I still haven’t had a chance to work on the cover any more, but I’m happy enough with how it is right now.
For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Shawna seemed to avoid us for the rest of the day, but with our schedule that wouldn’t have been very hard. And though I was keeping an eye out for her in the parking lot after the final bell rang, I still didn’t see her.
“She’s probably just staying after with some study group or something,” Weed said as he noticed my wandering eyes.
“Probably,” I replied, slipping on my helmet.
“Don’t worry about her; she’ll be fine.”
The ride to Finkenbine’s salvage yard was some much needed freedom after being stuck in classrooms all day, but following Weed in the Weed Wagon did put a little damper on things. While his Chevette was much faster than it appeared, the mail truck was not. I’d never really noticed how slow it was until I was stuck behind him waiting for it to get up to speed. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I kicked the bike down a gear, twisted the throttle and blew past him like he was standing still. I’m pretty sure he gave me the one finger salute as I flew by.
It didn’t take long for me to reach Finkenbine’s place, but Weed was still far behind so I kept going, enjoying the empty road for a few more miles while making my way to the old quarry before turning around and heading back. Even with my little detour I made it back to the salvage yard before Weed, though he pulled up just as Finkenbine and dumbass came out to greet us.
“Not cool,” he said, emerging from the truck as I slid off my helmet, my grin clearly showing. “But that’s actually why we’re here.”
“Other than living up to your end of the deal?” Finkenbine asked, his hearing surprisingly better than I’d expected.
“Of course we’re here so you can check out KZ,” Weed explained, “But I also think it’s time to add a little pep to the truck.”
“After we’re finished with Pamela, right?” I asked, feeling my face get a little red.
“Of course, of course…”
“So the KZ, then Pamela, the Ventura, right?”
“…Then the mail truck. You’ve got quite a bit going on.”
“You know what they say about idle hands,” Weed said.
“We really don’t want to know what you do with your idle hands,” I replied, before I could stop myself.
Finkenbine just stared for a second, then burst out laughing; a roaring heartfelt laugh that made you just want to join in.
“I knew I liked you kid,” he said, directing his attention back to me, “and we’ll get to the truck, but first thing’s first.”
I felt like a little kid, getting judged on a science fair project as he bent close to checkout every piece.
“You probably need a bit more lube on the chain and the rear shocks could probably be adjusted a little to make it easier for you to flat-foot it, but otherwise everything seems to be in order.”
I literally breathed a sigh of relief.
“She sounded really good too,” he continued. “I knew it was her the first time you went past. Decided to take the scenic route, didn’t you?”
“I got stuck behind some slow moving traffic so I needed a few extra miles of open roads to truly enjoy the ride before I stopped.”
I could feel Weed’s glare.
“Well then, let’s see what we can do about that slow moving traffic?” Finkenbine grinned as he motioned to Weed. “What’d you have in mind?”
“It’s still pretty original so anything would help, but I don’t think a turbo would do that much.”
“Not if that’s still the 2.5l i-4 tbi iron duke engine. Those things really hate the high RPMs you’d need for a turbo.”
“So then I was thinking about doing an engine swap, something a little unusual.”
“Like a 3.0L Mercruiser.” Weed said with a grin. “I wasn’t sure what exactly he was talking about because I’d never heard of a Mercruiser.
“A boat engine?” Finkenbine said, his grin beginning to match Weed’s. “I like it.”
“You’re going to make that thing faster by putting a boat engine in it?” I asked. “And you think I’m nuts.”
“You are nuts,” Weed replied, “but that’s beside the point. The 3.0L Mercruiser is about double the horsepower and should practically bolt right in.”
“And being a boat engine,” Finkenbine continued, “means it has a more robust crank that is designed to operate under full load for a long time.”
“If it’ll help that thing go faster, then I’m all for it,” I said.
“Good,” Weed said, “I’m going to hold you to that once we get Pamela fixed up and out of the garage.”
“Now the only question,” Weed continued as he turned to Finkenbine. “Do you think you’ve got one?”
“Let me check my database,” he replied, lighting up a cigarette. “Ah, yes. Southeast side of the yard, almost to the very back.”
I couldn’t tell if he was serious or just pulling our legs.
