The Last Deed on the Iron Steed
Mike was on his bike and riding hard.
On the high plains of Texas in the middle sixties there was a whole lot of nothing for miles and miles. Mike had been over much of that nothing within a hundred miles of the little farm town he’d grown up in.
Mike had itchy feet. He didn’t like to be in one place for very long. He also had an old beat up Yamaha Catalina two stroke motorcycle. He liked to ride and that old bike would GO. He also thought that he was pretty much bulletproof and thusly had a poorly developed sense of self preservation.
Mike wasn’t the sharpest spoon in the drawer and he had been known to go off half-cocked…..like now.
The weather had been looking gnarly...and that was fine, it suited him clear down to the floor. A bad storm had blown in and Mike felt the need for speed. The storm only made it better. So he was riding. He’d taken off south heading toward Edmonson and somehow in the wind and dust he’d missed a turn and wound up on a dirt road.
That was OK. Kind of fun actually. He had his goggles on and a bit of grit and sand in his teeth didn’t bother him much. He’d just spit a bit now and then and keep going….so he did,... kept on going that is. His maniacal cackle of glee followed him in the wind.
A particular bad gust of wind, it was probably blowing at fifty miles per hour or better, kicked up some dust and blinded him for a minute. He missed a turn...again. Dead end. He was forced to jump a bar ditch. He and the motorcycle went airborne for a minute and then came screaming down out of the sky. Or so it must have seemed to the jackrabbit that he almost landed on. The rabbit had been hiding under a tumbleweed. The poor rabbit was scared half to death and took off cross country like it had been scalded. Mike saw him go and just naturally, like a beagle, gave chase.
Coool. Mike discovered that a jack rabbit can run 40 mph. Mike knew that. He’d just looked down at his speedometer to check. He looked up again just in time to see the barbed wire fence appear out of the blowing dust. He was closing on it fast at a diagonal.
Tom pulled out of the College riding his motorcycle. He wasn’t much of a biker and he just had a little honda 90 that he used to putter around town. It was cheaper than a car and faster than a bicycle and suited him just fine. Tom had just purchased some books at the college bookstore and was eager to get home and read them. One was on molecular biology. It sounded pretty interesting. He was thinking about it while heading north on Quincy Street and not being paranoid enough.
Motorcycle riders in little college towns in West Texas should always be paranoid. If not they might not see that little old lady in the Nash Cosmopolitan that ran the stop sign in front of the Camera shop. If he wasn’t paranoid enough he wouldn’t see her turn RIGHT in front of him, and speed off at a blazing twenty miles per hour. He wasn’t and she did. Tom wasn’t going very fast but that didn’t matter. He was going lots faster than twenty miles per hour. He was going fast enough.
Willie was just toodling along on his hawg. It was almost midnight. He was due back on base tomorrow but he had plenty of time, especially since he’d taken this shortcut thru the backwoods. He’d had the weekend off and gone to Missouri to see his girlfriend. He was still a few hundred miles from SAC Headquarters at Offutt AFB but he wasn’t worried. He worked swing shifts and didn’t have to report until the afternoon.
He slowed down and started to swerve far to the left when he saw the car ahead on the shoulder. Then he saw the girl. She was bent over trying, it seemed, to get the lugnuts off a wheel. Apparently she’d had a flat and was trying to change the tire. She didn’t seem to be having any luck with that lug nut wrench.
Willy slowed to a stop and rolled up behind the car.
He stopped and popped the kickstand forward and leaned back against the sissy bar. He just sat on his bike and watched the show for a moment. My what a pretty little thing. not very many clothes on either. He got an eyefull the way she kept bending over and….Willy shook himself like a dawg. He needn’t think such thoughts. He had a girlfriend back yonder. Still...he wasn’t blind, and that appeared to be a damsel in distress. He stretched a bit then swung a leg, frontways over the tank. He’d go see what he could do to help her. It wouldn’t take him but a minute to change that tire.
Her buddies jumped him just as he got clear his bike. It was a trap and she was bait. Something crashed into the back of his head and he felt a pain in his side.
Dale was alone.
