Incident at Night

I am roughly sixteen some odd years old, and work in a super grocery market. My only true joy in the world is a 1978 yellow and black Camaro Rally Sport that is clean and tight, not to mention the only one like it in town. It is unique, since the addition of aftermarket spoilers has given it a new profile. It has almost been stolen twice, proving that I am not the only one that appreciates the car. My Z lends a new meaning to the term ‘grocery getter’, everything I make at the grocery, it gets.

My car and I have been through a lot together, enough to write a book about, but there is one incident that I am willing to talk about openly to anyone who will listen. You may think this story is fantastic and that I am crazy, but all of it is true.

The incident took place about six months ago, a Friday night in April. I was working a six to twelve shift at the store and the place as dead as a crypt. Our one night cashier was nearly asleep at her register while the night crew was alive, joking around and restocking the store. Everyone was feeling good except me. My only friend working that night was a sophomore named Danny and he was a total scoob and goof off. My night was going well; well down hill.

Danny was looking at, talking to, and chasing every girl (that was reasonably good looking) that came into sight, not to mention goofing off. The managers were chewing my butt off for his goofing off and I was working the rest of my butt off trying to restock the generic, paper towel, and dairy isles, not to mention gather up the buggies on the lot. Five tall pallets of back stock and a thousand shopping carts to gather up in two hours, by myself. Mom said there would be days like this while pops said life was never easy. Sound advice, sound parents.

Somehow, all did get done by midnight and Danny and I punched out time cards out. Danny went to try to get a friend to get him beer. I had nothing to do and so left. I said good night to the night manager and walked out the automatic doors, and glanced around to see maybe six cars in the lot. Six where two hundred could have fit easily.

I walked up the little hill to my ’78 Rally Sport, gleaming under the light from the post lamp. I removed the keys, unlocked the door, and crawled in. The motor turned over as I turned on the radio, trying to find a station playing something that I liked. I watched in muted amusement as Danny got into his old Buick station wagon and after starting it, drove out of the lot at high speed. Sparks shot from the bottom of his car as he bottomed out at the top of a speed bump. Amateur.

After letting the motor warm up a little, I shifted into gear, left the parking lot, and pulled onto the highway. I drove around Hattiesburg a few times, checking to see if anyone I knew was hanging out at any of the familiar places, waving at people I knew, and dodging old folks in big cars. I was at peace until something unusual occurred.

I was on Main street, stopped at a red light when a black Pontiac Trans-Am pulled up next to me. A very pretty machine, being black and gold unlike my own ride. I judged it to be a 1979 model by the way the lights were configured. I could hear it rumble and saw the "6.6 LITER" symbol emblazoned on the shaker hood scoop. 403 cubic inches and he was loaded for bear! The T-tops were off and the driver looked my direction, nodding. He gave my Rally Sport the same going over I had given his and he nodded his approval. A slight wind whipped his shoulder length hair back and otherwise he appeared to be my age and height.

The light turned green and we accelerated at about equal speed. A good driver doesn’t leave tire marks at every red light. We stayed with each other up to 35 miles per hour, the speed limit. Neither of us really wanting to show off, but neither did we want the other to best one of us. Being a good driver was like being a gentleman in that it required manners. It was evident that the other driver had them.

We parted company at the next stop light and I nodded a farewell as I made a right on red and headed out into the rural areas of the city. There wasn’t much action there, but then, I just needed to ride and unwind. I veered off the highway and down the old country two lane road, the headlights of the Rally Sport cut a swath into the darkness. The road before the Chevrolet led into the boonie sticks as we called them. Nothing lived out here but hicks. The hicks had a name for people like me, ‘slicks’. City people. There would always be friction between the slicks and the hicks, always had been, always would be.

I shot down the road at sixty miles per hour, the wind ripped at me and the radio was playing. I was enjoying myself while watching out for sharp curves in this rural road. I really didn’t need to though, as I had been down this road so much, I knew it like the back of my hand. After thirty minutes of back woods two lane cruising, the gas gauge was begging for attention; the 350cid small block Chevy wasn’t the greatest in the world when it came to fuel efficiency. I remembered a little curb store not far away and made the necessary course corrections to bring me into the little stores parking lot. The Rally Sport burbled up next to the gas pump and I shifted into park, turning down the radio, and turning off the ignition. The heavy thump of the small block faded into silence.

A ten spot that had called my tri-fold home for most of a week saw the night sky for the first time as I pulled my wallet from my back pocket. Obeying the "Please Pay In Advance Before Pumping Gas After 5:00 PM" sign on the face of the pump, I headed into the little store. The cashier had seen better days and gave me a face full of used smoke from the Winston she was puffing on. Like I said, friction. Now, smoking won’t send you to hell, but it will make you smell like you’ve been there!

