Read High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash Online

Authors: Paul Swearingen

Tags: #relationships, #el dia de los muertos, #corvette, #day of the dead, #mexican american, #car chase, #hispanic, #mustang

High School 2 - Diversity - The Clash (9 page)

It was still chilly, and she pulled her
jacket around her as she walked along the cracked sidewalk. Traffic
at this time of the morning was light, and she idly counted red
cars that she spotted as she used to do on road trips with her
father. One … two … three … and a silver-grey car with someone who
looked like Sandra in it, headed out of town. You go, Sandra. Sell
those yearbook ads. Get out of school free for half the day, when I
have to commit a crime, practically, to escape. Maybe she should
sign up for journalism next year. Might even give her an edge at
the radio station; she had heard that the newsman made more money
than the disk jockeys.

She found herself in front of the
Quick-Shop. I could use some coffee to warm up, she thought, and
she turned and walked in.

And bumped into Marvelous Marv as he
exited.

“Hey, watchit, midget. You wanna spill my
coffee?

She stopped and eyed him. “Who you callin’
midget, Mr. Marvin the ex-deejay?”

“Oh. Sorry. I remember you don’t like being
reminded of your cutoff condition. Yeah, ex it is, and it was about
time I got out of that hellhole and on to some real money.”

“I bet. You wouldn’t know real money if it
jumped up and bit you on the …” She stopped. No sense in getting
another inhabitant of Niotaka mad at her this morning.

He snorted. “I’m sure you’re getting rich
there, right? Don’t answer that. I don’t like to embarrass people
who work for cheapskates. And what are you doing running the
streets, anyway? School let out way early today?”

She sighed. “No. I just got tired of all the
BS there and walked out for some fresh air.”

Marv cocked an eyebrow. “Say, I got a little
business proposition for you. You want to get a little fresh air in
my new wheels there?” He pointed at a dusty light-blue car parked
just outside, and she realized that it was an older Corvette.

“What – you get rid of Rusty the
Mustang?”

“Something like that. You like?”

Carla pushed open the door to the store and
walked outside, coffee forgotten. Marv followed.

“So – what’s up with the business
proposition?”

“It’s like this. I have a bet that I can
drive from here to Ft. Fremont in … um … exactly 60 minutes. You
know, a rally, where you’re racing against … exact time, on a
stopwatch.”

She really didn’t know how long it usually
took for someone to travel between Niotaka and Ft. Fremont, and she
shook her head. “A rally? I thought they did those on pre-set
courses, where they have check-in points in different places.”

“Well, sort of. This one is different,
straight from here to a point in Ft. Fremont, where we … meet
someone. I told ya, I have a bet with this guy.”

“And where do I fit in with all this?”

“I need to concentrate on the … ah … finer
points of rally driving while … er … you keep time with the
stopwatch I’ll get from Jimmy over there in the Firebird. He’s the
one I’m betting, and he’ll start it and hand it to you. He’ll trust
you with his stopwatch. And I’ll give you ten bucks when we get
there.”

Carla eyed the Corvette and the guy in the
Firebird parked next to the Corvette. She’d never ridden in a
Corvette before. But Bob’s warning about Marv echoed in her
mind.

“I don’t know …”

“Make it twenty. The bet’s for a hundred, so
that’s all I can afford. Jimmy, this is Carla. She works at the
hellhole; I mean, radio station. You got the stopwatch? She can
keep time.”

Jimmy stepped out of the Firebird, leaving
the door open, took a final drag on a cigarette and dropped it onto
the pavement, still burning. He looked her up and down. “Yeah,
pleased to meet you. Keep time for Marv? Sure, why not?” He pulled
a stopwatch out of his pocket and fiddled with it. “It’s set now.
All you have to do when you get there is to push this button, and
if you try to cheat and turn it off and on in the middle of the
run, it’ll reset completely. Dig?” He handed her the watch.

She took the watch and eyed him. “What’s
your stake in all this?”

“Just a friendly bet.” He looked over her
head at Marv. “Marv … er … owes me one, or maybe two, and he’s just
going to try to work it off today. Right, Marv?”

“Sure thing, Jimmy boy. With the help of our
little friend here. Right, Carla?

Carla twisted her face. “And when do I get
back? I don’t plan to stick around Ft. Fremont any longer than I
have to.”