Shit. Lately he purely hated to be alone. Until recently though he’d always been alone and it didn’t matter. In fact he’d sought out solitude and avoided people. Many was the time he’d get on his bike and ride. He didn’t care where he was going he’d just go.
But that was then and this was now. That was before he met Trish.
Oh sure...he’d known Trish his whole life. They were like fourth or fifth cousins or something. They had the same great-great grand parents. Not like there was a lot of choice in marriage prospects in these parts back then.
Dale’s family, and Trish’s family had been in that part of Texas a LONG time. Their ancestor’s had plowed the prairies and killed the buffalo. They might have tussled with a few injuns too...in a manner of speaking. Dale was fairly dark skinned.
Something about Trish though. Lately. Lately he wanted to be with her. Not that he’d DONE anything. Holding hands was a far as it got. But they talked. And they talked. And she was the first thing he thought of when he woke up and the last thing he thought of when he went to sleep…
He had it BAD.
He knew this.
Trish and her family had gone to see her Uncle Junior in Canyon fifty or sixty miles north of town. He’d normally have gone with them. Normally he’d have driven since Trish’s dad didn’t much like to drive and Dale LOVED to drive. Anywhere he went with them, and he went with them almost everywhere lately, he drove. Trish’s dad asked him to. It was just the normal thing.
Dale had to work last night. At the Grain Elevator. It was harvest time and the milo was coming in.
It had rained today. The grain was going to be wet for a few days so there wouldn’t be much harvesting. There wouldn’t be much work at the elevator . Old man Bennet had told him to take off and not come back till monday. That was fine with Dale. He could go see Trish.
Only she was gone. She’d left him a note pinned to the screen door of her house. Damn. Gone to see Uncle Jr.
So Dale drove around town for a while...maybe they would be back soon. He seemed to drive by their place a lot, like every ten minutes.
This was stupid. He stopped at the corner store and put a dollar of fuel in his Honda, then took off for Canyon. It took him about an hour to get there. It wouldn’t have taken him that long except for the little roadside “prayer meeting”.
A county sheriff’s deputy had been behind a billboard when Dale went streaking by. After a little chase, it took a while to get Dale’s attention, the deputy stopped him for speeding. Dale and the deputy had a little meeting. The deputy had preached and Dale had prayed…….that he wouldn’t get a ticket. It worked. He got another ‘stern warning” to “keep it below the speed of sound”..and the sheriff's deputy let him go..again. Something must have been wrong with that deputy Dale thought...it was his face. Dale would have sworn the deputy was doing his best not to grin.
Dale took off. He really tried to keep it below a hundred.
He rolled into Junior’s driveway a little later and Trish’s dad just grinned and elbowed Junior. Junior grinned too and gave Trish’s Dad some money. Wonder what that was all about?
Didn’t matter. He was with Trish and that’s all that mattered. He sat and listened to Trish and her grandmother talk. He didn’t say much. Trish’s grand mother was almost a hundred years old and she had some stories. Dale never tired of listening to them.
And then it was time to go. Best make it snappy cause a blue norther was blowing in. Dale said good bye to GrandMa and Junior and followed Trish and her family as they drove away.
The Blue Norther hit just about the time they were crossing under the railroad trestle just south of town. The road forked there. One road went south to the “house” and the other road went to Hereford. The storm hit with a wall of dust and then it began to rain. The temperature dropped forty degrees in ten minutes. Dale didn’t have a coat but how bad could it get ?
He lost sight of the car. Rain was in his eyes. He shook his head and suddenly a semi truck was directly in front of him...bearing down.
Mike leaned hard to the left and put the bike down into the dirt. There was no time to try to brake. He laid it down on it’s side and slid right up to that fence...almost cut a boot.
He lay there for a second and then picked the bike up. It had some more scratches but it didn’t seem anything serious was wrinkled too badly. He tried to start it and sure enough...she started right off.
He was just having too much fun. He’d better quit that and go home.
Problem is...he was a mite turned around. He wouldn’t go so far as to say he was lost or anything..but where did that fog come from? He go on is scooter and slowly made his was across country and finally he came to a road. No bar ditch...that was odd. He drove out onto the road, picked a direction and started riding….he drove a LONG ways.
