Josh climbed out of bed and sat on the “race car” that he and his father built before he left. He was only 7 but he remembers his father as if it were yesterday, his strong arms that used to pick him up and embrace him, the smell of his aftershave. He seems so close…
The car has an orange crate as the front end and a 2×6 as the middle rail. The baby buggy wheels on the bottom allowed it to glide smoothly and easily across the floor and the steering wheel allow for some limited turning ability left and right. The “brake” was a simple 1×1 screwed to the side of the car behind him so it would drag on the ground when pulled up.
Making racing noises as he moves the wheel back and forth, he imagines himself in a race – making the turns in the track easily as he completes lap after lap.
As he was rounding the final turn, his sister walked by his door and told him “don’t go too fast on that thing – wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself!”. “Don’t worry Susie! It would NEVER hurt me!” He says and completes the sound of the engine winding down at the end of the race. Getting up from the car, he put his clothes on and wheels the car out to the garage, hits the door opener and is greeted by the fresh cool air of autumn and the low sun that added the small bit of warmth that made it a wonderfully warm day.
He looks out side and sees his friend Bobby next door playing in his front yard. “Hey Bobby! Wanna go for a ride?”. Bobby responds immediately – “Sure! Where we goin’ today?”. “Just down the street I think… Let’s go!”. Bobby sat behind Josh – “You handle the brake and I’ll steer.” He said as the both gave the car a shove and headed down the driveway.
As they hit the end of the driveway, Josh turn gently right and the glided down the street for a short while before they started to lose momentum. “Let’s hit it again!” Josh says and they give the car mighty push to gain speed. He knew he wasn’t supposed to play in the street, but he figured “what his Mom didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her”.
After they crossed the side street at the end of their block Josh noticed that they were starting to gain speed – The slight down hill angle of the street adding speed as they traveled along. “Hold on!” he yelled at Bobby and their speed increased and they both squealed with delight.
Thing were moving along at a pretty good clip now and Josh figures they were going fast enough and really didn’t want to push the cart that far up hill too get it home. “Hit the brake”, He yells at Booby over the noise of the wheels on the pavement. He hears the grinding of the wood on the ground and then an odd snapping sound. Bobby holds the broken stick up for Josh to see and said “You mean THIS brake??”. Bobby throws the stick aside and they both yell as they rumble down the street.
“Don’t worry! I’ll get us out of this!” and starts thinking about what he can do. They were going so fast and not having a rear view mirror, Josh doesn’t notice that behind him a small ball of stuff was starting to gather, keeping up with them but a ways behind, as the vortex of air created by their speed started gathering debris from the surrounding street.
Josh was thinking hard on what to do next when he saw a ball bounce across the street in front of them. Just as they started to pass the ball, a kid of about 5 or 6 is ran out into the street after it and right into the path of the car. BANG! They hit the kid. He flips over the front end and lands in the car behind Bobby. “What’s going on?” He says with a frightened look on his face, his voice cracking with fear. “We got a runaway car here mister!” Josh says as he weaves in and around the cars in front of him. “Don’t worry, Josh will save us! He’s a great driver!” Bobby yells.
The streets are wizzing by now.. 128th, 126th, 124th.. Picking up speed as they head down the hill. Josh gets an idea and yells over his shoulder – ” When I say ‘Go’, you guys lean right as hard as you can!”. He hears a round of agreement from behind him as guesstimates his speed and prepares for the turn. “Ready” 115th… 110th… “Set!” 108… 102nd… “GO!”
He jerks the wheels hard to the right and then all lean into the turn. Barely making the turn, the rear wheels skidding slightly, Josh straightens out the car and heads down the street. The Ball follows them, turning the corner wide picking up more debris as it goes – news papers, water hoses, mail boxes…
A sickening feeling rises in Josh’s stomach as he realizes he’s made a bad call. They are now going down a steeper hill, heading straight for Main street! This is also a good thing as on the other side of Main street goes up hill – this should be enough to allow them down and stop this crazy ride – IF they make it through Main Street traffic!
The streets are going by so fast now, Josh can’t read the names as he concentrates on missing the cars in his path. The kids behind him squeal with a mixture of fear and delight as they pass each car, some heading right at them as Josh has to cross the line to get around cars going their way. Up ahead he see a big sister walking her little brother across the street. They see his car coming at them and try to run out of the way. The wrong way – Josh tries to avoid them by going the same direction – Bam! Bap! They both fly through the air, the big sister grabbing her brother in mid air and they both land on the rear of the car. “What’s going on?” She screams as her brother starts crying.
