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Authors: Fleur Beale

Tags: #Engineering & Transportation, #Automotive, #Racing, #Sports & Outdoors, #Miscellaneous, #Motor Sports, #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure

Dirt Bomb (3 page)

BOOK: Dirt Bomb
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BUZZ FIRED UP his computer.

‘Trade Me,’ said Robbie. ‘Should find what we need on there.’

‘Yeah, but we’ll try this first.’ Buzz typed in a web address. ‘Much cheaper.’

We looked over his shoulder.

‘What is it? A wrecking yard?’

He nodded. ‘You take your own tools, get the parts you want and pay on the way out.’

The prices were way lower than anything I’d looked at on other sites. ‘It’s a long way to bike,’ Robbie said. Yeah, and a long time for me to babysit him to keep him from getting killed. We’d have to do it, though, because Buzz didn’t have his full licence and there was no way either of his olds would lend him a vehicle and let him carry passengers, even though he was a bloody good driver.

‘Best we phone them first to see what they’ve got,’ I said.

Buzz shook his head. ‘Canny feckers don’t put their phone number anywhere. We’ve just got to suck it up and do the hard yards.’ He looked at us, eyebrows raised. ‘We could send an email. Wait for a reply.’

‘Too slow,’ I said, and Buzz nodded.

‘But what if we get there and there’s no Commodore parts?’ Robbie asked.

Buzz said, ‘We bike home again.’

Thirty-five kilometres there and the same back again, with me yelling at Robbie god knows how many times. ‘Try and keep your mind on the job,’ I told him.

He ignored that and asked Buzz, ‘Will your dad loan us the tools?’

Good thinking. We headed out to the workshop to ask. I was looking forward to seeing Frank’s face when he saw that I was in on the deal.

I wasn’t disappointed. Frank let his eyes travel from Buzz to Robbie and settle on me. ‘You’ve got the cash then?
All
of you?’

‘Yes,’ Buzz said, grinning.

‘Yep,’ Robbie said, grinning.

‘Yeah,’ I said, deadpan.

Frank started grinning too. ‘Well well, who’d have thought it? Congratulations. All of you. Where are you headed?’

Buzz said, ‘Tauranga. You know that wrecking yard we went to a month or so back?’

Frank tipped his hat back and rubbed his head. ‘A long way to ride,’ he said, though he didn’t offer to take us. He went to the workbench. ‘You’ll need a
socket set. A couple of screwdrivers — flat-head and Phillips, just in case. And you should probably take a six-inch crescent.’ He thought for a second. ‘Chuck in an eight-inch as well.’

The gear was heavy. We divided it up, shoving it in backpacks.

‘Thanks, Dad.’

‘Yes, thanks Frank,’ Robbie said.

‘Yeah. Ta,’ I said.

‘A pleasure,’ Frank said. ‘Have fun.’

‘What’s he so happy about?’ I asked as we rode down the drive.

‘What do you think?’ Buzz called back over his shoulder.

What I thought was that Frank was getting a kick out of seeing me put some effort into something. Let him mock, I didn’t care. I had the last laugh, because I knew where my cash had come from. I knew there wasn’t going to be any more, but by the time it was gone I’d be well and truly part of Operation Paddock Basher.

It took us nearly three hours to get there. Robbie was okay for the first hour. The second hour he headed straight for the ditch. I figured a short, sharp lesson could be good for him, so I didn’t yell. But damn it, the rough shoulder must’ve woken him up and he swerved back onto the road. He kept his mind where it needed to be for the next few kilometres. But I knew it couldn’t last. ‘Robbie!’ He wobbled back to safety. I seriously thought about the string idea for the next hour. Could have done with it more than twice.

‘Want to swap places for the ride back?’ Buzz
asked when we stopped to check directions at the edge of town.

I shook my head. ‘Nah. Thanks. I’m used to it.’

Buzz aimed a foot in Robbie’s direction. ‘Just don’t total the paddock basher first time you drive it.’

‘Or the second,’ I said.

