Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
… even though I hold her tight.
By R. Peterson
“There, just behind those trees …” Jack Walton lowered the lid over his glass eye and wagged his arm across rows of wrecks cars toward the sun just setting behind a wire fence. “I can hear angels coming for me!” He took a drink from the bottle and dropped it back down on the empty cable-spool he was using for a table. “They’re still too far off; I can’t tell if they’re black or white!”
The cur dog he’d locked in the back room when he saw our truck coming up the drive was still barking. Jack banged on the door. “Shut the hell up!”
I turned the bottle so I could read the label. “Mogan David!” I spat on the ground and paused for emphasis and then smiled. “Everyone knows the spirits that get summoned from a bottle of Mad Dog are darker than a basement under an outhouse!”
Walton glared at me, and then used his dirty shirt sleeve to wipe the neck of the bottle. He took another drink. “You grease-apes looking for something?”
Meryl Hicks leaned down so the auto salvage dealer had to look him in the eye. “We understand you got a 1958 Chevy Delray feeding iron to your weed patch with a smashed up rear end. We need some parts!”
“Row fourteen about halfway back,” Walton said. “I’ll sell you the whole car for seven hundred dollars!”
“We just need some wiper blade arms and a few other things,” I told him.
“Pay for what you take,” Walton told us. “Or I’ll let Mike bone your butts!”
It was almost dark when we came back an hour later, lugging a windshield between us. “It took you long enough!” Jack was on a new bottle.
“The molding was stuck bad …. We didn’t want to break it!”
Walton looked at the windshield and the few parts scattered on the top. “Forty dollars,” he said, “Plus ten for the arms.”
Hicks laughed out loud. “We can buy new glass for fifty,” he said. “You take twenty … or we drop it right here!”
We were standing over a cement pad in front of a battered garage door, the only concrete on the place.
“Easy now!” Walton could see his profits shattering. “Make it twenty-five and I’ll throw in the wiper arms!”
Walton helped us load the windshield in the truck.
We went to a Café in Missoula and washed down a bag of burgers with beer then found a spot hidden in some trees near the salvage yard and slept. It was after midnight when we idled the truck along the back fence to where we’d tossed over the body parts. The dog only barked once. “Good boy!” Hicks laughed as he fed Walton’s hungry mutt one of the burgers.
I had the parts to repair my Delray … with more than sixty bucks left over for a paint-job.
“What did you do with my damn money?” The cigar box I kept my cash in was lying open on my bed. All the money, except for some nickels and a handful of pennies was gone.
My stepfather Leston was in the living room watching Gunsmoke on TV. An open case of Coors beer lay on the floor next to him. Mom was upstairs in bed, with another headache. She worked two jobs, at a café and at a commercial laundry. Most nights she was too tired to eat.
“Easy there Chester!” He glared at me. “I was just collecting the rent!”
“I give mom twenty a month for food,” I told him. “I don’t pay rent!”
“You do now,” he said.
“I need that money for a paint job on my car!” I was frantic. “Please!” I felt like a child.
Just then a commercial for Chevrolet came on the TV. Leston jumped out of his chair and smacked me in the mouth. “From now on there’s going to be changes around here,’ he yelled.
He stood there watching me cry as I lay on the floor. When his western show stared again he waddled back to the sofa. Just before he sat down he lifted his leg and let go a loud fart. “That’s a kiss for you.” He laughed.
I spent the last hour before I closed the Conoco station washing and masking the windshield and headlights. The tires and wheel-wells seemed like too much work. I used solvent to clean out an oil drip pan as well as I could. It was the only thing wide enough that I could find. It was after eleven when Meryl Hicks parked next to the locked pumps in his truck.
“What the hell?” He yelled when he saw me putting the second coat of enamel paint on with an eighteen-inch wide floor-broom.
“Black is black,” I told him. “The bristles are clean. I’ll only drive it at night!”
“This has got to be the ugliest car I’ve ever seen!” Meryl bent over taking deep breaths as though he were in danger of passing out. “Damn!”
Janna was talking to Charles Moyer when I found her in the hall. I didn’t like the way the jock was smiling when they finally separated. “I have the Del Ray running,” I told her when I caught up to her. She looked at me like she was trying to remember who I was.
“Oh I’m sorry …. Freddy,” she said. “I already have a date for this weekend.”
“It’s Frankie,” I told her. “I don’t know what kind of car Moose Moyer drives, but I’ll bet mine is faster.”
“His father just bought him a new Corvette Stingray for graduation,” Janna said. “I don’t know much about cars … but they’re supposed to be fast.”
“How about Saturday night?”
“We’re going out both nights,” she sighed. Her gaze flickered over my shoulder, I could sense her praying for someone to appear in the hall and rescue her.
My heart was breaking but at least I wouldn’t have to blindfold her to not see my paint-job.
“Keep me in mind,” I stammered. “My car really is fast.”
I spent most of Thursday night lying face down in a vacant lot next to Charles Moyer’s house. About twenty past four I used a funnel to pour two pounds of U & I sugar into the Corvette’s gas tank. I think it was the most destructive thing I’ve ever done to a car. I hoped the myths I’d heard about locked-up engines were true.
I was closing up the Conoco Friday night when I saw the Corvette drive by with Janna in the passenger seat. I slammed the man door so hard it cracked the window. Either the sugar didn’t work or else Moose’s father knows a damn good mechanic.
I spent the next two hours cruising up and down Townsend Avenue. Two sophomores in a Nash pulled up next to me at a stoplight and one of them laughed and pointed. The pimples on his face seemed even more offensive when he rolled down his window. “Ever heard of spray paint?” he asked.
I chased them for more than a half hour before I finally cornered them hiding in the back of a used car lot next to the library. I threatened to break the glass and struck the side window twice before Pimples finally unlocked his door. He begged and cried … then even offered me money. I dragged him around the dirty asphalt by his hair and hurt my foot kicking him in the groin before I finally accepted the cash.
It was twenty to one when I stopped at Spare-a-Dime to wash off my bloody knuckles. Janna was sitting at a booth with Moose. There was a line going down the stairs to the bathroom and I could hear them arguing.
“I’ve got two bottles of good wine in the trunk. Let’s drive to Missoula and get a room.”
“I want to drive Canyon Road after midnight.”
“There’s only two miles of pavement on that whole loop! Do you know what flying gravel does to a paint job?”
“I don’t care, that’s where I want to go!”
“If I’d known you were going to be this difficult I would have brought my dad’s tractor.”
By the time I finished in the bathroom, Moose was gone and Janna was just leaving.
“Still want that ride?” I asked.
If she noticed the paint job under the street light she didn’t say anything. I slid the car sideways and smoked both rear tires leaving the parking space behind Spare-a-Dime and was doing eighty miles an hour and almost skidded through a red light at Wallace. She slid over next to me on the bench seat, while I was reversing, and cranked up the radio when Elvis started singing Don’t Ask Me Why.
“Thank you,” she said. “You’re the first guy I’ve ever gone out with who thinks about what I want.”
She brushed her finger over my cheek as we drove and something inside me hurt bad … in a good way. I’d never been in love and I didn’t want the feeling to stop. For the first time I was glad I’d painted my car with a broom. We unrolled all the windows and let the wind blast through our hair. The amplified radio was from another world … and we were rolling.
I found out something strange. Gravel only flies up and strikes the bottom and sides of your car if you’re going eighty-miles per hour or under. When I took the Del Ray over ninety, the gravel roads seemed to smooth out and bridges became aircraft carrier launch ramps. Janna closed her eyes and smiled. “Faster,” she whispered. The rubber tread on the tires was barely making contact with the rock chips.
The Canyon Road loop is twenty one miles from the Vineyard Road turnoff and back again. We were making a complete circuit in sixteen minutes twenty-three seconds including a four mile stretch of nasty curves running alongside Magician’s Canyon where I had to slow to below eighty.
Janna had a lot of nerve for a girl. Never once did she try to bury her face in her hands, cry for me to slow down or try to slip on a seatbelt. The radio was playing Jody Reynolds’ Endless Sleep and suddenly everything seemed to be surreal and moving in slow motion. I couldn’t believe the speedometer said one-hundred ten.
Telephone poles flying past under the bright headlights looked like a white picket fence. I could feel Janna’s lips lightly brushing my cheeks and just a whiff of her Baby Moments perfume was intoxicating. We had just passed the place where the Cottonmouth River vanishes into Magician’s Canyon and I was ready to open her up again when we saw a flash of red.
The taillights on a 1949 Roadmaster look like almost-blind librarian eyes with gaudy, lens-free chrome spectacles hanging on the end of a long nose. The red flash vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. “We’re going to have to step things up a notch,” Janna said.
I was almost full throttle on the straight runs of the loop but after another two rounds we were getting nowhere. An ethereal fog was rising from the low spots in the ground and I felt the space between the spirit realm and our own world overlapping. Then the radio began to play the platters Twilight Time and I became someone long dead.
I slid the car to a stop just past the old Walker ranch. “What are you doing?” Janna’s eyes had a wild jungle-look like she’d just discovered she was a lioness riding in a car with a gazelle. “I’m going to try something,” I said with a voice that wasn’t mine … spinning the car around.
We’d been driving the loop clockwise and whatever was in front of us was staying just outside of our event horizon. I barely scored a D in science, now I was an expert. There are things in this world that we can’t explain.
I’d barely made a half a loop when the tail lights came into view again. This time I wouldn’t lose them.
I opened up both carburetors on the straights and with some help from Buddy Holly and the Crickets singing Peggy Sue we slowly caught the classic Buick … and then pulled alongside. I could smell gas fumes coming from under my car hood. The dual throttle linkage was pumping more fuel than it could burn. “Johnny!” Janna gasped. I could see two people in the car it looked like a man and a woman but both were dark flickering silhouettes … ghosts without light. The speedometer was buried somewhere at one-hundred forty miles per hour and I could hear death awake and rusting around in the trunk.
We were coming to the first curve after five miles of no turns. I tried to keep my eyes on the road but Janna was almost hanging out the window. “Johnny!” she screamed. The four venti-port holes on the sides of the classic Buick were vomiting flames like a World War II Spitfire.
I cranked the wheel just as we flew into the turn …. And then the Del Ray exploded!
TO BE CONTINUED …