Tailgate Fume

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Tailgating, my dad said it’s called. He used to do it in the old days, back before cars and trucks became obsolete. He and his friends would hang on and let the wake carry them, high on exhaust fumes, whooping and hollering like loons.

There are no cars any more, but we still like speed. A single second wrung out of the system can put you ahead of your friends in a race around the world. Squeezed through wires as long, rippling sparks, we’ve learned to ride electromagnetic wakes in ways the techs never imagined.

We whoop and holler too.

Dad told me about a kid who died while tailgating. The truck he was hanging onto unexpectedly stopped, but the kid kept going. He cracked his skull wide open and brains went all over the road. Everything that was him, rearranged and scattered.

Dad said, I wonder what happened to his ghost. Did it stay with the truck for the rest of eternity, haunting the place he died, twisting and turning behind it like an invisible flag? A tailgate fume?

It’ll never happen to me, I said.