The old man felt a hard jolt and the bike started to go down. He kicked down hard with his left boot, throttled and steered into the skid; rear tire biting, throwing grass, dirt, and gravel in the air. He damn near hit the fence, thought he had highsided but had managed to power the heavy iron beast upright and back on the asphalt road. Barbed wire at seventy miles per hour would have sucked. Shit the leg hurt, thought he had broken it…..The old mans head wasn’t in the game and it could have cost him dearly, ending up with whom he had gone to visit. Or the morgue….
He really didn’t want to go, but she had asked him to see her through this. Like a fool he went. Some things were best left behind, walked away from but the old man was a sentimental old fool. The patron saint of lost causes….
It had rained hard that morning. After he left the bike shop, he rode through town getting a bit wet from the water still on the streets. Once he got on the highway things would dry soon enough. Unless the weather turned again. Sky looked mighty dark where he was headed, and the old man hoped that wasn’t a hint of things to come in the weather as well as in his heart. He turned west on ’50 off of the interstate dodging rain ( or not ). Setting the cruise, the exhaust pipes settling into their deep familiar rumble. After a while turning on the Grand Funk disk he had loaded in the player earlier. “Inside Looking Out” had been one of his faves since high school. The bike chewing up the miles….The unease growing as he neared his destination….
The sun had come out and it was fuckin’ hot, brown skin already burning, having put the sunblocker on too late. He gassed up just north of the hospital. Spilling the volatile liquid on the tank, hot engine, and himself . Great, now all he needed was some dickhead with a lit cigarette….
The old man must have been a sight walking in….Security guard was scoping him out bigtime, he was glad he wasn’t frisked. When he found the waiting room outside of recovery, he didn’t fare much better with family and friends. One in particular. Waddafuck, the old man knew he shouldn’t have worn colors. Proverbial whore in church….
He spotted the youngster immediately. Looked just like his photos, but no uniform. Ballsy little fucker….Old man told him not to be riding crotch rockets at 150+….Youngster didn’t need that kind of attention from the cops, and the old man didn’t need more funerals of some young pup scraped up off of the highway. Needed to stop screwing that girl in his mothers store, too but the old man didn’t go there. Young an’ dumb an’ full of cum….War did that sometimes.
Strappin’ young stud, the old man thought….They had “met” before, only the last one wasn’t so cordial. Ah, well, fuck it. Had that big nut cowboy strut, lean and straight. She was younger than the old man, maybe that’s what she really needed.
She had asked to see him. The old man was hot, emotionally drained. The cool air conditioning, cold water, and comfortable chair had put him to sleep. He didn’t want to go in, but he heard her weak voice….Friends relaying, asking him to come….
The old man walked in the cool darkened room a bit disoriented. He stood off to the side, allowing friends and family at her bedside giving her flowers and other small gifts. Showing their love and respect. He thought about a few kind words and a hasty retreat, but she wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easy. She asked him to come sit on the side of the bed . What a sight he must have been. Filthy from the road, well-worn scuffed boots, dirty jeans, t-shirt, faded colors on a leather vest. Stiff from dried sweat, smelling of road grime, exhaust, 91 octane gasoline and coconuts. Essence of Loser, medley of the highway. He sat down, running his fingers through her curly blonde hair. She took his hand and started stroking it and said “I didn’t think you would come”. The old man nearly broke down….
They chatted for a while, occasionally holding her head up. Feeding her chips of ice with a cheap plastic spoon from a styrofoam cup. Listening closely, dingy, ears still ringing from the hours on the big Harley. She talked of her friends, the rallies, often nodding off mid sentence, dopey from the morphine. Everyone smiling….She continued with the story telling, winking, giving him that crooked grin, leaving out certain names to protect the not-so-innocent. Teased back, getting the finger for his efforts….
She needed rest. The nurse finally started chasing every one out. The old man got up, stepped back. Friends and family hugging and wishing her well. The young stud said his goodbyes, stroked her arm and fingers. Not much response, dope must be kicking in good….
The old man kissed her lightly on the forehead, her eyes closed, asleep, he thought….Kissed him on the neck….Kissed her nose….Her cheeks….Kissed his neck, cheeks….Both kissing lips…..Again…. her arm around his neck….Embracing….Kissing, the old man nearly lifting her out of the bed. Her bare back feeling cool to his touch. Show ’em how it’s done, Baby….
The starter whined, still warm engine rumbling to life. As the old man pulled the big bike out of the lot and on to the city streets, he thought about how goddamned hot it was this early in the year. The long ride home. He turned onto ’50 thinking of the bittersweet events of the day. Journey on the cd player, a fitting tribute he thought. Miles ticking by, mind wandering. Beautiful if not hot day, heading into the sunset….Fuck, he was going the wrong way….
He got the bike turned around after looking at the map, goosing the throttle hard. The cup holder started to flip over with the bottle of water in it, pulling the foam insulator out. He righted it, pushing the insulator back in….And ran the bike off the road….
The sun was going down, the cool air feeling good on the old mans burnt hide. Really was good riding that evening. Nice country side, no traffic…. Was looking forward to home, maybe the local watering hole first….Wasn’t all bad the old man thought. It was early summer, and a lot could happen. More adventures, good and bad, to come….