Letting go of the past is never easy. Especially when you start singing, If you would have known me when.

Then again, the Gutter is a great place to put the pedal to the metal one last time. Down here we say Fuck it in style....

Oldie by Mike Loniewski

She rumbles to life and part of me wakes up with her. I look at the hands wrapped tight around the wheel, old and scarred, nails yellowed and rimmed with dirt. Tattoos etched into my forearms, once bright and clear, now dull and faded like the man at the wheel. My body’s brittle, got a back with shards of bone riding my nerves, dick’s more useless than tits on a bull. But, boy, I still got her. Kept her in fine shape, strong and clean. Cared for her better than my body, my marriage, my kids.

The rearview rattles and I catch hollow, broken eyes bitter at the piece of shit in the driver’s seat. I look away to the dash, revving the engine and seeing her spike across the gauges. She’s a time machine and I’m 25 years younger. The withered skin sheds clean and that chiseled, tatted up badass from long ago takes over.

“You fuckin’ serious, old man?” the kid shouts through his window. “You really want this?”

“Don’t want it. Need it.”

“Be a shame to take that ride of yours.”

“I ain’t no first timer,” I tell him. “I know how the show works.”

“Well, all right then, gramps. Let’s see if you still got somethin’.”

I clamp down on the shifter and explode off the line. I’m thrown back into my seat, the smell of oil and rubber on fire. Everything goes deaf inside the cab, my teeth rattling. I shift down, the needle spiking. Shift again, pressing harder; she bucks into each new gear. The finish line pulls closer, the road torn open behind me. I keep my eyes forward, shifting once more, the final push, she roars from her gut.

From the corner I see him pass, a bright neon blur, purple lights glowing beneath it, its sleek form mocking me as it flies though the finish long before us. I ease off her, down shifting, and my ’68 Camaro comes to a stop, still growling, pissed off. I grip the wheel and look at the rattling rearview and see those same bitter goddamn eyes, the man I once was screaming at what I’ve become: a goddamn pussy.

The kid and his posse are hooting and jumping and they start banging on my hood.

“She’s a fine ride, all right,” he says. “Needs someone who knows how to handle her is all.”

I put my hand on the shifter, ready to throw her in gear. I’m not letting her go, not when she’s all I’ve ever done right. He pulls a gun. 

“The fuck, man? Don’t go doin’ somethin’ stupid. Car’s mine.”

I lurch her forward.

The kid pops off a round into the cab. My ear goes deaf, a hole in the headrest. I grab the gun, pulling him to me. But the kid torques, and the barrel presses to him. There’s a flash and I see the neat hole in his chest weeping red. He falls, gun tumbles into my car. I look at his body in the road. His friends are screaming. A bottle crashes against my windshield. I floor it, tearing across the black.

I change gears, again and again, the chassis rattling through my spine. I grit my teeth. Headlights rise up behind me, fanning out across the road, giving chase. Sirens ignite. I catch my eyes in the mirror, alight, alive. I throw the shifter down again and I laugh. Let’s make this a hell of a run.

Blue and red lights rise up in front of me, dancing across the dash, fluttering brighter as they close in. I lean forward, and slice between them with the skill of a fighter ace. I’m a warrior again.

Up ahead, another roadblock. The tires hit the spike strip and the front end lurches. I launch off a ditch. I’m airborne, the forest ripping past, my foot still hard on the gas. Heat spreads through my veins. I roar like a beast torn free from chains. A tree rises up like the hand of God. I look down in my lap and smile. I’m gonna die with a hard on.

Mike Loniewski is a writer from New Jersey. His prose work has been published by Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, One Eye Press, and Pro Se Press. His comics have been published by Image Comics, APE Entertainment, and Alterna Comics. You can find him on twitter at @redfox_write.