Mattie and Jason chose the Saturday of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit as their wedding day. They love watching the parade of 40,000 classic cars and hot rods cruise Woodward. One week before their wedding, at a two-family meet-and-greet, their grandfathers recognize each other from a Woodward drag race over a girl in 1965 that was interrupted. They swore to God that someday they would finish the race. Their anger had been a festering wound for fifty years. A 50 year old grudge and they kept their old hot rods, just in case. They challenge each other to a final race on Woodward, Friday night, just like in 1965. All they have to do is restore the hot rods in one week and race the night before the wedding and the Dream Cruise. What could go wrong? Plenty.
“Dream Machines races into our hearts. There is so much to love about this delightful story. It doesn’t get much better than drive-in restaurants, waitresses on roller skates, vanilla shakes, and drag races. “At the heart is the theme of a family coming together as they let go of past grudges and learn what is truly important in life. The plot is fun, entertaining and cleverly crafted. There are genuine laughs, and the characters are colorful and come to life. We fall in love with all of them. “We have no doubt that readers and audiences of all ages will smile as they enter the world of Dream Machines.” —Terri Zinner, Afilmwriter.com
|6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Ron Lundmark
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 Ron Lundmark
All rights reserved.
Friday night - 1965
It was Friday night in the heat of summer. Woodward Avenue, the very first paved road in America, was jammed with hot rods, muscle cars, jalopies, junkers, beaters, as well as beautiful new cars and some new cars that won't even hit the showroom till next year. This is the motor city world of Detroit, Michigan in 1965.
Four lanes each way with a large median between filled with trees and bushes, Woodward heads north from downtown Detroit for 30 miles to Pontiac. In the northern suburbs of Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham and Bloomfield hills, where many auto execs and their families live, Woodward has a light every half-mile.
Peppered along a fifteen-mile stretch through those suburbs and more, there's a slew of drive-in restaurants complete with roller-skating waitresses, vanilla shakes and actual burger wars. On Friday and Saturday nights, Woodward is 'American Graffiti' times a thousand and has a bad-boy reputation as the biggest illegal drag-strip in the world.
It seems as if everybody is racing especially Johnnie, a good looking teen wearing a wild Hawaiian shirt, in his 1957 souped-up red Chevy convertible, and his rival Drake, a teen with swept back black hair wearing a white T-shirt and a black leather vest, in his custom '51 Mercury. They, along with thousands of other hotrodders, love to cruise the drive-ins, listen to rock 'n roll on the radio, grab some burgers and drag race in-between the lights.
It's Friday night and Johnnie and Drake are always out cruising Woodward and drag racing anybody that wants to race, which is an amazing amount of nice friendly law-breakers.
During a spin through the Totem Pole, a prime drive-in restaurant on Woodward, Drake and Johnnie run into each other and argue over a girl they both want to take out.
This hatred is not new, they've argued, fought and taunted each other for all of their life. In seventh grade, they both ran for class president. In a debate they actually got in a fist fight and the only other person running for president that year won out of default. In ninth grade, Drake slipped some dog poop onto Johnnie's seat just before he sat down on it for an hour before he smelled something wrong. In eleventh grade Johnnie slipped some laxative in Drake's drink at the prom and consequently had a very crappy time. In their senior year they were both expelled over stupid things they did to each other and their hate grew.
That Friday night, they had already drag raced each other two races and each had won one, so they were tied. On the race Drake won, Johnnie complained that Drake was cheating by taking off before the light turned green. They were especially pissed at each other and they both wanted good-looking Sue, a regular at the Totem Pole.
With these two fanatical bitter and hormonally radioactive teens, fist fights are not enough. For them, it comes down to a final decisive drag race challenge to win the rights to Sue, but also to prove exactly who, or which car, is 'King of the Road.'
At the stoplight at 13 Mile Road and Woodward, a crowd of teens that hang at drive-ins, wait for Johnnie and Drake to show up for an announced grudge race. The object of the race, Sue, a stunning young girl around 18 years old and a couple of her good-looking friends, lean on a gorgeous '66 Mustang that belongs to Vick, well, actually Ford. Vick's father is a Ford exec and frequently they allow execs to drive home a demo of next year's car, as a perk.
