Sunday, 23 October 2011

First Past the Post

Jennospot 41 First Past the Post

Peter St John 'as been redoin' the drawin's fer "Gang Warfare". Oi've pinched a couple of 'em ter show yew 'ere. They're about a cart race down the Mountain Glide against them 'orrible Streeters from the ovver soide o' the river. Any'ow, Oi can't jus' show yew the pictures wivvout sayin' somefink about 'em. So Oi've took a bit outta the book. Only trouble is, the race ain't got me in it, 'cos it were before Oi got moi cart:

‘Everybody ready?’ repeated Leta. ‘The rules are as follows: The course is from here down to the finish line by the stream at the bottom, passing by the three clumps of bushes on the slope. The first clump is to be turned round to leave it on the left-hand, the second to the right-hand and the third to the left-hand again. Anyone who crosses the start line before I call go is disqualified. The first past the post is the winner. Best of three races; otherwise, no other rules. The six racers, stand by your carts. I will call ready, steady; go. Are you ready steady go!’

At the command ‘Go’, I punted furiously to accelerate down the slope towards the first clump of bushes. Reenie, with her long legs had an advantage here, and I saw her on my left slightly ahead of the field. The Streeter on my left turned deliberately wide to force me even further down slope than I wanted to go. I decided to counter his trick by braking with my toes and turning sharply behind him, to place myself behind Reenie, and slightly down slope of her.

As we turned the first clump of bushes, I saw Roy on my left, neck and neck with a Streeter. Reenie seemed to be slightly in the lead, but she was followed closely by a second Streeter. I was below her, and about a length behind. The Streeter who had tried to force me down slope was now below me on my right, but because he now had to turn upslope again to go round the bushes, was rapidly losing speed. Barring accidents, he was already out of the race.

If I had been just slightly more ahead, I would have been well-positioned for the turn round the second clump of bushes, but Reenie was in front of me and I could not obstruct her clear route around. On the other hand, the two other Streeters with Roy between them, being upslope, were accelerating downwards towards the turn.

I positioned myself to protect Reenie's left flank. I moved slightly to the left, and found myself at once behind a Streeter who clearly intended to force Reenie into the bushes on the turn. I reached forward over the steering bar and grabbed the back of his cart, pulling his rear wheels against my front axle for an instant. This slowed him sufficiently to allow Reenie a clear run round the turn.

At the exit to the turn, Reenie was almost a length ahead of the field. I was a length behind. The other three were bunched together, Roy in the middle, heading for the final turn. It was still anyone's race, apart from the third Streeter trailing well behind.

As Reenie brushed by the bushes at the turn, I saw the Streeter immediately behind her, try the trick I had used on his companion. He reached forward to grab Reenie's back axle.

Roy, at his right side, spotted his move. Before the Streeter could get hold of Reenie's cart, Roy swerved into him. They both went into the bushes. I, just behind them, had to swerve violently to my left to avoid a collision. I heard a commotion of snapping twigs and swearing, as the two carts disappeared from my view.

Three of us were now left in the race, with a clear straight run to the finish. Reenie was in the lead. A Streeter was just behind her. I was just behind him. We all put our heads close to the steering bar to reduce wind resistance.

Lightning had ball-bearing wheels all round and ran well. I began to catch up with the Streeter, but the slope was decreasing and we were all slowing down. And so the race ended with Reenie the clear winner, the Streeter second, and myself a close third. The remainder came straggling in at intervals, Roy and one of the Streeters were slightly scratched around the face and hands but otherwise okay.

"Gang Warfare" Chapter 13

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