The Race

by

Todd Jones

copyright 1993




I woke up at 10:50 A.M. on a sunny Saturday morning, late as usual. I threw some bread in the toaster then jumped in the shower. Two minutes later I was ready for anything. Rushing through the kitchen I snagged the toast on my way to the laundry room. I searched through the dirty cloths pile for my bleached blue jeans, the ones with the ripped knees.

"What is your rush?", my mother yelled from the kitchen.

"I'm supposed to pick Eric up in five minutes."

"What trouble are you two going to get into today?"

"We're just going for a drive mom.", I replied rolling my eyes.

"You are not going to race, are you?"

"No mother." Of course I was going to race, why else would I be in such a rush on a Saturday.

"Be careful…and do not drive too fast."

"Yes mother." I couldn't help a smirk.

My mother would never change, I guess she's like any other teenager's mother, always wanting to know where I'm going, what I'm doing, or when I'll be back. She was brought up in the 60's and brings truth to the expression "generation gap", but she means well. Ever since my parents got divorced she's been trying to handle her career and take care of me. I respect that , I'm old enough to handle myself now.

I grabbed my leather jacket on the way out, making sure I had my keys and driving gloves. I couldn't forget my driving gloves, especially today. When the garage door opened the sunlight reflected off the chrome bumpers on my car. I ran my hands over the hood. A smile, only a true car enthusiast could understand, came over me.

"I've spent over a year restoring you. You better not let me down today." I don't really know why people talk to their vehicles, I guess I feel a kind of kinship to mine. I poured every free hour, fixing years of neglect, restoring my metallic blue 1969 Plymouth GTX. I take a personal pride in the trophies I've won at car shows and the looks I get on the street. This is a car made to be run, and run hard. It is equipped with the original 440(7.5 liter) engine, 4-speed transmission, and cherry bomb mufflers. The car is kind of loud thus I call her Blue Thunder. As for why I call it a her I guess it is because my dad always called his cars "her" and it kind of rubbed off. I remember when I found her in this girls driveway, with a block of wood under the back wheel to stop it from rolling away It didn't run, the clutch was blown, and the interior was burned. Now look at her.

When I cranked her over, the sound of the engine rang out into the neighborhood like a shotgun blast, birds scattered and I could see some of the guys down the block smiling at the familiar sound. The tires chirped as I shifted into reverse and backed into the street. I slapped a tape in the radio and turned up the volume. There is nothing like a good car and some great music. Dumping the clutch I left a cloud of smoke and the smell of burnt rubber behind me. I was on my way to pick up my best friend, Eric.

Eric and I do almost everything together. We even wear the same type of cloths, from our black leather jackets to our ripped blue jeans. If he didn't have blonde hair we'd look like twins.

"You're ten fucking minutes late."

"Aren't you ready yet?", I joked.

"I'm ready, but are you ready for Michelle?" Eric raised an eye brow as if waiting for a response then jumped in the car.

"You know my car, she doesn't stand a chance."

"I wouldn't get too damn cocky. Remember the last time you raced her."

"Bull shit! I could have won that race if I hadn't blow a tire."

"That's not how Michelle's been telling it."

We headed over to the gas station to throw a few bucks in the gas tank.

"She's going to whip your ass, again.", Jim the gas attendant said.

"You don't know shit Jim.", I replied.

"All I know is what some of the girls at school have been saying."

"Like what?"

Jim just shrugged his shoulders and let the subject drop.

"They don't know what their talking about." I said under my breath.

I glanced over at the Donut Castle, next door, and wouldn't you know it two police cars sat in the parking lot. You always know where to find a cop around here.

"Don't those cops have anything better to do than sit on their ass and eat donuts?" Eric said as he flipped the police cars off.

The police in this area know my car well, so I left the gas station as slowly as I could, trying to be careful not to cause any disruptions. Luckily none of them saw Eric flipping them off or they would have pulled us over, again, in a minute.

I drove over to Breast road, a two mile stretch of pavement that's been closed off to the public. This road is the best place we've found for drag racing; the cops never bother to come out here.

"Michelle's something, isn't she?" Eric said.

"Yeah, I guess."

The first time I met Michelle was in auto shop class, I was in tenth and she was in eleventh grade. She was under her car working on an exhaust hanger that had broken loose. I offered her some help with her car and she went off on a woman's lib tirade. Ridiculing me in front of my friends on how she could handle fixing her own car and that just because she was a girl it didn't mean she was helpless. That was the beginning. We had competed in everything when it came to cars; who could rebuild a motor better, change a tire faster, even hot-wire a car quicker. We worked harder than anybody else in the auto shop class. She likes me, I know it.

