nowadays. If she were my daughter, such behavior would be quickly remedied...!”
The room fell silent for a few moments. Trixie went over to the armchair in the corner by the TV set, and sat down. She was still stewing over the nurse's caustic remarks.
Finally, she exploded. “The nerve of that woman! Boy, am I glad she's not my mother!” Trixie pouted. “She's a scary one!”
A moment later, Speed's cheerful face popped out from behind the curtain. “You think that's bad, Trix. You should've heard her lecture me this morning at breakfast, over racing cars at my age,” he called out, wincing a bit at the memory. “She was worse than Pops, on one of his good days!”
Trixie giggled, and relaxed. Speed drew back the curtain a few minutes later and stepped out, dressed and ready to go. “Now, that's scary! But, Speed. With their personalities...If Pops were to be hospitalized again for anything, can you imagine what'd it be like if he had her for his nurse??”
He thought about that picture a moment, then let out a loud, boyish laugh. “Trix, c'mon. You're making me laugh! And right now, it kinda hurts!” Speed gasped, between laughs. “But you're right, I gotta wonder who would drive who crazier. Pops, or 'Nurse-zilla' McAllister!”
For a moment, the two teens just looked at each other, and grinned. Then they both cracked up with laughter over the idea of Speed's dad, trying to deal with the nurse from hell. Speed was laughing so hard, he suddenly went into a violent coughing fit---a painful reminder that he wasn't one hundred percent recovered from the previous day's ordeal. “Speed!” Trixie exclaimed, alarmed. She thumped him on the back once or twice, until he stopped coughing. “Are you okay?”
Speed gasped, and grimaced. “Yeah, I'll be fine. Just a little reminder about that fire...”
Moments later, his facial expression changed into a big grin. “Well, now we wait for Dr. Wilson. Then---I'm outta here, and boy, will it be good to get home,” Speed said, winking at Trixie. “I can't wait!”
Trixie laughed. “Bye-bye, 'Nurse-zilla'!”
Chapter 2: Back To Normal
Speed returns home from the hospital after meeting up with Pops and Spritle.
Chapt. 2 Back To Normal
“All right, Speed, I think that does it.” Dr. Brendan Wilson smiled at his restless patient as he handed the small tape recorder back to Speed. “How do you feel?”
Speed sat on the edge of his hospital bed, with Trixie by his side. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair, grimacing as he did so. “Well---” he hesitated. “It did help a lot, I guess.” The entire taping had taken about an hour to complete, although it wasn't always smooth sailing; at certain points during the interview Speed's raw emotions had come out, and he found himself clinging to Trixie several times as he tried to fight through them. “I still feel awfully tired and kind of weak. And that nightmare I had last night, didn't help much either.”
“Well, you're probably going to have a few of those for a while. And your body's still in the process of absorbing all that excess adrenaline from yesterday, so you're going to feel tired and weak for a few days. That's why I want you to get as much bed rest as possible. I'll be stopping by the house on Saturday, to have another look at you.” The tall, silver-haired physician rose from his chair. “The nurse'll be back in a few minutes, for you to sign your discharge papers. After that, you'll be ready to go. Take care, Speed,” Dr. Wilson said, clapping a friendly hand on Speed's shoulder.
Speed nodded. “Thanks, Dr. Wilson.”
About five minutes later, another nurse entered the room. Luckily for Speed, it wasn't Mrs. McAllister, the head nurse. “All right, Speed. Just sign this right here,” the young woman said with a smile, handing Speed a printed form to sign. “And these are your follow-up instructions. Now go home and get some rest, young man!”
Trixie couldn't help but speak up, while Speed signed his discharge papers. “Oh, no need to worry about that,” she declared, holding onto his arm. “I'll make sure, he gets his rest.”
Speed eyed her with a bewildered look. “Hey, Trixie. Come on, are you trying to be my nurse now?”
Trixie's face dimpled. “And why not?” she replied, her eyes twinkling merrily. “Think about it, Speed. Which would you rather have taking care of you---me and your mom, or...Well, you know who I'm talking about.”
Speed grinned. He didn't have to think about that one, at all. He'd take his girlfriend and his mother over “Nurse-zilla”---that snooty, nosy Mrs. McAllister---anyday! “Ah---good point.” He paused, and winked teasingly at Trixie. “So does this mean, I get to see you in a cute little nurse's outfit now?”
“Ooooh!!! Why, youuu...!!!! Speeeeed!!!” A red-faced Trixie lightly thumped her wide-eyed boyfriend with her purse.
Speed ducked, wincing as the blow glanced off his right shoulder. “Owww!!! Hey, Trixie, c'mon! I'm supposed to be recovering. Not getting injured again!” he pleaded, giving Trixie his best “have sympathy for me!” look. In reply, Trixie playfully turned her nose up at Speed and pretended to ignore him.
Uh, huh. Nice try, Speed. As if that ploy will work on your girl.
By ten-thirty, Speed was ready to leave. Duffle bag slung over one shoulder, racing trophy in hand, he and Trixie were about to step out into the corridor when Speed's dad and little brother entered the room. “Morning, Speed!” Pops boomed, pleased to see his son up and about. He was wearing a light blue business suit and a tie, while Spritle was in his usual red overalls. “I see you're ready to go home. How do you feel, son?”
Speed smiled. “To tell you the truth, Pops, better than I did last night. But I still feel kind of tired,” he replied. “Don't worry, Trixie's taking me straight home.”
His father nodded his approval. “Good! I just got done talking to Dr. Wilson. If you follow his instructions, he doesn't see why you shouldn't be ready to race next weekend,” Pops said. “Now you just go home, give your mom a big hug, then get right to bed.” He wrapped a huge, sinewy arm around Speed's shoulders, and hugged him.
As if to confirm his father's suggestion, Speed yawned and rubbed his eyes. “You won't get an argument from me on that, Pops.”
At length, the subject of the Racing Committee meeting came up. “Oh! By the way, Pops. I want you to give this to the Racing Committee chairman,” Speed said, handing his father the small tape recorder he'd taken from his pants pocket.
Pops took it, puzzled. “Eh? What's this?”
“My taped testimony about what happened yesterday at Wiley's mansion. Dr. Wilson was nice enough to work with me on it.” Speed's face bore a serious expression. “It wasn't easy, some things were still hard to deal with. But I figured if I can't be at that meeting, I can at least send this over for everyone to hear.”
“A smart idea, Speed!” Pops agreed. “I'll make sure Inspector Detector gets a copy of this, too. Dr. Wilson doesn't think it's wise for you to be questioned further about your ordeal, not just yet.” He affectionately patted Speed on the shoulder. “Now go on, you two. Get out of here.”
Trixie beamed. “Yes, before we have another run-in with 'Nurse-zilla'!”
Speed made a wry face. “Don't remind me! That woman's a walking nightmare!”
Little Spritle looked up at his big brother, confused. “Huhh?? Nurse-zilla??” he repeated slowly. “What's a Nurse-zilla, Speed? Is it anything like, Godzilla??”
Both Speed and Trixie laughed. “We'll explain that, later. When you guys get home,” Speed said, giving his baby brother a playful swat on the arm. “Now, go along. You don't want to make Pops late for that meeting!”
The teens and Pops parted ways once the foursome got out to the parking lot. Before getting into Trixie's yellow convertible, Speed felt there was something he just had to do—he had to grab his little brother Spritle and give him the biggest hug he could. Grinning ludicrously, he grabbed the little boy and began to squeeze him in a friendly embrace. “Hey! Speed! What's that for?” Spritle cried out, caught off guard by the older boy's affectionate gesture.