Bobby yells over his shoulder, “We lost our brakes but don’t worry!” as both of the boys behind Josh chime is “Josh is a great driver!”
The traffic light at main street is coming up now. Josh is thinking “Turn green! Turn green!” As they get closer and closer. The ball is falling a little behind now from it’s shear size, picking up city mail boxes, small trees and other scrubs as it follows them down the street.
The light is not cooperating… as they approach the it, it stays red and Josh yells “Hang ON!”. He see’s a small gap in the cars and heads for it, still gaining speed. The kids start yelling as they realize the cars are getting closer. Josh turns the wheel slightly and easily slides through the gap, avoiding a major accident.
They are heading up hill now and they feel their speed slowing. “He did it! We’re all right! The ride is finally over!” The kids start laughing and enjoying their ride again. Josh breaths a sigh of relief as he realizes the problem is about to fix itself.
Ash, Maple, Larch, The street signs are legible again. Birch, Pine, Elm… The are approaching the top of the hill now. Josh is thinking it might be a good idea to turn at the top of the hill since they are going too fast for just the hill to stop them. He yells behind him again for the group to lean into the turn. 3…2…1…GO! An instant before he turns though, he sees a car coming right at them! He Yells “LEFT!, LEFT!” As he jerks the wheel to the left and they make the turn on 2 wheels, barely keeping the cart on the road in the process. He yells behind them “Everybody OK?” There’s a chorus of “Yeps” and “Yeses” – the he hears Bobby whisper in his ear – “Josh – this is Dead Man’s Hill! The street ends at the bottom!”
They are now gaining speed again as the steepness of this hill is far greater than the other street they were on. He can see the bottom of the hill, not that far ahead, with the road of the bottom of the hill creating a “T” at the bottom. Only one thing left to try – “Ok Guys…One last time! When I say Go, lean left but this time, put both your feet down as well! I’m going to try a power slide to stop us” Everyone agrees and Josh prepares for the turn.
“Ready, Set, NOW!” They all dig their feet into the pavement as Josh turns the wheel left and the car starts to slide sideways down the hill. Their shoes are smoking and leaving little bits of rubber on the ground as they all scream. The car is slowing quickly and slides to a stop at the end of the hill in the middle of the cross street. Still screaming, everyone stops at once. Realizing their “joy ride” is over they open their eyes and their screams of fear turn to screams of joy. They all jump off the scooter and start thanking Josh. The eldest girl picks him up, hugs him and plants a kiss on his cheek. When she puts him down the others are clapping and patting him on the back. Josh yells “Wait a minute!! Quiet!”
He feels the ground shaking slightly and hears a rumble that is getting louder. Just then, the sun goes dark and the are standing in shade. Josh looks up the hill. “Oh No!” He says as he sees the ball.
It has grown to be huge, cars, people, anything that wasn’t nailed down is now stuck to the surface of this ball – and it coming straight for them! He thinks fast – “How are we gonna stop this thing?”. As is gets closer, he yells at everyone “RUN!!” And they all begin to scatter. He grabs his car and tries to move it out of the way but realizes that one of the wheels has come off!
He bends over to retrieve the wheel and starts to push the car out of the way when the ball is about to hit him. He turns his head and is amazed by the size of the ball and over the deep rumbling of it when he hears “Josh! It’s time for dinner!”.
He gets off his car and surveys his room to find his ball cap. He grabs the cap off the bed and puts it on his bald head. He looks at the car and thinks “You and I will finish this later!”. He imagines the cars tin can lights winking at him as he leaves his room as heads for the kitchen. He slowly walks through the house feeling the weakness come over him again as he nears the kitchen. He can smell the Mac and Cheese – His favorite. His Mom is saying to Susie “I wish you wouldn’t let him get carried away like that.”
“Mom he’s got leukemia… let him play the way he wants! A long as he doesn’t tire himself out to much, he’ll be fine.”.
“I suppose – I just wish he’d take it easier sometimes.”
“How can I take it easy?” He thinks… “I have a race to win!”
Don Willson is, 53-years old and living in Richmond, Virginia. Not new to writing, he is often been told (I know everybody gets this) that he should try getting some of his work published.
Of all the things I’ve lost in life I miss my mind the most!