Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dune Buggy Debutantes (Complete Edition)

Dune Buggy Debutantes
Complete Edition

Part One

Lenore opened the throttle but the back tires spun uselessly, burying the back of the buggy deeper into the shifting sands of the dune.

“Damn it all!” Lenore cursed, jumping out of the driver's seat and promptly losing her footing on the loose sand. Struggling up to a standing position, she could hear Alexander huffing up the steep, gritty hill behind her.

“You...almost...had..it, Len”, he wheezed at her as he leaned against the buggy's rusty roll bar, which promptly gave out under his weight and sent  Lenore's chubby friend into the sand next to her.

“This is hopeless”, Lenore whined. “We'll never win the Sandblaster 5000 Dune Buggy Race Of Doom with this old thing.”

“You can say that again,” came a mocking voice from the top of the dune. “Where did you get that thing anyway, Rusted Out Pieces Of Crap R Us?”

Lenore looked up and groaned at what she saw. At the top of the hill, sitting in the driver's seat of a vintage VW frame buggy colored the same bright pink as her custom leather jumpsuit, was Veronica VanTassal. Perpetual Homecoming Queen, daughter of the town mayor, and worse of all, five-time winner of the Sandblaster 5000. Roaring up next to her in top of the line buggies were her two constant companions and cohorts, Regina Goebbels and Glinda Jones. Regina jumped up and sat on the top of her buggy, its roll bars colored a shade of purple that would have made Prince jealous, and pointed at Alexander as he continued to struggle in the shifting sands.

“Fatty is your mechanic?” She said mockingly. “Watch out Lenore, I heard he once poured radiator fluid into a Corvair engine block.”

“Oh my God!” Glinda gasped as she checked her hair while leaning against her lime green Meyers Manx. “Even my brother knows that's an air cooled engine and he's retarded.”

“It's hopeless, little girl,” Veronica said with a fake pout. “You're only going to embarrass yourself if you try to race me. I haven't even come close to losing. Ever. That $5,000 grand prize is as good as mine.”

“You don't even need that money!” Lenore shouted, throwing her goggles onto the ground.

“Yeah!” yelled Alexander. “Your dad already owns half the town!”

“Without that prize money we won't be able to fix up the community garage, and without that garage less fortunate kids won't be able to build and repair dune buggies of their own.”

“And if that happens then the dunes might as well belong to you and your rich bitch friends,” Alexander spat.

Veronica leaned out of her buggy and fixed them both with an imperious glare.

“Tough titty.”


Part Two

Lenore 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.”

“Where?”

“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.
Part Three


The two of them leaned against each other, exhausted but feeling good, and examined their handiwork.

It almost looked like a living thing. It sat low, just a few inches off the stained garage floor, and looked like a tiger ready to spring. Its tires were wide and so black they seemed to suck in the light around them. Its ever-so-crooked front bumper and slanted headlights gave it a sneering visage, like it was looking at the two of them and found them lacking. Its silver roll bars and frame glinted in the oily light, dazzling the eye.

“The Excalibur,” Alexander exhaled, misting Lenore in a cloud of Big League Chew and Mountain Dew. “I honestly thought we'd never get it built, but there it is.”

“I knew we'd do it,” Lenore said. “With Burgess on our side, how could we not finish it?”

“Yeah, about that,” Alexander began, getting up and picking up some of the tools that were scattered around the garage. “what is up with that guy, anyway?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean'? The guy's weird, is what I mean. He talks to himself, he smells strange, and why did he make us keep listening to that same Flock of Seagulls song over and over again?”

“He calls it 'montage-ing', Lenore sighed. “I think he's just really superstitious or something. He seems to think this buggy frame is mystical or something.”

“You know, I didn't want to say anything....”

“Yeah,” Lenore said hesitantly. “What?”

“Well,” Alexander stammered, fidgeting with a fan belt he'd picked up. “Do you remember building this buggy? I mean, like actually welding parts and dropping the engine block in and stuff?”

“Sure I do. You do too, you were there.”

“I remember the digging the frame out of a pile of diapers. I remember hauling it here on a trailer and dancing around to that damn song while holding tools. I remember ordering parts on the internet and signing for them when they got delivered. I remember you trying on different outfits at the mall in front of Burgess and I....”

“That was pretty weird, I'll give you that.”

“But I don't remember actually touching this thing.”

Alexander saw Lenore consider what he was saying and for a moment she looked at the silver buggy suspiciously. Then, as if someone behind her face was controlling the muscles, she shifted her attention to him and glared at him.

