long road ghost - part 3 of 9

“Well lookit the cager man, all dressed up,” said Brom. “You ridin’ now? Huh? You bettah be careful, cager man; you got road kill written all ovah ya.”

The vets had skeptical looks on their faces too, understandably enough. I didn’t think the scarecrow had it in him to handle a hawg. But I didn’t think about it too much. Things got dicey.

“Hey Brom” said Nasty Nasty, an ugly bruise of a teen with bad acne and a worse attitude. “Guy’s ridin’ a Harley!”

Sure enough, there was a shiny new Harley out in the parkin’ lot, a Road King FLHX Street Glide with a 1584cc twin cam engine, 6-speed cruise drive transmission, a fork-mounted bat-wing fairing, black slotted disc cast aluminum wheels, and chrome touring cross-over dual exhaust with slash-down end caps. It looked like a tourin’ bike, alright, something crossed between the classic bike look and a cop’s ride.

“The headless rider’s gonna eat a weenie like you for breakfast,” said Brom.

“Yeah,” said the pudgy punk everyone called Potatohead, but whose name was really Patrick. “He’ll take your head right off and stick it on his handlebars!”

“Ya boys put a motherfuckin’ cork in it,” I said, “or my motherfuckin’ fist will cork it for ya.” The headless rider was the modern-day version of the headless horsemen. You know the story: a Hessian merc said to have gotten his head blown off by a cannonball during the revolutionary war. Well, since the day granddad opened Sleepy Hollow, the horsemen became a road-poundin’ ghost whose monstrous black and chrome motorcycle left behind a trail of cold blue-white flames. The locals liked to terrify, or titillate, visitors with stories about how the headless rider would cruise the freeway at night in search of his head, settin’ his sights on anyone unlucky enough to get caught before reaching the spot where Rasor Road – just some dirt nothin’ off-roaders use to hustle sand dunes – crosses the 15. Though some of the passin’ drifters swore to seein’ somethin’, I’d never seen anythin’. If that wasn’t reason enough to think it all hogwash, I didn’t know what was.

With the boys properly shut up, as well they should given my bein’ an old Clydesdale who survived four bone-breakin’ wipeouts and countless bar fights to reach, in one piece, the venerable age of sixty-three, I again took to feelin’ sorry for Alex, who asked me if I thought Katrina was impressed. Judgin’ by the look on her face, and the fact she kept sneakin’ glances towards Brom, she wasn’t. But I didn’t come out and say it. I just grunted and took him out back to my shop. If Sleepy Hollow was wood shack chic, gussied up only by the neon sign showing a headless biker on a bad-ass ride pouring a beer down his stump, my shop had the elegance of an outhouse. Parts everywhere, tools, bikes in various stages of assembly; this was home. I even had a cot nearby to sleep on when I couldn’t be bothered to clamber to the bedroom in the back of my bar.

“Son, ya shoulda talked to me before spending way too much money on a bike that won’t get ya street cred ‘round here,” I said.

“But, but…I thought Harleys were, you know, the Lamborghinis of motorcycles,” said Alexander.

I laughed, stoppin’ myself only when I saw the funny look on his face.

“It’s like this. Ya like movies? How about this. Some people like them Hollywood blockbusters, other people like those artsy movies that don’t make money but make film critics cream their pants. Ya get it?”

Alexander didn’t look too sure, but the spark hit him and I gave him a smile.

“Now look at this here beauty,” I said, pointing to my baby. “This here’s a 1969 Triumph Bonneville – Bonneville, named after the salt flats, right?”


“Good man. 650cc, parallel-twin, two-cylinder engine. See how the engine and gearbox are in the same casing? That’s called unit construction. Now this has been in the family for a long time. My granddad rode it for a while, then my dad. Course, the legend goes to Malcolm Uphill, who got the first ever 100 miles per hour record for a production bike. I was just a kid then, but I remember seein’ Malcom gunnin’ it down the flats, and I was cheerin’. Ya bet.”

I was startin’ to get into old man reminiscin’, so I put an end to that and told Alex that if he wanted, I’d fix him up with somethin’ good. But as much as he admired the Triumph, he turned me down, showing off a bit of pride I hadn’t quite expected. Good for him, I thought. So I told him to get his bike. I’d meet him out front for a ride; I wanted to see what his Harley could do.

To be continued...

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