"Fire It Up
Out Of Your Car
Ready To Fire
This Is Why
We Couldnt Get Much Higher
Take It To The Edge
Make It Forever
Make It Last
Get On The Road To Rock"
- Kick Axe - "The Road to Rock"
The ten minute, late night, last chance,
August 30, 1985
Rick and I got off from our five to eleven late night shifts at County Market, the local high volume, super discount grocery store where we both worked part-time. Dan was eighteen years old, just, and I was three years his junior. Dan and I had gone through Boy Scouts together and a few years later, we met up again at County Market where we worked together pretty often. Now, the one thing that Dan liked to do after work was to buy a six pack or two of cold beer, a bag of ice, dump all of that in his battered little Igloo party cooler and unwind. By “unwind” I mean that Rick liked to drink lots of beer and get progressively more rowdy while I drove him around and kept him from getting in trouble. Rick, in his defense, usually bought me fast food or soft drinks whenever I wanted them and most of the time he spotted for his share of the gas.
At that time I felt it was an equitable arrangement.
I didn’t mind being Rick’s designated driver mainly because I liked driving, especially if someone else was buying the groceries and go-go juice.
Rick was a big guy, six foot four, two hundred and sixty pounds, and he had played football, starting lineup, for Hattiesburg High during his junior and senior years there. Rick’s tolerance for alcohol, matched to his body mass, meant that he could out drink just about anyone he or I knew and you didn’t want to ever get in a fight with Rick … especially if Rick had already had a few beers to drink, was in a mood to argue and was feeling no pain, no pain at all. Rick had big hands and a sizeable reach … if he could grab hold of you he owned you and it was all over but the crying.
So, there we were; Rick and I at the end of an otherwise wasted Friday night. It had been a rough six hour shift, starting at 5pm and going on to 11pm … but it didn’t stop there. No, our assistant manager this night had been one of our least favorite people in the world, Morris Phillips. Phillips was a scrawny, hawk nosed, ass kisser who looked like he could be a stunt double for “Klinger” from the MASH TV series, minus the dress (but who knew what he wore in private). Phillips wanted nothing less than a store of his own to manage and he wanted managers under him that he could boss around. Phillips was, in a single word, an asshole. He had big plans but unfortunately, God just hadn’t ever given him the mental horsepower to achieve his dreams so he did what he could and hoped for the best.
Rick and I didn’t get along with Phillips and he didn’t care much for us either (mainly because we saw through all of his bullshit and he knew that in his plan for what he wanted we would be of little, if any help to his cause). The despise that we felt for each other was mutual and intense but since he was the boss, we often came out on the short end of the deal and tonight had been no different. Phillips’ caustic attitude generally showed up the most in our work assignments throughout the night but tonight had been a real marathon and there, at the end, just for spite, ten minutes before Rick and I were supposed to punch out from our shift, Phillips had asked the night crew manager if he needed any help from us. The night crew manager, a slacker who got his position only because he was the hardest working slacker on a crew of slackers, had gladly put us to work doing his crew’s preliminary stuff like pulling restock pallets out from the back of the store and topping off the milk, eggs and bread. Our last image of Phillips that night was him giving us a two finger salute and whistling as walked off towards his car. Rick and I had busted our asses to get that work done (all the while the night crew had sat around, drinking coffee and talking on the clock). After we finished, Rick and I went to the night crew manager and told him that we had finished what he had asked us to do, that it was after eleven o’clock and could we leave.
“Did you get the buggies in?” he asked, smiling, knowing that we hadn’t and knowing that he had all the authority in the world to tell us to go do it even though we were officially way deep in overtime and his crew could have gotten the buggies tomorrow morning before the day crew came on.
Rick was one step from being fighting mad, even without any beer in him but it wasn’t until we were well out of ear shot of the night manager that Rick let go with a long string of profanity and articulated gestures that linked eternal damnation to simian evolution and included both Phillips’ family lineage and the parentage of the night crew manager as well. Here it was, twenty minutes after we were supposed to get off of work and the night crew manager was asking us to do more work. Rick and I walked out the front of the store, more profanity muttered under our breaths, and looked at a parking lot that was full of empty shopping carts scattered as far as the eye could see. I looked at the front of the store where we parked the carts and there were maybe seven or eight carts there … where normally there were easily two hundred plus.
