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Though I Fall (Preview): Chapter One

Updated: Apr 14



Please enjoy the first chapter from the novel Though I Fall : A Motorsport Story (Book 2 of the Legacy Drive series) which is set to release on April 26, 2024 on Amazon with ebook, paperback and hardcover editions. Use my affiliate link below to preorder your ebook copy!


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Chapter 1: On This Day


I shifted my weight to the left, leaning into the turn as I rolled over the rumble strip and felt the series of small but thunderous vibrations surge up my spine.

Unwinding the steering wheel as I tracked out to the right side of the long straight, I checked my grip to ensure I wasn’t wasting energy by clenching my hands tightly on the wheel. I took a deep breath as I crossed the line to start another lap at the Dallas Karting Complex located in Caddo Mills, Texas. I held a marginal lead as a train of six karts trailed directly behind me. Any mistake on my part would be costly.

Although I was driving a modified VLR kart that used hand controls for the gas and brake instead of pedals, the effect of having your ass two inches off the ground still amplified the sensation of racing at speeds of close to 65 mph. It was by no means a shifter kart, but I might as well have been a Formula 1 driver as I turned into the left-hand first corner.

My spine was essentially a giant shock absorber as I grabbed some of the inside curbing. I guess one of the benefits of having existing spinal damage from a previous car accident was that I could hardly feel a damn thing, and I’ll take any advantage I could get.

I exited the corner and glanced over my left shoulder to see the train still behind me. Getting away from the mid-field drivers was one thing, but being able to drive away from the front runners who were all seemingly matched on power, skill and dedication was next to impossible.

Pascal Alexander’s bright yellow helmet made him easy to spot—doubly so when he was riding on your back bumper like he was now.

I continued to lead the field single file through the various corners, but as the race was winding down, I could tell Pascal was getting antsy. I took another quick peek and noticed him beginning to go on the attack.

Pascal was no dummy. Unlike the rest of the field, full of people who thought they were Ayrton Senna incarnate and started battling the moment the race began, the leaders were content to settle in and—barring any mistake from the driver they were following—run away from the rest of the field. That way we could fight it out at the end of the race without any interference from the slower drivers. This also resulted in a good show for those in attendance, and we were all keen on that.

After negotiating a double-apex left-hander, I tracked out but swept back over to the left to prepare for the esses—a quick right-left turn section that only the brave took flat out.

Just before turn-in, Pascal showed his nose on my inside, no doubt an effort to throw me off. I ignored it and pressed on, taking the turn at full squeeze on my hand throttle, followed by another glance over my shoulder. I was doing a piss poor job of hiding the fact that I was beginning to stress out.

I led the field into the braking zone just in front of pit out. It was an ideal passing opportunity but also a risky one. I’d made double passes for position here several times due to low-percentage moves by one driver trying to dive-bomb another in front of me.

Again, Pascal was no dummy. He wasn’t about to throw his own race away in a move that had a high probability of failure. He was nothing if not patient.

The 0.8-mile track went by quickly as we started another lap, traversing through the seventeen various turns. There had to be just a few laps left at that point.

I really wanted it to be over.

As the lead pack raced down the front straight, I glanced over my left shoulder again to see that Pascal had gotten a run out of the final corner. His momentum carried him up along my left side, and as we braked for the first corner and turned in to the left, I squeezed him as tightly as I could against the curbing on the left in an attempt to rob him of his momentum.

Despite my best efforts, we still came out side by side. However, the next right turn was favorable to me and hanging on the outside would put Pascal at risk of being passed by the kart in third. As I turned in, he lifted slightly off the gas and slotted back in directly behind me.

I was beginning to feel his aggression, or maybe it was my own anxiety.

Shut up. Press on.

Pascal began tapping my back bumper every chance he could, no doubt trying to unnerve me.

As we approached the line, I saw the white flag waving.

Just one more lap.

The gloves came off as Pascal harnessed his European racing heritage and went on full attack.

Approaching the braking zone for the first corner, Pascal dived down the inside but out-braked himself. This resulted in backing up the field behind him but also caused me to have to run wide to avoid him. I could instantly hear and feel the loss of momentum in my kart.

