Skid marks

“Seamus was so whacked he drove around at the back of the pack like a drugged chimp”

David Morley

I T WAS (or had once been) a Gundagai Gold HQ Holden panel van. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was a 173 six-cylinder, had but three gears, was blessed with drum front brakes and was hauling a trailer, on which sat a speedway hot rod so badly loaded the van’s front wheels were almost touching the deck. But the bad news didn’t stop there.

I had agreed to help a mate of a mate for the day, playing gofer for this geezer called Seamus and giving him a hand to get the HQ and the hot rod to the local speedway, where we would spend a splendid day racing the other lunatics that speedway attracts.

Trouble was, when Seamus turned up at my mate’s workshop to pick me up, it soon became apparent that he was – and let’s not be shy here – pissed beyond belief. His nose was purple and his left eye was toeing out about 10 degrees. He breathed near the workshop ute and it started. He’d have failed a breath test being conducted six streets away.

“Sorry and that for being late,” he said, gassing the workshop dog and causing the shop ute to fast-idle, “but me missus has left me. I had to load the car meself. I’m on me own now.”

Clearly, I was going to be doing the driving to the speedway while Seamus sobered up in the passenger seat. No problem?

Guess again, because it immediately got worse. As we were leaving the workshop driveway, Seamus confided in me: “If the brakes start to go or it looks like getting away from youse, aim it for a drain or something. There’s no insurance.

I spent the insurance money on rent. I’m on me own now.”

And then he passed out. Had I any brains, of course, I would have bailed out, left him right there in the driveway and five-fived it out the workshop heading for home and safety. Instead, I decided to back myself and give it a crack, so I drove the 100 kays or so at about 70km/h, making mental notes of where all the drains were for the trip home. In between taking deep breaths, that is, because when the old red six wasn’t wheezing and grinding away in second gear up anything that even smelled like a hill, I was resisting the urge not to ride those mongrel drum brakes down the other side. And all the time, aware that the steering was so light, any false move would put us into a tangential and probably fiery death-slide. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared with me at the wheel.

We hit the speedway pits, I was able to bring Seamus around and we managed, somehow, to get his shitbox speedway car through scrutineering. It helped that the chief scrute was, by now, almost as tanked as Seamus. There was a breath-tester on the gate to the pits. If you were under .05 you weren’t getting in.

This was a long, long time ago!

“Can you help me find me helmet and overalls?” Seamus asked.

“I packed ’em, but it was dark. I’m on me own now.”

By now, I was getting a bit weary of all this, but at least I was about to see some racing. Except it wouldn’t be from Seamus. He was so whacked, he drove around at the back of the pack like a drugged chimp. In the end, I threw the keys in the direction of the HQ from hell, gave Seamus the finger and jumped the fence to have a beer with some mates I’d run into and had offered me a lift home.

“But what about helping me?” Seamus spluttered.

“You said it before, pal – you’re on your own now.”

True story. M