“You get that side of the lot and I’ll get this side!” I shouted to Rick as I broke into a jog to start rounding up the shopping carts on the side of the parking lot near the service road and Highway 49.
The parking lot was ringing with the sound of hundreds of casters clickity-clacking and rolling in their mounts as long trains of buggies were snaked together, pushed across the parking lot by two huffing and grunting, pissed off employees. The trains of buggies, snaking left and right were finally brought straight before being slammed into place in front of the store. The report of metal against metal sounded like a giant Slinky orgy, interspersed with Rick shouting profanities at the top of his lungs across the parking lot but only when he knew that there were no customers that could hear him.
My personal limit was about thirty shopping carts at a time but Rick could snake up to about fifty in a row and from the moment that the job had started it became a race to see who could round up the most buggies the quickest and get the longest train going. It took us fifteen minutes to clear the parking lot, working together to bring in well over two hundred shopping carts.
Sweat was the natural by-product of our hurried effort.
After the last train of shopping carts was slammed into place in front of the main entrance, we jogged through the front of the store, caught sight of the night manager and asked him if he needed us for anything else. There was a long pause as he thought and then he waved good night. I honestly think that if he had done anything else other than release us from our shift that Rick would have cleared the registers like a horny gorilla and used a twenty-five pound bag of sugar in each hand to beat the night manager to a bloody wet pulp.
“About damn time.” Rick muttered loudly but not loud enough that the night manager could hear him.
We both punched out within seconds of each other and I glanced at my Timex; 11:38PM. The convenience stores would stop selling beer at midnight, by law. We had to hurry. When I informed Rick of this, he added another outburst of profanity to the end of the work shift and motioned for me to follow him. It was implied that I should keep up with him, if I could, and to my credit I did, for the most part. Rick was built like a Sherman tank and moved like one, too, if a Sherman tank had come equipped with a rocket booster shoved up its ass. Rick was slow to start but once he got all of that mass into top gear I honestly think he could have made a Rick shaped hole in a pretty thick brick wall and not even felt it.
Rick and I jogged back outside; I took my name tag and my red clip-on bowtie off, holding them in my hand as I ran across the parking lot towards where Rick and I had parked at the top of the hill. There, under a single street lamp sat my red ’78 Chevrolet Rally Sport Camaro and Rick’s ’78 rust and faded orange colored Ford F150 pickup truck.
I unlocked my Camaro and sat down in the driver’s seat, throwing my name tag and bowtie into the center console as I reached over, undid the passenger seat belt and popped the passenger side door lock knob up. I put my seat belt on and patted the accelerator pedal with my right foot to prime the four barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor then turned the key in the ignition. The engine under the hood, a not exactly stock 350 cubic inch small block Chevy V8, caught on the third spin and the true dual exhaust growled loudly as the engine loped and began to idle high. A V-belt under the hood sang a short, shrill song and then grew content with its lot in life. I reached up on the dash and pulled on my pair of black, leather fingerless driving gloves then spun the crank handle to roll the driver’s side window down.
“… Really hate that monkey dick, Phillips!” Rick shouted as he undid his red work apron and took his name tag and clip-on bowtie off as well, throwing them all into the front bench seat of his old Ford pickup. I could barely hear him over the engine idling but I nodded just the same since the feeling was more than mutual but only slightly less than religion between the two of us.
“I hate that worthless son of a bitch!” Rick declared loudly again as he slammed the door to his truck hard enough to rock the pickup on its suspension, the clang of metal on metal rang across the parking lot.
Rick looked at his own watch then quickly jerked open the passenger door of the Camaro with a little more force than I would have liked, causing the hinges to protest on their mounts. Rick then tried to sit down in the Camaro’s passenger seat, noticeably rocking the Camaro on its suspension when he did so, and then tried to get situated as best as he could because, big guys like Rick don’t get into mid-sized sports cars like my Camaro … big guys like Rick tend to half sit, half fall down into mid-sized sports cars like my Camaro and then they do the best that they can to get comfortable in the confined space. This act of vehicular ingress is usually accompanied by a lot of huffing, groaning, ad hoc profanity and the sound of a passenger seat making sounds that were eerily close to the sounds that a passenger seat makes when it is about to break in some expensive or irreparable fashion.