In a moment of clarity, I noticed my hands were hurting. My grip on the wheel was tight and if I wasn’t careful, I could compromise my hand control inputs. I took a short breath and looked over my shoulder to notice Pascal and friends were still directly behind me. But it was the final lap, and I was still leading.

I breathed, allowing myself to focus on what was in front instead of being distracted by what was behind.

I led them into the esses, and I noticed Pascal was now physically touching my bumper. He was pushing me ever so slightly, and I knew exactly why. Should he help me carry just a little more speed going into the approaching braking zone, I could compromise it and blow the lead.

I released the gas just a hair, which was followed by a heavy push from behind.

Message received, Pascal?

Entering the braking zone, I noticed the nose of his kart peeking towards my inside, right up to about my left rear tire. The corner was mine, but he may have decided to risk it, thinking I wouldn’t be willing to turn in on him.

He would be wrong.

Just at turn-in, I noticed him back off at the last possible moment. Had I not gone on the attack, he would have been alongside me, but that wasn’t the case.

I grabbed too much curbing at the next corner and gave my spine a flexibility exam as my kart bounced for a brief moment. The loss of momentum was immediate. Whatever ground Pascal had lost in his ill-fated attempt at a pass had just been given back to him on a golden platter.

I glanced over my shoulder to see that bright yellow helmet bearing down on me as I struggled to get my speed back up. I blocked the inside of the subsequent corners, but that wasn’t enough. I was off my groove and was still trying to pick up my momentum. With only a few corners remaining, I made the right-hand sweeper, which was followed by two lefts and a slight dogleg left that spilled you out onto the front straight to the finish.

As I approached the final left before the dogleg, I saw Pascal swerve to the inside. He didn’t have room for the pass, he was just trying to get me to turn my head the moment before turn-in—a ploy to get me to take my eyes away from my braking zone.

I was immediately taken back almost a decade. A bright yellow Chevrolet Camaro pulled a similar stunt on my dad at Road Atlanta during a Trans Am TA2 race. The maneuver had worked, and he never stopped kicking himself for it.

“Apexes and exits, apexes and exits.”

His words echoed through my mind in that instant as I ignored Pascal’s attempt at a distraction and made the corner.

The euphoria welled up inside of me even before I took the checkered flag.

As I crossed the line for the win, I suddenly felt the pressure lift as I screamed into my helmet.

Letting my hands drop off the wheel, I threw my arms into the air in victory as my head sank back.

One by one, my fellow competitors drove by giving me a thumbs up. Pascal took the cake, however. As he drove up alongside me, he reached over as far as he could and tried to shut my kart’s engine off. I swatted his hand away and gave him the finger. Although he was wearing a full-face helmet, I could tell that he was laughing under there just as I was.

As we pulled into the pits, I found my spot and brought the kart to a stop. He was already there waiting for me, like always.

“Awesome job, Chad!” It was my grandad, his thick Australian accent unmistakable. “Way to hold them off! You drove smart and you kept your cool. I couldn’t have done it better myself.” He gave a smug grin as I removed my helmet.

“Thanks, Grandad.”

I could’ve said something more but I didn’t.

With a slight shake of his head, he chuckled as he took my helmet and set it aside.

“Up you go.”

I extended my arms as he grabbed them and hoisted me up. I wrapped my right arm around his shoulders as he handed me my cane. Before I let go, I gave my legs a bit of a flex to make sure all of my pieces were still working. Once confident, I relaxed my grip on Grandad and adjusted my stance for balance.

“So… your first win…” He dabbed at his eyes and paused for a moment. “He’d be so proud of you, Chad. Just like I am.”

There it was—the constant reminder of my past. It was like a shadow I could never escape from, no matter how fast I drove. Grandad looked past me over my shoulder.

“Looks like you’ve got company.”

I quickly donned my sunglasses and turned around to see Pascal and Kate running towards me.

“I was just waiting for you two bozos to crash so I could take the win,” said Kate as both she and Pascal stopped in front of me, her long blond hair flowing in the slight breeze.

