Danny wasn’t an expert at picking wine, he was more of a beer drinker, but Tracey wasn’t a connoisseur of fine wines either, she was partial to a red, liked white and would drink champagne. While Danny was feeling good about things he knew it wasn’t a celebration worthy of champagne. He also didn’t know exactly what Tracey was cooking for dinner and when the lady who worked at the bottle shop asked him what meal the wine was to go with he had to answer that he didn’t know. Thankfully though there is a wine made for any circumstance and any meal.

“Is it beer?” Danny joked when the girl, whose name was Mel and recognised him as a racing driver but was not a fan of the sport, suggested the the ‘any wine’ option.

The girl laughed and then told Danny that he was as funny in person as the few times she’d seen him on the television when her husband was watching the car racing. Danny knew her reaction was partly her good customer service but at the same time there did seem to be something genuine about the girl.

As she offered him several choices of wine that would ‘suit any meal’ she also asked Danny if he would mind signing one of the beer mats they had on sale so that she could give it to her husband to prove she met one of his favourite drivers.

Fans in the public arena coming up and asking for signatures was something Danny never got used to. It didn’t happen every day, not even at their local shopping centre, but when it did happen his mind took a step or two back as it came to terms with the idea of someone wanting his name written on something.

“Sure thing!” Danny said before selecting two bottles of wine and heading to the register several steps behind Mel. “I’ll have a six pack of VB as well.” He didn’t plan on drinking the beer on top of the wine but he knew there was none in the fridge at home.

As he swiped his card through the EFTPOS machine and paid for his goods Mel bagged up Danny’s purchases in distinctive brown paper bags. When the receipt was printed and handed back to Danny Mel reached over to the display on the counter to the left of the register and grabbed a green beer mat.

“Grab the orange and black one.” Danny said. Mel looked at Danny. “If I’m going to sign something for your husband it probably ought to be on one of my sponsors logos, not the competition.”

“Oh.” Mel said. “Sorry, like I said I’m not much into motor sport and I saw you buying VB and just figured I’d grab a VB mat.”

“I’m sponsored by them.” Danny said pointing at the black and orange mat Mel was unrolling, “but I like Victoria Bitter.”

“My husband does too.” Mel replied.

When Danny got back in the car with his purchases he placed the drinks on the passenger seat beside him, wedged together with his jacket to make sure they didn’t move as he drove. Hearing the bottles rattle together gently as he moved them around the seat instantly threw his mind back, it could have gone back to multiple time over the past five years but it only needed to go back as far as five months, not long before Tracey walked out on him. Danny didn’t know exactly which time his mind sent him back to as he sat in the car park looking aimlessly out the windscreen but it didn’t matter.

There he sat in the ute, he reached across to the passenger seat where two dozen stubbies of beer straight from the bottle shop cool room sat. Breaking into the cardboard box he pulled out one of the cool brown bottles with the green label, placed his hand over the top and twisted the lid off. He then took three hefty slugs on the bottle downing its entire three hundred and seventy five millilitre contents.

He tossed the empty stubbie into the passenger foot well. Then with his right hand he reached forward, grabbed the keys and started the engine. Before he pulled the dual cab out of the parking spot he grabbed another stubbie, opened it and took another hefty slug.

By the time he was pulling out onto the road he was draining the dregs of the second bottle, then by the time he’d reached the first set of traffic lights, less than a hundred metres down the road, he was grabbing for the third bottle. In the twenty minute trip home he managed to empty six out of the twenty four bottles, only run two red lights and not cause any accidents.

Danny shivered as he remembered the past, remembered how stupid and dangerous he had been, remembered how he’d put all his effort into walking straight as he entered the house after six beers in such a short time. But most of all he shivered at just how lucky he’d been to survive such stupidity.

All those times the drinking had been little more than a reaction to his life around him, a life he couldn’t control as he could his race car. He was never a full blown alcoholic but he did have a reliance on alcohol. He was one of the lucky ones, he could control his alcohol intake, but only when he wanted to, when he felt compelled to. Thanks to his therapy and change of attitude that compulsion was present every day and without touching the uncapped beer bottles Danny started the car and headed home.

Previous Racing Story here.