As I rounded the bend in the road my mouth dropped; cars were parallel parked on either side of the road. There had to have been at least twenty cars lining the sides of the road like guard rails. A crowd had gathered. People were sitting on hoods, against trees, and on the grass while others stood cheering as we pulled next to the hot pink 1970 Road Runner.

Rob, one of the high school football players, came over. "You better not blow this one."

I saw Michelle leaning on the trunk of her car. She was wearing pink cutoff shorts and a matching bikini top while her long blonde hair fluttered in the summer breeze. Air brushed on the back of her car were the words, "The Bitch" in big purple letters.

"Go Michelle." Some of the girls in the crowd were cheering.

"Doesn't she look hot in those shorts?" Eric poked me in the ribs with his elbow.

I got out and walked over to Michelle. I've never met a girl like her, if a car needed to be fixed she'd jump right in there, not even caring if she got greasy. What got me was that she is as good a driver as she is a mechanic.

"Do really think your car has enough balls to beat mine." A smile formed on Michelle's face.

"You really live up to those words printed on your car, don't you."

"If anyone can beat me, it would be you, but don't forget what happened the last time we raced…"

"But…"

"I won.", Michelle said.

"You can't count that, I blew a tire."

She just giggled and got into her car.

When I turned around Eric was laughing hysterically. "You better win this one. All the guys are counting on you to show her up."

I glanced over my shoulder. Michelle was touching up her lipstick. She looked at me and ran her tongue across the length of her top lip.

I put my leather gloves on. If I was going to get beat, at least I had to look good. Michelle revved her engine as I got into my car. She gave me wink and a smile before pulling up to the starting line.

Tanya, one of Michelle's friends was chosen to drop the flag at the starting line while two guys, Steve and Bill, stood on each side of the finish line as judges.

The fastest I've ever been clocked in a quarter mile was 11.9 seconds, I hoped it will be good enough.

"Give me all you got baby." I patted the dash.

Tanya stepped between our cars to start the race.

Pushing the clutch to the floor and shifting into first, I waited for the flag to drop. My throat was dry and my knuckles were turning white. They always did before a race, I had a habit of clenching the shifter and steering wheel too hard. When Tanya brought the flag up into the air I raised my Rpm's to 3000.

Last minute bets were still being placed and people were scrambling for better viewing position. I gave Michelle a quick glance. She was all business now. As Tanya sent the flag in a descending motion, everything began to move in slow motion; my heart pounded, the two engines screamed, drowning out the crowd. When the flag hit the ground an adrenaline rush kicked in. I dumped the clutch, smoking the tires more than I wanted. Michelle must have gotten a better bite off the line, she edged out of the hole about two feet ahead of me.

"SHIT!" I buried the gas pedal and gained back those precious few feet. "She's good.", I said to myself.

My tachometer read 7000 Rpm's and I kept saying, "Don't blow it. Don't blow this shift!"

{7500 Rpm's}

"Come on, Come on!"

{8000}

"Shift!" I slammed the clutch to the floor and shifted. The tires gave a small scream as they lost traction for a second.

"FUCK!"

Michelle was back in the lead. The pedal was to the floor, there wasn't much else I could do. Blue Thunder was giving me all she had and we were about half way to the finish line.

{8000}

"Shift!"

"FUCK!" What the hell did she do to that car of hers. Michelle was about half a car length ahead of me. I glanced at the speedometer, 80 miles an hour, then back to the tach 7000, time for another shift. I clenched the gear shifter, my fingers went numb.

{7500}

"Come on, come on, it's now or never."

{8000}

"Shift"

"Fucking A!" You couldn't get much better than that shift. The tires held traction and my car lunged forward. Michelle must have messed up her shift because my car shot right past hers. That little slip cost her the race. My car was in the lead now and I wasn't about to give it up. The speedometer read 110 and climbing. I pressed my back into the seat to brace myself trying to push the pedal through the floor just to keep the lead. I crossed the line at 120 miles an hour, the two judges eyed each other.

I couldn't hear a word they said over our engines, but I knew I had won. Michelle and I slowly drove back to the starting line to let our cars cool off.

"That was really close!" Rob said.

"I've never seen your car run so hard before.", Eric yelled over the crowd's cheering.

I walked over to talk to Michelle. The crowd parted and left us alone.

"You know you might have won if you hadn't screwed up on that shift to fourth gear."

She looked up at me, brushing the hair from her face. "You know where I live, why don't you come over later and we can discuss your prize."

"Sounds good." Was the best I could come up with.

She climbed in her car. Eric was already in mine playing with the radio. It was about time we headed to Little Caesar's for some lunch.

"I knew you could do it.", Eric said.

I started to leave when Michelle pulled up next to us. "By the way Todd, how do you know I really screwed up on that shift to fourth."

I looked at Eric then to Michelle, but she was already on her way down the road. I couldn't help but give a chuckle.

"She's good.", Eric said.

"She's really good…", I added.