We were racing these rocket bikes. Him and Sly and Flash and a bunch’a other clowns he hung with and me tagging along. We raced ‘em up and down the salt flats all day. Just these rickety things we built behind garages out of scrap and spare parts and spare factory chemicals. They weren’t much but bicycle frames loaded with firecrackers ‘steada back wheels.
So while Sly and Flash were off givin each other the googly eyes, Johnny Wing shot me that slick grin of his and bet me I couldn’t beat him across the lake bed. I’d never ridden before but I’d seen the others tooling around plenty. They were only one way. The rockets burnt out eventually and you had to reload ‘em to come back. Took about half an hour. Half an hour trapped on the far side of the lake bed with Johnny Wing and those Johnny Wing dark eyes and high cheekbones.
Of course I said yes, I was only fourteen that first time and he was something like twenty. Or so he said.
He said I couldn’t control the throttle at that speed.
I said I could.
He said I was bluffing.
I said I wasn’t.
I got on to prove a point and opened her up as wide as she got. Shot me like a bullet down the beach. The steering shook. My hair whipped. My eyes teared up. Couldn’t see a thing. Johnny kept up somehow till I hit some kinda drift in the salt. Never saw it. Musta caught it just right cause it launched me high up into the air. The rockets kept shooting. I never eased back on the throttle. Never wanted to.
Truth be told, it didn’t never occur to me. Riding over that salt was a jumbled mess of gut wrenching terror. But when I hit that drift everything went smooth. Quiet almost. For about four seconds I flew. In them four seconds I wasn’t crushing no more on Johnny Wing. Not crushing on no other boy neither. Weren’t even worried about winning that bet.
I was flying. What else could a girl need?
Until my rockets gave way and I tumbled back down across the flats a dozen or so yards. Ripped up all my elbows and knees. Scrapes all stinging with salt. Took an hour to get all that scrap back to the others.
And Johnny Wing, after all that, he went home with Clara Monica anwyay. Clara Monica with the big bazoombas.
But I didn’t care. I’d found something better. Four seconds of flight. Four. And as much as it were in my power, I decided right then and there if I ever got the chance I was gonna fly again and the next time I wouldn’t be coming down.
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