Eddie puffed his chest out as he watched the other racers enter their vehicles. He received a reassuring hand on his shoulder from his Grandpa Mike and a slap on the back from drunk Uncle Otto.
“Go get ‘um kid!” Otto said, slurring his words. He waved the wrench in the air. “Got everything re-tightened back up.”
“Hey Sanders!” That nasally voice, polished with privilege and oozing confidence.
Eddie narrowed his eyes as a flaming red go cart rolled up. Toby Hightower.
“Did you get that plywood fastened back on?” Hightower said, pointing at the black go cart with a smirk.
Eddie ground his teeth. “It’s not ply–”
“Oh, sorry, PLASTIC,” Hightower interrupted. His co-driver laughed and they bumped fists in victory.
“Hey Sanders, come on, hurry up so you can eat my sand!” Hightower snorted at his own joke and drove to the starting line.
Eddie ran a hand through his afro and climbed into his cart, “Deathtrap”. Helmet secured, he took his position in between Winters and Hightower.
Family members, friends, and neighbors cheered as the green flag dropped. A dozen brightly painted go-carts puttered down the asphalt, leaving Eddie in the dust. He growled as he accelerated.
Hightower was about ten yards ahead of everyone, cackling like a madman. Eddie watched as he barreled straight towards a puddle. Wait, Eddie squinted and slowed down a fraction. That’s not water. His stomach began to twist and bunch as Hightower hit the slick, tires squealing.
Eddie hung back as Hightower’s cart spun out of control, hitting other carts and knocking out the orange cones that separated the track from oncoming traffic.
He felt sick. BAM!
The other carts were stopping now as Eddie made his way towards them. He could hear screaming and sobbing. The smell of burned rubber singed his nose hair.
His ears felt stuffed with cotton and it was like he was walking under water or in a dream.
“Is everyone okay?” Eddie heard himself say.
The other stunned pre-teens nodded. Skinned elbows and bruised pride. Eddie felt himself walk towards the road and was halted by an adult. Eddie peered around to take in the accident.
Hightower’s go cart lay tipped over, crushed. The boy was silent, still on the hot asphalt, his mother and the driver of the sedan that struck him frantically trying to revive him.
“Come on son,” Eddie’s dad said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go.”
Eddie was dimly aware of being given a trophy for being the last competitor. He’d finally beaten Hightower!
He saw the boy’s brother rushing past him and stopped him.
“Is he gonna be okay?”
Ernest stared at him, and Eddie had the impression that the boy was three seconds from a breakdown.
“I don’t know,” Ernest admitted.
Eddie gave him the trophy. “For when he wakes up. It means more to him anyway.”
Three weeks later Eddie got a phone call
“Hey Sanders! Come get your trophy.”
“Aw Toby, that’s your’s man.”
The line was silent a moment.
“Wanna come play soccer?”
And just like that Toby Hightower and Eddie Sanders became fast friends.