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A Slot Car Carol (part 2) - Updated 11-May-2005

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Nor was he alone. Before him stood a youth, with bad complexion, scraggly hair, and a baseball cap turned backward on his head. “I am the displaced person of Slot Cars Present!”, the apparition said with a smile full of bad teeth, “I bet you’re Scrooge. Do they really call you ‘Eliminator’?”

“Yes, they do”, admitted Scrooge, “well, what do I do? You’re not wearing a blanket.”

“You can, y’know, take my hand.”

“I’d rather touch a blanket, to be honest”, but Scrooge complied.

“Oh displaced person of Slot Cars Present!”, Scrooge exclaimed in terror, “We are flying! Don’t let go my hand or I shall surely fall to my death!”

“You weren’t, y’know, hot to hold my hand a moment ago.”

“Forgive me! Forgive me! Only don’t let me fall! Wait, where are we?”, Scrooge looked around in wonderment. “Why, we are back inside Slotworld! Look, there are two of the guys I just blew off in the main! That’s... uh, Bob Scratchit, the tall guy. The shorter, younger guy is, um, Little Tim, I think.”

The face of the displaced person of Slot Cars Present broadened into a grin. Apparently he had had an idea, and the novel experience tickled him, “Hey, let’s listen in, they can’t see us, y’know. We’re, y’know, indivisible, y’know?”

“Uh, yeah, so I gather”, and Scrooge edged nearer to the pair of beaten competitors.

Bob Scratchit said, “Well, I don’t know. I probably should get a new chassis, and if I wanted to have a real chance, a new armature and magnets too. Comes to that, my tires won’t go more than another session. What’s left? I’m in for another car, and I can’t afford it right now. And there’s no guarantee I’ll be anything more than mid-pack.”

Little Tim said, “Could I buy your old car off you? It’s better than I have. What would you want for it?”

“More than you can probably afford. You were lucky to qualify for the main. You’ve got talent, kid. If you could get a decent car together you could do well.”

“I got my car from a guy who decided to get out of racing”, said Little Tim, “he sold it to me cheap.”

“Yeah, I know who you got it off of. He used to build good cars. If he sold it to you cheap he was making you a gift. It takes money to be competitive, and time. I’m getting short of both.”

“Would you sell me the car? Tell me what you’d want.”

“Look, kid, I’ll be straight with you. If you are really, really good, you could get a fifth place with that car. Not any better, and that’s this week. Next week, who knows? It takes money, kid. Money I ain’t got, and money you ain’t got either.”

“Fifth? No better than fifth?”

“I’m telling you straight kid.”

“Hell, I want to win!”

“Yeah, me too kid. I’ve been at it a long time. Winning is tough. Some guys win all the time, like ‘Eliminator’. Me, I’ve won twice. Twice in all the time I’ve been racing. That’s not much to show for a lot of money and a lot of effort.”

“Twice?”, said Little Tim, “In how many years?”

“Oh I dunno. Ten or twelve.”

“Geez”, the kid looked down, then looked up again, sideways, “Fifth you say?”

“If you could afford it, and you can’t.”

“Geez”, Little Tim shook his head, “Geez.”

The displaced person of Slot Cars Present looked at Scrooge, “Well, hey, whatdaya think? Think those guys will be back?”

Scrooge looked melancholy, he too shook his head, “No, I don’t think so. At least not much longer. It’s sad. Scratchit is a decent competitor. He’s always in the main, he just never has enough to run at the front.”

“It’s sadder about the kid, y’know. He would be a champion if he gets a break, and stays with it. But he won’t, y’know.”

“He won’t? He’d be a champion?”

“Yeah, Scrooge, a champion. But it won’t happen...”

“But displaced person, surely there is something you can do! Come, young talent like that can’t be wasted!”

“Humbug, Scrooge, like you, y’know, say. Talent like that gets wasted all the time! And who wastes it? Who Scrooge? Who wastes it?”

