Darting through traffic, he resembled an agile water bug; screaming around curves, he was as sparkling as light playing on the ocean; when he got up to speed, he felt as the wind itself. He was a racing car—Smokey by name—who blew past other racers as though they were standing still!
He was a lucky racing car because he had a driver called Johnny D. Johnny was one of the best drivers around even though he was getting on in years. Together, this all but unstoppable team was the toast of the race car circuit. Whenever a race was too close for comfort, Johnny only had to pat Smokey on the side door and say coaxingly, "Come on, old boy, show 'em your exhaust!" and Smokey would dig back and somehow find that extra something which would propel them to the winner's line.
One sad day, however, a brand new kind of car appeared on the scene. It featured a thunderous large engine capable of reaching unheard of speeds. Smokey noticed that these cars were not so different than himself—just their engines were bigger. He suggested that Johnny D. consider replacing his engine, but Johnny D. snorted and said that he was too old to change, and besides, hadn't they done all right with what they had?
"After what we've been through together, I've got to stay loyal to my old buddy," is how he'd put it when
friends would ask the same question of him.
It was the Fourth of July, time for the traditional Fourth of July Traditional Race which featured the best
racing cars for miles around. Johnny D. and Smokey all but owned this race, so all eyes were on them as they readied themselves to meet the challenge of the upstarts with their fancy new engines.
Alas, despite Johnny D's repeated calls for Smokey to "show 'em your exhaust!" they were not up to the
challenge. They failed to defeat a single one of the new‑engined cars. And before long, they were no longer invited to the better race tracks. Things never looked so bleak.
It seemed as though they would never be useful again.
One cold morning Smokey felt an unfamiliar metallic clunk. After being jostled about, he found that he was
being towed! He looked around desperately and finally spotted Johnny, head down, in the tow truck ahead. Smokey didn't have to be told where he was headed. He had seen others make this trip but never imagined his turn would come. Yet there he was, in the middle of a junk yard for useless and abandoned automobiles! And there he would have remained if Mr. Grimley, a children's amusement park owner, hadn't happened by.
"That's just the ticket!" exclaimed Mr. Grimley as he drove by the yard. "Exactly what I need for my new park."
And so as quickly as Johnny and Smokey had found themselves in the junk park, they found themselves in Mr. Grimley's Children's Amusement Park.
Instead of rusting away in an abandoned field, they were polished clean as new and became the star attraction in the kiddie bumper car ride. They would park in the middle while the kiddies would drive by and sometimes into them.
Children would clamor to ride near old Smokey. Parents stood near by, smoking their pipes and reminiscing about Smokey's past victories. Every time a particularly fast bumper car would drive by them, Johnny D. would all but stand up in the driver's seat, throw out his chest and proudly yell, "Come on, old boy, show 'em your exhaust!"
Even in such modest surroundings, Johnny basked in the limelight and adulation. And the children would go wild with excitement at being so close to glory.
But things were not so sweet for Smokey. Despite Johnny's nightly pep talks about how lucky they were to
finish out their careers bringing joy to children, Smokey longed for action. He grew more sullen and withdrawn until one day he hit upon a strategy.
It was a brilliant plan which played on old Johnny's keen sense of pride and competitive spirit. All Smokey had to do was to wait for Johnny's inevitable war cry. Smokey went to sleep that night thinking about the action he just knew was in store. 'Let's face it, boy, you're excited about the glory that will soon be yours again!" he said to himself as he fell off to sleep.
Sure enough, just ten minutes into the very first ride, Johnny cried out for Smokey to "show 'em your exhaust!" But this time Smokey was ready. Reaching back for that special something that had made him a champion, he shouted, "Shut up, you old fool! Can't you see that we're nothing, we're finished. We might as well be rotting in that junk yard for all the respect we get here! You're just a broken down loser, a side show diversion in a jerkwater park. I'm nothing, you're nobody. It's over. We're done."
Echoing in the stunned silence, those words went right through Johnny like daggers. He tried to talk, but nothing came out. Parents and children just looked away. Johnny died soon after of a broken heart.
Since they had been such a prime attraction, Mr. Grimley decided to hire another recently retired race driver to take over Johnny's job, just as Smokey assumed he would.
The new driver had a firm grip and a steady hand, just as Smokey assumed he would. So one day, Smokey whispered to him, "You were meant for better things... I know where we can get one of those new engines..."