Blown Up Funny Car
Some of us could do some stupid things back then—like Johnny Borshock when TJ Billing’s funny car blew up.
It was a surprise that I was at the races at all that day. My father, after cursing at big block engines, doofing up opportunities at the starting tree, and blowing his ears out with unmuffled engines, did well in drag racing, surviving five single elimination rounds at Fontana. He was paired off with old Dennis Benjamin that morning.
I already had long memories of racing venues at Sonoma, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tucson. My dad would set up the camper with the awning, barbecue, and the cooler with sodas and beer. We spent days and nights in the vast culture of pale gray pavement, hard music, sun, cigarettes, racing fuel fumes, and loud engines—so loud you didn’t need ears to hear them. Even after going to the races for years, I could still jump from the shockwave blast of a rev.
I knew the other kids, of course. Some were mean and dumb, but most were okay. We would go off on our own. The grownups would look up and wave from their card tables, bottles of beer and portable fire pits.
That afternoon we were far off in the stands, scouring tossed-out cigarette packs for coupons. We heard a jolting bang on the track. Our necks jerked around, and we saw TJ’s car slowing down, the front in flames, the right side missing. We got jolted again with a crash in the stands about 20 yards from where we were. No one was there, which was a good thing because a shard of metal about the size of my forearm was bouncing across the bleachers, the crunching clack of heavy iron against aluminum. Johnny jumped up like a rabbit and went after it even before it came to rest. We all yelled at him “don’t!—don’t touch it!”
But Johnny had to be a showoff. He grabbed that metal hunk, and hoisted it like a top fuel trophy. Then dropped it as his face contorted into a wilting grimace. He started screaming and holding up his hand, fingers marked with angry pink splotches. The guys laughed, and then ran off to get a closer look at TJ’s car. I approached Johnny, crumpled on a bleacher, cradling his damaged hand.
“I bet you think that I’m an idiot and a pussy, don’t you?” His voice stammered out in uncontrolled spasms.
I thought of saying “Yeah,” and then laughing. I thought about saying that I did not care what the other guys thought and that I was not going to ditch him. I thought about telling him he should have listened to us.
Instead I said, “Come on Johnny, let’s go find your parents.”
Mike Neis lives in Orange County with his family, and works as a technical writer for a commercial laboratory. His fiction has appeared in Stonecrop Review. Besides writing, his outside activities include church music, walking for health, and teaching English as a second language.
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