Scrooge’s face visibly sagged as horrible truth struck home. He looked down at the floor, “Take me back, displaced person, take me back. I think, I think there is something I can do... I think there is something I MUST do...”

“Not yet Scrooge old dude, we’ve got flying to do! Hold on...”

“NOOOOOO!”, yelled Scrooge as they soared out of Slot World, into the open sky.

“Oh displaced person”, gasped Scrooge, “if you do that to me again I shall need a change of underwear.”

“Chill, oldster. Look where we are now.”

“Trader Vic’s! This is Vic Trayder’s shop!”, cried Scrooge.

“What’s the matter Scrooge? You, y’know, don’t look so good.”

“Ah, it’s nothing. Nice shop. I should come back sometime. Well, where do we go next?”

“We just, y’know, got here. You getting to, y’know, like flying?”

“NO! DON’T TOUCH ME!”, wailed Scrooge, cringing in fright. Looking around frantically, like a trapped animal Scrooge talked desperately, “Ah, Vic is talking to a customer, I want to listen in, OK? Yeah, I feel like listening in, maybe for a long time!”

“That’s cool by me!”

Scrooge and the displaced person took up positions by Vic and his customer. Scrooge actually stood right next to Vic, leaning on the counter, but neither Vic nor his customer showed the slightest perception of his presence.

“I’ve had this piece for quite a few years. I don’t display it”, said Vic, “because I don’t want to sell it to just anybody. I’m a little sentimental about it. It was one of my first big buys. I wanted it to go to someone special, someone who would appreciate its finer points. Look, see how the figures are painted? Look at the detail! Go ahead, pick it up! Take a close look!”

“Yes, it’s a careful job of detailing!”, Vic’s customer opined.

“And see how the wheel wells are slightly enlarged? Just big enough to take the slicks -- the prototype was equipped with racing slicks, remember?”

“Yes, you’re right. I’m interested Vic, what do you want for it?”

“Well, I paid $450 for that, but that was a number of years ago. Yes, $450! You, don’t find a piece like that everyday! But, I’ll let you have it for, oh, $500. I know someone who would give me $600 for it, and think he got a bargain, but look, I know you appreciate this piece. I can’t stand the thought of it just being put in a box where no one will see it. I know you’ll display it. Give me $500 and the Batmobile is yours.”

“Displaced person!”, howled Scrooge in utter dismay, “Let us be gone!”

“Vic’ll, y’know, make quite a haul on this sale, won’t he Scrooge? More than you made -- jealous?

”NO! Disgusted, heartsick, outraged! That cheating, lying, swindler!”

“He learned his lessons well, didn’t he Scrooge? He paid a lot for them, but, y’know, Iguess he’s made his money back over the years. Y’know I bet he’s grateful to you. You could be good friends. Even, y’know, best friends. Everyone should have friends Scrooge, y’know?”, the displaced person said with a smile.

“No, no, no. Oh no!”, Scrooge shook his head in his hands.

“So what’s the matter Scrooge? Does it disturb you to see others turn your vicious little prank into a way of doing business? Do you finally see that others may imitate you, adopt your methods for their own, and turn the market into a killing field for the trusting and the naive? What will that lead to Scrooge? Think, what will that lead to?”

“Displaced person of Slot Cars Present, do not say that this is my doing! Maybe I cheated Vic, but that does not mean I made him into what he is!”

“No, Scrooge, you did not make him what he is. He started with the inclination to evil, and you were just one person, one critical person, who helped him down that path. Many better people have been cheated by you. What happened to them? Shall we go see?”“NO, NO, NO! Oh have pity displaced person! I have learned that my sins may influence others to evil, and that evil I helped spawn may return to me! I have learned this lesson, I feel it keenly in my heart! Spare me more suffering!”

“Well, y’know, time’s about up anyway, let’s...”

“Oh thank you displaced person, thank you. But please, PLEASE, can we take a cab?”

“Kewl! A cab! Hey, that would be neat!”, said the displaced person of Slot Cars Present.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4