The Cars of Tomorrow
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
The outside of the Pentagon is lit up by night lights. Inside the building, standing in an inside hallway are Nick Thime, FBI Agent Melendez, The Geniuses, Harley and Woody Erle, Lincoln Erle and his wife Victoria Ford-Erle, and a handsome, distinguished looking dark haired man in his late 40's who stands next to Aurora Erle-Fisher.
Aurora Erle-Fisher leaves the man’s side and walks down the brightly lit hall to the water fountain. She gazes down the hall and sees that everyone is engrossed in conversation.
She steps around the corner and pulls a liquor flask from her blazer pocket. She is about to raise it to her lips but is startled when the tall distinguished looking late 40-ish man snatches the flask from her hands.
"I’ll that Aurora!"
"No Forester, give that back, I need that!"
"Aurora I am sick and tired of your drinking. You walk around like a zombie in constant semi-inebriated state. Your drinking stops today."
"But Forester with father's murder and my brother's problems, I am under so much stress a little drink helps calm my nerves. I need it."
Aurora grabs for the flask and Forester grabs her arms. A harsh male voice from behind him shouts “Let Her Go!”
The man, Forester, releases Aurora Erle-Fisher. He turns to see an angry Lincoln Erle.
"What are you doing to her?" Shouts Lincoln Erle. "Leave my sister alone!"
"My wife and I are having a discussion that is of no concern of yours, so butt out toy boy!"
Lincoln Erle glares at Forester Fisher with angry hatred in his eyes; his hands ball into large fists as he menacingly approaches him. "The only butt going out of here tonight is yours!"
Lincoln draws back his fist to strike Forester Fisher, but Aurora jumps between the two men. "Stop it you two, stop it! Don't we have enough problems now without us fighting each other?"
"But sis I don't like..."
"I don't care what you don't like Lincoln! Now stop it! You need to calm down, come outside with me, now!"
"But" nothing, come on!" Aurora grabs her brother's arm and then turns to her husband, "Forester, I'll be back in a moment."
Forester Fisher watches his wife drag her hostility filled brother away, and is startled from his own thoughts by a soft and feminine "Ahem," behind him.
Forester Fisher turns to see the beautiful dark haired Ford heiress and wife of Lincoln Erle, Victoria Ford-Erle. His face lights up with pleasurable surprise and he exclaims, "Victoria! It's wonderful to see you again, and as always, you are a vision of loveliness."
Victoria Ford-Erle regally raises her hand, Forester Fisher lovingly grasp it, raises it his lips and kisses the back of her hand.
"God how I've missed you," says Forester Fisher.
"And I you Forest," says the Ford heiress.
Forester Fisher gazes into the eyes of Victoria Ford-Erle and the look of pleasure on his face is suddenly washed away by a look of anguish. "How did we come to this Victoria? You're married to your playboy-toy and I'm married to an alcoholic ice princess. I swear if I weren't a Catholic I'd divorce......"
Victoria Ford-Erle places two fingers on Forester Fisher’s lips. "Stop Forest, stop, don't even go there. As it is, we are married to others, for better for worse."
"Till death us do part," says Forester Fisher sullenly.
"Exactly, so let's not travel down the road of what could have been."
"Or rather, what should have been," Forester Fisher says, still holding the hand of Victoria Ford-Erle. He gently pulls her closer to him. He brings her hand up to his face and places it on his cheek and the anguish on his face dissipates into bliss as his eyes close.
From behind Forester Fisher the angry voice of Lincoln Erle once again fills the hallway. "What's going on here?"
"Victoria and I are having chat," says Forester Fisher.
"A chat?" says the youngest Erle sibling. "That didn't look like a chat to me."
With a voice steeped in sarcasm Forester Fisher retorts, "I don't know, I would think that this looks extremely familiar to you. You know, with all the little "chats" you've had in dark secluded corners with waitresses, stenographers, models, actresses, stewardesses, nurses or anything else in a skirt."
Once again Lincoln Erle's hands become fist and he is about to throw a punch at Forester Fisher until his wife Victoria Ford-Erle steps in and separates the two men.
"Oh stop it you two!" says Victoria Ford-Erle as she grabs her husband. "Come along Lincoln we are leaving. We were not asked here by the government, we came to show the family our support. But since all you seem to want to do id fight I think it best I get you out of here."
The Ford heiress turns to Forester Fisher, "Forest, it was nice seeing you again, do take care of yourself, good-bye."
As Lincoln and Victoria walk away, Lincoln Erle turns to his wife. "You know I hate that guy. Why do you talk to him?"
"You forget Lincoln," says the Ford heiress, "that guy" is an old friend of mine not to mention, your brother-in-law."
"Oh no, try as I may I can't forget that, just like you can't seem to forget that he is your ex-fiancé, or remember that you are my wife."
"Only when it suits you," snaps an angry Victoria Ford-Erle, "but the day is rapidly approaching where being your wife won't suit me! I'm sick of hearing about you tucked away in dark corners, making love to creatures like that Layna Jade. I've had just about all I can take; yes I'm your wife now, but maybe not for very much longer!"
"What are you going to do," Lincoln Erle angrily asks, "divorce me and run off with Fisher?"
"I don't have to run off with Forest! I'm rich, I'm beautiful, I'm Victoria Ford, and I've a multitude of choices to run off with!"
Victoria Ford-Erle breaks away from her husband and rapidly walks out a door where a large dark limousine sits waiting.
Lincoln Erle hurries after her. "Tori wait! I'm sorry!"
The chauffer opens the limo door and Victoria quickly jumps into the vehicle and slams the door shut. The limo speeds away, leaving Lincoln Erle standing there watching it vanish into the night. He exclaims remorsefully, "Oh dammit."
A door swings open and a military man walks through it. He gazes at the group waiting in the hallway. "Harley and Woodrow Erle, Doctors Graffam, Izmaylov, and Stone, Agent Melendez and Nikolas Thime, could you all come with me please?"
