With contributions by Sebastien Bell and Sam McEachern
Mechanics have made their last-minute checks, drivers circulate sur la piste managing tire and brake temperatures, engineers confirm strategies; cars stage on the starting grid, the dissonant cacophony of twenty 1.6-liter V6 hybrid Formula 1 engines spooling reverberates through the grandstands as five red lights illuminate sequentially…
Hosted on Montreal’s Île Notre-Dame since 1978, the Grand Prix Du Canada has always been a special place for the Formula 1 paddock. For decades, drivers have loved the city’s vibrating atmosphere and unbridled passion for the sport, but what they really love is the circuit’s proximity to a devilish downtown core drowning in alcohol and impeccably dressed women.
Why do you think we like it?
This Sunday Story is a sequel to The Controller.
“You’re a dead man, Marquez.”
“Ha, we’ll see about that.”
I had been pursuing Marquez for almost half an hour, but he was a slippery little bastard. Each time I had him in my sights, he slithered away at the last moment, and every time my attempt was unsuccessful it put me a little further behind him. But the last time, that time I was patient.
“Now or never,” I muttered to myself, and I fully committed myself to my move. There was no chance that he hadn’t seen me. I was completely exposed, and if I didn’t get him this time, it was over.
“Three, two, one…one half…one quarter…brake!”
She looked like she had stepped right out of a Southern Living Style Guide, her chocolate hair ever-so-slightly colored with a glint of the Kentucky sky on a perfect August morning. Amidst the vapors of dust, smoke, and rubber that clouded the air of the racetrack, somehow, she effortlessly managed to be pristine in a white, off-the-shoulder blouse. Neither the smells nor the sounds of the mechanical chariots exploding all around her on the course rattled her one bit—she was a lady, and a lady is comfortable everywhere.
And as she strolled in her tall shoes down pit lane like it was the runway of a country club’s spring fashion show, one foot neatly tucked in front of the other, her thighs never leaving the frame of her pencil skirt, surely she could feel the eyes of every crew member and driver upon her. Women like her didn’t often make find their way to NCM Motorsports Park on race days. Yet her face remained kind. Friendly. Open.
It was only by seeing her eyes, hidden behind the darkness of her Tiffany sunglasses, that anybody would have known how frightened Michelle was that afternoon as she walked toward pit stall number 21.
“Just you for this whole place, huh?” The weatherbeaten old woman had met Sebastian at the foot of the wooden steps then laboriously climbed behind, breathing heavily, as he’d skipped up to the second and top floor to face the pool and the palm trees.
“Yes,” he replied, the smile starting to crack his face wide open despite every effort on his part to prevent it, “just me. My God, this is it. This is the same one. The same rental unit. You know,” he babbled into the owner’s uncomprehending face as she fumbled for the keys in a front pocket of her faded flower-patterned dress, “I wasn’t sure I’d get the same one. I think I spent four hours on Google Maps trying to line it up. This is the very same place. I hope you haven’t changed anything…”
“Not sure what you mean by all that,” she coughed, “but anyway, here are your keys. You’re booked for the next two nights. You can lock the door behind you when you leave and then drop them in the slot. Do you have any questions? If not… Welcome to Crystal Village.”
This Sunday Story is a sequel to The Genesis of Something New. If you haven’t read that one, go read it and come back. And since we haven’t done these for a while, let me put this warning up front: this is FICTION.
“You prick. I saw your profile on Tinder. You’re a pathetic sex addict. We’re done and your wife is getting a copy of every text and picture you’ve ever sent me. HAHA BYE LOSER.”
Well, that was an interesting way to wake up.
Only about one-tenth of one percent of the attendees at the Spring 2134 Concours d’Reconstruction were there in the meat sense. The rest were immersed in commercial newsfeeds or represented by personal sense-drones. Still, it was no small feat in the arcology era to find a place where you could put a hundred nearly perfect reproductions of Oil Age automobiles, ten thousand spectators, and hundreds of thousands of floating machines. So they held it in the old Cobo Arena, partially for nostalgia but mainly because it was a big empty space that somehow hadn’t been burned to the ground during the food riots or the privilege riots or the nanodisease riots.
