Dune Buggy Debutantes (pt.2)
watched despondently as the remains of her buggy were hauled deeper into the bowels of the town dump.
“I had no idea this place was so huge,” Alexander said with awe in his voice as he sat down next to Lenore on the old cooler. He frowned at her frown and offered her some of his Big Gulp Mountain Dew. She declined. “This place must go on for miles. They're taking the buggy to the far north corner. The guy there told me they ship all the usable metal stuff to China and they make dryers and washing machines and stuff out of it.”
For some reason the thought of her beloved buggy, the one that used to belong to her unknown father, becoming some soccer mom's new Maytag brought tears to Lenore's eyes. Looking away from Alexander so that he wouldn't see her crying Lenore saw that same old man who she had passed back on the dunes just before her buggy finally gave up the ghost. Seeing her seeing him the old man quickly turned and hurried back the way he came, weaving awkwardly to avoid a rusty box spring that was probably crawling with tetanus.
“Hey! You! Hold on a second,” She yelled as she jumped up off the cooler and ran after him. The sudden shift in weight on the cooler caused Alexander to tip over sideways, dumping his Big Gulp all over the front of him in the process.
“Aw jeez!” he moaned, struggling to stand up and slipping on the sticky mixture of mud and Dew. “Just my luck!”
Lenore ran through the labyrinth of trash and detritus. Heedless of the stink of garbage but trying to avoid the dubiously colored puddles that pitted the narrow lanes as much as possible, it wasn't long before she lost all sense of direction. Several times she felt that the old man had somehow outrun her or given her the slip but every time she was just about to give up he would appear. Once she caught his reflection in a broken vanity mirror. Another time he had just turned a corner in an aisle she had just run in to. He seemed perpetually one step ahead of her.
Then she turned a corner and there he was, sitting on a stool in a small cul-de-sac in the middle of the massive town dump. Approaching slowly Lenore noticed another stool set across from him. She walked over to it and sat down, never taking her eyes of him.
He on the other hand didn't even glance in her direction. He just sat, smoking an old corn cob pipe and whittling a piece of wood with a small folding knife. He looked as if he had been sitting there all day, wiling away the hours, instead of being chased by a sixteen year old girl through a trash heap.
“That your buggy I seen being hauled off?” he asked, his voice raspy and harsh. He looked up at her, one eye seemed to squint almost to the point of being closed. Lenore realized that he had a glass eye.
“Yeah. The frame cracked. Even if I could fix it I wouldn't trust it not to snap again coming down from a jump.”
“Smart girl,” he muttered, returning his attention to his whittling. “You must be Charlie Cooper's girl.”
“How did you know?” she asked, surprised.
“I recognized that buggy today. I know every buggy that ever entered my race.”
It was then that Lenore noticed the grubby stitched on name tag that adorned his dark green work shirt. She stared at the old man in amazement.
“Your Burgess Mayfair. You owned The Mayfair Dune Buggy And Paintball Emporium. You're the one who started the Sandblaster 5000 Dune Buggy Race of Doom back in the 1960's.”
“You have been doing your homework,” he said with a half smile. “I was sad to see Charlie's machine come to an end like that. Can't say I'm surprised though.”
“Wow, you knew my dad? My mom always said he was a great racer. Did you train him?”
“Your mom said your dad was a great racer?” Burgess asked. “I hate to be the one to break it to you but your dad sucked. So did his buggy.”
Lenore stared at the old man with her mouth agape. How could he say that? Her dad had been great. She grew up knowing he was great. How could this old washed-up wreck of a man disrespect her father that way? Lenore started to get up to leave when Burgess raised his hand.
“I don't mean to disrespect his memory,” he said calmly. “Charlie was good kid. Honest. Polite. I really liked him. But he entered that race full of hate. And the buggy he built, the one you finally put down today, was built on nothing but hate.
“I remember the year he entered. He had a thing for your mom something fierce and she stood by his side the whole time. But the only thing he really cared about was beating Flash Amberson. He didn't build that buggy to win a girl or earn money for a relative’s surgery. He built it to beat Flash. And that's why he lost.”
Lenore sat back down. Did she want to win in order to save the community garage? Or did she really just want to beat Veronica VanTassal? She always thought she wanted to win the Sandblaster because she assumed that's what her dad would have wanted. But now that she knew he only raced out of some need to beat someone else, maybe her reason for competing wasn't pure enough.
What the hell did purity matter anyway? It was a goddamn dune buggy race!
“You need The Excalibur,” Burgess stated in a matter of fact manner.
“What's The Excalibur?” Lenore asked.
“July 31st 1972,” Burgess began. “Elliott Cochran enters the race. His mother needs surgery and the prize money would be enough to make sure she gets it. He responds to an ad in the Penny Savah and meets with a woman down by the old reservoir. She sells him an old frame and engine for a dollar. He fixes it up, paints it silver, christens it The Excalibur, and wins the race.”
“So did he keep winning?” Lenore asked excitedly. “If the buggy was so good did he keep racing?”
“Nope. It broke down the next year. He had to pay to have it hauled away. But then came 1976. Eli McGovern. Needed cash so that his older brother could go to school and become a doctor. Finds an old, silver painted frame and engine while out on a hike. Guess what he did?”
“Fixed it up, painted it silver, and won the race?”
Burgess simply tapped the side of his nose. “1982. 1985. Every year someone enters who really needs to win, The Excalibur shows up. I've seen her a few times myself.”
“Right here in the old dump. Once buried beneath a pile of old scrap metal. This other time it was perched right up on top of Diaper Mountain. It moves around, you see. So that the garbage men don't ship it off to China and turn it into a dishwasher.”
Lenore sat in silence. She knew what she had to do.
“If you find it,” Burgess said as he stood up and tossed the piece of wood he'd been whittling to her. “You take it to my old shop. I got tools and everything you need to fix her up.”
Burgess walked out of the cul-de-sac, leaving Lenore holding the wooden dune buggy he'd carved.
Veronica sat in the corner of her father’s office and pouted. He never understood her need to