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James Dean’s Other Canyon Carver / JD Clapp



Sammy looked at her, then shifted his gaze to Jane. Two sexy beasts—A Porsche 356, and a fledgling pin-up girl. God, I’m a lucky man. He needed to get to work on the car, but he wanted to take Jane into the garage’s small office, draw the blinds, and get her naked. They had both just come into his life. Saving his lust for later, he asked Jane to go grab them some lunch over at the diner on Figueroa Street, and he cranked the little car up on the lift.

        

Billy, his assistant mechanic, came over.


“So, James Dean is really buying her?” he asked.

          

“Yep. We need to make her scream. He wants a second car to go with that Spyder he calls ‘Little Bastard.’ He bought it from Competition over in Hollywood and he keeps blowing the pistons on it.”

          

“He came to the right place. Are we doing a new top end for her?” Billy asked.

           

“That and a whole lot more. This is our chance to move up in the racing world.”


/


Sammy took the first curve on a razor’s edge, hoping his new Continental 5.25 x 16” tires would hold. Coming into the short straight, he heel-toed her from third to fourth. She had room to the redline before the sweeping curve. Sammy backed off the pedal but didn’t break, praying the new suspension mods he and Billy added yesterday would hold her. Sixty-seven miles per hour at the apex, she held. She’s got more room, Sammy thought, as he shot out of the curve.

           

Now in the mile-long straight, Sammy took her to seven thousand before going to 5th.  He was thankful to have one of the rare 356 engines with overdrive. Boulders and manzanita brush flashed by in blurs of brown. At 113 miles per hour, she began to shimmy; he backed off the gas and made a mental note.

           

As he approached the final tight S-curve, he visualized the uphill grade, the big widow-maker boulder hanging blind over the inside shoulder at the first turn, and when to floor it on the exit. He rowed through the gears—3rd to 4th and back to 3rd. Coming out of the last of the second curve settled, low, bound tight with energy waiting to burst like an orgasm, she was doing 53 miles per hour off a curve rated for 20. Just before the curve completely straightened, he mashed the peddle and she slung out like a rock hurled from David’s sling. Fuck yes.

           

Sammy looked down to the speedo as he flew across the finish line, Billy a blur, Jane waving her sweater like a checkered flag—98 miles per hour. Not bad for such a short straight.

           

Sammy pulled up to Billy and Jane. Sammy held up the stopwatch with a huge grin. Jane ran over and gave Sammy a hug after he climbed out of the cockpit.

          

“You smell like gas!” she said.

           

“It’s a race car, that’s how they smell.”


“Can I come with you when you deliver the car?” Jane asked.

           

“You just want to meet James Dean!”

           

“You bet I do! But I promise to be a good girl,” she said.

           

“Ok—but remember, he is paying me an arm and a leg to build this car for him. He doesn’t need some pretty little pin-up starlet drooling over him.”

           

“Oh, somebody’s jealous!”


Sammy and Billy spent most of the next two days tuning the suspension and detailing the little beast.


/

           

In the soft glow of the three-quarter harvest moon, Jane stood nude, smoking a cigarette at the window looking out over the San Pedro harbor. Sammy laid in bed on the moist, warm sheets admiring her ass and the shadow side view of her upturned breast and nipple. He got up, lit a Pall Mall, walked behind her, put his hands around her flat belly. He looked over her shoulder at a tanker coming into the port.

           

“Penny for your thoughts?” he finally asked.

           

“I’m reading for a part in a film in three days. I was just daydreaming about that.”

Sammy knew right then this would be a short-lived fling; he had bedded with “actresses” before and knew they didn’t stick. Better not get too attached to this one.

           

“Round two?” he whispered into her ear, as he slid a hand down from her belly toward the warmth between her legs.


/

           

They went to meet James Dean at the bottom of Mulholland Drive on an early September morning. The Santa Ana winds blew a warm breeze from the east. Sammy arrived first in the tricked-out Porsche. Jane and Billy pulled up shortly after in Billy’s hotrod ’54 Ford Customline. Mr. Dean was fashionably, movie-star late.

           

“You wore a tight enough blouse!” Sammy said.

           

Jane just giggled and shimmied her breasts to annoy him.

           

“Here he comes,” Billy noted, as a Cadillac limo pulled up.


Out stepped James Dean and another man.

           

“Mr. Dean, I’m Sammy and this is Billy,” Sammy said, offering his hand.

           

“Call me Jimmy. This is Rolf, my mechanic. And who is this pretty little thing?” he asked looking over at Jane.

           

“I’m Jane! I’m a big fan, Jimmy!”


Jimmy gave her a hug.


Rolf gave a Teutonic nod to Sammy and Billy.

           

Hoping to end the awkwardness, Sammy got down to business.

           

“Jimmy, why don’t we take a look at your car?”

           

Sammy and Billy spent the next several minutes going through the modifications—the bespoke head and pistons, the custom-made twin Weber carbs, racing transmission, suspension, and brakes.


Rolf looked on with interest but said little. By the time they got to the interior, Rolf was nodding and fully engaged. Sammy and Billy both noticed they had gained the man’s approval.

           

“Whoa, what’s all this?” Jimmy asked as he looked inside the car.

           

“Oh, that’s a roll cage and a racing harness—newest safety gear out there,” Billy replied.

           

“Ah… well, ok. I got a 555 Spyder that doesn’t have any of that. Let’s take a spin.”


/

           

They got in, and Sammy showed Jimmy how to use the racing harness. Jimmy looked up and tapped the roll cage. “Guess this would save your ass if you rolled,” he said, turning the key and smiling at the growl.


Jimmy pushed the car hard right from the get-go. He rowed through the gears like a pro—heel-toeing through 3rdto 4th, tapping the brake just so, then flooring her in the brief straights. The little beast flew up the canyon, Jimmy and Sammy both grinning like little boys at Christmas. The man can drive.


Over the din of the motor, Jimmy yelled, “Nice job Sammy! I’ll bring in the Spyder for this safety gear sometime this fall.” Sammy gave him a thumbs up.


/


Just before closing two days later, a courier delivered a cashier’s check, a small box, and a note to Sammy’s downtown LA shop.


Billy came into the office and handed Sammy a cold Hamms.


“Congratulations boss! That’s a big payday.”


They drank a couple beers and discussed their next project. Rolf had already started sending them some work. He’d been impressed with the new heads and pistons Sammy was producing. Rolf, however, saw the roll cage and harness as “unnecessary added weight.”


“Here’s to making it!” Billy said, clinking beer cans with Sammy before he left for the day.

Sammy opened the small box first. Inside was a Heuer chronograph watch on a black leather strap. Jesus, this is nice. A racing watch…He read the note:

“Sammy—thanks for all the work on the car! I’m going to call her Little Bitch. She handles like a dream. The watch is a tip, and to say sorry about Jane. I hope there are no hard feelings—she told me you two were not steady or anything. Hope to work with you again—Jimmy.”


Two weeks later, Sammy picked up the LA Times at the diner. The headline simply said, “Actor James Dean Killed in Auto Crash.” Sammy felt sick. It took him two more days to learn that Jimmy was driving Little Bastard, not Little Bitch.


Author's Note: A slightly different version of this historical fiction can be found in the print in Bachelor Pad Magazine, a 1950's style pin-up mag.



/



JD CLAPP lives in San Diego, CA. His work has appeared in Cowboy Jamboree, Bristol Noir, Roi Fainéant Press, trampset, Punk Noir and numerous others. In 2023, he was a Pushcart nominee in nonfiction, and had a fictional story selected as a finalist in the Hemingway Shorts, Short Story competition. He is a regular contributor to Poverty House.

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