After a good bit of wallowing around, rocking the Camaro on its suspension, all mixed with an even greater amount of profanity and disdain for my personal choice in daily transportation, Rick eventually got to a point where his comfort and discomfort met on a more or less even ground or at least met at a point that he could live with for however long it took him to get his beloved beer. The window on the passenger side was still up and I involuntarily winced when he slammed the passenger side door shut. If the window had stayed together when he slammed the Camaro’s door shut, I really expected the window handle to come off when he started rolling the window down but Rick was in a mood and chiding him about being careful with the hardware didn’t seem worth the verbal fight that would ensue so I let it slide.
“We’ve got 18 minutes to get some beer! I’m buying and you’re driving!” Rick said.
I glanced at the green digital clock displayed on the face of my Kenwood cassette stereo player; 11:42 PM.
Eighteen minutes before midnight.
Rick was correct.
“Let’s go!” he urged.
“You in?” I asked as Rick tried to work his big legs into the tiny floor well on the passenger side.
“Go! Damn it! Just go!” Rick ordered, both frustrated and angry. “Show me what this thing can do. I’m thirsty!”
He didn’t need to tell me twice.
I threw the console mounted shifter down into Drive, barely letting the three speed THM350 automatic transmission get into gear as I gave the accelerator pedal a good shove towards the floor and the Camaro left the parking lot in a roar of V8. I cut the four spoke steering wheel hard and slung us onto the service road at high speed, headed for a nearby convenience store just a half mile away from where we worked. Rick was still fuming, watching out the side window as we blew past County Market. He started to say something else but he was either out of profanity or he just didn’t feel like beating on the subject any more and as such, Rick took a deep breath and put his head back against the head rest, closing his eyes. I guess he had more or less resigned himself to our rapidly deteriorating situation.
Silence, save for the mechanical sounds associated with a small block powered Camaro hauling ass down a two lane service road late at night. A thunderous rumble, bright white headlights cutting the black darkness and taillights casting red where we had just passed.
The roar of the wind.
The scream of the small block breathing through the Rochester Quadrajet four barrel carburetor.
And nothing else but silence.
That had to change. I needed a mood enhancer so I slipped Ozzy Osborne’s “Diary of a Madman” cassette into the Kenwood tape deck and the soothing, start up riffs of “Crazy Train” began to play loudly through the speakers …
“Oh, HELL yeah!” Rick shouted, opening his eyes and raising his head back up like he had just been rejuvenated. “Ozzie rocks!”
… And with both windows rolled down, we sped along the service road at better than seventy miles per hour, breaking the speed limit by more than double the posted amount. Rick didn’t even bother with his seat belt; he just kept nodding his head and tapping his fingers on the top of the door to the beat of Randy Rhoades blaring heavy metal guitar riffs and Ozzie’s voice on lyrics. As for his fit, I don’t think that I could have slid a postcard, edge-wise, between the console and him or him and the passenger side door.
I looked at the green digital clock display on the Kenwood stereo …
The display changed on me just like that, a moment in time forever gone now and one less minute than we had. Sixteen minutes to midnight and the end of our luck at getting some brew and making Rick happy. Dropping the THM350 from Drive down into Second, I whipped the loudly growling Camaro into the parking lot of the convenience store at the south end of Lincoln road, slammed down hard on the front disc / rear drum brakes and pulled into a parking spot near the front door. The Rally Sport rocked on its suspension as I kicked down the emergency brake and turned to Rick to tell him to do his part. But … our bad luck wasn’t through with us yet. Just as I turned to face Rick, I saw a Hattiesburg Police Department equipped Chevy Caprice Classic slowly pull up beside us on Rick’s side.
That was just great.
