(first posted 11/1/2012) Billy was washing his ’79 Nova at the Sloppy Dog Car Wash and grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve got a big night tonight!”, he was thinking, “Me, the Nova, and Tina. Gonna be a barn-burning good time!”
The agenda was to go to the carnival out by the dragstrip. Billy had signed up to participate in the drag races, and he was positive the Nova would kick some serious ass. Having a winning night in the Nova would be a terrific way to impress a new lady friend.
To fully appreciate Billy and his Nova, you need to know a little about each of them. Billy had graduated high school five years earlier and now worked at the lead mine. He had had his Nova for about three years, during which he had been making continual modifications to it.
Billy was almost as proud of his hair as he was of his Nova. Nobody in the area was able to achieve anything of comparable caliber. Unfortunately, Billy did not know people were snidely calling him “Mullet Man” behind his back. He had never become wise to mullets being so seriously out of style.
As for the Nova, here’s a recent list of the modifications Billy performed:
When Billy would brag about his Nova at work, he was frequently questioned as to why he had chosen certain upgrades. For example, why he had gone to so much trouble to convert the car to a manual transmission only to install a three-speed? His answer was typically, “Damn, dude, don’t you know? A three-speed doesn’t eat up as much time shifting running the quarter-mile. If it’s a four-speed, all you do is shift. Hell, it’s common sense!”
Others would quiz him on his keeping the stock 305 cu in (5.0-liter) V8 instead of upsizing the engine. As with the transmission, Billy had an answer ready: “Damn, dude, don’t you know? A 305 has less rotating mass than, say, a 350. It winds up quicker. Hell, it’s common sense!”
Few people had actually seen his Nova, while those who had wondered why it wore three different shades of blue on the passenger side.
Back to the story…
After Billy finished washing the Nova, he drove across town to Walmart. He knew Tina really liked music, especially that Swedish group, ABBA. Billy figured he could tolerate listening to them if there would be a payoff later that night.
Billy marched over to the electronics department and bought “ABBA’s Greatest Hits” on cassette. When the cashier gave him a funny look, Billy self-consciously barked, “It’s not for me, dammit!”.
The cashier remained skeptical. Billy walked off thinking the old hag didn’t need to know his business.
Billy picked up Tina at 5:30 that afternoon. Tina was a senior in high school, which meant that Billy had to listen to her father’s admonitions about driving safely and being back before midnight. Billy thought Tina was great and he really liked her hair. He was certain you could tell how a woman would take care of herself by how she took care of her hair.
When they got back into the Nova, Billy gave Tina a nicely wrapped package, complete with a red bow on top.
“Oh, Billy, you didn’t have to…but, thank you,” Tina said. She opened the package.
“This is great! Thank you so much. Let’s put it in the tape deck.” Billy slid the cassette into the Nova’s upgraded Spark-o-Matic sound system. His senses were immediately assaulted with a song containing a flailing piano with lyrics about some girl looking for a dance partner. He thought it truly wretched, but if it paid off….
Billy and Tina had a nice chat inside the Nova’s comfortable cabin. As Billy turned into the gate of the drag strip / carnival, he flashed his drag-race entry card to the attendant and was directed to go left to enter the staging area. As Billy pulled in, he noticed that his friend Jimbo was also planning to race.
Jimbo was Billy’s high-school classmate and lifelong friend. He worked at the waste water treatment plant, and had brought his pride and joy, a ’78 Dodge Magnum. He also brought his girlfriend, Tammy.
Billy and Jimbo introduced Tina to Tammy; they immediately disliked each other. Billy and Jimbo were too busy discussing race times and joking about kicking the other’s tail to see a potential cat fight brewing.
The first race was 90 minutes out, so Billy thought he’d take Tina to get something to eat at the carnival. He and Tina dined on corn dogs, deep-fried Snickers bars, deep-fried dill pickles, a funnel cake, and watered-down lemonade. They were having a grand time.
After eating they went back toward the Nova, which was still parked in the staging area. Billy and Tina approached Jimbo and Tammy, who were in the midst of a heated discussion.
“Jimbo, how about you let me ride with you? You’ve been promising that for a long time,” they heard Tammy plead.
Jimbo wanted nothing to do with it. “Tammy, you have weight, which will slow the car down. I want to win.” Billy winced. Tina was shocked. Tammy burst out crying. Jimbo realized he had touched upon a subject so highly taboo with the fairer sex, and there was no taking it back.
“You worthless clod! I hope you lose. And, you can forget about any celebration parties. We are finished!” Tammy stormed off. Jimbo wanted to attempt to smooth things over, but he was up to race.
Billy paused a second before walking up to Jimbo. “Dude, don’t worry about her. There’s a lot more fish in the sea. You’re gonna do great racing your Magnum–except against me. Besides, Tammy was just a big hassle.”
Jimbo was instantly livid. “What do mean ‘hassle’? You know what? Soon as I’m done with this race, I’m gonna come back here and stomp your little mullet-covered ass! What do you think about that, dude?”
At this point, a race official walked over to see what was happening. Jimbo looked at Billy and said, “I’ll worry with you later!” as he got into his Magnum.