The smile on Speed's face widened. “Let's just say, that's what I didn't get to do last night. That's for the good work yesterday, Spritle,” he answered softly, thinking back to the events of yesterday. “If you hadn't gotten to Pops and Racer X, I'd just still might be in Wiley's clutches right now.” He shuddered at the thought.
Spritle looked up at him with those brown, saucer-like eyes. “But Speed, it was your idea to spring me! I'm just glad, you're gonna be ok now,” the youngster responded, hugging his big brother back in return. “I'm glad, you and Racer X are ok---”
“Yeah. So am I, Spritle. So am I.” The expression on Speed's face changed to one of wistfulness.
Suddenly, he changed the subject. “Say, did anyone get those bulls-eyes away from Chim Chim last night? I sure could've used a few this morning,” Speed said, looking around.
Spritle sadly shook his head. “No. Chim Chim ate 'em all while he was hiding under your hospital bed,” the lad answered.
Speed groaned, and made a face. “Aw, nuts! I wanted those, too!”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, Chim Chim soon regretted his actions. He ended up with quite the bellyache from all that candy,” Pops added, with a laugh. “We'll see you when we get home from the meeting, Speed.”
Speed nodded. “Right! Let me know how it goes, Pops. Give Racer X and the other drivers, my regards.” He quickly got into the front passenger seat of Trixie's car. “And tell Racer X, many thanks---again.”
“I will, son. Come on, Spritle, we don't want to be late.” Pops headed for his car.
“I'm coming, Pops!” Spritle hollered, running as fast as his small legs could carry him.
Speed and Trixie watched with amusement as Pops drove off. “Sometimes I just don't understand your father, Speed,” Trixie said, getting ready to start the car. “One minute he acts like he's the Godzilla of the racetrack, and the next he's like a big ol' teddy bear!”
Speed laughed. “Well, that's Pops for you,” he replied, stretching out in his seat. “One way or another, you gotta love 'em.”
Love Speed, love his family...
Some forty-five minutes later, Speed walked through the front door of the Racer home, relieved to be back in familiar surroundings. To him, he'd had enough of hospitals, doctors and egotistical nurses, to last him a lifetime. Almost immediately as he and Trixie entered the living room, he got a whiff of something good baking in the oven. Mom must be making her famous chocolate chip cookies again, the young racer mused.
He drew in a deep breath, savoring the aroma snaking its way out of the kitchen. “Umm! Smell those cookies, Trixie!” Speed exclaimed, as he set his trophy on a nearby coffee table and slid the duffle bag off his shoulder to the carpeted floor. “Man, it's great to be home again.”
Trixie smiled. “Um, hmm! I just hope Spritle and Chim Chim'll leave us some of those cookies,” she teased.
Her boyfriend scowled. “They'd better!” Speed answered, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Else I just might make the Mach 5's trunk permanently off-limits, to those two clowns!” He paused, then grinned madly. “Hey, wait a minute, Trixie. Spritle's not here at the moment. All we have to worry about is Chim Chim!”
Just then, Speed's mother came into the living room from the kitchen. Naturally, Mrs. Racer was overjoyed to have her second son back home, and she let Speed know that in no uncertain terms when the two embraced. “Speed! It's good to have you back, sweetie,” she said, hugging him warmly and kissing him lightly on the forehead. “We were really worried about you, dear. You look a lot better, really.”
Speed felt himself blushing—again. How many times did that make now, that morning...?? “Tell that to the rest of my body, Mom. I'm still kinda wiped out and a bit achy all over,” he replied with a weak smile. He rubbed lightly at his still-bandaged wrists.
“Well, you just get yourself right upstairs, and lie down. I'll bring a plate of cookies up to you and Trixie, when they're ready.” Mrs. Racer smiled, and ushered her son up the stairs. Trixie went with him, carrying his duffle bag for him. “And, Trixie. Thank you for picking Speed up this morning.
Trixie just smiled back. “No problem, Mrs. Racer. I was glad to do it.”
Later that day, after Trixie had left and his father and little brother had returned from the Racing Association meeting, Speed lay stretched out on his bed, relaxing and thinking. Hands clasped behind his head, he reflected briefly on the events of the past two days. God, it feels good to be lying in my own bed again, instead of lying on that awful sofa all tied up! Pops was right—I sure didn't use my head the night Wiley's thugs nailed me. I won't make that mistake, ever again! I'm just glad things are back to normal around here, and Pops is in a good mood today. I'm also glad that snake Wiley, got what he deserved—being banned from racing, for good. I knew that his heading the Alpha Team would get him in trouble with the Trans-Country Race committee... Holding that thought in his mind, Speed closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Back to normal, Speed? We'll see...
Chapter 3: Speed Racer, The Impatient Patient
What happens when "The Curse of the Racer Men" strikes Speed--it's major headaches for his entire family, but especially for Pops!
NOTE: I got the idea for Pops' reaction to Speed later sneaking out to the garage and sitting in the Mach 5 from the original episode, “The Fastest Car On Earth.” Specifically, the scene where Pops physically hauls Speed out to the back yard over his shoulder for “The Treatment.”---Goes to show ya, Speed's never too old or too big for Pops to toss over his shoulder for a little...Discipline???
Chapt. 3 Speed Racer, The Impatient Patient
“Son, I told you Sunday night at the hospital, we were gonna discuss this whole kidnapping/racing thing when you got home.It wasn't only foolish of you to race in your condition, it was downright dangerous! Why, if you'd been driving the Mach 5 on the street like that, you would've been pulled over in a New York minute for impaired driving!” So began Speed's third day home in bed, having to endure yet another one of his father's infamous driving lectures. Pops Racer had taken the day off from work to be with both of his sons (but especially Speed), and one of the first things he did that morning was to make good on his threat to occupy Speed's time---with a little lecture on driving in poor physical condition. “If you hadn't been so stubborn and persistent about running the Trans-Country Race without any kind of rest, I'd like to think you would've never seen the inside of a hospital room— SPEED!!! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME???” Pops suddenly shouted, exasperated by the fact that his son wasn't paying attention to him.
No, Pops, Speed wasn't listening. His mind was elsewhere---like how to convince his family, to let him go to the drive-in with Trixie on Friday night!
It was funny how some guys had troubling dealing with something as simple as, following doctor's orders and staying in bed. Speed clearly was among that group, though for the first day or two he proved to be the model patient by resting in bed just as Dr. Wilson had instructed him to. Initially, he had no problem complying with the doctor's orders, as his body was still dictating how much activity he could—or couldn't—handle; most of the time, the teen racer was asleep for a good part of the day. And although the nightmares of the fire in Wiley's basement weren't nearly as horrific as the one he had in the hospital, the dreams were still frightening enough to bring both his parents running into his room late at night and staying for more than an hour, trying to reassure the terrified teen. Still, Speed had plenty of visitors—Trixie was a constant visitor, as was Sparky. There were other visitors as well, including several of his fellow drivers who'd been involved in Sunday's race.
That included Racer X. Speed relished the hours spent in the company of his idol, talking racing and listening to the Masked Racer's account of the meeting in the track president's office that Monday morning. It certainly helped to pass the time, and for a while the nightmares that had been plaguing the young man were all but pushed out of his mind.
Even little Spritle was doing his best to be helpful. Running Speed's mail up to him (plenty of fan mail and get-well wishes, and all that just after one race!)...Bringing up magazines for him to read...Taking his meal trays, etc. For a time, things at the Racer home seemed to be settling back into a normal routine...
