“Alaska, Part 3”


At first she had her doubts about the old house, if one could call it that and it really wasn’t that old. Part log home, part pallet shack ( or what ever the hell it was made of ), part barn… Damnedest place she had ever seen. Even in the short time she had been there it had held up remarkably well in some really brutal weather. Hard to heat at times, but could be much worse. Some were living like animals in not much more than shacks and tents, and some died. She had grown to love the place and tried to keep it going the best she could . The patchwork of materials, colors, and textures reminded her of an old quilt. Not much to look at but serviceable and sturdy.

She had never experienced weather this cold. She, at times, didn’t see how they survived it. Many didn’t, but as time passed it seemed people adapted and those that trickled in seemed more determined to stay alive. Things must have been really bad in the rest of the world to make this icy hell the go-to place to live free. In fact, that was true. The lower 48 was bankrupt, coming apart at the seams and on the verge of another civil war. Washington so vile and corrupt, they were incapable of leading their own city much less the rest of the nation. The true American Patriots in the heartland said fuck it, lets get it on. Canada was little better, fragmenting more every day. Mexico and much of Central America turning into a giant drug cartel, run by the most evil men imaginable. Panama at war with China and getting their asses kicked. Nobody for sure knew what was going on in South America, but insane inflation and crushing poverty didn’t sound good. With the exception of a sliver of a breakaway white South African republic, Africa was in starvation, war and drought beyond biblical proportions. The newly formed republic was faring little better. Europe was losing a war with the Muslims led by the Turks. Russia was run by organized crime, China by the return of communists of unbelievable brutality. Everyone else on the planet was pretty much fucked.

The Alaska Republic struggled on…Protected only by determined men and women armed to the teeth.

She struggled every day to keep the family alive and healthy. No easy task with prices and taxes as high as they were. She was having a hard time keeping gas in their vehicles, fuel of all types was hard to come by and very expensive. They were ok with food, kerosene and other supplies, enough to last a few months. She had caught up on the bills and even had stored away some extra gasoline but had nearly depleted the old mans retirement savings. She had taken a part time job at the local V/A hospital helping out in the emergency room on weekends to help make ends meet, Wendy watching the kids while she worked. Not always pleasant but a job. Wendy’s hubby keeping the house in repair, pretty much a full time job in these conditions.

She hadn’t regretted coming north to Alaska, not sure what to expect or even if the old man would take her in. But she saw what was coming in the lower 48, a re-education camp wasn’t her gig. After seeing what these places had done to one of her friends, she decided to haul ass with the kids. She had the law right on her heels but had moved too fast for them. If caught, she probably have more to worry about than a re-education camp after the stunts she had pulled. Even the old man didn’t know the full extent if what she had gotten herself into. She suspected his sponsor did.

The old man figured they were fighting a losing battle…Too many conversations with his sponsor,  a couple of meetings meetings with higher that he shouldn’t have been privy to. They even asked his opinion on occasion, that about freaked him out. He had pieced together that the Alaska Republic was eventually doomed, a lost cause but never said anything to family or close friends. He figured his wife knew, she could always read him. Too vast a cold bitter land, too many insurmountable problems, too few good people. He, and his loved ones, just took it a day at a time. About all they could do under the circumstances. They were better off than many, that he was thankful for. They were better off than most of the rest of the planet. He had read the stories in the Alaska Free Press, had conversations with those recently up from the lower 48 and elsewhere. It didn’t sound good. Pretty much hunger, massive inflation, shortages of nearly everything as the worlds economies failed. Much violence and brutality almost beyond imagination. Flights, with rare exception, had stopped and the borders would be sealed soon, or the best they could with resources available. The weather seemed to be doing a good job of that anyway. The Republic did have some things going for it. A more or less strong currency backed by precious metals and commodities, a few big gold strikes were helping with that. Oil exploration paying off, boosting the economy some. Other natural resources, fishing… The people were hardworking and innovative. Rule of law mostly restored, but penalties could be harsh. The state of emergency was still in place, hard but forcing people to focus on real problems.

The old man had just been given a new M4A1 carbine, tactical case, magazines, ammunition and a cleaning kit at the armory. Then body armor, helmet and some tactical kit at another location. All able bodied men and some women were members of the reserves in some capacity, 18 years to whatever. Apparently the old man was “young enough” and had prior military service. His sponsor explained he would be defending his neighborhood, which consisted of four houses. His wife was to get additional medical training one day a week at the hospital where she worked. Wendy, her hubby and the Pakistani family down the road were exempted, his sponsor didn’t know why. Or wasn’t saying.

An Army Of One…

His sponsor was giving him a ride home from picking up the military kit and weapon. Conversation was about a new storm front moving in, as bad as or maybe worse that the last one. The old man figured his family was about as prepared as they could be under the circumstances and said so. His sponsor thought of a few more items the old man might need and said he would try and scrounge them up. Meanwhile, the old man was to keep his vehicles topped off with gas and make sure each one had a complement of emergency equipment and supplies.

She had a long week. Three very full days of firearms training  by the Alaska State Troopers after her day of medical schooling on Monday, it was intense. Mandatory fun for her, optional for the eldest girl but she got credits for school. The eldest girl also was going to get medical training, also helping out for school. They topped off the truck and a couple cans then headed for home. Dirty, smelling  of  powder residue and cleaning solvent the two of them were very tired but still had plenty to do be ready for the approaching storm. With the whole family pitching in it wouldn’t take long to square things away, then they could rest.

The old man felt they were as ready as the could be for the approaching storm. The girls opened the door for him so he could pull the old Dodge truck in, closing them tightly behind him. Wind was picking up, temperature was dropping (like it could get any colder…) and the sky was spitting bits of sleet. Good time to get home. Everyone had come down to see his new ride, a Korean War era Dodge 4×4 military truck. Hell, even had a load of wood in the back. The eldest loaded the stove with some wood trying to warm things up, the old man doubted that was possible anymore. The rest of the family wandered back upstairs into the house. She sat in the cab of the old truck smelling the fresh olive green paint, reminding the old man that she wasn’t half bad with a four speed. She figured she would grow to like this rig better than the Toyota. She could tell that someone had put one hell of a lot of work into this old rig getting it roadworthy. She even  noticed the old wool blanket  sewn in the canvas cab cover at an attempt to insulate, very nice work. The old man and herself walked upstairs hand in hand as she tried to talk him out of the old Dodge, shutting the garage lights out as they went inside a house smelling of dinner.

Walking into the hustle and bustle of his pre-storm household. Dinner about done, laundry going, his phone confiscated and plugged in. Everybody was tired but with the storm there would be time to rest.

The whole thing stunk…She always had doubts but when he got the new job and the truck…Something was up. She had seen how others lived, some barely scratching out a living. The cheap clinics, food, housing and clothing assistance. She knew the old man had come up here with means, but not that much. They were just a bit better off than she thought they should be. How did he get shipped up here with all of his shit when many showed up with clothes on their back and penniless? True, some did show up as the old man had but many didn’t. The old man tried to explain it away but she wasn’t buying any of it. All the training her and the eldest girl were getting, lots of it and intense. The weapons…On and on. There had to be payback somewhere down the line and that is what worried her.

The old mans new job was to evaluate and supervise maintenance on the new republics vehicles, military and otherwise. Since all of the military wheeled and tracked equipment had been stripped out of  Alaska (along with aircraft) at the beginning of the first go around in the lower 48…Well,  what little that had been replaced was by obsolete worn out junk. It would be interesting to say the least, mainly finding replacement parts. From what little he had seen so far many of the parts for these antiques were coming from Central America and the Philippines. The crew he had rebuilding the old equipment was a rainbow of colors and language from all over the third world and surprisingly talented for no more than they had to work with, their work was of high quality. Their shop was a cast off old hangar on the outskirts of the airfield with a fair sized salvage out back, machine and hand tools pieced together from what nobody else wanted. They worked on and rebuilt damn near anything. He had gotten a truck and a fuel card out of the deal, a good perk considering how fucked up everything was. That was all temporarily put on hold until this next storm passed.

She got up, lit a couple kerosene lamps and switched off the emergency lights. The electricity had failed not long after the winds hit. She would switch to battery power in the morning, loading the stoves before she lay back down. The house was getting cold. the fireplace, stove and furnace were not going to keep up with the wind moaning outside. At least they were somewhat ready for this one. The old man passed out sitting on the couch, exhausted. As they all were. Everyone laying everywhere with blankets in the living room, Wendy’s hubby crashed in the lazy boy…She fluffed the pillow up on the old mans lap as she lay down and pulled the old quilt up over her. Too chilly to even get undressed. She could hear the snow and ice pelting the outside of the house, The old wood creaking and popping. It all just made her burrow under the old shabby quilt all the deeper. Back to work in a few more days, she was going to enjoy some downtime.


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“Alaska, Part 2”

The weather had changed world-wide, that much was certain. Of course the dickhead politicians, so-called leaders, and scientists of the lower 48 couldn’t agree on why. In central and north Alaska it was a just a matter of staying alive in some of the coldest temperatures on the planet. An article in a National Geographic mentioned another ice age and the old man was inclined to agree with this.

The lower 48 had their own problems. The southwest had pretty much turned back into desert, the water having run out to sustain what had been there before. The people who stayed had to adopt the old ways. Most of the socialists immigrated to the east coast, New York City being the preferred destination adding to serious problems already in the northeast. Some headed south into Mexico. New Orleans was wiped out by another hurricane, (with the exception of the port facilities) was not being rebuilt.

