We jump on our bikes and ride to the town garage. Being Sunday, no one is around. Wayne opens the roll-up door and leads us to the back. Under a tarp is a robin’s egg blue Classic ’55 Chevy, with drag quad carburetors sticking through the hood, headers, pipes along the sides, and custom-painted flames above the pipes.
“Man, there ain’t no way no one’s not gonna notice this hot rod,” I whine.
“Ain’t no problem,” Floyd rebuts. “This here’s Willie’s pride and joy. But Willie’s outta town. Now everybody knows Wayne’s been a’workin’ here for two years. They ain’t gonna say shit.”
Wayne turns the key, and as the engine warms up, all seven of us jump in. The slightest touch of the gas and the souped up engine roars, especially loud inside the garage. With squealing tires, we screech out to the street.
While Wayne locks the door, Scott asks, “Does he have a license?”
All of us, including me, pommel him on the head.
“’Course not. We’re all fifteen. Just shut up.”
We drive to the speedway, pretty much under control. Once in the parking lot, Wayne has to show off. We cruise the lanes of parked cars. Anytime there are young girls, we slow to a crawl and gun the engine. A couple of times, we get in noise duels with other hot cars. Wayne challenges everyone to ‘drag,’ giving them the two finger ‘V’ sign to his lips. I expect to see James Dean and Natalie Woods, with Sal Mineo in the back seat.
Finally we park. Wayne and Floyd continue to challenge other drivers. We follow them as they repeat the rounds of the lot on foot. Finally, a guy and girl in a ’69 Dodge Charger, blue with custom flames, accept the challenge. It will take place after the stock races are done, on the main drag by the raceway. We watch the gate where the race cars are being let in and out. Floyd goes up to the guard, talking to him while we sneak through behind a car. Then the guard lets Floyd in for free.
“Y’all gots money?” he asks me.
“Go buy us beer.”
“They ain’t gonna sell me beer. I’m fifteen.”
“You so sure? Y’all go try.”
He’s right. I come back with seven beers. The next time Scott and I come back with fourteen. They’re only 50 cents each. It tastes a whole lot better than that moonshine, especially on a hot afternoon. By the time my twenty bucks is spent, we’re wasted. Scott is letting out his cowboy yells, like he’s still riding Cheryl Ann. We have our arms around each other, wandering around with Floyd’s gang They handle it better than us but are still feeling no pain. Wayne is oblivious to impairing his abilities for the upcoming drag race. We watch the races, leaning up against the track walls and yelling as the modified stock cars speed by. The demolition derby has plenty of crashes as the junkers go through the circle-eight course, in elimination heats. Finally, one demolished Pontiac remains, making its victory lap.
We all stumble out the main gate to the parking lot. Wayne has a serious look on his face, as he checks out the Chevy. An older teenager comes over and warns Wayne not to do it, being Willie’s car and all. Wayne tells him to shove it. Then he tells Floyd to ride shotgun. Scott visibly relaxes, realizing he doesn’t have to ride in the race. We line up by the raceway entrance, which is the finish line. The two cars slowly cruise down the road to a distance of one mile. Most of the raceway crowd lines up on both sides of the road. Scott and I are arm in arm at the finish line. In the distance, the two cars’ engines roar up and down as they prepare to start. It’s dead quiet for about five seconds, then both cars roar and screech forward, tires burning rubber. It’s too far away to tell who has the lead. Closer and closer they come. Finally we see that Wayne is falling back as they reach top gear. Then we see a flash and hear an explosion. Flames momentarily burst from the four barrel carburetor on the Chevy’s hood. Wayne goes by the Charger like it;s standing still. He flies across the finish and circles back as we surround him. The Charger’s driver jumps out of his vehicle and charges through the crowd around Wayne and Floyd.
“You cheatin’ hunk of shit. Y’all ain’t’t sayin’ nothin’ ‘bout no nitro injector.”
