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VARIOUS TEXTS: JUST ALONG FOR A RIDE (short story)

[This story was written by the author when he was still at high school. The first-person narrator is on a cruising tour of the town with his his four friends Dick, Reid, Phil and Steve. They are bored and look for excitement when suddenly Phil makes a horrifying suggestion.]

JUST ALONG FOR A RIDE by Dennis Kurumada

I leaned back on the seat and watched the back of Dick's head as he steered. The '55 DeSoto1 rumbled along the rain-soaked street.
This evening's gonna be a total loss, I thought. Things have gotta be pretty dull when all you've got to do is drive around with a friend who just got his license. But it beats2 sitting at home. So, there we were, five of us. Dick and Phil were in front. Reid, Steve and I were in the back. We were all cold, damp, and bored. Man, we needed something to do!

"This is really crummy3. I think we …"
I was cut off by Phil. "Hey, let's drive up to somebody … some kid… and flatten him."
"What?" I said.
"We drive up slow, then swing open the door real fast, and knock the guy on his can.4"
We all looked at him kinda funny.
"Well, it's something to do," Phil said.
"Aw, why not? OK, we'll do it."
We began looking round for a victim. "You guys are nuts," I said. "What if he calls the cops?"
"You worry too much. Whenever we wanna have some fun, you always chicken out5."
"There's one!" It was raining hard, but we could see the blurred figure of some guy under a streetlight on the corner. Steve laughed.
"Oh wow! This is gonna be funny."
A couple of us started laughing.
"Will you guys shut up?" said Dick. I guess it made him nervous. The kid was about half a block away. The street wasn't too busy. Only a few cars were around. Dick started weaving6 across the road.

"Stop fooling around!" I said.
Steve got on the door, ready to open it. Then everything started happening too fast. The guy at the corner stepped out into the street. The car swerved. The door swung open, and Steve started falling out. He grabbed my arm, and we both fell back on the seat. Dick got scared and threw the car away from the kid. The headlights flashed on the frozen figure. I could see his face, eyes wide, mouth open. There was a squeal of tires on the slick street and a hollow thud as the figure was hurled7, rolling across the roof. I got all mixed up.

"Ken Benjamin!" I said. "I think that was Ken Benjamin!"
Dick slowed down. Then he suddenly started speeding down the street.
"Dick! Stop! I know that guy! Dick, will ya stop?" He didn't hear me. "Stop the car! He's my friend!"
I hit him on the shoulder and grabbed his shirt. He turned around. Tears were blobbing up in his eyes.
"Shut up, you jerk8! You want us to get nailed9 for manslaughter?" He hit my arm. What a stupid thing to do! I got so scared that I started shivering like crazy. I just couldn't believe it. I felt sick.

"Hey!"
I looked up. It was Dick. He was looking in the rearview mirror. There was a car behind us.
"Is he following us?" I asked.
"Well, I'll lose him," said Dick.
The car lunged forward10 as it picked up speed. I looked back. The headlights shone through the rain, about two or three hundred yards away. Dick hung a sharp right up a narrow street. Hardly anyone ever comes up this way, I thought. If he follows us up here, he's really following us. I looked back. The headlights were even closer. We started up a winding road. I looked back and could see the dark red Volvo as it cut through the street ponds. Yeah, I thought, a good guy would drive one of those Volvos.

What if he catches us? Ken was my friend. Hit and run11, hit and run kept going through my head. I kinda hoped that the guy would catch us. We were out in the sticks12 by now. The roads were winding a lot. The Volvo was making its move, and was closing fast. But as he rounded a curve, he turned too sharply and his car slid off the road. He couldn't have been hurt. Everyone was relieved. After that, Dick drove us all home.

It was 12.30 when I got home. Nobody was awake. I started pacing around the kitchen. I was so scared. I didn't know if we had killed him or not. I turned on the radio and listened to some music. But when the news came on, I turned it off. You idiot, I thought. Ken was your friend. Go to his mom or something. Well, I didn't hit him! It's not my fault! Those other guys … it wasn't my idea … no! You were in the car. You're responsible, too. Hit and run, hit and run. I got in my car and drove for a while. Then I started remembering things Ken used to say.

"I don't know what to do!" I was shouting as I drove. No answer. My mind burned. "Go see Mrs Benjamin, you coward!"
But I couldn't. I just couldn't. When I got home, the lights were on. My mother was in her robe.
"Your friends are here," she said. "I don't think that two o'clock in the morning is the right time to…"
I didn't listen. I just went into the front room. Dick walked up to me and said real low, "I heard in the radio that he's not dead. He isn't even hurt bad."
I didn't say anything. I just looked at him.
"No one knows," he went on. "So maybe we can get away with it."
He could see I was getting mad. I could have killed him. The others stood up and came over. I didn't say a thing. I just walked out the door, got in the car, and left. It took me a while to find Ken's house. It was a gray brick, and the lights were on. Maybe it wasn't gray. I don't know. Everything looked gray. I walked up and rang the doorbell.
1007 words

Source: That's Life, F. Schöningh, Paderborn 1984 pp. 5-7


Annotations:
1. DeSoto - a veteran car made by GM in teh 1950s
2. it beats - it is better than
3. crummy - awful
4. can (sl.) - Hintern
5. to chicken out - vor etwas kneifen
6. to weave - here: in Schlangenlinien fahren
7. to hurl - hochschleudern
8. jerk - Trottel, Depp
9. to be nailed - here: to be arrested
10. to lunge forward - nach vorne schießen
11. hit and run - Fahrerflucht
12. out in the sticks - in the country


Assignments:
1. Summarize the story in no kmore than 80 words
2. Describe the narrator's inner conflict after he realized that they ran over one of his friends.
3. Comment on the structure of the short story taking into account the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.
4. Examine the language, i.e. slang expressions, and say what their function is.



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