I left to fill my Rally Sport. Eight gallons later, I saw something that made me miss my mark and high octane sloshed out the fill neck onto the pavement, narrowly missing my sneakers. I saw her, she saw me, and smiled. A young lady about my height and age had just walked into the store. A girl of the caliber who’s looks killed in a single glance and hit you between the eyes dead on. I had to talk to her.

She wore a pair of faded Levis, a red plaid shirt that was tied together in the middle, and a red bandanna in her blonde hair. She wore little makeup, but if such things ceased to exist overnight, she wouldn’t have to worry much. Exciting is hardly the word that I would use. Sexy and beautiful were closer to the heart. I walked back into the store and towards the cooler and cold drinks.

The seal on the glass cooler door broke with a scritch as I reached in and took possession of the largest bottled Pepsi I could get my hands on, the choice of my generation. I saw the girl watching me through the huge disc mirror in the corner of the store. She saw me see her and gave me one of the prettiest smiles and blushes I have ever seen. All fear was gone as I walked up to her and introduced myself. Again, gentlemen may be rare, but being a gentleman has its advantages.

She acknowledged my introduction and said here name was Jessica Breland. Now when I inquired about her walking alone at night, she simply shrugged her shoulders and said that besides being alone, she lived only a couple of blocks away.

Alone? My heart raced, by being a bit more mature than others my age, I let wisdom guide my knowledge. He who lives by the heart suffers much pain, or something like that…

Our conversation drifted to small talk and went on and on through an endless time. We talked of anything and everything that came to mind, we were so totally at ease with each other. I let a little ray of hope glow in my heart, it had been a long time since Kelly had walked out on me and being alone was not the most enjoyable way to spend your teenage years. We talked like that for about an hour, and had the cashier not made an outlandish attempt to disguise here eagerness for us to leave by a long overdone and extended deep cough. I catch on quick and led Jessica to the register where I bought her a Cherry Coke. With a grunt from the woman behind the counter, I received my change and led Jessica out to a bench on the curb of the store. I went to move my car away from the pumps and pulled in right in front of the bench. The headlights of the Rally Sport really played on the gold highlights in her hair, incredible…

I came back to her and she was sipping away on my Pepsi. My heart flipped when she offered me my drink back, I took a swig and sat down again beside her. It was a warm Spring night, and I watched all the stars in their multitudes glistened in the black velvety sky. We continued to talk and soon it was mutually evident that a small bit of affection was wedged between the two of us. We were both amazed at who we knew on a mutual basis and how our thoughts were so similar on a great many ideals and debates.

It is a sad fact of life that all good things must come to an end and this was no exception. It began with the singing of a big trucks tires on the pavement, and then a beat up four by four Bronco roared into the lot and pulled up in front of us, casting us in its headlights. Jessica stirred uneasily on the bench. The Bronco’s driver stepped down and looked right at Jessica. A country hick in a John Deere cap and a sleeveless shirt. A rebel flag bandanna hung loosely around his neck. He was a little bigger than myself, but not as well built. A military cut showed under the cap and he spit a wad of tobacco juice on the sidewalk with obvious disdain.

"Thought you were going home, Jessica." The driver said, staring at her as she cringed.

"Go away, Bo! Leave me alone!" Jessica almost wept.

Bo shifted his balance and eyed me warily. He spat again on the pavement.

"What are you doing with this wimp assed city slicker?" he asked. "Are you looking for someone else already?"

I was getting angry now and realized how bad a situation I was in. I looked at Jessica and smiled, it comforted her a little.

"Think what you will, Bo!" Jessica said. "I don’t belong to you, no matter what you tell your friends…"

And with that, Jessica put her arm through mine and cinched herself up to me tight.

Bo took a deep breath, reached into his back pocket, and drew out a small box. He opened it and a ring glittered brightly under the parking lot lamps.

"I worked real hard to get this for you, Jessica. Now, just get in the Bronco and I’ll forget this ever happened…"

Jessica drew in a deep breath and gripped my arm tighter as defiance enveloped her. When she spoke, she was calm but firm.

"Bo," she pleaded. "Why can’t you just leave me alone!?"

She started to cry a little out of frustration and despair. Now, tears are my weak spot and I looked Bo straight in his eyes, I looked hard.

"Take the ring, Jessica!" Bo said loudly as he shoved the box at her.

Jessica dug into my arm deeper and with a low voice, she pleaded to me.

