Thursday, April 23, 2015


"You'd have probably made it if you hadn't blown the right rear tire."

I struggled to open my eyes. If he noticed it didn't stop his monologue.

"Yep, you blew it totally off the rim. I looked for it, but I couldn't find it. Hell, how fast were you going?"

I guess he didn't expect an answer because he kept talking.

"You must have been going over eighty. If you were, that's a new record you know?"

He paused and though I wasn't able to open my eyes, I managed to say, "Eighty-four when I locked into it."

If he was surprised that I had managed to talk or that I had almost topped our best record for Fisher's Curve by five miles per hour, he didn't let on.

"Too bad it won't count, but I've got to give it to you for guts."

That got my eyes open. Joe's my best friend, but even he will tell you that he doesn't give many compliments. I agree with that and would add, you have to listen close to hear the ones he does give. I didn't miss that one.

"Thanks," I said.

He just snorted, then brought me up to speed on the part of the evening that I'd lost.

"I was listening on the police scanner when Sergeant Griggs finally admitted that he'd lost you. In fact, when the dispatcher pushed him he had to admit he never got close enough to you to get a tag number so that one will go in the book as a draw."

I interrupted. "I wish it had been a draw. What about the car?"

"You lucked out there, Kid. I didn't check it too close, but I'm pretty sure there is no major damage. I got it in the barn and told Aunt Ethel you must have gone to sleep at the wheel again. She didn't buy it, but she knew I'd stick to the story so that's where that is. Now tell me about the Showdown."

Showdown is our term for challenging Jimmy Griggs, the dumbest Florida Highway Patrolman in the entire history of the Florida Highway Patrol.

There are only three players in Showdown, me, Joe, and Officer Griggs. Joe and I know the rules. Griggs doesn't even know it's a game. We play two or three nights a week when I'm home. I work on an oil rig off the Mississippi coast. Thirty days on. Thirty days off. Griggs thinks I'm involved because I'm always home when we "call him out," but he isn't sure and he won't be unless he catches one of us. Which is the point.

When we are ready for a Showdown, we flip a coin to see who finds Jimmy. The loser is the hunter, the winner, tonight that was me, calls Jimmy out. When Joe lost the flip, he complained that the toss was rigged, like he always does, then he got in his Plymouth Golden Commando, fired up the 426 Hemi engine, gave me a thumbs up and drove away from the barn. When he was out of sight, I opened the barn doors, turned on the lights and admired the ruby red Fiero sitting in the middle of the shop. Seconds later, I'd pulled it outside, closed the barn doors, and stopped under the low limbs of the towering live oak tree. With the engine idling and the gauges all riding in the green, the CB, turned to channel 5, a little used frequency that we thought of as our private channel, came to life and Joe's voice boomed into the Pontiac. "He's working."

That meant that Jimmy's cruiser wasn't at his house and more than likely he was running radar in one of his three or four favorite spots. I clicked the transmit button to let Joe know that I'd received the message.

Eight minutes later, Joe said, "Mud bottom. No traffic. He's probably sound asleep."

I clicked the transmit button, slipped the short shifter into first gear and engaged the clutch. At the farm road that runs past Aunt Ethel's place, I turned right. Two miles later I slide to a stop at the stop sign on County Road 347. There wasn't a car in sight in either direction. I turned left, and began working up through the gears, fully aware that the performance exhaust system could be heard almost a mile away on a quiet night and this was about as quiet as a night gets around here.

Joe had spotted Jimmy backed into a turn-out a half mile away.

My train of thought was interrupted when Joe, almost shouting, said, "if you don't tell me I'm going to be beat it out of you."

I laughed, "Sorry about that. It started out like a regular showdown. I planned on passing the turn-out at 105 to 110 miles an hour. My headlights had just picked out the turn-out when Jimmy, who wasn't asleep like we'd figured, hit his blue lights and began pulling out. He was going to block the road, which would have got us both killed, but I was past him before could get onto the blacktop.

Even though his cruiser had the horses on the Fiero, I knew he'd never catch me. The only thing I sweated was the ground I'd lose at Fisher's curve. You remember the night you took the Golden One through there at eighty and set the record?

"Yep," he grunted as he motioned for me to get on with the story.

I grinned, "Well, I decided I's blow Jimmy away and set a new Fisher's curve record at the same time. I held it on 110 until the last second, braked down to eighty-five, went low and let it drift toward the top. About the same time I remembered you telling me I should replace the rear tires, the right one blew. I might as well have been a passenger after that.  The Red Bird shot off the road and the embankment toward the woods.  The only good thing about it was Jimmy didn't see the tread marks where I lost it.

We sat in the silence of the sleeping hospital for a long time. Finally Joe said again, "You'd have probably made it if you hadn't blown that tire."

I nodded and said, "Thanks."

There probably should be a point to this blog, but as near as I can tell, the point is, this is what happens when I go too long without writing something.  I'll try to do better in the future.