Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Howdy to my Madtown Mob! Here's one to make ya hug your kids!

By Buckshot

          Hawk smiled sadly as he wiped away the smudges small hands had left on the Sportster tank. The intricate dragon that wrapped itself around the shining red tank had always held the youngster in captivated awe. From the pearlescent scales that covered the muscular, twisting body, to the veined translucent rainbow wings, the dragon was museum quality art, but the eyes were what captured the imagination. The eyes seemed to follow your every movement with their ruby intensity. It was the eyes that fascinated the little boy from down the street.
He had appeared in the garage doorway one afternoon while Hawk was truing the rods and wheels for a friend’s old iron head Sportster engine.
He stood by patiently, hands in pockets, until Hawk noticed him and laid his tools down on the scarred workbench.
“Hi, Mister!” The little fellow started to step through the doorway, then stopped.
“Well, hi there, Pal,” Hawk said, a grin stretching his bearded cheeks. “Come on in and sit a while.” He waved toward an old metal folding chair that leaned drunkenly on bent legs. “My name’s Frank Hawkins, but my friends call me Hawk.”    
“Pete Edwards,” the boy said, his tiny hand swallowed by Hawk’s huge paw.
The boy appeared to be about seven or eight, and when he climbed into the old chair, the toes of his threadbare sneakers barely touched the floor. His blue jeans had holes in the knees, and his yellow T-shirt left a wide expanse of pink belly exposed where its shrinkage and his growth had both left their mark. A faded Raiders cap was pulled down on his head until the tops of both ears turned outward comically.
From the moment he entered, his bright blue eyes were locked on the dragon.
 “Sure a pretty motorcycle,” he said, his eyes wandering over Hawks Shovelhead chopper.
The old ’74 had been pumped to 103 inches, and mounted along with a kick only ratchet top four speed in an original wishbone frame. A stripped wide glide with no fender, and a 21” dual disc wheel lent a “strictly business” look to the bright red machine. The shotgun straights assaulted the ears, but what held the eyes was the dragon.
Hawk had finally talked Audrey Rawlings Arena, one of the best airbrush artists in the business, into making his vision of the dragon into reality.
He had hauled the freshly basecoated tank, frame, and rear fender all the way to Fresno and told her his idea. Her talent and imagination had combined to create an image that came alive right before your eyes; so real you waited for it to breathe. It wrapped around the tank, its mighty wings spread, nostrils flared defiantly. Its body wound around the frame onto the Triumph ribbed rear fender, the tail ending in a deadly barb below the short four inch sissy bar that supported the fender.
“Thanks,” Hawk said. “I’m kinda fond of it myself.”
“Seen ya ridin’ it. Mom says it’s pretty loud.”
Hawk grinned. “Just tell her that loud pipes save lives.”
“She always smiles when she hears ya go by. My Pop had a Harley.”
Hawk reached into the old refrigerator next to the door and brought forth two cold Pepsis. He handed one to the boy and opened the other.
“How do you know this is a Harley?”
“Mom said. She said it’s a Shovelhead.”
“Hawk raised an eyebrow in surprise. “And right she is, too!”
The boy raised his small shoulders in a shrug. “Yep. She’s pretty much always right, I guess.”
“So,” Hawk asked, “I haven’t seen you around before. You just move in?”
“Yep. Mom said a family named Morrison used to live there. It’s just down the street a ways.”
“Yeah,” Hawk said. “I remember the Morrisons. The man and his wife were okay, but the kid was an assh… Uh… problem.”
Pete smiled, his teeth straight and white. “Mom said he’s an asshole too. You won’t tell her I said that will ya?”
“Naw.” Hawk shook his head, his dark, wavy hair moving over his wide shoulders. “That’s between us guys.”
Pete nodded, then removed his Raiders cap, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his arm. His bald scalp drew a startled look from Hawk.
“It’s the cancer, Hawk.” Pete said, noticing Hawk’s surprise. “They give me this stuff that makes my hair fall out.” He rubbed his head with his left hand. “But it’s supposed to grow back someday.”
Hawk nodded. “Bet it will, at that, Pete.”
The boy drained the last drops of soda from his can, and stood. “I’d better be getting home, now. Thanks for the soda, Hawk.”
The boy’s manners and demeanor were more like those of an adult than a young boy, and Hawk momentarily wondered if his mother or the disease had more to do with the boy’s seriousness.
“Come on back anytime, Pete,” Hawk called over his shoulder as the boy started down the sidewalk toward home.

Pete stopped by to visit and admire the Shovelhead, and run his fingers gently over the sleek visage of the dragon several times over the next few weeks. Not enough to become a nuisance, but enough to allow Hawk to get to know more about the boy.
His mother was a single mom. Pete’s dad had been killed in a plane crash three years before. The money from the settlement had gone mostly to pay off debts owed by the fledgling business they owned. Just enough was left to buy the house down the street, and the two year old Camaro she drove. She now worked as a legal secretary for a small law firm.
The discovery of Pete’s bone cancer had devastated her, and drained what was left of her savings despite her insurance.
Hawk shook his head sadly. Not a pretty picture, he thought.

About a month after his first visit, Pete showed up at Hawks, and found him busy changing the spark plug on a slightly battered Honda Trail 70.  “Come on in, Pete. See what ya think of this!”
Pete pushed the cap back on his head a ways, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Cool!”
“Just picked it up this morning. Thought maybe I could find somebody to take it for a test ride.”
Pete looked up expectantly, a lop-sided grin on his freckled face.
Hawk chuckled. “Know anybody around here who might like to try her out?”
“Yeah!” Pete squealed, his hands coming out of his pockets. “Me!”

Within days, the weed patch that served as the bachelor Hawk’s back yard became a flat track, as Pete became more accomplished on the little Honda. The time came when he seldom fell, and one afternoon, Hawk brought out a surprise for the astonished Pete. It was a spare tank he’d picked up and sent to Audrey. It now rested in Hawk’s outstretched hands, with a dragon identical to the one on Hawk’s Shovel wrapping around its diminutive surface. When Hawk had explained the situation, Audrey had rushed the job through without complaint.
“Just like yours, Hawk!” Pete beamed, running his hands over the gleaming surface. Hawk pulled his dark Ray Bans from the neck of his T-shirt and slipped them on, even though it was not that bright inside the old garage.
By the time fall sent its chilly wind to swirl the brown leaves that covered the back yard track, Pete had grown so frail he was unable to ride the little Honda. He sat for hours at a time talking to Hawk about riding motorcycles, going to Sturgis, Daytona, and all the other places Hawk had seen, and the experience of being in one spot with thousands of roaring Harley-Davidsons. The excitement in his eyes made Hawk a better storyteller than he ever thought he could be.

The Saturday morning in early November dawned crisp and clear, and Hawk raised the garage door as he usually did, a cup of coffee in his hand.
The cup shattered unnoticed at his feet as he stared at the ambulance pulling away from the curb in front of Pete’s house.
“Turn your lights on, damn you! Get rollin’!” he shouted, as the ambulance rolled slowly past, but the look on the driver’s face told him all he needed to know.
Hawk walked over to the little Honda, and lifted it gently onto the bench. He wiped the shining red surface down with a soft rag, gently removing each small fingerprint and smudge. As he worked, a beam of sunshine broke through the clouds, making dust dance in the light that filtered in the window.
Through the dark lenses of the Ray Bans he’d slipped on, Hawk noticed something Audrey had put there without telling him. There was a single, glistening tear in the corner of the Dragon’s eye.   

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