Look, theres a pedal, I said.
Under your right foot.
Oh yeah. She pressed it, heavily. The engine revved, another cloud of smoke polluting the air.
Yeah, cool. Do it again.
No, hang on, How would you stop it?
She pressed another pedal, but nothing happened. Then she jabbed at a knob under the speedometer. It was a simple, shiny red knob, with the words engine stop on it, again in white.
Aaaaaahhh..... we said in unison.
Suddenly, I caught a movement in the corner of my eye and came closer to a heart attack than ever before. There, running towards us over the gravel yard, was Moran. Amanda saw him and screamed. He was bearing down on us at frightening speed. As he came closer I could hear his shouts:
GET DOWN YIS FUCKIN GURRIERS!
To my surprise, Manda was now laughing, long and hard. Great gales of mirth swept from her mouth, despite the fact that Moran was so close we could see the damp patches under his waving arms. In my mind I could smell his foul air. His words rasped like sandpaper on my ears. Manda laughed on.
What are you laughing at?
She stopped, raised herself from the seat and put her mouth to my ear. I bent down.
Were in trouble now, she whispered, slapping the lever into gear and standing on the accelerator. The tractor leaped forward. I clung tightly to the roll bar to stop myself from falling. I looked straight in Morans bloodshot eyes, saw his sweaty cheeks as he overshot and ran past us. I saw him stop, hands on knees, and look after us, breathing heavily. He got smaller as we sped on, mad Amanda at the wheel. When he began shaking his fist at us I started to cry laughing myself.
Jesus Christ......, I said. Jesus Christ....
Yes, my child? said Amanda, a huge happy head on her, bouncing up and down on the seat, both hands high on the wheel. Im dreaming, I said to myself. No way...
Yes way! cried Amanda, still laughing.
She threw her head back and her hair streamed in the wind. We were both surprised at how fast the old heap could go. We were out of the yard now, leaving huge tracks in the gravel behind, and into the no-mans land between Morans kingdom and the actual golf course. I noticed that our options were quickly narrowing. The line of pines on our right began to close in, and a fence I hadnt noticed before blocked us from turning left. We were on a grass track now, getting narrower and narrower. Still we sped on, the branches of the pines growing closer and threatening to whip our faces. Every time we hit a bump Amanda shot up off the rattling seat, and I clung tighter to the bar. I risked a glance at her face. Her eyes were set on the track ahead, her brow knitted in concentration, her lips tight and thin. She slapped me on the thigh with the back of her hand and pointed ahead. Just in front, coming ever closer, we could make out a gap in the pines, but not what was beyond it. Amanda looked at me and shrugged before looking behind. A small, waddling white figure at the end of the track we had come down was Moran, still in hot pursuit. In front, the gap was upon us.
Amanda took her foot off the accelerator and swung hard to the right. I felt the left side of the tractor almost lift off the ground, and for a split-second feared for my life. Suddenly the front wheels hit the edge of the tarmacademed road that lay just past the gap, and the whole tractor was momentarily airborne. We almost leaped the whole road, two kids in a thirty-year-old tractor travelling at thirty miles an hour. I caught a glimpse of a startled driver on his way up to the clubhouse before we were over. We bumped down onto the track again and went through a gap in the trees on the other side.
My relief at having survived the worlds first incidence of a flying tractor gave way to shock as we passed the trees. There, stretching ahead and below us, lay the vast green expanse of the golf course. In a flash we were over the rough and ploughing great furrows right across the seventh fairway. Around us, all the old men playing found their attention removed from their balls and focused on our runaway tractor. Angry shouts and startled looks followed our progress as we barrelled down the hill, Amandas extended right turn digging the wheels in and throwing up great clods of earth behind us. Finally, she brought the tractor under control, only to find to her horror that we were headed directly for the clubhouse. Heads and faces gazed from cars and windows as Amanda now pulled the tractor hard to the left and away towards a ridge. I noticed for the first time that I was screaming, and wondered when Id started. Behind us, people began running from the car park, waving and yelling. I couldnt hear what they were yelling, but it sure looked important.
Amandas face was frozen in concentrated fear as she wrestled once again for control. She relaxed as the tractor began to straighten out, and pointed to the ridge.
Right....., she shouted. Well go over that ridge, dump the tractor and leg it into the woods. They wont catch us in there. They cant.
They know who we are, I shouted back.
But would you rather wait around?
Theyll never catch us in the woods.
We hit the ridge - another heart-stopping moment as the tractor threatened to leave the earth, and found a steep downhill slope before us. It was at this point, I think, that I spotted a flaw in her plan. At the bottom of the hill, between us and the sanctuary of the trees, lay the little lake, glinting red in the sinking sun. We screamed in unison. Amanda lunged forward and pulled the engine stop knob, very hard. The engine stopped, cutting out abruptly and belching the last of its smoke into the air. The tractor, however, sailed on in silence, and now our screams filled the world.
Brakes! Brakes! Wheres the fucking brakes? roared Amanda, pumping the other pedal. Still the tractor coasted on, and the lake loomed mighty in our sights.
