1956 Plymouth Belvedere

Picture courtesy Chrysler Corporation and Allpar.Com

“Five-Minute Escape”

short adventure story.



TIME: June 17, 1959. PLACE: Arvin, California

Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013



“Yeah, man, like the chick digs you. I caught her looking at you. Twice.”


“Oh yeah, man,” Lyle said, shaking out a Lucky. “Just playin’ hard to get. You know chicks. They don’t dig you diggin’ them diggin’ you. She’s playin’ it cool. That’s how you wanna play it too, man…cool. Ice cool.”

“I’m always cool, dork,” Johnnie Stivano said, trying not to look excited. “She’s plenty tuff enough, I guess. I seen better. So…what’s her name?”

Lyle lit up, paused, his duck tail gleaming in the headlights, and squinted at Stivano. “Paula something or other. Yours for the takin, you win. Like I got money riding on you, Johnnie-boy. Dust him for me.  Nah, Man, dust the jerk for her. You deserve a chick like that.”

Johnnie rubbed his hands on his t-shirt. “Yeah? So what’s the punk’s name? This guy I’m racin?”

“Jeff Raeder. Some hotshot cat from up Bakersfield way. But he don’t have no hot Fury mill. He don’t have no tricked out cam. He just got himself an off the lot ‘Vette, strictly stock. Take him, Johnnie-boy. Take his pink slip and win me some skins…and get yourself one tuff babe.”

“Sure, Lyle, sure,” Johnnie said, walking away and sneaking a look at Paula. Lyle was greasy and a creep, but he was right about one thing: she was tuff. Long blonde hair; coral lips; big bright eyes, blue. Boss curves too. A real gone kitten made to purr.

Johnnie turned his attention to Raeder’s machine. A brand new blue and white’58, presumably unmodified–which was plenty. A 283 mill pumping out 270 horses in a light, 3000 pound rocket. One mean machine. And, at over a buck a pound, a rich brat’s toy.

“What you starin’ at, Belvedere? You diggin’ my ride?”

Johnnie eyed Raeder. He was slick, duded, wore an arrow shirt with a collar. Johnnie hated him instantly. “Your ride till the finish line, big mouth. Then it’s mine.”

Raeder laughed. “In your dreams, Plymouth man. That cheap heap of yours will shake apart first.”

“Just keep your pink slip handy, punk, for when I dust you. I hate waiting.”

Johnnie walked back to his car, an all red 1956 Plymouth Belvedere coupe. He’d paid a hundred skins for it when the first owner had flamed the original mill. Johnnie had scoured the junkyards for a replacement plant and had managed to snag a 303 Fury V-8; which, after mods, now pumped out around 340 horses. Not exactly a glamour ride, but tuff enough to where Johnnie now had a bit of a rep as a man to beat.

Jake Russell, the main man to beat in the Valley–the man who had been the man to beat as long as Johnnie could remember–met him at his ride.

“You ready, Stivano?” Jake asked with a chiseled smile.

“Think I can take him?”

Russell nodded at the younger man. “You got soul in your ride, Kid. Blood from your knuckles; sweat from your brow. He just got cash in his.”

Johnnie grinned. “You flaggin’ tonight?”

“Yeah. Better not embarrass me, Stivano. I’m aimin’ to take that ‘Vette off you when you finally get up the guts to challenge me. It’s a real nice ride for a kiddie car.”

Johnnie laughed and pulled the Belvedere up to the painted-on starting line. The uneven blat-blat-blat of his engine burbled up from his firewall and vibrated the floor pan. A quarter mile ahead, he could see the headlights of cars parked at the finish line. The night between seemed very black, very heavy. Beyond the asphalt, maybe a mile away, farmhouse lights shone out upon the maize fields in yellow checkers. Her hair was like that, he thought, tightening his knuckles on the steering wheel. Like light shining on a field of golden grain…

Raeders voice broke in: “Hey, Belvedere—we gonna run or not?”

“I’m the one runnin’, big-mouth. Next to me, you’re just crawlin’.”

Piling on the revs, Johnnie watched as Jake towed the line with the flag. Felt the familiar tightening of his gut as he tried to anticipate the flag drop.

C’mon, Baby,” he whispered to the Belvedere, “Run hard! Let’s take this punk!”

The revs from both cars reached a scream, a howl that shrieked through the night.

The flag dropped.

Johnnie popped the brake and hung on. The Belvedere leapt forward. Tires screeched, digging for traction. The cars lunged down the road. Johnnie was jammed back against his seat, felt his neck snap.

Go Baby! Run!

Two-hundred pounds lighter, the Vette jumped out first. Johnnie saw taillights, felt his gut suck in against his spine.

No! No, you knew this would happen! Hang on! Watch your revs, and…and—

SHIFT! Johnnie slammed the “tree” shift down into second. Tires screeched again. The car fishtailed slightly, Johnnie straightened it out, swearing. Saw the Vette vault further into the lead.

Mistake! Watch the mistakes!

Headlights bored ahead. Engines whined as the revs mounted. Johnnie watched his tach, anticipating the next shift. He was gaining, but slow—

I’ll need all my road–What’s he doing? The punk’s coming into my lane! Trying to cut me off!

The Vette was nudging into Johnnie’s lane. He could see Raeder by dashlight, grinning. Johnnie managed to get even with the Vette’s rear fender, forcing Raeder back into his own lane. Both cars were winding past redline, both engines screaming, howling, protesting–

Shift Raeder! Chicken out, you punk! You know you want to! Shift, damn you! Shift before I blow my engine!

Raeder shifted. Johnnie powered ahead and slapped his shifter into third. Raeder leapt even. The headlights at the finish line blinded. Johnnie held on and prayed.

C’mon Baby! Run! Don’t let me down!

Johnnie took Raeder by a fender’s length.

Johnnie swung the car around and burbled back to the headlights. Raeder trailed behind looking deflated. Stepping out, Johnnie searched the crowd for Paula, saw her, hair like gold shining in his beams.

He sought her out, trying to contain his excitement. She watched him, her face without expression. Be cool, just like Lyle said. Be ice-freakin’ cool…

He brushed back his hair, felt it slick back into place. Smiled. “I won it for you, Babe,” he said, trying to sound cool, like Brando or Dean. “Won’t you please tell me your name?”

She stared at him for a moment, expressionless. “Drop dead, creep!” she spat, turning to walk away.

“Oh,” she said, in a sing-song voice over her shoulder, “And the name’s Raeder. Paula Raeder. I’m Jeff Raeder’s sister, and I don’t date no cut-rate Plymouth punk!”

Behind, in the crowd, Johnnie heard Lyle laughing.

Making fists, Johnnie turned, gathering his strength for another catch-up race.

Lyle was a creep, but he sure knew how to run.




READ ANOTHER ONE LIKE THIS: http://www.gizelbook.com/five-minute-escape-short-short-story-the-stampede/

For more information about the history of street racing, please click the following fascinating links:

For a general overview, try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_racing

Note: this site does not endorse illeagal street racing, which is dangerous not only to participants, but also to innocent bystanders…besides the fact that it’s against the law. Go to a track! Keep your car looking cool! And best of all, stay alive!

ABOUT THIS BLOG… Each “Five-Minute Escape short adventure story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!” “Five-Minute Escape short adventure story copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013

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