I rarely minded doing jobs around the house, even if some of the guys called them girl stuff. That wasn’t why I was banging the dishes, pulling the vacuum cord with a jerk, and stomping around picking up things. I was mad over Dad’s lecture about Brian.
Brian’s a 16-year-old boy who lives next door. He had bought an old beat-up Ford and planned on fixing it up himself. His dad owns a car repair shop, so Brian could get help from him.
The previous night I had gone to the store with Brian.
It was fun. As we came back into the driveway his brakes squealed, and he ran over the curb.
Later Dad told me, “Brian should have slowed down to make that turn. His car isn’t safe to drive until the brakes are fixed.”
That wasn’t all he said. “Brian is too old for a 12-year-old boy to be hanging around with. He’s irresponsible, and I don’t like his attitude, especially toward God. Stay out of his car after this.”
Dad’s order had me fuming. After finishing my chores I went outside, slammed the screen door, and sat on the steps. Brian had said that he was going to drive around that day, and that I could go with him. Now what was I supposed to do all day?
I looked up as Brian came out of his house. He was whistling. He hitched up his jeans and yelled at me, “Hey, Rich, are you coming with me? I’m gonna drive around now.”
I thought, Just because Brian is older, just because his car rattles, just because Dad thinks everything is dangerous, am I supposed to stay home? Why can’t I do as I please now that my work is finished? Mom won’t be home until 4:30, and Dad comes home at 6:00. They won’t know. Why not go?
“Coming?” Brian asked.
I ran over, climbed in on the driver’s side, and scooted over, since the door on the passenger’s side wouldn’t open. (I knew that from the previous day.)
As we rattled up the street, I sat up straight. This was great! A couple of guys driving around by themselves’and I was one of them!
Brian brushed his hair back from his eyes and swerved around a corner, barely missing an older man who had started to cross the street.
Brian muttered, “Old man, if you can’t see, stay off the street.”
I didn’t say anything. Dad had always told me to watch out for pedestrians when I rode my bike.
I slid down in my seat. Brian was going to get a ticket if he didn’t slow down.
We couldn’t talk much with the car rattling and banging. I sat back up, shaking my head so my hair hung down in my face like Brian’s.
Brian hollered, “Guess I’ll turn here and stop by a friend’s place to show him my car. This road comes back onto the highway.”
We drove by fields and a few houses. Brian pointed to a small yellow one. “Kent’s car is gone. He’s probably over at Holly’s.” We drove on. The road was narrow but blacktopped. Country, I thought. No more houses, and no traffic.
Brian started driving in spurts’slow, then fast’and jerking the car by braking.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Aw, nothing. I’m just checking it out.” He laughed. “My dad’s going to help me with the brakes Sunday. He told me I’d better not drive it until that was done. But we’re doing OK. Right?”
“Right,” I agreed.
We started up a hill, the car sputtering and spurting. I wondered if we’d make it to the top.
“Some hill,” Brian commented. He frowned, tromping on the gas. “Come on.” He stomped on the pedal over and over before we finally made it to the top of the hill. There the engine gasped and the car shook, but it didn’t die.
“Radiator’s OK. It didn’t even get hot going up this steep hill,” Brian bragged. He patted the steering wheel.
As we started down the other side, the car picked up speed. Brian frantically pumped the brakes and tried to gear down. Nothing helped. He couldn’t make the emergency brake move. We sped downhill faster and faster.
A car passed us going in the opposite direction. It had four or five people in it, all staring at us, probably noticing that we were in trouble. They didn’t stop. What could anybody do?
“Better do some of that prayin’,” Brian pleaded as he pushed the brake pedal to the floor. “I can’t slow down.”
I was already praying. And considering the circumstances, I didn’t think it strange for Brian, who usually laughed at God and prayer, to suggest it.
Brian jerked the car back and forth from one side of the road to the other, trying to slow down.
How long is this hill? I glanced at Brian. His face was white. Sweat stood on his upper lip.
I prayed some more. Brian pumped the brake pedal and zigzagged some more.
I looked ahead. At the bottom of the hill we’d have to cross the highway. I could see a stop sign facing us. I prayed some more.
Lord, please keep cars from coming on the highway when we cross. We can’t stop. No cars, please!
“Are you prayin’?”
“Keep it up. There’s a stop sign ahead.”
A car zipped by on the highway as we approached the crossroad. I could see another one coming. Would it hit us?
I gripped the side of the seat with my hands as we streaked across the highway. The car shot by behind us, barely missing the back end of our car.
Brian still did his useless pedal pumping. The hill leveled off, but the car didn’t stop. Brian headed for a field and rammed head-on into a pile of debris. The engine sputtered and the car shook as Brian turned off the ignition.
The two of us sat there, stunned. Brian laid his head on the steering wheel, and I slid way down on the seat.
“Thank God,” Brian muttered.
“Thank God,” I repeated.
That’s when I realized Brian believed in God and prayer, no matter what he’d said at times.
Finally Brian raised his head. “I’m not driving back without brakes. It’s dangerous.”
“It sure is,” I agreed. But I knew I was in big trouble. I wouldn’t get home before Mom and Dad.
“How will we get home?” I asked.
“Don’t worry. I’ll see if I can get somebody to pick us up. There’s a phone booth at the crossing. Have you got any money? I’m broke.”
I gave him some of the money Mom had given me to get things for dinner. More trouble!
It was a long walk back to the crossing. No one in the little store seemed to notice us.
Brian called his friend Kent. No answer. He called another guy. No one home there, either.
“Well, I guess that leaves the honor to Mom,” Brian said. “Dad would blow his top.”
When Brian’s mom came, he sure smoothed things over with her. He never mentioned coming down the hill’just said, “I couldn’t stop and ran into the field.” He winked at me when she was looking the other way.
“I’m glad you didn’t have an accident,” Brian’s mom said. “Dad will get his helper to come after your car. He’ll shout, of course.”
I knew Brian expected me to keep quiet about the hill.
I’d heard his dad yell at him a few times. I didn’t blame him for shortening the story.
It was a smooth ride home, nothing like the ride in Brian’s car. I shook my hair off my face and back where it belonged, thanked Brian’s mother, and went home.
I glanced at my watch. Three forty-five. I went inside and got some of my own money to replace what we’d used for telephone calls. Then I grabbed my bike and went to the store. I bought what Mom wanted, raced home, and put it away.
Dad came home, and we had dinner. When they asked about my day, I shrugged my shoulders as if nothing important had happened. I felt like a rat.
After dinner I went to my room and messed around, picking up books and replacing them, walking back and forth. I glanced out the window at Brian’s place. I could actually hear his dad yelling at him, letting the neighborhood know about our afternoon, but not about the hill, of course.
During worship the discussion came around to being thankful. I felt guilty enough about doing what Dad had forbidden me to do. But sitting there never mentioning how thankful I was that God had saved my life was terrible.
Finally I told Mom and Dad the whole story, how scared I had been, how I’d prayed. I told them how thankful I was that Brian believed in God and prayer.
After I finished, Mom hugged me. We had a great prayer meeting, each one of us thanking God again.
Did Dad yell at me? No. Was there a big fuss? No. Did I feel better for telling my parents? Yes. Did I get assigned extra chores? Yes.
Do I ever want to ride in a car without brakes again? No. Did I ever go riding with Brian again? Not a chance.
Written by As told to Bobbie Montgomery
Illustrated by Terrill Thomas