Jump! I roared in her ear, as I threw myself from the back of the beast. Legs together, I hit the soft turf and rolled, like I had seen the stuntmen do on the telly. A couple of rolls and I lay still, staring at the sky. Realising I was still alive, I raised my head enough to see Amanda rolling to a halt mere metres from the waters edge, and the tractor hitting the bank. It lifted in a graceless arc before slapping down into the water with a colossal shower of spray. After a moment, all was settled and silent, save for the spreading ripple from the tractor, only half submerged in the shallow lake. Steam hissed where the water touched the engine. Amanda lay still, groaning. Over the ridge, heads appeared, silhouetted by the sun. They were momentarily too stunned to speak, but then all hell broke loose. I lay back and closed my eyes.
I remember little of what happened afterwards. Apparently, once the relief of the gathered masses at the fact that we were unhurt had dissipated, we were frog-marched, heads hanging, back to the clubhouse to explain ourselves. The minutes blurred into a succession of different faces shouting at us, roaring at us as we stood in the clubhouse bar. Most people had, I think, given up playing golf at this stage and were instead lining up to berate us. We replied to no-one, didnt speak, didnt move, didnt cry, just stood and waited for it to be over. Moran was the only silent one, strangely enough. He had known that there were no brakes in the tractor. He was the first one to ask us if we were alright. Now he just sat in the corner, a cup of tea in front of him, and watched us being tortured. I watched him back. He avoided my eyes, and when he lifted the tea to his lips, his hand was shaking.
That bit only do I remember. That and Mr. Norton, of course. He had gone home before we crashed the tractor, but someone phoned him on his mobile to tell him of his daughters adventures, and he turned around and came right back. The bar fell silent when he strode in, fuming. I had never seen anyone so angry. It was like in those cartoons, where their entire head goes red and steam starts coming from their ears. People stepped back from him as he came in the door. Poor Amanda, I thought. Jesus, poor Amanda.
He stopped inside the door and looked at us, his head slowly shaking. Then he began to walk, straight for me, raising his fist, his knuckles white against his fat red fingers.
You little fuckin scumbag. Just like your father. YOU LITTLE FUCKIN....
He had to be grabbed, held back, restrained from punching me. I put my arms over my head and cowered, back bent.
Ye dirty little rat-arsed prick. What the hell did you think you were doing? Get off me lads....
Calm down, Tony. Jesus.....
Calm down.....calm down? Calm fucking down, is it? Is that what it is? Calm down? This little scumbag almost kills my daughter, ruins the bloody course, ruins it, fucking ruins it, and youre telling me.......
He began to pace in front of me, shrugging off his friends, shaking his podgy finger.
Ill calm down. Ill calm down when hes in the fucking station. A fucking vandal, a fucking scumbag delinquent like all his family.........look what hes done to my daughter.
Beside me, Amanda was crying uncontrollably. Great sobs shook her body, rivers of tears streaking her face. She seemed so small, so tiny - she couldnt control herself. A great pit welled up in my gut, and it wasnt because Norton was still shouting. I felt a tear in my own eye, felt my own hands beginning to shake.
Norton thrust his red face close to mine. I could smell his breath.
Youre going to pay for all the damage, he said, shouting quietly now. Every scrap. Youre going to pay for that tractor. Youre going to pay for the course. Youre going to pay..........
No hes not! screamed Amanda. Hes not. Hes not!
Every face in the room, mine included, turned to look at her. She was still crying, still roaring, but she was trying to talk, trying to give birth to words through curtains of tears. She straightened herself then, and was big once more, calm once more.
It wasnt him, she said to her father. He turned to her, watching her dry her eyes, only to see them fill with tears all over again.
It wasnt him, she said again. It wasnt him, you fucker. You fucking.....
She began sobbing again, but continued, in a tiny quivering voice.
It was me. It was me. It was me who took it. He tried to stop me. It was ME! He tried to stop me but I wouldnt let him. I wouldnt let him stop me because it was my idea. I saw it, I started it, I drove it. I crashed it......
Norton walked over to her, his face twisted in confusion. He put his hands on her shoulders, bending down to her, pleading with her.
Amanda, Amanda, he said in his politicians voice. You dont know what youre saying. Come on, youve had a hard day.
OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT IM FUCKING SAYING! She threw his hands off her shoulders, stepped back from him, screamed at him.
IT WAS ME! ME!..............me, you stupid bastard.......me.....not him.....not Dave.......me. Me.
Norton straightened up. His mouth trembled. He put his head in his hands. Amanda sat on a chair, the tears flowing freely. Her father turned sharply and made to stride out of the room, before turning again and walking back to her. Gently, he put his hand under her arm and tried to lift her from the seat. Everybody watched. She shook his hand off and again he tried, this time more firmly. She yielded, and stood up. Both of them walked silently from the room, heads bowed, and every eye followed.
A hum of conversation rose after they left. A hand, I dont know whose, touched my shoulder. A voice, I dont know whose, told me to go on home. I left the bar, and my runners squeaked in the empty corridor outside. Amandas car was gone from the car park.
I walked home in the half-light. I was glad when I got there.
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