But then...The third day of house confinement got to be too much for the young racer to bear. He started to get restless—and, itching to get back into the Mach 5.
Oh, those itchy ignition fingers! They're about to get him in trouble. Big time!
Pops stared crossly at his bedridden son. “Speed!! I'm talking to you!! Didn't you hear a word of what I just said???”
Speed nearly rolled out of his bed onto the floor, startled back into reality by the sound of his father's booming voice. “What...? What'd you say, Trixie—I mean, Pops??? “ he hastily corrected himself. His face turned bright red, as soon as he realized his fuming dad was giving him a really dirty look. “What did you ahh, say?”
Pops wasn't amused by his attempt to cover up his real thoughts. “Speed, that wasn't very funny. Do I look like Trixie??” he retorted, highly annoyed.
A sheepish-looking Speed swallowed hard. Uh-ohh! Oh boy, now I've done it. But I don't want to be stuck in the house all weekend, was his immediate thought. “Ahh...Uhh...No.”
“Then would you care to explain yourself, and tell me just what you meant by that little slip-up?” His father stood in front of him, arms folded across his chest and acting as if he were waiting for an answer from Speed. Which, he was.
Speed just shook his head, and lay back against his pillows. “I'm not sure you'd understand, Pops,” he murmured.
Pops quickly sensed where the gist of that comment was going, and relaxed. “Oh? Just try me,” he responded, coming over and sitting on the edge of his unhappy son's bed. “I was a teenager once upon a time too, you know.”
A nervous Speed sighed. It was probably better for him to tell his dad the truth, than to let him think he was lying about something. “It's just that...It's just that I was thinking about my date with Trixie Friday night. You know, I was supposed to take her out to the drive-in---that new Elvis film, Clambake, is playing and we both really want to see it...” Speed's voice trailed off.
“Hmmm! I see.” Pops sat there, thoughtfully stroking his chin. In a way, he did understand how Speed was feeling at that moment. Beswides being a racing prodigy, Speed was also a typical teenager with the usual teenage emotions and needs. His devotion to Trixie was nothing short of phenomenal to many people—especially to those who didn't know the Racer clan very well. Pops himself had seen this relationship blossom since the time Speed and Triixie were preteens, and he was delighted with the path their friendship had taken. Not only did Speed and Trixie work well together professionally, but she was the sort of young woman any family would be proud to have as a member. As it were, Trixie was already a regular fixture in the Racer household, and in their world where boys were the norm both Pops and Mrs. Racer adored her like a daughter—she was the only person other than his own mom, who seemed to be able to make Speed get a grip on himself at times!
Still, it was hard for Pops to tell his restless son, the Friday night drive-in movie date was out. He had to do it, though, and tried to be as tactful as he could. “I'm sorry, son, but that's out of the question,” the elder Racer began, gently laying a hand on Speed's shoulder. “I know, you hate the idea of staying in bed like this. But the key phrase here is, 'complete bed rest.' You're not to leave this house, until you've been cleared by Dr. Wilson.”
“But I feel a lot better, Pops! And I won't be driving!” Speed began to protest. “Trixie will!”
“That's not the point, Speed! The point is, you're under a doctor's care right now, and both your mother and I expect you to comply with Dr. Wilson's instructions. That's all there is to it---if you want to get back on your feet quickly,” Pops said firmly. “Now, Trixie's been coming over here like clockwork, ever since she brought you home three days ago from the hospital. I'm sure she'll understand the situation...Your health comes first, over some Friday night movie date.”
He pulled the bedcovers up around a dejected Speed's neck. “Now. Since your mind isn't on the conversation we were having this morning. Why don't you read this, until Mom brings your lunch up?” Pops lightly suggested, handing a baffled Speed a copy of the Formula One racing handbook. “Especially the section on physical conditioning. You know you'll have to pass a complete physical before you're allowed back on the track, so that's all the more reason to listen to the doctor about this.”
Speed started to protest yet again. But a stern look from his father quickly sent the recuperating teen back under the covers. “Speed? That's my final word on it. Now, no more back talk from you. Or else I'll just take the keys to the Mach 5 away from you---permanently!” Pops snapped. “Now, get some rest!”
"Don't you 'but Pops!' me! Mind what I said, Speed.” Pops started to leave the room---but not before spying his son's car keys on the dresser. Immediately, that gave the burly ex-wrestler-turned-car designer an idea. “Hmmm! And maybe to give you a little more incentive to rest...” Pops picked up the key ring, then made a show of pocketing it, much to poor Speed's dismay and disbelief. “...I'll just take these, for safekeeping.”
Then chuckling, he walked out of the bedroom.
Poor Speed sat straight up in bed, glaring after his father. He couldn't believe, what had happened---Pops had just walked off with the keys to the Mach 5! “No fair, Pops!” he yelled, frustrated. “That's blackmail!!!”
He heard his father's booming laugh out in the hallway. “Actually...no it's not blackmail, son. I call it...'Creative discipline'!” was Pops' jovial reply.
“'Creative discipline,' my foot!” Speed muttered, once his father was out of earshot. He dropped back among his pillows, and blew a heavy sigh. “I feel like I'm being held prisoner again—this time, by my own family!” He turned over and pounded a fist into his pillow, determined to find some way of getting out of his bed and at least walk around the house.
Score? Pops and the doctor 1, Speed 0!
Out in the hallway, a flustered Pops bumped into his wife. Mrs. Racer had just come upstairs with a basket of freshly-folded laundry, and was about to put it away before starting the family's lunch. “Something wrong, dear?” she asked, noticing the exasperated look on her husband's face.
Pops blew a heavy sigh. “Ohh! I tell you, sweetheart. That son of ours, is gonna drive me crazy! Speed and that thick head of his,” the big man replied, a sour expression on his face. “I'm not sure whether we should tie that boy down, or have Dr. Wilson come over and give him some kind of sleeping injection...!”
Mom Racer eyed him with a wry glance. “All right, dear. What did Speed do now?” she inquired with a light chuckle.
Pops made a face. “He won't stay in bed, that's what! He doesn't seem to realize the seriousness of his condition, and he's refusing to listen to the doctor's orders,” he replied. “Would you believe, he still wants to take Trixie out to the drive-in Friday night?”
His wife merely smiled. “Well, dear. If I recall, you didn't exactly make a good patient yourself, whenever you got sick,” Mrs. Racer replied teasingly, remembering all the times Pops had gotten sick and wasn't the easiest patient to have in the house.
Pops' face went completely red in a matter of seconds. “But I'm not talking about me! I'm talking about Speed! How is he gonna recover in time for next week's Western 500, if he's going out here and there instead of resting in bed like Dr. Wilson ordered him to?” he huffed. Despite the outward gruffness, it was clear that Pops was concerned that Speed was trying to push things to the limit---as usual.
And as she usually did when things got out of control with her family, Speed's mother had a solution at hand. “Well, then, I think I have an answer to that problem. Just tell Speed, he has a choice to make: A) he goes out with Trixie, he'll have to skip next week's race because he won't be physically ready to race or B), skips going out and concentrates on getting completely well so he can enter next week's race. It's up to him,” Mom Racer said softly, smiling. “I thnk I know our boy well enough, he'll make the right choice. And, give us less fuss about it.” She winked teasingly at Pops.
Her husband thoughtfully stroked his chin as he mulled over his wife's idea. “Choice, with a consequence...Dang! You know, this actually might work!” Pops exclaimed, relieved. “Now why didn't I think of that?”