“Yes, who would’ve thought,” said Pascal in his heavy French accent. “A cripple, a Frenchman and a woman on the podium of a motor race in Texas. The world is changing, my friends.”

If it had been anyone other than Pascal, I would’ve wacked them upside their head with my cane. But Pascal was my friend—born of rivalry but molded by mutual respect—and this wasn’t the first time we’d traded banter.

“I could almost hear you screaming in French while we were battling,” I joked. “You made me work for this one, buddy.”

Pascal smiled, his tan face still glistening with sweat from the race.

“And what service would I have been had I made it easy for you, my very American friend? I needed to test your mettle. And maybe you did too. Plus, victory always tastes better when you have to fight hard for it.”

I smiled.

“That’s nice of you to say, mister track record holder.”

“Hey, my days of walking away from the field are over. You young kids are getting too fast for me.”


***


The drive home to Austin was several hours. Given the company, though, the time would inevitably drag on forever.

Grandad had been fun to ride with when I was younger. Even more so after a race. He was always sharing stories about his racing days and he never seemed to run out of fresh ones.

And he always asked me questions. He’d wanted to know what I was thinking about before, during and after the race. Not to be critical, but more from a situational perspective.

“Your mind is your greatest ally,” he would say to me. “But it can also be your greatest threat. You’ve got to have control over what you’re thinking because what you’re thinking ultimately controls you.”

This was the Grandad I enjoyed; the one I could learn from and the one whose own wisdom and experience behind the wheel made my foray into racing a much smoother process than it could’ve been.

With my first win notched on my belt and the winner’s trophy still in my hands, I sat in the passenger seat of the SUV in a contemplative mood. I looked down and smiled.

Of all the days to win.

I’d been racing karts for five years and, given that I was only a few months past my sixteenth birthday, my first win was something to be proud of.

Even so, I couldn’t shake that feeling of hearing my dad’s words in my head during the race. As I turned my attention to the scenery passing by on the other side of the window, my mind wandered to a place that now seemed like it was only yesterday…

We sat together in the nursing facility in Sydney, Australia. I had hated it there every time I’d ever been.

My dad lay in bed, staring blankly up at the television.

It was always cold in there. One of the many reasons I’d never liked going. Even as I sat next to his bed and we both watched the race that was on the TV, I couldn’t help but realize just how much I’d wanted to leave.

His mind was nearly gone. He had trouble remembering the most basic things, like names and events. He would be confused and oftentimes scared when his friends would visit him—friends he confused as strangers he’d never seen before.

Conversations were nonexistent. The brain cancer had robbed him of his ability to remember things he’d heard only moments before. Something told me it was only a matter of time, but I guess I didn’t want to believe it.

I hated seeing him like that, and I tried to get out of visiting him as often as I could. My speech had only returned to me about two years earlier, but I had few words to say in that place.

As we both sat and watched the race in silence, I often wondered if he even had any recollection as to what he was watching. I would look over to see him completely fixated on what was happening on the screen. He should be, given that it was the very race he had run in two years prior—the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit.

The noise of the TV filled the screaming silence of that place. I couldn’t take it any longer.

I turned my wheelchair towards the door and headed that way.

“That was one helluva race, Chad.”

I turned suddenly to see my dad looking at me with a clarity and sound mind I hadn’t seen in some time. I was completely taken by surprise.

“Dad?”

He exhaled and turned back towards the race, his eyes beginning to close ever so slightly.

“It’s hard to remember having the energy to sit through a race like that,” he said, noticeably weary.

I wheeled myself back and stopped alongside him. I still couldn’t believe he was talking like that.

“You did so well, Dad,” I said even as I tried to fight back tears.

He smiled at the comment as he closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

“Chad…”

I waited, my eyes fixated on his every move.

“I’m sorry it has to end this way. I did my best to make sure you have everything you need to succeed in life. The rest is up to you.”

My words were gone as time seemed to stand still at that moment.

He took a series of deep breaths.

“I would’ve loved to have seen you race, Chad. Maybe one day.”

