By Janice Kimball
“Listen, Kaya. Carl wants to go drag racing in Nankin Township where the county sheriffs don’t patrol. We’re going tomorrow. He wants to see what his latest souped-up engine will do. Can you come along? Carl will buy us root beer floats.”
“Not a chance, Sue,” I replied,” but thanks anyway. I can’t see watching you two neck from the back seat.”
“Carl said he has a friend from work that would like to go, but I don’t know much about him.”
“Hmm. Well, in that in that case, I’ll come along,” I replied.
What should I wear for drag racing and an encounter with an under-described male? I decided on a here and now, slightly saucy look. I buttoned my sweater up the back, put on my tightest pegged skirt, tied a bouclé scarf around my neck, and donned flamenco shoes, the newest fad. I didn’t overplay the makeup but made a black mole over my left lip with an eyebrow pencil and applied my favorite orange sherbet lipstick. My short hair, when combed back, had been styled to fall into a replica of a duck’s ass (DA), which it did nicely. I was just making a wisp of bang across my forehead, when I heard the sound of Carl’s horn tooting outside.
“Hop in back,” Sue directed, poking her head out the passenger side window. The back door magically opened. “This is Gage, he’s coming with us.”
“Sue and I are gonna introduce you to drag racing, Kaya,” Carl enthusiastically said, leaning his head back to look at me. He put the car in gear and we were off, his arm nestled around Sue, squished so tightly against his side that it was if the two of them were driving.
In silence, Gage and I, sitting apart in the back seat, looked each other over. He was a square and I was hip. He had pale blue eyes that were at odds with his sallow complexion. His arms and shoulders were muscular, his neck thick, and he had the over-developed hands of a construction worker, which he was when not working the extra board on the weekends with Carl. Even so, if you disregarded the scent of his cheap cologne, dumb haircut shaved up around his ears, and the fact that the waist of his pants was tightly belted, not above his hips, but across the middle of his stomach, he was not bad looking.
He looked at me as if he had hit the jackpot. This should have made me feel a little wary, but instead, I congratulated myself for choosing my sophisticated look. I was grateful I did not present myself as looking bookish, sweet, hearty, or like a regular Garden City Girl, effects that I had taken under consideration for this not-blind date.
“How old are you?” he asked. I guessed him to be not more than twenty.
I almost replied, “Old enough to know better, but too young to resist,” for the added attention this would have brought me, but, thankfully, in a moment of caution, I bit my tongue. His eyes sparkled and his smile revealed dimples, which gave him a sweet look, as he waited for my answer.
“Seventeen,” I lied, not stopping to think that Carl would have already told him I was only fifteen. His dimples deepened and he emitted an endearing chuckle. It was only later that I realized that the chuckle was one like a cat who just ate the canary.
When we reached a lonely stretch of blacktop in Nankin Township, two cars waited at the side of the road revving up their engines. Carl got out. After a short time of back slapping and guffaws with his racing pals, one of the cars, its muffler popping, drove away, leaving a man behind.
“We’ll wait a few minutes to make sure they blocked off traffic from the other end, before we begin the race,” Carl said, getting back in.
The other car lined up on the blacktop beside us. After a short time of revving up engines, the man left behind, standing in front, but to the side of Carl’s car, held up an oil rag. With the stance of a jockey pulling the horse’s reins so taut it didn’t jump-start the race, Carl’s body tensed as he leaned forward, fingers tightly gripping the steering wheel. And he didn’t wait long. After a few teasing flips of the rag, the man raised his arm up high. With a jump and dramatic snap of that rag, wheels screeching, we were off. Carl shifted from first to second, and then to third gear. My head pressed back against the top on the back seat. I was unprepared for the jolt from the rapid velocity of the vehicle that my head was spinning. But I remember observing Sue and admiring her tenacity for remaining glued to Carl’s side.
“Whoopie!” Carl shouted, taking the lead. “Bet that scared you, Kaya.”
“Not at all,” I lied, in my best false bravado. “I’m not afraid of anything.”
Just then, a shadow appeared to cross the road ahead.
“A tractor,” Sue screeched, “coming out of the cornrows!” After laying half a block of screech-marks into the blacktop, the car spun around and stopped in a ditch a few yards away from the tractor. We all climbed out. The other car slammed against a haystack on the other side of the road.
“When you boys gonna grow up? After you kill somebody?” the farmer shouted.
Our adventure ended in a sheepish state of embarrassment, as we sipped on takeout root beer floats. Sue was no longer glued to Carl’s side on the way back home.
“This racing business should have worn itself out before now Carl, she told him with her arms crossed against her chest
“Why, that tractor just came out of the blue. What are the chances of that happening again?” Carl explained. “Hey, Gage,” he shouted back, “how about doin’ another run next week? Just you and me.”
“No thanks, Carl,” was his short response.
I had hoped that Gage would walk me to the door, but with his characteristic withholding of words, with his dimples implying a merriment hidden within, he gave me the most charming of smiles and simply said, ‘Til we meet again.”
“Did you have a good time, dear?” Mother asked when I came in the door.
“I don’t think so,” I replied before going up to my room.
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