"I love this car," spews Sue, who's always looking for something, or someone better.
Vick shrugs, "Mustang. My Dad says it's gonna be huge."
The roar of high output engine power overwhelms them as Drake shows up at the light. Another ear deafening engine growl enters the scene as Johnnie, in his convertible rolls up to the light. Nobody can talk because of the engine rumbles and revs.
Johnnie and Drake show immense hate for each other in non-verbal means; they face off and give each other various versions of the infamous 'fickle finger of fate.'
They rev their engines; the gas fumes burn their noses and everyone else's. The light on the side turns yellow—a warning sign that the light will change within seconds.
Kids are screaming, "Go-Go-Go-Go!" The light turns green and the two hot rods jump out with tires screaming for mercy.
They roar down Woodward, bumping each other. Neck and neck they go, faster and faster.
From out of nowhere, a police car pulls out and blocks the road. Drake and Johnnie slam on their brakes. The cars screech their tires as they slide closer and closer to the police car. The cop driving and his partner brace themselves for a crash.
The two hot rods slow their slide and end up barely bumping the police car. Everyone is relieved.
Johnnie and Drake jump out of their cars and attack each other.
Drake spits as he yells at Johnnie, "You jerk! You rammed my car!"
"What? You smashed into me when you saw me pull ahead."
"You weren't pulling ahead. If anything you were falling behind!"
The boys hit each other bloody until the cops handcuff them.
Drake sneers at Johnnie, "Some day we're gonna finish this race, I swear to God. If it's the last thing I ever do in life."
Johnnie responds, "Any day, Bozo. I'll be ready willing and able. I'll squash you like the bug that you are. I don't care how long it takes, I'll be waiting."
At 13 Mile Road, the kids strain to see what happened.
Sue turns to Vick. "What happened?"
Vick shrugs, "Cops gott'em. They're in some deep doo-doo now, man."
Sue without hesitation and with a very sexy voice, "Can I have a ride in your new Mustang?"
In 1965, during the enormous drafting of young men into the Army, Judges were able to give alternative sentences for juvenal delinquency. Given a choice by the Judge of either extended jail time or joining the Army, Johnnie and Drake choose Army, and off to Vietnam they go.
Because of life's way of changing and either pushing us or leading us, we take different paths and hopefully toward something we want to accomplish—sometimes not. Johnnie and Drake came home from a foreign war to Woodward's drive-ins all closed, the cops became more vigil, and nobody liked Vietnam Veterans so they kept quiet about it.
Woodward's hey day ended and Johnnie's life went one way and Drake's went another. Get married, kids, mortgage, 40 hours of work repeated yearly, retire. Not once in fifty years had they run into each other.
In 1995 the magic years of Woodward was brought back when a guy named Nelson House and a group of non-profit volunteers hoped to raise money for a soccer charity. They looked to relive and recreate the nostalgic old days by having a 'classic car' festival.
They hoped 25,000 people would show up. 250,000 people showed up for what they called, 'The Woodward Dream Cruise.' Over the years the Cruise grew and grew and grew.
Amazingly, today's Dream Cruise attracts one and a half million spectators annually, who line Woodward's sidewalks with lawn chairs three deep for over twenty miles, to see a non-organized parade of over 40,000 classic cars and hot rods.
During those years, Johnnie and Drake just stepped back and lived life. You wouldn't think anyone could hold a grudge for that long, especially over such a silly thing. But they stewed and percolated. Sometimes, each in their own way, would lie awake for hours thinking about what would happen if they ever ran into each other and their blood would boil, raising their blood pressure. Nightmares were always about losing the race to the other. Why do people harbor such anger? Their open wound has stayed unhealed for over 50 years cultivating one hell of a large, gnarly—pus filled—hot festered grudge.