Texas had said fuck it and was trying to band with states to the north to become independent. It was a fucking mess. Washington was still technically in charge, but after the revolution lacked the power to force its will on much of the country. When they could, they tried to deport the rebels and dissidents to inhospitable parts of the country like the southwest and Alaska. Those Washington thought was salvageable were sent to “re-education centers” , mostly in the east but some were elsewhere. The others were deported to areas where they weren’t expected to survive. Such as Alaska….

What Washington didn’t expect was Alaska to survive, in some cases even flourish. What they didn’t realize was that the people they were deporting there were some of the most resilient and resourceful on the planet, mostly veterans, survivalists and such as that.

She had never really told him what had happened, only that she and the two girls were to be sent to a re-education center on the east coast and then she was to be given a teaching job. Brainwashing wasn’t her kind of life so she made a plan and headed north. The old man still wasn’t sure how she got on the overcrowded plane, but she had pulled it off. Even after kidnapping the little boy from a drunken ex of her daughter. The infant was from a dying girlfriend, she didn’t want the little girl in a state-run orphanage. The old man was gonna have his hands full with this family.

He had been given a part-time job with the Alaska State Troopers Auxiliary at the local shopping center as security of sorts. The indoor shopping area was a combination of mall with traditional stores, swap meet, gun show and garage sale. He mainly kept an eye on things, if a problem developed he called for help by radio or phone. While he was at work she stayed busy with getting their home organized and repaired, accomplishing an amazing amount of work done on the first day alone. Between that and the kids, Wendy and herself showed up at the various government entities, clinics and such registering her and the kids as refugees and in the school system; the school was mostly on-line with a bus picking the youngsters up once a week to spend a day at the schoolhouse weather permitting. Their life had started to fall into a routine. Gathering firewood from the surrounding snowy woods to supplement the inadequate furnace, a little hunting and such as that. She was trying to get a chicken coup started for the girls to take care of, he wasn’t sure how well that would work in the cold. She also was reconstructing the shredded greenhouse attached to the shop when the weather permitted. Wendy had scrounged up some fluorescent grow lights. Hell, they might make it work yet. The list of chores was almost endless, they just stayed on it. The old man worked in the shop some on his off days. Installing block heaters on the vehicles and tractor, catching up on services, tinkering with the generator and other small engines. Even bladed off some snow on the driveway of his place and Wendy’s. Evenings were the typical family affairs. He had been alone too long, at first not dealing well with the hustle and bustle of a large family. He spent time in the shop and garage area at first but soon got used to everything. Wendy and her husband spent their evening meal times with them most nights. Money was tight for Wendy and her spouse, the old man wanted to help them any way he could to repay all they had done for him. He sat back in the rocking chair this evening, getting his pipe fired up for a relaxing after dinner smoke in the upstairs living and dining room. She and Wendy worked on the after dinner clean up being assisted by the two girls. Wendy’s hubby was tinkering with a radio on the ham bench in the corner, infant was busy playing with a rattle in her basket and the little boy had fallen asleep on the rug in front of the television set, not that there was a hell of a lot to watch after the lower 48 had cut the satellite access.

She was wearing Muck boots with wool socks, carpenter jeans, heavy leather belt with a sheath knife and holstered 38 caliber Smith And Wesson revolver , a green wool shirt and olive drab Eddie Bauer down vest. He wasn’t sure wear her hunting cap was, it had been replaced with a soft white bridal veil. He looked more like a Russian from Doctor Zhivago, the tall black hobnailed boots actually fit quite well, he had even polished them. The girls with work clothing and little white veils, flower girls. Wendy as the maid of honor and a couple of musicians.   The wedding wasn’t an option, they were going to deport her with the kids, possible jail time in the lower 48 for kidnapping. His sponsor had intervened, arranging a marriage  that would take some heat off. Meanwhile the little boys father had been “caught” with a big bag of blow in the lower 48 and was in deep shit himself. His sponsor wouldn’t discuss the bag of dope, the old man didn’t press the issue.

The fire burned brightly in the big stone fireplace of the old V/A chapel. The thick stone mantel was decorated for Christmas even though it wasn’t Thanksgiving yet. The old man didn’t complain, thought the decorations set off the candle lit stone and rock chapel quite nicely. He held her  cracked and calloused hand during the ceremony, preachers words droning on. He was handed a pair of heavy gold rings with large diamonds to put on her finger, really not wanting to know where those came from ( he found out later that the rings were misplaced swag from a big stick up in the last year….). He didn’t even remember saying “I do”. The two fellows played a quiet mellow tune on the fiddle and a guitar. He pulled her close in a slow wedding dance, others looking on approvingly.

Then the bottom fell out of the thermometer a few days later. There had been weather warnings, she had been stocking up on food, fuel and supplies. Gathering and cutting wood wasn’t easy with  snow on the ground, they already had the tractor stuck twice. It a been bitter cold most days but they were about to find out what cold was. The old man was driving home from work early because of the weather warnings, stopping off at the truck stop to fill his four-wheel drive truck, gas and kerosene cans.  He could feel the temperature drop and wind pick up while he was fueling the truck and various cans. Goddamn, it was already very cold, but was nearly dark with  heavy dark clouds hanging low overhead. He knew this was gonna get ugly in a very short time.

The hard packed snow made the road home rough and slick. The 4 wheel drive truck was a lifesaver,  spending most of its time in 4 high most days. The weather was turning to shit, sheet / snow in earnest and blowing like hell.  Home wasn’t that far but he predicted low lock before he got there. The roads got progressively worse .  He was already spinning when he pulled into his drive, or what he hoped was his drive.  Windshield was icing up bad and he couldn’t see six foot in front of the truck. Heading toward where he thought the shop was, seeing bright light where the doors were being forced open at the far end of the shop building. He pulled into the shop, wheels spinning and parked the truck as she and girls closed the doors. As deep as the snow was, he wasn’t sure how the she and the girls got the doors open. He got out of the truck and helped them close and secure the wooden double doors. He brushed the snow off of the fuel cans and they got them unloaded, then headed  up the steps into the house.

She made sure the batteries for the backup power supply were hooked up and charging as soon as the wind got really bad. The girls plugged in the laptop, phones, and other electronics without having to be told. The eldest took the old mans phone and plugged it in on the ham radio bench once he was inside and settled in for the evening. These two little girls were good, real self starters. They had lucked out that the power was still on. She mentioned while warming up dinner that she wanted everyone to grab a shower or bath that evening, she and the girls would then get the laundry all caught up. The wind was blowing increasingly harder, they had no way of knowing how long the power would remain on.

The old man could feel the temperature drop even  more as he sat down to dinner, the wind moaning and rattling windows. He cold hear the frozen snow and bits of ice pelting the north side of the house adding even more of a chill inside.  It was brutal killing cold outside, the wind was making it worse, and was only going to get colder. He got up after dinner, went out into the shop  and stoked the big stove, checked the pipes in the basement, turned out the basement and garage lights and went back upstairs to load the fireplace stove with wood. The two girls and the boy were doing the dishes as his wife gave the infant a bath in the washtub on the table, then putting her to bed. She had started insulating windows with bubble wrap and plastic, the kids would help her finish that in the morning.

The old man didn’t sleep really well that night, shit that needed to be done running though his head. Once  up and about in the morning he needed to get the generators set up in case they were needed. He had an old trailer that he had traded for with bows fashioned over it. He nailed blocks to the rough old  wooden floor to hold the generators in place, he just needed to set them on and secure a tarp on the bows to keep as much snow and ice as possible off of the generator sets. He would leave the tarp rolled up on one side so the gennies could breathe. He felt that it was getting too cold in the house, got up about 0230 and stoked the fireplace stove with wood, he then went down the heavy wooden stairs into the basement, out into the garage and loaded the big stove there. It was bitter cold in the garage area, he then went back into the basement to check on the pipes. The furnace was running constantly, at least keeping the pipes from freezing and helping heat the house some.  He then went back out and sat by the garage stove in and old folding steel chair, tossing in more wood. He had started to at least feel warm again sitting there in his flannel jammies and heavy slippers. He heard the floor creaking and a light came on upstairs, she and the eldest girl were up checking on the other three youngsters. The wind, bits of ice and snow beating hell out of the north side of the house, shop / garage, and the old green house attached to the  building at the  northeast garage door. She came down with both girls to wheel  the portable chicken house in from the greenhouse into the corner of garage along with feed  dishes, heated water can, power cords and such as that along with half a bale of straw to spread on the concrete garage floor under the coop. Damn things were still alive, light bulb had done a better job of warming them than he had thought. She and the girls got the chicken coop squared away, he secured the garage door and reloaded the stove, then they all headed up to bed shutting off the lights as they went.

His sponsor had called him had called him that morning and said no work for at least 3 days, maybe a week. He told the old man no going outside under any circumstances, to do so for any length of time would result in certain death. The airfield had recorded wind chills as low as 70 below zero the night before and it was predicted to get colder. He gave the old man the usual arctic survival instructions and asked about their supplies. He said he would try to drop by early afternoon before dark, the old man asking him to check on Wendy and the Pakistani man to the east. He told the old man he would. God, did his sponsor ever go home? Rest? Live any kind of somewhat normal life? He knew there were periods where he didn’t see the fellow, maybe his down time? Meanwhile it was getting colder, was getting harder to keep the house  warm.The wind, ice and snow had backed off some but the temperature was dropping. This shit wasn’t gonna be good, especially if the wind picked back up. Television and radio carried weather warnings pretty much all day in between their regular programming, none of it sounded good. After she and the girls had finished insulating the windows, she had suggested closing off two of the bedrooms. The old man said it was food for thought, might not have any choice and might have shut off the water as well. He had set up his salamander  in the middle of the shop pointing between the vehicles toward the basement through the doorway to the garage and topped it off with kerosene. He figured it would help warm the garage and basement with minimum carbon monoxide problems if he ran it intermittently. When he wasn’t running the salamander he could keep the basement door closed and let the furnace do the best it could. He already had his kerosene heater lit and set at the front of the shop between the doors.

