Drag to Win
The following is an excerpt from Crash Club, by Henry Gregor Felsen. Every year a new fad makes its mark at Raccoon Forks High: often noisy, outlandish, expensive, or silly, but never dangerous or destructive. At this sleepy school, even the drag racing fad was comparatively tame . . . until David "Outlaw" Galt transferred from Capital City High. Usurping Mike Revere's position as the best boy with the best car—and stealing the girl who went with it—Outlaw set off a power struggle the likes of which Raccoon Forks had never seen. But Mike was willing to drive his way to victory, no matter the cost.
The drag the boys were about to run followed certain definite rules. Each lap was a block long, with a complete stop called for at the intersections. The race ended a block away from the school. The champion one day raced against a new challenger the next and continued until he was beaten and had to go back to the end of the line and work his way up again. So far, Mike had taken every car on the list twice, and had yet to be beaten. He had become so used to winning that it had come to seem his right, and he looked upon the possibility of even one loss as a disaster and a disgrace.
As the two cars lined up, Mike looked toward Country Davis, trying to catch his eye for the exchange of starting nods. But Country’s little sister Susie, a twelve year old with a pointed, freckled face, a hostile squint, and copper hair tied in a ponytail, was between them. She made a sour face at Mike, stuck out her tongue, and crossed her eyes. He was trying to look around her when the rear of Country’s car seemed to drop toward the pavement, and its nose lifted.
“Oh . . . that . . . brat!” Mike bawled as Country got the jump on him. He pushed forward against the steering wheel as he let out the clutch and floored the gas pedal. Donna braced herself for the coming stop as the little coupe took off in a deafening, shuddering surge, pressing her against the back of the seat. For two years she had reveled in this sort of thing, at first getting a bigger kick out of the races than the drivers did. But now, while she wanted to win as long as there had to be a winner, she was finding the old routine tiring and uncomfortable. Somehow her body couldn't withstand the lurching and jolting as well as it had done when she was younger. She wished she could arrive at school without feeling as though she’d made the trip in an automatic washing machine.
The two coupes raced down the broad avenue, alternating the roar and whine of wound-up engines with the screech of dragging tires. Behind them, the other gaudy cars paired off and followed, to race and help with the noise.
Mike pushed his car to the utmost, but in the short blocks he could only hold his own and had to follow Susie’s contemptuous face halfway to school. “If I don't take him in the long block, I’m beat,” Mike said desperately. “Don't fail me, second gear!” At the moment, he existed for nothing else in the world but to win the race.
Donna grimaced without answering. How boring it was becoming, she thought, as the coupe skidded sideways to a stop then leaped forward with a high-pitched mechanical scream, rear wheels bouncing. Every morning, for another year . . .
In the long block, Mike made his race. He hit the intersection with his brakes smoking, causing Donna’s books to pull loose from her arms and tumble to the floor. He beat Country away by a fraction of a second, gained slightly as he wound up faster than his rival, and was a length ahead at the final crossing. He let out a sigh of relief as he went on to the school stop sign, halted, and wheeled his car into the parking lot. Again, he was the winner. He slid to a final stop on the gravel, and a moment later Country Davis skidded to a stop alongside.
Mike leaned back and looked at Donna. The grim lines on his face slowly rearranged themselves into a design of relaxed triumph. “I guess we showed ’em again, eh?” Mike said proudly.
“I guess so,” Donna said, picking up the books that had spilled from her lap. “I thought my head was going to snap off.”
“Couldn't let those country folks beat us, could we?” Mike asked. He sighed and shook his head admiringly over his own victory. “For a minute there, I thought old Country had me. But when we crossed Walnut Street and hit the long block, I was sure I could wind up tighter than he could. So, I . . .”
“No, you don't,” Donna said firmly, opening her door. “Don't mind riding in your races, but I draw the line talking about them.”
“What else is there to talk about?” Mike asked, grinning. “It’s not polite to talk about women.” And he thought to himself, as he watched her get out of the car, that if it wasn't for his coupe and his racing wins, she’d still be looking through him when they met. He caressed the steering wheel with his hand and looked across at Country Davis. “Hey, country boy,” he called, “what kept you?”
Country, a chunky, towheaded boy whose round face always looked sunburned, wrinkled his snub nose.
“So, you’re the guy who was blocking my road,” he said good-humoredly. “I had to ride my brakes all the last lap to keep from hitting you.”
They got out of their cars, tugging at the brims of their gaudy caps. Standing between the two cars, they waited for their buddies who were still coming in.
This title is part of the Retro Reads series. The collection reissues high-quality narrative titles and introduces them to a new audience. With this series, motoring enthusiasts will delight in familiar classics and discover new, dynamic narratives. Check out the related books linked below for more rodding adventures.