It's a beautiful sunny summer day at Milan Dragway. The ROAR from high-performance engines fills the air as they scream down the drag strip. Screaming spectators drink beer and eat hot dogs, elephant ears, cotton candy and all kinds of junk food you really don't want to eat, but it's there so what the heck. The usual race banners are plastered all over the place and the food and drink venders do brisk business.
Parked in front of the small office building in the back, are a few old classic cars like an over 50 year-old '64 Ford Galaxy, a '68 GTO, and a '68 Chevy Nova.
Under the Nova, Mattie, with a grease smudge on her cheek, works on taking out a starter motor, but her thoughts are on her up-coming wedding day.
The Saturday of the Woodward Dream Cruise is Mattie's favorite day of the year. That's why the 23 year old bride-to-be chose the coming 'Cruise' Saturday, just seven days away—for her wedding day.
She loves American muscle cars built before the '70s' and keeps her '68 Pontiac GTO immaculate inside and out. It's easy when you work at a drag race track as receptionist and mechanic when they need one.
Mattie comes from a real gear-head family and grease under the fingernails is not unfamiliar around the dinner table. Her father divorced her Mom when she was three and spent a lot of time with her Uncle Bob, who owned a custom hot rod shop. "Mattie? Is that you?"
The voice belongs to middle-aged Grant, the drag strip's TV and radio announcer. Grant has the frozen-on-the-face smile of a funeral parlor casket salesman in a one funeral home town.
Mattie rolls out holding the starter motor, "Hi, Grant. Boy, I wish they still made starter motors like this. So simple."
Grant follows her into the building like a puppy dog. "Mattie, I want to tell you something."
The inside of the building is part office, part garage. A TV is mounted on the wall that shows what's going on outside at the track. Mattie places the starter motor on a worktable and gets out a few tools.
She gives Grant a glance and smiles.
"Nice show today, Grant. As usual."
Grant's chest expands, "Oh baby, I was great, wasn't I?" Mattie laughs inwardly at his over-stuffed ego.
He laughs at himself, "I wanted to tell you that I passed the test and am now officially state certified to perform wedding ceremonies."
Mattie has heard him offer this before, "Oh Grant, I wish I could. I wanted an 'interesting' ceremony, but my fiancés family wants a traditional church wedding with a pastor and ... I want to make them happy."
Grant is amazed at this, "Wow. You usually have to have it 'your' way. You must really love this guy."
Mattie smiles big and sighs, "Yeah, I really love this guy." The office desk phone rings and Mattie answers, "Milan Dragway, fastest drag races anywhere."
"Hey, sweetie pie." It's Jason, Mattie's fiancé. "One more week—the countdown starts now."
Jason stands next to an EMS ambulance in his medical-rescue uniform, which is parked at an emergency entrance of a large hospital. Jason's co-worker and best friend Brad walks up and makes a face at Jason.
Mattie is excited, "I can't believe our wedding is next Saturday."
"Liar! You keep track by the hour," Jason retorts.
Mattie gets instantly serious and very silent. She's been unjustly accused of lying before and is so touchy over it, she won't even put up with jokes about it.
Finally, "Jason, I always tell the truth and I don't like it when you say that. Never say that again. PROMISE!"
Jason gets defensive, "Kidding! I promise. Geez, I know you don't lie." He kids her, "Unless it's horizontally."
Brad squirts water at Jason with a medical bag. Jason points to his phone, "Um ... listen ... you sure you want our families to meet this soon? Never know what could happen."
Mattie dismisses this, "Our families are boring. Nothing ever happens. Besides, it's about time that your family meets mine."
"Okay, your call."
"Love you back."
At the hospital, Brad can't believe what he just heard, "Thought you didn't want this family meeting?"
Jason doesn't want to admit it, "We're all meeting at a really cool old pub on Woodward for dinner."
"Aw, look, Mattie wants it and I want to make her the happiest woman on the planet."
Brad, who's just had another series of girlfriends dump him, is skeptical. "Is there such a thing? I mean, maybe you're over-reaching the boundaries of our known male universe. A 'happy woman'? HA! Seriously my friend, and co-conspirator, that may be over-stretching the very fabric of the time and space continuum."
