I was really starting to get the hang of this car—starting, stopping. We cruised along with the wind in our hair at double the posted speed limit but there was no one around to notice. My anxiety began to turn to joy feeling the intoxication that driving an extremely powerful and coveted racecar can bring to a soul. Feeling bolder and more comfortable with the wheel, I reached over and squeezed Dimity’s hand and she smiled back. I no longer saw myself as a kid. I was a young man, a racecar driver.
I listened. The engine seemed to be talking, but not to me. It was apparently having a conversation with itself and clearly it was disgruntled. Only 60 miles per hour? It fussed and spat. It felt it was being treated like a child. The driver didn’t seem to trust it with higher speeds, but why? It began to doubt itself. Was its craving for speed a kind of vanity, immoderation, even profligacy? It couldn’t help the way it was made.
But no, on further consideration, the problem was the driver himself, his unpracticed hand. The D24 was like a caged lion encountering a new and unfamiliar and inexperienced trainer. And like a real lion, it was contemplating an attack, a bloody chomp to the neck that horrified spectators would later say was what one gets when one plays around with dangerous creatures.
So it was something of a mixed blessing when we zoomed past Officer MacAdoo, driver of Patrol Car Number 29, a shiny new 1955 Buick Century, parked under a tree, a comic book inches from his nose. When the staggering din of the voluminous Italian engine and the ungodly red streak of the Lancia flew by, the officer was jolted into action.
The Buick Century rocked left and right as it bustled onto the road. The siren wailed and the lights flashed. I saw him approaching in the rearview mirror and I let him advance, the Lancia still preoccupied and grousing about its ill-treatment. MacAdoo was pressing the police car forward and I could hear his inferior, straining engine giving everything it had.
And that’s when I put my accelerator to the floor.
Dimity gave a short scream of alarm (which alone made this whole adventure worth any price). My engine bellowed like a thunderclap and we were pressed into our seats. No more did the Lancia grumble or plot violence against me. It sprang to alertness, obeying the summons of destiny. It now sang its gratitude to me. Its vibrations were spasms of ecstasy. It positively glowed, enveloped in a shimmering nimbus of the heavenly host. Officer MacAdoo was a receding speck in the mirror.
But now I was nearing town and I had to get the car hidden away without anyone noticing. Driving it to my house was out of the question.
But Dimity had a big, detached garage at her house which was walking distance from mine. Her Australian parents, if they found out at all, would be infinitely more copasetic holding the car for a short time while I fetched the enchanted spoon and got it back to Uncle Ringo. Then he would make his famous concoction, distribute it, and this adventure would come to an end. I would return to school and my ordinary life.
We arrived at Dimity’s house with as little ruckus as possible. I don’t know who might have seen us. I was starting not to care. Parked in her garage, safe and sound, Dimity combing fingers through her tousled hair, and our mission half-accomplished, I finally indulged that kiss that I had been denied at the beginning of this tale.
Inside Dimity’s house, her mother was surprised to see us home from school a little earlier than usual. Dimity explained that we had administered our own education that day.
“Oh hello, dear! A bit early innit? G’day Bo, good to see you again.”
“Good—uh g’day, Mrs. St. John.”
“We chucked school today, mum. Had some other things to do. We went on a bit of a walkabout with Bo’s Uncle Ringo.”
“Crickey love, doesn’t the headmaster mind? I should think they…”
“No worries mum. The books’ll still be there tomorrow. Can we get a bite to eat?”
We had bowls of pumpkin soup and Vegemite on toast. Then I excused myself and said I needed to check in at home, but that I would be back. I walked down the forest path where we had almost met up this morning, where Ringo had picked me up on his motorcycle. I found my schoolbooks right where I had flung them (it seemed so long ago) and walked to my house. I opened the door and was shocked at the scene.
Inside my dad was seated, hunched on a kitchen chair, bruises on his face, looking as if he had been beaten up in a fistfight. Officer MacAdoo was standing with a notebook and pencil while my mom was dabbing cotton balls on my dad’s face. They scarcely noticed my arrival, and Officer MacAdoo continued,
“Go on, sir. Can you describe your attackers?”