Robbie looked hurt. ‘Course I won’t. I’m just hungry. Never can concentrate when I need a feed.’

‘We could use some of our cash. Get a burger. Chips,’ Buzz suggested.

Uh huh, so it was like that, was it? No more shouting us out of his own money. Not to worry. Mostly we’d be working at his house and his mum didn’t mind us raiding the fridge.

‘Good idea,’ I said.

A hamburger each, plus a couple of scoops of chips to share, set us up for the business at the wrecking yard.

We went in, paid our dollar entry fee. Got the bags inspected. ‘Holdens are over there,’ the guy said. ‘Commodores down the far end.’

It was like walking through a tidy disaster movie. Rows of wrecks propped up on stands made from wheels lying flat on the ground. Piles of twisted metal in heaps along the fences.

There were no starter motors in the first four cars we checked. The second one had a seatbelt, though. It was easy to disassemble it, just a matter of undoing the bolt at the top of the pillar, then the one on the floor, although we had to give the panel a tweak to get at it. We rolled it up and put in one of the backpacks. Yes! We were on our way.

The last car in the row still had a starter motor. We disconnected the battery and got the wires out of the way. No sweat. There were only two bolts holding the motor, but one of them wanted to stay right where it was, the fecker.

Buzz pulled his head out of the engine bay. ‘Bloody thing isn’t going to move.’

So Robbie had a go. I had a go. The bolt stayed stuck.

We stood around, staring at it and getting nowhere fast.

Robbie had the next brainwave. ‘We need some of that stuff you spray on things.’

‘Weedkiller?’ I asked.

But Buzz looked at him with respect. ‘Spray lube. Good idea.’

It would have been a better idea if he’d thought of it before we left home.

‘We could buy some. From that garage we passed,’ Robbie said.

‘Bags not,’ I said.

Robbie stuck his thumb on his forehead. ‘Not me.’

‘Paper scissors rock,’ Buzz said.

I lost.

Buzz fished out a twenty. I rode back to the garage. Wanted to buy chocolate, ice cream, pies, as well as the spray lube, but got out of there fast before I could lose any Brownie points. But when I handed over the can of lube, plus the change and receipt, Buzz didn’t even bother to check them. I could have bought a chocolate bar and he’d never have known. Damn.

Buzz sprayed the bolt. We gave it a minute or two to work, then Robbie tried again. ‘Yay! It’s moving!’

A few more seconds and he straightened up, bringing the starter motor with him. ‘One seatbelt and one starter motor,’ he said. ‘We’re smokin’.’

‘No distributor though,’ I reminded him. ‘No smoke without that.’

‘We’ll get one.’ He strode off to the office, with Buzz and me wandering along behind him.

‘He’s keen,’ I said.

Buzz said, ‘It’s going to be a blast. Three of us. Bloody fantastic.’ He shot up an arm, so I shoved mine up too. High-five. He was grinning. I was grinning. All of us together, same as always.

We got to the office in time to hear the guy saying, ‘You’ll be lucky to find a points distributor for a Commodore these days. Hasn’t been one in here for a good while now.’

‘We’ll find one,’ Robbie said.

Yeah. We bloody would, and soon.

The guy added up the cost: $22 for the belt, $49 for the motor. Excellent. Seventy-one bucks all up and, even after the food we’d had, there was still change out of the first hundred. Sweet.

‘I could do with a feed,’ Buzz said.

‘Back to the takeaway?’ Robbie said.

‘It’s closest,’ I said. Our backpacks weighed a ton now.

We fed our faces. We could have eaten the same amount again without any problem, but none of us suggested it. Robbie came up with a different suggestion. ‘Hey Buzz, how about we drop all this
gear at your mum’s work? Ask her to bring it home for us.’

I scanned that through my brain. It was a bad idea because it meant we couldn’t start working the minute we got back to the car. But the good side was that we wouldn’t have to carry the gear all the way home.

Buzz was keen. ‘Might as well. I’ll have to go to work pretty much as soon as we get back anyway.’

