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The Corner Marshall's Story.

Once in a while, it seems right to give a bit of credit to the corner marshall. A thankless task, best avoided according to some. But not to Justin, as in 'Justin-the-corner' as we called him at West Hamley. He was a regular at the club for years. Couldn't drive, couldn't build cars, but the loved the club and was happy to sit on the inside of turn 4, night after night, watching the cars blat past him, and occasionally off into the plywood catch fencing. That was when he got the chance to handle the cars himself, heft it in his hand, then place it unerringly into the right lane, facing the right direction. A boon to any club. Over years of practice, undistracted by other ambitions, Justin honed his skills to the level of high art. He learned how to spot a flyer coming from yards down the track, anticipate late braking, and be waiting, hands poised like a slip-fielder, to catch the car in mid-air. In the spilt-second of action, Justin would have taken in the lane colour, the angle of the guide flag, the point of departure- all the things which enabled him to reslot the thing accurately, smoothly and fairly- almost before the driver realised he'd lost it in the first place. In multiple pile-ups he'd always know- it seemed to be pure intuition- which car caused the off and would have to wait till last, and he'd have the others cued up in correct reverse order, ambidextrously returning them to the track in pairs if necessary, and on their way back round the track with unarguable fairness. Turn 4, all the crafty drivers knew, was the best place to have an 'off'. When you looked at the other hapless amateurs marshalling the other corners; wrong slotting, scrabbling frantically with twisted guide flags, obstructing innocent cars with flapping hands and loose clothing, and generally deserving all the abuse the drivers flung at them, you realised that the level of respect the club veterans had for 'Justin-the-corner' was fully justified. Quiet by nature, never outspoken or obnoxious, he could take a drink and a joke and was often treated to both after some heroic action in some tight race or other. So you might realise how seriously the club reacted to certain unmistakeable signs that Justin was cracking up.
The things the drivers liked about Justin- his safe pair of hands, his modest and dependable nature- were enhanced by the other skills he developed. He'd learned through patient observation, and his sensitive hands, all there was to know about race set-up. Simply from watching cars night after night, in that brief instant it flew into his field of vision and out of it again, and especially from the feel of it as he delicately reslotted a spinner. After a race, he might let drop in the most respectful tone, that such-and-such's Porsche wasn't getting the grip it needed on the exit of red lane. 'A touch more weight on the offside rear would do wonders', he might say. 'The bearings on that Toyota are a bit tight- probably costing you a few revs.' And so on. This McLaren was out of balance and that Ferrari was crabbing through the turn. It got so that he could see a problem before it developed, diagnose it, and work out the solution in the moments it took the car to work it's way round the rest of the track. His advice was always sought and always taken by the wise racers. After all, Justin-the-corner was no threat to anyone's racing ambitions.
But then his observations began to get a little strange. His comments began to focus on the drivers. Not the full-size ones with the hand-throttles, but the little ones in the tiny cockpits. One day he told Bruno his motor was running hot- 'a little uncomfortable for the pilot' was the way he expressed it. Bruno smiled at the joke and went off to lube the bearings and heat-shunt the brushes as advised. Next week he told Coxie that the nearside rear was out of round, and the vibrations might be giving the driver a headache. 'Not me' said Coxie. 'I didn't mean you' said Justin. Clint was the next victim. He was told to secure his interior better. When he asked why, was it reducing his cornering speed or causing drag? There was an unfamiliar sharpness in Justin's voice when he told him 'Well how would you like to be hammered round Thruxton in a Lola with a loose seat?'
Rumours began to circulate about Justin. He'd been lonely too long at turn 4. They'd been taking him for granted. 'Perhaps he's going through an existential crisis', asked Paddy. But no-one knew what he meant. 'Perhaps we should move him to another corner, give him a different view of life' suggested Eric. 'Perhaps someone should sit with him in turn 4', said Sindy. 'Now that's an idea' chipped in Coxie. 'We could tell him we're introducing a marshall's training scheme. Justin's master class. Everyone in the club takes a turn sitting with Justin for one night, and we ask him to teach us the art of corner marshalling.' 'Hm. All very well,' said Clint. 'But I just think he's cracking up. Had to happen. You can't be a corner marshall all your life without going loopy. Without being loopy in the first place, actually.' 'I think you're being a bit harsh, Clint. Let's give Sindy's idea a go first, shall we?' said Coxie.