The snow had stopped, the road in front of their place had  been plowed, and they had gotten their wide drive as well as Wendy’s done. His wife went into the house to start dinner and tend house as the old man took the tractor down the road to help the Pakistani man with his drive. The two of them got a path bladed to where the little brown man could get his car out. The cold was so severe that the old man had to retreat back to his garage even with all the layers he was wearing. The tractor was loosing power as he pulled in the drive,  he felt lucky to get the rig in the garage as the eldest girl opened one of the garage doors open for him. He was sure the carburetor and fuel lines were icing up in the severe cold, obviously more than a piece of cardboard in front of the radiator would be needed as a winterfront. He parked the tractor and dropped the blade as the girl  closed the garage door. He fueled the  salamander and then fueled the kerosene heater as the eldest girl got the salamander fired up.  He then  stoked  the wood stove and set the damper before shutting down the salamander for the evening, turning out the lights, then retreating upstairs.

He had a new job, not working at the mall for now. The old man was going out with his sponsor a couple of days a week to the outlying areas to do rescues, check on people and in some cases haul away dead bodies. The  frigid cold was taking its toll. He did score a couple of loads of wood from deserted small farms, his sponsor had a trailer and helped him haul it.

She came to him late that night after all were in bed. The old man had a rough day, couldn’t seem to warm up. He had stoked the fireplace insert and rolled out a buffalo hide in front of  it, placing a pillow off of one of the chairs at one end. He stripped, laying his clothing on the nearest chair. He laid on his back, closing his eyes and soaking up the warmth. Almost too warm but it felt good after the day in the bitter cold. He opened his eyes, she was standing at his feet in her heavy flannel nighty. She stripped it off, tossing it on top of his clothing on the chair. She had nothing else on, he noticed she was slimming down from the long hard days but was still heavy on top. She knelt and straddled one of his legs, he could feel she was wet as she was she was sucking him hard. She then mounted him, guiding him into her. Riding him and running the fingers of both her hands through her hair, chewing on her lower lip. He noticed coarse dark patches of stubble under each arm, no time for niceties in these conditions, but he knew how she was so would dig out some razors for her. He didn’t last long but she didn’t seem to mind. Lifting herself off and laying along side of him, sharing a pillow and small talk.

Christmas or thereabouts, actually January 6 was coming up (one of the old mans quirks….) and the “good  weather” was about to end. In fact, they were in for some record-breaking cold but had no way of knowing that…Yet….

The weather had indeed moderated for a bit. She and the eldest had used the time to make trips into town and stock up on food, supplies and fuel with the other girl babysitting. She had even come up with some insulation to put on the walls of the north and west end of the rooms on the west end of the house. The walls weren’t much more that rough cut 6 x 2 studs with heavy planking tightly fitted on the on the outside. The stuff  looked more like  heavy brown packing material. She and the girls got it stapled in between the studs to cover the insides of the outer wall  between the studs working it around any exposed conduit, outlets and plumbing. The ceiling was pretty much open rafters with studded walls going to the roof  between rooms and the underside of the roof already insulated. Hell, the old man thought what she had done on the walls looked pretty damn good and might even work. He was still working part-time with his sponsor to bring in some badly needed cash and had even scored some more firewood. Somewhere along the line he had found a small evergreen tree of some sort, cut it down  and dragged it home setting it up in an old battered tree stand. The kids filled the stand with water and started decorating the tree. They had skipped Thanksgiving and had decided to combine it with Christmas.

They had been getting  weather warnings with the local news, the old mans sponsor assured him it was the real deal, this was gonna be a bad one. She had gone into town again to grab some last-minute supplies and such. Otherwise, the family had done about all they could do to be ready for a winter storm of severity that was rough for even this part of the country.

The day before their Christmas, they moved Wendy and her husband into the spare bedroom in the back to ride out the bad weather coming. They had even gotten the Dodge mini van started and loaded with most of their stuff. The sewing machines  were loaded on the old mans truck so Wendy could get some of her work  done. Lastly they shut off the water and drained the pipes, not trusting the old furnace to keep things above freezing. The old man and Wendy’s hubby  moved their possessions into the house while everyone else rearranged the back bedroom. Lastly the truck and van were pulled in the first bay of the shop; van to the front as they had planned on working and installing parts on it. The house and shop area were now freezing, the two men worked on getting the stoves loaded with wood and the salamander fired up. Wendy and the old mans wife were putting food away from the other house, getting dinner ready and already cooking for Christmas day. The  girls had brought the chickens into the far end of the shop. Everyone knew the drill, all electronics and batteries plugged in. All showers, baths and laundry  caught up that night. The girls had shut off the salamander, fueling it and the kerosene heater in the shop. They also topped off the stacks of wood in the shop area from outside. The little boy helped set the table, infant playing with a toy  in her basket. Wind had already started picking up, the storm was expected to hit early the next day. It was gonna be a busy evening.

The family was up early, the youngsters anxious for the few gifts under the tree. They all had a light breakfast, the meal being cleaned up after by the girls. Wendy, her hubby and the old mans lady  worked on the meal for that day. most of it was cooked but for some finishing touches and a couple of pies. The old man had run the salamander a bit and loaded the stoves with wood to chase away the morning cold. He then got a phone call from his sponsor, telling him to batten down the hatches, shit was about to get real. He told the old man that the winds were so strong that glass was being blown out of the windows and roofing being peeled off of some houses on the west side of town.  His sponsor said to stay indoors and something about the Pakistani man before the phone went dead. They heard the wail of the civil defense sirens toward town, then they abruptly stopped. They heard a howling rumble of wind, and the last words of Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”….

“Although its been said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you….”

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“Alaska”, Part 1


He looked out the port side window of the aircraft noticing the outboard engine trailing a thin stream of smoke out of one of the exhaust pipes . It was a wonder that the four ancient turbo-compounds even lifted the old Constellation off the ground, let alone allowing the worn out aircraft to maintain 260 knots at 23,000 feet. The well used  Wright power plants emitted their deep rumbling drone as the hours passed. He sat in the front of the aircraft, first class seating and bulkhead with a tiny lavatory having been stripped out of other aircraft and installed in this old freighter owned and operated by Air Alaska. Mismatched colors, threadbare stained fabric of the seating , and carpet that matched the seats, not in color but at the end of its service life. The olive-green duct tape holding the window trim in a couple of the windows is what really set off the interior decor and seemed to have been used liberally throughout the cabin and probably the rest of the plane. Behind the reinforced bulkhead the rear of the aircraft was filled with various cargo and machinery netted and tied down to the floor, loaded through a large cargo door at the rear of the fuselage. Four gray mail sacks were in the rear starboard sets across the aisle from the lavatory. He didn’t know what was in the belly of the plane, they had a hard enough time getting the old turd off the ground from Forbes Field and later a refueling stop in Canada.

In a bullshit session with one of the pilots, he had found out that Air Alaska had  a couple of Globemaster 2’s, three Constellation Super G’s, a C-130, a Douglas  DC-7C, a couple DC-3’s, assorted smaller aircraft and helicopters.  The pilot said they also had a couple leased Boeing jets, they mostly flew out of Anchorage for overseas work so he rarely saw them. The Alaska military and oilfields usually had the Globemasters and C-130, so the pilots did most of their work with the Constellations and the Douglas DC 7. When he asked the pilot about the old ragtag aircraft, he simply said times were hard and the federal government of the lower 48 didn’t  trust them with the new stuff. The older rigs were more easily repaired by the primitive shops available in the far north anyway.

They didn’t fuck around, they wanted him gone. After the Fairness Committee hearing a well-used  container had been dropped in his driveway the next day. They gave him 30 days to load it and get his paperwork together. Several friends were going to help him pack and load out, some of them given paid leave by their employers approved by the Fairness Committee. The committee wanted him to hit the road, “relocated for the country’s best interest as well as his own” to the Commonwealth of Alaska. In addition to getting his shit packed, he had a checklist of places he had to go to pick up records, a relocation order, and other such documents to leave the lower 48. Then he had to turn in his vehicles to be transported to his new home. He felt like he was being moved to another country and in fact was doing just that. He had loaded all his prepping gear/supplies and left most of the furniture, only taking a few pieces and some appliances. He loaded all his tools and equipment out of the garage, no small task. He drained his gas cans in his vehicles and small Ford tractor. One of his friends crated up his torch sets as the  Alaskan transportation people had requested.  He took all his firearms, accessories and ammunition. He had talked to the Alaska liaison at Forbes Field , no problem as long as none of them  were full auto. They didn’t even give a shit about sawed off shotguns. He had no idea what the hell they would do with him in Alaska, expecting to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Finally the container was loaded and braced. They picked it up early the next day as he was turning in his vehicles and tractor at Forbes for transport. His friends had helped him with his vehicles, last-minute errands, and given him a ride home. He had finished everything with two days to spare but had no idea when his flight out was so it really didn’t matter, the transportation people said they would call him. Meanwhile, he would stay in his house, he didn’t think HUD would have it sold any time soon. He gave what was left in the house to his friends, they would clean it out after dropping him off for his flight. It was no small thing, times were hard and folks needed every scrap they could get. Now it was a waiting game.

