“Alright folks, it’s a little misty out today, but that will just make the track a bit better for those of you using mud tires. Race starts in 10 so I suggest you get them engines running!” An announcement came over the speakers, I looked around most racers were in their cars already.
I hopped into the passenger side of Todd’s skyline. It was heavily modified and the seatbelts weren’t that great, I was worried about being in his way. “I’m not sure how this is going to work babe. I’ll be crashing into you for most of the curves, won’t that bother you?”
“Sweetheart we’ve been over this. I’m not going to mind it and I’ve raced this track a billion times. Some curves, with centripital force you’ll lean into me a bit since I had to put a two seater bucket seat in. We’ll be fine you just gotta roll with it.” He gave me a kiss on my head and started his engine.
The track started on an old abandoned drag strip and that was the only road bit, the rest of it wound round the back 40 of a farm. There was curves and creeks and woods all leading back to the drag strip. You could race any car, be any age, there wasn’t a while lot of qualifications. Todd was lucky enough to know the land owners and had been out here every summer before I met him. He was a little rusty since we spent the last summer with my family on the beaches of Key West. That wasn’t going to stop him though, this was going to be the first race of it’s kind and the winner walks away with $100,000.
That’ll be more than enough to open his woodworking shop and a little something for me, he’d say and give me a nudge and a wink. The race was 40 laps and from the looks of most of these cars, last man standing wins.
The race began and I did what he said, rolled with the curves and tried hard not to mess with his arm. It was a right side driving car and old. ‘Beautiful’, Todd would call it, but it was old. One of his main concerns was the gaslines, they were low to the ground since he had to move everything around to get all of the stuff in there to boost the engine. I’m sure there’s technical words for all of that, but I’m no expert.
We we’re doing good, lap 5, and managed to maintain a steady 4th place. At one point he leans into me and says “we’ve got this.” I figure it’ll be at least one of those guys’ cars won’t make it and the other will just have some issues with the hill. That’s where I’ve seen him fall back just a bit and I’m sure that’s where Todd is going to best him. The third car, first in the race is Pierre. He’s not from around here and I couldn’t quite make out his accent. The first two laps I saw him nudge his way from the middle of the line up to first place and he got oddly close to some cars. I got the impression that Pierre wasn’t a very sportsman-like team player.
Lap 25 and Todd has managed to get to second place. As we rolled on to the old wooden bridge, something didn’t feel right. It collapsed as we were just about to hit the dirt road again which sent us tail end into the creek below. Panic set in and I’m sure Todd could see it in my face.
“Sweetheart, I love you, we’re fine. I still have a chance. But I’m going to need you to do something for me.” He lifted my chin up and gave me a big kiss. “I need you to push me out of here.”
Horror stuck my gut, but I knew he could make it if I helped. I got out of the skyline as carefully as I could. Which of course was through the driver window over Todd, I didn’t want to open the door and flood the car. The water was a cloudy, muddy mess and came up to just above my knee. I waded to the back and put my whole weight into the trunk. He hit the gas pedal hard and I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline or pure luck but he was out of the muck and on to the track before the next car even had a chance to catch up to us.
It was then that I realized no one had been behind us for a while except for one kid in a little red racer. I remember seeing it in the start up line, there was stickers on it to make it look like Lightning McQueen. I must have come to my senses because I could hear him clear as day saying “help.”
Turing around I saw wheels sticking out of the creek and the bottom of that little boys car. He couldn’t have been more than 10. I imagined my worst fear of him being trapped in that car so I waded over the bridge debris to the car. “Hey!” I shouted.
“Help!” I heard from behind me, he was on the bank of the creek. At least he wasn’t trapped. “Can you help me get my car out?”
“I’m sorry hunny, I’m not that strong.” I watched tears fall from his eyes. It hit me hard, this little boy who had gotten this far and who was in third place even! His dream was ruined. We walked back to the start up avoiding the race track.
When we got back every car still in the race was gathered around the announcer booth. Many of the drivers were sitting on the hood of their car and I desperately searched for Todd. He was in the front of the line looking defeated. I sat next to him and waited for an announcement.
“They checked that bridge before the race, Nell. It was sturdy and not going anywhere.”
“So it’s…it was rigged to collapse…you think?” I was stunned, who would do such a thing?
“I don’t think Sweetheart, I know it.” He sighed. “They were telling me you were helping Peter, did you get him out?”
He was already out of the car, we couldn’t save it. I could barely get you out with the help of the car actually running, his was belly up in that creek.
The speakers cracked a little but a voice came on. “Under out investigation it seems as if there was a small stick of dynamite under the bridge rigged to go off during the race. The person responsible is now in custody. Since we can’t finish the race officials have decided it is best to split up the winners money to the top four racers.”
Everyone was shocked. It could have been worse. I think back to the bridge and imagine things going a lot different. The boy made it out alive and Todd still managed to get first place and $25,000. I was relieved and thankful. I remembered Pierre and his struggle to get to first place and looked around. Drivers were now surrounded by their followers and family. But there Pierre’s car sat, alone and pathetic. I’m sure he was taken to jail that day.
The track was finally fixed and held races with a much smaller monatary prize. Todd had to settle for a much smaller shop, but he was able to build it onto the garage of the house we bought. The little something for me was an engagement ring, with my stipulation that I never be his co-pilot again. We heard the little boy was able to by a new racing car, they counted him as the second winner. I’m glad he didn’t give up his dream.