But when one has broken the bonds of nature,...there is nothing that can reunite those whom knots so strong could not hold together: One hates with excess when one hates a brother.
LA TH�BAIDE OU LES FR�RES ENNEMIS RACINE
The brothers Arfons, Walter and Arthur, designers and builders of wild, gleaming machines that flash across the Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds close to sound, work in adjacent garages on a small, junk-strewn plot of land on Pickle Road in Akron. First you come to Walter's shop, a dark place with grimy windows looking into a clutter of jet engines, shelves lined with aircraft instruments and cannibalized parts of old automobiles and airplanes and trucks. Then you come to a narrow buffer zone between the brothers' workshops, and finally to the two small, windowless buildings where Arthur Arfons designed and built the Green Monster, the jet car with which he has broken the world land-speed record three times in two years. Except for excursions to drag strips, where they command top appearance money, and except for an annual pilgrimage to that Cloud-Cuckoo-Land of speed, Bonneville, the brothers are more or less confined to their two-acre world on Pickle Road. But even though they come into shoulder-rubbing proximity almost daily, and even though the sons of one brother are likely to be found clambering around the latest experimental car of the other brother, Walter and Arthur Arfons do not speak. Each professes to be profoundly disturbed by this slate of affairs, and each insists that it was not he who engineered the events that sundered them, and each seems to be busily widening and deepening the chasm. "If someone stops at his garage and wants to know where my garage is," Arthur says in a typical diatribe against his brother, "he don't know where it is, even though it's next door. He don't know what my phone number is or nothing. My brother has a real good personality; he's a real pleasant guy, and he is sharper than anyone gives him credit for, and he knows how to make an ass out of me eight ways from Sunday."
Says Walter, in the cheek-turning manner that nettles his brother: "I like Arthur. I want to be his friend. But I'm even afraid to go over and talk to him now. Being that he give me the cold shoulder so many times. I don't want to be turned down. Hell, if I'm turned down then I really feel lousy. In front of people, you know? So I don't know what to do. What should I do?"
Arthur says Walter is a hypocrite and should come right out and admit his hatred. "I think if you're mad at somebody and you're not gonna speak to 'em," Arthur says, "why be two-faced about it?"
For his own part, Arthur is frankly antagonistic. When a photographer mistakenly called him "Walt" on the flats this year, Arthur said coolly and evenly: "What'd you call me?"
"I mean 'Art!' "
"That's better," Arthur said. "That other's a dirty word!"
The world land-speed record, which both the brothers Arfons have held and for which they remain in lusty competition, has a fine old family history dating back to 1898, when the French Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat tore off a dazzling 39.24-mph run on the straight stretch of road at Ach�res, outside of Paris between the villages of St. Germain and Constans. At first the French tended to look upon the record as a private affair; the first 10 land-speed marks were set on the roads of France, a happenstance that Gallophiles attributed to the dash and verve of the French spirit and less partial observers laid to the fact that Napoleon had built the straightest roads in Europe. Through the years, the land-speed record has been overseen by the French, and even today the ruling body of speed is the F�d�ration Internationale de l'Automobile, headquartered in Paris.
Chasseloup-Laubat's claim of a record infuriated a Belgian inventor, Camille Jenatzy, who knew that his own electric car was faster. Then, as now, there was big money at stake. Jenatzy had just begun his own electric-car company, and the public was ready to enrich the man who made the fastest automobile. Jenatzy used the formal language of the dueling challenge to invite the Frenchman to a mono a mono contest over the same stretch of road, and forthwith spun through the flying kilometer at 41.42 mph for a new world land-speed record. The count ordered the course cleared, revved up his Jeantaud electric car and returned the record to France with a speed of 43.69 mph before burning out his motor. Jenatzy, his batteries exhausted, sulked to town for a recharge, and 10 days later he won back the record with a speed of 49.92. A month later Chasseloup-Laubat had gone 57.60 for the glory of France, and Jenatzy realized that his car could never top that speed. Back he went to the drawing board, where he designed a bullet-shaped new automobile, the first streamliner in history. He dubbed it Jamais Contente (Never Satisfied) and proclaimed that he would fix the count's clock. On April Fool's Day, 1899, Jenatzy and the Never Satisfied whirred along the road at Ach�res so breathtakingly fast that everyone in the crowd knew the record had been retrieved for Belgium. But helas! The French timers had been busy with other matters at the very time that the car raced by. "Mille fois pardon!" the timers told the Belgian. They had not recorded his speed. What a shame that his batteries were now exhausted! Jenatzy's reply, as he sat atop his electric car in the faint odor of ozone, was not recorded by the historians of the era.
One month later the persistent Belgian returned to Ach�res, lectured the timers sternly, checked over his ammeter and voltmeter carefully and then turned a flying kilometer in 34 seconds for a speed of 65.79 mph, or 105.88 kph, shattering two barriers considered as formidable then as the speed of sound is considered now: 60 mph and 100 kph. Before Jenatzy's bold sprint, it had been supposed in some quarters that no human being, least of all a non-Frenchman, could survive the damage to the respiratory and nervous systems that was bound to result from traveling at more than 100 kph or 60 mph. But here was the Belgian, unruffled in his wool coat, climbing down from the Never Satisfied with a very satisfied look on his usually fiery countenance. The Count de Chasseloup-Laubat, good sportsman that he was, announced loudly that the best man had won, whereupon the two speed merchants retired to drink red champagne and tell lies. There was glory enough for all; Camille Jenatzy was not from France, to be sure, but his native tongue was French. If he had been a Flemish-speaking Belgian—now, that would have been a total catastrophe.