The insurrection been short but brutal, lasting about a year and sending Americas economy over the edge joining the rest of the planet in a severe depression. Much of the destruction was on the east and west coasts but Americas heartland hadn’t been totally spared. The Clinton government was so inept and its military dumbed down, weakened by desertion and incompetence of politically appointed leaders that the rebels had nearly won the war in the first six months. Many of the guard and reserve units, law enforcement, and regular military in the Midwest and South had sworn allegiance to the rebel cause and Constitution. Most of the special operations people gone over to the rebel cause but the shortages of spare parts, ammunition and other supplies of war had caught up with the rebel army,  air  force and navy. The American government had been getting supplied by countries in the Middle East, the war turned in their favor. The federal troops had tried to end the war by doing an end run and invading Texas from the Gulf not far from Houston. The Texans were waiting and kicked the shit out of them, capturing tons of equipment and supplies. The rebels had their own little surprise planned, coming  up from the southern states and parking just outside of Washington. The Feds didn’t know  the rebels were there.

He knew he was way fucking east but wasn’t sure how far. He had been on the road for about a week, driving the old bus in convoys mostly at night. Much of the time he wasn’t even sure what state he was in. He had parked and shut down the bus behind a treeline in what appeared to be an unused and seldom maintained park. He had stepped of the bus, trying to get his bearings in the dark while the rebel troops unloaded with their gear and being directed by an old nco to take up positions in the treeline supporting a 40 millimeter Bofors automatic cannon already positioned there. He moved around to the front of the bus as not to be in the way a pair of captured Russian T-90 tanks rumbled down the gravel road the bus had been on, then turning through the treeline to the north. Then one hell of a fire fight broke out. The “boompa….boompaa” as the 40 mike-mike fired a couple raging  shots the ” bompbompbomp” as the gun went auto. The two tanks engaged enemy armor right in front of them, the loud booms of the main guns adding to the unholy racket of war. One of the friendly tanks was hit  by a couple of rockets, exploding into flames while the other tried to back out of the firefight. Rebel infantry and spec ops were filtering back through the tree line as the stutter of a machine gun  and the pops of the rifles held up Federal infantry and supporting armored vehicles. He saw two teams of Rebel troops armed with Carl Gustav recoilless rifles being instructed by the old nco he had seen earlier, then the teams disappeared into the trees. He figured this treeline was about to be over run but that Bofors, recoiless rifles and remaining tank that had taken up position at the east end of the treeline were about to make things very hot for the Feds pressing them. He was putting on his body armor and helmet  as the old nco jogged up telling him to haul ass. Federal armor was about into the treeline and trying to flank the rebels. The nco said he couldn’t stop the Feds but had some very nasty surprises for them, the old bus needed the be gone. Some of the spec op guys and wounded had already filled the bus, one of them giving him instructions to travel down the maintenance road to the south as he started the bus and pulled forward. As he turned down the old gravel track he heard the  recoiless rifles fire. Shortly after that the sky lit up as day as the flares fired by Federal gunners popped overhead. That treeline wasn’t gonna be there long….

He had been accused of being a leader in the rebellion, it was the main reason he was being deported. That was a fuckin’ joke. Yeah, he had a couple of names and was involved in some shady shit but mainly he had been driving a worn out gypsy bus to the “front”  with supplies and guerillas, ferrying back worn out and wounded fighters. It sucked but was mostly dull hurry up and wait with moments of extreme danger. Didn’t matter now as the container was being unloaded in front of his “new” house or what appeared to be a nice shack / log home / shop / garage with a heavy stone foundation and fireplace in the home portion. For the most part surrounded by tall trees and forest vegetation not far outside of town. His new neighbor was a seamstress named Wendy whom he had known on the lower 48. She had hired a few men and women she knew to offload the container into his new home. It was already afternoon, turning cold  and the container was going to be picked up early the next morning unloaded or not. Much of the stuff went into the basement or the large shop garage attached to the east side of the house.He had checked his vehicles and tractor that had been parked in the large garage, all seemed to be in good condition after their long journey. As Wendy paid off the people who had helped them unload the container, a  green Toyota 4 wheel  drive suv of the Alaska State Troopers turned into  his drive.  The vehicle appeared to be new and well decked out for  rough country, heavy steel bumper with winch standing out. The light bar,  emblems and antennas  were the only things that looked police on this rig, everything else were pure bush. Wendy waved and left as a large man stepped out if the vehicle, giving his name and explaining he was the old mans sponsor. He was dressed in the rough heavy clothing of a hunter. Heavy boots, brown canvas pants,  gray wool shirt and a thick fur cap. An automatic handgun and a badge were worn on his heavy leather belt. He handed  the old man a large manilla envelope full of paperwork to fill out and a multipage checklist in the order things needed to be done, appointment times/places and such as that. His sponsor explained to him that the checklist needed to be followed exactly, appointments on time starting Monday. The trooper had gone to no small effort setting all of this up and wanted the old man settled as quickly as possible. Well at least he had another day to fill out some of the forms. Almost an afterthought the trooper walker to the rear of the truck, unlatched the fuel can/tire rack, swung it out-of-the-way and opened the tailgate. He then set out  what appeared to be a large heavy sailors duffle with a canvas rifle scabbard tied to the side and several bandoliers of olive drab cotton draped over the scabbard and a fair-sized boot box. He explained that this was the old mans winter survival kit, the reason for the form that asked all his sizes in the lower 48. The trooper closed up the rack and tailgate then they exchanged phone numbers and the trooper said he would stay in touch to check his progress. His sponsor shook hands, got back in his vehicle and backed out of the drive. The old man felt disoriented, alone and lost as he had many years ago after joining the Army.

The next month passed quickly, the old man was busy every day. First day was the bank and currency exchange, setting up an account then trading out the old greenbacks for the new Alaskan money. That afternoon was the local V/A hospital, enrolling and making sure his Tricare was squared away.  Future medical and dental physicals were scheduled. The Alaskan housing office was the next day, then the Alaskan benefits office that afternoon. The third day was the employment office, that was an all day affair. The fourth day he started a two-day resettlement class mainly focusing on the laws, economy, and government of the Alaskan Republic. After that he started losing track, the days turned into a blur. If he hadn’t had a checklist he would have been totally lost. Well if nothing else he was learning the area, neighbor Wendy and her husband  giving him directions when needed.

The sky was a dark, heavy gray in what was late afternoon in the far north. The air was bitter cold, the sky spitting sleet and snow being propelled by a biting wind.  The DC 7 C  sat outside of the terminal unloading  passengers , luggage and freight. The old man had talked with the flight engineer, the aircraft had been loaded to capacity and was literally the last flight out of the lower 48 since the state of emergency had been declared by Governor Palin. A fuel truck pulled up and started unrolling hoses, adding to a crowd of mechanics, catering/supply truck, tugs and the baggage crew. The flight engineer said they were trying to get a fast turnaround, trying to get the plane off the ground before the weather turned, destination the far east. The flight engineer shook his hand and walked off , leaving the old man to scan the passengers for the ones he was looking for. He traded the frigid cold outside the for the cool of the terminal baggage and freight area. He found those he was looking for and it appeared that they were in trouble.

Well worn tile floors, old plastic blue benches, chipped and peeling tan paint. Stacks of boxes, and luggage on carts. Yeah, they were in hot water. Wrong paperwork, no relocation order, and on and on. Where in the hell had she come up with an infant? He knew about the two girls, but didn’t think she would bring the little boy. Who the hell did the infant belong to? While the lady trooper from the highway patrol went through a handful of paperwork with her his sponsor had shown up in uniform, handed the old man a copy of the Alaska Free Press, and started talking to him about what was going on. Yeah buddy, this was gonna suck the big hairy nutsack straightening this fucking mess out. The old man asked him what would happen to them, was told the local lockup for the night, Fort Wainwright in the morning. Neither a good thing. The old man suggested that he take them to his place, wasn’t like they could run anywhere. That way the police wouldn’t have to deal with them, like they didn’t have other shit to do. The trooper agreed, said he would make a few calls and would see what he could work out. Meanwhile he was told to chill for a while, not hard as it was getting cold as a bitch outside. The old man took the time to scan the paper, world going to hell, riots all over Europe. State of Emergency in Alaska, taxes and practically all prices to go up. All transport between Alaska and the lower 48 was suspended. Trouble in eastern Canada…..Etc…. Lower 48 was fucked, riots in the east, nothing new there. Starting to snow in earnest. He folded up the paper and pulled up the collar on his Carhartt chore coat as he stepped out in to the biting cold. Heard the deep rumble of the big radials and watched them pull the Douglas toward a distant runway through the sleet and snow.

She was in the truck with him, heading for his place. Snowing hard now, he was doing ok as the truck had four-wheel drive. Wendy, along with all the kids, struggled behind in the Dodge minivan.  Well, at least the Dodge had started this time so Wendy could help him haul everybody back to the homestead. She didn’t say much, just small talk about where everybody will sleep as there was only an old full-sized bed in the master bedroom. it was getting late as they pulled up his drive. As they worked at getting everybody and everything inside, Wendy said she would  drive back to her house and bring back a pot of chicken and noodles she had prepared for the following evening. Comments made by his guests about when their last meal was made this impromptu late night dinner a welcome thing. He tried to get everybody settled, using a laundry basket with a couple of towels and a pillowcase to make a bed for the infant. The boy could sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor in the master bedroom along with mom and girls in the bed. The old man set up a cot for himself in the living room/dining area with the table and four chairs, then started working on  a fire in the fireplace insert. Wendy had arrived with food so now there was a pleasant aroma of cooking among the table, boxes, and debris of moving. Wendy had left for the night and he finally got everyone bedded down . As he lay down  on the cot his head was spinning with everything that needed to be done in the morning, starting with a mega-trip to the grocery store. He hoped the roads were cleared. It was gonna be a long and interesting winter and winter was just getting started.




