At the Bottom of Derby Road

At the Bottom of Derby Road

A Story by John Ciarmello

                                 At the Bottom of Derby Road

      On the chained iron gates that now closed off Derby Road. A plaque in memory of twelve-year-old Ergo Jontane, hung eerily above my head. Another plaque hung below it; the writing worn and unreadable. As I peered through the bars to the top of the racetrack a cold chill crept up

 my spine. Maybe Ergo died here, right in this very spot.

      Pieces of rusted Derby cars reached hauntingly above the thicket; as if they were demanding not to be forgotten.   It felt as though time had not only stopped for Ergo, but for everything beyond the gates of Derby Road.

I closed my eyes trying to imagine the race and the day Ergo died. Suddenly, it all became real. It was as if I were there, watching from outside the gates. Hundreds of hay bales bordered Derby Road on both sides. Large groups of people gathered behind the bales chatting wildly about the Derby.

 At the top, a banner stretched across the starting line. Under the banner poised downhill on the ramps were Ergo’s yellow derby car number32, and a bright pink car number 5 driven by the first girl to enter our Peer Cities’ championship races.

The flagman started the race, and the two cars rolled quickly down the ramps. Suddenly, Ergo’s car swerved to the left slamming hard against the pink racer beside it.

“Run- away car!” A man shouted from the top. “Set the bales at the bottom! Set the bales!”

“They’re coming to fast!” another man replied. “We don’t have time!”

  The two cars spun out of control and I watched the pink car flip and roll before I turned away in horror. I braced my back against the gate and slid to the ground. I took a deep breath, and peered back through the gates. A boy stared at me from the other side.

“Dang it kid! You scared me.” I snapped.

“I didn’t want it to happen that way,” the boy said meekly.

I stared at him for a second. “You didn’t want what to happen what way?”

“What you saw! I just need you to know, I didn’t mean to do it!” He grabbed hard onto the iron gates and pulled his face close to the bars. “The newspaper! It said I lost my steering! It was all a cover-up to save my name!” The boy fell to his knees and put his face in his hands.

“Okay, okay! Quit balling!” I said. The boy stood slowly, and wiped his wet cheeks. “How could you have known what I saw?” I asked. “Are you some kind of a kid physic or something?  It’s just darn creepy that's all!  In any case you’re not supposed to be in there. That’s closed to the public.”

“Maybe you’re not supposed to be out there.” The boy pushed on the chained gates enough to make an opening. “Hi, I’m E.J,” he said.” Come in Pinna, it’s okay.”

“I don’t remember telling you my name. Do you know me from somewhere?”

The boy chuckled, “your name is on your shirt.”

 I pulled at the back of my jersey. “Creepy kid,” I muttered, and squeezed hesitantly through the gates.

“Sorry about all that,” he said.

“Yeah... So, anyway, what’s E.J. stand for?”

“Just E.J.” he answered, and shot a hesitant glance at the plaque on the gate.

I followed his glance. “E-J? Oh, I get it now, you’re playing Mr. Derby car racer or something like that.”

“No, not playing,” He said and looked back at the plaque. “That’s me.”

“Well, I guess if you’re going to pretend to be anyone, Ego Jontane is the kid to be. He was the most famous Derby racer in the country,” I said, “never lost a race!”

 “Nice of you to say, Pinna, but I’m not pretending. I am Ergo Jontane.”

“You do know he’s dead... right?

“Yes, quite well,” he answered.

“And… you’re his ghost?” I said. The boy shrugged with a half -cocked smile.

 Okay… Creepy. Welp, I gotta go! Hey, I hope things work out better for you in your next life!” I quickly turned and headed for the gate.

“You won’t be able to leave!” He said.

“Bah, don’t believe that, little ghost boy! I’m outta here!

Suddenly, my feet went cold. I couldn’t move.” What’s happening to me?” I shouted.

“So, do you believe me now?”

“What! No! I don’t believe you!”  Hey you! Help me, please! I yelled to a man passing by the gates.

“No use! He can’t hear you! Now do you believe me?”

” All I believe right now is you have no regard for girls.” I said, pulling hard on my legs.

Ergo sighed. “Just follow me I have something to show you.”

“Um, The feet?” I said.