“I’d help you,” Finkenbine said, “but I think you two can handle it. And besides, I’ve got to answer the phone.”
Weed and I looked at each other, neither of us hearing the phone, but just as I was about to say something I heard a faint ringing coming from the trailer. Finkenbine was already heading that way so Weed and I just went towards the gate leading to the salvage yard.
The sun wasn’t really close to setting yet but the junk yard looked darker than it should have, like perpetual twilight. It might have just been the stacks of junk limiting the amount of sunlight that actually reached us, but I couldn’t say for sure; it just felt creepy.
“This way,” Weed said suddenly, causing me to jump.
“I thought he said southeast.”
“He did, but I saw something last time we were here that I wanted to check out.”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “he may not want us just roaming around, and I really don’t want to get on his bad side.”
“Don’t worry about that, we’ll just be taking a slight detour.”
I really didn’t want to be wandering around the piles of junk by myself, so reluctantly I followed Weed as he took off down an aisle running parallel to the back of Finkenbine’s trailer.
“I thought so,” Weed said, stopping at the end of the lane where a car was stashed, mostly covered by an old tarp. Only the headlights and a small portion of the grill were visible, but apparently that was enough for Weed to recognize it. All I could tell was it was a little bigger than your standard car, and from the looks of the headlights it was really old.
“This is so cool,” he continued as he bent down to get a better look under the tarp.
“Cooler than you even know,” Finkenbine said from right behind us.
We both jumped, and turned to face him, expecting him to look a lot more angry than he did. Instead, he looked a bit proud and even a little sad.
“‘47 Buick Roadmaster, right?” Weed asked, obviously trying to get back into his good graces.
“Close, it’s a ‘48…the ’48, or at least the only one that matters; Mort.”
“You named a car Mort?” I asked, a little confused by the less than badass name I would have expected.
“I didn’t name it…” Finkenbine started to explain before Weed cut it.
“You’re not saying that this is the Mortimer Hearseburg, are you.”
“The one and only,” Finkenbine beamed, the sadness fading slightly for a moment.
“I don’t get it,” I blurted out before I could stop myself from looking stupid.
“Mortimer Hearseburg is what Neil Young named his first car, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster. The song “Long May You Run” was written about this car. But it broke down in Canada in 1965,” Weed continued, turning to Finkenbine, “How’d you end up with it?”
“That’s a story for another time. Right now we’ve got to get you that engine,” He said, directing us back towards the southeast end of the junkyard. “Then, for sticking your noses where they don’t belong, you can help me get Mort cleaned up.”
With Finkenbine’s help it took no time to get the Weed Wagon’s new engine loaded up. Then we followed him back to the hearse and helped him remove the tarp. For being older than dirt, it was in amazing condition, and when Finkenbine turned the key it fired right up. At his direction we climbed in, enjoying the smooth ride as he guided it through the piles of junk and to the front drive, parking it right in front of the trailer. Neither Weed nor I had ever been inside a hearse before, let alone one so vintage. It was so interesting that we were still checking out all the little details when Finkenbine returned, dropping a couple pails of soapy water beside us.
“I need this thing parade ready,” he said.
“Where’s the parade?” I asked, absentmindedly as I grabbed a sponge and started washing.
“Over in Southview, from the Dogtown Pub to the cemetery.”
Weed and I both stopped washing instantly.
“Cemetery?” I asked, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“A friend had a little accident last night, that’s what the phone call was about.”
Weed and I just looked at each other for a second.
“I’m sorry…,” I started, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“To tell the truth, he was an asshole who probably didn’t deserve to live as long as he had, but whenever a two-wheeled brother goes down I like to break out Mort for their last ride.”
My heart sank, and my mouth went dry. I felt both flooded with emotion and numb at the same time. Weed just kept staring at me with his jaw on the ground.
“There’s a big ride the day of the funeral, I’m sure you’d be more than welcome to join on your KZ if you want.”
“Thanks for the offer,” I managed to say, though I couldn’t bring myself to look at him as I did.
Weed and I took a little longer than we should have, cleaning up the hearse, but neither one of us said a word as we did. I felt him looking at me a few times but whatever he wanted to say, he didn’t. And that was probably for the best.