A long silence filled the car as the friends considered the enormity of the challenge before them. Jake stared long and hard into his martini. Gene smiled to himself. His friend may be too short-sighted sometimes, but when the chips were down he knew he could count on Jake in a pinch.
Before long Jake looked up, a distant fire in his eyes, "I think I know what we should do."
Gene joined him staring down the horizon. "What's your plan?"
"We should stop and get olives. We're almost out."
"What? Olives are important, you know."
"Try to stay focused. We got a boat load of important stuff ahead of us."
"Yeah, I can see that," said Jake. "Like her, for instance!" He pointed ahead.
Gene looked back down the road, and slammed on the brakes. He swerved, barely missing a woman waving her hands in fear. The bulging fender missing her tanned thighs by inches.
The Pantera may have looked like a car of the future, but it was actually a 1970s design. It was made to look awesome and go straight very fast, but turning was not one of its strong points. It roared past the gaping young woman. It fishtailed, tires screaming like banshees as the car's roll authority faced an outright insurrection. It tipped to one side, the wheels spinning three feet above the road surface. Gene slammed the wheel back the other way, trying to get all four wheels back on the road before the rare muscle car tumbled and destroyed itself.
The tactic worked. The airborne side crashed back onto the roadway. The car bounced, momentarily becoming airborne again. A single wheel caught the ground first, throwing them into a spin. Gene spun the wheel again to counter. The thick treads of the tires bit into the roadway and found purchase, dragging the car to a stop after a 180 degree spin. After all the violent maneuvers, the engine never quit like most cars would. It still growled like a panther, ready for more.
"Nice driving, Tex," groused Jake as he removed the upside down martini glass from its perch on his ear. "That one had my last olive."
"You're alive aren't you?"
Jake dug his way through the Burger king wrappers and empty bags of Fritos on the floorboard. "You might not be if I can't find that damn olive."
"Hey are you okay?" The young woman ran toward them a little wobbly in her high heels, her thigh-high skirt flapping in the breeze.
"At least she's alive," said Gene. "I almost hit her."
Jake paused in his search to look up. He sighed. "I always love seeing a blond running with the wind in her hair."
"She isn't really. It's a dye job. Look at her eyebrows."
"Technicalities often tell the real story, Jake. You gotta look closer. Don't you see what's wrong there?"
"I don't see nothin' wrong. I see heaven."
The blond, winded from running a hundred feet, arrived at the car. "Hey! Nice car. Are you okay? Thanks for not hitting me."
"No problem. Sorry about the close call," said Gene.
"Omigosh! Is that a Ra, a..." She paused to screw up her mouth in thought. "...a Raccoon?"
"Yeah. This is Jake."
"Is he okay? He seems to be panting and drooling a lot."
Gene turned and grimaced at Jake. "Yeah, he's okay. It's just a little hot for him."
"Maybe he needs a drink?"
"No, he's drinking plenty, believe me. So, trouble with your car?"
She leaned forward on the car door, giving Gene an impressive display of natural features. "Yeah, the battery died. I need to get jumped. Think you can help?"
"No problem. Meet you at your car." He put the car in gear and it rumbled back toward the woman's little red Miata, leaving her behind."
"Oh man," moaned Jake. "She is so ready to give it up! You lucky dog. Don't blow it this time, okay? Don't start talking about transistors or tectonic plates or any of that stuff. Just let me help you with this one. I'll..."
"Jake, that's not a woman."
"Just listen. Here's what you're gonna...what'd you say?"
"That's not a woman. She's a He."
Jake looked back through the narrow rear window. "She's a tranny? Oh man, that just sucks. She...I mean he...totally fooled me."
"He's not a tranny either. He cast a spell on himself, a sloppy one, to make himself look like that. Not bad though, to make himself look like a slender woman when he really weighs about 260 pounds. It's an impressive effort for an amateur."
"Shit! How could you tell?"
Gene tapped beside his eye. "I told you. You gotta look closely. Besides, I have the 'sight,' remember? Anyway, if he's cast a glamour on himself he isn't planning anything good for us. He's setting us up."
Jake pounded the dashboard. "Well then why are we fooling around with him? Let's skedaddle."
"Not yet. I want to hear his story."
Gene stepped out of the car as the woman/amateur sorcerer arrived, breathing hard from having to walk again. She stroked the curved fender admiringly. "A De Tomaso Pantera. Mmm mmm. I'd love to add one of these to my collection." She gave Gene a coy smile. "The Panteras had a lot of different engines. What you got in here?"
Gene winced. "Well...a Pantera."
"You don't know then. Well if you're going to jump me anyway," she paused to evince a sly smile. "How 'bout I open up the engine hatch and take a peek?"
Gene affected an innocent look. "Sure go ahead."
She opened the hatch and gleefully thrust her head inside...and screamed.
---To Be Continued---