The herd of five hundred again. Rather him than me.

We got back on the bikes to ride into town to the vet’s where Buzz’s mum worked in the office. We left Robbie in charge of the bikes because he liked sitting in the sun; I went with Buzz into the reception area because I liked checking out the animals.

Even from outside we could hear a dog going mental in there. While Buzz went up to talk to his mum, I squatted down beside the dog. A border collie bitch. ‘Hey girl, what’s up?’

‘Her name’s Freda,’ the collie’s owner said. ‘She gets freaked out at the vet.’

I kept my opinion of
Freda
as a name to myself and kept chatting to her till she stopped the barking. She let me rub her ears and give her back a scratch. Andy, the oldest of the four vets, came out to collect her. ‘You’ve got the touch, Jake.’

Yeah. Animals were easy. People, not.

Jan Tring told us to put the gear in her car, a tidy little Toyota, then we rode home, glad to have the weight off our backs. I had to yell at Robbie five
times. Buzz left us at his turn-off. Seven kilometres of hills ahead of him. Just as well Frank let him use the ute to get to work.

I delivered Robbie to his house. ‘You’d better walk to your fancy job, you useless bugger,’ I said. ‘See you in the morning.’

‘I don’t work on weekends,’ he said. ‘See ya.’

GRAMPS HAD INVADED the kitchen. There wasn’t a pot left in the cupboard.

‘Smells good,’ I said. ‘What’s cooking?’

He swatted my hand away from a pot lid. ‘It won’t be ready for a couple of hours, so keep your mitts out of it.’

But my mitts were already swooping on a tray of warm biscuits. Coconut with jam in the middle.

Gramps said, ‘You’ve cheered up.’

I grabbed a biscuit with one hand and picked up Speck with the other, grunted at Gramps and headed for the computer. ‘Our mission, Speck, is to track down a points distributor.’

That was okay with her. She wasn’t much help, though. No luck on any of the sites I tried. I fired off an email to all the wreckers I could find and started a thread on Trade Me asking if anybody had one.
Te Puke/Tauranga area if poss,
I wrote.

Mum came home. ‘Jake, do you want to clean up
the kitchen now, or do the dishes after dinner?’

She was fond of offering choices. Both of them always sucked. I opted for clearing up before dinner on the grounds that I could snack while I did it. I ambled back to the kitchen, Speck following me. She sat exactly halfway between me and Mum, and stared at the fridge. I fed her.

Gramps had created more mess while I’d been busy. ‘Ever heard of cleaning up as you go?’ I asked.

‘Ever heard of working for your keep?’ Gramps asked, which I translated as
I’ve got a slave to do the dirty work.
He was a good cook though. Better than Mum. We had chicken in gravy with stuff in it, and

exploding meringues for pudding. ‘Not bad,’ I said.

‘Delicious,’ said Mum. ‘Thanks, Dad.’

‘Glad you liked it,’ he said, looking at her but not at me. ‘I like to do my bit.’ This time, he looked in my direction.

I got up, left the table. Watched boring telly. Such a long time till morning.

I was up early again. Another fake heart attack from Gramps. Mum said, ‘Where are you off to, Jake?’ It was her
I want to know and you’d better tell me voice.

So I told her. She looked happy I was doing something positive for a change. Gramps said, ‘It’ll cost you.’

‘It’s sweet,’ I said, heading for the door.

But Mum pounced. ‘Jake! Where did you get the money?’

‘We pulled the car out of a ditch, Mum,’ I said.

Gramps said, ‘Runs on duckweed, does it?’

I did the huge sigh. ‘Okay, if you must know, we’ve all put in a hundred bucks.’

Mum stared at me for long seconds. ‘And you got your hundred — how?’

‘Dad,’ I said.

Mum’s jaw dropped to the floor, then she laughed like that was the funniest joke she’d heard for a year. Which it was.

Gramps said, ‘You’ll go through that quick enough.’

‘So? I’ll ask him for more,’ I said, and got out of there.