They all follow the military man and enter a conference room where they find men in suits and uniformed military men, one of them being General Hoang, sitting around a large rectangular table. General Hoang beckons them to have a seat at the table.
"Gentleman, ma'am, we've asked you here to try an ascertain answers as to what these Cars Of Tomorrow are and how to stop them, lights please."
With the General’s statement the faces of the two Erle brothers, the Geniuses, Agent Melendez, and Nick Thime are covered with shock and confusion. But before any of them can question the General’s statement the room goes dark and on a projection screen at the front of room a film of The Cars Of Tomorrow's battle with the US Army and their destruction by the fighter jet’s missiles fills the screen. The film ends and the lights come on; the first to speak is Harley Erle.
"General I’m confused, when we entered the room you said you wanted answers to how to stop The Cars Of Tomorrow, but I had heard that an Air Force jet fighter had destroyed them and the film you just showed us seemed to verify this. So what do you mean, what’s going on?"
"Mr. Erle I’m afraid that the report of the destruction of T.C.O.T was premature. You see after the jet fighter blasted T.C.O.T and the bridge into the river, we thought they had been destroyed. Then a dredge and a team of Navy divers were sent down into the river to confirm their destruction. Not a trace of T.C.O.T were found, they were not destroyed and are still out there somewhere. And that is why we have called you here, hoping you can supply us with answers.”
A suited man addresses Harley Erle. “Mr. Erle since these are your vehicles, can you tell us how your concept automobiles gained their fantastic regenerative, protective and destructive abilities?"
"No I'm afraid not. I don’t know how my cars gained such abilities," says Harley Erle.
"You mean to tell us that you did not know that cars you created were such weapons of mass destruction?” A military man with a chest full of medals asks unbelievingly.
"No," said the beleaguered auto magnate, "I did not; they were not designed to be."
General Hoang turns to Harley Erle's team of automotive scientist "The Geniuses.”
"Doctors, you designed the technology, can either of you explain how T.C.O.T gained the ability to totally regenerate themselves?"
Dr. Stone is the first to speak. "They were designed to be able to repair small abrasions to an automobile, but to totally regenerate destroyed parts of their automotive body is totally beyond what they were designed to do."
"Well, how did they get the ability to repair “small abrasions?" The General asks.
"Micro technology or molecular engineering," answers Doctor Izmaylov.
"Yes," continues Doctor Graffam," a physicist at the California Institute of Technology by the name of Richard Feynman is working on molecular engineering some call it nanotechnology. It is the science of manipulating body parts atom by atom. Dr. Feynman created micro bots or nana bots which are microscopic engineers designed to go into the diseased or damaged human body to heal or repair it. Based on Dr. Feynman's experiments we designed our own nanobots and went into a different direction."
"A different direction?" asks Nikolas Thime.
"Yes, instead of programming our nanobots to repair human illnesses we programmed ours to repair small automobile nicks and scratches from small things like minor fender benders, dimples from supermarket shopping carts that slams against the car, dents from being tapped by the doors of another automobiles in a parking lot, those sorts of things."
"How did you go about this?" Agent Melendez asks.
Dr. Izmaylov continues. "We injected the nanobots into the paint molecules that would be the finish that would be applied to the automobile. That is all they were programmed to do small repairs. We had yet to reach the ability to program them to totally reconstruct a partially destroyed automobile like we saw them do in the film. How they gained that ability I do not know."
"Mutation," answers Dr. Stone.
"Mutation?" asks the perplexed General.
"Yes," answers Dr. Stone. "Mutation, it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a singe-celled organism to the dominant species on the planet." Quite simply, The Cars Of Tomorrow have mutated, evolved."
"I'm sorry doctor," says a skeptical military officer, "but humans and animals evolve, automobiles are machines that are created by humans, they do not evolve."
"You wanna bet?" says Woody Erle abruptly. "Automobiles do indeed evolve. You go look at the 1908 Ford Model T then look at the 1958 Ford Fairlane, then tell me that isn't evolution."
"Yes, but mankind was responsible for that type of evolution," says a dark suited man at the table.
"And somehow," says Dr. Graffam, "be it something we did right, or wrong, depending on how you look at it, we gave The Cars Of Tomorrow this ability to evolve on their own."
Another suited man speaks. "Okay, those light beams they fire from their headlights, what are those?"
"They appear to be a combination of solidified light and intense heat," says Dr. Izmaylov, "a solid force that can burn like fire or disintegrate any object it touches."
"That protective field they generated," says another military officer; "any idea how that that is?"
"Judging solely by what I saw in the film," says Dr. Stone, "somehow The Cars Of Tomorrow takes the sun light absorbed by its solar panel body....."
"What? Solar panel body? I don't understand," another dark suited man says with confusion.
"Very simple," says Dr. Graffam, "The Cars Of Tomorrow are solar powered vehicles they do not run on fossil fuels; they operate on stored energy from the sun. Their bodies are actually solar panels that collect and save the sun's energy. They appear to take some of this stored solar energy and with the assist of the nanobot injected finish, manipulate and reconstruct it and release it as an impenetrable shield."
"So you are saying that these vehicles are not only dangerously destructive but they generate a force field that makes them virtually indestructible?"
"Based on what we know and what we’ve seen, I'm afraid so," says the female scientist.
"What the hell do they want?" General Hoang asks.
Everyone at the table gives each other blank looks and Nick Thime answers the General's question with a question, "To become, the dominant species on the planet?"
Consternation is etched on the General's face. "We need to assess all this information you have given us. Why don’t you gentleman and you ma'am y take a short break, we'll meet back here shortly."
In the gleaming white hallway Woody Erle glares at Nick Thime and asks out loud, "Why is that lawyer here?"
"He is here at the request of the FBI," replies his brother Harley.
"Oh," says Woody Erle unhappily. "But why the hell am I here? I had nothing to do with your out of control automobiles?"
Harley Erle gazes at his brother with disappointment in his eyes and responds sarcastically, "Why thank you Woodrow, I always know that I can count on you when I need support from my family."