"Make him go away, please, just make him go away…!"

I looked Bo up and down and finally made my move. I was angry at him and proceeded to let him know it, but I had my manners.

"Look, man, " I said. "You’ve got the lady upset. Why don’t you lay off?"

Bo looked at me.

"If you don’t stay out of this, slick, I’ll kick your ass." He said.

"You’ll do no such thing!" Jessica said, frustrated. "I’m tired of you solving all of your problems by hitting someone or something. Do you think that impresses me?"

With a swipe of her left hand, she slapped the box out of his hand, it clattered to the pavement, the ring bounced out of the box, twice on the pavement, and down a storm drain.

"Bitch!" Bo screamed.

He back handed her across the face hard enough to make her go weak and fall back into the bench behind us. Blood dripped from a busted lower lip, fear was in her eyes, and a lot of hurt. A gentleman also has a code by which he lives and being nice to someone like Bo took a lot of willpower. I had been threatened, insulted, had my companion struck down in front of me, and in general a good night seemed to be ruined by a dumb hick who was missing a fan belt or two upstairs.

I told Bo that he had better apologize to Jessica and make himself scarce or I would get mad. I was this close (hold fingers nearly touching) to snapping and going out on this hick. Bo called me several more names but I remained calm (there were taunts at the question of my courage and my parentage, but I ignored it. Sucker bet, to get lured into a fight over simple everyday words used by the uneducated. I really didn’t want trouble, not when I wasn’t in my natural environment or even my own county. Nor did I give in when he pulled a case knife from its sheath on his belt. Bo flipped the lock blade open one handed and waved it in front of me. Jessica was still on the ground, near the bench, crying and pleading for Bo to stop it, but here pleas fell on ears that had long since stopped hearing what she was saying. I was in his sights now, blood pounding behind his eyes and in his head, there is a breaking point that all of us have, and I finally reached mine. Bo pushed me over it all by himself.

"Think you slicks can just come riding out here and pick up our women?" Bo said, moving back and forth. "Think you’re so tough, well, what are you going to do about this?"

And Bo spit a wad of tobacco juice onto the hood of my Rally Sport. With a lightning quick move, I yanked the rebel flag bandanna from around his neck and with great care, gently wiped the dark stinking juice from the hood of my ride before throwing the soiled cloth to his feet. His look was priceless, but he quickly recovered and came back.

"Yeah, well, how about something more permanent?" he asked.

With a swipe of his knife hand, he gouged a inch and a half long scrape in my paint. With a sigh, I quietly let go on the inside.

"Buddy." I said softly. "You just opened the biggest can of whip ass this side of the Mason Dixon line."

Jessica was quiet and Bo hesitated for only a second, but it was all that I needed. Two years of street fighting and various martial arts moves that I managed to pick up (mostly the hard way, but we won’t go into detail on that…) had hardened me into a tough mother. I didn’t regret a single second of what I did as the adrenaline poured into my system.

I lashed out and connected with the wrist of the hand holding the knife. I heard a pop and the hand sprang open, letting the knife fall to the ground. I pulled back and drove both fists into his sternum and was rewarded with a good solid "ummmmph" that would have made any action movie actor cringe with envy. He doubled over in a spasm and I turned with a round house kick to his nose, again a crunch sounded as my sneaker met his face and bloody mist filled the air. His battered body slumped up against the Bronco and he grabbed the mirror strut for support. He started to pull himself up, looking at me like an animal. I stepped in and delivered a back handed brachia plexus nerve stun to the side of his throat, covering with my left arm and hand for any strike that he could have thrown. My thumb went in front of his ear, my four spread fingers behind it, his ear cupped perfectly between thumb and finger. I imagined the strike passing on through his head, kept contact for a few seconds after I struck, and then withdrew, letting the effect take over for all it was worth. It was beautiful. It was one of the best stuns that I had ever produced, and immediately I got sympathetic nerve reactions from both of his legs. His legs crumpled as the wave shock effect played along his nerve trunk and he went down, hacking for air and dropping his tobacco wad slowly out of his mouth onto the pavement.

Bo lay there gasping and I walked over to Jessica, helping her up. I offered her my bandanna for her lip and she gladly accepted, holding it there and applying pressure.

"That was unreal!" she exclaimed, watching Bo flop around, trying to get his senses back.

She looked at me and then back to Bo on the ground.

"Probably shouldn’t have done it though … " She said.

I took a deep breath.

"Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have stomped him into the ground." I said, barely out of breath and calming down by the second.

"Well, he’s the deputy sheriff’s son…" Jessica said.

Everything in the night just got a lot louder and deeper. I looked up to the night sky, watching the insects buzz around the parking lot lights.

"Oh, shi…" I said softly, looking down at Bo.

I didn’t get a chance to finish as I caught sight of the cashier shouting something into the phone and waving frantically, sometimes gesturing at us. Glad I paid for the gas with cash instead of a credit card!

"I think we’ve worn out our welcome!" I said.

I grabbed Jessica’s hand and pulled her towards my Rally Sport. I hopped in but she looked hesitant. A quick discussion convinced her that she would not be as well liked when junior on the ground finally got his legs under him again. Jessica hopped into the passenger seat of the Rally Sport and with a roar of power from the small block, we left in a cloud of burnt rubber and skid marks which covered half of the parking lot. The Rally Sport continued to accelerate down the road and into the night.

The wind flowed over the car as I pushed the Rally Sport to ninety and then back to seventy. I looked at Jessica and with a one handed motion, I took a long drink from my Pepsi.

"So, what can happen?" I asked her, studying the gauges for any sign of mechanical trouble.

Jessica then proceeded to tell me that I was ten miles behind enemy lines and that only one road led back onto the highway from the rural area. Old news to me, I knew that but was interested in what they could do. I was defending myself but I doubted that they would see it my way. After all, it was my word against Bo’s, and who was daddy going to believe? A slick with a fast car and Bo’s woman in the passenger seat, a slick who had just taken his son down in public or Bo there, all tears and blood lying on the ground?

No real question there.


The locals took care of their own.

Jessica also reminded me of the Andy Capp case of two years ago… A country legend, I thought, but Jessica assured me it was real. The Andy Capp case was where a drunk city boy had accidentally staggered into a deputy sheriff at a routine road block. The drunk boy was just a passenger who had been asked to step out of the car with the driver so the officers could go through the car and see if anything looked good enough to keep. Well, after this boy had staggered into the officer, the officer had beaten the boy to within an inch of his life, claiming he ‘assaulted’ the officer. It was the officer’s word against the teenager’s. That boy had just bumped into one of the deputies. I had just beaten the hell out of one of the deputies sons. I knew what would be in store for me. Friction. Always was, always would be.

Jessica was staring out the window at the trees roaring past. We were about eight miles away from the turn off when I looked in my rear view mirror and my blood froze. Closing in on me from behind was a county unit in his black and white colored patrol car. Lights and siren blaring on through the night. I couldn’t take the chance on stopping.

Jessica urged me to run for it and we did. The engine roared as three hundred and fifty cubic inches of Chevrolet small block came alive. The gauges reflected this and constantly monitored changing conditions. The car leapt ahead and slowly we left the patrol car behind. Thank God they didn’t have any interceptors out this far.

The Rally Sport shot down the road ahead of the police car, playing a dangerous game of hop scotch. I knew if I let him get in front that I would loose my advantage. We were coming up on a merger and I looked out my side to see a second patrol car roaring to intercept on a parallel road. All three of us would hit the intersection at the same time unless someone chickened out.

 

I glanced at the instruments and saw that we were doing one ten and holding. I continued to weave in and out, keeping the patrol car behind me. I looked over at the other patrol car, still on an intercept course that would bring it onto the road just in front of me. Then I did a double take! Bo was leaning out the passenger window and taking aim with a double barrel shotgun at me and my car! Why did everyone have to pick on my car?

The intersection was ahead, a hundred feet away and those two barrels were close enough to kiss. Bo shouted something and brought the scatter-gun up to fire. I slammed on the brakes, locking the front discs and rear drums. The tires screeched as Jessica and my seatbelts locked. We were pitched forward by the force of inertia.

Jessica screamed and the patrol car behind us, not able to stop as fast as the Rally Sport, veered around us to get out of the way. Of my way and right into Bo’s. There was a flash and a double thunderclap that left my ears ringing and purple splotches dancing on my retinas. The blasts of double ought buck slammed into the sheet metal of the fender of the patrol car that had passed me. The shot punctured the tire, shredded the valve cover and the valve train and cut required hoses and belts. A second later, the hood of the patrol car lifted off and a fire broke out in the engine compartment. The second patrol car hit the road in front of the disabled one and caused the first driver to forget about his engine and veer off the two lane, right into a huge pine tree. Steam and smoke bellowed out from the car as the driver crawled out and ran for the road. The lights and siren were still operating.

I was at thirty and took a hard left, punching it down the road where Bo had come down. The second patrol car braked to a half and turned around to pursue again. The fuel tank of the first patrol car erupted and a spectacular fireball illuminated the night. An illumination that in my rear view mirror showed Bo reloading!

The patrol car sped after us as I hit one hundred and twenty, then one thirty. Jessica looked back and I noticed that she was pretty even in a situation like this. She removed the handkerchief from her mouth and it looked like the bleeding had stopped. I told her to get down as buckshot whistled its banshee wail past my window and on into the night. She obeyed without a word!

I saw McHenry’s Hill coming into view and a pair of high beams coming over it. Reinforcements? It wasn’t fair. I hated to play games by other people’s rules… The headlights in front of me dimmed and brightened. I dimmed mine and the other pair went dim again. Then I saw it… a black Trans-Am was accelerating down the hill and passed us.

The driver didn’t’ have long to look at us but what he saw and what I saw spoke a world of words. I saw the same guy I had met a few hours ago and he nodded. I saw his look when he glimpsed Jessica in the passenger seat and then he was gone. All of this had happened in the time it took to blink your eyes.

I glanced in my side mirror and saw the T/A’s brake lights flare and a second later, the Pontiac went into a bootleg reverse that made me green with envy. Tires smoking, the black T/A completed the old moonshiner move. The 403 cubic inch motor roared to life and the T/A fishtailed as it tried to get traction. The T/A closed rapidly on the bumper of the patrol car.

Jessica was elated now, looking backward frequently at the T/A. The CB radio came to life and a voice called out.

"This is Black Bird, break one nine for that yellow Rally Sport. Is that you in there, doll?"

Jessica picked up my mike and acknowledged his call. She spoke rapidly and excitedly to a Mitch whom she referred to as "dear" and "honey" several times. My heart sank. Jessica had another. My girlfriend’s boyfriend wasn’t me. She filled Mitch in on the facts and ducked as a storm of lead wailed past her window. I looked back and saw Bo reloading again. Jessica pleaded with Mitch to do something.

The T/A downshifted and lurched ahead, closing the gap and connecting with the rear bumper of the patrol car, jarring the occupants roughly and blunting the paint on the nose piece of the T/A. The one noticeable effect was that it drew Bo’s attention and after readjusting his position, his next blast sought the T/A instead of me. Mitch didn’t even flinch. The radio blared again and I heard Mitch, his voice cool and calm, a true hot rodder. Mitch and I exchanged greetings and I agreed that his assessment of the fact that those in the patrol car between us were low octane types. I informed him that to get out of this alive would require a block off, something I invented out of sheer boredom and mischief. I told Mitch to match speed with me, side by side, and when I gave the signal, we would both slam down on the brakes. A good plan, and it worked perfectly. Mitch sped around and his T/A and my Z-28 were side by side on the two lane, with the patrol car right behind us, weaving in and out. Bo lined up on my rear window and took aim and as he gripped the trigger of the scatter-gun, I gave the signal.

The four wheel disc brakes of the Trans-Am and the front disc / rear drum brakes of the Rally Sport screamed as the pads slammed home and the two F-bodies forward motion bled off in wild sheets of burnt rubber and tire smoke behind us that helped to obscure the vision of the patrol car driver and Bo. Bo, not holding on to anything for bracing, was thrown onto the side of the road where he rolled to a stop and lay still. The patrol car couldn’t stop and veered off the road, down into a gully. With a final croak and dying howl, its siren and engine grew silent. Steam escaped from the crumpled hood as the driver pushed his door open and fell slowly out, crawling toward the bank. At almost time, Mitch and I both shoved our foots into the collective firewall and the two F-bodies roared off, speeding on through the night.

Mitch and I stopped side by side five minutes later and talked. He informed me that he had passed through a roadblock earlier. A road block meant to stop me. I told him not to worry, that road blocks posed no problem for me, I could run them and had before in my days of extra-legal teenage activity. He shook his head and told me of how they had moved two heavy county dump trucks onto the road.

Now that was new…

"Is there room to pass on the sides?"

"Only if you have a four wheel drive and take it real slow."

I sighed.

"I suppose you know how to crack the road block?" I asked sarcastically.

Mitch smiled and looked at Jessica who smiled back at him. Somehow, the matchmaker in me put these two together more than it put myself and her together. I was out of place here, my stomach knotted.

"You come highly spoken for…" Mitch said. "A couple of your friends run with a couple of my friends, so your rep is good for me."

That was a relief.

"But we do things a little different out here in the county than you do in the city…" he said, laughing.

"I suppose you know how to crack this road block?" I asked again.

"Just follow me, and watch how I work." Mitch said, hopping in to the T/A.

I followed that black Pontiac for about ten minutes before we topped a hill and were offered a view of the road block. We had shut our lights off and idled up the hill, getting out and walking the last few steps on the side of the road, near the tree line. What I saw I didn’t like. Flares laid out on the road, yellow traffic barricades, two police cars, and two dump trucks, the ten wheeled kind, painted county orange with county markings. Using a pair of binoculars I had taken from my trunk, I surveyed the road block. Three deputies with shotguns, talking to one of the truck drivers and another, younger man sitting on the top of the cab of the left most dump truck. Every now and then, he would look our way, down the road toward us, and then away again. Like he was waiting on something…

The flares illuminated the yellow barricades and the three officers idly chatting and joking around in the middle of the street. Two patrol cars were parked to either side of the road, vacant now, but with their hoods up and their flashers on. Nice setup, looked air tight. No room to pass on either side, and I sure wasn’t going to be able to budge those ten wheeled trucks out of the way with my Rally Sport.

"Trust me?" Mitch asked, looking over at me.

"Do I have a choice?" I asked back, giving him the binoculars.

He took them and surveyed the setup, paying attention to the youth on the second dump truck. He turned and gave the binoculars back to me.

"Not really." He smiled.

"Let’s do it!" I said and we both walked back to the idling Pontiac and Camaro.

 

Mitch raced the 403 several times and hit his quad high beams, letting out a good old country boy yell. He nailed the accelerator and the T/A fishtailed as it tried to catch traction. He accelerated down the hill, flashing his lights and honking his horn. I followed close behind, the small block Chevy of the Rally Sport nailed for all it was worth. Jessica was laughing, strapped into the passenger seat, her hair whipping in the wind as we accelerated, pedal to the metal.

Up ahead, the youth on top of the dump truck swung down from the roof into the cab and fired it up. A belch of black exhaust, darker than the night sky, rose from the exhaust stack. A deputy ran up to the truck cab window, only to fall back to the ground from a solid left punch. The truck turned and marched on down the road, moving over to the right lane as soon as it cleared the roadblock. The deputies were left stunned. One ran to the other truck and hopped into it, couldn’t the keys, and started cussing. The driver of the truck started patting down his overalls, looking for the keys, but nothing was produced. More cussing. The last deputy tried to flag Mitch down, waving his arms frantically to no avail, and dodged out of the way at the very last second as the T/A roared through the opening in the roadblock, around the remaining dump truck, taking out two of the barricades in an explosion of wooden debris and splinters that rained down around the setup. The 403 cubic inch small block was sucking in 750 cubic feet of air per minute to the hungry Rochester Quadrajet carburetor under the functional shaker scoop. It was a scene that could have been straight from the mind of Dante…

I was about five car lengths behind Mitch, my car had a lot of power, but a 403 beat a 350 Chevy any day of the week. I had a lot of ground to make up, and not a lot of time to do it in!

"Come on!" I said to my car, my gloved hands on the wheel and the gear selector at my side.

I passed through the hole Mitch had made just as the pieces of the barricades were hitting the asphalt. The 350 cubic inch small block Chevrolet was screaming, the tires at the limit of their traction given the suspension that was under the car. The dual snorkel air cleaner I had rigged up was feeding the cold night air to the ever hungry Rochester Quadrajet four barrel carburetor under the hood. I was approaching red line, I worked the automatic shifter, slapped it forward from second to drive, and the Rally Sport shot through the barricade onto the empty road on the other side.

Behind us was nothing short of mass confusion. A few flashes indicated gunfire, but we were moving so fast that there was no way they could draw a bead on us.

And we were through, passing the lumbering dump truck like it was still. Jessica was laughing and slapping the door panel, I was pretty much all smiles myself.

"Yes!" I said to my car. "Yes!"

Neither of the two F-bodies stopped until they had crossed the county line and the lights of the city were glowing brightly on the dash and windshields of the cars. Five minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of another convenience store, side by side, the Camaro and the Trans-Am. The power plants under the hoods pinging as they cooled in the night air.

Jessica hopped out of the car and ran over to the T/A as Mitch stepped out, the two hugged and kissed on the cheek before Jessica led Mitch by the hand over to my car. He extended his gloved hand and I extended mine, we shook out of mutual respect and admiration, congratulating each other on an adventure like no other.

We both did a walk around, looking for damage to either car. I had a few dents, some scratches, and what I took to be a shot hole. Mitch had some bad paint damage to the front but nothing that some sanding and painting wouldn’t fix. Cody could fix the body work on the Rally Sport, I had been in worse situations before, where more gun play was involved. Yellow was an easy color to match, if you used the right yellow paint…

"How did you get that truck to move?" I asked, squatted down near the rear of the Pontiac, admiring the rear wheel disc brake setup, loads better than the front disc and rear drum setup that I had on my Camaro.  I made a mental note to try to find one of the '79 TA's WS6 rear posi and rear disc differentials in the bone yard and switch mine out for it as soon as I could.

"Oh, that was just a friend. He doesn’t like the locals much either. Especially not when they yank him out of a bar, away from his beer, women, and pool, and make him go to the county lock up and get out his dump truck and then sit on top of it all night long and wait for them to tell him to move it forward or move it back. When I first came through the roadblock, I stopped and talked to him for a while. I could tell he wasn’t happy, and I told him if he saw me again that night, he better be moving that mother out of the way. I owe him a six pack for that."

I nodded. They sure did things differently out there.

We talked for a while, the three of us, mostly about cars, and about what had happened, until it grew late. At nearly four in the morning, it was time to part company. I had to get home and get some rest because I had to work again tomorrow. I said good night and started to walk around to the driver’s side door of the Rally Sport. Jessica ran up and before I could say anything, she kissed me on the lips with a kiss that I will never forget all of my youthful days. With a horn honk and a motor rev, she and Mitch left in Mitch’s black Pontiac, I watched the red tail lights fade into the distance.

Suddenly, it was very quiet in my life… an uncomfortable but all too familiar quiet.

Sorrow, my only friend.

I fired up the Rally Sport and left the parking lot, heading into the suburbs of the city. You win some, you lose some. It was definitely a night to remember and I had not only made a name for myself with some very cool people, but I had also made some new friends. And I had gotten the kiss of my life from a woman that would take your breath away with looks alone. Overall, not a bad night.

Not a bad night at all…

 

Epilogue

It was a warm night in May, humid. The incident in the sticks had never evolved into anything. I had been out of sight for a while, and nothing ever came of it other than some bad feelings that were expressed through a friend of a friend and so on down the line. The overhead lights in Cody’s garage were the main attraction to a host of insects native to the Deep South. I was working on the Rally Sport, there in the garage. Tools around the engine bay, covers on the fenders, air cleaner off and laying on a work bench nearby. The Rally Sport had been in bad need of a tune up, so in went new plugs, plug wires, and filters. I had a timing gun set up to get the motor back to the sweet spot, but my mind kept drifting.

I couldn’t get Jessica out of my head. Man, what a fox! I shook my head and swung the ratchet a few more times, carefully seating the AC Delco plug, turning it once more to lock it in the thread, and then pushing the plug wire boot on top of the plug. I double checked the plug wire boot to make sure it was on good and tight.

"There…" I said softly, uncurling and rising up.

"OK!" Jessica said.

I turned, astonished, she planted the second greatest kiss of my life on my lips.

"That IS where you wanted that, isn’t it?" she asked mischievously.

"Wha…" I said, startled, wiping my greasy hands on a shop towel I had hanging out of my pocket.

"What was that for?!" I asked.

My world was spinning like a broken posi unit…

"That was because I missed you, Christopher Shields." Jessica said.

I took a step back from Jessica and the Rally Sport, just trying to find my bearings in a world suddenly gone whack. I looked out the garage and saw Cody talking to Mitch as Mitch sat in his black Pontiac T/A. Cody nodded and Mitch gave me the thumbs up sign out the T-tops. He put the car into gear and started to idle away, his last words to me hit me like a sledgehammer.

"I told you we had some mutual friends!" he said, shaking Cody’s hand. "You take care of my little sister, now, you hear!?" he shouted.

And like that, he and that black Pontiac were gone.

"Oh, I think he can do that just fine." Jessica said, batting her eyes at me.

I looked from the empty driveway, back to the Rally Sport, then back to Jessica, leaning there provocatively against the fender, giving me those eyes, man she was giving me those eyes! I sighed and laughed. Little sister? Sister? I looked at Jessica and she smiled. Those lips… I smiled, looked at my hand, it was about as clean as I could get it with just wiping it on an already dirty shop towel, and I offered it to her. She took it and I pulled her to me. She pulled me back to her and we fell against each other on the driver’s side door, kissing, her arms going around behind my neck.

"Dating you is going to be tough…" I said.

"Not as tough as you think… the hard part you already have beat." She said.

"The hard part?" I asked, kissing again.

"Getting me to pay you any attention." She said.

"No, the hard part is going to be coming out to your neck of the woods to pick you up. Getting you home is also going to be an adventure, each and every time. I’m not well liked out there…" I said.