Again, that oh-so pleasant smile. “That's because you tend to roar first, ask questions later,” Mrs. Racer answered with a slight laugh, and Pops gave her a quizzical look in return.
Here's something, people often forget about Speed and his family. Don't ever tell a Racer he can't do something---because he will always find a way to prove, he CAN.
Speed certainly felt that way. After the morning's fiasco with his father, he felt more determined than ever to find some way of going out with Trixie as he'd promised. But first, he'd have to test the waters---he had to find a way, to get past his always-vigilant family.
His opportunity to test those limits came around lunchtime. His mother came into his bedroom about noon, carrying a lunch tray for her son. “Here you go, sweetheart,” she said smoothly, setting the tray on the nightstand next to Speed's bed. “Enjoy your lunch.”
Speed looked up, and smiled at his mom. He'd been reading some of his fan mail and get-well cards from the day before. “Huh?? Oh! Lunch, already?” he said, putting down the card he'd been scanning onto a fairly neat pile of mail in front of him.
Mom Racer smiled sweetly at him. “Your favorite, Speed. Turkey on white, with lettuce and tomato. A glass of milk, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.” She lightly kissed Speed's forehead. “I'll send Spritle up for your tray, when you're done.”
“OK, Mom. Thanks.” Speed put aside his mail, and began to dig enthusiastically into his lunch.
About a half-hour later, Speed put the empty tray back on his nightstand. He sat on the edge of his bed, thinking how he might put his little scheme into action. Enough of this lounging around all day in my pj's! I gotta get outta here---if only for even fifteen minutes, the young racer told himself as he gazed around his bedroom. He removed his pajama top, then went for a quick shower (taking care, of course, not to get his healing wrists too wet). Afterwards he got dressed, then quietly crept out of his room into the hallway.
Fortunately, his family was too busy at the kitchen table with their lunch to notice the young man stealthily tip-toeing down the stairs and slithering his way to the garage door. A couple of times, though, Speed had to freeze up when he heard his dad's loud laugh coming from the direction of the kitchen. So far, so good. Spritle and Mom are keeping Pops occupied, Speed thought, keeping a close eye on the activity in the kitchen.
Cautiously, he opened the screen door that separated the main house from the garage, and slipped inside. There, in the middle of the huge garage, sat his pride and joy. His “baby,” if you will---his beloved Mach 5. “Ahh!” Speed exclaimed softly. His deep blue eyes lit up, like the lights on a Christmas tree. Wasting little time, he made a Le Mans-style running leap into the cockpit and settled into the plush red driver's seat, happy to be at least sitting behind the wheel of the Mach 5 if not outright driving it. A big grin broke across Speed's face as he relaxed, enjoying the feel of the steering wheel in his hands.
He sat there for what seemed to be an eternity, thinking about different things. Certainly, what Pops had tried to tell him this morning---he had to admit, his father had made some very valid points and generally, Speed did understand where he was coming from. But it was just so hard for him to stay still for any given length of time---he still didn't know how he'd managed to survive being bound and gagged for as long as he had been that Sunday morning! Plus, he wanted to keep his word to Trixie... Trixie! Oh, man, I suppose I'll just have to bite the bullet on this, and tell her up front about the no-go for Friday, Speed sadly thought to himself. I just wish there were some way to get around Pops' and Mom's objections to us going out!
Eventually, he began to daydream. The Grand Prix...For the World Championship. It's me in the Mach 5, Racer X in the Shooting Star. It's the last lap, and we're coming to the finish! It's---It's---
By accident, his finger hit the small button on the side of the steering column, which controlled the Mach 5's horn. “AAAAUUGGGG!!!!” Speed suddenly yelled, snapping out of his reverie and wincing at the ear-splitting sound. “For everything Pops put into this car...Couldn't he at least have put in a DECENT-SOUNDING HORN????!!!!!”
Back in the kitchen, Pops and the rest of the family were at the table, enjoying their lunch and each other's company when the sound of a car horn in the garage disrupted things. It especially startled Spritle, who nearly fell out of his chair. “Hey, Pops! Somebody's in the garage!” the lad cried out, between bites of turkey sandwich. “That's the Mach 5's horn, and it sounded like Speed yelling!”
“What!!!” Pops exclaimed, shocked.
“But I thought, Speed was upstairs! I brought him his lunch---,” Mrs. Racer added, completely caught off guard.
The honking continued. So too, did Speed's panicky yelling as he desperately attempted to shut down the horn—without the use of his car keys. Pops rose from his seat, his face turning a bright red. “Ohh, that sneaky, conniving Speed! Wait 'til I get my hands on him!” the burly car designer sputtered, fighting his growing temper as he made strides towards the garage door. “Spritle, you stay here.”
Spritle tried to protest. Beside him, Chim Chim attempted to swipe his his cookies---as usual. “But, Pops---”
I said, stay here!!!!” Pops suddenly roared.
That was enough to send both Spritle and Chim Chim screaming over to Mrs. Racer. “Mom...!!!” Spritle bawled, and Chim Chim hooted nervously as Pops stormed off.
And today's weather report? Cloudy, with one hundred percent chance of...Yelling!!! Break out those earplugs, Speed. You're gonna need 'em!
Pops hurried into the garage, a furious scowl on his face. There he found Speed relaxing in the cockpit of the Mach 5, blissfully unaware of the impending storm. “SPEED!!!!!” his father bellowed crossly.
Uh, huh. Looks like Speed just got himself busted.
Speed looked up---and suddenly wished he hadn't. He froze in horror, his face turning as white as his pants when he saw Pops standing in the doorway to the garage, looking none too pleased with his middle son. The senior Racer stood there, fuming, with his hands on his hips and giving poor Speed a very cross look. “Ahhhhhh!!!! POPS!!!!” Speed gasped, startled. “What---what are YOU doing out here???”
Pops eyed his quaking son with displeasure. “That's funny, son. I was about to ask you the same thing,” he replied, trying to maintain his cool about the situation but as usual, the color of his face gave away what he was really feeling. He stepped further into the garage, allowing the door to slam behind him.
Speed swallowed hard. “Um...H-honest, Pops, I wasn't planning on d-driving---!” he stammered, squirming in his seat. “I swear!”
His dad glared at him. “Well, of course you're not! Not since I have the keys,” Pops snapped. He pulled the keys to the Mach 5 from his pants pocket, and dangled them before a squirming Speed. “Remember this morning---?”
A red-faced, nervous Speed slowly started to slide his body out towards the passenger door, intent on making as fast a getaway from his father as he possibly could. “Uhh...I guess I'll be going now?” He flashed a nervous grin at Pops.
Whoops! Bad move, Speed! That only infuriated Pops further. “Oh, no you don't!” the ex-wrestler rasped. “Get over here!”
He reached into the Mach 5. Suddenly Pops grabbed Speed by the back of his belt, pulled him out of the car, then slung the shocked teen over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “POPPSSS---!!!!” Speed loudly protested, wide-eyed with disbelief. He certainly hadn't expected his own father, to put a move like that on him---!! “What—what are you doing???? I'm not a little kid any more...!!!”
“Oh? You're not that big, that I still can't take you over my shoulder if not my knee!” Pops countered. He carried a comically panic-stricken Speed away from the car like he was a feather. “Now back to bed with you, young man. And I MEAN IT!!!”
“But, Pops---!!! This is—This is so embarrassing! I sure hope Trixie doesn't come here, and has to see this---!!!”