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“Last Ride, Part 2”

He had just pulled out of a dusty rundown old truck stop and back on to No Name Highway in the middle of some God-forsaken desert in the middle of nowhere. Hell, he wasn’t even sure what state he was in. Nevada maybe? He was lucky he had found the ancient old truck stop, at first not sure that it even was even open. Had it not been he would have been fucked, fuel light had been on for a while and pushing the heavy bike in this blistering oven would have done him in. The shimmering heat waves rising off of the old gray asphalt two lane, sky so bright blue it hurt his eyes even with the dark sunglasses. Sky so bright and the surrounding steep hills and range a coyote brown.
He ran the big bike up through the gears, setting the cruise about 85. Hot wind competing with the growling exhaust. He didn’t know how much longer the air-cooled mill could stand this heat, an engine oil cooler was in order once he reached Diego or maybe before. The old man wondered how the hell he was gonna stand this heat, it wasn’t even noon yet.

He squatted by the front tire pretending to check it. Peering around the gas pump watching the two cop cars in front of the Quik Trip just off of the Plaza. She was inside having paid for the gas and was wandering among the displays, he hoped the two policemen didn’t make her. A bright flash and an ear-splitting boom announced the storms arrival.
He jumped straight up, head clipping the brake lever on the handlebar. Both cops turning from the checkout counter to look at him, the old man just knowing they weren’t gonna beat the storm or the rap. She came out of the store at a quick skipping walk carrying two bags of stuff. Goddamn girl, don’t run but walk faster! He was on the bike cranking the engine. She all but hurdled the tour pack as the bikes engine lit off, going up the side of his head with a bag with two six-pack in it. He was hoping the gas pumps hid the gymnastics as he did a sharp u turn around the pumps and onto Main. Then the skies opened up. It was raining so hard that it nearly knocked his glasses off. She saw what was happening and grabbed them before they fell to the street. Didn’t fuckin’ matter, they were riding blind making a left turn at a traffic light and he wasn’t even sure it was the right one. Trying to stop for the next light, trying to react when right at the edge the intersection, back tire breaking loose and damn near dumping his rig. Steering into the skid, big bike righting itself on the far side of the wide intersection.Thank God for Sunday night traffic, or Monday morning?
Another light and a short jog in the side street and they were turning into a brightly lit underground garage. Hell, it was raining even harder, water cascading out of the gutters creating a waterfall. As if the weren’t soaked already. Bike sure sounded cool though, idling through that garage. Nosing into an empty parking space, hooking the Kickstand with a boot heel and locking it down. Shutting off the ignition, both trying to get off the bike. Bright flash through the waterfall that was the garage entrance, loud crack and boom of thunder. Steam rising off of the cooling engine and pipes. She was standing on the pavement barefoot, pouring water out of one of her shoes. Shit….All he could do was stand. He unhooked the duffel off of the luggage rack, unzipping it to see if the Glock 17 9 millimeter were still there. So fuzzy headed he wasn’t even sure if the large handgun and spare magazines were in the bag or tour pack. He locked the ignition switch, checked the saddlebags and tour pack locks, then grabbed the duffel. She picked up her two plastic grocery bags, shoved her feet in her shoes, and they both squished their way toward the elevator in the corner. The camera mounted above the door was giving security people somewhere quite a show, they looked like a couple drowned rats.
He lit up a big stogie and leaned back in the biggest fucking bathtub he had ever been in. Water was so hot he could barely stand it, he had poured what he thought was bubble bath in and turned on the jets. Now it looked like a big washing machine, suds everywhere. What a swank place, nicer than any place he had been in and he had been around the block a few times. Mostly he stayed in dumps, campgrounds, roadside parks, even a homeless shelter and a church once. She was standing nude in front of the tub facing him in her sunburnt glory , stretching and arching her back. One hand running through her blonde curly hair, the other holding a cellphone to her ear trying to explain to an irate husband why she wasn’t going to be home two states away anytime soon after “attending a concert with a girlfriend”. This lifestyle was going to get him killed, damn near had tonight. Or was it last night?
As she continued to argue with Hubby, he tried to relax in the big tub. Thoughts of the previous days spun in his head, keeping him on edge.
Why had he gone for the Ruger .380 in the ankle rig? The Glock was like a part of him but he took it off because of the heat, the T-shirt wouldn’t hide it. Half the time he didn’t wear the little handgun and most times couldn’t remember whether he had it or not. Besides, it could be very difficult to get to. Why did he even shoot the fucker? Why not just stick the piece in the guys face? Close encounters like that could be dicey, and this one was real close. Too close. He was getting sloppy, and a man in his lifestyle could not make those kinds of mistakes.
She stepped into the turbulent hot sudsy water of the tub and straddled him, fondling him. She parted herself with her fingers and eased down. Was gonna be a long morning.
He woke up so goddamned sore and stiff, cold. Thin bedroll providing little padding against the hardscrabble desert ground and even less insulation against the early morning cool air. He lay there in the dark for a moment, staring up at the outline of rock ledge high above him. Filthy, mouth tasting like a coyote had pissed in it. Damn, he was still tired. Lizard, or so he had thought, running by his head motivating him to get up. God only knowing what had crawled into his gear and bedding the night before. While packing the bike he noticed the rear tire he had plugged in the last evenings heat had held. He got his kit picked up and stowed as the sun was coming up, turning the surrounding area from blacks and greys to all shades of brown and tan. Sky going from black to a smear of shaded blue to orange. He figured it was time to go as the sky grew bright. He downed a bottle of lukewarm water and covered the small fire pit, then straddled his iron horse. Starter whining, a little too long before the V twin caught and rumbled to life. He added spark plugs to his mental list. The transmission clunked into gear, then he eased the big machine down the winding rocky trail to what he had hoped would put him back on the highway.
Another no-name truck stop for gas and the big bike was eating up the miles of cracked blistered pavement. Not much traffic and he could see why. Fucking heat was killing him. Some of the most desolate parts of the southwest he had seen but he had always felt most comfortable in the wastelands of America, but that might be changing. Like it or not.
He had dug up the money the night before, a bundle of c-notes that probably amounted to about 90 large wrapped in plastic and oilskin cloth. He had a hell of a time finding it, locating the package just before dark. He had burned the bogus credit cards and identification in the fire pit. He had used them too much already, surprised that the hotel hadn’t caught the fake plastic in Kansas City. The man who had made the phony stuff knew his craft, they had worked without a hitch. He had one more set plus a passport, which reminded him that he needed to change out the plates, insurance card and registration on the bike. He would need the passport when he headed south for the Baja to pick up the rest of the money.
He dropped his bike off at a small shop not far from the little stucco house where he was staying. A couple of Mexicans ran it, building high quality custom choppers for those that could afford them. They were highly recommended to him by some outlaw bros, did outstanding work and his sled was in dire need of a lot of attention. The two shop owners needed the extra work to keep a couple of employees busy during a slow stretch, didn’t ask many questions, and liked the wad of cash handed to them to get started. He was going to need some contacts south of the border and suspected these two gentlemen would be of assistance on this also.
As he walked back toward the small house in a well-worn but tidy neighborhood, his mind wandered. His Marine Corps bud had set himself up right, he had become very successful in residential and commercial real estate in Southern California after retiring from the Corps. His wife had done well as a pharmacist, even owning a couple drugstores. He had no problem setting up his old friend with a place to live, and it wasn’t even that far from the beach.
As he stood on the porch and unlocked his front door, he took one last look at the palm trees that dotted the area. The sun was setting and he was dead tired. There were only two thoughts left in his head, would she meet him here and would he make it across the border and back? Time would tell.

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“Last Ride” Part 1….

