Amy Gilbert jammed the clutch in, popped the shifter over a notch, and leaned hard on the steering wheel, the rear wheels sliding toward the left, the Volkswagen bug moving right. She chortled as the mud sprayed the car just behind her. Stomping the gas pedal, the car bucked and then gained speed until she passed the ice-cream shed, the impromptu finish line. She skid in a circle, pumping her arm through the window.
Eddie pounded the roof of the car. “Damn showed him. Sure did.”
“Woo!” Amy yelled.
The friends walked over to the picnic tables. Robin Barberg stood in a group collecting money. They should have scored enough for the trip to Cedar Point.
Amy accepted a Coke and took a big chug. As she lowered the cup, she saw him. Her heart sank.
The black hair combed into a pompadour hung over his sky-blue eyes, piercing through her heart. A cold sweat popped across her back. He was approached. She glanced, and there was no way to reach the car before he reached her. His cheeks pinched as he pressed his lips together. Stopping inches from her, she could smell the tobacco smoke and his Old Spice aftershave.
“Hi,” she mumbled. At least he couldn’t murder her in front of a crowd.
He put his hands on his hips. “Hi, Amy. What a surprise to see you here.”
She shrugged, her knees feeling weak. She struggled to keep her voice from shaking. “Hey, Dad. You know I joined the racing team.”
“Yes, the one for stock cars. At school. Right.” He put out his hand. “Keys.”
“Aw come on.” She would rather have him shoot her than take her car.
Amy obliged and watched with tears in her eyes as the car pulled away.
Robin touched her arm. “You in trouble?”
“Trouble doesn’t begin to cover it. Can you give me a ride to the garage?”
“Sure, let’s blow this popsicle stand.” She laughed. “You know, that’s funny, because it is a popsicle stand.”
Amy swiped at her eyes. “Not now.”
“Right.” Robin started her car, knocked out two cigarettes, lit them, and then passed one to Amy. “How angry is he?”
“Nuclear.” Amy took a long drag, the smoke stinging her eyes.
They arrived at the Gilbert and Son garage before Amy could she could think of a good reason she broke the promise to not race.
Robin asked, “You want me to go in with you?”
“Nah. Thanks for the ride.” Amy took a deep breath and turned the doorknob. The shop was dark except a light in the office. Her little car was parked in a stall. She went into the office.
Her dad sat at the desk, his feet up. “You should have shimmed the front end. It steers like shit.”
She nodded, fighting the tears.
“The carbs sound good. Did you build the header?”
She shook her head. “Bored it.”
“Ah.” He took a sip from a glass then swallowed. “It seems you forgot our agreement.”
“Dad, look,” She stopped and swallowed. “We just wanted money to go on the class trip.”
“And you think I wouldn’t give it to you?”
“Well, yes, but Robin thought…”
“I’m glad someone was thinking because you sure weren’t using your brain. I’ve told you a hundred times,”
Amy whispered, “It’s not just my car on the track. You will wreck, it’s just a matter of how bad.”
Her father stared at her. “I’m not worried about the car. I worry about you.”
She tried to speak. Everything got all scrambled in her head before she could get words out. How long until he spoke, she wasn’t sure.
“I’m pulling the engine.”
“No,” Amy cried. All those hours she spent working on that car. It was faster than any ride in town.
“Yes. Just be glad I’m not going to make you do it, and I’m not going to tell your mother why. Let’s just say it threw a rod.”
Amy’s lip stuck out. “I hate you.”
“And I’d hate to see you hurt. And I thought you’d be happy you weren’t grounded.”
“Might as well be.” Amy shuffled. “Can I go?”
“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”
Amy slammed the door, storming across the dim garage. It was time to get a Jeep.