California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2015 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
First Place Winner
by Dennis Glen Wilson
Marvin caressed the wheels with loving hands. Cool and smooth, they would be fast rolling down a hill. His glance shifted to the body of the racer sitting in the back of the old detached garage. The car was in pieces, the frame and body detached. The steering wheel leaned against a cobwebbed wall. The tires stood upright. He ran his hands over them again, fingers trembling slightly in anticipation.
This was going to be the year. He knew it. Dad had promised they would build the car this year. They would put it together with good screws and solid brackets so it would be rigid and fast. His father would grease the axles and inside the wheels to reduce friction and make his the fastest car on the track. They would paint the car bright red with the number 16, his birth date, on the hood.
Marvin could see it clear as day, his dad and he arriving at the Soapbox Derby with his red racer in the back of his father’s truck. They would roll it down two long boards to the street. People would gather in a circle to admire his car. There would be oohs and aahs, but he would be cool, detached. He’d pretend being a race-car driver, a hero, was old stuff. He savored the admiration.
It had been two years since Dad had promised to build the car, but he’d been busy and Marvin didn’t want to keep asking about the racer, didn’t want to irritate his dad. But this was the magical year. Soon his father would come into the garage, pat Marvin on the shoulder and say, “Well, son, let’s get started on this beast. Grab my tool box from the bench and bring it over here. We’ll start by mounting the body onto the frame. Know what we’ll do after that, Marvin?”
“No, Dad. What will we do then?” He worshipped his dad.
“Why, we’ll mount the wheels on the beast, that’s what.” His father laughed.
Marvin was thrilled. His car was under way. He’d be ready for the big race, the Soapbox Derby, the thrill of his life. He could already see the cars being pushed to the starting line, his dad’s head close to his whispering last-second advice. Marvin would be wearing his helmet and goggles and an old pair of Mom’s leather gloves. He would nod his understanding. The warning bell would ring and then it would be just the racers, he in number 16, all cars lined up waiting for the starter’s gun.
Marvin leaned forward sharply to get his car moving, but it accelerated ever so slowly. He threw his upper body forward and back to encourage the car’s momentum until finally he could feel the wind building in his face, exhilaration in his heart. In moments he was moving faster than he could ever have imagined. The downhill street was a blur over the red hood of his racer.
He pulled ahead of the three other cars by a wheel’s length . . . the crowd cheering. And then he was leading by half a car length. The crowd was screaming in excitement. He could feel his grin stretch so wide it hurt his cheeks. Before he could savor the race, he crossed the finish line. A man was waving the checkered flag, waving it at him.
He had won!
Marvin threw up his arms in victory and shouted his joy.
There was a touch on his arm. “Marvin, are you okay?”
“Um . . . yes, nurse, I’m okay . . . just fine, thank you.”
“When you threw your arms into the air and shouted, I was frightened. I thought you might be having a heart attack.”
“I’m sorry I frightened you. I was reliving a project from youth, one my dad and I never finished.”
“Well, come along. Today is the 16th, your birthday. It’s time to go to the cafeteria where your guests are gathered. Would you like me to push you?”
“No thank you.” Marvin turned from the window and leaned forward to give his chair some momentum before placing his hands on the wheels, so smooth and cool.