The heat and humidity were particularly bad that day, typical for late summer in the midwest. Niether of them were dressed for this. Her a thin sleeveless pale green dress with flimsy sandles on her feet, a small gold chain on her left ankle. Him a worn out tan tee shirt with the sleeves ripped out, coarse well worn jeans with a heavy brown leather belt, tall engineer boots that had seen better days. His cut, common sense riding clothing, helmets, cell phones and such as that were (along with his pistol) were packed in the tour pack or in a bag bungee-corded to the luggage rack. They both had the pungent aroma of sweat, sex, sunblocker and open road mixed with gas and exhaust fumes.
They crested the steep hill now overlooking the downtown Kansas City skyline with the industrial flatlands of North Kansas City before it. It was a beautiful view, with the tall buildings and lights contrasting well with the darkening deep blue hues of the late summer Sunday evening. The heat subsiding some with the sunset, much to the relief of the two riders. Downshifting, letting the engine brake the big heavy bike as they started descending the long hill called North Oak Trafficway. Both of them digging the deep healthy rumble flowing from the mufflers, her leaning back against the leather-covered backrest on the tour pack, him leaning back against her. Both very relaxed, his feet on the highway pegs enjoying the view. Trying to soak up the cooling night air, the heat of the exhaust pipes and rear cylinder heads making that difficult but at this point niether of them giving a rats ass. North Oak soon turned into Burlington, he no longer recognized most of the businesses on either side of the well lit four-lane street. It had been too many years.
After they had riden across Heart of America bridge into the old downtown area, reality kind of blurred. Deserted this late evening, the well-worn maze of asphalt city streets not wanting to let go of the blistering humid summer heat, the tall modern glass covered buildings contrasting with the depression era concrete sky scrapers. They meandered up and down the empty streets, the deep bellowing popping rumble of the exhaust echoing off of the surrounding architecture, not noticing a faint deeper rumbling it the skies not far to the north.
The City Market was deserted, only a couple of bars open on the side streets. They pulled in to the market square itself, parking the big bike under one of the rows of open covered vendor shelters, corrugated metal roofing supported by rusting iron framework covered by peeling light green paint. Pushing down the kickstand with a boot heel, feeling for it lock in place. Dismounting, helping her dismount. Then their eyes adjusting to the dim light of the square, only a now and again light bulb of a closed business and the passing headlamps of a police car. Listening to the overheated metal of the bikes engine and exhaust popping, cracking in the cooling night air. Sharing a bottle of warm water grabbed from a saddle bag, walking hand in hand through the empty marketplace. The people and vendors had left hours ago, but the rich amd mostly pleasant aromas remained. The bulk spices mixing with the smells of the ethnic cooking and overipe produce. They continued their walk, a cool breeze picking up, carrying a very faint hint of rain almost lost to their already overloaded and exhausted senses. A distant dull flash and low rumble mostly absorbed by the surrounding rundown brick buildings. A sheet of newspaper and other bits of debris blowing across their path as the small talk came and went. The cooling night breeze was comforting on sunburned skin, drying the damp clothing and sweat that had reappeared from their jaunt in the downtown area. She had complained of the heat from the exhaust on her bare sunburned legs and sandaled feet, then deciding to change into a pair of dirty jeans, tank top and and low cut boots with socks that was packed in a small duffle on the back of the bike. He found a clean piece of cardboard for her to stand on and an out of the way trash dumpster for her to change behind while she retrieved the clothing from the duffle bag.
“Gimme yo mony mohfucka.”
All he saw was a very large man close up with a very large butcher knife as he had turned around in the dark. They looked at one another, she was standing in a pile of clothing wearing a thong. He had just finished taking a leak. Doubling over, mumbling about being sick (not entirely untrue). Hearing the big man threaten to cut him up and put the pieces in the trash can. He stood up pulling his right pantleg up with his left hand, right hand pulling a .380 automatic out of an ankle rig strapped and facing out on his right calf. Standing upright, pointing, the first loud ear-splitting crack hitting the thug in the throat. Second hitting him between the eyes and blowing a walnut sized chunk of brain, skull and blood spray out of the back of his head. Staggering back, crumpling to the ground, knife clattering on the concrete. The robber he hadn’t seen in the dark behind his lady taking off in a dead run back across the market square, rape apparently not worth getting shot for. She was on her back pulling on jeans, socks, shoes as lights had come on in nearby loft apartments. He took off in a slow jog to the bike a stort distance away, stuffing the small pistol in his ankle holster once he reached the bike. Straddling the scoot and happy he had forgotten to lock the ignition as the starter whined and the engine coughed to life. She grabbed her dress, sandals, and top tripping over the corpse, running topless to the big heavy beast as he was trying to turn it to come get her. Stuffing her sandals and dress in the duffle, trying to pull on the tank top and mounting the bike all at once wasn’t working. Damn near losing an untied shoe. Riding out of the square and down a couple dimly lit back streets toward the West Bottoms and hopefully avoiding any more encounters with bad guy ( or guys if there were more of them) and the cops.
They ended up on Woodswether Road heading west and then turning south on the maze of alley like side streets, dodging potholes, trash and debris scattered about the rough cracked pavement. More flashes and rumbles from the north, but niether of them hearing well after the gunfire and the echo of the exhaust off of crumbling old brick buildings surrounding them. Idling up a rough cracked old road that crossed rows of railroad tracks along side the pillars of the 12th Street Bridge. A brace of locomotives sitting still attached to a row of cars, deep throbbing idle with the faint high-pitched whine of the turbocharger and an occasional hiss of compressed air. Then onto a trash filled old road that ran up a graffiti covered bluff that would put them by the old Howard Johnsons if it were still there. Dodging a mattress, trash bags, bits of broken furniture and glass. Then south though Quality Hill and some more backstreets he knew in the Midtown area.
The well-lit Plaza was suprisingly busy on this late evening. Spotting a cop at a traffic stop, dodging south off what once was 47th Street onto a side street now being surrounded by the Spanish archetecture, small businesses, bars, and restaurants. They crossed over the old bridge, beneath it lying a wide concrete lined creek. Heading south, climbing and winding through the dimly-lit narrow streets and old homes that sat on this bluff overlooking the Country Club Plaza. The deep rumble of the engine and the whine of the transmission in lower gears interupting the late evening quiet.
They found the old park, once a Civil War battlefield. Running the big bike up a wheelchair ramp, over the sidewalk and onto the grass. Finding the rose garden and parking under a trellis covered with rose bushes and other vegetation that surrounded a courtyard with a fountain in the center. A large stone retaining wall standing behind them, further shielding them from the street. Dark even though there was a street lamp not far on a corner.
He lie down on the grass under the trellis, dehydrated and too tired to move. She took his bandanna and rinsed her neck and arms, sitting on the edge of the fountain. The water splashing in the fountain, creaking metal of the cooling engine, the insects, the stiffening wind working its way through the large trees, bushes and other vegetation. Another flash followed by a deeper rumble, it was getting close. She lie down beside him, handing him a bottle of water. Knowing he was done but telling him they couldn’t stay, they were a long ways from home and were going to have to find a place to hole up. Hell, if she had to she would drag his big ass and drape him over the bitch-seat and ride that fuckin’ Harley herself. Not knowing she was thinking out loud. Oh, Hell No…With that, he struggled and staggered to his feet.

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The  roughly dressed young man walked down the gravel bar of the old creek bed,  long flintlock squirrel rifle resting in the crook of his left arm, adjusting the possibles bag and powder horn on his right side with his right hand. Searching the rock in front of him intently. The shade of the early summer day from the thick trees and such forming a large open arch over where he was. Wouldn’t it be so cool to find an old arrowhead or such as that lying about? Then he saw the old, dark gray spear point in the corse  gravel, dropped by a nomadic hunter around 1100 A.D. He squatted to pick it up, the handle of the large knife nudging his left side. Touching it. Then hearing the trickle of the water running through the rocks of what was left of the little creek. A small fawn watching him, hidden with his mother in the thick cover just to the  north of him.

The Ancient Ones had made contact….

The spring breezes gently whispering through the gaunt, gray trees partly surrounding and standing sentinel over the little house on the prairie. Bright green foliage  slowly taking the place of the dull earth-tones of winter. The bright pinkish purple of a lilac bush, the brilliant yellow of the dandelions, the lush greens of the ground foliage competing with the gray browns underneath. The small house sat in the midst of all this with a few small outbuildings and the corn crib  in the rear.  Neat and tidy, fresh white paint contrasting nicely with the two light blue flower boxes mounted to the front of the porch that ran the length of the small home.

The  reluctant old warrior slowly walked around the small homestead, feeling the soft cool spring breezes. Realising the spirits that haunted the Plains in these cold winds were trying to tell him something, maybe the past  needs to stay there. That the two Lovers locked together in such fiery passion, soaked in pungent sweat and sweet nectar of  lovemaking were gone forever, having passed away that late night. Though they would meet and embrace many times after.

The hunters, the nomads of the unseen world of the past understood this wanderer of the open road. After all, they were his brothers and briefly allowed his spirit to separate and enter the locked deserted home.  The old-fashioned kitchen with the decorative trim around the ceiling, the clean tile floor. The dining/living room with the rich blue carpet, comfortable furniture and rich dark wood trim.  The double doors leading to the bedroom….And the Memories came flooding back.

The guardians of the mountains and plains, the ancient ones, knew he would need someone to look after him on this journey west. They knew that whenever the old man mounted the two-wheeled iron horse at the very least serious adventure of some sort was in the wind, usually trouble. So they assigned the wily old Cherokee scout to look after him. The horse mounted old scout knew it was to be  a busy night, so he contacted a couple of  friends in his world.

He downshifted and cranked the throttle hard, flying past the slower moving RV. Digging the loud bellow of the pipes as he kicked the big bike into overdrive. Also flying by the speed trap at damn near 90 miles per hour. He saw the patrolmans Dodge Charger turn and start to cross the rough median of the divided highway in his left mirror. Figuring he was already fucked, he just opened the throttle  even more.

The trooper was a little too quick on the accelerator  pedal, breaking the back tires of the Dodge loose on the hard dirt and gravel  of the inside shoulder of the highway. Getting a loud squall and a bit of fish tail  as the tires of the sedan found purchase on the pavement. Hearing the howl of the big hemi having floored the gas pedal, the patrol car righting itself and moving rapidly forward.  After a quick radio call to the four patrolmen miles ahead, he reached for the switch on the console to turn on the emergency lights and siren. The large white owl appearing inches from the windshield, wingtips barely touching it. The trooper instinctively threw his right forearm in front of his face, taking his foot off of the gas pedal and the engine tried to stall, not noticing the momentary power failure. He quickly swerved off on the right shoulder,  stopping, sweating; a bit shaken. As a pilot, having experienced what happens when a large bird  crashed through the windshield of his small Piper Cub.  Engine idling, headlamps peering into a very black night, the trooper noticed a large buck with a very nice set of antlers standing about twenty-five yards ahead standing still and watching him. This is getting too fucking bizarre, he thought. Surveying the lighted instrument panel and equipment console of the idling car, noticing the radar set, and video camera,  was completely dead.  Still a bit shaken, the trooper radioed his friends ahead, waiting at the exit where they thought the bike would be headed. It was a mistake, the trooper  told them. He was having equipment problems and thought that the speeding bike had turned off on a side road anyway.