Justin really liked the idea. You'd never call him pompous or self-important, but you could tell he enjoyed the recognition of his unique skills and the need to pass them on to others. The first night, Sindy drew up a stool next to him, nice and snug in the apex of turn 4, and waited patiently for Justin's words of wisdom. 'First off, Sindy, you're going to have to button up your blouse. It's nearly open to your navel. You've got to keep all your clothing tightly done up. You never know what damage a loose button or a flapping cuff can do. And those bracelets will have to come off, too. Look, I've got a special drawer I installed under the track for all my bits and bobs. I put all my loose change and my watch in there at the start of a race.' 'Right-O' said Sindy. 'You're nice and cosy here aren't you? Well sorted! What else you got in here? Some biscuits, clean socks, oh, even a little cassette play-' 'Don't you touch that!' Justin exclaimed, sliding the drawer shut. 'Now, Sindy. You're going to have to do something about your hair. I could cut it off for you- much better if you want to be a good marshall…' 'Oh no, just let me tie it up.' So it went on. Justin was a real disciplinarian. 'Look out,' he said. 'Eric's in heat 1. He's always a problem. Keep out of my way till his Maserati's gone past. I'll deal with him. Now. Hands clean? Let me look. O.K., they're off.'
The trouble was, Eric caused the usual mayhem. He took everyone off right in front of Sindy on lap 1. Thereafter, Justin was so focussed on his job that Sindy got little out of him. Except that, after a particularly hectic final, Sindy thought she heard him say 'It's such a shame. They come all this way to get thrown about like that. Poor little fellas will be covered in bruises.' Sindy giggled and threw her arm round Justin's shoulders. 'Oh you are funny. What are you talking about?' Justin looked at her, his face set in deadly earnest, and pushed her arm away.
Eric took his turn with Justin the next night. But his marshalling was no better than his driving, and Justin spent the whole time yelling instructions- 'watch red lane- she's lost her rear end- catch!'. 'That Alfa has a loose guide, careful when you…Doh!' 'No, no, the GT40 goes on blue, the Matra goes on orange! Now look what you've done!' And so it went on. Eric learned nothing. Apart from overhearing Justin's odd comment at the end of it all. 'They'll be flying home happy tonight, bless 'em.' 'Who?' asked Eric, puzzled. 'The little guys. Didn't you see? Who do you think you've been marshalling all night?'
Clint took his turn of duty the following evening. He was still dubious about the whole project. 'Being cooped up at turn 4 with a loony all night' was how he actually expressed himself to Coxie beforehand. But by the end he was well and truly impressed with Justin's almost supernatural skills. He learned a lot. 'Do your homework', Justin told him. 'Know your cars and drivers before the race. It puts you in a good position to predict what's going to happen and how to deal with it. Overpowered cars, aggressive drivers, heavyweights that stay in the slot but cause trouble in adjacent lanes, what type of guide each car has, nervous drivers that overbrake often cause other drivers to brake late. All cause trouble. Keep your eye open for scratchbuilts, too- sharp edges on a metal chassis can be painful.' But about Justin's strange behaviour, Clint was none the wiser. Until the end of racing. 'You're a good marshall, Clint. My best pupil so far. I could give you some extra coaching if you like, when all the little guys have gone.' 'Well I was planning to go to the pub, actually….What little guys?' 'The tiny people, Clint.' Oh-oh, thought Clint. This is it. It had to be me, the one that has to deal with the full mental breakdown. 'I'll just go and get Coxie, Justin. You wait…' 'No,Clint. You're my best student. You deserve to meet my little friends. I havn't introduced them to anyone else you know. Look, there they go now.' Clint glanced down in the direction Justin was pointing, and saw a mouse hole in the skirting board beneath the track. And for a brief moment, he had an odd hallucination that there was a queue of miniature racing drivers making their way through it. Marshalling definitely drives you mad, he thought. I'm out of here. 'Hmm. A mouse hole. Must stuff it up with something. Never mind, Justin. Keep smiling!' he said. 'Not a mouse hole, Clint. A worm hole.' 'Don't be daft Justin. Worms don't dig holes in skirting boards.' 