The expression on Rick’s face and the way he cut his eyes around me told me that I really needed to look over my shoulder and when I did I realized that we were metric fucked because another identical HPD unit was pulling up on my side of the Camaro. At first, I thought that they might have seen our high speed run and were about to bust us hard but the two police officers got out of their cruisers, exchanged friendly greetings with each other and then looked at Rick and me sitting there in the red Camaro. The officers stared at us with a bit more than your average amount of badge wearing suspicion reserved for teenage boys riding around in fast, rumbling sports cars. The officers didn’t enter the convenience store right away, no, they stood there on the sidewalk in front of the idling Camaro, talking to each other and, more often than I was comfortable with, they would turn around and look at Rick and I, and at my Camaro, and they would talk and nod some more.
Time was wasting and to hell with the situation I thought.
“Go get your stuff and I’ll wait here in the car.” I said, watching the two police officers continue to stand on the sidewalk in front of the Camaro, talking and occasionally staring back at us.
Rick shook his head quickly.
“What?! Are you crazy?”
“Go get your stuff and stop being a baby. You’re legal.”
“Yeah, but you’re not! No way! No damn way!” Rick said.
“Why not?” I asked, a little mad that I had just burned an appreciable amount of high octane and broke the law to get Rick here, in time, before midnight, in order for him to buy his beer that he had been whining about for the past hour and a half.
“Because they’ll think that I’m buying for you and you’re under age!” Rick replied.
“You’re not buying for me.”
“I know that and you know that but THEY don’t know that! Hell! Those two cops are just looking for an excuse to hassle us. Look at them.”
Both police officers were still standing there, talking, and looking at us every now and then. It was like they were looking for a reason to give us grief, begging us to give them one good reason to jerk us out of the Camaro and ruin our night … more so than it had already been ruined.
“Go. Buy. Your. Damn. Beer.” I said, making each word into a sentence.
“No. Way. In. Hell!” Rick blurted out, getting mad with the realization that he wasn’t going to get his six pack or two tonight.
I sighed. It really was turning out to be the perfectly crappy end to a perfectly crappy night. Rick stared out the passenger side window, fuming.
“Well, you can act like a big baby if you want to but I’m going to go in there and get me something to drink. Do you want me to get you anything … non-alcoholic?” I asked him, undoing my seat belt and opening my door, this time resigning myself to our ever worsening situation.
“Yeah! Why don’t you get me a lollipop and some chocolate milk?” Rick huffed.
“Fine.” I said as I got out of the Camaro and looked at my watch. 11:46 PM. I walked right past the two HPD officers, into the convenience store, back to the drink coolers and got a bottle of Pepsi out of one of the coolers. It took me a few seconds to find the chocolate milk but I grabbed a carton of Borden’s chocolate milk then walked around to the candy and snack aisle. I did a quick recon of the candy aisle, found some Charms Blo-Pops and picked up a pink one since Rick was acting like a girl. Smiling, I walked up to the counter, dropped the goods there and waited for the bored cashier to ring them up, asking her to put the lollipop and the chocolate milk in a small brown paper bag. I took the items out to the parked Camaro, got in and handed Rick the small brown paper bag.
“What the HELL is this?” Rick asked, reaching in the paper bag and taking the Borden’s chocolate milk carton in one hand and the Charm’s Blo-Pop in the other, staring at them like they were artifacts from a civilization that lived on another planet.
“That’s your chocolate milk and your pink lollipop, you big baby.” I said.
Rick busted out laughing. “I was kidding! I don’t want chocolate milk or a damn lollipop! I just want some beer! Beer!”
I had figured as much but buying the stuff and handing it to Rick was worth seeing his reaction to it. I smiled, pulled back on my fingerless driving gloves and took a long swig of Pepsi. I looked at the digital clock on the Kenwood stereo.
Rick must have seen it as well because he pointed a finger at the clock.
“We’ve got ten minutes to get me some beer! Damn it! Ten minutes!” he said, shouting the last word loud enough that I was sure that the HPD officers must have heard Rick but if they did, they didn’t act on it.
“So? Where to?” I asked him, pulling on my driving gloves.
The Camaro loped, idling with a satisfied growl there in the parking lot, between the two HPD cars, with just a hint of mechanical insolence directed at the two officers standing in front of it.
