American King by Fred Sottile
The stands were full, and I couldn’t help gawking at some of the “real characters” that you see at these events. The guy sitting next to me was a skinny redneck-looking dude, about sixty, with a butch-waxed head, and a grease-stained Iskendarian tee shirt. He started right in, telling me about the track, and the cars, and the history of the whole town. I started right in being polite, showing a little respect, you know, faking it. It wasn’t long though, before my condescension turned to real respect. This man was a walking encyclopedia. I couldn’t get a word in, and I didn’t want to. Racing and politics. Racing and religion. Racing and just about everything. The “feature” was a real heart stopper. A number of spectacular multiple car wrecks, and three separate battles for position developed every time the announcer yelled “we go green”. After twenty nine laps of “the real deal”, everybody was disappointed that the race finished under the yellow. “That just ain’t right”. I felt the same way.
Having enjoyed the company, and feeling that I had showed an old motor-head a good time, I was ready to head out. Scottie wasn’t done. He said, “Talking with you has been great. I can see that you can appreciate the finer things in life. C’mon, let me show you my shop.” Again I followed. S&M Fabrications was the home of a machinist gone mad. Amidst the mountains of parts, hardware and materials of all kind, was an immaculate Bridgeport machine, and stations for lathes, drill presses, welders, pipe benders, bending brakes, milling machines, a cutting table and two drafting tables. Not one thing newer than nineteen seventy five. “S&M”, I asked? Marty was killed in seventy five by a drunk driver, was the response. “Yea, but S&M”, I asked again? “Scott & Martin” he boinked back at me. Looking at me like I was some kind of idiot. “Right, sorry, never mind” I conceded. “Sorry about your partner.” I realized a lot was just as Marty had left it. “What exactly do you fabricate?” I asked. “Mostly pipes” Scottie told me. “A lot of folks out here have dune buggies, Baja racers and sand rails. I’m the exhaust guru.” He pulled out a book of off road, hot rod photos. I don’t know which of us fell asleep first.
I woke up Sunday morning to the smell of coffee, and the sound of a lathe coming up to speed. Scott had already gone out to bring back fresh pastries, and said, “You got dinner. Breakfast is on me.” “Fair enough“, I said. “Is this your day off?” Scottie explained that he didn’t take a day off, that he lived here, and to him, one day was the same as the next. My eye kept going to a shotgun that was mounted on the wall, and Scottie noticed me looking. “It doesn’t shoot any more” he said, and asked, “You interested in guns?” I told him that I didn’t know much about guns, but was always fascinated by them, and asked him if he had one that I could fire. He asked if I was more interested in rifles or hand guns. I told him I’d like to try both, and that it was a shame, that the shotgun was retired. He said, “The shame is, ammo costs money, and I’m in, shall we say, the slow season.” “I’ve got money for ammo” I said, “Ya got any good working guns?” Now he really laughed and said, “Oh, I think we might be able to dig something up.”
In the gun shop he was like a kid in a candy store. I noticed he was getting quite a variety of bullets. The owner asked, “Did you lose a relative? You’re over three hundred bucks.” Scottie looked at me and said, “Damn, I’m sorry, I guess I’m getting carried away.” I asked, “How long will it take us to waste all this lead?” He replied, “As far as time goes, it depends on how far you want to be from the targets.” I told him I wanted to be far. He said, “Well then, this ought to do it.” He was happy. Turning to the owner, I commented, “Not much business.” He answered, “Can’t be. We ain’t open.”
After dinner, which was my turn to buy again, we dragged back to the shop. Lo and behold there was a smashed exhaust header leaning up against the front door with a note on it that said, DO YOUR THING - JOSE - 9050. I was happy for Scott. I asked, “Don’t you have to fit this in the vehicle?” He said, “No I have the blue prints and a fixture. Let’s just say this ain’t the first one of these I’ve made.” I asked, “Why don’t you just make a few and have them ready?” He patiently explained that you had to reuse the flange. I was going to tell him that while it was apart, that he could probably, easily make a few copies of the flange and……..and…….I decided to drop it. He went right to work. After a few hours he gave me five bucks and asked me to run for snacks. I came back with four paper bags of groceries and a pizza. 2:00 AM I woke to the flash of a MIG welder. “Almost done” he said. Next time I woke up, you guessed it, coffee and pastries, and a lathe coming up to speed. I asked, “Didn’t you see all that food I brought home last night?” He shrugged, “Yea?” “Just gotta’ have a pastry in the morning do you?” I continued. He grinned, “Oh, no man, my old lady brings ’em every morning, well, except Saturday, on her way home from work. She’s an overnight baker.” Old lady? Scottie had a girlfriend? I never gave it a thought. This guy was full of surprises.
Full of surprises? I asked what was going on with the lathe and Scott said that he was working on a number of projects. Always a bunch of stuff in the works, I think was the way he put it. He said that he thought my gun handling was OK, and asked me if I was interested in this. “This” was an automatic hand gun, made right here. He handed me a nine shot clip of nine millimeter hollow points and a large, very impressive looking silencer. He invited me to go out back and squeeze it, gently. The action was so smooth and easy, and the sight was already set for where I was standing. It was accurate, but lots of guns are accurate. This one though, had no flash, and was ninja quiet. I was quiet too. Speechless for a moment. Finally, and dead serious, he asked, “How many do you want?” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Two. Two and a matching machine gun.” He hesitated about ten seconds and finally said, “The machine gun is going to take some time.” Some cash changed hands, and I asked, “Time frame?” He gritted his teeth and said “Not more than two months.”