The four police cars were waiting on  the west side of ’81, parked side by side on  a dirt road just to the south of ’24. Windows down, bullshitting about what was going on to the west ( They already had several good busts….) and their buddy to the south. Knowing he was ok, but wondering what was going on with him as they heard the big Harley rumbling  off the Highway 81, downshifting  to the stop sign at the end of the exit ramp. One of the cops had an Ultra at home, enjoying the deep healthy cackle as the bike slowed to stop at the end of the exit ramp. This one was his, he told his buds as he heard the echo of the big bike as it turned under the overpass, putting the idling patrol car in gear. Then putting the gear selector back in park, setting the brake.  Hell, none of them knew for sure if this was even the right fuckin’ guy and there would be plenty more as the night wore on.

As he approached the exit, he saw the cops on the west side of the divided highway and figured he was hosed. One of them starting to move then stopping, backing up. He turned west under the overpass cracking the throttle a bit, digging the loud echo of the bikes pipes. Passing by the cops, not understanding why he wasn’t stopped. He had that fucker hammered since he left Salina and had blown that speed trap. Saw the trooper start after him.

Heading west on ’24, he started to chill. The adrenaline rush wearing off, the cool  air of the late night summer plains having a bite to it. He started to notice  sporadic bike traffic headed towards him, passing….He saw the deserted crotch-rocket in the ditch, colors were familiar. Slowed, almost stopping but didn’t think the bike was the one he had thought. Their first meeting didn’t need to be about shit like this, some frisky young pup piling up his hot rod bike.

Goddamn the night was black. Occasional head lights, but inky black. Shadows of the trees and scrub, bright stars, the chill in the air.. Outside of Glasco, not much in the way of habitats. Just a glow to the west and south. wondering if that is where he was headed.  Hell, he didn’t even know where he was going. This was fuckin’ crazy, but that’s how he rolled. Any screw-loose adventure he pulled out of his ass….Any excuse to get on the road.

He saw the small town to the south, the bright lights, the bikes heading his way out-of-town, thought he heard a band over the rumble of the exhaust. Movement on his right, turning on his spotlights. The fine-looking buck grazing at the side of the road, raising his  head to look at him. They knew each other.

He downshifted, turning on the brightly lit no-name street. Pulling into the scrubby dirt field just north of the bar, dodging the bikes, tents, cars, campers, bits of trash and flattened beer cans. Finding an open spot, nosing the big bike in, facing the ongoing party.

He killed the ignition on his sled, pulling down the kickstand with a well-worn  boot heel and resting the heavy bike on the packed gravel/dirt. disoriented and chilled from  the ride, trying to adjust.  Ears ringing a bit from the wind noise and exhaust, he could hear the popping and cracking of the heated metal  contracting in the cool night air. Unsnapping the keepers on the vest, unzipping the heavy leather jacket and reaching for a smoke in his cut. Sitting back down on the seat of his scoot, firing up a Lucky with an old dented Zippo and taking a hit. Surveying the scene around him; the band, the people, the bikes. The old derelict buildings and train station of a very small town that wasn’t anymore. He stood up off of the bike and  started to cross the  cracked, rough street. Saw her standing there on the other side watching him.

The band had taken a break a few minutes earlier, only the occasional loping rumble of a Harley idling by or the buzz of the crotch rockets. The murmur of the partiers, sometimes shouts and laughter. The lights not as bright as he first thought, just the blackness of the surrounding countryside making them seem so. She called his name as he started across the rough, cracked black top. Recognizing instantly the homey Kansas drawl. He took in her appearance; the short curly blondish hair, the stylish square frameless glasses, white sleeveless blouse, cut off shorts, leather sandals. Stocky dancers body, nice legs. She took his hand as to shake, held it as she walked him toward the rock wall on the back of the small lot  facing the tavern and wooden stage across the narrow street. Dull rough scrabble ground bright with the smashed beer cans, mixed with the trampled scrub of the prairie. Sitting on the stone wall, small talk. Her wondering about his distant behavior, him still chilled from the ride and shivering a bit. She reached up , hand behind his head. Gently but firmly pulling him closer….”I know a cure for the cold ’bout a mile down that road….” The band cranking up, starting to rock with some old school sixties music.

The old Cherokee rode the spirited war pony through the thick scrub brush on the outskirts of the small hamlet, letting the creature find his own way, shying away from the lights and noise. Knew that the animal needed water from a small river about a mile or so to the south. Even the creatures from the other world needed refreshment.

He felt if he were floating, weightless in the very warm rolling water of the hot tub. Soaking up the heat, feeling better. Submerging, lifting his head out of the chlorinated water, leaning back on the padded side of the tub. She rose up from the hot, steamy bath. Running her fingers through her wet hair, stretching, large breasts and upper body glistening even in the semi darkness surrounding the outdoor tub. She straddled him and he thrusts upward, feeling her warmth envelop him. Leaning forward, over him, her forearms on the edge of the tub. Her hot breath mingling with his. He pushes his hips up, hard….The both felt weightless, separate but as one. Firm legs gripping him.

In the glow to the north, the party rocked on.

The old scout slowly walked the war pony through the patchy brush of the tree line back toward the party in the north, nodding an acknowledgement to the large white owl he saw high up in that tree to his right. The technology, two-wheeled machinery, and the music (some of it, anyway….) fascinated him. The two-wheeled iron horses in particular, their bright colors ant the characters riding them. Their Creator was fascinated by men such as these, the modern nomads of the concrete and asphalt trails. The ancient native and those of his world had tried to communicate with this wanderer on two wheels for many, many years. Housed of worship, scripture and men of the cloth all seemed to fail. A more direct approach was being tried.  It, too, seemed to be failing but attempts were still being made. Souls were at stake .

They lay in a tangle of wet sheets, spent and exhausted. He propped himself on his elbows and a bit on his knees, keeping his weight off of her . His face pressed into the sweat soaked hair on the top of her head, her legs wrapped around his. Inhaling her aroma, feeling a slight tremble, just a faint little shudder.

She stood behind him rubbing his neck and shoulders as he was drinking the steaming hot coffee sitting at the small table in the little kitchen. He was relaxed, too relaxed after the intense lovemaking and too-hot shower.  Pressing up against him, trying to convince him to stay what was left of  the night, or morning. She wanted him for her, sure…But was genuinely concerned for his safety,  she knew he was exhausted. From the long days work, the long ride, and what she had done with him. She had to smile.

He watched her at the sink, washing out the cup and a few dishes. Enjoying the view, with light blue denim shirt with  cut off sleeves and nothing else. The legs a tad heavy, but very well-shaped. The curly short blondish hair and crooked smile, an image that would stay in his mind for a very, very long time. All good things must come to an end?

He had never noticed the slight bumps at the bottom of each of her shoulder blades….

He rode the big heavy bike back up the rough cracked asphalt alongside the tiny town in the wee hours of the morning. Goddamn, they were still going at it, fuckin’ bikers knew how to party. Even the music, but at a bit slower tempo. Turning east on ’24, lights catching the big buck in the open field but he missed the large white owl  flying overhead.

The old Cherokee rode the pony toward a thick heavy mist  in  the low tree line just ahead, deep in thought. A portal to another world. This old warrior and most reluctant of prophets had to be reached, but how? Maybe some puzzles were never meant to be solved.

The old warrior shook the cobwebs out of his head, running the fingers of one hand through the short salt and pepper hair. He took one last look around the place, so distant, yet so familiar.  He started walking back towards town on the rough old road. The well-worn leathers heavy and a bit warm on this beautiful spring late afternoon. He stopped for a moment, started to turn, feeling a pressure. Almost like a hand on his shoulder. He started down the road once again. Maybe some things were best left behind. Maybe….

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He sat on his scoot in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, cutting the seams out of the top of a sock cap with a well-worn, ever-present multitool. He had left his neck gaiter at home and the temperature was dropping, wind starting to make its presence known. It fit well when he had finished, snug and didn’t itch. He was glad he had put on the long underwear and wool shirt in the public  restroom of the large store. Sweating then, but not now as the wind picked up out of the north-west blowing bits of debris across the lot in this far west Kansas town of Goodland.

He turned on the ignition switch and pressed the start button, engine cranking, coughing to life. Settling into its deep familiar rumble, idling down as the big inch V-twin warmed. He shifted the bike into gear, awkwardly maneuvering  the heavy beast through the crowded parking lot, city streets and throttling onto the interstate. Ignoring the dull ache in his upper back. The late afternoon sun was setting, bathing the countryside in the muted pastels of the west and southwest. Bits of bright green mixed with the varied tones of the golden brown fields, the blue of the sky even having its own tone for this part of the country. The wind was getting quite a bite to it, but the stiff heavy leathers and wool seemed to be doing their job. He set the cruise, kicked down the highway pegs and tried to settle in to a long cold ride as the sun continued to set. Heading east into the cold desolate plains he could still feel her warmth, thoughts settling on the past couple of days.

Goodbyes shouldn’t be that hard, but always were.  Bike idling on the kickstand, wanting the open road. He didn’t want her firm embrace and the soft kisses to end, the fires still burning from earlier passions. Heat felt by both even through the heavy leathers. They both had other lives to lead, worlds to tend to. Life is so hard, sometimes.

