Derby Dust


I raised my aching body from the wooden planked bleacher seat that I’d become fused to. I should have taken more stand-up-and-stretch breaks between heats. As the din of revving engines and crunching metal finally died, the dust and fumes that pervaded the fairground’s tracks for nearly two and a half hours was settling.
“I don’t think I can walk, Josie,” I told my daughter, hoping for sympathy.
Though she sat beside me the whole time and complained a bit about her aching back, she rose quickly as the demolition derby ended, winners declared, and jumped over the bench in front of us and stood below me.
“Are you kidding, Mom?” She searched my face for the truth, saw that I was not kidding, and offered up her hand.
“I’m so stiff,” I said, “I don’t think I can balance to step down.”
Holding her hand just long enough to steady myself, I hoped not to be noticed and embarrass her. Once I stepped the next level down, my joints began operating again. I jumped the last two bleacher levels without falling and found I could walk, after all.
We left our seats opposite the grandstand still fascinated by what we had seen: 30, or so, cars in each of the four heats had butted, battered, and bashed each other until they could move no more – all but the few spent-but-smiling contestants who ran toward our bleachers proudly flaunting huge, empire-state-building shaped trophies to family, friends, and the rest of the crowd.
Although down-time between heats to clear the tracks made a tedious wait, tow trucks and great, yellow “hoes” pulled and pushed the mess of metal mass off the arena. Our favorite car, an army green sedan returned for the final face-off. A simple, orange “99X” bannering each door, it had charged and pummeled relentlessly, looking more like a tank than a car. Its sturdy rear end refusing to buckle, it sustained most of its bashing ability until the end – even with its trunk end bent upward, profiling a ‘V’.
Its driver continued to charge the length of the arena, bashing with a strategy that appeared to outmode most of the other drivers. Damages, at last, took their toll when, after several stalls and re-starts, the crumpled car that our “tank” had pinned remained “alive” – the winner.
As Josie and I herded along with the crowd toward the midway, my head reeled with questions: How does one go about fixing up a demo-derby car? What are the rules and regulations for entering and participating? Just what does it take to go the distance in this somewhat dangerous “sport”? Why do I enjoy the prospect of such blatant noise, pollution, and destruction that is so completely opposite from the conservatively preserved serenity I usually hold dear?
I plan to come up with some answers to these questions in weeks to come, so wait patiently and listen for the starting siren.


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