Spritle, meanwhile, heard the commotion in the garage. He slipped away from the kitchen table, with Chim Chim in tow. Together, they ran to the garage to investigate. Opening the screen door, they saw a huffing, puffing Pops coming towards them, with a struggling, yelling Speed over his shoulder. “Put me down!!! You can't—Pops, you can't do this to me...!!!” the two heard Speed complain.
Then, Spritle heard his dad's sharp, loud reply. “Oh yes I can, son, and I will!!!”
Spritle and Chim Chim giggled softly. For Spritle, this was a chance to tweak his big brother for all the comments Speed had made in his hospital room about him not being big enough, to hold the older Racer boy's first-place trophy. “Here, Pops. Let me get the door for you,” the little boy said, eager to help.
Pops beamed with pleasure at his youngest son's helpfulness. “Why, thank you, Spritle. At least one of you boys is behaving today,” he answered, stepping into the kitchen with his still-protesting load.
A scowling, red-faced Speed managed to catch a glimpse of his grinning baby brother as their father carried him through the house, en route to the staircase leading to the family bedrooms. ”You little traitor!!!” the flustered, embarrassed teenager shouted, pointing a finger at Spritle. “I'll—I'll deal with you and Chim Chim, later!”
Well, dear ol' Pops had something to say about that little would-be sibling argument. “You'll do no such thing, Speed!” he barked, tightening his grip on the back of Speed's shirt and pants as he strode towards the stairs. “The only thing you're going to do is, go right back into your bed!” He shifted Speed's weight slightly over his shoulder, and began to trek up the stairs with him.
Poor Speed could only close his eyes and screw his face up into a comic grimace. To paraphrase the title of an old Monkees tune, this just didn't seem to be his day! “Mom!!! Do something!! Please!!!” he pleaded helplessly with his mother.
Mom stopped the pair at the bottom of the staircase. “Now, you two. Isn't this a little much?” she asked, eyeing her husband and son with a look of concern.
Pops just chuckled. “Nonsense! I'm only doing this, for his own good,” he responded breezily, reaching the top of the stairs. “You said it yourself, honey. He needs to make a choice---either he decides to go with Trixie and not be ready to race next weekend, or he stays home, recuperates, and races next week!”
Arriving at Speed's bedroom, Pops opened the door and walked in. “All right. In you go, son,” he said, gently dropping a perturbed Speed down onto his bed.
Speed landed awkwardly with a loud “Ooomphf!!!” “Oww! Hey!!---Pops, not so hard!” he exclaimed, shooting his father an odd look. At the same time, he began to vigorously massage the right side of his butt, wincing as he did so. “What's the big idea??”
Pops came over to his bed and sat down on the edge. The smile disappeared moments later, replaced by a complete seriousness. He gazed intently at Speed. “Sorry I had to do that, Speed, but I needed to get my point across,” he said quietly, his demeanor softening somewhat. “Fighting Dr. Wilson's orders isn't going to help you get better quicker. If anything, it'll only make matters worse. Now, your mom and I both agree on this---until the doctor examines you on Saturday, you're staying in bed and resting quietly. Ah---now don't interrupt me while I'm speaking. That's my final word on the subject!” Pops said, seeing as how Speed was about to say something in protest. “Besides. If I catch you near the Mach 5 again before you're cleared to drive...” A pause, and a devious smile broke at the corners of the car designer's mouth at the thought, “...I just might spank you.”
At that, Speed's face went completely pale. He huddled on his bed, sitting on his hands as if trying to protect his behind. “N-no! You---You wouldn't!” he gulped, wide-eyed with alarm.
His father eyed him dourly. “You wanna try me?”
Speed cringed with comic terror, and swallowed hard. “You would!!”
Outside Speed's bedroom door, his little brother Spritle and Chim Chim leaned in close, getting an earful of the goings-on inside. Both little spies giggled uncontrollably when they heard Pops playfully threaten Speed with a good old-fashioned spanking---now that would be a sight to see, in Spritle's opinion!
Unable to resist taking a jab at his big brother, Spritle cautiously cracked open the door to Speed's room, and poked his head inside. “You'd better listen to him, Speed. Unless you really want a good butt-warming!” the little boy cheerfully called out.
An irritated Speed abruptly snapped his head around, just in time to see a giggling Spritle pull out of the room. “Hey! You stay out of this, Spritle!” he growled. “Mind your own business!”
“Spritle!!? That's enough!” their father commanded. “Your brother needs to rest. And as for you, Speed...Get into bed. NOW!!!”
Poor Speed! He threw his hands up into the air in defeat. “OK, OK! You win!” he sighed, taking off his loafers and sliding under his covers afterwards. Then in a half-audible aside he muttered, “I can't believe this. I'm getting picked on---by both my dad, AND my little brother!” With that, he comically hid his head beneath his pillows, completely embarrassed.
Let's see, now. As the commercial for MasterCard would say...
Candy for Spritle: Thirty dollars.
Overnight stay in hospital: Seven hundred dollars.
Look on Speed's face when his father throws him over his shoulder...
Chapter 4: The Visit
Trixie and the mysterious Racer X pop in to see Speed--and already, Speed's causing another ruckus.
Note: This chapter might be a little long, but I wanted to focus in a little on the Racer X/Speed brother link.
Chapt. 4. The Visit
That same afternoon, Trixie Shimura arrived at the Racer house for her daily visit with Speed, unaware of the chaos her boyfriend had created earlier within his family. A soft breeze gently rippled through her short, bouncy brown hair as she turned into the long, wide driveway and pulled her yellow convertible up to the garage door. She brought with her one of Speed's favorite treats, a freshly-made lemon meringue pie.
She wasn't the only person with that idea, however. Racer X was also en route to the house, intent on checking in with his convalescing younger brother. He too had a gift for Speed, the latest copy of his favorite auto racing magazine. Got to keep Speed's mind busy while he recuperates, was the Masked Racer's reasoning. If he's anything like Pops and me when it comes to being sick in bed, I just bet he's driving everyone crazy at this point!
[ Rex? You have no idea, how right you are! ]
He rolled the sleek, black and yellow form of the Shooting Star to an effortless halt behind Trixie's convertible just as the young woman was getting out, pie in hand. “Trixie!” Racer X called out with a smile.
Trrixie looked up. Her face lit up in surprise when she saw the tall, muscular masked figure in the white racing suit leap over the side of his car and begin to walk towards her. “Why, Racer X!” she exclaimed, closing her car door. “I wasn't expecting you to be here.”
The Masked Racer chuckled heartily. “Looks like we both had the same idea,” he replied. He then spied the pie that Trixie was holding, and a small tight smile broke at the corners of his mouth. “Ah, ha! Lemon meringue pie!” X exclaimed jokingly. “Trying to bribe the patient into behaving, are we?”
She laughed, her face dimpling. “And what if I am? I see you didn't come empty-handed, either,” Trixie playfully shot back, noticing the magazine in X's hand.
“That's true, but your little present is edible. Mine isn't.” Beneath the mask, Rex Racer smiled. He found a lot to admire (and like) in his younger brother's choice of a girlfriend. Trixie was smart, well-trained in aviation and the martial arts, clearly cool under fire, an excellent navigator and spotter, able to speak her mind when need be. Not to mention, very attractive and an excellent cook...
...And probably the only person outside of Mom and myself, who can get through to Speed and bring him back down to earth at times, Rex ruefully told himself. Better hold onto her, little brother. A girl like Trixie, is a rare gem these days indeed!
