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April 2003
The Race
von Mathias Burkert


The car stopped under the roof of a gas station. The grey, old pick-up truck of a guy living down the street from Megan stood there with its hood open. The guy was lying beneath it.

"Look that is Mr. Treyens, the guy I told you about. The one with the Dalmatian."

"Oh, that’s him?"

"I suppose it’s him. It’s his truck."

"OK. Wanna say hallo?"

"No, he seems busy."

"Alright. Want something from the store?"

"Ah … what? No. I’d rather like you get me home quickly."

"Don’t worry about it, we’ll be there in a minute."

She got out of the car to open his door. Rudolf came back with a can of ice-tee, bottled milk and some Cheeweetos, which was a new candy they both liked.

"Oh, that is good. Let me have some."

"You didn’t want anything."

"C’mon."

"I was just joking. There you go."

She grabbed some of those orange-colored little kubicles that sizzle in your mouth and would turn into a sour fluid sticking your teeth forever.

As he sat back down beside her he notized: "Damn, where’s my wallet. Think I left it in the store. Let me out."

"Shit, Rudolf. Get a grip." She had already put on her seat belt. Now she untied it again and again opened the driver’s door. It wouldn’t open from the inside.

"OK. Got it. Now we’ll hurry."

"I hope so. My Dad’s gonna kill me. He’ll think we’re doin' you-know-what."

"He wont. Your Dad is cool."

"He wont let us go out anymore."

"Well. I’ll talk to him."

"Bet you will."

"Sure I will. You don’t believe me?"

"Last time you saw him you were shakin' like hell."

"Fuck no, I wasn’t."

"Sure you were. "

"Man, this girl pisses me off."

"Ah", she teased him. "Do you love me Rudolf?"

"Shut up."

They were driving down King’s Road which was cutting straight through a forest. The green to the left and right was in a bright way brownish. It had the particular color of Louisiana countryside.

"Like straw, kinda." Rudolf was talking of that shirt he bought for Megan.

"Straw?"

"Yeah. I figured I’d put you with the cows across the street and they’ll tear it off and I don’t know what this big bull is gonna do."

"I’m really exited meetin' your friends, but ..."

"Yep. That is the train."

A freight train was running in front of them, about a mile ahead on the tree-hidden train track right beside the street. The roof of it glistened in the sinking sun.

"We can make it", Rudolf said and floored the accelerator. The car, 1965 Mustang, cherryred, responded easily. The speed limit was forty-five.

"Let it pass. You needn’t be speedin. If a cop is around you’ll get a ticket."

"Haven’t seen none. "

He was going ninetee miles an hour. They reached the train and passed one waggon after another. They could hear the train, somewhat cranking, rattling. The car was louder though.

And faster too. Although it was long, miles long, obviously, they soon got to the engine. Rudolf went "Whoohoo!" as they took the lead. Megan laughed happily. Rudolf was funny.

They left the train behind. Rudolf reduced his speed a little, just enough not to lose the earnings of a month when he got caught. He worked for a stingy old man, splitting wood, mowing the lawn and stuff like that.

On the right, the trees yielded to a railway crossing. Rudolf let go of that pedal his foot had been thrusting and turned in that big funnel leading to Ponds Road. The train was a soothing noise in the distance and Megan glad.

Rudolf, however, was not content. This was no fun. So he stopped where the metal bars made their way through the black, tarred ground surrounding the Mustang. Rudolf turned off the motor.

"Rudolf, will you start the car, please. Do it now!"

"Why? I don't see no train."

"Well, I see it and it's comin' closer."

Rudolf laughed. "You're scared."

"Hell yeah, I'm scared. Start the damn car."

She reached for the keys, but Rudolf was faster. She touched his hand though, the key fell in the gap between the drivers seat and the transmission lever.

"Where is it?" said he and his voice signaled that for him, too, kidding was over.

"I don't see it." Their hands fumbled under the seat.

"It must be there."

"Oh shit, Rudolf, we must get out. Look."

Rudolf didn't listen. He slid back his seat and looked beneath it. Getting out just wasn't an option. Megan climbed out. The train was no more than fifty yards away. It blew its horn. Megan waved both her arms, which she knew was useless. The train will need about half a mile to come to a halt.

Still, breaks were screeching. That at least made her feel a bit better. She swung around and saw Rudolf desperately searching her seat and even in the back.

Thirty yards. She now could recognize details of the train. The tiny driver held his head out the window and shouted something she did not understand.

Rudolf was finally getting out. He ran to the back of the car and pushed. "Help me." Before Megan could react he was back inside. He forgot to put it in neutral. He kneeled on the shotgun seat and ripped the lever to the central position. Then was back on his feet and tilted to move the car. It did not move. He slipped into the drivers seat to press the clutch, yelling: "You oughta push!"

Megan rushed to where Rudolf has been pushing the first time. Fifteen yards. She slammed her body against the trunk. But she was too weak or not heavy enough. She could as well have tried to move a trailer. The car jerked  the effect was none.

As the train was almost there, something prevented her from giving one-hundred percent. Some force did not want her getting in the way of that train. She felt immobilizing, unable to push.

Rudolf. If she ran to open his door, her muscles would plainly deny service, she knew it. She would fall and would not have the power to get up again. Fortunately she did not have too. He was already jumping out the door. He didn't make it.


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