“What do you mean?” Rick asked.
“Where do you want me to take you so you can buy some beer?” I said, in a flat, plain, slow manner so that it might break through his melancholy.
“Lincoln road Shell is closed. Winn Dixie is closed. The nearest beer is … Texaco at the end of south 40th avenue … ” Rick said, trailing off into silence.
“Texaco at the end of south 40th avenue. No problem.” I said, fastening my seat belt, putting the transmission into reverse then edging the Camaro slowly out from between the two parked HPD cruisers.
The two police officers stared, silently.
“No problem?! What is your problem? Texaco is a good three miles away. It’s ten till midnight. It might as well be ten AFTER midnight.” Rick stammered.
“I’ve got a Rally Sport …” I said.
“I don’t care if you have a Rally Fucking Rocket … we’re not going to make Texaco in ten minutes.”
“We’ll see.” I said flatly.
“Yeah.” I said, smiling.
I drove the Camaro slowly out of the convenience store parking lot and onto Lincoln road. A quick glance in the rear view mirror showed me that the two HPD officers were now heading inside the convenience store. Satisfied that we would have no immediate trouble, I gave the Rally Sport about a quarter throttle to work up through the gears quickly, getting us to 35 miles per hour.
I stared down the lonely two lane that was Lincoln road; ill-lit, faded traffic markings, mostly trees and undeveloped retail property that quickly led to subdivisions and light commercial areas centered around a Shell gas station, a bank, and a semi-strip mall with a liquor store and a Winn Dixie grocery store, both of which did just enough business to keep their doors open. There at the far west end of Lincoln road, this boring two lane city street teed off into south 40th avenue and at the end of south 40th avenue, at the corner of highway 49, was a Texaco gas station with a pretty good beer selection. The problem, of course, was getting to the Texaco station in less than ten minutes and having enough time to spare for Rick to run in and get his beloved brew.
“We’ll never make it.” Rick said, his last bit of confidence now gone as he stared at his lap, turning the Borden’s chocolate milk around in a bored manner.
I could tell that he was contemplating drinking the milk as perhaps some kind of consolation prize for the amount of misery that we had endured so far … either that or he was going to chuck it as far as he could out the window in a fit of rage, perhaps aiming for a stop sign or the side of a parked car (either of which would have probably delighted him to no end). I, in turn, would have considered the loss of the carton of Borden’s chocolate milk to be a real shame since I kind of had my heart set on drinking that carton of milk if and when Rick got his hands on some beer.
“Never gonna make it … All I wanted was some beer! Some damn beer! Is that too fucking much to ask for?!” he moaned again, trailing off into silence and staring at the carton of Borden’s chocolate milk again.
I sighed deeply, dropped my chin slightly, shook my head slowly and let my foot off of the accelerator. The speedometer needle began to fall from 35 mph down to 30, then to 25 and finally to 20 as we rolled forward down Lincoln road. We were the only traffic on Lincoln road and chances were better than good that it would be that way for some time. There was a window of opportunity to be had and I had just the fast car to take advantage of that opportunity.
“I really wish you hadn’t said that.” I stated, taking my hands off the steering wheel and off of the shifter, twisting the metal screw-on cap back on the bottle of Pepsi and sticking the bottle of Pepsi down in the space between the Camaro’s driver’s seat and the driver’s side door where it fit snug and secure.
The Camaro tracked true down the West side of Lincoln Road, still slowing.
Twenty miles an hour became fifteen miles an hour.
Rick looked up and then over at me as I put one hand back on the steering wheel and the other hand on the gear shifter, adjusting my posture in the driver’s seat against the restraint of the seat belt. I took a deep breath and stared out the front windshield and straight ahead down the dark, desolate expanse of Lincoln road.
“Why are we slowing down? What did I say? ” he asked, concerned because he didn’t understand.
“You said that we’d never make it to Texaco in ten minutes.”
“Well, it’s true. Look at the damn clock. Nine minutes! Nine fucking minutes to get beer! Tell me that ain’t true!” Rick said throwing out his arm and stabbing a finger at the digital clock display on the Kenwood.