I should’ve said something. I wished I’d told him I loved him and his life had served as an inspiration for me. I longed to tell him that he’d taught me how to live, even when life and circumstances weighed me down.

I wanted to tell him he was my hero.

As I sat there, however, I was speechless.

He reached over and took my hand as he smiled.

“How about you let your old man get some rest and we’ll finish up the race tomorrow.”

I put my other hand on top of his.

“Okay, Dad,” I said, tears beginning to fall from my eyes.

He lifted his hand and placed it back on the bed as I slowly backed away.

He smiled again as he turned to look at me.

“See you tomorrow, Chad.”

I didn’t want to leave, but as he turned away and closed his eyes, I slowly wheeled myself towards the door. Before I could reach for the handle, however, I turned towards him again.

“I love you, Dad.”

His eyes opened as he looked directly at me.

“I love you too, Chad.”

“Chad…”

“Chad?”

I turned with a startle to find myself back in the passenger seat of the SUV with Grandad nudging my arm as he drove.

“We’re here.”

I turned back towards the window to see the all-too-familiar landscape.

We turned onto Legacy Drive, and the vehicle came to a stop moments later.

“Take as much time as you need,” he said to me.

I nodded, reached for my cane and pulled the handle to open the door.

After I’d been sitting for an extended period of time, my first few steps were always a bit shaky but I soon found my footing. I carried my trophy in one hand and balanced my weight on the cane with the other, taking slow but gradual steps.

I counted rows as I walked even though I’d been here so many times that I no longer needed to. As I continued, my mind went back to my dream—a memory of the last time I saw my father alive.

See you tomorrow, Chad.

I sighed deeply.

Unfortunately, tomorrow never happened. Instead, on this very day six years ago, my father died.

I stopped in front of their graves. Both of my parents lay side by side in eternal rest.

Despite being here countless times, there was never a moment where my emotions didn’t get the better of me.

“Hey, Dad,” I said. “Hi, Mom.”

I looked up, more so to stop the flow of tears.

“I, uh, I won my first race today,” I said as I looked down at the trophy in my hands.

I paused for a moment, listening to the birds chirping in the background—the only sounds in this place aside from the rustling of the leaves in the trees.

“I really wish you could’ve been there, but deep down, I like to think you were.”

I wiped my eyes and continued.

“Dad, thanks for the advice today. Looks like that yellow Camaro story you and Grandad beat into my head came to use. I dedicated the win to you. Who would’ve thought that the day you…”

My mind drifted back to the very moment I got the news from Grandad that he’d died followed by images of the funeral.

“…the day you died, I would win my first race.”

Turning towards my mom, I said, “Mom, Grandad is always reminding me to use my rib protector when I’m racing. He’s taking good care of me and making sure I’m safe out there so I know you’d be happy with him… You both would.”

I paused again as my mind began to wander.

“I just, I don’t understand why this had to happen…”

I could instantly feel it rising up inside of me again. I had been battling it for as long as I can remember so I knew its touch the moment it set in.

The anger was one thing. It would eventually subside but what would never seem to go away was the grief. The constant reminder that they were gone.

I couldn’t remember the sounds of their voices but I could sure as hell hear Grandad’s. Every day he would remind me of them. My parents; the ones who were both in wooden boxes under six feet of dirt beneath my feet. The ones I would never see or hear from again. The ones whose life lessons I’d since forgotten. The ones…

A strong gust of wind blew across the ground. It pulled me from my stupor, and I took the moment to shake my head free from the thought.

This wasn’t the time or the place to be going down this path again.

Plus, I knew of other ways to escape when I needed to.

“I…”

Losing my words, I turned to walk away but stopped as I choked up and closed my eyes.

I took a deep breath.

“I miss you both so much.”

Wiping my eyes again, I headed back towards Grandad so we could go home.





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Needing to get caught up? Pickup your copy of the first book, Legacy Drive, using the Amazon link here!


For the audiobook fans out there, Legacy Drive has been narrated by the incredibly talented Wayne Farrell and is available on Audible. Check it out here!

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