To be eligible to show in the event, you needed to be one of the hundred most-Liked constructors, as measured, by common agreement, at midnight on 1 August of the previous year. You also needed to be willing to construct a car from scratch using nanoassemblers and various small-batch production techniques. Only newly constructed automobiles of a year and model not shown in previous events were welcome. It was unheard-of for a constructor to refuse the invite.
Cobo was an hour by train away from civilization, but as one of the chosen one hundred, Zack-55002 was of course present in the meat, standing next to the car he’d built for the concours, a 98.20% correct reiteration of the 1925 Don Harkness Hispano-Suiza. As was his mortal enemy, Alphonse-45009, who had brought a 99.65% correct reiteration of Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2001 Monza-winning FW23. When the winners were announced, Zack found himself standing on the second step of the podium, accepting an aluminum oxynitride trophy that contained a piece of the moon Europa, frozen and suspended within the cup by some rather admirable tech. Alphonse ascended to the place above him and graciously hoisted a slightly larger variant of Zack’s trophy. This made it four wins for Alphonse and two for Zack over the past six years. Nobody even came close to the two of them, but Alphonse was just that little bit better and Zack hated him for it.
Then, before either could speak, Edith-65002 burst from the crowd, ran up to the podium, stripped naked, faced the hovering mass of the drones and the packed throng of the people, and raised her hands for silence.
Strictly speaking, there was no reason for Ashley to attend old Frank Jacobsen’s retirement party. She’d been part of the department for all of five months and she’d spent most of the time doing the other engineers’ paperwork. It was true what they told her in school: To be a female engineer, particularly in Detroit, you need to be twice as good as the men. Over and over she found mistakes that were childishly stupid; over and over they patted her on the head, praised her in an email, and gave the next important assignment to some charmless nerd.
Frank had been the exception. More than once he’d called her over to his desk, eschewing the usual Sametime or chat bullshit that the young guys liked to do in place of actual work, and asked her for what he called her “professional opinion.”
“Now, Miss McCormick, I was wondering if you would examine this set of drawings and render your professional opinion.” And when she pointed out a way to re-radius something for materials savings or change the spacing for the comfort of a future mechanic, Frank would make the change and then credit her in the next meeting. He was an okay guy, Frank was. And given the way things were going in this business, when was the next chance she’d have to see someone actually retire?
The word “bad,” in and of itself, is so subjective, isn’t it? Certainly one could make the case that there’s “bad” and “good” in all of us, but I think that the modern world chooses to look at it this way: to be “bad” is really just to be selfish. Even though the media would have you believe that the whole world is comprised of childless atheists who live in three-story walk ups in northeastern metropolises, in reality, most of America is filled with deity-believing, family-supporting, hard working men and women. These are “good” people. They take care of each other. They act in the interest of the common welfare. I’m glad they exist.
I’m just not one of them.
Hooper Bentley image by Anton Van Luijk
“For years I was a Fleetwood man. Loyal. Traded in every year, without question. Always Eldorados.” A man in a dark green jacket and a carefully waxed mustache offered James a small crystal bowl filled with a variety of dark brown cartridges. “I’d be delighted, thanks.” He slid one into his e-cigar with a click and began puffing.
After getting lost in the maze of hallways numerous times, I finally found the door I was looking for. I knocked and it swung open sharply. Larry stood there with a devilish grin on his face, the kind he got when he was really proud of something. I could see a still from his work on the enormous screen behind him. A famous actor stood next to a luxury sedan, pointing at it with a smirk. Before I could say anything, Larry grabbed me by my collar and pulled me into his lair.
We sat down amongst the plethora of expensive video editing equipment in the small, dark room. He grabbed the burrito out of my hand and tore into it with ravenous force.
“So what did you bring me here to see? I know it’s gotta be something special. You usually don’t care about commercials.” He gulped down his mouthful of food, then began to explain.
“It’s brilliant. This is, like, the nuclear option of car ads. You know that a lot of luxury cars aren’t made in developed countries anymore?”
Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov: http://tinyurl.com/k8atv8o
“Cool photo. Is that your grandpa or something?” Mark pointed to the sun-bleached black and white photo that hung on the wall of the garage. A smiling, grease-stained man in mechanic’s overalls stood proudly in front of a 1950s dirt-track racer. Sitting at his feet was a trophy.
“Sir, I’m showing that you, ah, reserved a Kia.”
“I most certainly did not reserve a God-damned Kia.” Two sentences into his Houston race weekend, and Sebastian was already succumbing to the sort of anger that this trip was specifically designed to alleviate. Perhaps it was that moronic phrase, “I’m showing…” that was winding him up. Sebastian wasn’t exactly certain when it had entered the vernacular, but it always meant the same thing: some slack-jawed yokel was simultaneously breathing with his or her mouth open and transferring responsibility for what he or she was about to tell you to the impersonal glow of an antiquated CRT. “You should be showing a Chrysler 300,” he snarled, “or similar.”
“No, I’m afraid I’m showing a Kia.” At this point, he had two options. The first option was to start putting his foot into every and all available ass before him — but, again, the whole idea of doing a racing weekend, his very first at that, was to shed some of the stress that he’d been experiencing. The second option was, therefore, the correct one. Sebastian fixed the smile on his face that he used for dealing with the most obstreperous clients and most despicable proles.
“Well then, my good man, show me the Kia!!”
DETROIT, MI — A spokesperson for Generic Motors confirmed today that the company will be recalling approximately 2.34 million vehicles built between 2008 and 2013 for a defect in which activating the seat heaters can cause a certain chemical reaction in the driver and passenger seats, leading to sudden changes in the foam seat padding and spring structure that can lead to a loss of control.
0. Engineering Division, Generic Motors — “Tell me how this happens again?”
“It’s complicated. Sort of. When you hit the seat heater button twice in a row within a second or so, the controller shorts out and causes the heating element to leak one of the chemicals into the foam. It makes the foam heat to about 500 degrees Celsius, at which point it escapes the seat through, ah, the circular aperture in the spring plate.”
“Which, ah, means that there’s what you can think of as a hot jet of, well, a plasma kind of foam, almost, that exits in a columnar fashion from the top of the lower seat bolster near where it joins the hinge.”
By the time Nick picked up 40 West in Nashville, with hours left to go and the setting sun still bright in his eyes, he was reasonably sure that he was going to lie to this woman, that he wouldn’t bother to continue on to Texas with her, that he’d make a clean break, that he would end it. He would end it in Memphis, let it go, sacrifice this woman on the altar of his precious emotional distance. She was expecting him to go to her father’s funeral with her; for some reason she was afraid to go alone, demanded that he support her in this. Insisted that he assist her in turning their casual relationship into the sort of thing in which you attend funerals with the other person, hold them while they vibrate tears out of their shuddering bodies, shake a manly hand with the sweating uncles, purchase and wear a Super 150s suit valued at somewhere north of four thousand dollars and purchase it in black because that’s what you wear to a funeral and nowhere else at all.
By the time he was clear of the city limits and past Jackson, by the time the sun was gone, he was certain.
“Saturday morning, Studly!” Jimmy slurped aggressively from his third cup of coffee. Over his shoulder, past the tall plate glass of the recently remodeled dealership, the sun was just starting to rise. He punched me playfully on the shoulder. “Another chance to make yourself rich and famous.”
Jimmy was one of the more tenured salespeople on my lot. His ever-growing paunch, concealed by the poly blend polo we all had to wear, sagged grotesquely over his belt, severely testing the strength of the waistband of his worn cotton khakis. He had been athletic at some point (or at least the pictures on the wall of his cubicle suggested he had), but now his six-foot three inch frame showed the wear of three years of seventy hour workweeks. Undoubtedly, Jimmy had consumed enough coffee and food from the roach coach to kill normal men.
I had not.
