Bragging Rights For Christmas

“Robbie, it don’t matter if you beat Jack. I’m still going to slide the longest,” Harry said from snow-covered sidewalk nearby as he hopped from one foot to the other as if to stay warm but it was really from anxious excitement.

“Shh. Don’t bother me. Here comes my ride,” Robbie said, trying to ignore his younger brother. He pulled down his brown, wool cap, adjusted his threadbare mittens, and stretched his arms so that the sleeves of his coat bared two inches of his forearms. Here was an advantage to wearing a meager, hand-me-down coat. There would be no threat of his sleeves impeding his grip on the bumper of the Chevy coming toward him. Robbie blew on his mittens to soften the frozen threads as he watched Mr. Miller’s grey Chevy come closer. Robbie considered himself more of Buick man but he didn’t have time to be choosy. There were fewer and fewer cars driving down this street as this Christmas Eve afternoon progressed. He had to take Mr. Miller and his 1940 Chevy.

Robbie crouched down farther between the parked cars and smiled. Mr. Miller was the perfect driver if Robbie had any hopes of beating Jack before dinner. He knew Mr. Miller usually drove his Chevy a little too fast around corners. The whole neighborhood knew it from the constant clang of metal garbage cans belonging to unfortunate houses located right around a corner. Mrs. Jones had called Robbie’s ma three times complaining about having to pick her trash up out of the streets in this freezing weather when Mr. Miller should get his bony butt out there to pick up his own mess. Robbie wasn’t supposed to know what Mrs. Jones had said about Mr. Miller but his friend, Johnny, that lived down the street had eavesdropped over the party line and told him every word.

Robbie was certain Mr. Miller’s reckless driving habit would help him break Jack’s record if he let go of the bumper at just the right time. No one had been able to top Jack’s distance record for two days. Robbie was determined to get Christmas Eve bragging rights.

The game on the dead-end street had started the week before. After the last snow storm when the temperature dropped, cars plowed through 8 inches of snow packing it into a glacial cover. First, the boys of the neighborhood had competed to see who could slide the farthest past the intersection of Millo and Jackson getting speed first by running down Millo street toward the dead-ended street.

Two days ago, Jack got an idea as he waited for a car to pass for his turn. Instead, he didn’t wait; he grabbed ahold of the back bumper of the passing car then let go as it turned onto Jackson street sling-shotting him practically all the way to China. The neighborhood boys watching were in an uproar and couldn’t wait to do it themselves. They’d all been sneaking rides on the backs of cars ever since trying to go half as far as Jack had gone.

Robbie sprang out of his hiding spot just as Mr. Miller’s car passed him and caught the bumper. The day before, his first attempts resulted in some banged up bones from waiting too long to grab the bumper. He’d miss and end up losing his balance to fall on whatever body part was unfortunate to be underneath the rest of his body. This time, his timing was perfect.

Robbie kept crouched down behind the car so that he could keep his balance but more importantly so Mr. Miller wouldn’t notice him in the rear-view mirror. He watched the hard-packed snow under his feet whiz past and passed hand over hand to position himself on the far right side for when Mr. Miller made the turn. Robbie peered around the rear fender and estimated the distance to the corner. It was a hair longer than his Grandpa’s driveway at the farm. Just as he suspected, Mr. Miller was taking this corner as fast as those race horses they saw at the county fair last fall. When would this guy learn how to drive? Even though Robbie was thinking that, he was thankful that this wasn’t one of those times.

Just before the car tugged him to the right when it turned, Robbie let go of the bumper, staying low to keep his balance. He heard the clang of garbage cans in the background as he slid a long ways into the dead ended street, finally slowing to a stop. Robbie looked to his left to see he’d passed Jack’s record by at least the length of one of those long nails his pa had used to fix their front step last summer.

“Whoo-hoo!” Robbie shouted.

He scampered off the road onto the sidewalk where he was pummeled with several snowballs. Robbie took a dive behind a bush when he heard Jack yell, “Race you home for dinner!” Robbie jumped up from behind the bush but his brothers were already gone.

He ran up Jackson street stopping first to pick up Mrs. Jones’ garbage cans because it was Christmas Eve.  He didn’t mind his brothers beating him home since he’d already achieved top Christmas Eve bragging rights. Besides, he felt he owed it to Mrs. Jones since he was happy Mr. Miller had been driving too fast again.  Mrs. Jones waved a thank you from the window as he left and Robbie headed home to his brothers.


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