The bitter, biting cold. Always the fucking cold….Or brutal searing heat. He had waited too late to leave and would soon be paying for it. Should have stayed another day. Always second guessing himself. He took the Hays exit , winding his way through traffic, pulling in to the local Mickey Dees parking lot after gassing up. Damn, the heat of the engine felt good, soaking thought the heavy leathers and clothing. Any other time would be cursing it, he laughed to himself. Once inside enjoying the steaming hot coffee and chatting with a couple locals. Trying to absorb all the warmth he could before starting out once again on that journey home on the cold desolate plains and the blackest of nights. All good things must come to an end.

He couldn’t stand the cold anymore. The windchill at seventy miles per hour was killing him, maybe quite litterally. Headache, numb, thoughts fuzzy and erratic. He feared hypothermia, took the exit and pulled in to the Flying J truckstop in Salina about midnight and fueled up. Squeezing into a restroom stall and putting on his last layer of the heavy wool long underware set from his Army days. Struggling to get everything back on in the confines of the stall, breaking in to a heavy sweat. The chaps were a fucking bitch. Barely able to walk to the truckers store for more hot coffee, hoping he didn’t have to piss again  for a while and another five minute ordeal with layers of clothing, complete with cold-numbed fingers. It was all the hell he could do to get back on the bike, off the kickstand, and back on the highway east but at least was warm for a short time. Only had to stand two more hours.

He was so stiff from the bone-chilling cold and heavy clothing he had trouble manuvering the heavy iron horse around the small car and truck in the long narrow driveway. He set the heavy bike on it’s kickstand, letting it idle. Stripping off the heavy leather jacket and cut, laying them on the small back porch. Laying his gloved hands on the back cylinder head of the bike, trying to thaw them enough to unlock and open the garage.

Too tired to undress and falling asleep in the recliner in the small cluttered den. He had to be up in a couple of hours and yet another adventure would begin….

The surgery sucked. Removing the tumor had been tougher than the doc thought. The local had worn off at the end, he could feel the scalpel when it cut deep. He thought about saying something but had decided to gut it out. The sting of the stitching needle smarted, but it was the thread pulling though and being tied that hurt. The pain really set in when walking to the car after. Yowza….

He picked the heavy iron horse up off the kick stand, feeling the stitches pull. Loaded as it was and gassed up the bike probably weighed close to a half a ton. Goddamn, it hurt, shouldn’t even be riding. At this point he really didn’t give a flying fuck. Hadn’t even checked the weather, not very smart for this part of the country this time of year. Anything could happen with the climate and often did. It would be even more unpredictable the closer he got to the Rockies. The low staccato idle of the warmed up engine nudged him out of his thoughts and into action. The metallic clack-clack of the transmission dropping into first gear….Slipping the clutch and idling the big Harley onto the cracked rough city streets toward the highway west.

The bright blue sky, wisps of few clouds. The rolling terrain of the Flint Hills. The grays of the rock outcroppings  mixed with the browns and small patches of bright green. An occasional violet or yellow wildflower. A hawk, wings outstretched, riding the invisible currents of the sky. Specks of civilization now and again. Fort Riley, “The Big Red One”. Abilene, Hays, Ellis….Ignoring them mostly, except when searching for 91 octane gasoline. The giant windmills; he hated them but understood the need.

He didn’t fully understand why he was on this journey, not really. To run away from home and the complicated relationship there, even if only for a short time. Missing the adrenaline rush, even the fear and loneliness of the Middle East. He hated the war yet missed it. Home was a stranger, he was only at peace when on his scooter. More often than not a misguided adventure impulsively pulled out of his ass at a moments notice.

The bike continued to climb in altitude, the riders ears popping as they rolled west. Always the motorhead, enjoying the marvel of modern electronics adjusting the fuel to the thinning air. The cruise opening and closing the throttle responding to the long pulls of the hills. Deep rumble of the exhaust as soothing as the music on the CD player.

The shit hit the fan on the side streets of Limon, he wasn’t gonna make it to the truck stop. Fucking Colorado, he thought. Goddammit….The temperature had started dropping around Colby, sky’s clouding up. By the time he had crossed the border he didn’t like what he was seeing but pushed on. Trying to make the truck stop and sanctuary. Wasn’t gonna happen. The thick, heavy, low-hanging gray clouds just outside of Limon only meant one thing; the wall of large golf ball sized splattering drops moving towards him up this side street of the small town in northeastern Colorado. Fuck me runnin’….

Looked like a drowned rat standing in the entryway of the truck stop, but the Walking Dead needed a good smile during this late afternoon deluge. Pontoons? Maybe build a fucking ark. Walked the hallway that ran the perimeter of the establishment, found the restroom, dried (or wrung out) the best he could. Off came the drenched ball cap. On with the oilskin duster, surplus cold weather helmet liner, and goggles he had brought in with him. Looked like a retard but was warm. Quick cup of hot steaming joe from the truckers store and back outside into what had turned into a gentle rain. At least the water wasn’t running over the lower edge of the mag wheels and tires of the bike. Time to Kick the Tires and Light the Fires. Pontoons may not have been such a bad idea….

He lit off the big scoot, steam rising from the engine cooling fins and exhaust pipes as it warmed. Negotiating the traffic in the crowded parking lot, cracking the throttle a bit hard pulling out on the rough street and breaking the back tire loose. Gotta cool it, hydroplaning is gonna be a problem.

Once off the entrance ramp and on the highway, the goggles cleared and the duster did a surprisingly good job of keeping the rain and wind in check. He had left the stereo off, wanting to focus on the road and traffic, getting heavy as he neared his destination. Piling up his ride this far from home was not cool. Besides, the deep, subtle rumble of the  big-inch motor was music enough for old tired ears.

Bumper to bumper at 70 mile per hour was a little dicey. Brakes had done well on a couple of panic stops, tires biting well on the wet pavement. Headed northwest around Denver on ‘270 then ’25. Rain had let up and he had even started to dry out. Low gray skies covered what he really wanted to see, the mountains. He turned off the exit he was looking for just north of Thornton heading east. Finding the small tavern among the seemingly endless rows of strip malls, small businesses, and apartments. Downshifting into the parking lot, up a slight incline and into a spot at the far end of the lot.  Engine idling, loud whine from the cam case. He had lunched a cam bearing and was one hell of a long way from home.

He must have been a sight to the young couple necking  by the entrance. Steam rising of the bike….Goggles, stupid looking hat and duster. Taking the shit off and packing it away. Just wet leathers, colors, and wondering if he was gonna be hoofing it back east. Walking to  the front door, seeing the sign saying “no colors”. Hell yeah, made him feel right at home. He started to take the cut off, but the young lovers told him to go on in, all was cool.

She had greased it.

Once inside, eyes adjusting from dark gray to dim, every form of I.D.  being checked by the doorman. The wrung out old saddletramp being carefully scoped out by everyone in the place, obviously his kind were not common there. The clinking glassware and quiet conversation, he looked up and saw her smile, sitting at the bar. Right in front of him. Also noticing the very ample bosom in the low-cut top, being reminded that she was “up here”.  It had pretty much been a set up,  most of the people in the bar being her friends including the necking couple out front.

After dropping the bike off at a local apartment complex, he found himself in surroundings much more to his liking. The parking lot of the old backstreet saloon was full of stripped down and chromed bikes of all flavors. Inside, the patrons  mostly long hair, beards, leather with scantily clad ladies. Good hardcore rock and roll band, music of the streets. Watching her dance with her lady friend,  trying to warm up after the hours on the road. The well-worn easy atmosphere helping him relax. Their first kiss.

The shower was so fucking hot he couldn’t hardly stand it, burning the stitches. Filling a very feminine bathroom with steam. Damn, it felt good. He saw her shadow through the shower curtain, bringing in fresh towels and then squatting on the stool. Alcohol did that sometimes….Thoughts wandering through the days events one at a time. Settling on how to get a cam bearing replaced at a moments notice in the morning. Well, crap. Best laid plans of mice ‘n men or some such shit. As he was towelling off, noticing that she had poked through his dog tags and such as that by the sink. Wondering what she had allowed into her life and heart.

Lying on her tummy on the king sized bed, propped up on a pillow looking at him. Thin skimpy panties barely covering her ample bottom.

Waking in a tangle of sheets and most potent womanhood. The aroma of sweat, sex, and a very light floral perfume. Dull ache on his upper back, trying to shake the cobwebs of sleep, painkillers and most lustful lovemaking.

She enjoyed the short ride over to the dealership, big party and cookout going on in the parking lot.  He parked the bike by the service entrance, talked with the service writer while she wandered the lot checking out the action. He joined her, hand in hand, looking over the merchandise on sale and chatting with the other bikers while the mechanics checked out his scoot.

He had lucked out. the whine caused by the timing chains as the oil thinned from the hours of hard riding. Apparently a characteristic and not a problem.

Beautiful day with a nearly cloudless bright blue sky, majestic snow-capped mountains to the west. He thought the old mountain men were right, the Rockies really were the marrow of the earth. Traffic a bit heavy as they merged the big bike on to ’25, throttling hard and settling in front of a rig pulling doubles. Shifting into overdrive, both leaning back and relaxing, heading north toward Fort Collins and another rumored party.  Goddamn, this is pretty country. Seemingly endless ranges of bright snowcapped mountains to the left, the exits that headed that way were tempting. Traffic heavy but not unbearably so. Just one of those days that niether of them are wanting to end. Fresh cool air, no radio, just the rumble of the bikes engine and some surrounding traffic. Some things shouldn’t have to. He saw that beautiful smile in the rearview mirror, but missed the tears….

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