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I'm rerunning this because it's one of my favorite stories. . . . sorry to those who have already read it.
The Smell of Asphalt on a Summer Night
By Car (Carolyn Reynolds)
She stood outside her car and sniffed the air. They were near a place that was a favorite of hers anyway, and the magic of this night was capturing her all over again. The stars were twinkling brightly in the moonlit night, the soft velvet sky smiling down at her as she waited her turn.
She heard the slapping of the waves against the tug and its barges anchored for the night just yards from where she stood. She glanced that direction and could see the tips of the cigarettes as the crew gathered on the deck of the tug checking out what was going on around them. Her nostrils picked up the smells of the river flowing by with the combined tobacco smells of the crew gathering.
"That a girl I see there?" came a voice floating her way.
"Hey, man, thatís a girl or a heck of a figure on some guy. . . ."
She smiled to herself, amused at their speculation. She was the only girl at this gathering, but felt no fear at all. Nothing bad could happen on such a magical night, the kind dreams are made of.
"Hey, Car, you ready?" the deep full voice asked her.
"Oh yeah, ready to go," was her reply.
"For luck," he said as he untied the red bandana from her hair. She shook it free around her shoulders and he unexpectedly leaned forward and gave her a full kiss on the lips.
"Whoo Hoo," came the whistles and cat calls from the deck. She didnít mind even a little. In fact, she turned toward the sound and waved to the men on board.
A voice from the field alongside the road spoke loudly, "Letís get the first two on the line. You ready, Tom?"
Voices on the other side of the road answered they were. Car heard the sound of an engine roaring and saw the 318 Dodge edge onto the line next to her 327 Chevelle. That turquoise Dodge was a familiar sight to her, the air shocks had been raised, and she saw the racing slicks on the back, the ones he always carried with him in his trunk for occasions like this one. She looked inside the driverís window before she climbed onboard her own car, but he didnít look back. He was angry at her, and she knew it was because the couple dates they had hadnít panned out the way he wanted them to. Oh well, that was just the way it was.
Tom continued to rev his engine as she got into the driverís seat of her Chevelle and turned on the engine. She shut off the interior lights after turning on the headlights. She shifted the four on the floor by the sounds of the gears, not by any numbers on her tack. It took a certain knack, and she knew she had that. She shifted to neutral with her foot on the brake, then revved the mighty engine till the sound was music to her ears. Looking ahead she could see two figures standing to the sides of the white line painted 1/8 mile ahead of them on this perfectly straight stretch of road. Each held a flashlight and a kerchief high in the air. From the side of the road she heard the crack of a starter pistol and saw the kerchiefs drop to signal the start of the race.
Shifting to low, Car pushed down hard on the gas petal and let her ears guide her that short stretch of road. To a hail of squeals from the Dodge beside her she smoothly shifted her way to an easy win across the finish line. With heart pumping with excitement, she pulled herself through her open driverís window and into the waiting arms of Rick with her kerchief in hand.
"Way to go, Car, I knew you could shut him down!" They glanced at the Dodge making its way on down the road ahead of them. The tires continued to squeal as he beat his retreat into the night, beaten and a little cowered by being beaten by a girl, and not just any girl at that.
She liked the cheers of those watching the races as she turned her white car around and made her way back to the line again. She knew it would not be as easy next run, but was still confident in her own ability and the power of her car.
Next to the line next to her rolled a customized 350 Chevy she had seen cruising the streets before. She recognized the man at the wheel as someone who always honked and waved at her when he saw her out and about. He saluted her with a wide grin and she saluted him back with a warm smile. Both drivers revved their engines in anticipation of a good run ahead of them.
They didnít wait long till the sound of the starter pistol again crackled through the night and the kerchiefs once again dropped before them. Using all the ability she possessed, Car ran a heck of a good 1/8 mile never missing the opportune time to shift through the four gears on the floor beside her. She roared across that white line again, barely ahead of the other, but just enough to win the second heat.
That really brought on the cheers from the waiting drivers, and she could also hear the cat calls from the crew on the tug. She liked all the attention she was getting, liked it very much. As she opened her door and stepped outside the other driver greeted her with open arms and a very warm hug. While in his embrace he whispered, "Anytime you want to go one on one, just let me know, okay?"
She giggled and coyly told him okay though she knew her interest was just there waiting his turn for a hug and a kiss.
Rick caught her in his arms, bent her over and kissed her good style to the hoots and hollers of the crowd on the sidelines and on the tug.
Suddenly there was a flash of light up the road a ways, then another one at the one mile lookout point. "Hit the fields with your cars and fast!"
The sounds of engines starting and pulling off into the dark empty fields soon became silent as the trooperís car made its way along the now empty roadway to its dead end at the barges and tug.
"You fellows see any signs of a drag race out here tonight?"
"Nah, not seen nobody down this road all evenin,í" was the answer.
The cruiser made its way slowly back up the road shining its search light into the fields on both sides. All cars were hidden on the outside edges of the fields parked among the trees there.
"You ready to head home?" Rick asked her as they stood outside his 442 Olds.
"Not really, too keyed up," she replied.
"You up for a walk along the river in the moonlight with me? You are such a popular gal this evening, bet you could take your pick of partners. . ."
"I pick you," was her whispered reply as she held him close to her.
They made their way through the field to the little park at the end of the dead end. She noticed only one cigarette glowing onboard the tug as they made their way down to the bank of the river. The smells of that night were almost overwhelming to her, filling her with such memories made and still in the making. . . . That pungent smell of rubber burning on the asphalt, the fishy though not unpleasant smell of the river, the cigarettes smoked openly and freely with smoke mixing into the summer night air, the combined essence, one that was so unmistakenly magic, so totally unforgettable to that young girl on this one magic summer evening.
"Do you suppose they knew? How could they not smell the tires?"
"Oh they knew alright. . . . just chose not to hassle us tonight. Bet that bunch at the dam called us in when they saw us pass earlier this evening. They like to keep all the racing in their little space, but itís too dangerous there for us. Too many chances of hitting somebody not racing head-on. Weíre all better here where the road dead ends and we can be safe."
They slipped off their shoes and left them on the bottom step at the waterís edge. She noticed the cigarette still burning, smoke leisurely drifting upward into the summer night.
They kicked the sand under their feet as they walked on up the shoreline, his arm around her waist holding her close to his side.
Through the night air came, "Hey now, donít yíall do nothing I wouldnít do." And the cigarette butt hit the water with a sizzle.
Car drank in the summer smells all around her, savoring them to be remembered years later, when walks on the beach were no longer for her and nobody held her close to their side. Such memories to cherish a lifetime.
Reach Car to comment: firstname.lastname@example.org