Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Motorcycle - a short story

Written after a failed marriage and while I was still suffering from deep depression caused most likely by my time in Vietnam as an infantry foot soldier, much of this story is autobiographical. Like the lead character in the story, my life was in a mess. I somehow managed to keep my day job and most of my relationships, probably because it was during the "wild and crazy" days of the Oklahoma Oil Boom of the 80s and almost everyone at the time was drunk, stoned or both. There's a grain of truth in every fiction and there was a real person I met one night who called himself Blue Angel. And yes I owned a 750 Triumph Bonneville, just likes James Dean.
P.S. Unlike the way I may once have been, it isn't my desire to offend anyone. If you are offended by apathy, drugs, sexual and violent situations then please stop reading now.


Dying twilight and flashing neon beckoned me into one of the many stripper bars skirting the edge of town. I parked my bike beside a row of Harleys and opened the black enamel door, blaring rock and roll flooding over me as I made my way through the crowded barroom. A tipsy dancer had just begun her gyrations on center stage and I grabbed the first empty chair I came to.
When my eyes finally adjusted to the subdued light, I noticed the man sitting beside me had a big pear-shaped head and a screwy grin on his pug-ugly face that indicated he was already drunk. He was also obese; his double chin dove into hairy flab wedged beneath the gaudy western shirt he wore.
Unmindful of my sudden critical stare, or foaming brew dribbling down his neck, the fat man slugged beer straight from the pitcher without an offer of apology. Despite his repugnancy, I couldn't turn away, his ugliness hopelessly mesmerizing me.
The man's blackened teeth looked like California asphalt on a hot August day, and a motorized wheelchair supported his bulky frame. He grinned when he finally noticed me staring at him. Had I been sober myself, I'd have probably searched for another chair. I wasn't.
I was wishing I had minded my own business when he said, "Kinda motorcycle you ride?"
Dancing strobes flooded center stage with silver light, further accenting his drunken grin. I straightened in my chair and said, "Triumph Bonneville 750. Like James Dean."
"Most people 'round here ride Harleys," he said.
Glancing around the crowded barroom, I saw what he meant. Leather-clad, bandanna-headed bikers of both sexes crowded the stripper bar, rotating strobe lights magnifying their greasy hair, deadhead tattoos, and silver earrings. The fat man's raspy voice shattered my flight of fancy.
"What's your name, bub?"
"Denzil. You?"
"You can call me Blue Angel."
I needn't have worried about my inability to suppress a drunken snicker. Blue Angel didn't seem to mind. He was apparently either used to the look or else he just didn't give a damn. I forgot about my musings when the girl on stage winked at me and jutted her breasts in a brazen manner. Blue Angel whistled, using his index fingers to tightly stretch his thin lips, managing to produce a piercing shrill.
"Pleased to meet you, Blue Angel."
"Nam," he said, seeing my inquisitive glance at his withered legs. "Landmine."
After comparing tiny legs with his bloated body, I had trouble believing his deformity was anything other than congenital. I kept my opinion to myself, not wishing to insult him even further.
"I was there," I said. "Infantry."
Blue Angel grabbed the elbow of a passing waitress, ignoring my assertion, and ordered another pitcher. His broken-tooth grin had all but vanished from his inflated cheeks.
"I ride a Harley," he said.
Advanced inebriation and a pinch of embedded meanness marked my blurted reply, regretted the moment I spoke the words. "The hell you say. Cripples can't ride bikes."
My drunken grin failed miserably to indicate that I meant the vicious remark in the best possible way. Blue Angel's own smile revealed he had taken no apparent offense. He just kept describing his cycle.
"Three-wheeler. Hand controls. Custom made."
On stage, the nude girl with broken hearts tattooed on her breasts gyrated to the caustic strains of a Bob Seeger psycho-melody. Multi-colored strobe lights flared in my face. From a shadow-cloaked corner, the waitress returned with Blue Angel's pitcher of beer and he tipped it to his lips, swilling beer until it gushed from his mouth, wetting his shirt. He shoved it toward me when he finished.
"You work, Denzil?"
"Not now," I said, shaking my head.
"Marrying soon, myself," he said. "Luanna's crippled too. Met her at a paraplegic convention. Gonna marry her right here on center stage.
"Terrific," I said.
"Hell's Angels comin' from all over the country. Big event. Be here or be square."
Ignoring his off-handed invitation, I returned my attention to center stage where two blondes were dancing in an odd pseudo-sexual parody. Blue Angel whistled to the waitress, hastily ordering another pitcher.
By now I was totally anesthetized by cold beer, blatant sex, and loud music. When we finished the second pitcher, I ordered yet another. Awash in noise, beer, and gyrating naked dancers, Blue Angel wheeled himself to the bathroom. When he returned he slid out of his wheelchair, onto his back on the filthy floor. Without success, he struggled to get up.
I tried lifting Blue Angel's dead weight back into his unwieldy vehicle but found he was heavier than he looked. Two bikers wandering over from the pool table helped, grinning as if they'd performed the same task many times before. After we'd killed another pitcher of beer, Blue Angel asked me to show him my bike.
"Why not?" I said.
Through the crowded barroom, I wheeled him, past milling bikers, out the side door to the parking lot flooded with interfering rays of moon and neon. Parked between a black Harley and candy apple pickup we found my metallic blue Triumph.
"No Limey bike's good as a hog," Blue Angel said. "Least it ain't a rice burner."
"Faster than any hog," I said. "And lots of rice burners."
"Maybe. Take me for a ride?"
"You crazy?" I said. "I couldn't even lift you off the floor in there. How do you expect me to get you on back of the bike?"
"Jack and Banjo will help."
"But you wouldn't stay put, even if we managed to get you on back."