She laughed and mocked me, saying: "But you’re the best!"

"So you think I’m bad…" I asked her softly into her ear, my lips moving up her neck.

She squirmed delightfully under me, sighing.

"Baby, I know you’re bad. I wouldn’t go out with you if you weren’t."

Our lips touched again, and she stepped away. I watched her walk over to the work bench and pick up the ratchet.

"Which ones haven’t you done yet?" she asked, looking at the still full boxes of AC Delco plugs, opening one up.

"Uh, fifth through eighth cylinders." I said. "You’ll have to use a creeper to get to that last one, it’s a uh… a …"

I stopped, caught myself using garage talk.

"It’s a bitch." She said. "You should see the passenger side rear plug on the 403."

I smiled, my world was just so right at that one moment in time. Just so right. I watched those pair of tanned legs slide up on the creeper under the Rally Sport and I leaned down under the front bumper. I watched her work the ratchet on the fifth cylinder, swinging the ratchet and removing the plug.

"Hand me an extension, this ratchet is just a little short, give me a small one."

I went over to Cody’s rolling tool box and opened a drawer, getting out a three inch / half inch extension bar and handing it to Jessica from top of the motor down. She changed out the bit and started on the next plug with a passion.

"You know that Bo is going to be looking for payback." She said. "You made a fool out of him."

"Uh huh, about what I figured." I replied. "Got what he deserved."

"I don’t feel any pity for him." Jessica said. "But he’s got that jock mentality you know. He’s going to come looking for you, and it might be with a couple of his friends. He’s not much alone…"

I thought about that .... I had some new friends, and what looked like the start of one very smurfy relationship. I was tough, I was one of the best, and if I had to keep on proving that, I would until someone proved me wrong. No problem. I was back in business and it felt good! Let Bo try something again. I was ready for him. I was going back over the county line again and again, whenever I wanted to. I had a reason to now, and that’s all I needed. Bo would be there, I’d have to run into him sooner or later, but that was life.

"It’s Friday night. Do you want to go out to the airport and drag?" Jessica asked from under the Rally Sport. "I know a few people showing up tonight who want to meet you."

"Wow! Uh, yeah, maybe I can make some headway against that red SVO tonight. He’s tough…"

"SVO? That would be Johnny Dayton. His old man owns Dayton tires down near Highway 98 East. Let me drive." She said. "I’m pretty good and he likes me. I could embarrass him in this car, I know it!"

I laughed.

"So, you and Mitch share the T/A?" I asked.

"No, Mitch is just helping me on my car. Got a old ’71 Plymouth ‘Cuda back home, with a 383 and a stick in it, but its not together right now. Mitch is helping me with it, I’ll have it back on the road before June."

I handed Jessica another spark plug.

"About Mitch…" I said.

"He’s a step brother, different father. It’s a long story…" she trailed off, I didn’t press.

I looked down again at those tan legs, black leather sandals, and those cut off jeans shorts and I smiled.

"You drive a ‘Cuda with a 383 and a stick?" I asked incredulously.

"Uh huh, six pack, drinks the gas, three deuces on top. Deuces are wild, you know…"

Didn’t I? I heard the sound of a spark plug getting seated and then tightened for all it was worth. Got to love those Southern girls, wouldn’t trade one of them for ten girls from any other part of the world! Damn! What a Friday night this was shaping up to be!

The sound of the ratchet floated into my world as I leaned on the fender of the Rally Sport and looked out into the yard beyond, lost in thought.

I thought to myself; you win some, you lose some.

Sound advice,

Care to lay odds?

 

BACK

 

Author's Note

Wow!

I found this gem cleaning out the study the other night and going through all of my old spiral bound notebooks from elementary and high school.  Looking through one of the notebooks I found something that would be of interest to many, many people; this is the first short story that I ever wrote, the date on it reads 5/5/86 and it got me an A+ in English class in my Junior year in high school.  The teacher wrote the comment "Excellent work!  With a little polish you could publish!"

I wrote this story when I was 16, within a month of turning 17 years old. It is based on actual events in my life, with a little embellishment to make it more interesting.  Of course the names are not the real names and are changed to protect the guilty.

I never thought that the first story that I wrote was ever good enough to see the light of day, even if it happened, but almost twenty years later, it's a pretty good fast car / teenage action story and a good memory of a night long ago.  I like this story, it would make a good student movie project for college. This is my first short story, complete short story, that I ever wrote. I was in the midst of the rebound from a bad relationship and I went out cruising one night after work and.... Well….  It has been an interesting life so far, and I wouldn't trade it for anyone else's.

-Christopher T. Shields