Monday, March 28, 2005

A Rip Roarin Ride

When I was a small boy, soap box derbies became quite a fad for a while in Manila. Just like here in the US, fathers would build them, and the kids would ride them in a grand race that was watched by thousands. Fads are like that in Manila. Just to let you know, in the Philippines, when a fad catches on, the whole nation jumps in and creates quite a phenomenon. The whole country’s mindset when it comes to fads is more akin to a small town than a nation.

My good friend Jake who lived next door to me had a handy man father who built one for him. His soap box was a sleek car with a streamlined outline, a racy cockpit that was just slightly bigger than a child’s head, a slim windshield and ball bearings in the wheels. I remember it well as it was quite a contraption.

Kids will be kids and there was no way Jake was going to wait for race day to ride his soap box. So a plan for a pre-maiden ride was hatched. While his father was in the office, we were going to sneak out in the late afternoon with the soap box car and pushed it to a stretch of road with a decent downhill that was only a couple of blocks away.

And so we did. Like little thieves, we stole out of their garage crouched down, tip toeing and pushing the soap box car. Minutes later, standing there on top of the hill, we surveyed the world. Beside that soap box car, we were content.

So here goes. The plan is, “we push”, “I continue to push”, Jake makes his way into the drivers seat, gain speed, “and away we go”. Simple enough? “Let’s do it”!

HEAVE HO, here we go. We both ran for the apex of the hill as we pushed the car. As the momentum built up, I shouted for him to “GET IN”! And try he did, and tried again, and again. At this point, the soap box had gathered quite a bit of speed. As we approached the point of no return, my friend still hadn’t been able to get into the soap box car properly; he was now being dragged by the car as kept trying to hook his foot into the cockpit. As I recall, a repetitive action was akin to stuttering. The grade of the hill steepened, I let go and proceeded to watch Jake now being dragged by the soap box car.

After the soap box stopped, I ran down to see how Jake was. As I neared the bottom of the hill, my friend was like a damp rag resting beside his soap box, nursing his left leg. At first sight of the leg, I thought I was looking at a side of corned beef. Man, his entire leg was raw. He related to me that as he was being dragged down the hill by the car, he never considered letting go of the soap box for fear of crashing it and getting a good whipping from his father. Better a raw leg than a whipping I always say. The car is safe and in one piece. “Let get outta here!”

We sneaked into the garage the same way we sneaked out. The car was put back in the workshop and my friend put on long pajamas to hide his wounds. Later that evening, his sisters had discovered his wounds and made a full report to their mother. If you ever where in trouble as a youth, you can pretty much imagine dear mother opening the lights to your room as you desperately tried to sleep off the whole experience.

On inspection, the blood had caked over Jake’s wounds and stuck his left pajama leg to him. It had taken more than an hour of much pain and crying for his mom to get the pajamas down to just above his knee. It was still half way from being off when his father arrived. As background, Jake’s father was known in the neighborhood as a strict disciplinarian. He was also big on the manhood stuff. Upon knowing of the day’s activities, his father approached Jake with a stern voice and proceeded to lecture him on discipline, patience, obedience, swallowing his fear and taking the repercussions that come with his shenanigans. His father’s next action was to rip the rest of the pajama off of Jake in one swift action. The resulting scream was heard for miles.

To this day, Jake has a very vague recollection of the events of that day. Much of this story is gathered from my own memory and patched together stories from his sisters. Jake turned out to be a good man.


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