Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
Vin glanced over at Chris -- well, what he could see of Chris,
anyway, his legs and occasionally a hand that would reach out from underneath
the car Buck had been test-driving.
Buck had explained to them that the car was a classic -- a muscle car, just like the one he'd had in high school. Vin wasn't sure what a muscle car was, but Buck sure seemed excited about it. At least he was until it started making that coughy, sputtery noise like Speed Buggy makes when he gets real tired.
Chris had called it a junky, old beater, among other things for which he owed many dollars to the swear jar. He'd also called it a lemon, but with all the different colors it was painted, Vin thought it looked more like an Easter egg.
At the moment, Buck was stooped over Chris' legs, handing him a tool and apologizing -- not paying enough attention to JD. He'd told Vin to keep an eye on him, but he must have forgotten that JD didn't listen so good to Vin these days.
While their dads were busy, JD had come up with an idea to get cars to stop and help them. Vin had been none too sure about the plan. In fact, he'd told him not to do it, but JD hadn't listened. He'd said he and his momma had done it before and it worked for them. Since Vin hadn't seen any other cars on the road anyway, he figured if he just kept an eye on JD, like Buck had said to do, everything would be okay. But now, there was a car coming and JD was waving and grinning, and Vin was starting to get nervous.
To Vin's dismay, Buck didn't even look up at him, just patted him on the leg and said, "Just a second, Junior. "
Vin knelt in the gravel, hoping he could get Chris to listen. Chris hardly ever told Vin to wait when he had something important to say. Vin tugged on Chris' pant leg. "Chris?"
"Be done in a second, pard,” Chris called out, then to Vin’s relief he added, “Buck, see what he needs?"
Before Buck had the chance to ask anything they heard the gravel crunch as the other car pulled up alongside theirs.
~ * ~
Buck stood up, elated to find two gorgeous women in a glossy red convertible, smiling at them. When he noticed JD bouncing around and waving his thumb in the air, his elation vanished, instantly to be replaced by some inexplicable, overpowering instinct. The wrench he'd been holding slipped from his hand and in two long strides he had a hold of JD’s arm.
"John Daniel Dunne, what do you think you’re doing? You know better than to stand in the road!" he shouted angrily, pulling the boy back and pointing a finger at the two women in the car. "And you . . . you ought to know better, too! You never stop for hitchhikers! Not even little bitty ones! For all you know, this coulda been a--" His admonishment was cut short by the squeal of their tires and he was left standing there at the side of the road, with his mouth hanging open, as the red convertible sped down the empty highway.
He heard a familiar chuckle and turned to find Chris standing up now, wiping his hands on an old rag. "Nice going, stud," he said, shaking his head ruefully. "You know, they might have had a cell phone."
Buck barely heard a word. His mind was busy replaying the scene that had just taken place. What on Earth had he done? What was wrong with him? What kind of a man would chase off a couple of beautiful babes in a convertible? That was a situation he had often dreamed of happening to him!What had come over him?
"Guess you told them," Chris grinned, nudging him with an elbow, "Dad. "
The future flashed before his eyes, but instead of seeing himself being picked up by beautiful women in convertibles, or being stranded on a tropical island, surrounded by naked, willing women, he saw the women in the convertibles driving right on by, not even noticing that he was stranded at a McDonald's Playland, surrounded by sweaty, ketchup-faced kids.
He shook his head in bewilderment, wondering when he had become this different person and why he hadn't noticed the change. Then he glanced at JD, who was looking up at him with dark, soulful eyes, his chubby little thumb now tucked into his mouth. "I sowwy, Da," he said around the thumb and Buck's heart melted.
"Don't you ever do that again, Son. "
JD's head bobbed. "I won't, I pwomise. "
Then his eyes went to Vin, who had climbed up onto the front bumper and appeared to be studying the engine, an intense look on his little face.
"Ya reckon that thing there mighta came loose?"Vin asked the two men as he leaned precariously forward across the engine, reaching out for something.
"Whoa there, Junior. "Buck took a step closer, but Chris beat him there, grabbing the boy before he could fall forward.
With a grin, Chris adjusted whatever it was that Vin had pointed to then he looked up and said, "Try it now, Buck. "
Buck gave him a nod and climbed into the driver's seat. Sure enough, the beast fired right up, its big ol' engine roaring to life. Buck hooted with glee, then grinned as both of their boys grimaced, immediately clapping their hands over their ears. They obviously had no appreciation for souped-up cars, although next time they had a breakdown, Buck planned to let Vin loose on the engine a lot sooner.
Chris just rolled his eyes and rubbed his forehead, leaving a greasy smudge behind. Buck pushed the passenger seat forward so the boys could climb in the back and watched as they buckled the seatbelts that had initially taken half an hour to dig out from between the seats. When everyone was situated, Buck shifted into gear and peeled out, leaving a set of black skid marks on the highway.
The boys giggled, begging him to do it again and then begging him to go faster. For the briefest of moments he actually considered indulging their pleas. And then he realized, with only a little melancholy, that he was no longer the youth he'd once been. Because, there was no way he would ever take even the slightest of risks with his precious passengers. "I'm going as fast as the speed limit allows," he told them firmly, when in fact he was going five miles under. Then he looked over to see that Chris was grinning at him.
"Aw, Da-a-ad," Chris said in a plaintive voice, casting a mischievous glance to the boys in the backseat.
"Aw, Da-a-ad!" they echoed on cue, bursting into peals of laughter when Chris winked at them.
It suddenly struck him, how much that word meant to him. Somewhere along the road, his life had taken an unexpected turn and the things he'd once thought were important didn't seem to matter much anymore. In fact, he couldn't think of anything in the world as sweet as the sound of that word, unless maybe it was the sound of the laughter coming from the backseat.