“No, it’s not true and now I’m just going to have to prove you wrong.”
“Oh yeah? And how are you going to do that?” Rick asked angrily.
“Like this.” I said.
Before Rick could say anything, my right foot went flat to the floor and my right leg locked straight. The four barrels on the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor instantly opened wide, the small block Chevy screamed and the THM350 transmission kicked down from third gear to second. Rick was caught completely by surprise and did his best to lock his legs, grab hold of the top of the door sill and brace himself on the center console. The carton of Borden’s chocolate milk rolled around in his lap, at best a secondary concern at this point in time for Rick. I had no idea where the pink Charms Blow-Pop went but it vanished as well.
The engine roared.
The Camaro leapt ahead, the front end rising visibly as the small block V8 under the hood screamed through its power band.
“Row! Mah! Gawd!” Rick screamed, suddenly realizing what was going on, what I was doing and what I intended to do.
The speedometer jumped from 15 to 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 to 60 miles per hour and continued to climb as the yellow divider line flew by faster and faster on my side of the Camaro, faster and faster as we sped down Lincoln road. I shifted the transmission manually from second to third, chirping the rear tires loudly and the engine howled under the hood.
Oh, Rick was going to get his beer tonight that much I was going to make damned sure happened if nothing else. I was tired of his whining and I needed to unwind myself. Rick drank beer to unwind. I drove fast to unwind … drove fast and hard.
I smiled, cherishing this moment. It was one of those perfect moments that drivers understand and live for, when everything just became calm and ordered. There was me and the Camaro; total control. I had a screaming engine under the hood and a screaming passenger riding next to me. One gloved hand on the wheel, one gloved hand on the console mounted transmission shifter … right foot heavy on the accelerator, left foot hovering over the brake pedal.
Up ahead was a four way stop at the intersection of Lincoln and South 28th avenue. The Shell station and the little strip mall on the right were all closed, lights out. I threw the transmission from third gear back down into second gear, hearing the small block rev high as we decelerated.
75 miles an hour.
70 miles an hour.
65 miles an hour.
60 miles an hour.
55 miles an hour.
50 miles an hour.
The small block Chevy under the hood growled like mad and I watched the tachometer drop again down into the mid range. My right foot went from the accelerator to the brake pedal, squeezing down hard on the front power disc brakes and power rear drums to lose even more speed as we approached the intersection.
45 miles an hour.
40 miles an hour.
35 miles an hour.
The combination of low gear and power brakes was bleeding speed fast. No one was in sight, either way, at the four way stop. No lights, no cars, this area was completely empty of traffic all the way down Lincoln road, coming and going, and along each way of South 28th avenue as well … darkness as far as the eye could see. When we were a car length and a half from the four way stop and I knew that it was clear, I punched the accelerator to the floor and we blew through the intersection of South 28th and Lincoln road, running the four way stop. There was a slight bump there in the West bound lane and the Camaro hit the bump hard, rising all the way up on its suspension and coming down hard enough to bounce Rick in the passenger seat, bounce him hard enough that he rose up enough to hit his head on the solid roof. This evoked more complaining, some frantic gesturing and a string of profanity on his part but I kept on driving, driving hard, and Rick held on for dear life. Behind me, a few sparks scattered from the chassis, the result of metal to asphalt contact when the Camaro bottomed out on the bump at speed.
Driving hard and going fast.
As soon as we had bounced through the intersection and the suspension had settled out from the slight rise, I shifted back up from second to third, watching the tach needle and the speedometer needle start to climb, arcing their way up and across to the right of the gages. When I got back to the speed I wanted, I held the accelerator there, keeping it steady. Rick rubbed his head and leaned over far enough to look at the instruments recessed into the dash.
“75 miles an hour! We’re doing 75 miles an hour on Lincoln road!” Rick shouted.
“On. Lincoln. Road.” Rick shouted.
Seventy-five miles an hour was just too slow. We’d never make Texaco in time so I pushed the accelerator pedal down a little farther and the growl from under the hood of the Camaro increased as she pulled harder … effortlessly pulled harder … she wasn’t even breathing hard at this gait. The needles on the gages were on the far up and right of each gage face but I still had a little bit more room to go if I wanted to bury them in.
