The next day after school, I dragged a pallet out of the garage and dropped it behind the four-wheeler. We decided Sunday afternoon to build a raceway around the bike track and because it was at my house, I was in charge of building it. After I attached the pallet onto the four-wheeler, I drove around the bike track to even out the ground. Then I shuffled dirt into my mom’s wheelbarrow and filled in all the pot holes. If we were going to get the best time, we needed an even surface.
That day I asked around school to find out who was entering the race—to see what our competition was. Math-wizard Mark planned to enter, but I wasn’t too worried about him. He knew his way around a math problem, but I doubted he knew his way around a track. The rest of the entries went to middle school. I didn’t know anyone from middle school. But I wasn’t worried. Middle school boys might have been older, but they still had to follow the same rules. My overall concern was: did their go-cart have a larger motor than mine?
“Hi, Stephan!” My next-door neighbor walked up to the wheelbarrow. “What are you doing? Where’s your bike?”
“I’m not riding my bike today. I’ll be busy the next couple of weeks.” I dumped the remaining dirt onto the track and drove the wheelbarrow to the side.
“My friends and I are entering in a go-cart race. It’s in three weeks, so I have a lot of work to do.” I walked to the maple tree and picked up the rake that leaned against the trunk.
“Can I help?” Johnny’s chocolate colored eyes grew wide.
“Well Johnny, if you help then you’d be part of the racing group, and if you’re part of the group then you deserve part in the prize money. Now if it was just me racing, I’d be happy to let you in, but because there’re more people included, I’m going to have to ask them first.”
“Oh.” Johnny lowered his head and bit the inside of his cheek.
“But they should be here soon, so I’ll ask them then.”
My mom slid open the screen door and yelled at the top of her lungs. “Stephan, Johnny? Brownies are done.”
I turned my head toward the house and yelled, “Be there in a bit.” I dropped the rake to the ground and started walking toward the house. “Come on, Johnny. We’ll wait for the group inside the house.”
I tilted my phone left and right, trying to drift the corners on my racing game. My mom sat across from me on her lazy boy. She worked hard at the nursery every day, so in the evening she wanted to relax on her lazy boy and look at garden magazines. How could she work with plants all day, then come home and look at them in a magazine? If she wanted to look at plants in the evening, she might as well work at the nursery in the evening. But I wasn’t going to tell her that: I liked having her home. I guess she didn’t look at magazines every night, sometimes she helped me with my homework, or I’d help her plant flowers.
Dad’s vehicle drove onto the driveway and parked in front of the garage. The vehicle honked twice as Dad locked the car. Dad cracked opened the kitchen door and I ran into the kitchen to meet him.
“Dad! I got a new racing game and I’ve won three times in a row.” I waited beside him, until the microwave finished heating his dinner.
“That’s nice son.”
I followed Dad to the table and sat down on my knees, in the chair next to his. “Yeah I figured it would help me understand racing a bit better. Since we’re entering in the go-cart race and all, I figured it be a good idea. What do you think Dad?” I rested my elbows on the table, lifting myself up.
“Don’t sit like that Stephen. Eleven-year-old boys sit like men: your feet on the ground and your hands on your lap.” Dad said grace and ate his food.
“Okay.” I sat down the way Dad told me to. “What do you think Dad?”
“I don’t know son. Don’t you have to be twelve to enter in that race?”
“Well Jez is going to be the one racing. All they want is for the racer to be twelve, they don’t say anything about the pit crew.”
“Oh, well you have fun.” Dad nodded at me, then continued to eat his food.
I nodded, studying the food on Dad’s plate. I glanced at him, then I swung my feet to the side and stood up.
Dad didn’t like racing that much. I should have picked a different competition. One that he would like if I won. But everyone was to far into it, I couldn’t ask them to backdown now. I plumped down on the couch and picked up my video game. Either way, losing wasn’t an option.
“What’s my time?” Jez removed her helmet and placed it on her lap.
“Not good. Let me try it.” I slid the timer into my pocket and walked toward the go-cart.
“No. I’m going to be the one racing in the race, I need to be the one getting better.”
“If I want to drive, I should be able to drive my go-cart.”
“Yeah well until the race is over, I drive.” Jez shook her head and faced the rest of the boys.
I bit my teeth and clinched my fist. I inhaled and exhaled three times, until the words in my head went away. Then I turned around and faced the boys. I kept my distance from Jez: I didn’t want to speak to her, unless I had to.
“Your problem isn’t in the driving, it’s in the motor. Your cart is to slow.” Johnny slid his fingers in his pockets and studied the cart.
“Johnny, I like you being in our group, but I don’t think that’s it.” Wyatt shook his head and folded his arms.
“Wyatt, Johnny might be right.” Jez lifted her head toward Johnny. “How do we make it faster?”
“I don’t know.” Johnny drugged his shoulders. “We need a mechanic.”
“My dad!” Jez jerked her head. “He owns the mechanic shop.”
“That’s right Jez. Let’s bring it there.” Wyatt’s smile nearly reached his ears.
“But how are we going to get it there?”
Lucas and I faced each other, smiling.