“I don’t say nothin’ ‘bout nothin’. What y’all think these here four shiny barrels is doing stickin’ out my hood?”
“I had yer ass ‘til y’all fired that nitro.”
“I jist let y’all get a little ahead so as to see the shit-eatin’ grin on yer faces when we fly by yer sorry asses.”
He stomps away as we high-five Wayne and Floyd. We all pile into the Chevy and take a victory lap around the parking lot. They take their stock car racing seriously in North Carolina.
Wayne drives like a mad man back to the garage. We wash the Chevy carefully, so it doesn’t look like it’s been used. We have a water fight that goes on for twenty minutes, with control of the hoses passing between fighting parties; everyone’s soaked. Wayne puts the Chevy in the garage and replaces the tarp. Just as we’re about to close the doors, an El Camino drives up.
“Cool it,” Floyd warns. “It’s Willie.”
We shut up and stand in a soggy group by the garage door.
Willie stomps directly to Wayne.
“What’s goin’ on heah, boy?”
“Just washin’ the Chevy, boss. Guess we all got a bit carried away.”
“Don’t bullshit me, boy. I git home not five minutes and I gitme five calls sayin’ y’all had my car at the track taday. I trusted ya with them keys. Now give ‘em back.”
Wayne hands over the keys, looking really chagrined. He starts to apologize, but Willie cuts him off.
“Don’t ya give me none o’ yer lip. Y’all’s off work ‘til I’s decides I wants ya back. Now y’all git outta my garage.”
We all hustle out. Floyd turns and shouts, “Wayne stomped Curly’s Charger, Willie. Ya shoulda seen it, ya da bin proud.”
Wayne pulls Floyd away as Willie grabs a tire iron and looks ready to chase us. We take off running, with Willie shaking his fist at us.
“He’ll calm down by tomorrow,” Floyd predicts.
“Don’t y’all worry ‘bout me. Willie won’t pump gas hisself fer long. That’s all he’ll let me do fer weeks, but it’s worth it.” Wayne agrees.
“We gotta go,” Scott announces.
“Y’all have a fine time taday, boys?”
“It was fine and Wayne drove a great race today. Y’all goin’ on a run this week?”
“Maybe yes, maybe no.”
“Well, count us in.”
They just stare as we ride off. We know we still aren’t fully part of the gang. We do fit in. Scott rides his crazy zig-zag all over the road. It makes me remember we’re pretty drunk. When we get to the cabin, we ride right to the dock, throw off our clothes, and dive into the lake. I get him to race me about a quarter-mile from shore. We lay there floating and horsing around before racing back. The water sobers us up, at least we think so.
Mrs. Watt calls us up to the house while we were drying off.
“We’re waiting for you boys to go out to dinner.”
“Great. Can we go to the chicken place again?” Scott asks.
“Of course. Where have you been all day?”
“We went to the stock car races. You shoulda seen it, Mom, our friend raced this guy and beat him bad.”
“Badly, dear, beat him badly.”
“Sure, Ma, y’all shoulda seen it.”
I watch Mrs. Watt having a coronary attack.
“Ma? When did you start speaking like a hillbilly, Scott?”
“Me? Y’all should hear ol’ Tim talk it up with them boys.”
“Okay,” she sighs. “Now get changed. We’ve been waiting on you to have dinner.”
Stu follows us upstairs. Scott tells him everything about our day at the races.
“You guys always leave me out. Are you going on a ‘run’ with them this week?
“I doubt they’ll let us go. Don’t say nothing to Ma.”
“Anything, Scott. Don’t say anything,” Stu corrects his brother.
I sit watching the two. Scott and Stu are so alike but will never admit it. Now Stu is correcting Scott.
We drive to the restaurant. I’m starving and eat most of Scott’s food as well as mine. On the other hand, he’s beat and almost falls asleep at the table. We all eat apple pie. Once we’re back at the cabin, Mrs. Watt comes in to talk with us.
