Learning to Tame Black Beauty


                                                            By Eddie Mikell


Black Beauty, my 1995 black Miata, preferred to only run under my guidance.  I knew how to take care of her, how to touch the stick shift just right.  In short, I made her happy.


Austin, my budding teenager had been lusting after Black Beauty since I bought her.  I could not blame him.  I had lusted after her for years.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had driven big old clunkers in order to transport the family around.  Cars that took fifteen minutes to turn,  and two hours to fill up at the gas station. 


So it was natural that he was attracted to her.  It started out as just a small affair. An occasional washing.  Letting the top down.  Pumping the gas for me.  But once, I caught him behind the steering wheel, with my best Predator sunshades on, contentedly cruising down some imaginary highway.  He must have been speeding, as he had pushed his hair back like the wind was flowing through his locks. 


It was time.  I went into his room, and queried, “Austin, come on, let’s take a ride”


“Sure, let me grab a CD”.  I found he rarely traveled without his selection.  He doesn’t grumble much, but he does make some choking sounds when I turn on the John Tesh radio station.  I like some of his music.  I check most of the lyrics on the cd he buys.  Most are great; I just have a problem getting into the rhythms.  I remember my Dad yelling at me, his voice echoing down the hallway to “turn that stuff down”.  And I was listening to Three Dog Night.  Sheesh.  I stopped.  If I continued down that avenue of thinking, I would be starting with the stories of walking 15 miles to school, uphill both ways in snow drifts past my nose.  I always wondered about that story from Dad.  Especially the snow.  It snowed one time in the 21 years I lived in Mississippi. I assume that 20 years previously, Mississippi was in some type of ice age. 


We dropped the top, and I headed us to an open field that I had scouted previously for just this moment.  Level, with a few hills to simulate curvy roads.  No potholes.   I eased beauty to a stop.  Austin had an odd look on his face.  “So what are we doing?” he asked.


“How about you jump over here behind the wheel, and let’s have your first driving lesson.”


Lights went off, fire ignited his pants, and he exploded from the passenger side.  I barely got out of the way.  A few microseconds later, he would have landed in my lap.


Ok, push the clutch in, and turn the ignition key to crank it.  Dutifully, he used both feet to push the clutch in, and bought Beauty to life. 


“Great, now with the clutch in, put the gear shift in first”


“No problem” he said.  Smart kid, dropped it right in first.  This was going to be a piece of cake I thought. 


“Now, ease the clutch ou!”  I didn’t get a chance to finish.  He must have read somewhere that you had to give it some gas before you release the clutch.