It happened slowly, and yet, quickly. I had been driving along the same route to the airport that I had driven every Monday morning for the last three years—part of the happy responsibility of traveling for a living. My CFO title had given me the luxury of living anywhere I wanted within reasonable distance of an international airport with daily non-stops to Paris, London, and Berlin, and as such I had picked Atlanta. Decent weather, good nightlife for a single, well-to-do man, and for a lifelong car guy like me, the culture there was phenomenal. Sometimes, I would just sit on the balcony of my condo in Buckhead and watch the spontaneous high line car show that happened every weekend on the streets of the trendy neighborhood. And, when I was inclined so to do, I would call down to the valet staff and have them bring around the trump card—my Lexus LFA.
“I don’t think that I have to tell you that speeding is f**king stupid, do I?” The old man had never been one to mince words, and certainly not when he spoke to me.
“No, sir.” From my front passenger seat in his meticulously clean Mercedes E klasse, I could see the needle of his speedometer ticking past seventy. The speed limit on this particularly serpentine road near the river was fifty. It didn’t come as any surprise at all to me that the old man was failing to heed his own advice on a subject. He was often a walking contradiction. He spoke of the importance of honesty, yet he lied every night to us regarding his whereabouts. He spoke of discipline, yet couldn’t discipline himself enough to avoid the temptation of women other than my mother.
“It was the summer of ’92, and all I wanted was to be in Seattle. You know, like every other mopey kid with long hair, a flannel shirt and a guitar. But I was 16, with no license and no car. And I lived in Connecticut. It was time to get creative.”
I met Bryce by accident at one of those grad school functions everybody goes to just for the free food. He was your stereotypical late-in-lifer; one of those smart but hopelessly anarchic types that screwed around for two decades, accidentally aged past forty, and finally decided he needed a real career after all. The old grunge tattoos were a dead giveaway, as well as the black crewneck over jeans. He found me more tolerable than the milquetoasts sipping virgin martinis; I felt the same way. Besides, I needed a good subject for my biography class.
They’d been on the freeway for maybe half an hour when the first joint appeared between the fingers of Serious D’s right hand, briefly flaring in the rear-view mirror as D took a long draw and passed it over to Premiere, who bogarted it with a pair of puffs before handing it forward to The Emperor, who swore under his breath as the lit end briefly touched his knuckles. Premiere and The Emperor started fussing with each other trying to negotiate the passing of the joint into the Pontiac’s front seat.
“Just turn it around, man, I’ll grab it.”
“I can’t see your hand.”
“What does it matter?” Scott reached down and twisted the Parisienne’s headlamp switch, flooding the interior with a sickly yellowish glow. “Got it now,” The Emperor noted with satisfaction, puffing it to a roach as Scott turned the dome light back off. “Hey man, you want to finish this off?”
“No,” Scott heard himself say, “someone has to drive us home.”
Several months ago, when he assumed the editorial responsibility for the The Truth About Cars, Jack Baruth made a the readers several promises. Among those promises was a commitment that this web site’s home page would be “100% work safe.” Anyone, he said, should be able to visit this website any time and not have their career put in danger. NSFW material could still be published, he promised, but it would always come with a warning and be kept behind a link.
This week, I found out first-hand that he meant what he said. Ladies and gentlemen, the following story begins with certain language that, if taken out of context by someone in your place of employment, might get some of you into trouble. Click the following Sunday Story link at your own peril.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on this work in the comment section. – TMK
Kreutzer was too damm old for this. It had been a mistake to go back to the orphanage, but he couldn’t bear the thought of those small faces going hungry one more night. The briefcase from the last job would keep the bills paid for at least another year. It was worth it, but they had been watching.
They hit he as he exited on the ground floor. He quickly dispatched the first two but a third managed to get a solid shot to his ribs before Kreutzer’s notorious right hook sent him crumbling to the ground. But there were more.
There were always more.
The road through the Dinas Maddwy pass leads high up the Welsh mountainside, snaking its way through the bracken nestled between craggy peaks. Look on a map, and you’d see it languidly slither up the hillside, the surrounding terrain marked with consonant-packed place-names of a sort unpronounceable without at least a pint of phlegm in the throat.