“Oh, we’ll pretty much turn around and come
right back. We have to make one stop to see a guy, and then it’s
back home. You won’t even be missed.”

“Twenty bucks now?” She held out her
hand.

Marv rolled his eyes and felt in his pocket.
“All right, all right. Er … Jimmy … you got me covered?”

“This time, Marv. Next time it’s on you.”
Jimmy’s eyes seemed to harden as he pulled a roll of bills from his
jacket pocket, slipped out a twenty, and handed it to Carla.

She stuffed it into her pocket. “Let’s get
the show on the road, guys.”

Marv actually opened the passenger door for
her; she dropped her book bag into the floor well and straddled it
before feeling around for her seatbelt and strapping it on.

She watched through the windshield as Jimmy
and Marv talked for a moment; she couldn’t hear either of them, but
Jimmy seemed to be giving Marv directions. Then Marv walked around
to the driver’s side, opened the door, slipped into the seat, took
one last swig of his coffee, tossed cup and all out the window, and
started the car. Carla could feel the rumble through her seat,
which wasn’t padded much more than the old Mustang’s seat had
been.

“Okay, Marv; as soon as I hand Carla the
watch, take off.”

“Gotcha. You ready, Carla?”

Carla considered her future. “Sure, Marv.
I’m ready for anything. Let’s get the show on the road.”

Jimmy clicked the watch and handed it to
Carla, and with a smooth motion Marv jammed the gearshift into
reverse, squealed backwards, and took off. Carla’s head snapped
back and forth, almost hitting the dashboard.

“I thought you said this was a …”

“Hang on, midget. I lied. We’re due in Ft.
Fremont in exactly 30 minutes!”

Carla opened her mouth. She was trapped in a
small, noisy car, headed away from home and safety. She could have
said back in the school hallway, “Excuse me, Mr. Teacher, I’m such
a clumsy oaf this morning; I had way too much Wheaties for
breakfast, and I’m sorry that I slammed you against that concrete
wall. Please accept my sincerest apologies and let me kiss your
finger.” He would have bowed graciously, and she would be in
English class right now, reading about how some guy walled up
another guy in a basement with dusty old bottles of wine, laughing
myself silly. But no-o-o, she had opened her mouth and told him off
and then had taken a hike, and here she was headed to certain death
on the highway in a fiberglass-body death trap.

She looked down at the stopwatch. It was at
28:04, counting backwards. You booby; if you’d just looked at the
thing, you would have seen what was up. Another thought crossed her
mind, and she shuddered. What if it was really counting down her
last minutes on earth?

 

Chapter Fifteen

Carla rolled up the window, tightened her
seatbelt, and hunched down in her seat. Already the power poles
along the highway streaked past like a picket fence. She tried to
sneak a look at the speedometer, but she couldn’t quite see past
the rim around it, plus the vibration blurred her vision.

“Marv, when this car stops, you’d better be
somewhere else when I get my seatbelt undone, because I’m going to
stuff this stopwatch down your throat to somewhere near your
pancreas!”

Marv grinned. “I love it when you talk mean
like that, little girl!” he yelled over the throbbing exhaust.

The highway was mostly clear for the first
ten minutes or so; Marv went around one slow-moving car smoothly
with barely a flick of the steering wheel. The highway was new,
flat, and wide, and Carla’s heart settled down as she told herself
that maybe she had a chance of surviving to see tomorrow. The
country between Niotaka and Ft. Fremont was pretty much flat, and
the highway was mostly straight, she remembered, except for one
long hill where the road swooped down to the left in about a
half-mile curve.

Ahead, Carla spotted the square outline of
the trailer of a Ryder truck … and the glint of the sun off the
windshield of an oncoming car. Would Marv slow down and wait to
pass?

Her answer came a few seconds later. This
time the flick of the steering wheel was to the right, and the
Corvette swept past the truck between the edge markers and a blue
sign that snapped past barely inches from Carla’s window.

“Marv, you idiot!”

No answer from the driver’s side, and she
glanced at him. His eyes were almost slits now, and he hunched
slightly forward in his seat. She realized that he’d never put on
his seatbelt. Did he have a death wish or what? Good thing she’d
grabbed the twenty before she got into the car. Not that it would
matter when her pocket would be yards away from her head after she
was torn from limb to limb in the final crash.

