THEM DAMN KIDS - by Ray O'Bannon

(Click here for audio.)

At the time, I was runnin' car parts outta Henton City, mostly just
over to Starksville, but sometimes on up to Sprites Ridge or Sharpton.
Anyhow, I wound up taking old highway 47 back most every damn night,
and I guess I was bound to run into them damn kids sooner or later.

First time I saw them, I didn't think anything much about it, just a
car fulla kids out partyin'. They was pulled off to the side of the
road and looked to be drinkin' and playin' the radio real loud. Well,
I didn't see no harm in that, just figured they was out there lookin'
for ghosts. See, that old stretch of highway 47 has always been known
by the local folks as 'Ghosty Road', and I reckon there's times it's
pretty damn spooky. Ain't no houses or nuthin' out there, an it's pretty
dark when the moon ain't out. Course, that old road's awfull narrow,
just barely room to stay on it and slick as hell when it rains. All
rough and cracked, they used to say how it was built over some kinda
Indian trail or somethin', and maybe that started up all the ghost talk.
But I figure it started with that nasty wreck they had out there

Was around fifty years ago this car crashed real bad, but damned if
anybody knows what they crashed into. They say the car was just
busted up somethin' fierce, and there's those that claim bodies were
spilled out all over the place and all torn to pieces. So naturally,
kids been drivin' out there in the middle of the night ever since,
hopin' to see the ghosties. Hell, I went out there more'n once when
I was a kid. Didn't ever see nuthin', though.

Anyhow, like I say, I just drove on by those damn kids and headed on
home, didn't think nuthin' of it. 'Cept I remember thinkin' how the moon
looked real nice, cause it was about three quarters full and real bright
out that night. And once I got home I got to thinkin' about how one of
those kids had looked at me as I went by, how he had this sneaky sort of
look like he was up to somethin'.

Few nights later, I was wantin' to get home fast for somethin', I don't
remember what, but I was haulin' down old 47 quick as I could, which ain't
ever all that quick cause it's so damn cracked and rough. But I figure I
was doin' a good 60 or 65 miles an hour. And I remember seein' this daredevil
stunt-car show at the fair grounds when I was a kid, and how the announcer
said those stunt-cars was travelin' about 35 miles as hour when they went
flyin' off those ramps into the air. So yeah, I was toolin' along pretty good.
And up ahead, what do I see? Those damn kids again. Only this time, I knew
they was up to somethin', cause they all jumped in the car and took off ahead
of me before I got up to where they'd been. And I mean to say they took OFF.
Was a pretty clear night out, the moon being not quite full and all, but those
tail-lights faded off into the distance way faster than I figured anybody
oughta be tryin' to drive on that old road. Wasn't but a minute before I couldn't
even see the dust cloud up ahead of me where they'd been, and like I say, I was
movin right along. Well, I'm thinkin' about whatever the hell I was hurryin' home
for and what's playin' on the trucks radio, when I see this pair of headlights up
ahead, comin' down the road pretty quick. Takes me a minute to realize what's
wrong with it...the damn car's on the wrong side of the road. And it ain't slowin'
down a goddamn bit, just screamin' straight towards me!

Now fun's fun and all that, but playin' "chicken" is just plain dumber than a box
of rocks, and damned if I was gonna get killed just because some dumb-ass kid thought
he had somethin' to prove. But I barely even had time to consider it before those damn
headlights were blindin' me to where I couldn't even see the damn road and they still
weren't slowin' down and they ain't gonna stop and oh Christ we're all gonna...
I jerked the wheel hard as I could and flew off the road, missing those damn kids by
just inches. And do you think they stopped, or even slowed down? Hell no, they just
kept on goin', without stoppin' to see if I was hurt or a damned thing! Now the
ground's pretty soft along that stretch, too sandy to be much good for farmin', and
there ain't really much to crash into, but you'd still think they'd at least have had
the decency to be sure I was OK. Damn Kids!

Well now, that made up my mind. They weren't gonna have no more fun outta ME!
I was half bustin' to run across 'em one more time, maybe see how THEY liked
being run off the damn road. Couple nights later, damned if they weren't out
there again, only this time I wasn't gonna fool around. Damn kids needed to learn
not to mess with their elders, damn it! And I knew damn well that all I had to
do was just not flinch like last time, cause they was just kids and no way in hell
would they stay on that road once they saw I was callin' their bluff. No way in hell.

Same as last time, they take off when they see me coming, and for a little while I
don't see nuthin' up ahead but darkness. And that's odd, because there should be a
full moon out tonight, but the sky's clear and there ain't no moon up there at all.
And as I glance back down, there they are. Those damn headlights screamin' right
straight at me just like before. And I don't have a whole lotta time to think about
it, but I tell myself these damn kids just need a taste of their own medicine, and I
mash the throttle down clear to the floor. Truck's rattlin' over those ruts and cracks
like it's gonna shake itself to pieces, and those headlights up ahead are getting
closer and closer, and all of a sudden I get this notion that maybe this was a really
big mistake, and maybe these kids are crazy, or trippin' or too drunk or somethin'
but they aren't slowing down, I can't believe this, they aren't slowing DOWN!
I raise my foot off the gas and slam the brakes hard as I can but I know it's too
late and we're gonna hit and ain't nuthin' I can do...

You know how some things just never fade in your memory, how some things
just stay fresh and clear and you remember every second of it? Those headlights just
kept on coming till I couldn't see nuthin' else, and then they were so close I could
see the big old chrome grill between them, and I remember thinking how cars hadn't
had big old chrome grills like that since maybe the fifties, and I could see the damn
hood ornament on that car slamming right towards my face, and then it was somehow
past me and I could see the driver. He was looking right at me and laughing like
the terror on my face was the funniest damn thing he'd ever seen, and then the whole
damn car was behind me, and I came rattling to a stop on that awful rugged road.
When I looked back, there shoulda been taillights or a dust cloud or somethin',
but there wasn't nuthin' at all. Just me out all alone on that empty old highway.

I don't think on it much, but I notice I get feelin' kinda jumpy when the moon
isn't out. And that collection of hood ornaments I used to have...I sold all them.

And that's it. I'm done talkin' about it now. I got a load of spark plugs I
gotta get up to Sharpton, and it takes longer when you go by Interstate 82.

What? Hell No, I ain't taking highway 47.
And damn it, I said I was done talkin' about it.