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A Slot Car Carol (part 4) - Updated 11-May-2005
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"Bud", said a voice, "hey bud, you all right?"
Scrooge spread apart the fingers covering one eye, to see who, or what, had spoken.
"C'mon bud, you OK? You need a doctor?"
Scrooge struggled to focus on the face above him. It was as if he had forgotten how to use his eyes. Slowly, with an effort, he perceived the missing teeth, the scraggly salt-and-pepper beard, the dirty coat that once might have been warm, but now was too threadbare to be effective. When his abused brain finally integrated what he had seen, Scrooge tried to speak.
"Which displaced person are you?", he managed.
"Hey bud, no need to call me names. I'm trying to help you!"
"I'm... I'm not hurt. I'm not... sick. Well, not physically sick. I'm heartsick. Give me a moment", Scrooge sat up. He sat with his head hanging down, it shook slowly, side to side. At last he looked up, tears still on his cheeks, still in his eyes. "You are not the displaced person of Slot Cars Anything?"
"No bud, and I wish you'd stop calling me that. Why do you have to call people that?"
"Please sir", Scrooge said, penitent now to the core of his being, "I did not mean to offend you."
"Aw that's all right. Look, you drink out of the wrong bottle or something? I know a place folks'll look after you."
"No, nothing like that. I'll be all right. Eventually. Perhaps better than I have been in years. WAIT A SECOND! We're on Fifth and Main!", Scrooge spun around, his eyes wide with amazement.
"Yeah, that's where we are. You're lucky a cop didn't see you."
"But, but -- what day is this... what YEAR is this?"
"Oh my sweet lord..."
"No please, tell me, tell me!"
The displaced person told Scrooge, who managed to express relief with every inch of his body. He threw up his hands to heaven, "I'm back! I'm back, and everything must still be as it was! That means the... personages of Slot Cars Past, Present and Yet To Be have given me another chance! A precious second chance!" In an instant Scrooge sobered, he looked up at the dumbfounded face of his benefactor, "I must not waste it."
"Bud, about those folks I know..."
"No. It's all right! I'm fine! I'm... giddy! Hoo hoo!", Scrooge bounded up from the sidewalk, "Another chance! A chance to make things right! And I will, I will! I swear by every slot car ever made I will my good man! Tell me, what is your name?"
"Call me Bill."
"Bill, then. Thank you Bill! Come on, help me celebrate! Have you eaten? I'm famished! Come on, join me! I feel like a good, huge meal! And beer! Do you hold with liquor?"
"I've been known to."
"Fine, join me! A celebration! It's on me! It's all on me!"
The next evening Scrooge was at Slotworld. It was a race night, and when Scrooge arrived most of the benches were occupied by competitors preparing for the event. Scrooge spotted Harold, the owner, and almost danced over to him. "Harold", he cried, "I made a terrible mistake last week. My car wasn't legal!" An active imagination would have heard the snaps as heads whipped around all over the room. "Oh, it's so embarrassing, but it's true! The armature was dewound, and the bearings had been counterbored. It got by tech only because the mods were so difficult to see. I had been testing the motor and forgot to replace it before the race, so I guess I have to forfeit."
To his credit, Harold did not merely stand there gaping like a goldfish, "There's a two-race suspension too. That puts you out of the championship this year -- you might as well go home."
"Oh, I can marshall. And I see a couple friends of mine here, I'll give them a hand." With that Scrooge made a beeline over to Bob Scratchit. When Scrooge put his arm around Bob the poor man jumped as if stung. "Look Bob, I won't be able to race for the next couple weeks, would you like to run one of my cars? I promise it'll be legal -- and fast."
Bob tried to speak, couldn't do it. Tried again, failed. Finally he managed, "Well, if you wouldn't mind. I know your cars are better than mine."
"Not so very much better, but I think you'll have a chance, a good chance, to win. You're a good driver Bob, I think you could win."
"Well, thank you, Scrooge. I had no idea you thought so highly of my driving."
"What you've done with the equipment you could afford is respectable, no, remarkable! I've always wanted to see what you could do with a first-rate car, now here is my chance! You will drive for me?"
"With pleasure Scrooge! It's an honor!"
"Oh tush, do well with the car and then it WILL be an honor, for both of us! Maybe we might come to some arrangement. Let's discuss it later. I see Little Tim over there! I want to talk to him too!"
Little Tim's racer's box was a small, meager looking thing. Yet it held a few treasured cars, and the tools within it were lovingly and carefully stowed. Tim was soldering a new set of motor leads, getting ready for the race when Scrooge approached him, "Mind if I look?", asked Scrooge politely.
From Little Tim's reaction Scrooge might have been an angel who had asked "Mind if I shed my radiance upon thee?"
"Oh not at all, sir! I'm so sorry to hear you were disqualified!"
"Don't be. I deserved it. Many times over. Could I see your car?"
"Yes of course!"
"Very nice work. You've done a lot of this yourself I see. Oh, what is this! Why that is a Beta Duper II motor isn't it? Gosh the great times I had with those. You know I don't have even ONE of them anymore? Hey, could I trade you a motor for that one? I'd like to have it just for old time's sake! We have time to make the swap before the race. Let's see what I've got -- would you take a Warp Core Breach Mark VIII in trade?
"Don't drool son, it makes the floor slippery."
The next day Scrooge was pacing back and forth in front of Trader Vic's. He was having a tough time of it. He was still on a high from his evening at Slotworld, and the thought of what lay ahead did not please him. Still, he made up his mind, and manfully strode into the store.
Vic looked about as happy to see Scrooge as he would a venomous snake. "Well, what are you here for? You got something you want to sell me?"
"No Vic, not today. I doubt that you'd ever be eager to do business with me. I cheated you a long time ago, and I suspect you never will forgive me."
"Well, God bless me, I never thought I would hear you say that! Now I'm doubly suspicious."
"I don't blame you", said Scrooge, "but I was wondering, do you still have that Batmobile? I'd like to buy it back from you."
"It would cost you. But sorry, I don't have it. I sold it."
Scrooge winced, as if at a painful memory, "Could you tell me who you sold it to? I'm serious."
"You been taking your medication Scrooge? Why should I tell you who I sold it to. I respect my customer's privacy."
"Then perhaps you could tell them, privately, I have an interest. In fact you could do me a favor. You could act as my broker. Would 20% be a fair cut?"
"It would be fair, more than fair, for anyone but you." Vic looked Scrooge squarely in the eye. You cheated me out of $265 when you sold me that car. I want that back, with interest."
Scrooge almost said, "And you made that and more when you sold the car to that other poor sucker", but he didn't. Instead he said, "Fine. I'll pay you that when I get the car. But I want to see the sales record on it -- what the last buyer paid you."
Vic chewed on that awhile. "All right. Since you've decided to make up for past misdeeds, I'll go that far."
Scrooge strode out of Slotworld with the air of a man well satisfied with the world. He was no longer known as 'Eliminator'. Little Tim had started to call him 'Uncle', and the name had stuck. Scrooge liked that. He liked a lot of things these days. And there were very few things he liked that he could not get a merry chuckle out of. Most of all he found he was liking people. And they were liking him back. It was a virtuous circle and he was loving it.
He was losing more races these days, but he didn't mind. When he lost he was losing to people he liked, and he cheered their victories as much as he did his own.
He was especially proud when Bob Scratchit won, or Little Tim. Little Tim was a comer, no two ways about it. He would sit with his 'Uncle' Scrooge and discuss cars and tuning and race strategy, eager for any little bit of knowledge Scrooge could pass on. Scrooge was free with his advice these days, but Little Tim still got more of it than anybody.
Yes, Scrooge was a happier man, a better man, and he knew it. And if ever a man was grateful, it was Scrooge. As he walked down the street that evening he reflected on the extraordinary events that had changed him, changed him down to his core. He could only shudder when he thought of what might have been, but for that bizarre intervention.
"Well Scrooge, you look happy this evening."
"Who? Oh my God! Oscar! You came back! I thought you said I'd never see you again!"
"Sometimes I don't stick to the script", said the wizened figure. "Rank hath its privileges. So tell me, how are you getting on these days?"
"Marvelously, thanks to you and yours! I suppose you've heard. I suspect you hear a lot of things."
"Oh I do. Good things too. I'm pleased. I heard about that business with Vic Trayder. I think you set the world record for a slot car sale."
"I probably did. Part of the deal was Vic wouldn't noise it about, but I suppose you have your ways of finding things out."
"That I do. Vic stayed tight-lipped. It's his nature. He won't give away information. But you paid him way too much you know."
"I know. That's the breaks. I didn't have to cheat him in the first place. I thought I made a whale of a profit, but its been solid loss ever since. It almost broke me."
Oscar nodded, "I think I know what you mean, and you're right. So, would you have the car with you? I'd like to see it."
"As a matter of fact, I do", said Scrooge. "Give me a moment, I'll fish it out."
"Ah, just as I thought", said Oscar as he examined the Batmobile, "this is one of mine."
"One of yours?", exclaimed Scrooge, "You once owned that car?"
"Sure did. See inside the body? The letters 'OKV' scratched there? That's how I identified my cars."
"Then YOU did the detail painting, YOU enlarged the wheelwells? Oscar, you mean that?"
"Sure, that's my work. I was proud of it too. I did I nice job, don't you think?" Oscar turned the car about, eying it critically, "You know, I'd like to buy this car off you. I have some cars I could trade you."
"Like a case of orange Chargers."
"Yeah", said Oscar, "Would that be fair?"
Scrooge was silent. You could almost see currents of emotion running under the skin of his face. Finally Oscar asked, "What are you thinking?"
"This is a test", Scrooge replied, "and I know how to pass it. But that isn't enough. I am trying to decide if I am honestly tempted, regardless of what I actually say."
"So, is it a deal?"
"Oscar, I might take one Charger, just to make it a trade. But if you want the car, its yours. It would be just the smallest token towards the immense debt I owe you. I would be proud to give it to you as a gift."
"So you're not tempted?"
"Not at all." Scrooge exhaled like a man who had put an ordeal behind him. He had. "Not at all, I can say that honestly. I am certain every one of those Chargers is a beautiful car, absolutely mint-in-box, but I already have one, and that is all I want or need."
"So what about the Batmobile?"
"It's yours Oscar. I'm proud to have owned it once."
"Naw, I don't want it. It's not a collectors piece."
"Don't be so sure, Oscar. I think it's more valuable than you might expect. Yes, I think it is a very rare and valuable collectors piece indeed."
'A Slot Car Carol' is the sole property of 'HO RacePro North America', and may be reproduced and distributed for free by anyone who thinks it's a hoot.
All events and characters depicted are fictitious, except for a few real characters, that is, characters who we suspect are real, and probably won't object strongly enough to hire a lawyer.
The producers wish to thank The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Janet Reno, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, America Online and Bill Gates, without whose lack of vigilance this story could never have been perpetrated.