Here, in the still and lonesome bleakness, a clattery flatulence, a cacophonous blattering – the sound of a small displacement engine as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Up and around the blind bend comes an unlikely-looking and overladen yoke. It’s an Ariel motorcycle – 1927 model, 557cc side-draft single-cylinder – bolted to a homemade wooden sidecar, a kayak lashed to the sidecar, the whole contraption stuffed with duffel bags, tarps and what appears to be some sort of collie, helmed by a large man with a boy riding pillion.
The whole shooting match must add a quarter-ton to the Ariel’s normal carrying capacity, and the bike is nearly incandescent with the effort; were it a horse, flecks of foam would streak its flanks and eyes roll madly with exertion. At last, it can bear no more, and stutters to a halt halfway up the mountainside.
This week, we lined the seventy-eight prisoners up in the old football stadium. More for practical reasons than anything else; there were a lot of relatives involved and we needed to make sure they saw what happened before they, in turn, were sent to the camps. I think it was the first time that it had been used since the sport was banned by my predecessor a few decades back. The drifters that live there now were a nice touch. Added a sense of desperation to the whole event.
Photo courtesy of: Rustingmustangs.com
It was all their fault, you know. Regular oil changes and the occasional tune-up would have prevented all this, but that hadn’t happened. The end result was a lifetime plagued with trouble. Little things mostly, but eventually they added up. One thing always led to another and now the car sat at the side of the house, grass growing tall beneath its body while the air leaked slowly from its tires. Forgotten.
Seasons came and went. In the autumn, leaves collected on the old car’s once fine paint. Winter a brought thick coat of ice and dirty snow; the spring, pollen and bugs. In summer, it was dust, hornets and a mouse nest in the air cleaner. One year bled into the next. The result was not really death, but the purgatory of slow degradation. The waiting was interminable, endless. As the old car sagged lifelessly on its suspension, the good times forgotten, the soul that imbues all mechanical things slowly died and in its place something darker began to grow.
“Ben. Wake up. Wake up, Ben.” He came swimming up from the depths of an indistinct but spectacularly troubling nightmare to find his mother sitting on his bed, fully dressed in one of her going-to-church outfits, makeup on, eyes wide and burning with that insane fire that meant trouble. She had pulled the sheets from him and he was conscious of the underwear he had outgrown, thin and worn-out. From before he’d gained a foot in height across six painful months. In gym class he used the toilet stall to change. “Guess what? Guess what, Ben. Guess what we’re doing today.” When she woke him like this, which happened every few days, Ben always had trouble getting his head together. What day was it? What had he forgotten? Or was this just what his dad used to call the illness, in his mother, or in him, or both of them?
It was Tuesday. October 15, 1985. The more he thought about it, the more certain he was. His alarm clock, which was perched perilously on the far end of the windowsill from him, was dark, but the window itself was light. Which meant she’d been in here before, earlier, and had unplugged the clock. He’d already missed the bus that picked him up in the dark, out with the other kids from the apartments. “Is the answer,” he snarled, trying to pull the sheets back up past her weight on the bed, “going to school?” Ben’s mother laughed and lay down on the bed facing him, her breath hot on his face, her scent an assault.
“Of course not! Today is the day Mommy gets a new car!”
It was Sunday. Sunday was coffee day.
Gus knew some things, not everything, but he knew enough. He knew that the passenger seat in the old Malibu was his. He knew that when it rained his hips ached, and that in the hot months the floor of the kitchen felt good against his stomach. He knew that he was safe, loved and he knew Sunday was coffee day.
During the week, Stefanie usually brewed a small pot at home before work, but after she had gotten the old Chevy roadworthy, she had made a habit of driving to the diner on Sundays to get a cup of coffee. It kept the car from sitting and Gus loved it.
Stef would get up, attend to her morning routine, and then she would back the red ’66 out of the garage and let it warm up. While it idled, she would slip back inside, grab her purse and call for Gus. He would trot to the passenger side and wait for the door. Stef would let him in, roll down the passenger window, and hop in the driver’s seat.