Tom stood on the brakes of his little honda. He locked the hand brake down as tight as he could. Both wheels locked up and he slid forward. He hit the bumper of the Nash with his front wheel and bounced back...he almost fell off his bike. By the time he’d recovered the little car had driven off.
That had been pretty close.
Tom looked around. Where did all that fog come from? This was odd. He was right in the middle of town, in the middle of the day..and there was no traffic? Very strange. He picked a direction and started riding.
He rode for a long, long time.
Willy stumbled forward a little bit. He should have known better. It was an ambush. Illegal aliens he suspected, shaking him down. He wasn’t amused. They’d hit him in the head and he had a pain in his back.
Willy was a big boy. A hillbilly from the backwood of missouri. Normally he was even tempered but this was just wrong. He lost his temper.
Ma had warned him not to loose his temper. Bad Things ™
happened when he lost his temper. This time was no exception. The two little guys that had jumped him were too close. He grabbed one by each arm and literally thru them at the car. He almost pulled their arms off but they literallly went flying through the air...one landed on top of the car, the other crashed through the rear window.
The little girl quit showing off and ran to get in the car. They drove off into the dark with Willy standing there trying to get his temper back under control.
He did...and straddled his hog again.
A fog had come up out of somewhere and Willy was just a touch lost. He picked a direction and started riding. He rode for a long, long time.
Dale swerved out of the way at the last minute and the trucker blew past. He’d never even seen Dale and his little motorcycle.
Dale shook his head to clear it and decided that time was wasting...he’d better burn rubber if he was going to catch up to Trish.
He took off...and rode.
And rode….and rode…
Fog, sleet, rain and hail...he rode.
He could barely see the road but he rode….for a long, long time.
Eventually it dawned upon him that he was being followed. The weather cleared as if by magic and he sat looked over his shoulder.
Four Bikers were following him. Old Farts. Must have been forty or older. They waved at him as they passed. He felt a comfort. For some reason he rode with them. Pretty soon they came upon another rider, and another. The two waved also and joined them. Seven riders on seven motorcycles were roaring across the...the...what WERE they riding across anyway?
At any rate they soon came upon yet another rider. They had to slow down for him. He was riding a small honda 90. Luckily there was a small cafe near at hand so they didn’t have to go far. Odd that there was no other traffic on the road.
It just seemed the natural thing to pull into the parking lot. They all introduced themselves to each other as they filed into the building. They ordered coffee.
Dale didn’t drink coffee much but Trish did so and he was learning. Everyone sat around a large table and were soon chatting and gossiping like they’d known each other for years.
“Odd name…”Heaven’s Riders”..... said Willy after a while. How’d y'all come up with that?”
“Well it’s like this son” said one of the old men , he had a beard and looked much like ‘gentle ben’. The man, not the bear….or maybe he did look like the bear...no matter...he said. “We are all Men of God ™ . I’m a Catholic Priest, George there is Methodist Minister, Ori over there is Jewish Rabbi and Dan is a Lutheran Pastor.
We work for heaven don’t you see and we ride...hence the name.”
‘Makes sense” said Tom, helping himself to another piece of pie. It was coconut cream pie and it was...ahem….heavenly.
“So what are ya’ll doing in these parts” Dale politely asked the Rabbi. A jew huh? He’d heard of jews. Never seen one before. This jew looked just like a normal person.
“Well to tell you the truth Dale we’ve been looking for you, for all of you. you all are hard riders and very difficult to catch up to” answered the Rabbi. He wasn’t letting the pie go to waste either.
“Huh?” said Dale…” I’m not a hard rider…. not lately… I mean yeah on occasion I get a little rabbitty but for the last little bit I’m just beenrolling along behind my girls family car. I doubt if we were going sixty. I kinda lost track of them though”.
“When’s the last time you saw them” asked the Lutheran, a sad, sad look in his eye.
“Oh it was back up the road a ways…” said Dale “ I went thru a patch of weather and lost sight of them. Semi almost got me come to think.”
“Dale...be calm now...that semi DID get you.” said the methodist..not one to mess around.
Dale just looked at the four old men….coffee halfway to his lips.
