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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 (8 page)

BOOK: Dirt Bomb
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BUZZ RANG ABOUT seven o’clock. ‘Where the hell is Robbie? His mother just says he’s out.’

Deadpan, I asked, ‘Did you try his mobile?’

Buzz said, ‘Don’t be a dick.’

So I delivered the next line. ‘He’ll be with his girlfriend. Her name’s Jayna, she’s a Pom, and he chatted her up on the beach.’

‘What? Jeez! I can’t leave you two alone for a minute!’ He was laughing. ‘He’s got himself a girlfriend? How many times has he forgotten her name?’

I told him about the phone and how he’d almost run into the sea with it. ‘He’s one big ball of love.’

‘Is he gunna come to the paddock tomorrow?’ Buzz asked. ‘I vote we still go. Love’s not a good enough excuse to stay away.’

That was a load off my mind. ‘He’ll be there, but he reckons he’s leaving early. To hang out with her.’

‘Jeez,’ Buzz said, ‘he’s got it bad.’

‘Tell me about it! Actually — don’t.’ I’d had enough
of Robbie and his girl. ‘How was Auckland?’

‘It was okay. All right actually.’ He sounded upbeat, but before I could ask if he’d hitched up with a girl at the wedding, he said, ‘How’s the job scene?’

‘Nothing doing,’ I said, and my mind was spinning in overdrive. This was it. This was crunch time. To hell with it. Something else would come up. ‘Same old load of nothing.’

‘Tough,’ he said. He didn’t mention the C word.

Gramps did though. He came racing into my room about ten minutes after I hung up from Buzz. ‘Have you talked to Buzz?’ he demanded. ‘When do you start?’

I gave it to him straight from both barrels. ‘Gramps, I’ll do it, but I’m gunna do it my own way. In my own time too. So give it a rest, will you.’

He didn’t say,
You disappoint me, Jake,
but I can recognise a disappointed look when I see one. Stuff it. It was my life.

In the morning he was up and cooking early. Kidneys and bacon, because he knew I couldn’t stand kidneys. He made sure I didn’t get any bacon either, because he chopped it up into little bits and mixed it in with the kidneys. He chomped through it, a big grin on his face. Even Speck the traitor dealt to a couple of kidneys. Mum ate hers and went, ‘Yum! This is so good.’ But she smiled at me like she wasn’t disappointed in me. I loaded my plate with weet-bix and sneaked a look at Gramps. Maybe he hadn’t told her. I ate and left before anyone could tell me to clean up the kitchen.

At last Robbie turned up. I kept half an eye on
him as we rode, suspecting he’d be dreamier than ever now that his head was in love-land, and every so often I’d picture him leaping about in the car, trying to get away from the jet of stinky red water. For the first time it occurred to me that the trick would only be good once.

I formulated a plan. Robbie would be the one for the chop. He deserved it anyway, the loved-up puppy.

We met up with Buzz and belted on up to the car paddock. ‘Who’s first?’ Buzz asked.

‘Paper scissors rock,’ Robbie said.

I shook my head. ‘You start, bro. I need to talk to Buzz about milking.’

They looked stunned, but Robbie didn’t argue. He hot-footed it up the paddock to jump in the car.

Buzz stared at me. ‘You’re really going to do milking?’

I shrugged. ‘I might have to. Not yet though. I just wanted to make Robbie go first.’

Buzz’s eyes sharpened. ‘Why? There’s a reason for this?’

I grinned. ‘Keep watching. All will be revealed.’

We watched Robbie slide into the car. I held my breath — would it still work? What if …? We heard the engine start.

‘Yaooow! Shit!’ He got the engine switched off faster than he’d ever moved in his life. We could see him sitting there shaking his head, his arms going like egg-beaters as he bashed at his face to get the water out of his eyes. Excellent. I held my breath — would he give it another go? I so hoped he would.

Buzz was looking thoughtful. ‘You wouldn’t know how come the window washer seems to be working all of a sudden?’

‘Haven’t a clue,’ I said, managing to keep most of the laughter buttoned up inside.

Yes! Robbie started the car again. This time he was smart enough to shove his hand over the nozzle, but the pressure must have cleared the passenger washer which just happened to be angled right at his mouth. His howls floated down to us on the summer breeze.

‘He’s leaping around in there like something’s biting him,’ Buzz said.

‘Nah, he’s trying to get out,’ I said, giving up on trying to hold back the laughter. Old Robbie was hanging onto the edge of the roof, trying to pull himself out of range of the jets of water.

Buzz shaded his eyes, squinting at the circus in front of us. ‘It could have been a good move to turn the engine off, I’d have thought.’

