Black Mustang 1. 2: The Race

Before I was two years old, something happened I’ve never forgotten. It was early in the spring; there had been a little frost in the night, and a light mist still hung over the lake and meadows. The other cars and I were updating firmware when we heard, far in the distance, what sounded like barking humans. The eldest of us aligned his mics to the racket, and immediately drove off to the top of the hill for a better view. The rest of us followed. My mother and an old tractor of our engineer’s were also standing near, and seemed to know all about it.

“They have set up the starting line,” said my mother, “and if they come this way, we’ll see the race.”

And soon we hear the burnout, two men in two Jaguars heating up their tires, with a crowd cheering around them. I have never heard such a noise as they made. Their old gasoline engines did not howl or whine but kept on a low, “ro! ro, o, o! ro! ro, o, o!” and the sound echoed out over the lake. In front of them, a woman stood with a black and white checkered flag. As she waved it sharply down, the cars screamed down the road.

It was a short and close race, the green car beat the red, and the crowd laughed and whooped loudly. The drivers had released their pedals, cruising through the straightaway to slow down. Just then a hare, wild with fright, ran into the road. The green car was able to swerve into the grass and avoid it, but the driver didn’t account for the frost and careened down an embankment, right into the rocky stream. The hare continued up the road, but the red car was only watching the green; we heard one shriek and that was the end of her.

As for me, I was so astonished that at first I didn’t see what was going on by the stream, but when I did look it was a sad sight. The wheels were spinning in the mud, but the driver and car were still.

“His neck is broken,” said my mother. 
“And serves him right, too!” said another car.
I thought the same, but my mother did not join with us. 
“Well, no!” she said, “you must not say that. I’m an old car, and I remember when it was more common to have human drivers. It can be a wonderful partnership, especially for race car drivers, but I could never understand why they are so fond of these illegal drag races; they often hurt themselves, damage good cars, and tear up the fields. They could just as easily go to a track, but we are only cars, and don’t know.”

While my mother was saying this, we parked and looked on. Many of the people had gone to the young man, but my engineer, who had been watching, was the first to reach him. She placed two fingers on his neck and paused before hanging her head, shaking it slowly back and forth. There was no noise now, even the birds were quiet, and seemed to know that something was wrong. I heard afterwards it was young George Gordon, the mayor’s only son, and the pride of his family.

There was now driving in all directions. An ambulance arrived immediately, though it was still too late. The second racer borrowed an automated car to deliver the terrible news to Mayor Gordon. A tow truck came for the green Jaguar, winching itself to a tree to pull the car up and out of the stream. Our engineer felt him all over and shook her head again; one of his axles was broken. The tow truck pulled the wrecked end up on its bed, left the good wheels rolling, and drove off.

My mother seemed troubled; she said she’d known that car for years, that his name was Rob Roy; he was a good bold car and there was no vice in him. She would never go to that part of the field afterwards.

Not many days after, we heard the church bells tolling for a long time; and looking over the gate we saw a black carriage drawn by black horses, followed by a long line of slow black limousines, while the bell kept tolling, tolling. They were carrying young Gordon to the churchyard to bury him. He would never drive again. What they did with Rob Roy, I never knew.