The car swept through the long curve,
swaying slightly in spite of its low center of gravity. The road
narrowed slightly as they crossed into the next county, but there
was almost no traffic at all, and Marv again flicked the wheel
almost imperceptibly to pass two pickup trucks on the left.

“Ft. Fremont, twenty miles ahead. We’re
going to break the record. And then this sweet little Corvette will
be mine. Forgot to tell ya – the bet included the pink slip,
too!”

Great, Carla thought. Pink for him, red for
me and my guts all over the pavement. At least with no seatbelt on
Marv probably would fly a little farther than she would. And that
would serve him right.

Suddenly, Carla realized that the road a
half-mile ahead was blocked by double round hay bales, and a semi
was in the left lane. She hunched lower in her seat and grabbed the
bottom of it. This was it.

Marv again dialed the wheel to the right,
and Carla could hear loose gravel smashing against the underneath
of the chassis. Almost in slow motion, the world outside rotated
until the car faced forward again, swaying. The hay bales were no
longer in sight, and she realized that they’d probably passed the
hay wagon sideways. Marv gunned the car again, and it fishtailed,
throwing crushed rock, until he pulled it back onto the
pavement.

“Wet your panties on that one, didja?” And
Marv threw back his head and laughed, a series of short barks that
sounded like the dog down the street from her house when a squirrel
got into his back yard.

Carla didn’t reply, but she realized that
there was something nudging her fingertips under the seat. She
reached further beneath the seat and pulled out a baggie. Before
Marv snatched it out of her hand, she saw a handful of crystal-like
rocks in the baggie.

“Jeez, Marv. NOW I see what the deal is.
Pink slip, my ass. You just wanted someone in the car to take the
rap for you when the cops pull you over!” She reached under the
seat again and felt at least two more bags beneath her.

“Oh, this was just a test run, and you just
happened to come along at the right time. Jimmy wanted to see how
fast we could make it to Ft. Fremont in case we had to get out of
town quick. No cop car in the state of Kansas can outrun this one,
and I know how to get around roadblocks when I need to. And you’re
just my little insurance policy!”

“You moron.” She cranked the window down and
threw the stopwatch out. “Like they say, you can’t outrun the
radio. They’ll be waiting for us up ahead somewhere.”

For the first time, Marv looked at her with
what amounted to a look of annoyance. “That wasn’t cool.”

She cranked the window back up. “Neither is
kidnapping a minor in this state. Let’s see … possession with
intent to sell, kidnapping, speeding, reckless driving, endangering
a child … and I’m sure the judge will be able to come up with
more.”

“Hey, you got into the car willingly, plus
they have to catch me first, midget, and that’s just not gonna
happen.”

Carla caught sight of a cruiser, lights
flashing, parked in a driveway on the right. “Marv, you idiot, it’s
happening. And if you’re as smart as you think you are, you’d stop
and let me out right now.”

“Nope. We’re in this together. You’re a paid
partner in crime. Remember?”

“Why, Marv, I don’t know what you’re talking
about. You lured me into the car with candy, and off we went like a
bat out of hell. Don’t you remember?”

They passed another cruiser, also with
lights flashing, this time on the left side of the road. Carla
craned her neck and looked out the back window. Flashing red and
blue lights followed them. And when she turned back around, she
realized that the flashing lights in front of her were not
reflections.

“Dumbass. This is it, Marv. Hit the brake.
You’ve had it.”

“No way. Hold on!”

Marv let the speed of the car drop.
Suddenly, he hit the brake and swerved left onto a gravel road, but
again the car lost traction and rotated, this time around and
around until Carla felt dizzy. Marv frantically jerked the wheel
back and forth, and finally Carla could see through the windshield
that the car was headed for a line of brush and trees ahead. Tall
stalks of yellow grass and weeds smacked against the front of the
car, and a crack pinged across the windshield as the Corvette
bounced and finally jerked to a stop against several small trees.
Finally, the car was still and silent. But something smelled, and
Carla found that she was breathing again and sniffing smoke. Marv
just sat staring through the windshield, his lips moving slowly and
a slow drop of blood rolling out of a white spot on his
forehead.

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