"You don't need my support or anyone else's; you don't need anyone," retorts Woody Erle. "I'm the one that needs; I need help, support, and understanding, but do I ever get it? No! The old man would always give all of his attention to you, his favorite, forgetting he had other children. But oh how I wish he could see you now; your reputation ripped to shreds; your company will probably be ruined, and the US government may hold you responsible for the death, destruction, and carnage created by your vaunted Cars Of Tomorrow. But despite all that if Bentley were here he would no doubt come to your aid as you could never do anything wrong."
"Do you seriously believe that your father would have any sympathy for me and my predicament and help me?" asks Harley Erle. "You are delusional. Your father would look for a way to personally benefit and profit from my troubles."
"He wouldn't do to you what he did to me," says an angry Woody Erle. "He stole my company right out from under me."
"No he did not!" retorts Harley. "American Motors Corp failed due to poor performance, lack of sales, and your own mismanagement. And let's not forget the introduction of your motor vehicle nightmare, the Cheetah El Gato, which, like the Edsel, failed to sell.
“Due solely to all of your miscalculations AMC had to file for bankruptcy, the stock tanked, and the stock holders decided to sell. Your father being the astute business man that he was saw a great business opportunity in purchasing AMC and took it. I don't blame him; I would have done the same."
"Yes, you would have," snaps Woody, "and that's why you were Bentley's favorite, because you are as big a cutthroat as he was. He didn't have to buy my company, he could have helped me; he could have floated me a loan."
"In purchasing AMC your father did you a favor, in a way he was keeping AMC within the family, and you seem to forget he was going to let you continue to run it. Why? Because he believed in you and loved you; you know that he could have let AMC be bought by a stranger."
"As far as I'm concerned it was bought by a stranger," Woody Erle says gloomily.
"Well, if that's the way you want to look at it fine, I'm not going to argue with you. You've got your troubles, I've got mine, but remember that your father…."
"Our father," says an angry male voice in the hallway.
"What?" says Harley and Woody Erle in unison as they turn to see their brother Lincoln walking towards them.
"Bentley was our father, Harley, Woody. And our father is dead and you two should speak of him with some respect instead of standing there arguing about who he loved the most."
"He didn't love any of us;” says Woody Erle, “he didn't even know the meaning of the word love."
"Oh, he didn't?" asked Lincoln Erle. "Who do you think is responsible for making you the successful men you are today? Our father, that's who. He sent us to the best schools, introduced us to the right people, he instilled within us a sense of self worth and taught us the value of a job well done. He gave us our competitive spirit. He encouraged us to dream, and made us believe that there was nothing that we could not achieve if we set our minds to it. He would say "place no limits on your imagination and your dreams will be limitless." Everything that you are today, you are because of pop."
"Well said little brother," said the approaching Aurora. "Link is right despite how you feel about dad, we owe him. We owe it to him to help find out who murdered him. We are a family and with our out of whack personal lives, Woody's business issues, Harley's Cars Of Tomorrow problems, and father's death, now, especially now, we need each other. We need each other's strengths and we will have that strength when we stand together."
"As always, sis is right," says Lincoln Erle, "if pop did have a favorite, it was Ro and rightly so, cause she's the smartest and wisest of the Erle children."
“Link,” says Woody Erle, “you and Aurora amaze me. Despite how father has treated you, you two you always come to his defense. For the past few weeks, even up until his murder pop was barely speaking to you Link. Pop was pretty pissed off with you when you came home and announced that you had married that Ford dame. He was furious that you married a Ford, especially one twice divorced and older than you. I hadn't seen him that mad since the '55 Daytona race. He saw your marriage to Victoria Ford as the ultimate act of betrayal, an Erle marrying a Ford, “traitorous and unforgivable,” he bellowed…..the big windbag. I thought he was going to blow a gasket he was so angry with you.
"And sis,” Woody Erle continues, “I still have issue with the way the old man treated you. He practically bartered you away in marriage to a person I know you don't love."
"Yeah sis," says Harley, "we worry about you and that loveless marriage you are locked into."
"Harley, father did what he thought was best and I went along with it. So don't worry about me. If my marriage is loveless the fault is all mine not Forester's. Forester is a good man; he just got a bad deal, so I wish you three would be kinder to him."
"I'll be kinder to Forester, if you are kinder to Tori," says Lincoln.
"If anyone should be kinder to your wife Lincoln, it's you," says Aurora. "Do you realize that every time you are seen with another woman you embarrass and humiliate her? And don't kid yourself little brother, no matter how discreet you think you are being, someone sees you when you are out gallivanting with other women. There are those who get a perverse pleasure out of going to your wife and maliciously telling her what they saw you doing and with whom, and believe me it hurts her, it hurts her deeply. Be kind to Victoria you married her, she is your wife."
"Hell, I don't feel sorry for her," said Woody Erle. "I told her Link was no good and not to marry him because he would only bring her grief. But noooo, she thought she could break the wild buckin' bronc."
"Yeah, I remember when you told her that," says Lincoln Erle. "I still can't believe you talked about me like that to her, while I was in the room."
Harley Erle gives a broad grin. "Well one thing you can say is that we've never talked about you behind your back little brother."
"Yes, we all tried to persuade her majesty not to marry you," said Aurora Erle-Fisher. "She thought we were doing it because we thought she wasn't good enough for our family. Too late she came to realize that we were trying to warn her because we knew the trouble she was in for.”
"Trouble? Me trouble?" The smiling Lincoln Erle asked with feigned innocence.
"Link," said Woody Erle, "while you were engaged to Victoria Ford you were also seeing that leopard girl."
"Oh yeah," said Harley, "that was the chick he brought to the house on Thanksgiving. She was dressed in a super short skirt that had leopard spots on it and she had big, wild, jungle hair."
"There was also the girl from outer space," said Woody, "what was her name?"
"Constance," chirped Aurora.
"That's right "Cosmic Connie," said Harley, "we used to say "earth to Connie" as her mind always seemed to be stranded in outer space. She never had a clue about any topic being discussed, even when she was the topic."