“It isn't a thing,” she hissed. “It's The Excalibur and it's going to win me the Sandblaster 5000 Dune Buggy Race Of Doom. It's going to help me beat Veronica VanTassal and if you aren't with me then you’re against me, got it?”

The venom in her eyes and voice made Alexander step back a pace, straight into a bucket of old oil. He could feel it flow over his socks and settle down into his shoe.

“Aw jeez...”

“Nice boot, egghead,” came a deep voice from the garage door. “You should get a matching pair.”

Lenore and Alexander turned toward the voice. Standing in the large doorway, the sun silhouetting his muscled frame, stood Biff Lonegan. Captain of the wrestling and football teams, shoo-in for prom king, and (worst of all, thought Alexander) the object of Lenore's affection since the third grade.

“Nice buggy,” Biff said as he strode in, shooting Alexander a quick sneer. He shifted his focus to Lenore and gave her a smile. “Did you build this yourself?”

“Yeah,” she answered dreamily. She snapped out of it a bit and stared at the floor, embarrassed. “I had some help. Alexander here and an guy I met at the dump....”

“The dump? Whatever. Look, you want to go get a coffee or something?”

“Really?” Lenore asked, clutching the tire iron she had been holding to her chest. “Right now? Sure! Let's go...wait a minute...”

Alexander let out a sigh of relief. For a moment he thought that she had forgotten that this was Veronica VanTassal's longtime boyfriend and that this was obviously a trick set up to distract her. Good thing she was smarter than that, though.”

“Never mind, let's go!” she giggled.

Alexander's mouth hung open as he saw her bound towards the door. Biff made a show of checking out her ass and then turned toward Alexander.

“Sorry you can’t come along, egghead,” Biff said with mock sympathy. He stuck his right index finger into his mouth and then jammed it hard into Alexander's ear, a line of drool connected all three for a moment like a saliva cat's cradle. “Nerds tend to scuff my Camaro's leather interior. It says so in the manual.”

He gave Alexander one last shove, which toppled him over onto his ass, before sauntering out the door. Alexander felt oil ooze out of the can and run up his pant leg.

“Fine,” Alexander said, sulking on the floor of Burgess' garage. “ Go with him, but when you get a bucket of pig's blood dumped on you don't come crying to me.”

As Alexander began to pick himself up, trying vainly to get his foot out of the oil can, he failed to notice the headlights of The Excalibur flick on and briefly shine at Biff's Camaro as it peeled out of the parking lot. He also didn't hear the engine begin to growl softly.  

Part Four


“Oh my God!” Veronica gasped, her hand over her mouth.

She watched in horror as, down on the street, the silver dune buggy sped out of the garage and began chasing down Marcus Joiner. The running back was fast, but not faster than the 2216cc VW motor that propelled the driver-less buggy down the rain-slicked blacktop. The steel bumper caught Marcus behind the legs and Veronica heard his kneecap crack even though she was a block away and on top of a two story building.

“That bitch got herself a possessed dune buggy!” Veronica shouted, stamping her foot in rage. “And that loser Marcus can't even get it together enough to put sugar in its goddamn gas tank!”

“Well, he won't be making that mistake twice,” Regina said, pointing down at the street. The Excalibur had stopped and was revving its engine while Marcus feebly tried to crawl away down the street. The girls could see he was crying and begging the dune buggy for his life. “What a crybaby.”

The dune buggy, tires squealing and smoking, peeled off down the street and rocketed at the wounded football player. Veronica turned away in disgust but heard the dull, wet thud of the front tire connecting with his head.

“That's just great,” she sighed. “Now it’s probably going to hunt us down and kill us one by one. Lenore is so predictable.”

“I don't know,” Glinda said, her eyes riveted to the scene below. “It’s like we were trying to pull a Carrie on her and she countered with a Christine. And it’s not like we were being original ourselves. You even got your boyfriend to ask her to the prom and I know you were looking to buy some pig blood on the internet.”

“Christ, Glinda, you are such a nerd,” Regina scoffed. “You should go join those losers in the A/V club and help them de-scramble cable porn.”

“Shut up, whore.”

“Both of you shut up,” Veronica hissed. “I'm trying to think.”

Down below, Biff Addelson was trying to sneak out of the garage. His neck was bloody and he was walking with a pronounced limp. Trying to move quietly, his fear-filled eyes were riveted to the dune buggy that was roaring back and forth over his friend's body. He didn't see the metal trash can until he was already knocking it over.

“That's it,” Veronica said, snapping her fingers. “I'm calling Daddy.”

“That's your solution to everything,” Regina said, bored.