“No. We’re doing 90 miles an hour.” I shouted back.
“90 miles an hour on Lincoln road?! You are crazy … you do know that, don’t you?! Crazy!” Rick shouted.
“Yeah.” I shouted back. “I may be crazy but I’m going to get you to Texaco on time so that you can buy your damn beer and quit whining like a baby.”
“This is Lincoln road!”
“And Lincoln road is dead at this time of the night.”
“But those cops back there …”
“Aren’t going to do a thing to us, bro. Hell, they were probably waiting on us to leave so they could buy some beer their selves. As soon as we left, they went in the store.”
“I kid you not.”
There was a moment of silence; if you can call it that … or rather there was only the roar of the engine, the sound of the exhaust, and the absence of two people trying to shout to each other in order to be heard above it all.
“You’re crazy …” Rick said, just barely loud enough for me to hear him, and then Rick did something … he snickered.
“You are so fucking crazy!” Then he laughed, a great hearty laugh that rivaled the growl coming from under the hood… and then he stuck his head out the window and started howling like a wild animal as we roared down Lincoln road. Rick, scared at first, was now having the time of his night.
And so was I.
Ozzie Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” was playing on the Kenwood.
The west end of Lincoln road was looming up ahead, a hard right through a curved turn lane would get us onto south 40th avenue. I grabbed the shifter again, let off the gas a quarter mile from the intersection of Lincoln road and south 40th Avenue and when I could see the turn lane in the high beams of the Camaro, I threw the shifter down into second and the tachometer needle jumped a thousand RPM. The speedometer needle started to fall …
80 miles an hour.
75 miles an hour.
70 miles an hour.
65 miles an hour.
60 miles an hour.
55 miles an hour.
I stomped the brakes hard, locked all four wheels and slid forward on tortured, screaming rubber. This sacrifice bled off another 25 miles an hour of speed and left some impressive black marks on the pavement behind us, mixed with fading tire smoke. I entered the curved turn lane doing 30 miles an hour and spun the four spoke steering wheel hard to the right. Even with the seat belt on, I was forced up against the side of the driver’s side door. Rick moaned and held on for dear life. I slid the Camaro sideways through the turn lane, transitioning from Lincoln road onto south 40th, with the tires screaming for traction and the rear end hung out wide into the oncoming lane of traffic but there was no traffic, not at this time of night.
No, this area of Hattiesburg was dead, all the good folks were tucked nighty-night in their beds which left the roads wide open for unruly beer seeking, trouble making high speed hooligans like Rick and myself. I cut the wheel to the left and put my right foot flat to the floor again, letting the steering wheel slide effortlessly through my gloved hands as the Camaro righted itself. I poured power to the rear end to steer with the rear wheels and get the nose of the Camaro pointed straight again. Rick hung on for dear life and managed to spread a rather vulgar four letter word out to about ten seconds duration and four separate syllables of pronunciation … but he never stopped smiling.
The rear end of the Camaro swung back to the right and waggled a bit before she pointed true. I gripped the wheel tight in both hands, punched the accelerator to the floor and the Camaro roared away on the last part of our route. Now, south 40th avenue was about half as long as Lincoln road so we made good time. One side of south 40th avenue was nothing but grass and curb, with trees and backyards beyond that, the pampered ass end of subdivisions and cul-de-sacs where some of the richer elements of Hattiesburg lived. The other side, my side, was nothing but the back of wooden fences facing the avenue, the remnants of older neighborhoods filled with older people.
The speedometer edged back up to 80 miles an hour, five miles an hour over three times the posted speed limit. Rick had said that I was insane but driving fast just came naturally to me. It wasn’t all that insane to me, it was rather peaceful and calm despite the roar of the machine that I had strapped myself into and the mixture of screaming and jabbering coming from Rick. Going fast was the one time in my life when I truly felt that I was in control of my life, when everything was mine to command, when the only laws that were meant to be obeyed were the ones that applied to the realm of physics.