He and Trixie started towards the house. They were greeted at the door by Mom Racer, who despite her obvious frazzled state still managed to maintain her natural graciousness and warmth. “Trixie, dear. Do come in,” Speed's mom said, ushering the visitors inside. “I see you brought one of Speed's favorites. He'll really appreciate that.”
Trixie laughed softly. “Oh, I know he will, Mrs. Racer. Speed keeps begging me to make him one, almost every time I see him lately,” she replied, her green eyes sparkling with pleasure. “I thought this time, I'd might surprise him.”
“Well, I'd say, he'll be surprised.Especially when he sees this handsome fellow in the maskMom Racer's eyes fell upon the masked figure standing next to Trixie, and she grinned. “I know Speed will be delighted to see you too, Racer X.”
Racer X inclined his head. “Well, that's why I'm here, Mrs. Racer. I thought Speed could use some company. Of course, I hadn't counted on Trixie being here at the same time,” Speed's elder brother chuckled, then quietly inquired, “And how is Speed doing?”
Mom let out an exasperated sigh, something that didn't go unnoticed by either Trixie or Rex. “Actually, I'm glad you two are here,” she answered, as she led the pair upstairs. “I don't know, perhaps you can talk some sense into Speed. He's...Getting to be a handful!”
As if to emphasize her point, a sudden loud child's screech mixed with the infectious, chortling laugh of a teenage boy erupted from Speed's bedroom. An unsuspecting Spritle had just delivered the day's mail to his convalescing big brother—and now Speed had seized an opportunity to lay a little payback on his baby brother for the morning's earlier disaster with Pops! Speed had his little brother cornered on his bed, and was now tickling the living daylights out of him. “SPEEEED!!!! THAT—THAT TICKLES!!! I'M GONNA TELL POPS AND MOM, YOU'RE OUTTA BED AGAIN...MOMMMM!!!!!”
“Tattle-tale! I told you, I'd getchya for making fun of me this morning—Take that. And, that!!!”
Then, Spritle's voice again. This time, he was commanding Chim Chim to save him. “Chim Chim! Save me from this big ol' Speed tickle monster!!!” That was followed by an overexcited Chim Chim screeching at a laughing, gasping Speed and making all kinds of loud chimp noises, then the sound of bumping as bodies tangled on Speed's bed in a hilarious wrestling match.
Mom clapped a hand to her face, and shook her head in disbelief. Speed just didn't know when to let up! “See what I mean?” she asked, turning to X and Trixie.
A smirking Rex turned to a bewildered Trixie. “You know? I think we'd better get in there, and rescue Spritle. From Speed!” he joked.
Trixie agreed. “Um, hmmm! I think you're absolutely right, Racer X. If Speed keeps this up--” She paused, and a devious gleam filled her eyes. If Speed's parents thought he was a bit of a scamp at times...Trixie could be a little minx herself, when she wanted to be. And now, was one of those times. “--Hmmmph! Maybe I should give this pie to Spritle and Chim Chim, instead of him!”
They followed the boys' mother upstairs. As Mrs. Racer and the visitors approached, the boisterous free-for-all going on inside Speed's bedroom got even rowdier and noisier. Spritle, in fact, had actually gained the upper hand on his older brother, and Chim Chim was eagerly hooting his delight at the scene. “Boys! What on earth is going on in there???” Mom demanded loudly, knocking at the door. “Speed, what did your father tell you? You're supposed to be in bed, res...”
She threw open the door moments later---and then wished she hadn't. “ ...Resting,” Mrs. Racer sighed helplessly as she watched her two youngest sons goofing off on Speed's bed. There was Spritle, sitting on Speed and pounding away at his chest with both chubby little fists and hollering at the top of his lungs. Chim Chim was screeching and jumping up and down excitedly on the pillows. Speed himself was nearly in tears, from laughing so hard and trying to outwrestle both his little brother and the family pet. “...You want payback, Speed?? I'll show you, MY payback!!!” Spritle yelled, continuing to comically pound away at Speed's chest.
Speed comically tried to defend himself. “OK. OK!!! Knock it off, you little rascal. Or see if I give you any candy on your birthday!” he gasped, holding up his right arm to ward off the youngster's harmless blows.
A laughing Spritle continued to pummel and tickle Speed mercilessly. “Ow! OWWW!!!” the older Racer boy exclaimed, feigning pain. “You're not fighting fair, Spritle!”
Eeeeeeeekkk!!!! screeched Chim Chim, tumbling over both Spritle and Speed.
Mrs. Racer stepped forward into the room, a stern expression on her face. “Boys! Stop that nonsense, this instant. We have guests!” she said, raising her voice above the din.
“Yes, and if you three don't stop it, I might just give this pie to Racer X instead of you,” Trixie added, feigning exasperation with her steady's boyish behavior.
Instantly, the wrestling ceased. Speed looked up, a wide grin on his face. “Trixie! You made a pie, for me?” he asked, his cobalt blue eyes lighting up with surprise. “Groovy!”
Trixie smiled. “Why, yes. Lemon meringue. See?” She held up the pastry for all to see. Her mouth then twisted into a comic little pout. “But I'm not so sure, you deserve it now. I mean, picking on your poor little brother like you just did...”
Spritle giggled quietly. He turned to Chim Chim. “Wow, Chim Chim. I wonder if Trixie'll let us have some. I think we're more deserving than Speed is,” he confided to the chimp, who hooted softly in agreement.
Speed's jaw just dropped in shock at his girlfriend's playful threat. He tried to put on a contrite facial expression. “Aw, Trix, be nice. I'm a sick man!” he pleaded, using some of that Racer charm on Trixie.
The Masked Racer saw right through his act, and chuckled heartily. Funny, that was the same line he seemed to recall his father giving his mother whenever Pops took sick, so long ago... Ahh, yes. The infamous Racer charm strikes again. “Oh, you're not that sick, that you can't pick on poor Spritle here,” Rex interjected, a wry smile breaking at the corners of his mouth.
Speed grimaced. “But he started it!” he protested, pointing a finger at Spritle.
“Did not!” Spritle countered.
“Did too, you little traitor!”
An annoyed Spritle puffed out his chest and stuck out his tongue at Speed. “I said, I DID NOT!”
Their mother became exasperated. “Speed, Spritle, that's enough!!!” she thundered at the brothers, her own temper having reached its boiling point. “Now, settle down, all of you. Or I WILL get your father up here!!!”
Speed's face suddenly went white. Hastily, he pulled his blanket up over his head—after this morning's confrontation with his father, he was in no hurry to get his butt warmed by Pops! “Better listen to Mom, Speed,” Spritle grinned, enjoying his big brother's discomfiture. “Else Pops'll spank ya, like he promised!”
At that, both Trixie and X looked mystified. Neither one had any idea, about what the youngest Racer was talking about. “What??” Trixie exclaimed, an incredulous look on her face. She couldn't believe, what she was hearing. “Pops threatened to do what, to Speed??”
“All right, Speed. What did you do this time, to incur your father's wrath?” Racer X inquired smugly. He didn't have to guess—much. Racer men, sickness, and cabin fever—not a good match. And it sure sounds like Speed's got a real good case of the latter, Speed's elder brother mused to himself.