“I’m glad you boys are meeting the local kids and having such a good time this year.”
“You should see the girls we met, Mom.”
“Well, good, at least you’re not still calling me Ma.”
“They’re sisters, Mom. They talk so slow and pretty.”
“Did they go to the races, too?”
“Naw. It wasn’t for girls. Well, anyway, we can’t see them anymore.”
“The oldest one is ‘involved.’”
“Well, that’s too bad.”
“It’s okay. We had fun with them anyway, but people do talk around here.”
“You’re growing up, Scott.”
“Of course, Mom.”
“See you in the morning. Good night.”
“Good night, Ma.”
“Good night, Mrs. Watt.”
“You can call me Mom, Tim. Just don’t call me Ma.”
The next morning I’m up before Scott. He’s still beat and is sleeping in.
“Oh, hi Tim. Feeling better today?”
“I feel great. We were just beat last night from the races.”
“Maybe the beer, too.”
“Oh,” I pause. “Yeah, probably.”
“I just worry you boys are going to drink and drive.”
“We just rode our bikes.”
“Are those local boys old enough to buy beer?”
“No, but they sell it to anyone at the raceway. Our friends are fifteen too.”
“They sold it to you, at your age?”
‘Nobody seems to care. Most everybody knows everybody hereabouts.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t try to hide it or lie, Tim.”
“I don’t think I could, ma’am.”
“I appreciate that. Being part of this family means responsibilities, too.”
“I’m just grateful you accept me so much.”
“We think you’re a great kid, Tim. You did so much for Stu at first. And I can see good changes in Scott now: he’s so much more confident. Both of them are. How’d you get so much confidence yourself?”
“I guess it’s part of growing up in the military. I’ve always been on my own. We moved a lot. It makes it easier to meet people.”
“Well, we’re a little more old-fashioned in this family.”
“I like it that way, Mom.”
She comes over and hugs me, which feels good. I even forget about being busted for beer. She sits next to me.
“When we go back to Miami, will Scott keep staying with you?”
“It’s up to him, and you. I’ve never had such a best friend. Maybe I could stay at your house more.”
“I think he likes the freedom with you.”
“Yeah, but we don’t get into trouble. I like living in Miami. It’s the first place I really feel is home. I wish my mom liked it.”It’s hard to go through a divorce.
“It’s like she lost it when my dad left. Without him, she has no life.”
“When is she moving?
“She’s probably already gone.”
“You mean she moved while you’re here?”
Mrs. Watt looks at me and gives me another, longer hug. A vague sadness creeps up my throat. I almost cry, without really understanding why. Stu walks into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Tim’s just missing his mom.”
“Well, you’re his mom now,” he states matter-of-factually .
He comes over and hugs me too.
“Thanks, guys,” I shrug them off and brush away my almost tears.
Stu watches me carefully, afraid to admit I cry.
“It’s okay, Stu. You know what’s going on with my folks. I’m sure you’d feel this way. I’m really okay.”
“My folks’ll never get divorced. Will you, Mom?”
“Never, honey.” She hugs Stu, which is what he wants. Then he’s crying, too. I feel really lucky to have such good friends.
Once Scott is up and eats a humongous breakfast, we go with Stu to explore the woods. We spend the whole day playing King of the Mountain and swimming in the lake. Before dinner, we ride into town to buy sodas. No one is around, so we go to the garage, where Wayne is back to work, pumping gas. He indicates we should hide by the side of the garage, finally coming over once he has a break from customers.
“Willie’s a bitch in heat.”
“Well, at least, y’all’s back to work.”
“And workin’ twice as hard as I’m bein’ paid fir.”
“Life’s a bitch.”
“And, then ya die.”
“Willie say anythin’ ‘bout the race?”
“Jist complained a heap ‘bout takin’ the Chevy out. Says I gotta pay fir the nitro.”
“Dew wot? That’s what y’all say when y’all don’t work fer the bitch.”