It hurt I was laughing so much. Robbie’s legs were flailing all over the inside of the car, then he just fell in a heap on the ground. That car was going to stink.

‘Impressive swearing,’ Buzz said. He was laughing and frowning at the same time. ‘So what did you do?’

‘Give it a go,’ I said. ‘Nothing like finding out for yourself.’

Buzz watched Robbie striding back down the paddock. ‘Not me. I’m all for learning from the mistakes of others.’

I gave him a quick run-down on the finer points of booby-trapping the window washers, so he was
laughing his guts out just as Robbie steamed up. Our happy faces didn’t impress him.

‘Retard!’ he yelled at me. ‘You nearly bloody drowned me.’

I said, ‘Just a little wash, bro. No way would it drown you.’ Funny how that didn’t calm him down.

Buzz said, ‘Man, you stink! Your face is a bit red too.’

That didn’t do much to soothe Robbie either. ‘Fix it,’ he yelled.

‘Okay. Keep your hair on.’ I jogged up the paddock, the others following closely behind. I got them to help me lift the bonnet, then I showed them the wire.‘All you have to do is disconnect this. Easy.’

Robbie was cooling down, because he barked out a laugh. ‘Bro, I don’t mind the bubbles. I don’t even mind the red colour — but did you have to make it stink?’

Buzz let out a bellow of laughter. ‘Let’s hope your girl likes the scent of peppermint.’

Robbie looked worried and bent down to scrub his hands on the grass. All that did was mix odour of grass to reek of peppermint.

Buzz was still laughing. ‘Robbie, old man — can’t believe you did that to yourself twice.’

Robbie scrubbed away a red stinky bubble that was dribbling down his face. ‘Now you mention it, I can’t either.’ He was laughing too, but he leaned over and delivered a hard punch at my arm. ‘I still say you’re a bastard.’

We swivelled back as we heard the engine start, just in time to see Buzz wave out the window as he took off.

Robbie yelled, ‘Bastard! You stole my turn.’

I thought he took it all pretty well, though I caught him giving me occasional thoughtful stares when neither of us was driving. Even if he was plotting revenge, I decided it had been worth it.

FOR THE REST of the week, things were back to how they’d been before Robbie hooked up with Jayna, except that he always took off early enough to hang out with her. That was fine with me and Buzz.

Midweek we had to fill the car with gas. We used up the petrol in Frank’s can, but there wasn’t enough to fill the tank. I could feel cows crowding in on me. Moo and poo.

On Friday, just before Robbie left to hold Jayna’s hand, he said, ‘Nearly forgot. Jayna says to come to hers tonight. She’s having some friends over. The olds she’s staying with are away till late.’ He jumped on his bike and took off.

Buzz yelled after him, ‘What’s the address, you dumb bastard?’

He stopped. ‘Good point. 30 Anson Street. About seven.’

‘Will you go?’ I asked Buzz before I fired up the motor.

‘Yep,’ Buzz said. ‘She’s a girl. She’ll have girlfriends. Beach babes.’

I was keen too. It didn’t cost anything to hang out at the beach and stare into a girl’s eyes.

But for now we had thirty minutes of prime
driving time before Buzz had to take off as well. He worked on his slalom time. He was going to beat me or bust. I should have kept practising too, but I was in a 360 sort of mood. After Buzz had done a run of 37.4, he fully expected me to hammer the slalom. But I drove up to the top of the paddock, revved the engine, took off, and then halfway down I punched the gas and pulled hard on the steering wheel. The car juddered and stalled. Buzz’s bellow of laughter floated in through the window. I was no closer to nailing it by the time we left.

Buzz broke the 37-second slalom record. He thumped my shoulder. ‘You’re toast, my friend.’

‘Enjoy it while you can,’ I said, because tomorrow I’d be back on the slalom and I’d keep at it until I got my time down below his.

As we left the paddock, Buzz said, ‘I guess we’d better not wire the car up again?’

I shook my head. ‘Can’t see old Robbie going first again tomorrow.’

‘Good thinking,’ Buzz said. ‘See ya tonight.’

‘Yeah. See ya.’

I rode down Anson Street on my way home. Well, it wasn’t really on my way home — it was closer to Robbie’s place than mine. Lucky bastard, he’d got himself a girl who practically lived next door.

There was no sign of life at number 30 except for a scrappy little terrier who was happy to have a chat and a back scratch.

SPECK WAS STRETCHED out in the sun on the deck when I got home. Lazy animal didn’t even get up to say hello. Gramps was out. There was no food in the place. I had multiple slices of toast and wondered if cat food would make a decent spread. Decided not to find out.

The time slowly crept towards seven, helped out by Gramps arriving back with a boot full of groceries. When Mum got home we sat out on the deck and ate pizza. They had a couple of ales each, but I wasn’t yet big enough or responsible enough to have one, apparently. I didn’t hang around to watch them. I headed for the shower. Beach babes could be worth washing my hair for.

Seven o’clock rolled around. I waited till five past — no point in getting there too soon and looking like a try-hard. Even then I didn’t escape without the third degree from Mum and Gramps. ‘Hanging out with the boys,’ I called over my shoulder as I took off down the drive.

A woman was watering the garden at 30 Anson Street, and the scrappy terrier was yapping at the spray. I thought Robbie had said the olds were disappearing. I wheeled the bike onto the footpath.

‘Excuse me, but is Jayna here?’

The woman looked up and turned the hose off. ‘Sorry — who are you looking for?’

‘Jayna,’ I repeated. ‘The English ch … um, girl.’

The woman shook her head. ‘There’s nobody here of that name. You must have the wrong address.’ I stared at her, but she’d gone back to the watering. I walked away, wheeling the bike. Robbie definitely said 30 Anson Street.

So this was payback for the drenching with peppermint and soap suds. I bet all the money I’d like to have that he’d sent Buzz a text with the right address. Right now they’d be having a party without me, and laughing their heads off. Bastards. Giving me the wrong address wasn’t the same as getting a wetting. This was mean.

I took myself off into town because I was too depressed to go straight home. I felt sick. I’d never have believed Robbie would do something like that. And Buzz had to be going along with it.

Of course there was nothing to do in town by myself, so eventually I rode home.

Mum had left a note on my bed.
Some girl rang for you. She said they are all at 30 Anson Street.

I chucked the note in the bin and went to find Mum. ‘You sure that was the address?’ I asked.

She smiled at me (the
my-son-has-got-a-girlfriend
smile). ‘Yes darling. She’s got an adorable accent. What’s she like?’

‘Dunno. But Robbie likes her.’

Her face fell down to the floor, but I was too pissed off to worry. Buzz was in on it. Jayna was in on it. I took the phone to my room and tried to ring Buzz’s mobile. It was switched off. So was Robbie’s, or else he’d lost it. I left messages. Useless.

I lay on my bed, wishing I could just go to sleep and forget about my crap life. By half-past midnight I figured it was never going to happen. Then the phone rang, scaring the shit out of me. I snatched it up. ‘What?’

A girl’s voice shouted at me, full of panic. ‘Buzz is going to drive home and he’s drunk.’ She was crying now and I could hear Buzz and Robbie talking rubbish in the background.

I was tempted to hang up, but instead I said, ‘Where the hell do you live, because it sure ain’t Anson Street?’

‘Anson,’ she yelled. Then she said it again like that made a difference.

‘Spell it.’ It was all I could think of to say.

‘A-N-S-I-G-N.’ She was really crying now.

The street name still made no sense. ‘A for apple?’ I asked.

‘No!’ It was a howl of pure panic. ‘A for elephant. Hurry! I can’t stop them for much longer.’

‘I’ll be there.’ I dropped the phone, grabbed a jacket and ran for my bike. A for elephant. Bloody English accent. The party was in Ensign Street, just two away from mine.

I powered down the road, not worrying about no light on the bike. I got to Ensign Street, swerved into it and immediately saw lights about halfway down, coming in my direction. The road was straight but that car sure wasn’t driving straight. Bloody hell! It had to be Buzz.

I didn’t have a clue what to do, but I leapt off the bike and rushed into the middle of the road, leaping up and down and doing windmills with my arms. Thank god the ute screeched to a stop, and there was Robbie hanging out the passenger window.

‘It’s Jake. Buzz, look, it’s Jake. He found us.’ He was speaking very clearly and very slowly.

I didn’t hang about for a chat. I ran around to Buzz’s door and yanked it open. ‘Move over.’ I gave him a shove.

He shoved back. ‘Piss off.’ Only it came out as pish off.

Then Jayna was there, bawling her eyes out and shouting. Buzz went to turn the key, but I knocked his hand away and grabbed it out of the ignition.

‘You stupid dick!’ I shouted. ‘Move over. You are not driving.’

He blinked at me a couple of times. ‘Got to get home. Got to get the ute back.’

‘I’ll drive the bloody thing,’ I said, ‘now move it.’

That seemed to get through to him, and he moved across the seat, but then he leaned over till he was lying down so he could tell Jayna what a top girl she was. ‘Knows how to throw a top party.’

Robbie kept nodding and saying over and over, ‘Top girl. Top girl.’

I levered Buzz more or less upright, got in the ute,
then asked Jayna, ‘Can you take my bike back to yours?’

She scrubbed at her eyes. ‘Yes. And thanks, Jake. I didn’t know what to do.’

Not filling them up with alcohol would have been a good place to start. But, to be fair, I knew damn well that if I’d found the right address I wouldn’t have said no to a drink either.

I started the ute, slipped it into gear and we were off. My first thought was to drive them back to mine and make them spend the rest of the night on the floor. My next thought went something like
Yeah, I should do that, but I’m not going to.
Because there wouldn’t be another chance any time soon to drive a proper vehicle on the open road.

Buzz started to sing, so Robbie joined in. It was bad. I shut my ears and concentrated on the driving. I flicked down through the gears to take each corner, took it smoothly up to speed again. When we got out of town, I opened the throttle and we were flying along the highway. I kept an eye on the speedo, though. It would be best not to give a cop an excuse to stop me.

We were nearly at Buzz’s corner. Man, I so needed my licence. This was the life, out on the open road. It could even be okay milking a few cows if I got to drive there and back. I’d make sure I took jobs a long way away. Gramps might lend me his car if it was too far to bike.

I swung smoothly around the last corner before Buzz’s road.

The cops had set up a checkpoint just before the turn-off.

There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I slowed, bracing myself for a bollocking. Only the fact that I was dead-cold sober would count in my favour.

‘We’re not home,’ Robbie said. ‘Why you shtopping, Jake?’

Buzz said, ‘Those are cops, mate. Don’t stop, man. Keep driving.’ He grabbed for the wheel.

I gave him a hell of an elbow jab and managed to stop before he got any more cute ideas. This was going to be an arse whichever way you looked at it.

I wound down the window when the cop came over. ‘Name and address, please sir.’ He held the breath-testing gizmo up, and I hoped it wouldn’t measure the fumes from my passengers.

Buzz leaned over. ‘Mind your own buzh-ness.’

I gave him another shove, and told the cop my name and address.

‘Designated driver, eh?’ he said, all friendly once he’d got the reading.

‘Something like that,’ I said.

‘We’re drunk,’ Robbie announced. ‘Jake’s not drunk.’

The cop gave a bit of a grin. ‘Can I see your licence, please.’

I let go of my breath with a whoosh. ‘Haven’t got one.’

He was still friendly. ‘You’ve left it at home?’

I thought about lying, but what was the use? They’d find out the truth with one call to the spy they kept in a back room somewhere. I shook my head. ‘No. I haven’t got one at all.’ I stared straight ahead while my
friends hiccupped beside me. He’d lecture me now for sure.

The cop said, ‘Jake, I’m real sorry about this, but the law requires me to give you a ticket.’ He did actually sound sorry.

I didn’t say anything. What was the point?

He started writing, but when he gave me the ticket he said, ‘I have to warn you that you mustn’t drive again till you’ve got a licence.’ He tapped the door of the ute. ‘If you like, I’ll park this on the side of the road for you, and you can call somebody to collect you.’

I gaped at him. ‘You mean, I can’t even drive to park it?’

‘Sorry, mate. If you drive at all before you get your licence, then I’m afraid we’ll have to impound the vehicle.’

I just got out of the ute and let him drive it to the side of the road. I was too scared to look at how much the fine was.

He nodded to me when he got out. ‘You did well to stay sober. Get a licence as soon as you can.’

I climbed back into the ute and leaned my head on the steering wheel. How to turn a life to custard in one easy lesson. One thing was for sure — we couldn’t stay here all night.

‘Give me your phone,’ I said to Buzz.

‘Get your own,’ he said. ‘Smy phone. Not yours.’

I yelled at him, but no way was he handing over the phone. Eventually Robbie leaned across him. ‘Have my phone, Jake. Itsh a good phone. You try it out. Go on.’

I dialled the Trings’ number. Forgot to enter the area code the first time.

‘Who’s this?’ It was Frank, sounding sleepy and sounding mad.

I gave him the bad news quickly. ‘It’s Jake. We’re down at the bottom of your road. On the main road. Got stopped at a checkpoint.’

I wondered if he’d heard, because he didn’t say anything for ages, but then he said very slowly and very clearly, ‘Let me get this straight, Jake. You three are in the ute?’

‘Yes. The others have had a bit to drink, so I drove.’

‘We’ll be right there. Wait for us.’

Us? Oh yeah, Jan would have to drive the car back. We were in shit so deep it was going to take a crane to haul us out.

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