Before Speed could answer, Spritle gleefully chipped in with the story. A little too gleefully, for the teen racer's liking. “Oh, nothing much. Just that Pops caught Speed out of bed, sitting in the Mach 5 this morning. You should've seen it, Racer X. It was so funny,” the little boy eagerly prattled on. “Pops pulled 'em out of the car by the seat of his pants and carried 'em upstairs over his shoulder. Then he threw Speed on his bed, and threatened to spank 'em if he didn't stay there!” Spritle chortled, thoroughly enjoying himself.
Hmmmm. Spritle's revenge, for Speed starting the tickling/wrestling match? Maybe!
Speed shot out from beneath his bedcovers, and glared at his kid brother. “You little gossip! Are you sure you're my baby brother, and NOT my baby sister??” he hissed, highly annoyed.
At that point, Mom Racer had had enough. Folding her arms across her chest, she stared long and hard at her rambunctious sons. A look that told both Speed and Spritle, their mother meant business and wouldn't take any more of their shenanigans. “Boys, I think this has gone on long enough,” she said in a firm tone of voice. “Spritle, why don't you and Chim Chim go out in the back yard, and play until dinner's ready? I believe, Speed wants to spend some time with his guests.”
Spritle quickly jumped off the bed, relieved to get away from his rather cranky older brother. Speed was still throwing him and Chim Chim some really icy laser-beam looks as the pair raced out of the room. “OK, Mom. Come on, Chim Chim. Let's leave Speed and Trixie to the mushy stuff.--'Bye, Racer X!” The two pint-sized comedians were soon long gone, even before an exasperated Speed had time to react.
Speed's mother now turned her attention to her middle son. “And you, mister. Behave!” she ordered, gazing intently at a cringing Speed. Her gaze was so intense, it actually made him flinch. “Or I'll confiscate that lemon meringue pie Trixie made for you, and the three of us—Trixie, Racer X, and myself—will eat it ourselves!”
Now, if Pops Racer was the hands-on disciplinarian of the Racer family, then Mom was the more subtle one. Knowing her sons' like and dislikes often came in handy, especially in a situation like this. The older woman winked at Trixie, a knowing smile curving at the corners of her mouth. “No offense, Trixie dear. But Speed has got to settle down,” Mom declared, with one eye on Speed. “He's not supposed to get overexcited.”
Trixie briefly covered her mouth with her free hand, trying to suppress a small giggle. “None taken, Mrs. Racer. I totally agree with you,” she answered brightly, much to the consternation of her recuperating boyfriend. “Maybe I'd better take the pie downstairs, and put it in the refrigerator for the time being.”
Suddenly, Speed looked up, a look of comic dismay on his face. He couldn't believe it—his own sweet Trixie, daring to tease him like this?? “What?” he intoned, eyebrow raised and giving both women a stare that seemed to be a cross between disbelief and comic annoyance. “Don't I get a piece??”
Trixie jokingly turned to the Racer family matriarch. “I don't know...,” she mused, feigning indecision. “What do you think, Mrs. Racer? Should we--?”
Mom laughed lightly. “I'll have to think about it.”
That was too much for poor Speed to deal with. He was getting picked on, but good. He gazed pleadingly at Trixie with those wide, expressive deep blue eyes of his; eyes that could melt any girl's heart. At the same time, the young racing star really poured on the charm, flashing his best angelic smile at his smirking girlfriend. “Aww, c'mon, Trixie. Just one little piece? Pleeease??” Speed innocently begged. “It'd make me feel a whole lot better--”
A smiling Trixie shook her head. Normally she was very susceptible to Speed's boyish, innocent charm (and yes, he certainly had plenty of that!) , but not today. This was one time she wasn't going to fall for it, no matter how hard he tried to win her over. Gently, she pushed him back down against his pillows. “uh-uh, Speed. Not until you settle down!” Trixie playfully scolded, in a firm tone of voice. “You know what the doctor said, no getting overexcited. Now hush, and listen to your mom!” Aa an extra incentive, she leaned over and lightly planted a kiss on Speed's cheek.
As much as he appreciated his girl's affections, that didn't seem to help Speed much. He sighed, and made a pouty face. Truth be told, he looked like a sad-eyed puppy dog. “Ge, you're being mean. Both of you!”
His mother smiled knowingly. She walked over to her son's bedside, leaned over, then affectionately ran her fingers through his hair. “No, we're just being practical,” she said sweetly, pulling the covers up around his neck. “Unless of course, you want your father to know about this latest escapade of yours...”
Instantly, Speed changed his tune. That was the last thing he needed! “Uh—no way! Not Pops...!!!” he gulped, and quickly disappeared under the covers, much to the amusement of the ladies and Racer X. “No fair, Mom!”
Seated at Speed's desk, one lanky leg crossed over the other, Rex Racer watched the ongoing banter with bemused satisfaction. He wasn't surprised by his younger brother's madcap antics, for as far back as Rex could remember Speed had always been full of energy, and nearly impossible to pin down even when he was sick. As a matter of fact, all the Racer men seemed to have an aversion to hospitals and staying in bed when sick or injured...
...Including, Rex himself.
The ever-present tight half-smile twitched at the corners of his mouth. “Mrs. Racer, if I might offer a suggestion. Perhaps you should give Speed a piece now,” the Masked Racer kindly proffered, leaning back in his chair. “With a piece of pie, his mouth would be too occupied to make much of a fuss.”
Both Mrs. Racer and Trixie thought it was an excellent idea. “Oh, why not? I think that's a terrific idea,” Mom said, starting for the bedroom door. “I'll go get some plates and forks.”
Trixie followed close behind, carrying the pie. “And I'll bring the pie down,” the perky, brown-haired teen added. “But we'd better save Pops, Spritle, Chim Chim, and Sparky all a piece, else we'll never hear the end of it from that bunch!”
Speed's mother laughed, as the two women headed down the hall towards the stairs. “Oh, heaven forbid, we'd forget those boys,” she replied, a merry twinkle in her eyes. “Pops wouldn't let us! You know how he is, whenever there's pie involved.”
After the women left, an exhausted Speed glanced over at his still-smirking brother. “Doggone it, Racer X. Why didn't you say something back there?” he comically begged, totally flustered. His face was almost as red as the “M” emblazoned on the Masked Racer's racing suit. “Spritle really embarrassed me in front of Trixie, you know--”
“I know. I'm sorry to have witnessed that.” Rex chuckled softly. In a strange sort of way, his 'Racer X' persona turned out to be the perfect setup for him to bridge the emotional (if not the physical) gap between him and his family. It allowed the eldest Racer brother to at least indirectly stay close to his loved ones, without putting their lives in physical danger as a result of his Interpol work. Not that there wasn't enough danger; just keeping (and sometimes pulling!) little brother Speed out of trouble on and off the track, was a challenge unto itself at times. “But I didn't say anything because maybe I thought, the entire scenario was quite amusing. Or maybe it's because your mom's right, about you needing all the rest you can get. You do realize, we just barely made it out of Wiley's basement alive that day,” he said in a gentle but serious manner. Then in a silent aside to himself he added, And, besides. Contrary to what you think, little brother. Pops and I both share your aversion to prolonged bed rest. He and I were never ones to take being sick or injured without putting up a royal fuss, either...You should ask Mom about us, some time!
He rose from the chair he was sitting in then, magazine in hand. “Here. I brought this for you,” X said, quickly changing the subject. He handed Speed the periodical. “Thought you could use some more reading material. Your favorite—the latest issue of Auto Racing Today.”
“Gee! Thanks, Racer X. You just saved me the price of buying my own copy!” Quickly, Speed forgot all about being yelled at for his earlier hijinks with Spritle as he eagerly thumbed through the pages of the magazine.