"And there was a boatload of others, all while you were engaged to Victoria, and a cavalcade of beauties since you’ve been married to her." added Woody.
"Speaking of Victoria, Link, where is your wife?" asked Aurora.
"She left in a huff." Lincoln said sourly.
Aurora gives her younger brother a stern gaze. "Over another woman I presume?"
Lincoln Erle does not answer, but the specter of guilt blankets his face.
"Some things never change," says Woody Erle dryly.
"But some things did," Harley Erle says. "Remember when we used to work together? We could be quite a force when we teamed up. Remember the go kart?"
"Oh yes, I remember that!" says Aurora excitedly. "We were little kids and mom was sick and needed quiet and rest. So father took us with him to Washington DC when he had to speak on Capital Hill before Congress about the auto industry."
"Yeah, pop spent everyday on Capital Hill," Woody added. "We had seen every monument and Museum there was to see and we were bored stiff. Then we heard about a go cart competition and decided to enter it."
Collectively, the minds of the Erle siblings float back in time and reminisce.
In a non-descript garage the sounds of hammering and metal being manipulated is mixed with the sound of the excited voices of young children.
"Screwdriver," says a young boy's voice.
"Flathead or Phillips?" asks the voice of a young girl.
"Phillips," replies the young boy voice
"1/16th inch socket," says a different young boy's voice.
"I've got the radiator, bumpers, and tires," says the voice of the young girl.
"I need the set of Allen wrenches," says the boy's voice.
"Let me drill this into place," says a boy.
"Okay, let's start 'er up," says the other young boy's voice. "Hit it sis!"
From inside the garage comes the loud thundering "vroom, vroom" of a powerful automobile engine. The earth shaking sounds not only rattles the garage but also the house next door to it.
Then comes the sound of squealing tires and a go kart that looks like a mini version of a pimped-out Geo Metro roars like a race car out of the garage. Running out of the garage behind the vehicle are two little boys, one blond and one dark haired.
The low slung vehicle has four wide slick tires. Exhaust pipes extend beneath the doors on both sides of the body that is almost sitting on the ground. At the back of the car a large spoiler is position at the rear of the trunk. A sunroof is cut into the top of the cab from which a little girl's head adorned with ringlets of Shirley Temple curls sticks out.
The beaming little Aurora hits the brakes of the speeding vehicle, violently cuts the wheel, and the vehicle spins into at perfect 180 degree stop.
The dark haired little boy shouts, "Wow, aint she a beaut!"
"She sure is Woody," says the excited blond headed little boy, "let's find Linky and
get her to the track!"
The banner suspended between two tall poles reads, "Go-Kart Races." Beneath the banner dozens of little boys and girls look with loving pride at their conventionally constructed go carts.
The eyes of all the children leave their own go carts when the Erle children arrive at the track. The four Erle children are in the cab of a truck sitting next to the trucks driver. Their go-kart is on the trucks flatbed.
The other children watch them with a mix of curiosity, envy, and trepidation as they exited the truck and made their way to the registration office.
Beaming with pride little Woody, Harley and Aurora Erle enter the registration office, when a balding cigar chomping African American male asks, "Can I help you kids?"
"Yeah," says little Harley Erle, "we want to register for the go cart race."
"Where's your cart?" the cigar chomping man asks.
Woody points out the door and says with excitement, "There she is, there!"
The man looks out to see the tiny hot rod. His mouth falls open and the cigar drops out. "That's your go cart?" the man asks with astounded surprise. "But kids that aint …."
But before the man can finish his sentence, the office is overrun by a hostile mob of yelling and screaming little children.
"You can't let them register Mr. King!" shouts a little Latino girl.
"Yeah," yells a little tow-headed freckled faced boy, "no fair, that aint no go cart, that's a car!"
"Of course it's a car," says little Harley Erle with pride. "We built it ourselves. It's got a
4 stroke, 4 barrel carburetor, a 5-speed manual transmission, McPherson struts, air conditioning, radio, leather upholstery, power windows and doors. It can do 0 to 60mph in 3.9 seconds"
"I'm sorry kids but you can't register that in the go cart competition," says the man.
"And why not?" Little Aurora Erle asks.
"Because," said the man, "your, go kart, and I use the term loosely, doesn't meet track specifications."
An angry Aurora walks over to the office wall and rips the large poster sheet containing the registration information, rules, regulations and specifications from it. A business like no nonsense looks envelopes her face.
"These are your registration rules and requirements, correct?" asks the little girl.
With caution in his voice the man says, "Awwww, yeah."
"Then let me read what there is of them to you.” Little Aurora Erle begins to read the text on the poster. "Hey kids, build an awesome go kart and enter the Maryland Go Kart competition! It’s fun, fun, fun for boys and girls! 1st prize is $200.00, 2nd prize is a season pass to the go carts races, 3rd prize is a case of RC Cola.
“First off,” says Aurora, “your registration information says "kids" which technically and legally means any young person under the age of 18. Now anyone could tell you that kids between the ages of 14 and 17 have had physics, algebra and maybe shop in school, so they would be far more advanced then kids between 10 and 13 who understand mathematical and mechanical principles but are not as advanced, but they are more advanced then kid between the ages of 7 and 9 who haven’t quite mastered the mathematical and mechanical basics.
“So, since all these "kids" come from different educational and skill levels one would expect that the older kids who have entered this competition would be more advanced. So we must try to be just as advanced if we want a chance to win. Your rules and regs do not differentiate between the ages; the proper way to do this would have been to create go-cart races for the different age levels.
“Next," she says, "you give no guidelines on what type of go cart to build; you leave this to the discretion of the applicant. Thus we built something that we hoped would make us competitive and give us an edge over the others applicants.”
"The bewildered man is stunned into silence by little Aurora's arguments. He breaks his silence when he frantically yells out, "Mr. Wurst, you better come out here! MR. WURST!"
From a back office a short stout white man with slick back blond hair and a beard enters the office followed by a tall gangly, pimply faced Caucasian teenager. He sees an office filled with little kids which he spies suspiciously. "What's up Maurice?"
