Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Money does it

Everybody gambles, everybody takes risks, we just don't quite see them, we normalise them, gloss them over, disguise them, hide them in the detail, allow them lifetime anonymity and take a chance. Sure, it'll be fine, it'll work out, things do. But the risks don’t go away, they stay, they grow and every so often they break out and escape and then some kind of unexpected chaos ensues.

Chico liked his muscle cars, he owned a Camero, an 89 5.7, ex Indy pace car. Cool in blue and yellow and proud of it's racing heritage and history. It was hot. Donny had a 85 Mustang, V8 5.0 supercharged and blown, cherry red metal-flake and mean looking. It was no show pony, it was a thoroughbred. Here in the desert they'd find out which one was the fastest.

Today's bet was straight enough, no pink slips, no women, just $3000 each, cash. Jenny held the purse, in her purse. A big stack of hard earned tens and twenties, green and sweat stained. Working men's money, working girl's money. Jenny held the money in her hand deep in the purse. She squeezed the cash. She giggled, it was a sexy feeling, she squeezed some more. Money was dirty and sexy, she felt a tingle, here, there and here again. Money is so sweet, today was a good day, whatever the outcome there would be a celebration, some treats, some fun. In the distance she could hear the guys gunning their engines. That sound did nothing for her. Money did it all.

As far as she was concerned they were just stupid boys with irritating toys - but by the end of the afternoon somebody, one of them would have $6000 in cash. That made it interesting. So here they were, out on the desert road, a little over a mile of clear tarmac. The cars stood together, noses angrily pointed down the race route, their engines now still and their tyres cold. Jenny held the keys, the Camaro in her right hand, the Mustang in her left. She wasn't quite sure how it had come to this, some building, some bragging, some drinking and more bragging. Now they were out here scowling at each other as she held all that money. They discussed how it would be, nodded and shook hands.

She now stood 50 yards back from the cars and the start line. The boys stood by their cars. When she dropped the keys they'd run towards her, pick up the keys, run back to the vehicles and then race to that white junction stop line more than a full racing mile away. The guys leaned back on the rear bumpers of the cars, Jenny held both sets of keys up in the air. She held them for what seemed the longest ten seconds and then dropped them both into the dust. The drivers sprinted over and skidded at her feet grabbing for the precious keys. Donny missed them first time, there was a scramble. Chico was ahead as they turned and raced towards their machines.

Jenny watched as Chico then Donny opened up the doors and screwed themselves into their racing seats, but no belts, no nonsense. The Camero roared into life, a split second later the Mustang followed. The tyres were spinning, struggling for traction as they shot forward. Jenny narrowed her eyes to see through the exhaust fume storm, the cars skidding and moving away, launched like unguided missiles into the blue. For Jenny there was a sudden sense of being sucked into a vacuum, a swirling vortex of uncontrolled panic and excitement as the cars passed from, ten or fifteen seconds were gone in ten or fifteen seconds. Her mouth felt dry, scraped clean with anxiety and anticipation. She thought she'd best now follow on and congratulate the winner and hand over the cash. She picked up the precious purse, sat back in her car and started the Nissan's engine following on into the second hand dust trail.

The dust trail petered out and became suddenly smoky. Jenny prickled at the sight that met her. There was just all new fiery darkness and confusion. Like a lightening bolt. A jarring, unwelcome canvas of bright destruction. Jenny's jaw dropped at the scene of devastation that met her. The Mustang and the Camaro had transformed into balls of red fire, both embedded in the side of a semi-trailer that must have arrived at the junction when they did; the wrong place at the wrong time. She spun the wheel and swerved around this unfolding tragedy, slowing and stopping for a few seconds to stare. She rolled the window down and felt the strange heat of cooking vehicles and the buried drivers. Black smoke was rising and the broken metal seemed to be groaning in some eerie sub-human way. She opened the door and threw up, the shock and panic and futility stung her. She inched her car away, biting on her lip, swallowing, crying and staring more, now straight ahead, straight ahead down some other road away from here. She looked at the steering wheel centre and the time was lost on her. She tightened up and stopped the trembles, swore at the shakes, dipped the rear view mirror and drove on, away from this place. There was a final explosion, backwards and somewhere over her shoulder, she shrugged and accelerated. That sound did nothing for her. Money did it all.

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