Joe is one of a handful of people who have been under casual surveillance for years.
What his shadows have determined is that Joe is remarkably predictable. Even in the immediate aftermath of getting fired Joe kept to a daily regiment of small tasks and rewards and activities. He woke every morning at seven. He stepped outside for his newspaper a few minutes later. He picked it up and read everything above the fold in the time it took him to make a cup of coffee and throw two slices of Wonder Bread in the toaster.
“Hello. Whose are you?”
This morning he is newly employed when he reaches down to pick up his morning paper.
He doesn’t notice that it’ a foot closer than usual because it’s at rest on a small box. He doesn’t notice because the first thing to catch his eyes is a 1977 Pontiac Firebird pulled up in his driveway. It’s so close to his Triumph he can’t believe it didn’t fall over (he’s had trouble with the kickstand lately).
“Wonder who left that beauty there?”
For those unfamiliar with bad-ass American cars of the past this Pontiac was very much like the one Burt Reynolds made famous in Smokey and The Bandit. The one in Joe’s driveway is cherry red and not black, and there’s no firebird painted on the hood. More significant to Joe is that a cherry red 77′ Firebird was the first car he ever owned. His was always in rough shape, but the one in his driveway looks as if it rolled off the line in Detroit yesterday.
“And whose are you?”
He looks down from the paper and notices the box. The box has his name written on it and no postage.
He can’t decide between the strange box and rushing over to inspect the car before whoever mistakenly parked it there moves it. He heads back inside with the box because he’s an adult and still in his pajamas and what would the neighbors think? Besides he needs to read the paper before work because his new boss thinks current events are especially important.
“If a man can’t be bothered to know what’s going on in the world he can’t be trusted to do a thorough job on anything!”
He opens the box.
“Keep your head in the game Joe.”
The game isn’t in his head yet. It’s in his hands. Joe is barely to the kitchen to make coffee when the mysterious package stops him cold. He drops the paper. He reads again over the single sheet of paper from the box. There are other items inside the box, but only one of them interests him now. He grabs that item and sprints in pajamas to the Firebird. According to the letter, and the set of keys in his hand, this car is his if he wants it.
“Hell yes I want it!”
He brushes past his bike and the tiniest bump trips the kickstand and the Triumph crashes over. He leaves it there.
He lets himself into the car and takes in its leather. Everything about it looks and smells new. He feels a few tears in his eyes and laughs, awkwardly. There’s a full well of emotion and he is deeply confused at the same time. he reads the letter again.
You are cordially invited to take part in a transcontinental contest. At each stage of the competition you will have the opportunity to win prizes. The first prize is the car attached to the keys included in the game package. The car is yours to keep. All you have to do is follow the directions on the map provided, in the time provided, to claim the car as your own.
Three other items are in the box. There’s a map leading to a marked point 800 miles away, a running timer counting down thirteen hours, and a business card with a single word printed on it:
Joe will be on the road for almost an hour before he realizes he’s still in his pajamas and that he left his cell phone at home.
He won’t look at the timer, only his tachometer. He won’t turn back. He’ll drive on. There won’t be time to go back. He doesn’t know a single phone number. They’re all in his phone, but he’ll keep driving, feeling the RPMs and the adrenaline become one thing. He’s caught up. He wants the car more than he’s wanted anything in years. Kuhreihen is supposed to work this way. And Firebirds too.