Monday, July 18, 2005

Friday Night Races

The roar of engines fills the warm night. Exhaust fumes mix with cigarette smoke, blending together with the smell of alcohol and sweet scent of marijuana. The senses are on fire. It is one of those nights that you feel completely, with every part of your body.

The energy. The power. The ground almost feels like it is shaking beneath the testosterone and muscle cars that surround us.

It is a feeling of being more alive than ever before. A feeling described Thoreau, sucking the marrow of life and living deliberately. A feeling rarely felt in suburban America.

Four of us have come to this 7-11 in Utica. Four of us have come to test our cars on Mound road between 21 Mile and 19 Mile. It is a two mile stretch of wide roads. Every Friday night, drivers bring out their baby’s, cars they have lovingly tinkered with and modified. There is one goal on a night like tonight. To be the fastest car.

It is the last Friday night in August in the summer before we turn 18. The last Friday night before we go to Israel to study and develop into young Orthodox adults who will one day lead the community. The irony is not lost on us.

It is not the first Friday night we four have found ourselves at this 7-11 in Utica. For three years we have talked about and dreamed about and dared one another for this moment. For two years we have worked on our cars, learning about engines and wing tips and all the things you need to know to help a Ford Taurus hit 130 MPH on a straightaway.

We have grown up in Detroit our entire lives. Tinkering with cars is in our blood. It is part of our American heritage. The part that has difficulty reconciling an American life with an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.

In the past we have come to this spot to talk with other drivers, learning secrets to draw the most speed out of our cars. We have all lied to our parents and teachers about our whereabouts, too many times to count, and tonight, of course, is no exception. There is gambling going on tonight, as there is every Friday night. The road is almost deserted, and the cops have been looking the other way on Friday night on Mound Road for decades.

Moshe and I are told to get ready. We will be racing in three races. We get in oru cars, and get in the race line. There is one set of racers in the parking lot ahead of us. One set of racers at the starting line. And one set of racers immediately behind the two cars at the starting line.

Each race lasts about 90 seconds, and once the cars at the end of the raceway are out of the way, the next race begins. After each race starts, the pairs of cars move forward one spot. As we move up to the parking lot exit, Chaim and David pull up behind us. They will be racing after us.

We have spent two years working on our cars, getting ready for this day. Two years of bragging and trash talking and learning everything we could about pushing a car to the limit. But now it is time for the trash talking to stop. Now is the time to prove automotive superiority.

Just me and my 1986 Ford Taurus. Against Moshe and his 1983 Toyota Camry.

I always wondered what it was like to wait in the car, gunning the engine, getting ready to race. I dreamt about the rush, but dreams don’t hold a candle to reality. There is no word to describe the thrill and adrenaline, as we pull our cars out onto the street, and then, 90 seconds later, pull up to the starting line.

The rules are simple. When the green flag is waved, you go. Whoever crosses 19 Mile road first wins. There are no turns. Bumping is frowned upon, but not against the rules. To the winner is glory and bragging rights.

It is our turn. Moshe and I pull up to the starting line. Shabbat is the farthest thing from our minds. Leaving for Israel and saying goodbye to friends and family don’t cross our minds. We are focused on one thing; the man with the green flag.

My heart is racing faster than I have ever felt it. It is a singular experience, this rush, never matched in the classroom or on a ball field. The engines our revving, and I know both Moshe I and are in Neutral.

The flags come down, and we shift into first. Five seconds later I shift into second, and moents later, I am in third, neck and neck with Moshe as we hit 40 MPH. I shift into fourth, and as I pass 65 MPH, I shift one last time into fifth. My shifts have gone smoothly, but so have Moshe’s and he has a slight lead as we fly through the intersection at 20 Mile road at 120 MPH. I push and plead with my Taurus, and as the gas pedal hits the floor, the speedometer is hitting 135. Faster than I have ever driven this car, but not faster than Moshe. He is pulling away, Japanese technology has beaten American ingenuity.

Moshe has earned bragging rights forever. We both pull to a stop, delirious with exhilaration and covered in sweat. We know the rules, and we pull our cars into the 7-11 parking lot located at 18 mile and Mound.

We want to get back to 19 Mile to catch see who wins in our friend’s race, but we know we will never get back to the finish line on time, so we sit in the parking lot and smoke cigarettes and give each other play by play of what was going on in our car.