I started to slow down as we were climbing the long hill on 40th, foot off the accelerator and letting the incline and natural drag slow us. Rick let out a long wolf howl as we reached the end of south 40th avenue and I downshifted, bleeding even more speed as I coasted the Camaro into the well lit Texaco parking lot. There were two cars, a Pontiac station wagon and a Toyota pickup truck in the parking lot and a Dodge pickup truck at the gas pumps. The people standing outside the store must have heard the roar of my engine and Rick’s primal howl because we were definitely being stared at from everyone in the parking lot as we turned into the gas station. I quickly maneuvered through the crowd of vehicles and people, shifting from second down to first gear, hearing the transmission clunk loudly as I nosed the Camaro into a parking spot near the front door and brought her to a stop. According to the digital clock on the Kenwood, it was two minutes before midnight.
“You got two minutes. Go get some.”
Rick didn’t have to be told twice. He tried to open the passenger door but had forgotten that he locked it. He twisted in his seat, fumbled with the pull up knob, unlocked the passenger side door, and scrambled out, trying to shut the passenger side door behind him but not getting it securely latched. He fumbled with the handle, trying to get the heavy Camaro door open so he could shut it properly.
“Screw the door! Go!” I shouted. “You’ve got two minutes. Go! Go!”
“One minute!” I said, holding up my gloved hand and bare single middle finger extended.
Rick stopped trying to shut the passenger side door, turned on his heels and jogged towards the front door.
“And tell her to put five dollars on pump three.” I shouted. “My girl’s thirsty, too.”
Rick held up a single finger and waggled it back and forth without ever looking back, motioning to me that he was good to go with that request and giving me the sign of “will do.” Rick charged in the front door, throwing it wide and almost scared the poor little girl behind the counter half to death. He told the young cashier to ring him up two six packs of cold beer, to put five dollars of gas on pump number three, slapped a ten dollar bill on the counter and never broke stride once while doing all of that. I shook my head at the display that I had watched, soundlessly, unfold through the huge glass windows of the convenience store.
As the cashier rang Rick up, he almost skipped like a child back to the cooler and picked up his beloved beer. Rick held up a six pack in each hand, smiling like a kid at Christmas. I nodded to him, flashed him a thumbs-up sign and put my head back against the seat, closing my eyes. The Camaro loped easily, shaking the whole car slightly as she cooled down from her high speed run. Rick’s change and his receipt were waiting for him when he got back to the register and he threw both into the bag as the cashier brown sacked his beer to go.
I backed out of the parking spot, angled the Camaro back to the gas pumps and shut her down. Rick strutted triumphantly back out to the Camaro, opened the half shut passenger side door and sat down in the passenger seat hard, holding his brown bagged pair of six packs with affection that only a true beer drinker could understand … or appreciate. Rick reached into the bag and pulled out the receipt. He pointed to the time stamp.
It said 11:55 PM.
“When we pulled up here it was a minute till midnight but when she rang me up it was five minutes to midnight. Holy shit! I think you just bent space and time!”
I shrugged. I didn’t tell him that my clock was five minutes fast and I had it set that way on purpose to keep me from being late to work.
“Are you happy now?” I asked him as he shut the door with much more care and concern than he had previously opened it with.
“I’m happy!” Rick said, peering down into the brown grocery sack and the two six packs of cold bottled beer inside. Rick cradled his purchase like it was his first born set of twins.
“Good.” I said, shifting the Camaro into reverse and backing out of the parking space near the front of the Texaco.
“I cannot believe that we made it.” Rick said, looking from the bag of beer in his lap to the digital clock display on the radio which now read 12:03 AM. It was Saturday morning.
“We did ninety miles an hour down Lincoln Road!”
Rick was giddy.
“We did ninety fucking miles an hour down Lincoln Road! Ninety fucking miles an hour! God! That was insane!” Rick repeated again, laughing, and popping the top on one of his cans of beer. He savored it like it was ambrosia from the gods.
"You got your beer, didn't you?" I asked.
"Yeah." Rick said.
“Well ... Don’t ever tell me again that I can’t get you somewhere quick.” I said.
“Not ever?” Rick asked, taking another swig of beer.
"Not ever." I said flatly.