Just off work on a mild spring night, a friend picked me up as I was walking home from the truck stop. He was driving his recently purchased 1969 Hurst/Olds. I was bored and longing to be shut of high school for good in a few more weeks. Without hesitation I jumped in and he punched it, demonstrating the Hurst shifter as we roared north out of town. A few miles on we spotted someone waving a flashlight in the middle of the road. "Put your seatbelt on," my friend advised. I pawed around in the dark trying to find the belts. "Never mind," he said. "We won't need 'em...I hope." Unaware what that might mean, I just giggled nervously. My friend grinned impishly. Whatever he had in mind, it was going to be risky and thrilling.
Coming to a stop near a small group of people, I saw faces I knew and some I didn't. They all looked wild-eyed in the dark as they milled around beside the blacktop road. Two cars were revving up side-by-side in the road, one in each lane with a pretty girl I knew by name but had never gotten to know much standing on the centerline facing the two cars with her long, slender arms up, palms out. Then she dropped her arms and the racers rocketed away, leaving nothing but burnt rubber and smoke. "We're going to drag race?" I yelped a little too squeakily. My friend nodded and his impish expression darkened. He pointed ahead. Further up the road we watched someone else slash darkness with a single downstroke of a flashlight as the winner crossed the finish line. Still speaking squeakily I pleaded for him to turn on the overhead lights as my frantic fingers searched for the seat belt. He just laughed.
My friend burned rubber in place for what seemed like minutes but was actually mere seconds then eased up to the starting line in spastic lurches as did a car beside us. I cannot recall its make or model. The pretty girl helped us even up to the line. "Here we go!" my friend whispered ominously. The pretty girl raised her arms with flare and a big smile, held them up briefly then dropped them just as I had begun admiring curves of her upper torso.
We both had a good start off the line but the other car quickly pulled out ahead with more ease than either of us expected and we lost the race. My friend cursed. I clutched at seat upholstery and the armrest until we rolled to a stop, piled out of the car and began talking about the race with people at the end of the quarter-mile strip of blacktop highway. I'm glad to have taken the risk for the raw, pulsing sensations from thrill of the race and the after-thrill sensations of living through it. I got to talk some with another pretty girl I knew a little and adored a lot.
It was definitely worth it.