“Oh right, sorry.” He waved his hand as if bothered by an insect, and my feet instantly released. I shook my legs out with my first few steps, and we started for the top of Derby Road. On the way, I spotted a stubby branch and playfully used it as a microphone; circling Ergo and pushing the branch close to his mouth. “Mr. Jontane…! Mr. Jontane!  I’m Pinna Bracks from the Peer City review. Would you have time for a question?”

“What is it?” He said, rolling his eyes.

 “Rumor has it, you were as creepy alive as you are dead? Is there any truth to this statment?”

Ergo glanced back at me tiredly, and shook his head. There was a short silence before he spoke again.

“They say dead people hang around because they have unfinished business.” He said.

“So… you have unfinished business? I asked.”

Ergo turned to me and tears welled in his eyes. “You would have won that race. I watched you in the trials. I’m sorry Pinna. I had to stay undefeated. I just wanted to slow you down that’s all,” he sobbed.

          At that moment we reached the top of Derby Road and a blinding flash of white light shot across my eyes. It was all there in front of me.  The banner, the hay bales, the people, the excitement. It was all exactly like my earlier vision. The only difference this time, I wasn't watching it; I was in it! I glanced quickly to my right. Ergo’s yellow car number, 32 and the pink car number, 5 sat poised on the ramps. I grabbed Ergo by the shirt collar and wrung my knuckles into his chest. “The driver of the other car, Ego! Where is she?” He went blank faced. I loosened my grip and stared at the driver-less pink racer. Ergo shot me a reassuring glance from the cockpit of his car.

“Get in!” He shouted over the noise of the crowd below.

“Me! You want me to drive this? You’re not only dead you’re crazy!” A man came up behind me and hurried me toward the pink racer. “No, Um, you don’t understand. I don’t know how to drive this!” The man nudged me from behind.

“It’s going to be okay!” Ergo shouted.

“That's not what I saw!” I yelled back.

 “You need to know the truth, Pinna!”

“The truth? The truth about what?” He shot me another blank stare and turned his focus back to the race.

” I don’t want to play this game anymore, Ergo!”

“You have to trust me Pinna!”

I put my hands on the wheel and glared at Ergo. He’s lucky he’s already dead!

A man pulled the launch lever and we started down the track. We were side by side for most of the race, and then to my surprise, my car pulled away crossing the finish line ahead of Ergo’s. I pulled the brakes at the bottom, and pinched my arm to make sure I was still alive. It wasn’t seconds later Ergo’s car sped by me. I watched as he disappeared into thin air at the bottom of Derby Road. At that moment the crowd went silent. The pink racer turned old and broken beneath me. I spun around to look at the track. A Grayish dust whirled across the colorless finish line, and the dead thicket reached hauntingly through the broken blacktop once again.

“Ergo!” I shouted.   “Are you still here?” Just then, a quick flash of light caught my eye. I walked to the gate entrance and squeezed through the chained opening to the street. The second plaque mounted below Ergo’s, glowed with a bright white light. When the light vanished, I read it in horror. “‘In memory of twelve-year-old, Pinna Bracks, the first girl to qualify, compete and win the 1950, Peer City Soapbox Derby competition.’” I looked back through the iron bars, and Ergo stared at me from the other side. He pushed on the chains enough to make an opening and I disappeared through the gates.







© 2018 John Ciarmello

Author's Note

John Ciarmello
Primarily a piece written for ages 8-12

My Review

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Grabbing and very exciting. Like watching a daredevil movie with racing and so forth. Talladega is big here in Alabama. Big fan base. You are very detail oriented and comprehensive. Excellent job you do Mr. JOHN.

Posted 8 Months Ago

Whether it's poem or story u kill it sir John... enjoyed a lot...thnk u for sharing such a wonderful story with a great twist..

Posted 9 Months Ago

John Ciarmello

9 Months Ago

Thank you so much for the kind review my writing friend. I enjoyed writing it. I'm happy you enjoye.. read more
Wow, this reminds me of a twilight zone episode about a pool player. This is very entertaining to read and the ending is quite an interesting twist. I'm sure children would enjoy this. Nice job.

Posted 9 Months Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on March 7, 2018
Last Updated on March 7, 2018


John Ciarmello
John Ciarmello


I'm a 58 year old enthusiastic writer of short story and Children's rhyme. I love to try all types of writing. I love the challenge of flash fiction. I'm not sure I have a novel in me though! We shall.. more..