"These three kids wanna enter their, ah, go cart in the race."
"Moe, you are the track manager, I leave you to deal with those things. I'm the owner I have other issues to deal with, why you callin' me?"
The black man points out the door, "Cause they wanna enter that."
Mr. Wurst looks out the window at the little Erle's hot rod go cart and his eyes open wide with alarm. "But kid….you can't….that isn't…uh uh, no way."
Mr. Wurst," says little Harley, "as my sister pointed out to your associate Mr. King, your go cart rules and regulations are vague and left to interpretation, and as far as we are concerned we have created a vehicle that can be admitted to this race based on the instructions that you have put forth."
Little Woody Erle steps up. "Mr. Wurst, do you know who we are?"
"No I do not, I'm happy to say. Who are you?"
"We are Woodrow, Harley and Aurora Erle. Our father is Bentley Erle, president of General Motors Corporation. If you do not allow us to enter we will take you to court and sue you for damages. We will win our suit and take all of your assets, every penny you've got, your house, this track, and the land it sits on, have we made our intentions clear?"
Little Aurora thrust the rules and regs poster into the face of Mr. Wurst. He looks it over and then looks at the Erle children with visible fear in his eyes and relents.
"Okay Moe, let 'em enter."
The room erupts with the loud riotous protest of the other children and Moe tries to silence them. "I'm sorry kids but these…..youngsters have just as much right as anybody to enter their….vehicle, in the competition. Bill?"
"Yeah Moe?" answers the tall gangly, pimply faced teenager.
"Go look their, ah, vehicle over, and git 'em ready."
"Come on kids," says the teenager.
The little Erle kids follow the teenager out with smiling looks of triumph on their little faces. As they walk out the other children boo them.
The teenager says to them, "Go wait by your vehicle I'll be with you in a sec."
Standing by their go cart the little Erle noticed all the other children glaring at them with hatred in their eyes.
With a smile the teenager called Bill approaches them. "I gotta say; this is some one mighty cool vehicle you kids have built, mighty cool."
"Thanks Bill, says Aurora, "but tell us something, why are the other kids so angry with us?"
"I guess they figure that if they wanna compete they have to race against you, but they don't have to like it, or you."
"Why, what have we done to them? Woody Erle asks.
"What have you done to them? The teenager Bill asks with surprise in his voice. “You all but have the race sewn up. They know that there is no way they can beat your vehicle."
"But it's not our fault they built weak entries," says little Harley Erle.
"Funny, it seems nothin' is your fault. You read the exact same rules, regs and specs as all the other kids yet your vehicle is so different from theirs. In a way you're cheatin', but you use, bend, and twist the so called "vague" rules and regs to suit your purposes, I hate to say it but you guys are cheaters."
Shock and horror blankets the faces of the three Erle children.
"We didn't cheat," says Aurora.
"Maybe not intentionally, but you guys aren’t playin’ fair. Tell me somethin'. Did you guys enter the race to win the $200.00 first prize, the season pass second prize, or the case of RC Cola third prize?"
"No, not really."
"So why are you here?"
"We want to win."
Bill waves his hand at the angry horde of little kids keeping their distance from the Erle children. "So do they, but they also wanted to compete against equals. And you guys are not their equals. You guys are technologically, mechanically and mathematically waaaay superior to these guys and you know it."
"Then why are they going to race against us?" Little Harley asks.
"Because they hope; they hope that maybe this car isn't as fast as it looks, or they hope your driver isn't skilled enough to win, or they hope maybe you'll blow a tire or somethin', they hope for anything that might give one of them a chance to beat you."
"Not a chance of that!" says little Woody proudly.
"They know that, but unlike you, they play with sportsmanship."
"Sportsmanship? What’s that?" Aurora asks.
"Sportsmanship,” says Bill, “is when a person is a graceful, fair, and generous winner, and a good loser."
"We could be good losers,” says Harley Erle, who hesitates, then adds, “if we ever loss."
"Prove it," says the teenager Bill.
"How?" Aurora asks.
"Play fair, like good sportsmen."
"What do you suggest Bill?" Woody asks.
"Well there are several competitions this week. Why don't you go home and build a go-cart to specification like the other kids did, and come back and enter?"
The Erle children have insulted looks on their little faces and Harley Erle says indignantly, "Build one of those low tech generic outfits? That would be like going back in time and building a Model A. No thanks, not a chance."
"But Bill is right,” says Aurora, “with our go-cart we know we are going to win, so I'm starting to lose interest already."
"Yeah,” adds Woody, “where is the fun in knowing what's going to happen."
"My point exactly," says Bill. "racin' is all about the thrill of bein' out there on that track facing the unknown. Man and machine versus other men and their machines."
"I don't like the unknown,” says Harley, “I want to know the outcome will be the way I want it to be. But, okay, since the other kids are willing to be good sports and race against us knowing good and well we will beat them, we can be sportsman enough to withdraw ourselves from the competition, in order to give them a fair and competitive race amongst peers. Maybe one day when their skill level catches up to ours we'll come back and whip their equal butts. What do you think of that Bill?"
"Well, I was kindda hoping that you build a cart to specs and enter a race, but, the decision that you've just made shows that you guys know how to be good sportsman too."
The three Erles take their go-cart back to the flatbed truck as Bill goes joins Mr. Wurst and Moe in the racetrack office.
Mr. Wurst shakes the teenagers hand and pats him on the back. "We heard all you said to them Erle kids Bill, getting’ them to withdraw from the race and all, thank you."
"I didn't get them to withdraw,” says Bill, “they came to that decision on their own. They're really not bad kids; it's just that nobody ever explained to them that there is more to competitive sports than just winning. You know, "It's not whether you win or loose, its how you play the game," they knew nothin’ about fair play."
As Bill walks out of the office Mr. Wurst turns to Moe, "That Bill France is a good kid, he's gonna go places and be somethin’ one day; he may even head his own racing organization."
"Whaddaya think of them little Erle chilrin?" asks the cigar chomping Moe.
