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Authors: Eric Walters

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Overdrive

Overdrive

Eric Walters

Orca soundings

Copyright © 2004 Eric Walters

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Walters, Eric, 1957-Overdrive / Eric Walters.

(Orca soundings)
ISBN 1-55143-318-4

I. Title. II. Series.

PS8595.A598O94 2004 jC813'.54    C2004-900490-5

Summary:
When Jake is involved in a street-racing accident, he struggles to do the right thing.

First published in the United States, 2004
Library of Congress Control Number
: 2004100597

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.

Cover layout: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Getty Images

In Canada:
Orca Book Publishers
1030 North Park Street
Victoria, BC Canada
V8T 1C6

In the United States:
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer, WA USA
98240-0468

Printed and bound in Canada
on New Leaf Eco, 100% post consumer waste paper

07 06 05 04 • 5 4 3 2 1

For my son, Nick, as he turns sixteen
and gets his license.
—E.W.

Other titles by Eric Walters, published by Orca Book Publishers

War of the Eagles

Caged Eagles

Three on Three

Full Court Press

Hoop Crazy

Long Shot

Road Trip

Off Season

Underdog

Chapter One

“Well?” Mickey asked.

I pulled the driver's license out of my pocket and held it up for him to see.

“All right! Way to go, Jake. You got it!” he said. He gave me a highfive.

“Did you have any doubts?” I asked.

“I figured you could drive, but a test is a test, and neither of us ever does so well with those.”

“This is one test I was ready for,” I said.

“So now you have a driver's license. All you need is something to drive.”

“Taken care of.”

“It is?”

I nodded. “Come and have a look.”

Mickey trailed after me out to the driveway.

“Your brother gave you his car?” Mickey asked in disbelief.

“Not gave. Lent.”

“That is so cool.”

“He said that I should have a car to drive the day I got my license, so he lent me his for tonight.”

Mickey laughed. “You have the best big brother.”

“He's okay.”

“Okay? The only thing my brother, Andy, ever gives me is a hard time.”

“I've seen you two together. It looks like you give more grief than you get.”

“Haven't you ever heard that it's better to give than to receive?” Mickey smiled. “But I
guess it's only fair you get to borrow it when you consider all the help you've given him with his car.”

“It's not like he's forcing me. I love fooling around with cars. Besides, he's taught me a lot of things.”

“You mean your brother knows more about cars than you do?” Mickey asked. I liked the way he said that. It was like he couldn't believe it was possible.

“He knows more, but he's two years older.” I paused. “So, you want to go for a ride?”

“Yeah, of course…where to?”

“I was thinking that maybe we could go for a little cruise along the Lakeshore strip, or even go to the Burger Barn and pick up a burger and fries.”

“I am so there,” Mickey said. “We are going to see and be seen. Let me get changed.” Mickey rushed up the driveway back toward his house.

“What's wrong with what you have on?”

“Shoes would be a good start, but the rest is only okay for hanging around in
my basement. Let me get changed and do something with my hair.”

“Hurry up!” I yelled after him. “We don't have all night!”

I wasn't joking. We didn't have all night. My brother was getting off work at the grocery store at nine-thirty, and I had to have the car home by ten so he could go out.

I climbed into the car—climbed in behind the
wheel
of the car. I turned the key in the ignition and the motor came to life. It made a gentle purring sound. I revved the engine slightly and the purring got louder and more powerful.

This wasn't just any car. This was
the
car.

I'd worked with Andy to redo the engine—torqued it so it put out over 300 horsepower. We'd redone the exhaust system to deal with the extra power. We'd overhauled the suspension to get the frame lower to the ground. It allowed it to be more stable at high speeds, especially around corners. My brother wanted this car to fly but not actually take flight.

He'd put on special lights—all customized front and back. Then he'd added a rear spoiler, and last week we'd tinted all the windows. It was cool to be able to look out but not have people see who was looking at them. Now we were doing the final work—redoing the body and putting on a new paint job. The body hadn't been bad—it had a few rust spots and a couple of little dents and scratches—but he was redoing it completely. We'd taken off all the emblems and letters that identified the make of the car. Andy said that Chevy may have made the car originally, but he'd made it better and he didn't want to share credit with them. There were patches of body filler and primer paint, and it had all been sanded down in preparation for the new paint—the red paint—that was being put on next week. Red did seem like the right color. Certainly a lot better than the sort of off brown, sort of dark gray, hard-to-describe color it was now.

Mickey ran down his front walk and along the driveway. His shirt was undone,
he was carrying his shoes, and his pants were on so low it looked like he was in danger of tripping over them. When he said he wanted to get changed, I didn't think he meant in the car.

Mickey jumped in the passenger seat. “Let's roll!”

Chapter Two

“So is this just a one shot-thing, you borrowing your brother's car?” Mickey asked.

“Nope. He said that as long as I help and kick in some money for gas and repairs, I can use the car sometimes.”

“Fantastic! And this just about makes it official,” Mickey said.

“Makes what official?”

“That we are the two coolest guys in all of grade nine.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Aside from our style and good looks, look around,” he said, gesturing at the car.

“Yeah?”

“Think about it. You are the first, and so far only, grade nine kid in the entire school who has his license. Let's say we want to take out a couple of girls. We have a major advantage over everybody else. We can pick them up in a car, man. Everybody else has to have their mommy drive them or take a bus or a bike. Now which way do you think is better, car or public transit?”

He did have a point there.

“And nobody else in our grade can even try to get their license until next year because nobody else is old enough. Isn't it great that you flunked out last year?”

“That isn't exactly the way I looked at it.” Not to mention how my parents had looked at it.

I still felt myself cringe a little bit when I thought about last year. School had never been easy for me—actually it had always been pretty hard—but last year it all just caught up with me. In grade school the teachers had always been helpful, sort of pushing me, offering extra help. Not last year. Grade nine hit me like a punch in the gut. Or more like a lot of punches in the gut. I had eight different teachers and I hardly knew their names, so it wasn't surprising that they didn't know me. Or care about me.

I tried. I really did try. But in the end I failed six of eight classes. I passed gym and technology. The rest just started badly and then got worse. The vice principal had tried to convince my parents that I should be transferred to another school, but nobody wanted that—especially me. In the end it was probably going to happen anyway, whether I liked it or not.

Then Miss Parsons stepped in. Miss Parsons was my guidance counselor. She went to bat for me and said she'd be my “mentor”
and help me out. And all of this year she'd been there for me, checking on how I was doing, arranging for extra help. She was nice and I liked her. I trusted her.

I figured that doing grade nine for the second time would have made things half as hard. Instead it was twice as boring and almost as hard. So far I had passes in all eight courses, although in five of them—math, geography, history, English and biology—I was hanging in there by the skin of my teeth and getting marks in the low fifties. I didn't even know why I needed to take those courses. How would history help a guy become a good mechanic? The only history I would need to know was the history of the vehicle so I'd know when to do scheduled work.

In the other three courses—gym, technology and especially auto mechanics—I was pulling off aces. My marks were so high in those three that my overall average was 65. Maybe not great, but enough to keep everybody off my back.

“I bet you never thought that flunking out a year would be such an advantage!”

“Yeah, that's why I did it—so I'd be the oldest kid in grade nine,” I said. “This was all part of my master plan.”

“And a great master plan it was.”

“And I want to thank you for all your help in reminding me I flunked out last year,” I said.

“What?” Mickey asked. “Is this some sort of secret or something?”

“The only secret is why I don't just pound you out.”

“Touchy, touchy.”

He was right. I was touchy about it. It had been hard to stay in grade nine while everybody I knew—everybody who'd been in my class since kindergarten—moved on. At first I didn't know anybody in any of my classes, until I met Mickey. I guess I shouldn't have been so hard on him. He helped me feel at least like I was part of the grade and helped me make new friends. I still saw some of my old friends. I did take tech and gym with them. But it was different. Some of them
treated me okay, but most treated me like I wasn't one of them anymore.

And then there were those kids—those jerks—who had never treated me well to begin with. You know the type. The kids with parents who had a little more money, or those kids who had better clothes or did well in school without trying hard. Why was it that some kids who had everything already always needed to point out how much better they were than you? It was a couple of those goofs who never missed a chance to remind me that I wasn't as smart as they were. If it wasn't for the fact that I couldn't afford to get suspended, I would have let them know that giving me a hard time wasn't a sign of brains—unless they wanted to wear those brains on the outside of their skulls. I would have just loved to smack them right in the—

“Look at that car!” Mickey exclaimed as a beautiful silver Acura glided by in the other direction. “That is one fantastic looking car!”

“It's okay,” I said, trying not to sound too impressed.

“It could probably blow the doors off this thing!” he said.

“Could not,” I said. “Just because it looks good doesn't mean it has any guts under the hood.”

“Doesn't mean that it doesn't,” Mickey said.

“Take my word for it. I don't need to know what's under their hood because I know what's under our hood. This car can move.”

“Are you saying this is the fastest thing on the road?” Mickey asked.

“Of course not. We're going to see some cars tonight that are out of this world. Just try not to be impressed by things that aren't impressive.”

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