Jason and Brad laugh and make their way to a parking lot, where Jason's hot new Dodge Challenger rests.
Brad get's wild, "DUDE! I am totally stoked! Bachelor party—Thursday night! The Woodward Dream Cruise! Whoa, yeah baby, we are going to have some full bore fun!"
Jason and Brad exchange their 'buddy' handshake, which ends in a hip bump.
Jason fires his Challenger up with a deep-throaty Hemi rumble.
Back in Mattie's office, Grant has the same trepidations. "Mattie, are you sure you want to have your families meet before the wedding?"
Mattie can be very stubborn and is extremely independent. "Not you too! I don't know why you and Jason can't understand that as the bride, I would like our two families to meet and see how much we have in common. Especially about auto mechanics."
Grant shrugs, "I thought Jason works in EMS?"
"He's kinda the black sheep of his family, but he knows his way around engines, believe me."
Again Grant can only smile at youth, "I hope it all works out."
Mattie laughs, "Grant, what could possibly go wrong?"
On this stretch of M-14 the three large lanes going either way are usually packed with traffic. Not on this Saturday. Ghost town. There's hardly a car except Jason's Challenger.
Jason smiles at his passengers. His mother Katherine rides shotgun. In the back is his father, Jack and Jack's brother, Uncle Chad.
Katherine seems intolerant to her husband, Jack. They've been having problems of late with an embarrassing problem in the bedroom. Consequently, Katherine has become untrusting and bored.
"Jack, did you do a Mapquest?"
Jack, bitter because of his own sexual inadequacies, has developed a nervous tic of sorts; he constantly clears his throat, then instead of spitting it out, he swallows it. "No, a-hem—ah-hem—hork—swallow, I guess I forgot."
Jason, feeling the tension between them tries to lighten the moment, "Mom-Dad ... hello! I know where I'm going, okay? I don't need a map to find Woodward Avenue."
Sarcastic Uncle Chad seems to always piss off his brother. Chad saw an opportunity years before and split off with Jack from the garage and got a union job at a new car dealership. "Who's paying for dinner, oh brother dear?"
This grates Jack to no end, "You gotta cushy do-nothing union job, buy your own food. Or do you want me to charge you a taxi fee for the ride?"
Chad wants to push the point, "I told you that you'd never get anywhere with a small independent repair shop. You just don't think for yourself."
Jack is touchy, "I can think for myself ... Right dear?" Katherine turns around and smirks.
Jack clears his throat yet again.
"Spit it out." Katherine commands.
Jack opens the window to spit, then swallows it just to spite her.
"I do all right." Jack defends his honor.
Katherine is typically critical, "Do we have to pick up your father? Ever since your mom died he never ... he's cold. Never even hugs anyone."
Jack rolls his eyes, "You're not exactly 'huggable' all the time."
Boy, he just asks for it. Katherine huffs, "Is that why we haven't done it in ... how long?"
Jack snarls, "You-have-to-have 'desire' to do it."
"You-have-to-be 'hard' to do it."
Jack scowls and clears his throat.
Jason is tired of it, "Come on mom, that is so lame with me in the car."
All is silent except for the tires thumping on the highway. Chad is bored, "Are we gonna be at dad's house soon?
Jason has had enough, "Apparently not soon enough."
In Mattie's car, driving through the burbs, riding shotgun is her twice-divorced mother, Amanda. In the back seat sits once-and-still divorced Cassandra, Amanda's sister, and Cassandra's son, Nick, fifteen years old and whose attention is clearly focused on his iPhone screen, listening to music and YouTube with Earbuds. He tends to laugh at inopportune times.
Mattie sniffs the air and follows the smell to her mom, "Mom! Do I smell vodka on your breath?"
"Don't be ridiculous. You can't smell vodka on someone's breath."
Excerpted from DREAM MACHINES by Ron Lundmark. Copyright © 2013 Ron Lundmark. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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