'No Clint. A worm hole. A tunnel between two black holes supported by antigravitational force linking far distant parts of space. This particular wormhole links West Hamley with the 1/32nd scale planet Nerf on the twelfth radial arm of the Andromeda galaxy.' 'Oh.' 'It's how they get here. And how they get home again.' 'What on earth are you talking about, Justin?' 'Nothing on earth, to be precise, Clint. 1/32nd scale aliens from the planet Nerf, actually. Watch, there they go now.' Clint looked again. What he'd seen was no hallucination. There really was a queue of little drivers walking through the little hole in the skirting board. And as one of them entered, he turned to wave goodbye, and lifted off his helmet. He was purple.
'This is ridiculous! Your telling me that these little aliens have been sneaking into our cars, and riding round West Hamley all this time?' 'Yup.' 'Why didn't you say before?' 'Nobody asked me. You all thought I was barking didn't you? But I had all the little friends I needed. All here in turn 4. This is where they sneak in, and where they zip off from. I've guarded this seat for the last six years so they could get on with their fun in peace, riding slot cars. I knew that when the word got out, there would be no peace for them anymore. They asked me to keep it quiet.' 'You mean you can talk to them? You have been communicating with creatures from another planet?' 'Yes. I have to use this little tape recorder, because they have very high pitched voices. I slow down the tape to hear what they say, and speed it up so they can understand what I'm saying. But now I've said too much. I think it's finally time I went. They've been trying to persuade me to go with them for ages. Help build them their own race track. The say they've built a special home for me on Nerf. I need special accommodation- I'll be a bit of a giant on Nerf. But it has it's advantages.' Justin leaned down, and scooped up one of the little aliens. He set him down on the track, and reached in his drawer for his tape cassette. Clint watched, too stunned to say anything. Justin spoke into the microphone. 'I'm ready to come with you' he said. Then he pressed the rewind, and played again, while the little purple man listened to a high pitched whine. Then he nodded and jumped up and down excitedly. 'You're talking to him! Here. Let me! I want to talk to an alien too!' 'O.K.' said Justin. But I'm going now.' Clint grabbed the recorder, and tried to think of something profound to say to this visitor from light years away. 'Uh. Hm. Why did you come here? Of all the places on all the planets in all the universe. Why here?' Justin rewound, and pressed play again. The little man listened, then squeaked. Justin passed the tape back to Clint, but said 'I have to go now. I've been thinking about this for a long time. I'm going with them. To the planet Nerf. And I won't be coming back. You're the corner marshall at turn 4 now, Clint. Play the tape to the others when I've gone. Justin picked up the alien and thrust him through the worm hole. Then his arm followed, and his body seemed to stretch into the tiny gap in the skirting, and like rubber Justin squelched through the little hole as if he was being pulled from the other side. Then he was gone, with a faint pop. And so was the hole. The skirting board was flush. No gaps.
Clint picked up the tape and rushed out of the club, down to the pub to tell everyone the amazing news. And as soon as everyone had their drinks in, he put the tape recorder down on the bar. 'Listen, guys. This is the proof. We'll never see Justin again, but here is the recorded voice of an actual alien. I asked him why he came here, to West Hamley- out of all the places in space to travel to. It seemed like a sensible question. And this,' he said pressing the rewind button, 'is his answer!' The tape rustled slightly, settling to its new speed, and then a faint, slightly distorted and ethereal voice issued from the speaker.
'Because slot-racing is the best fun you can have in the entire universe'.
 

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Hi Rail Racer

Are these stories written by John Dilworth?

He has doen some articles for the NSCC Journal over the years and i just wondered if he wrote this?

Thanks

Gareth
NSCC
 

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Actually, there's more to this than meets the eye. Both Rail and John Dilworth are acting as channels for Shelsey Walsh, also the pseudonym of a writer well-known in another field, and anxious to keep his slot racing and public appearances separate. He has been disseminating these fantasies throughout the slot racing fraternity for some time, but the recent flurry of new work was made possible by a brief period of detention....
I can say no more.
 
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