Veronica walked to the back of the roof, away from sound of The Excalibur chasing a screaming Biff down the street, and dialed her phone. Regina and Glinda, watching the hapless quarterback stumble just as the buggy caught up with him, heard the familiar cadence of their friend pleading with her father. Flatter, whine, bitch, threaten, cry, plead, threaten again, sniffle, “thank you, Daddy”, hang up.

“That should shake things up a bit,” Veronica said, a smug grin on her face.

********************

Two hours later, out in the darkness of the desert, a helicopter could be heard approaching. It was painted a flat, non-reflective black and no running lights signaled its approach. It was virtually invisible against the night sky. Dangling from a chain attached to its undercarriage was an equally dark capsule, twelve feet long and four feet wide. Like a coffin built for a giant.


The helicopter hovered for a moment and released the capsule, it feel gracelessly to the desert floor below and buried itself in a dune. The helicopter was already headed back the way it came as the lid of the capsule was violently kicked open from within. A humanoid shape rose out of it and surveyed the landscape. Noting the lights of the distant town, the figure began to run with astonishing speed toward it.

Murdertron began his hunt.  

Part Five


“Oh. My. God!” Regina screamed from the bathroom. “There is a goddamn FOREARM in the bathtub! Ohmygodohmygod...!”

She ran sobbing into Veronica’s room, leaving bloody footprints all down the hallway. She threw herself down on the bed, hysterical. Glinda reached out one wooden arm, as if to console her, then changed her mind and dropped her head back into her hands with a hollow clunk.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Veronica asked with a snooty lilt. She sat, hunched over and cradling something, with her back to her friends. “It is my arm, after all.”

“Wait...what?” Regina asked, looking up from a now mascara stained pillow. “What did you do now, Veronica?

“This!” She yelled, spinning around dramatically and almost losing her balance. Her right arm, from the elbow down, was a writhing mass of slick, black-and-red cords. The twisting monstrosity seemed to flow like water, terminating in a vicious, black-clawed hand. “The Arm Of Amnorak! What do you think?”

“Your delivery was a bit....wooden,” Glinda said, her hinged mouth flapping up and down, before burying her face back into her exquisitely carved hands and letting out a sob.

“Enough with the wood puns!” Regina shouted at her.

“I can’t help it,” Glinda moaned. “My soul is trapped in a goddamn ventriloquist dummy. All things considered, I think I’m handling things quite well.....Knot!”

Both girls started up a fresh round of sobbing. Veronica ignored them and admired her new demonic arm instead.

“I had those two gay warlocks from the football team make it for me,” she said. She turned her arm over and, pretending Lenore’s head was inside, clenched her fist. “With this arm I’ll finally be able to beat that bitch at her own game. She may have figured out a way to beat that robot Daddy sent after her, but there is no way she’s going to weasel away from me now.”

“Hold on,” Regina said slowly. “Mitch and Darren are gay? No way! They totally took the Bradley sisters to the prom.”

“And left with each other,” Glinda pointed out. “Rumor has it there was a little rooting around going on in the back of that limo, if you know what I mean.”

“Will you two shut up?” Veronica hissed.

“Oh my God, Veronica,” Regina shouted. “Have you looked at yourself lately? You cut off your own arm and replaced it with a demon! And what was it before this? Lenore hired some mystical ninja to break your robot buddy, so you end up unleashing a car full of evil clowns on the town, and so she ends up sacrificing that fat friend of hers so she can beat the clowns and then you....”

“And why is my soul trapped in a dummy again?” Glinda ask, scratching at her side.

Veronica rested her chin into The Arm Of Amnorak and considered for a moment. “You know, I can’t remember why we did that.”

“When is this going to end?” Regina asked. “When both of you and all of us are dead?”

“It ends when I win the Sandblaster 5000,” Veronica said. “It ends when that bitch eats my dust and watches me go home with that trophy.”

Regina and Glinda stared at each other for a moment in disbelief. Glinda hopped down from the vanity table and walked over to her demon-armed friend.

“Dude,” she said slowly. “The Sandblaster was last week. Some hipster chick from Duluth won. It was all over the papers.”

“What?” Veronica gasped, feeling faint. “Did Lenore race?”

“No,” Regina said mildly. “She was a no-show. You should have been there, it was an awesome race.”

“Oh,” Veronica said, sinking down onto her couch. “It’s over? Wow. Really wish I’d know that before I sawed off my arm. Wow.”

“So, what now?” Regina asked.

“I don’t know,” Veronica said, still stunned. “Have you guys applied to any colleges? I was thinking about Burlington.”

“You guys!” Glinda yelled, furiously scratching at wooden body. “I think I have termites. This could finish me!”

Veronica and Regina got quite the chuckle out of that one.


The End

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