We look up, and we can see Chaim and David’s headlights speeding down mound. We know what they are going through, and wonder who is winning the race. We are laughing and watching and catching our breath, but it isn’t until we hear a loud explosion that we realize something is wrong. The car on the left, Chaim’s car, has burst into flames just before the finish line.

The flames are intense by the time we get to his car. No one can get near his car, and no one has come out of the car yet. David’s car has stopped and swung back around, and he has a look of horror on his face. We all do. Siren’s start to fill the night air, and there are decisions to make. Stay or go. Face police questions and be found out by our parents and community. Or make a run for it and feign ignorance for the rest of our lives.

It is Friday night, and we are supposed to be somewhere else. Sleeping. Not in Utica, smoking and racing in jeans and t-shirts and baseball caps.

There are only seconds before our indecision will turn into a decision. Our friend is dying, or already dead. In a few hours his parents will get a call they will not understand, and will not believe, and will not find out until Saturday night that their son who they raised to be Shomer Shabbat was racing cars on a Friday night.

There is no reason to bring that anguish to our family, we decide. We don’t know if we are making the best decision of our lives or the worst, but we run for our cars and drive off into the night. Back to the Shabbaton we were claiming to be attending. Into our beds. Just like we planned. Except now, when the sun rose in the morning, there would be a made bed. And this would never be the night we had hoped for, but always remain the night we could never forget.

The police report, we were told, showed that there was a break in the fuel line, and the high speeds caused something to spark, which ignited the gasoline, and caused the car to blow up. No one ever connected us to that night, not to our face, but I’m sure there were some who had suspicions.

There were times when we tried to talk about that night. We wondered if this was God sending us a message. Or just a freak accident with a spark and leaky fuel line.

I guess we’ll never know for sure.

The preceding was a work of fiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


July 18, 2005 11:50 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

in the mood to write some fiction today

July 18, 2005 11:57 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

Besides, the real life stuff didn't go veor too well on Friday.

July 18, 2005 11:58 AM  
Blogger Gebrec said...

are all the characters fiction too????

July 18, 2005 11:59 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

yeah. the whole thing is fiction.

July 18, 2005 12:08 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I was sitting in my car this morning driving pretty fast on 275 and thinking I remember when we used to race on 696 when it was first built and there wasn't much traffic on a saturday night.

July 18, 2005 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Keglavithcher Rav said...

Welcome Back

July 18, 2005 12:30 PM  
Blogger swiftthinker said...

A good title perhaps:
I know What You Did Last Friday

July 18, 2005 12:32 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

The prOceding IS a work of fiction

July 18, 2005 1:57 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

Amshi - And take away all the fun from the story

July 18, 2005 1:59 PM  
Blogger swiftthinker said...


so dizzy from you're website.

July 18, 2005 2:06 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

swiffty if your computer had speakers, my website would make you deaf as well as dizzy

July 18, 2005 2:37 PM  
Blogger Arkis said...

Wow. I stumbled upon this. Really wondeful writing...

July 18, 2005 2:53 PM  
Blogger swiftthinker said...

it did amshi

July 18, 2005 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe you should spend some more time writing fiction...

It is so believable that one can even question if it is really fiction.

We are left wondering what did the family tell others in their community about their son's death? Did they tell the truth? I can see another story being developed...

Maybe in your new life beginning next year in a new country, you can write a book of short stories.

Just a thought.

July 18, 2005 3:51 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

This is fantastic. But you have to put some girls in it. No?

July 18, 2005 6:38 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I don't think every story needs girls. I think girls can be replaced by cars sometimes.

July 18, 2005 9:05 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

Anon and Arkis- Thanks for your kind words

July 18, 2005 9:06 PM  
Blogger Mirty said...

Wow. Intense story. It felt very real. Seems like the start of something... let's see some more of this story, these characters.

July 18, 2005 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no amshi.

prEceding means what went before.

prOceding, word not often used, means what follows.

nice post, at.
i like how you use the "fiction" figleaf.

July 19, 2005 12:20 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I think what Amshi meant was he would have liked to know it was fiction before he started.

And it is pure fiction.

July 19, 2005 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, those were the days...C

July 19, 2005 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like your mini trucks related blog site. I have a mini trucks related web site at mini trucks. If you're into mini trucks. You will want to check it out.

January 28, 2006 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » »

January 31, 2007 6:28 PM  
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March 01, 2007 5:14 AM  

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