“Ya think Floyd’s goin’ on a run this week?”
“Ya gotta axe him.”
“Where’s he at. He ain’t down by the store.”
“I’ll axe him tonight. Y’all come by the store tomorrow. Ya sure y’all wanna go? I seen the faces y’all make when ya drink that shit.”
“I don’t care ‘bout the moonshine. I jist wanna say I been on a run.”
“Yer crazy, too.”
“Ya gots ta be when yer fifteen.”
The warning bell rings, meaning another customer has pulled into the station.
“Gotta go. See y’all tomorrow.”
“Hot drivin’ yesterday, Wayne.”
“Thanks,” he grins and spits out tobacco juice.
Stu watches the spit and looks like he’ll puke.
“It’s just chew, Stu.”
“Then why’s it so brown.”
“That’s what tobacco does.”
“Tobacco. I thought he had the plague.”
“Shut yer mouth. Y’all never be no redneck.”
We ride to the cabin, abusing Stu all the way. He’s just happy to be with us again. The next few days pass with little word from Floyd. Then on Thursday morning, Wayne says to meet them at the store at noon. After much complaining, Stu rides home by himself, promising not to snitch.
“What if you guys get arrested?”
“We’ll call from jail.”
“What if the moonshiners kidnap you?”
“Stop worrying. If we’re not back by tomorrow night, you can tell Mom.”
We wait by the general store. The day turns into mid-summer scorcher, with dry dust blowing and only a dog or two wandering around. In keeping with our new friends’ sense of fashion, we’re wearing old jeans, white tees and no shoes. We look so much like locals that tourists stop to ask directions. We mostly say, “You can’t git there from here.”
Finally Floyd walks up and spits.
“Why y’all so hot to go on a run?”
“Just for the thrill,” I shoot back.
“Well, remember, this here’s a business proposition. If’n we add weight to the car, it might slow us down to the point the cops’ll be able to caitch us.”
“Do wot? We ain’t gonna slow y’all down. Not that much no ways.”
“Well, let’s go to the garage.”
Willie takes one look at us and complains, “Whatcha need them boys fer?”
“They’s to do the loadin’ and unloadin’.”
“Y’all’s lazy sacks o’ shit.”
“Com’n Willie, give us the keys and stop yer belly achin’.”
He walks us around the back where a beat-up Charger sits. Willie gives Wayne a map and directions. We pile in the back, with Floyd riding shotgun. Wayne guns the Charger out-of-town, over back roads to a deserted field in the woods. We walk about two miles and come to a camp that reminds me of the burned-out Viet Vet’s hooch in New England. A grizzled old man in overalls comes out of the lean-to, staring at us.
“Ya know I don’t likes y’all bringin’ strangers here.”
“Cool it, Pops, they’s our friends.”
We load up wooden cases filled with moonshine bottles, each of us carrying three crates. We have to stop to rest a couple of times before reaching the car. The cases fill the trunk and half the back seat. Scott and I are sitting on top of cases covered by blankets.
“Shit,” says Wayne. “Y’all’s too tall. It don’t look natural, with ‘em sittin’ that way. Can’t y’all scoot down?”
We try, but it’s obvious we’re sitting on something. Scott volunteers to stay back, if we drop him in town.
“We gotta go see Willie anyways, so that’s cool,” Floyd agrees.
We bounce along the country roads back to the garage. Wayne claims he has to get the feel of the loaded car. Willie comes out and gets himself a case of moonshine. Scott tries to tell me to also stay back. I’m too excited to miss out. We take off with all three of us up front.
“You ride pussy, boy.” Floyd orders, so I get in the middle.
He pulls out a bottle and each of us take a swig. It’s vile, but I get an instant buzz. We share several swigs. I turn on a country music radio station and start tapping the dash to the music’s beat. When they play ‘One Toke Over the Line,’ we all sing the words.
