It said ‘Achtung’ in big white letters on a red background. This sign was round like a stop sign. Below the word was the white silhouette of a man falling backwards off a cliff. It was hung on a rusted old fence that was easy to snip and get through. Beyond the fence were some thin woods. More bush than tree, which was perfect to get the cars in. Charlie says, “Alright, lets do this quickly.”
The two engines are revving hard. Smoke bellows from the old exhaust pipes and they rattle, loosening bolts and links. We didn’t need the cars for long, as when we’re finished they’d be useless. Charlie’s girl, Sam, waved a flag between the cars. She was a piece of work, one of the boys. Would do anything we dared, which pissed Charlie off no end. One time we rattled him so much, he threw Sam over his shoulder, like a fireman or something, and walked home, her on his shoulder kicking and screaming the whole way. Two years ago that must have been. We were kids then.
Anyway, as it happened, Sam stubbed her cigarette out on the ground and kissed Charlie in the other car.
“Make me proud hero.” Charlie smirked. “Don’t worry about me babe. Just have another one of those ready for when I get back.”
“Don’t I get a kiss, Darling?” I ask out the passenger side window, puckering my lips like a cartoon character. Sam throws me one. She was cool like that.
“Alright men”, she says, “Get set.” She steps back a few paces wiggling her hips sending the boys watching from behind wild, some of them hollering.
“Get ready” and she lifts the flag above her head, striking a pose. The flag had our gang emblem printed on it, a skull and cross bones, and was tied to a dead branch. Luke designed it when he was off his rocks on weed watching old pirate movies with Laurence Olivier. So, instead of an eye patch, the skull had a monocle and pipe.
Our headlights lit Sam up and she dropped the flag. “GO!”
I knocked my car into first, and then quickly dropped it into second. The back wheels turned, kicking up dust behind me, before grabbing traction and propelling me forward just behind Charlie, who could always handle cars better. I was catching up, though, and I could see him in his side mirror. We were both in old Caddies, but his two years newer than mine. I guess it was a good thing this wasn’t a race otherwise he’d have my ass.
I was in fourth gear now, the car maxing out at sixty-five. Charlie’s car was ahead by a nose and the cliff was approaching fast. I was sure as hell not going to loose this match. Me and Charlie, we had a bet. His Vincent Black Lightening against five hundred of my dollars on this bout. I wanted that bike so bad, I’d find myself dreaming about it, riding through a desert with Sam on the back, her arms wrapped around my waist. I never told Charlie about the dream but it was what I was thinking about when I tipped my car into his.
My front bumper tapped his wheel and he skidded to the left, swerving the back end and then straightening out about five feet behind me. He flicked his beams, from dimmed to full, in anger at my move but I emphasised a shrug as if to say it was an accident. My plan now was to wait until the last second before bailing from the car. I opened the door in anticipation. If it went well, I wouldn't have any time at all.
I could taste the sea air now and I watched the sideways eight my headlights made on the dirt in front of me. Once they disappeared, it meant the earth had ended and I jump or die. Behind me, Charlie had caught up a couple of feet but suddenly, his headlights serve blinding me a second and his car veers behind me, slowing down. He had jumped! So, I leap from my car, just in time too, as it tears off the cliff followed by the crash of metal on rock. But I roll and the ground slips from underneath me. I grab at the air and end up clutching rock from the cliff edge. My feet scrape at the wall trying in vain to get a hold. They just slip and slide while my grasp loosens and I scream for help. I can feel the heat from the car fire below even though it's a long way down.
Dust and pebbles hit my face as Charlie swings his arm over the edge to grab mine. I lock onto his wrist and he pulls me up. Horizontal, we breath heavy and laugh.
"You owe me a bike, sucker", I force, overjoyed.
"No way. I saved your life. I could have let you die."
Man, that would have burned me up but Sam had just run over, crying. She hugged me and smelled like my dream.
"I thought you'd died, you damn cowboy." She hit me affectionately. I would have hugged her forever but she was abruptly pulled away from me by Charlie who said, "Hey, don't hog the girl" and they kiss.
Red and blue lights flash over the tree line and sirens blare.
"Alright", I say "we're even" and we make for the exits.