Suddenly, the bedridden teen racer let out a low whistle. The Wiley incident was splashed all over the bulk of the magazine. “Wow!” Speed softly exclaimed, wide-eyed with amazement. “Talk about making headlines! I guess Monday's meeting at the track president's office was well-covered!”
“Well-covered. And, well-attended. I'd say half the field that had participated in Sunday's race showed up to make a statement on the matter,” his brother corrected him. “Total front cover material. Jack Wiley's downfall, in all its ugly detail.” Racer X paused, then added quietly, “There's even a few quotes from your dad in there, as well.”
Speed looked surprised. “Huh! That's something new. Usually Pops is ready to cream the press, not hob-nob with 'em,” he said, making a wry face at the thought. “He hates unwanted publicity--”
“Not this time. Fortunately the reporter who was assigned to the story was very respectful of your father's wishes, and kept any mention of your ordeal to a minimum. Of course, it was your taped testimony that really sealed Wiley's fate. Good work, Speed.” Rex nodded approvingly at his brother's actions.
Speed lay back among his pillows, and yawned. As much as he hated to admit it, he was getting tired again—maybe he should never had taken on both Spritle and Chim Chim, in a free-for-all wrestling match! “Thanks.”
The two racers—nay, brothers—fell into silence then, each lost in his own thoughts. A few minutes later Racer X slowly seated himself on the edge of Speed's bed, and gazed intently at his restless younger brother. “Speed, I want you to tell me the truth. What's the matter?” he asked softly, sensing there was more to Speed's acting out than he was letting on. “What's really bothering you? You can tell me.”
Speed's eyes narrowed. “Huh? What do you mean, by that?”
“I think there's something more that's bothering you, than just being confined to a sickbed.”
For a brief moment, a startled Speed thought he was a youngster again and that his big brother was there, looking after him as usual. It was as if Rex were still with him, seeing through his little 'Mr.-Tough-Kid-On-The-Block' act. I swear, Racer X is doing it to me again! That's the same kind of question Rex would ask, whenever I got into some kind of scrape with the big kids or I'd done something to make Mom and Pops mad at me, the young racing star immediately thought. It's so...So eerie, how X can see through me like that!
He managed to quiet his suspicions for the time being, and sighed heavily. “Racer X? When you're on, you're on,” Speed admitted, toying with the edge of his bedcovers. “There is something bothering me.”
His brother nodded. “Well, spill it. I'm listening.”
“It has to do with me and Trixie. We'd planned last week to go to the drive-in this Friday to see that new Elvis film Clambake, but since I came home from the hospital Monday morning Mom and Pops won't let me downstairs, let alone out of the house.” Speed sighed, then explained his predicament in further detail to his attentive visitor. “...But I feel great now, Racer X. I'm not having as many nightmares now, and I feel a lot stronger. I should be allowed out of bed, now. Don't you think?” he asked, when he had finished his tale.
Rex thoughtfully stroked his chin. Carefully he studied Speed, and noted with pleasure how quickly he had physically recovered (save for his wrists, which were still in the healing process) from his ordeal. He did agree with Speed on that end—to a point. “Well, you certainly do look physically fine to me. In fact, I think you've recovered quite nicely,” he replied with another one of those tight half-smiles which for the past three days had been driving Pops Racer up a wall. “But I'm not your doctor, that'll be his call to make. And I suspect your parents are only trying to make sure, you're in top physical and mental form before you resume racing. I assume, your dad's planning to enter you in the Western 500 next weekend--?”
Speed's face fell. A look of doubtful indecision crossed his face. “Yeah, but I suppose that's all up in the air right now. Not after the bonehead stunts, I pulled today--”
“That may be true this minute. But think about it. Think about all that you've been through the past few days, Speed. We barely made it out of that basement alive, before the building collapsed in a ball of flame,” X gently reminded him. “You were physically helpless, and having a really tough time with the smoke. I was more fortunate than you in that regard, thanks to my mask. All I could do to help you was to have you turn your head inwards towards my body, and carry you to safety. Then on top of that, you insisted on running the Trans-Country Race—and your body literally paid the price afterwards for your decision.”
He stopped, and kindly lay a comforting hand on his despondent younger brother's shoulder. “Sometimes, Speed, we have to sacrifice our own wants in order to achieve our true goals,” X said softly, trying to give Speed some encouragement. “As far as Trixie's concerned, I'm sure she's well aware of your situation. She truly is an amazing girl, and I don't think not going out on Friday is going to bother her as much as you think it will. If anything, it's bothering you the most.”
Even as Racer X spoke, Speed was mulling over his message. Slowly, he realized that his visitor was right---this 'confined to bed' routine was more stressful on him than on Trixie, and she seemed to be the one taking things in stride. “Are you saying then, I'm being selfish for wanting to take Trixie out Friday night?” he asked, his blue eyes misting slightly.
A smiling Rex shook his head. “No, not at all. You're a young man now, Speed. You're making that transition from teenager to adult, and now you need to start making adult decisions. About everything,” he replied, with a wisdom belying his twenty-some odd years. He lightly patted Speed on the shoulder. “You're only human, you know. We all make mistakes. And heaven only knows, I've made my fair share of mistakes in my lifetime.” Racer X paused, and chuckled mysteriously.
At that, Speed began to laugh. Now, that wa something. What, the great Masked Racer?? Making mistakes--?? “You??” he echoed, a big boyish grin etched on his face. “You, Racer X? Make mistakes?? That's...That's hard to believe!”
A wistful expression softened the Masked Racer's face. A trace of sadness tinged his voice as he spoke. “Believe me, Speed. I have. And some I regret, more than others,” he answered, with a heavy sigh. Then in his mind Rex Racer added, And the biggest mistake I ever made, was not listening to Pops and then turning my back on all of you six years ago, after I crashed the Mach 1 at Sunny Downs...I only wish I could tell you how much that still haunts me, Speed. Even to this very day...
He shook off that disquieting thought then, and helped his little brother lie back in bed. “Anyhow. I'd better be going,” X said, making sure that Speed was comfortable under the covers. “You just get some rest, now. I'll stop by tomorrow.”
A sleepy Speed glanced up at him. “Going so soon?”
Racer X merely chuckled. Unbeknownst to Speed, the information that the young rookie driver had so easily given out that afternoon, had given the wiley veteran fodder for a very crazy idea. “Oh, I think Trixie's pie is beckoning me. Then there's an errand I have to run,” he replied deviously, causing Speed to wonder just what his number one competitor was up to. “Don't worry, I'll make sure Trixie brings up your share of the lemon meringue.” With a knowing smile at his brother, Racer X rose from the bed and walked out of the room.
An hour later, after a good slice of Trixie's lemon meringue pie, some conversation with the women, and a quick “hello” to Pops in his office, the Masked Racer jumped into his car and took off. He wasn't going home just yet—he had one more stop to make. Speed's admittance that he was going nuts over staying in bed through the weekend when he and Trixie had already planned for a romantic night out at the drive-in, had given his elder brother something to think about. I think Speed's right about his physical condition. This is the best I've seen him all week, Rex Racer thought, smiling deviously to himself as he drove along the city limits. Well, I happen to agree with him. I think it's time for him to get up and about, and start gearing up for a return to the track.--Besides, they say laughter is the best medicine. And what better medicine for Speed than a night at the movies with his favorite girl, watching a romantic musical/comedy?...I think I'd better have a little talk with Speed's doctor, and see what I can do.
Do I sense the beginnings of a scheme, X???