"Then strap my ankles to the bike frame with bar rags. I'll hang on."
Shaking my head, I said "I might not make it home myself, drunk as I am. You want to go for a ride on the back of my bike, Blue Angel then you must be drunker than me."
Blue Angel's lips curled into a pleading pout. "I ain't that drunk. Please take me. I never been on a Limey bike before."
"Maybe next time," I said, wheeling him back toward the strip bar.
*  *  *
I don't remember when I began stopping after work for drinks at the Blue Note Lounge. Sometimes I stayed until Jimmy Turner, the owner, kicked me out and closed the place. Sheila didn't mind much. She was busy with her own life, new job, summer softball league and all. That summer she met Big Zina, playing ball on the same team. Before long Big Zina began going everywhere with us. Out to eat, to the movies. I didn't mind. When Big Zina was around Sheila was always in a good mood. When she wasn't. . .
Sheila had never smoked during our seven-year marriage. That summer I began finding ashtrays filled with butts, hers and Big Zina's. I also found a half-smoked roach in an ashtray. Sheila and Big Zina confessed to buying a lid to smoke at a Peter Frampton concert. They spent the weekend out of town, seeing Peter Frampton and doing other things with some of the girls from the team.
Shortly after our divorce, I bought a motorcycle, a metallic blue Triumph Bonneville 750. I knew nothing about motorcycles, never ridden one, but had an immediate need to wrap my legs around a powerful engine and drive it, very fast, down the highway.
After selling my old Mustang I began going everywhere on the bike. Even in the rain. Most of my free time I spent swilling beer at the Blue Note. Sometimes I made it home without remembering where I had been, or what I had done. Once two teenage boys lifted the cycle off the pavement when I tumped it over, leaving the bar. I remember the shock in their eyes when I charged out of the parking lot, barely missing the front fender of a passing car.
About that time Jimmy kicked me out for good. In a drunken fit, I threw a pitcher of beer at his frosted-glass mirror behind the bar. Unsatisfied with the ensuing explosion, I capped it off by smashing a couple of chairs and tables with my fists and feet. Jimmy and two regulars tossed me out on my face.
"Don't ever come back," he said as I powered away on my cycle.
After Jimmy banned me from the Blue Note, I began frequenting sleaze joints and biker bars populating the back roads leading to the ocean. It was there I met Rhonda.
Rhonda had red curly hair, a tattoo on her left shoulder and ultra red lips the same intense color as her skin art. Her personality also matched her hair. She smoked pot, used various drugs, slept around and had no visible means of support. Between jobs, she had explained. Rhonda lived in a three-room wood-framed cracker box on the wrong side of town.
Shortly after we met, we made love - spontaneously. In the front room on her shabby couch. We were both drunk, Rhonda's libido further stoked by pot and coke. I made do with beer and a couple of shooters. As we made love I noticed her faded green curtains gaping, wide open, for the world to see. The front door was also open.
"Think I better close the door and window?"
"Because someone might see us."
"Fuck 'em," she said.
Rhonda had long since sorted out her life, going through men faster than some women go through nail polish. As I was becoming attached to her, she had already finished with me, tossing me away like an empty bottle. Leaving a bar one night, drunk and alone, I motored past her place, maybe to satiate my morbid curiosity. See who she was with. Perhaps, deep down, I thought she might be alone and be happy to see me.
Parking the Triumph in the drive, I strolled up to her front door, peeking through the window before I knocked - a good thing because she wouldn't have answered anyway. She was on her back and she wasn't alone. Rhonda and a long-haired, nearly nude man was in motion on the shabby couch, feeling the apparent throes of full-blown, drug-assisted sexual nirvana. I had to kick-start my heart, and then my bike.
Gunning its engine, I trenched Rhonda's front yard as I sped away, nearing sixty by the time I reached the approaching intersection. It didn't matter that the light was red because I didn't have time to stop anyway. An old woman wheeled her Chevy directly in front of my fleeting path and I still remember her startled look when she saw me sliding toward her. I was very much out of control.
Concerned motorists pulled the cycle off my chest, the accident sparing me, and mostly the motorcycle, but leaving me cut, scratched and black and blue. When the cops finally released me, I watched headlights trailing away into the night, feeling the fool. I walked home alone after the tow truck had hauled away the bike.
*  *  *
"You awake?" Blue Angel said, tapping my shoulder.
"Sorry," I said, glancing up into his big cow eyes.
A nude dancer was weaving a sexual burlesque on the grimy wooden stage in front of us and lightning flashed through the open front door. I could smell rain blowing in from the north.
"Gotta go," he said, tapping the counter. "Don't forget my wedding next Saturday. Right here, same time."
Jack and Banjo suddenly appeared, pushing through smoke, shadows and frenzied customers, wheeling Blue Angel out the front door. They lifted him into the bed of an awaiting pickup and drove away as rain began to fall. I watched them disappear into the neon-illuminated gloom, and then rested my head on the counter.
By now my brain pulsated with a deep-seated ache, threatening to burst straight through the skull. Resting my head on the bar, I closed my eyes, letting loud music and bar noises resonate through flesh, bone and the distressed wood of the stage. The moment provided scant solace. Instead, I screamed through space, straight to the back of the truck with Blue Angel, my suddenly blurred thoughts a vision of street noise, glimmering neon, and passing humanity. Blue Angel flashed his blackened grin when he saw me.
"Welcome home, Bub," he said.


Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series. Please check it out on his AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.

No comments: