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Fiction #408
(published November 13, 2008)
The One-Two
by Michael Pelc

Funny how a sign can take you back. I hadn't been out this way in years, not since high school. Route 12. Strange to see it written that way, though. In my time the locals would never have called it that. No, to us it was always the One-Two. The Ol' One-Two, kinda like as if two digit numbers hadn't yet been invented.

As I remember it, just past Cedarville, heading towards Justice Springs, there's this stretch where the One-Two straightens out for about five or six miles or so where it runs parallel to the railroad tracks. Some forty-odd years ago, it was there that I first cracked eighty on the ol' speedometer. Now it isn't like I was gunning for eighty, 'cause there ain't no glory in a number like that. Not eighty. No, I was gunning for a cool, even hundred. Woulda made it, too, I betcha, if it weren't for the old man's Bel-Air breaking down. Loudest damn noise I ever heard, feeling like it was coming right up from under the floor boards and making the whole car shudder. Whatever it was, it scared the ever-lovin' bejesus out of me.

Funny thing is, though, soon as I eased off the gas and let 'er coast on down to a nice, respectable, old fart forty or so, she went right back to purring like a kitten. Rode 'er all the way home like that, too, never letting the needle get past forty, like the car was somehow gonna heal itself if I just treated it nice enough.

Never did tell the old man about it, neither. Figured he'd find out for himself plenty soon enough if there was something seriously wrong. Just walked in, set the keys on the kitchen table, and went straight to bed. He never said a word, though, the old man. And the car, far as I could tell, ran just fine after that.

Looking back on it now, I guess I shoulda left it at that. Just chalked it up to some sort of automotive miracle. And I probably would have, if it weren't for one little detail: in the whole of my life, I've never driven a hundred miles an hour. Hell, I never even tried again. What the hell kind of man is that, I ask you.

It's late, but I take the exit. The time has come to ride the ol' One-Two.

Going through downtown Cedarville is like going back in time. Half past eleven and not a light on anywhere. God-fearing, church-going folk pray themselves to sleep early in these parts and leave the night to the devil. Either they're stupid as hell or smarter than I am.

Ain't no street lights once I'm outta town. Nothing between me and Justice Springs but the night and the One-Two. I press down on the accelerator and the Camaro responds. She's got more power than the old man's Bel-Air.

Sixty comes easy. Then seventy. Eighty. I flip on the high beams. Eighty-five. Ninety. Ninety, and I'm not yet all the way to the floor. The world is flashing by me. I can hear it, feel it, sense it. I coax the car up to ninety-five. Ninety-five on a two lane blacktop in the middle of nowhere. She's holding the road beautifully so I slide to the left to get the center line in between the headlights. I'm glancing up and down between the road and the speedometer as the needle makes its way up to ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight. I try to hold it steady when I hit ninety-nine. I want to savor the moment, burn it into my memory, etch it in there good so it lasts forever. Almost there, almost there. Almost a man.

I'm staring mostly at the speedometer now. A little more gas, a little more pressure on the pedal. And just like that the needle moves and I'm there. I'm doin' a hundred. Doin' a cool, even one hundred miles an hour. Ridin' the One-Two. Ridin' the ol' One-Two at last.

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