"They is scary; they gonna take over the world someday, or at least try to."
As the little Erle children watch, the truck operator places their tiny hot rod go-kart on the truck’s flatbed. A long black Cadillac limo pulls up, comes to a stop, and a young, broad smiling Bentley Erle steps out.
"Hey Erles,” the beaming man says. “Your proud papa has come to collect his little winners; let me see those trophies.”
“No trophies father,” says little Aurora.
“No trophies? You lost?” Bentley Erle asked with disbelief in his voice.”
"We didn’t lose pop, we didn’t race,” says little Woody, “we decided to drop out.”
"Drop out? Why?” The befuddled father asked. “You could have easily beaten those other kids."
"Yeah, that was the problem,” says little Harley, “it would have been unfair and too easy, and where's the fun in that?"
"Unfair? Easy? Fun? What has that to do with anything? I told all those Senators and Congressman on Capital Hill to listen to tonight’s news and to buy the evening papers as I would be the talk of the town tonight with radio and newspapers trumpeting my success.
“I told them headlines would read, “Bentley Erle’s Children Win Go-Kart Races,” “Bentley Erle Produces Champion Children,” “Bentley Erle Takes Winner’s Cup After Kids Take Checkered Flag.” And now, you tell me you dropped out, dropped out! That’s worst than losing, and losing is unacceptable!
“Well, you’ve humiliated me yet again and I’m not sure if I can ever forgive you for it! Get in the limo,” says the angry father, “I’ve a mind to…..” Bentley Erle ceases the scolding of his children when concern lines his face. He then looks left and right and then asks his children, “Where is your little brother, where is Lincoln?"
Approaching the Erle family from the bleacher area, an irate woman is pulling little Lincoln Erle along by his arm through the parking lot.
"Hey Mister, is this your boy?"
"Yes,” says Bentley Erle, “he’s my son. What's the problem?"
"The problem is I caught this little degenerate playing doctor with my little Susie Mae behind the bleachers. You ought to take this little predator and lock him up; he's a menace to society!"
The adult Lincoln Erle has a wide smile on his face, "Oh yeah, I had forgotten all about that. But that trip down memory lane has started the memories flowing. Remember grandma and grandpa's store down in Gainesville?"
"Yeah," Harley Erle says, "it was right after mom died and pop sent us down to Florida to stay with grandma and grandpa for the summer."
Again the minds of the Erle siblings collectively travel down memory lane to a time when roaring waves pounce onto the sandy beach, and then pulls themselves loudly back out to sea.
Frolicking on the beach is a man in dark swim trunks and woman dark one piece swim suit; the couple dash in and out of the ocean’s waves.
The laughing woman kicks sand on the man and runs away from him down the long narrow beach, the man gives chase and they both disappear behind the sandy dunes.
On the other side the sandy coastal dunes are thick low clumps of brush with dense thickets and undergrowth that included ground hugging palmettos. At the edge of the undergrowth jutted tall bent palm trees whose canopy crown of leaves waft in the sea breeze.
The palm trees came to an end at a roadway, and on the opposite side of the roadway sits a modest white bungalow. A dark chauffer driven limousine comes to a stop in front of the house.
On the front porch of the house stood an elderly gray haired woman and a seated elderly gray haired man with his attention fixed on a tall radio.
The limo doors open and four children, Woody, Harley, Aurora and Lincoln Erle bolt from the vehicle arms outstretched, and run towards the couple excitedly screaming in unison, "Grandma, grandpa!"
The four Kids latch on to the old couple, embracing them and giving them big warm hugs filled with love.
"Oh grandma and grandpa, it's so good to see you,” says Aurora Erle, “we love you."
"And we love you too children, but grandma has a bit of bad news."
"Bad news?" Little Lincoln asks.
"Yes, it seems that your Aunt Lillireen is ailing and grandma has to go down to Palm Beach for awhile and take care of her. I'm going to give her lots of chicken soup so that I can get her well, so that I can get back here to my little pumpkins as soon as I can. Until I do your grandpa Berry is going to watch after you while I'm away, right Berry?"
Paying virtually no attention to his wife the old man is intensely listening to a baseball game being broadcast on the radio. “Uh-huh, sure Mincie," he answers.
The old woman gives her husband an irritated scowl then turns smiling to her grandchildren. "Kids your grandpa's mind is on Gator's baseball so I'm going to need you to do something fun and exciting for me while I'm away."
"What's that grandma?" the children ask.
"Run the store for me."
"Run the store!" The Erle kids shriek with unified delight. "That will be fun!”
“You mean we can help the customers?” squealed little Aurora.
“Use the cash register?” said little Woody unbelievably.
“Pump gas!” said little Harley with enthusiasm.
“Eat all the candy we want for free?" Little Lincoln asked excitedly.
"Yes, the store all yours while I'm away. If you need anything for the store ask your grandfather to get it for you. You hear me Berry?"
Obliviously Berry answers, "Uh huh, sure Mincie," as his ear and his mind are on the baseball game emanating from the radio.
Grandma Mincie walks up to the limo where the standing chauffer has opened the door for her. She turns to her grandchildren, "Now you kids stay out of trouble while I'm gone. I love you." She waves good-bye to her grandchildren, steps into the limo, the chauffer closes the door and steps into the driver's side, and the limo pulls away.
With his ear to the radio grandpa Berry is paying no attention to the children, then, rapidly says to his grandchildren, "Come on kids while the manager is having a talk with the pitcher let me take you out to the store."
Grandpa Berry takes his four grandchildren down a dirt path that leads them to a run down dilapidated little wooden shack. In front of the shack sits a tall hand-pumped gasoline dispenser.
Berry places his hand on the knob of the front door, a small sign on the door reads, "Hollins' Store." Berry ushers his grandchildren inside.
The inside of the store is smaller than a one car garage. There is a wooden floor on which sits a pot bellied coal stove and some wooden barrels. There is a long shelf with a few jars filled with candy, nuts and gum balls.
