Clyde asked me to take a ride one night. I think I was 15 at the time. I had recently obtained my driver's license. Who knew where we would ride? It was always an adventure. Of course there was the ever present beer. At this particular time in my life, I did not drink. It would be another year or two before I could guzzle with the best of them.
I jumped in the car and asked, “Where’re we goin'?”
”Oh, I want to visit a girl and thought you might like to keep me company until we got there.”
”Sure,” I said. I thought I might learn something. Girls were definitely a new discovery for me and I needed all the help I could get in the fine art of wooing the ladies. He was a master, or at least, that was the rumor. This was a chance to observe technique.
We drove around for some time before arriving at her house. When we reached the area he didn't stop but circled the block three or four times. There had to be a reason for this. Was it some kind of mating ritual with cars? I wondered. I decided to keep mental notes.
After the 4th time we pulled into the driveway. He beeped the horn and got out.
Leaning through the window he said, “Stay here. I'll be right back.”
She came to the door and opened the screen. He ran inside. The screen door slammed behind him. They spoke in the light of the doorway. He opened the door and walked quickly to the car. He poked his head the window and said,” Look, Rick. I need you to look out for me. Her dad will be back in about 30 minutes in a green Ford. I want you to watch for him. The minute you see him, beep this horn. Got it?”
”I thought I was coming in?”
”Hell no, you have to watch out for him.”
”Because he hates me. He said if I was ever over here again, he'd shoot my ass.”
”Is that why you drove past the house so many times?”
”Yes. She told me he wouldn't be home but I had to be sure and I wasted a good 20 minutes. So, you ok with this? You understand why I want you to watch out for me?”
”No, I'm not ok with it.”
”Tell you what. You do this for me and I'll let you drive my car some time, all right?”
Driving his car was a big deal. It was a '56 Ford, black and red with a hot engine. Well, yeah, that was a deal for a young buck like me.
”OK. You won't be long will you?”
”As long as it takes," His crooked smile turning to a laugh.
”I don’t have much choice, do I?”
"No, not really."
He went back into the house. This time they closed the door and lowered the lights
I sat there looking around at every direction. I'd see any car's approach. Headlights came across the lawn. I looked at the headlights and realized that it was dark. How the hell was I supposed to tell if it was a green Ford or even a Ford for that matter?
BEEP! BEEP!! BEEEEEPPP!!!!! I leaned on the horn with all my body’s weight.
Slam! Out the front door he came running. He stopped. He looked around. The road was empty. The car had passed us by.
”What the hell are you doin'? You scared the crap out of me.”
”It's dark, Clyde! I can't tell color or make of car. What am I supposed to do?”
”Look over there.” He pointed up the road beyond the house. “ See that corner?”
”See the light?”
”That's where he'll be just before he turns to come home. Got it?’
”Yeah. I'll beep the horn when I see him at the corner. You sure you don't want to leave now?”
“Hell, no. One day you'll understand.”
He returned to the house. I returned to my vigil. I started thinking about what a mess we could be in. He said he’d shoot him. That meant he’d shoot me too. What if he had a gun in the car with him? What if he recognized the car and gave chase? It's a helluva car to chase.
This baby would probably out run any old green Ford. What is there to worry about?
My thoughts went from anxious to confident.
My eyes began to close. I'd blink sit up straight and look around. Nothing. began. My eyelids began to grow really heavy. I jumped awake. Still nothing. Then, I slept.
I was awakened by the slam of the screen door and Clyde's screaming orders.
“Get over into the driver's side. Crank it up!” He tripped on his belt. “Get it started! Get it started! He's just got to the corner! You're supposed to be watching!! Hurry up!" He jumped into the passenger side as I got it cranked. It roared to life. I looked at the corner I was supposed to keep an eye on. The green Ford was there, just making the turn for the house.
”What are you waiting for? Get the hell outta here!!”
I slammed it into reverse and hit the gas pedal. The car bucked backward. I slid forward and my foot jammed into the accelerator. The car spun wheels, tearing backwards. In fright, I took my foot off the pedal. The engine stopped. I slid backwards into the seat.
Clyde started yelling. “What the hell are you doing? Get us out of here!”
”The seat's all the way back. I can't reach the pedals.”
He reached over with his foot and slammed it to the floor. The car bucked backward again and I slid forward my foot slamming into his.
”OWWW!!” He screamed and pulled his foot away. The car stopped in its tracks again. I slid backward into the seat.
”Stomp the accelerator! Stop playing around!” He yelled, while nursing his foot.
The green Ford was halfway down the road and picking up speed. I pulled myself forward by the steering wheel and jammed my foot to the floor again. I held on to the wheel as the car peeled backward in a spray of rocks and gravel. The tires caught at the road and burned rubber all the way across into a mailbox. It snapped. I took my foot off the accelerator and the car stopped just over the mailbox and short of the ditch.
”Turn the wheel!!! Turn the wheel!!! Get us out of here!”
The green Ford was slowing to turn heading for us. I turned the wheel hard to the right and pulled myself forward kicking in the pedal again. The car fishtailed around in a semicircle and came to a halt once more. I was sweatin' bullets trying to keep myself from sliding all over the leather seat. The green Ford turned down the street and started toward us.
I pulled myself forward one last time. Jaws clenched I slammed my foot to the floor and held onto the wheel for dear life. I left a streak of tire and a cloud of misty rubber behind me. We made the end of the road a lot faster than we had upon arriving. I whipped around the corner almost sliding into another mailbox, straightened it out and headed on.
All Clyde could say was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, jes…”
I looked into the rearview. There was nothing but darkness. We made it.
”Jesus, what the hell was all that? I think I pissed my pants.”
It was my turn to laugh. "Mwahahahahah!" It was an evil laugh as I floored it. We screeched into high gear as I looked intently down the road in the dark.
That was my first real driving lesson. Clyde was not impressed with the learning curve I exhibited. As a matter of fact he never let me behind the sterring wheel again.
The girl? He saw her again the next night. He didn't ask me along, though. I think, knowing the routine, I could have ridden that bucking' bronco much better.