“The hell with him,” Billy thought as he walked away. Jimbo drove his Magnum to the starting line as Billy and Tina were walking back to the Nova. Tina didn’t know what to think.
Then, Billy saw Jimbo’s challenger at the starting line. “Ha, that ’71 Road Runner will totally kick his butt! I can’t wait to see it happen,” Billy said. Tina thought this was rather mean-spirited to say about a friend; suddenly, she wasn’t so sure about Billy. She also felt a bit sorry for Jimbo.
When the Christmas tree did its thing, there was nothing but the sound of two Mopar V8 engines at wide-open throttle. From the staging area, Billy could not have known that Jimbo had won his heat. Later, he would learn that the Road Runner’s tattered spoiler had broken mid-race, startling the driver and causing him to take his foot off the throttle. Jimbo and his Magnum had run the 1/4 mile in 14.5 seconds at 98.08 mph. Billy realized Jimbo hadn’t mentioned what he had enhanced on his Magnum. Billy, on the other hand, had told everyone what he had modified on his Nova.
Billy was signaled to prepare for his heat. “Good”, he thought, “time to take control of this race!” As Tina walked over to take a seat, Billy looked around. When he saw who his challenger was, it wasn’t good: It was that jerk, Biff, who was a supervisor at the mine. “I’m gonna stomp him into the ground”, thought Billy.
Biff nodded at Billy. “What a jerk”, Billy thought again. “He comes here in that fancy Oldsmobile, thinking he’s hot stuff. Well, he has a surprise coming.”
Billy and Biff eased up to the starting line. Jimbo had arrived back in the staging area and was in the background yelling at Billy, threatening to kick his tail. Billy didn’t notice – he was too intent on obliterating Biff and his putrid Oldsmobile. Billy saw the “W-25” on the front fender and scoffed. “Wussy, age 25. That’s all that means!”
When the green light lit, Biff and Billy took off as nearly shot-like as their low-compression, emissions- biased chariots could muster. The Oldsmobile was a nose ahead and kept inching ahead. Billy was winding out his 305 and banging its few gears. Biff looked over at Billy and smiled as he lurched ahead, crossing the finish line a full 3/4 of a second ahead of Billy.
Billy suspected Biff was simply toying with him when he saw that his time was 17.52 seconds at 83.6 miles per hour.
“That worthless bum!” Billy yelled. It was a long, humiliating trip back to the staging area. To add insult to his Nova-induced injury, when Billy got back to the staging area, he saw Jimbo talking with Tina. She had her hand on his leg, and was giggling!
Before Billy could take care of the situation, Jimbo was back up to race again.
Jimbo handily beat the upstart in the Grand Prix. The guy missed a shift, and Jimbo cruised to victory.
As Billy sat with Tina, all she could do was blather endlessly about how good a driver Jimbo was. Billy was getting quite annoyed with little Tina. He’d have taken her home had he not wanted to see some more racing. Truth be told, he was still hoping his fortunes would turn and the ABBA tape would pay off.
After Jimbo’s race, a timeout was called for the races. It was time for the Carnival Queen to be named. However, someone on the planning committee had failed to think about the coronation being at the drag strip. The often overheard derisive comments about the location really soured the evening for those poor girls. They didn’t appreciate being called the Drag Queen candidates.
Just as the queen was about to be named, Billy felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Jimbo. Billy turned around and stood up.
“So, Mullet Man, what’s this business about Tammy being a hassle, huh?” Jimbo inquired.
Billy squinted and his face tensed as he looked Jimbo squarely in the eye. “Damn right she’s a hassle, dude. It seems you just don’t satisfy her, so I have to do that for you. The bad thing is, she just keeps nagging me about it. It’s a damn hassle to be taking care of her after you can’t. And she says your Magnum isn’t that much.”
Tina was dismayed. Jimbo was quiet – yet explosive.
Two seconds after Billy dropped his bomb on Jimbo, he was in the air, as Jimbo had picked him up and tossed him. Billy landed on the hood of his beloved Nova. His mullet became entangled in the grille and hood latch.
Jimbo walked away with Tina’s arm around him.
The poorly repaired damage from Billy’s hard landing is still obvious to this day.
Billy landed with a sickening “thud” on the Nova. He groaned and rolled around. Biff walked by and said “I bet that hurt”. People were snickering and pointing at the big ball of hair fused to a Nova. Then Billy got up and jerked his head quite hard. He left a good chunk of mullet blowing around the front of his beloved Nova.
Sprinting like an Olympic athlete, Billy tackled Jimbo as he was walking away. He repeatedly banged Jimbo’s head on the ground while women screamed and men said, “Glad that’s not me.”
Nearly instantaneously the police showed up. As Billy and Jimbo were both on the tiny side, it took only two cans of pepper spray and some strategically aimed night sticks to calm the two unruly young men.
As they were being shoe-horned into the back of an unmarked Caprice, Tina yelled, “Jimbo, don’t worry, I’ll come get you. Don’t worry about that pipsqueak Billy. You are a bigger man than him.”
After the Caprice’s doors had been closed and they were heading out, all Billy could think of was the lyrics to that blasted ABBA song, “You’re a teaser, you turn ’em on, leave them burning and then you’re gone.”
“Some payoff”, Billy thought.