Then Floyd tells Wayne to pull over on a deserted stretch of road. We all get out, with Floyd motioning Wayne to keep quiet. I watch for a second.
“What’s up,” I ask.
“Com’n into the woods with us,” he orders.
We walk a ways without talking. Finally he turns around.
“Lee Ann says y’all had real good times together.”
“Sure did. I told y’all that.”
“No, she says y’all had more than jist fun; y’all did it together.”
“Well, y’all know how girls talk.”
“We think y’all is sissy boys.”
“What part o’ sissy do y’all see here,” as I look sharply at them.
“Lee Ann says y’all both wear girls’ underwear.”
“These are swim suits,” I try to explain, not making my case.
“Well, y’all ain’t swimmin’ now, so ‘spose y’all show us that y’all ain’t wearing panties.”
“Y’all want me ta take my pants down?”
“Just to prove y’all ain’t no sissy boy.”
“I ain’t no sissy.”
“Well, whadda y’all call it then?”
“What if’n I’m a fag?”
“Well, y’all know what happens to fags in the South?”
“They git fucked up the butt.”
It was like a signal with Wayne grabbing me from behind and Floyd tackling me from the front. We wrestle around. Although I’m bigger than either of them, they soon have me pinned on my back. Wayne sits on my chest, while Floyd pulls down my jeans.
“Shi-it,” he whoops. “Jist like she said, orange panties.”
He pulls my jeans and suit all the way off.
“I got me a souvenir,” he crows, waving my Speedo over his head.
Wayne twists around to look. I’m able to throw him off me and jump to my feet. They chase me to a tree, where I stand my ground.
“Look at that dick,” Wayne points. “He’s hard as a rock. Whoa, is he hung.”
“Look at your dicks,” I point at their jeans. They both have hard-ons.
“I ain’t no sissy, but I know how to have a good time. We don’t have to beat each other up to do it,” I suggest.
I move toward them, but they aren’t about to admit how much they want to do it. Floyd charges me again. Soon all three of us are wrestling on the ground. I pin Wayne on his stomach, reach around to undo his jeans’ buttons, and pull them and his underwear down to his knees. After that we all end up fucking. We pump until we’re dry, Wayne on the bottom, Floyd on top, and me, the center of this fuck sandwich.
As we finally fall apart, Floyd becomes alert as a guard dog, telling us to shut up and be quiet. In the distance, I hear a two-way radio.
“Shit. The cops found the car.”
We get our clothes on in a hurry. Floyd isn’t about to give up my Speedo, so I don’t complain. I guess sex trumps fear of cops. We sneak back to the car, keeping behind bushes and trees. Once close, we see a police cruiser parked behind the Charger, with the officer inspecting the back seat. He obviously sees the moonshine. Floyd is furiously trying to figure what to do.
“We gotta git him away from the car, so we can make a break fer it. Where’s the keys, Wayne?”
He holds them up. Floyd looks at me, putting his hand on my shoulder.
“Can y’all lie good?” he whispers.
“If’n I have to.”
“Good. Now listen here. Circle around so as y’all come up to the car from the opposite di-rection. Cry out, and then fall down. The cop’ll run over ta y’all. We’ll jump in the Charger and make our getaway. The cop’ll just take care of y’all. Tell ‘im y’all was hitch hiking and these nasty old men tried to rape y’all in the woods. He’ll probably take ya home.”
“Sounds like the truth to me.”
He looks sharply at me, then we both smile.
“Yeah, almost. Jist give ‘im fake descriptions.”
“Okay, well here goes.”
I backtrack through the woods, coming out on the opposite side of the car. Before I see the cop, I start running through the brush. When he comes into view, I yell and wave until he looks up. Then I fall down.
Lying there as he picks me up, I mumble, “They’re after me. Help me,” over and over.
“Where are they, boy?” the cop asks.
“They’re chasing me.”