I collected Robbie. He rode a straight line for once in his life.

‘Hey man, what brought that on?’ We’d turned into Buzz’s driveway, so I figured it was safe enough to distract him with a question.

He slowed, waiting for me to catch up. ‘Sometimes you’ve just gotta get with the programme, bro.’

Wow. ‘So why now?’ Why not when he’d begun riding on the road, for starters?

‘Work. I don’t want to get clobbered before I even get there.’ He looked a bit sheepish. ‘I just thought it was time to …’

Grow up.

The words he didn’t say hovered in the air.

Buzz was watching for us. He came tearing out of the house, followed by Bella, both of them screeching. ‘No!’ Buzz yelled.

‘I wanna help. I can help. I can put screws in engines.’ She was all wound up and going at high revs.

I parked my bike against a tree, glad I didn’t have a sibling.

Robbie said, ‘Sure, you can help, Bella.’ He put his bike down and headed for the car.

‘No she can’t,’ Buzz said, chucking a filthy look at Robbie.

Robbie picked up the starter motor from where Buzz had stashed it under the tree. ‘Here, Bella. Hold this, will you.’

He handed it to her so that she had to grab hold of the end we’d sprayed with lube.

‘Yuck! That’s greasy!’ She pushed it back at him.

Buzz snapped his mouth shut and cheered up a notch.

‘Oh sorry,’ said Robbie. ‘Have a look in the engine for me, will you?’ Buzz and I leapt to help him get the bonnet open. ‘Down there. That’s where we have to bolt the starter motor. Can you get your hand right down? Good. There should be some holes down there. Can you count them for us?’ Bella fished around for about a minute. ‘Two! There’s two.’ She straightened up, a grin on her face — until she saw her hands, then the front of her tee-shirt.

‘Cars are boring!’ And off she stomped.

We didn’t laugh till she was safely out of earshot.

‘Genius, mate,’ said Buzz.

No probs getting the motor in. The seatbelt fitted like it was made for the car. ‘Well, it was,’ Buzz said.

‘And all we need now is one distributor,’ said Robbie.

‘Let’s check the computer,’ I said. ‘I fired off some emails last night. Started a Trade Me thread too.’

‘Brains,’ said Robbie.

‘Initiative,’ said Buzz.

Yes, well, a guy had time for thinking if he didn’t have to slave over a stinking job. Which I did not point out.

We fired up the computer. There wasn’t one reply to the emails. ‘Rude buggers,’ I said.

We checked the thread. Four replies. Three of them were versions of
You’ll be lucky.
But the last one said:
I know a guy that will have one if he can find it in his tip aka shed. He not on Trade Me but anyone in Katikati will no him. Name of Boscombe.

‘Gold!’ Buzz said and wrote,
Thanx heaps.

We looked Boscombe up in the white pages. Not there. But we found the number for a Katikati service station, rang them and put the phone on speaker. The guy laughed. ‘Old Tad Boscombe? Weird old coot. Doesn’t have a phone. Write him a letter or go out there.’

Buzz scribbled down the directions. ‘What’s his email?’ he asked.

He didn’t have one.

‘Snail mail?’ Buzz asked. ‘We’d have to contact him by snail mail?’

Yes. Or go out there. Buzz said thanks and hung up.

‘We can’t think on an empty gut,’ Robbie said. ‘Let’s get a feed.’

We made cheese on toast. Bella came sniffing around to see what we were up to. In the interests of scoring Brownie points, I made her some. And I cleaned up the kitchen. Jan looked up from doing a crossword, did a quick scan of the bench, smiled and went back to 17 down. She didn’t look like she
wanted to drive to visit a weird old guy in Katikati.

‘You need to get your full,’ I said to Buzz. Sure, Robbie and I could do with getting our learners’, but I wished Buzz’s parents weren’t so picky about letting him drive us places.

‘Dad’ll take us,’ Buzz said. ‘We’ll ask nicely.’

Frank didn’t even need persuading, but the catch was we had to have Bella along for the ride.