Once at the diner, Stef would go inside for her coffee. She would speak to the regulars, occasionally engaging in an extended conversation about the unrestored ‘Boo, and more often than not, Gus would get a small slice of bacon or another treat from the woman behind the counter. Another nap on the way home and he would spend the rest of the day in the corner of the living room on a dog bed that was as old as he was.
The first rays of the morning sun painted the predawn sky in glorious hues of orange and yellow as Bill stepped out of the house and took a deep breath of the cool pine scented air. He paused for a moment on his porch and took a sip of hot coffee from the large plastic travel cup he habitually carried when he had to be up early and surveyed the scene. To the East the Cascades rose up high and rugged against the sky, the sun on their far side striking a line of fire upon the barren rock at their uppermost rim, their flanks clad in a sea of evergreens split by the straight line of the occasional roadway and large barren squares where the loggers had been at work harvesting the bounty of the forest. As unsightly as the scarred tracts of land looked the trees would return in time, Bill knew. The mountains were eternal.
He wasn’t supposed to be there, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Miller wasn’t exactly his home track, hell; it wasn’t even his home state. Crafton and Buscher took each other out, Paludo hit the wall, Blaney didn’t qualify and Wallace Jr. was breathing down his neck for the last 3 laps, but couldn’t get past. The others just weren’t up to the road course. Burton may have taken the win by a half lap, but everyone else followed him past the checker.
He was 2nd. It was big news because he was just a hired gun. A club level road-racer brought in for a back-marker team when their primary driver broke his leg. They needed to finish the race for the contingencies. It was the first time the Camping World Truck Series had run the course, they needed someone and fast. A friend of a friend knew him; skilled and calculating, calm and experienced, he had run over a dozen club events at Miller Motorsports Park, instructed there and even done a motorcycle track day. Naturally there were doubts, but when he qualified 8th, they were silenced. He could drive the truck.
He finally had the Camaro. It seemed like only yesterday Kenneth had helped his brother Bobby put in the new engine. They had gotten so greasy when they put the motor back together and shoved it underneath the hood of the `69. Afterwards, the chrome glistened from the valve covers and the motor rumbled with the smell of fresh 91 octane as it ran through the Edlebrock carburetor. Since the motor had been covered in oil from years of leaking, they smelled like oil for a week. With sparkling blue paint and black racing stripes the car looked like a beautiful spider, crouched and ready for the kill.
One thing bothered him though; this wasn’t how he wanted to get it. It had been two weeks since the accident and 12 days since Bobby had been laid to rest. Kenneth started up the Chevy. Today was the day. He was going do what they talked about so many times; he was going to the dragstrip. It had been too cold in the weeks before Bobby died, but now spring was starting and the slight chill in the air was just enough to add a few horses to the 302 cubic inch beast beneath the hood. Perhaps it would take his mind off the pain, anything but reliving the horror of when he got the news. This was his pilgrimage.
“We have, oh, I don’t know, maybe four hundred and thirty miles behind us,” William said, “and one-twenty-ish yet to go. But trust me, the worst is yet to come. Route 58 from the freeway to the four-lane before VIR is just… hateful, particularly with the tire trailer behind us. Not a single light on the road. No gas stations — the public-urination stories I could tell you, seriously. And the road twists and turns forever, one time we were towing the race car here and Jim literally freaked out, made me stop the truck in the middle of nowhere so he could calm down, he was convinced we were going to tumble down the side of a hill, a lot of spots there’s a sheer drop. I think half of the reason anybody ever goes to Summit Point is that, frankly, it’s an easier drive by a long shot. Same distance from Indy almost but so much easier. But, you know, one more fuel stop at the exit, then you can sleep, I’ll go slow, and then we have the little condo rented on the Climbing Esses, you can wake up late, and you can sit out on the porch and watch me drive. If you want.”
“Oh, yes, I think I dooooooooo want to see you drive,” Kristin smiled in response, stretching her long body out in the Corvette’s confined passenger area, her bare feet scrunching the thin carpet and the line of her neck visible in the reflected glow of the arc lights above them along I-77. “Yes I do. And you can take me on the racetrack? We can race, right?”
“It’s not racing,” he laughed, “but don’t tell some of the other Vette Club guys that, they are pretty sure it is. It’s called an open trackday, but there are no trophies, no prizes, and the focus is on safety.” His pocket buzzed, and he ignored it. Although the cabin noise in his C5 Z06 wasn’t nontrivial, both of them could hear it. A minute or so later it buzzed again, and they started in mutual fascination at the light of the screen visible through his jeans, then he slowly withdrew the phone from his pocket, and they saw his wife’s face, and her name. Then it went silent, and for a moment he felt relief, before the screen lit once more, and he looked from the phone, to the road, then to Kristin, who challenged him with her eyes and whispered, as if the face on the screen could hear but not see her already,
“You’d better answer that.”
The letter was longer than he had intended and Jim’s penmanship had suffered towards the end, but now that it was complete he was satisfied that it said everything he wanted to say. He put the cap back on the pen, laid it across the bottom of the paper and left them together in the middle of the kitchen table. He made one last pass through the house to ensure that all the lights were out and that everything that could possibly cause a problem had been unplugged, picked up a small overnight bag off his neatly made bed and headed out to the drive to where his new Oldsmobile sat waiting.
Note: This is a sequel of sorts to The little death and as such contains adult language, sexual situations, and descriptions of illegal driving— JB
“I think this next turn is… oh, let’s guess and say right, shall we?” Of course, Sebastian knew perfectly well that the road curved right after the blind crest. He’d been driving these roads for twenty years, since he’d been a humiliatingly poor student in an eighty-one-horsepower Volkswagen, working in the cafeteria to make twenty bucks a week and then spending it on ninety-cent gasoline. Learning how to drive these hills one mistake at a time while his friends disappeared to Jackson Hole or Daytona Beach for the weekends or simply plowed their way through a couple of willing Tri-Delts back at the fraternity house. Sebastian had always been short the fifty-or-hundred-dollar buy-in needed for the parties and his presence had been resented there as a result. Easier to go for a drive. Sometimes he’d just driven until the VW had a gallon left before curling up in the back seat at one of the parks and sleeping until it was time to wake up and go to class. His Pirelli P4 tires had been thirty-eight bucks each after all the price-matching and with careful rotation they were good for a whole spring-to-fall before showing cords. Thousands of miles, at full-throttle, alone and untutored. He knew the roads, and he knew this one would curve right after the crest.
With this knowledge firmly in hand, he snagged fourth gear with a practiced insouciance and the Ferrari’s flat-crank V-8 belted him past one hundred and twenty miles per hour and the whole car went dizzyingly light over the hill and he kept his foot in it all the way down before stroking the silver 360 into ABS for the second-gear left-hander at the bottom. He chanced a look to the right and saw Katrien braced in the passenger seat, her long legs open and taut up to a pair of very short shorts, her makeup-free face shining, her lips parted slightly. Hey, kid, Sebastian laughed to himself, you didn’t know it, but the story you were writing twenty years ago ended pretty happily. Then it was time for third gear again and a quick step over the double-yellow, blowing by some hick family in a smoking-tailpipe minivan, and then both of them were laughing out loud, like children who had gotten away with something, safe and sound, all-ee, all-ee in free.
warning: the song in the video (“A Mistake” by Fiona Apple) contains strong language.
When I announced that fiction would be verboten on these pages, more than a few readers suggested that it might still have a place if it could be clearly marked and separated from the usual content. So here we go: “Sunday Stories” will be the place we put fiction. The usual TTAC loose restrictions on length and content will be further loosened for Sunday Stories, so read at your own peril. We’re welcoming submissions for this. If you readers don’t send me anything, you’ll be forced to see “fiction” about Tennessean hairdressers and Nevada strip clubs and whatnot, so get cracking! – JB
Kenny Huynh awoke alone in his room on the thirty fourth floor of the drab grey tenement. It had been a fitful sleep but it would be enough. He had a job to do. Only his great skill could ensure that the people he cared about had enough to eat. Fortunately he was the best. His skill would prevail.