Suddenly, the Charger’s engine roars to life. With tires squealing, Wayne and Floyd take off. The cop runs back toward his cruiser, pulls out his revolver and fires off six shots. I hear a window blow out, but Wayne keeps going. The cop gets on his radio and calls for back-up. In a couple of minutes, he comes back to where I lie (literally and figuratively). He has a soda which I gulp down, my hands really shaking.
“What happened, son?”
“I hitched a ride with these two men, but instead of taking me to town, they drove me way out here in the country. They dragged me into the woods and were trying to get my clothes off. I hit one of them, then they started beating on me, but I broke away. They chased me through the brush. I heard your radio, so I ran in this direction, until I seen you. I’m never so glad to see a policeman before.”
He looks me over, noticing the dirt and rips to my jeans and tee-shirt from the fighting. The seat of my jeans is wet from Floyd’s cum that slithered out my butt while I was running. The cum smell verifies my story.
“Did they rape you, boy?”
“They were trying, sir, but I got away.” I try to show defiance and that I’m covering up my defilement.
“Y’all is very lucky.” He puts his arm around me to lift me up. I sob momentarily, then straighten up. Walking to the car, he asks where I’m from. I tell him I’m visiting Denver with the Watts. He gets on the radio and sets up for the Denver sheriff to drive me home. Great.
“You got in with some bad characters, boy. Not only did they try to rape you, but they was runnin’ moonshine. If we catch ‘em, I hope y’all be willin’ to identify ‘em.”
Then he asks for descriptions, which I make up. Several more cop cars arrive. I hear that the boys haven’t been caught, even though roadblocks are set up. They ask if I want to go to the hospital. I say I’m okay. I’m given a pair of jeans, way too large, so mine can be used as evidence. I have to hold them up. When the Denver sheriff arrives, I’m mortified to see Cheryl Ann sitting beside him. She runs to me, all shaken up.
“I’m okay. I got away from ‘em.”
“I was so scared for y’all when yer name came ‘cross the radio. I jist had ta come myself.”
The Sheriff comes over.
“You okay, son. Cheryl Ann says y’all is friends with her sister.”
“Yes, sir. I had a close call. Thanks fer comin’ out.”
I don’t say another word. Now I had two deceptions to carry out.
“Well, we’ll take y’all home, quick as can be.”
It’s the longest ride I can remember, all three of us sitting in the front of his Blazer. Cheryl Ann is stroking my hand and leg, solicitously. I have another hard-on. Luckily the over-sized jeans hide everything. When we pull up to the lake cabin, all the Watts come running out. Scott is white as a sheet.
“He’s had a pretty bad scare, ma’am,” the sheriff says. “You mustn’t let your boys hitch-hike around here. Y’all can’t trust everyone. We may need to talk to Tim again, if we catch the two who roughed him up.”
The sheriff gets our information in case he needs to contact us in Miami, then leaves. Cheryl Ann gives me a friendly hug, while Scott keeps his hand over Stu’s mouth.
Once they leave, Mrs. Watt gives me a long hug, Mr. Watt gives us a lecture about not hitch-hiking. I assure them I’m okay. Then Scott and I go down to the dock. We try to shoo Stu away. Since he knows Cheryl Ann is one of our girlfriends, he blackmails us into including him. He swears complete secrecy. Scott is being protective and maternal, which I fully play up, until we’re sitting on the dock.
“It’s all a scam, Scott.”
“Yeah. We were about to get busted. I pretended that a couple of old men had beat me up. Wayne and Floyd made their getaway, while the cop was helping me.”
“All that stuff with the cops was a lie?”
“Pretty much. Don’t look so shocked. It was part of the run.”
I tell them the details without the rape part.
“Man, I feel so bad not going with you,” Scott rationalizes.
“It was kinda cool, but I hate lying.”
I feel badly about leaving Scott out of the whole truth, but I know it will be worse if he knows. He may even be jealous. I hope Wayne and Floyd get totally away. The cops must have the car’s license number. I know we’ll find out the next day.