‘Get your own friends,’ Buzz said.

Bella said, ‘I’ve got more friends than you. They’re just on holiday.’

Robbie and I sat in the back of Frank’s Mazda with Bella between us. She talked a lot. I began to see why she bugged poor old Buzz so much.

FRANK STOPPED THE car at Boscombe’s gate, or where a gate would have been if there had been one. From there we could see a stack of car bodies about fifty metres away.

Robbie shook his head. ‘Not a decent burial for any of them. Poor old cars.’

Bella opened her mouth. I’d heard enough of her voice for the year, so I got in first. ‘If his shed’s like that, he’ll never find the distributor. If he’s even got one.’

‘Well,’ said Frank, ‘I guess we go and find out.’

We drove up to the shed, parked outside and got out. An old guy came out to meet us, his hand resting on the head of a massive rottweiler. I hoped the dog
was better disciplined than the shed, because that was stuffed to the rafters. On a high shelf nearest the door I could see an axle sticking out, something with wires jammed in beside it, a couple of hubcaps, a wing mirror and a steering wheel. Boscombe might have a system for storing it all, but the gear had drowned it out long ago.

Buzz told him what we were after. The rotty stopped giving us the evils and lay down, his big head on his paws.

The old guy didn’t say a word, just stared off into space, or maybe into a secret filing system in his head. He stood like that, looking like he’d been struck by an alien’s paralysing gun, then he just turned round and shuffled into the shed.

We glanced at each other. Follow him or stay put? Robbie took a step towards the shed. The rotty lifted his head. I swear that every hair on that dog’s body was alert and ready to jump. Robbie stepped back. The rotty relaxed.

‘Well trained,’ said Buzz.

Could have been a fluke, but we didn’t feel like testing it.

After a year or three, old Boscombe wove his way back through the mess and held out something that could have been a distributor. I hoped Buzz knew if it was. Robbie and I looked at him, but maybe he didn’t know either because he waved Frank over.

Frank got out of the Mazda and told Bella to stay put. He held out a hand. ‘Frank Tring.’

Boscombe ignored the hand. Frank gave a bit of a
smile and took a look at the distributor. ‘It’s in good nick for what it is.’ He nodded to the three of us and went back to wait in the car with Bella.

Buzz cleared his throat. ‘How much is it?’

‘A hundred.’

Our eyes bulged. It had to be a try-on. Wreckers had electronic ones for under thirty.

‘Twenty-five,’ I said.

He got a glint in his eye. ‘Seventy-five.’

‘Thirty,’ I said.

He ran a finger over the distributor. ‘Sixty-five.’

‘Thirty-two fifty.’

A corner of his mouth twitched. ‘Fifty-five
twenty-five
.’

‘A nice even thirty-five.’

He pretended to think. Yeah right. If he didn’t have the exact sum he wanted in his ancient noddle, then I was an ace racing driver. ‘Fifty.’

I stopped to think too, but I was really making the brain work, not like him, the old thief. I figured he could want $40 since he was creeping the bids down now. My next offer was critical — couldn’t be too high. ‘Thirty-six eighty.’

He yawned. ‘Forty.’

‘Done,’ I said before he could change his mind or fall asleep.

Buzz held the dollars out with one hand and took the distributor with the other. ‘Thanks.’

Old Boscombe turned away without wasting another word on us and eased himself back into the jungle, the rotty following him. Nice dog. I wondered
if the old skinflint ever talked to it.

Frank was laughing when we climbed back in the car. ‘Funny as a film,’ he said. He looked at me in the rear-view mirror. ‘Good bargaining, Jake.’

‘Yeah,’ said Robbie. ‘I thought he meant it.’

Buzz said, ‘I was ready to pay him the hundred.’

I didn’t tell them that years of trying to get money out of my father had made me an expert bargainer.

Bella said, ‘Forty dollars for that old thing. What a rip-off.’

It was more than we’d expected it to be, but we had it now. And I’d saved us sixty bucks. Well done, Jake.

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