08 March, 2006 Temperature: Becoming Irrelevant
When I stepped outside this morning, the fog swirled around me like a shroud. The streetlights wore pale halos, and you could barely see the pavement from forty feet away. The gorgeous blonde dame reached for me through the doorway, whispering, “Be careful out there…”
I looked into her deep blue eyes, bright with fear, and said, “Don’t worry about me, doll. I’m bulletproof.” I gathered her into my arms for one last embrace before I disappeared into the mist. The truth was, I really would have to be careful. But there was no sense in troubling her with my problems. I ride alone.
Well, that’s not exactly true. My partner on this dark, murky commute is a tough little hombre called The Baron. He has been with me since the first snows of winter, but our partnership is almost at an end. He’s supposed to retire in twelve days, and I feel a special obligation to see that he makes it in one piece. This is always the most vulnerable time; winding down towards the end of a long and dangerous career. You get caught daydreaming at an intersection, and some clueless mug with a cellphone in one hand and a latte in the other drives a tank right over the top of you, and never looks back. I’ve seen it happen, and it isn’t pretty.
The Baron was waiting for me in the garage, as always. I thumbed the starter and he fired right up. He always did wake up a lot quicker than me. His headlights shot beams out into the misty morning, and he seemed eager to hit the road. I let him warm up a bit… for his own good. “Steady there, partner.”, I said. “We’ll get there when we get there.”
Finally, I twisted the throttle, and we rolled out into the street. I could see maybe fifty yards in front of us, so I kept our speed down to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The traffic light turned green at our approach, almost as if it could sense our presence. I began to get that creepy feeling at the nape of my neck, like somebody walking over my grave.
But we made it safely to the Old Man River Café. I parked the Baron at the curb, and ducked inside for a cuppa joe. He waited patiently for me outside, I swear I could hear him whistling. What has he got to be so darned cheerful about?
The waitress poured my coffee in her sleep, then walked back to a chair in the corner. I slugged it down hot and fast, and left a buck on the counter. No sense wasting time; we had an appointment with destiny. Outside, I got the camera out from under the Baron’s seat, and walked across the street. I wanted to get an image of him in his natural environment before they hang him by cables from the ceiling at Baron HQ. Night and fog, baby. This is our beat.
After I took his picture, the Baron seemed anxious to move along. So I climbed into the saddle without another word and we motored on into the gloom.
The sky lightened up a bit as we neared the end of West River Road. The Red KLR Guy was riding the other way, and we waved to each other. He’s been out here other mornings, when there wasn’t ice on the roads. I’ve got to find out who he is. Seems like a straight shooter, a real stand-up joe.
We made it to work safe and on time, as usual. All that foreboding this morning was just atmospheric tension, I guess. Gives a guy the willies.
Work was work, as they say. I earned my buck and then some, `till it was time to ride back the other way. In daylight, the mood was lighter, but the traffic was heavier. I kept my head on a swivel, and The Baron never missed a beat. On East River Road, just past Summit, Tom Lindsay was riding the other way on his Ice Mint Green Stella… and wouldn’t ya know it? He waved! Some of that Scooterati gang ain’t so bad, once you meet them face to face.
We passed a few gin joints, but never stopped. For some reason, I didn’t feel like wandering tonight. Must have had something to do with the fire in the dame’s eyes when I left her. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It looked like I was in for a warm welcome home.