"Kids," says grandpa Berry, "this is the store; there is the cash register. The prices of everything are marked. Do you know how to make change? You know how to add and subtract?"
With insult in his eyes little Harley replies, "Oh course we know how to add and subtract grandpa.”
“We're not idiots," adds Aurora.
"Then it's simple,” says the old man, “you won't have any problems, you call me if you need anything okay? Bye, have fun.” Grandpa Berry quickly heads back to the house and the baseball game on the radio.
Looking around the decrepit building little Lincoln Erle asks, "This is a store?"
The tiny nose of Aurora Erle scrunches up. "My bathroom at home is bigger than this."
"Well, lets get busy guys," little Woody Erle says with enthusiastic glee.
Grandpa Berry is angrily talking to the radio. "I can't see it but I know that ball came cleanly across the plate! What does that dumb ass ump mean that it was a strike? That was not a strike!"
Little Woody, Harley and Aurora tepidly approach their grandfather.
"Grandpa, can we sell some new stuff in the store?" Aurora Erle asks.
Lost in the baseball game, their grandfather replies, "Uh huh, sure kids."
Later Woody, Harley and Aurora approach to their grandfather who is deeply engrossed in the baseball game on the radio. The old man screams out, “Slide, slide, SLIDE! What do you mean out?” God damn it, that boy is safe! I heard him slide into the plate, before that 3rd baseman tagged him.”
"Grandpa, can we change the store around?" Woody Erle asks.
"Yeah, uh huh kids, sure, fine."
On a dark night Woody, Harley and Aurora go to their grandfather whose ear is again to a baseball game on the radio.
“There it goes! There it goes! It’s over left field! It’s heading into the stands! YES! A home run! Go Gators go!” Oblivious, laughing, happy and singing, Grandpa Berry starts to shimmy and shake and does his own little victory dance.
Harley Erle says, "Grandpa, can we…….."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, kids, sure kids, whatever."
A black and white Ford cab pulls up in front on Mincie and Berry's bungalow. Grandma Mincie and the cab driver with her bags, exits the cab. The cabbie drops the bags on the porch and departs.
Berry sits on the front porch with his ear to the radio listening to a baseball game.
"Berry!" says the old woman. "I bet you've been at that radio listening to Gators baseball for the whole time I've been gone. Where are the children? Is everything all right?"
"Uh huh Mincie, children fine, everything fine."
"Whew, that traveling has tired me out; I think I'll sit here on the porch with you for a spell."
"Uh huh, fine Mincie."
Mincie sits on the porch and watches a large delivery truck with the words "Nolde's Bread" atop a picture of a loaf of bread emblazoned on its sides drive by. Then a Perdue Chicken truck drives by followed by a large truck reading "Western Auto Parts." Next, a Green Giant vegetables truck drives by.
"My," says Mincie to a preoccupied Berry, "our little street is busy today, a major street must be closed and traffic must be using our street as a detour."
Then a Pepsi Cola truck drives by, followed by a truck with the smiling Michelin Tire man painted on its sides.
Then, a Coke-Cola truck, an Esso gasoline tanker truck, and a Budweiser beer truck, all go rolling by.
Mincie's eyes follow the Budweiser truck, she watches it turn the corner then gets up from her seat to see it park at the rear of her property. She is aghast at what she sees and shouts; "BERRY! Come here, quick! Look, look at the store!"
The tiny run down country general store is no more; in its place sits a modern combination filling station and grocery store.
The grocery store & filling station is four times larger than Mincie and Berry's modest bungalow home. It has an "A" frame roof the length of the building. Sitting atop the roof is a large bright rectangular sign that reads, "HOLLINS' GROCERY STORE & CAR CARE CENTRE."
Jutting outward at the middle of the roof is another "A" frame roof. This one is supported by squared pillars than run down to the ground, creating a canopy. Beneath this canopy are two modern gasoline pumps.
To the right of this area are three automobile garage bays, with the garage doors up. In each bay sits two cars with hoods upright.
To the right of the automobiles service center is a new small black asphalt paved parking lot filled with cars and customers pushing carts filled with groceries.
Berry and Mincie Hollins rush into the customer filled grocery store where they are greeted by a smiling Latina cashier. "Buenos Dias Senor and Senora Hollins, thank you so much for giving me this job."
A flummoxed Mincie Hollins speaks, "You-you're, welcome, Miss," she says. Then she asks, “Have you seen four children, a dark haired boy, a blond headed boy and girl, and a little sandy haired boy about so high?"
The smiling Hispanic woman gives the couple an amused look and giggles. "You two are so funny. Your grandchildren are around here somewhere, try the manager's office, have a good day."
Mincie and Berry walk through a store where the bright overhead lighting exposes new shelves and fixtures filled with can goods, and box foods like beans, rice and breakfast cereals.
They walk past refrigeration units filled with bottled soft drinks, beer, meats, milk and cheeses.
As they walk through the produce department they are startled and clutch one another when a fine mist of water hisses from an overhang above the fresh fruits and vegetables coating them with fine droplets of cool water.
When they reach the rear of the store Mincie and Berry find a door slightly ajar with a sign on it that reads "Manager's Office." They cautiously push the door open and they see little Aurora banging away at an adding machine.
Aurora looks up from her figures to see her grandparents standing in the door. With a wide beaming smile she excitedly shouts, "Grandma! You're home!"
The little girl bounces from behind the desk and grabs her grandmother around the legs giving her a big hug. "I missed you so much. How was Palm Beach, how is Aunt Lillireen?"
Before Mincie can answer the little girl’s question Aurora hops over to the desk and pushes the button for the store's intercom system. "Woodrow and Harley, report to the manager's office please. Woodrow and Harley to the manager's office, thank you."
Woody and Harley enter the office and see there grandmother. Their faces break into smiles and they run to her, one on each side of her clutching her tightly and lovingly.
"Grandma!" The excited boys yell. "You're home! We missed you!"
"I missed you all too, but first you need to tell me about all this.” The woman waves her hand in the air around the new store office. “Where is my store?"
