GO KARTS

Everybody lined the street in awe at the roar of the new go-kart's motor. Its owner, Damon, the rich kid on the block, called it the Speed Demon and rode it up and down the street like a bat out of hell. Now that I think about it, however, it wasn't all that fancy and the name was as pretentious as it was cheesy. It was little more than a pushcart with a noisy wind-up motor and some kind of brake. But to the lower middle class ten-year-old, it was the coolest thing since the ice cream sandwich. It seemed as if my friends and I lost our place on the top of the street's hierarchy. Back then, we found such things to be important and the good ol' Hoelting boys, little Matt Micklich and I came up with a plan over some grilled cheese sandwiches. If everybody thought some rich brat's new wheels were all that, then we lower class ought to make something that would leave Speed Demon looking like an electric wheelchair. There were sixteen dollars and forty- three cents between us, and we figured that it would be more than enough to get us going.

One trip to the hardware store and a week later, we had secretly constructed a wonderful machine that we dubbed "Herbie 2" after the VW Beetle in that old Disney movie. She was built of wood scraps from the lumber pile, equipped with mismatched bicycle wheels, a cotton-stuffed seat, a PVC pipe that was ingeniously employed as a break mechanism and a huge lunch pail duck taped to the back that was to carry our lunches wherever we might go. We spray-painted her white, with two crude racing stripes and the number fifty-three scrawled on the front. In the morning, we were going to show the world that we still ruled.

"Do you really think this will work?" was little Matt's question as we pulled our creation out of the garage. He had always looked half his age, so he was naturally chosen to try the more dangerous stunts first. We assured him that there was no way this could possibly botch up, and Michael hauled it to the end of the driveway and waited for the opportune moment. Sure enough, at nine o' clock sharp, Damon came zooming down the street in his go-kart. Matt had his football helmet strapped on and we were ready to send him down the hill right after our archrival and prove to the kids at the bottom once and for all that we're the champs. The push-off was timed perfectly to give us enough window to scramble onto our bikes and race just behind him. It had already gone further than most of our other plans, and we were confident in our goal until we heard Matt scream something that made us jump. "How do you control this thing?" "What do you mean?" I shouted back. "There's no wheel!" I shot a quick, very meaningful glance at the Hoeltings that said, "You nimrods forgot to make a steering wheel!" After a week of blood, sweat and tears, we realized that we hadn't added any form of steering device. I suppose we hadn't ever thought about having to steer, as we were more intent on just making it cool. We didn't have time to discuss this; Matt was halfway down the hill and was using rattling off every swear he knew at the realization that the brake didn't work. We watched helplessly as little Matt was barreling towards Damon.faster, faster and faster.I began pedaling my bike like a devil was chasing me. Matt was easily breaking the twenty- five mile-per-hour speed limit twice over, but everything seemed to slow down the last couple seconds of the fateful ride. Herbie 2 plowed into the back of Speed Demon and went right on through, finally spinning out and crashing into a storm drain with a loud crunch. "Holy crap!" somebody said, but nobody dared move yet. Speed Demon was totaled. The whole backside was dislodged and broken, the engine in pieces and leaking oil. Matt staggered from the accident with a bent helmet, skinned knees and a bloody nose. Damon's jaw went back into place and all at once his face twisted in terrible rage. "Get them!" We were able to salvage our lunch pail and run like heck.

Damon's minions were on our tails at once while Damon himself ran behind at a safe distance shouting encouraging things like "Kill them! Kill them all!" while trying to hold back his tears. What can I say? We made a stand when we reached the creek, but we were outnumbered two to one and they eventually overpowered us. Damon came to us when he was sure that we couldn't fight back and chewed us up. We eventually reached an agreement that the four of us would apologize really nicely by paying for all damages and keep our parents and/or older siblings out of it.

If you walk away with one thing, let it be this: If you're gonna build a go- kart, make sure it has a steering wheel.

-Jake Blanchard, August the 21st, MMIII year of our LORD (age 15)