Nowhere Fast

Nowhere Fast, Lazarus Wolff, short story, short fiction, literature, boy racers, coming of age, youth short story - HeadStuff.orgThey descended on the abandoned car dealership on the outskirts of town, their headlights flashing in the window of the empty showroom and the sign that read ‘Byrne’s Motors – New & Previously Enjoyed Cars’ faded through neglect to a yellow-tinged white. The one working street lamp flickered its amber glow and buzzed like a blue-arsed fly as the cars communicated in savage tones with bellicose revs of their engines. They thought they owned this town, and they were ready to lay claim to it tonight.

The evening air was still and thick and the aroma of chip-fat and vinegar wafted from extractor fans onto half-deserted streets. All but a few shops had their shutters drawn as locals sought the solace of pubs, draining slops and tearing up dud dockets. Later there would be stragglers, but for now all was quiet on the western front. Scutch was driving the Punto, coming up the rear of Tommo’s Honda Civic. The Honda was a beaut: all white with a black bonnet; gleaming it was – you could’ve fixed your hair in its tint. Bernard was sat beside Scutch watching with a careful eye as he shifted gears. “Where’s it we’re headed tonight, Scutch?” asked the not-naturally-inquisitive Bernard. “Ah, y’know, just around, Bernie” came the familiar reply. Bernard nodded in assent, he was not one to have his time wasted. Still wearing his uniform and name tag, Bernard had just clocked off when Scutch pulled up in the car park of the supermarket. It was no longer necessary to make arrangements, they had what you might call an understanding. ‘Course, it helped that neither had anywhere else in particular to be. In fact, they were rarely apart, these two; this led to the usual sorts of jokes – jokes the pair of them objected to vehemently. If you were to see them coming towards you in the street you’d swear you were looking at two fellas in a funfair hall of mirrors; Scutch was a lanky fucker with a gawky head on him, if he were any skinnier the one eye’d do him; while Bernard had all the physicality and mental agility of a brick.


Conversation didn’t exactly flow. They shot the occasional sideways glance at one another as they circumvented the town. These were the strong, silent types…men of few words…deep thinkers. Minutes could pass without a word being spoken, without so much as the suggestion that anything had occurred to them as being worth saying. Scutch scratched at the tuft of coarse, roughly-cut hair that sprouted out from under the peak of his baseball cap. It would’ve felt like straw to the touch had someone run their fingers through it, but that seemed a distant enough prospect. Yes, it’d be fair to say neither of them had seen much action of late. This was a summer that would really test a young man’s resolve; a summer of feverish restless nights with sweaty bodies writhing singly ‘neath clammy sheets. This summer was meant to be it: all they had waited for, longed for. But it had, like most things in this place, turned out to be a let down – an anticlimax – and time was running out to redeem the situation. The feeling was one of disappointment, if not surprise. They would spend this evening doing precisely what they had done every evening since the summer began: driving round, waiting for something to happen. And summer was almost over. And nothing had happened.


In the backseat of the Civic, Tommo’s loyal boxer, Ralphie, slobbered all over Paulie and had him penned into a corner. Paulie didn’t dare so much as adjust himself for fear his bum’d squeak the leather of the seat and send the hound manic. Ralphie was temperamental, that was how Tommo liked ‘em. And in the passenger seat, Tommo’s fatal attraction, Cynthia done up to the nines, extensions stuck onto every part of her: hair, eyelashes, nails. With the bleached blonde hair with black roots and “fuck ya lookin’ ah?!” expression she had the look of a knock-off Cruella deVille. She slapped by now flavourless gum around her mouth with exaggerated mastication, feigning disinterest and looking dead unimpressed as Tommo’s fyffe-fingers wrapped themselves around the clutch and jolted it forward. He’d been on the steroids and she was beginning to notice signs of it: the veins on his arms rippled like the chocolate on a Mars bar. The grey cotton of his tracksuit bottoms clung nicely and she licked her chapped lips, forming a sinister grin before turning again to stare blankly out the car window at the town changing before them, from dusk to dark; from calm to something else entirely – a pervading sense of something not quite right.


She started mouthing off about whichever young one she had made an enemy of that week. Tommo couldn’t muster an even vaguely interested look, not that Cynthia would’ve taken the slightest bit of notice anyway, it was enough that she was talking. Paulie chose his moment carefully, waiting till he was certain Cynthia was done spouting her usual shite before launching into it. Leaning forward between the two front seats, elbows positioned on the rests, he assumed the role of raconteur. “So, I’m there, right? Walkin’ down by the community centre and who do I see only Neilo, standin’, right? in broad fucken daylight beside this other lad – didn’t know him at all but say he was from around, like – ‘n’ they’re only doin a fucken deal!”, Paulie’s near breathless with excitement at this stage, trying to gauge his captive audiences’ reaction and met with nothing but stony silence. So he gets even more animated, working himself up into apoplexy, arms flailing all over the shop, his voice raised a notch to compete with the boom of the stereo. “Right there…in the open, like…right across from the Garda station! Balls on dat cunt” he says disbelieving, “be admirable if it weren’t so fucken stupid”. Still – nothing. Tommo pauses for effect, eyeing a deflated Paulie in the mirror before saying “True Dat”. It was a phrase he had picked up and it had grown on him, now featuring on an almost bi-hourly basis. He blasted up the volume and euphoric dance music was pumped into the car allowing Paulie to relax back into his seat in a mixture of relief and validation.

The road before them unfurled like something out of a video game. Paulie fumbled to fasten his seatbelt as Tommo accelerated along a decent stretch in the direction of the hotel and the speed pinned their backs to the seat. You could see it grip Tommo, building up inside him and his face and shoulders showed signs of it – a sense of invincibility. They tore out of the darkness that enveloped the town, the silhouette of the car giant against walls and railings and the Honda’s tyres cleared the tarmac coming down off the steep of the hunch-backed bridge and Tommo had to make a sharp turn to avoid crashing head-on into an oncoming car whose driver sat on his horn as they wheeled past and searched for the right word all the way home for “those, those…those blaguards!”. Families sat peacefully in their semi-d’s; they watched chat shows with the father saying “isn’t he some fuckin’ eejit?!” and “how do they get away with puttin’ this shite on the telly?!”; some tucked into their takeaways; others finished off the last of the week’s paperwork at the kitchen table with a mug of milky tea and a digestive, relieved that the week was at an end and dreading the foreboding of Sunday evening and the inevitability of Monday morning; parents went to bed early and children stayed up late, the activity of the town too far away to disturb them as the ‘NEUUM’ of the cars bounced off the double-glazing and their ideal was shaken for a moment. Tommo and his motley crew pulled up at the lights by the petrol station, illuminated as an apparition by fluorescent tubes, their heads swiveling in synchronicity to gawp at pedestrians. Paulie rolled down his window to shout “WANKERS!” before speeding off, delighted with himself when he turned to look back at their bemused faces from the rear window. His timing had been impeccable, right as the lights changed from red to green. It was a skill perfected over time.