The Erle siblings give there grandmother a perplexed look, "This is your store grandma,” says Harley
"This isn't the store I left when I went to Palm Beach."
"No, we fixed it,” says Woody. “Didn't grandpa tell you?"
Mincie turns to Berry whose eyes grow wide with puzzlement and he throws his arms up with the "I know nothing" gesture.
Aurora tells her grandmother, "We asked grandpa could we make changes to the store, he said "uh huh."
Grandma Mincie gives her husband a scolding look and all he can utter is, “But I, I, I…"
"What's the matter grandma, don't you like your new store?" Little Harley Erle asks.
"Oh, I love it, it's beautiful, but how did this happen?"
"Well,” say Harley, “let us give you a tour and I’ll explain while we walk.”
Aurora takes her grandmother’s hand as Woody takes his grandfather’s and leads them through the new store.
Harley begins his explanation. “After grandpa told us we could make changes I called our architect back in Detroit and I had them draw up plans for a new larger modern store.
"Then we went to the City Of Gainesville and applied for a permit to build a new store. We gave the city our new store design and business plan which forecasted that a new store of this type would bring in more customers, thus bringing on more revenue, thus increasing the taxes generated.
“After reviewing the information we provided, the city was thrilled to give us the permit, plus they gave us a tax break. The city even agreed with us that with your old store you weren't taking full advantage of the available customer base. You see grandma and grandpa, there are many seniors here who have a daily routine of getting out and walking for their health. The closet grocer is two miles away, so why not take advantage of that foot traffic?
“So with the city’s blessing we then contacted a local contractor to do the construction and viola, a new store was born."
“Now,” say Woody, “with the new store built we had to deal with the issue of giving the people what they want. All you sold was some dry goods, beans, rice, candy, and soda pop, where is the profit margin in that? So we installed shelving, freezer units, fruit and veggie produce cases, deli cases, seafood cases, checkout counters, refrigeration units, grocery carts, and we now sell farm fresh fruits and veggies, cold cuts and meats, frozen food, milk and cheeses and beer."
"Beer!" shouts the alarmed grandmother, "You kids aren't old enough to be drinking beer."
Aurora rolls her eyes. "Oh grandma, we know we aren’t old enough to drink it, but we can sell it,” said the little girl. Aurora continues, “We also wanted to make the shopping experience a pleasant one. As you know Florida is so hot and humid so we had air conditioning installed to make the shopper comfortable and want to return again and again. Next….." Little Aurora breaks off her sentence when she glances at her watch and says, “Woody and Harley will finish explaining I have to take care of something.” With that she runs to the back of the store.
"Next,” said Woody, “was that old gas pump that had to be pumped by hand. Again you were the only place to by gas and kerosene in a two mile radius, we thought why not capitalize on this?"
"Thus, the full service car care center. Modern gas pumps, a garage where any type of auto repair is done by experienced grease monkeys with state of the art hydraulic tools."
From under the hood of a car a gruff male voice yells out, "Hey lil' brat, we done told you don’t call us no grease monkeys."
“Who was that?” Grandpa Berry asked.
“That was Manny,” replies Woody. “Manny, Moe and Jack are your three certified auto mechanics who use only the latest new pneumatic tools.”
“They do such exemplary work that automobile owners from all of Gainesville and the surrounding counties come here to have them work on their cars," said Woody Erle.
Three large men, one Hispanic, one white and the other black are dressed in greasy coveralls. With their arms extended for a handshake they approach Mincie and Berry Hollins.
“Hola Senor and Senora Hollins,” says the Hispanic man as he shakes the hands of the grandparents, “I am Manny.”
The white then shakes the Hollin’s hands, “Mornin’ boss man and Miss Boss lady, I’m Jack.”
The cigar chomping black mechanic is none other than Maurice King who a couple of years earlier had told the Erle children that their entry for the go-cart races did not qualify. He too shakes the hands of the senior citizens. “Howdy Mister and Miz H, I’m Moe, nice ta meet ya.”
The three mechanics turn away and get back to work.
"Grandma, Grandpa know what else we did?” says Harley in a voice full of excitement. “We formed a partnership with Western Auto that allows us to sell their auto parts here at the store to the large number of back yard mechanic who prefer to work on their cars themselves."
Little Aurora Erle reappears flanked on each side by two big, buffed, tanned, mean looking men in reflective sunglasses that are dressed in the garb of security guards.
Aurora is practically bent over, being pulled down by the weight of a heavy, bulging cash deposit bag that is as large as a suitcase which she pulls by its strap.
"Grandma, grandpa, I've got to run. I need to get the daily deposit to the bank before they close. Oh, speaking of the bank, I opened a business account with tiered interest rates. It's a high yielding savings account that does not lock you into a term. It offers you higher rates as your balances grow, I hope you don’t mind.”
Grandma and Grandpa Hollins exchange looks of complete disbelief. Grandma Mincie says, “Our grands are, are…..”
“Amazing, just amazing,” says Grandpa Berry in a voice of disbelief.
A look of concern crosses Grandma Mincie’s face. She looks around and asks, "Children, where is your brother, where's Linky."
At that moment a distressed woman has little Lincoln Erle by the ear hauling him into the auto service center.
"Miss Mincie! Miss Mincie, you better do something with this little heathen!"
"What's wrong Alberta, what did Lincoln do?"
"He was doin' the nasty with the little neighborhood girls."
"Oh no, was he playing doctor again?"
"Playing doctor? Oh that’s not what he calls it. He says he was playing "Health Department Physician" He said he was the health department doctor at the neighborhood free clinic and every little neighborhood girl needed to be examined and checked for STDs."
"STP? The motor oil?" asked little Aurora.
"No,” says the irate woman, “not STP! ST…….Oh never mind! Mincie you’d better lock this little deviant away."
The smiling reminiscing Erles are brought back to the present when General Hoang appears. "You all may go home, we think you've helped us all you can; the rest is up to the military."
With a slight smile on face on his Nikolas Thime watches the Erle siblings walk out of the office.
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison