Lined up wheel to wheel on a shelf in his room are the Pinewood Derby cars of years gone by. You can see a progression in them–from the big and boxy shark car to the Batmobile we broke down and finally bought last year. There’s a handful of stages scattered amongst those cars. Within the span of them things have been outgrown and lost: a brand new fleece he wore only once. The cutest speech impairment I’ve ever known. Several teeth. Fears. Don’t tell him I said so, but they’re losing cars. Every one.
He had high hopes this year. He and Jeff worked side by side in the garage. They cut and sanded and weighed and measured. They watched YouTube videos on aerodynamics and weight distribution. Only when they had the perfect design in mind did they set about the business of building the car of his dreams from the wheels up. This year’s dream, that is.
We arrived on time to find a line wrapping around the cafeteria. His Bear Cub Scout buddies were there, too, each with a car that gave away something secret about its owner. The den leader saw Jayce’s and asked, “Is that a movie?” No. “A video game?” No. They’re books. This is what is wrong with America, I thought to myself.
I can’t say for sure, but I suspected Jayce was sizing up the competition as we all stood in line for official weigh-in. Five ounces on the dot. They adhered a neon green sticker and whisked it away for safekeeping.
His wasn’t the flashiest. Or the boxiest. It didn’t have googly eyes. Or intimidating flames.
His name came up in overhead projector lights. He was to race in four heats with the average going down on record as his official time. Just like that, the cars were off. Like lightning.
That flash of green there, that’s his. Third place that round. He never did quite get into first, but never last either.
The top three from his den won trophies. He listened as the names were called, hopes just a bit dashed as they went.
It wasn’t his year. Not yet.
He shrugged it off. At least I wasn’t last place. That’s better than last year.
Another losing car. Another big win.