Thursday, November 13, 2008

Impala tsunami

It never rains in California, except when it pours. For days.

During one of those interminable bouts of November downpour, one of my best high school friends came over, and off we went in search of mischief. This is what juvenile semi-delinquents, and most other teenagers, do when faced with the prospect of a boring Saturday.

We left in my friend's venerable old Imapala station wagon, late 60s model IIRC, a testimony to the true utility of a V8 engine and 4000 pounds of steel. It was a gloomy day, but not raining as much at the moment, and so we went out and about to look for something to truly put the Impala through its paces. A wet empty lot to do spin outs, or such like.

As fate would have it, we were cruising along a main boulevard when I, riding shotgun, spied two kids up a side street, probably about 10 years old, out walking in the momentarily halted drizzle of the day.

Two things sealed their fate:
The side of the street they were on had water up to the curb.
They were approaching a 200' stretch of sidewalk next to a brick wall with no exit.

With the reflexes of Richard Petty, my friend downshifted, slowed, pulled a 180 and then a quick left, and pulled over to the right curb to await our quarry enterring the trap. Lions in Africa aren't this cunning, or half as ruthless.

In a matter of seconds, our two oblivious pigeons toddled, bundled up as best as their moms would allow, from coats to rubber boots, into the kill zone half a block in front of us.

As they approached the midpoint, we tightened out seatbelts, and I turned to my friend and said "Ramming speed!"

He gunned the engine, and 400+ cubic inches of Detroit powerplant went from a gentle purr to a roaring din.

Halfway to our target, physics took over. The sound waves reached the prey. They were on the left side of the street, but no matter. Laws are for other people. My friend swerved across the narrow sidestreet, and put his left side tires right in the gutter mere inches from the curb.

We hit the puddled gutter water with a thump, and immediately, a left-side bow wave 8 feet high began to WHOOSH up, across the sidewalk, and into the cinderblock wall.

Realization dawned on our two pigeons. It was comedy gold. One of them, certainly the fat one, pivoted like a ballerina, and began to waddle as fast as his little legs could carry him to the end of the brick wall. It was pathetic, and utterly hilarious, because a cursory glance at our inexorable progress showed he never had a chance of escape. But at least the little guy was game, and not going down laying there.

His partner, probably the smarter of the two, just stood there. He'd done the math, and realized his fate. No way forward, and too far back, he watched the tsunami approach him, water arcing like snow from a snowblower, his little lower lip in a fatalistic pout, his eyes big as salad plates, and his feet rooted to the spot. Looking daggers at us, and utterly bereft of mortal hope he awaited his certain doom.

He was hosed in a split second, water pouring into every crevice of his clothes from head to toe.

Fatso was just ahead, mere seconds from a chance at freedom to the left, when the wave hit him too. Water pummeled his body and head, and knocked him sideways. He stumbled, bounced off the bricks, and slid to a stop in the muddy grass of the parkway, 10 yards short of his goal.

As the sight of two very soggy 10 year olds screaming every shrill curse they could muster receded into our rear view mirrors, we motored off into the grey oblivion, having meted out the day's dose of Fate to the unwary, and our hearts were glad.

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