“oh”...he finally said “ it did huh”...
“It did get you’ repeated the minister. “You went right under it. Eight drive tires and eight trailer tires ran over you. It was loaded heavy too. They had to pick you up with a squeegee and a spoon.”
“And my bike?” asked Dale
The minister grinned. “Oddly enough it escaped all harm. You were thrown free you see. The truck missed the bike but it got you.”
“Ah good” Dale said…” “I really liked that bike. My Honda 305 SuperHawk.”
Dale frowned and thought a minute then said “ If that truck had run over my bike the trucks tires might have been damaged. I work at a grain elevator. I know some truckers. Those tires are expensive”
Everyone grinned at that.
Mike looked up about then with a puzzled expression on his face. Are you saying we are all dead? How can I be dead. I didn’t go under any semi.
The Holy Men looked at Mike in sorrow. Do you remember that sandstorm?” One asked.
“heh” grinned Mike “yeah I do. I chased a JackRabbit..MAN can those thing go. Almost run into a …………ooops..”
“Oooooops…...You were a real cut up, you were’ said the rabbi shaking his head. Your bike went right under that fence but you didn’t...your slid down it sideways at forty miles per hour. It cut you up like a band saw. It damn near cut you into three pieces. You bled out in a heartbeat. Literally. More coffee?” he signaled the waitress who came by to warm up all their cups.
“Even better” said the rabbi. Your body was never found...or it hasn’t been yet and it’s been months. You and that fence had a high speed bloody embrace square in the middle of several sections of unfarmed CRP land. No one has any reason to go out there until pheasant season. That’ll be a while yet. The sand was blowing and covered your body, and your motorcycle. It’s possible you might never be found. That’s a rare feat in today’s day and age”.
“Wow” said Tom and Dale in unison.
“High Five” and they all slapped hands.
Willy looked amused and signaled the waitress for more pie.
All four of Heaven’s Riders’ shook their heads mournfully. These kids now days...no respect.
Tom looked at them all. “That is all fine and good. Those two guys are jocks’ he said carefully ignoring Willy’s grin. Willy was at least five years older and much, MUCH bigger.
“I’m not a jock. I’m a high school student planning on going to college next term. I just ride a motorcycle because it’s cheap. I never leave town”.
They all still had those hound dawg eyes. They looked at each other and finally a voice murmured.
“Well Tom it’s like this” the catholic priest, a Jesuite, said “ When you hit those brakes your bike skidded on that brick road. You went over the handlebars of your bike and stuck your head right through the little car’s rear window.”
“I did” said Tom...wide eyed. Tom was a Nerd. He wasn’t the least bit acrobatic’
“Wow” said Mike
“Cooool” said Dale
All three boys were listening to the priest wide eyed. He had their total attention.
“You Broke the rear glass with your helmet...Tom. That was a good idea wearing a helmet. Safety first. Trouble is it broke your neck from the impact. And the sharp glass cut your head right off. They didn’t put safety glass in the rear window for some reason. Your head kept flying and bounced off the windshield, which shattered...that WAS safety Glass.”
“Two Windows !. “ said Mike “ You broke two windows in one crash!”
“You really used your head there Tom” said Dale
Tom kinda grinned a bit. He’d never been much for being the center of attention. Especially not for something physical. For something cerebral, like solving a quadratic equation or writing a report on tumbleweed migration...he could do that, but admiration for doing something physical was new. He kinda liked it.
“ Your noggin lost all forward momentum right about then and fell into the seat beside the old lady. “ continued the priest, sipping on coffee” That old gal turned to look and got drenched with blood pumping from your neck…it was like a firehose. Your headless body was laying across the trunk of that little two seat car right behind her pumping blood all over the inside of that car, for about a minute till it ran out of blood.”
“She screamed a lot and lost control and crashed.”
“She was still screaming when the cops arrived. Your head was in her lap.”
The two boys...Dale and Mike were enthralled. Two broke windows and a hysterical woman, all at once. Hard to beat that.
Willie had not been impressed. Boys.
He was, however impressed with the coconut pie. He was on his third piece and about his fifth cup of coffee. He was a growing boy and needed his food.
Oh well...he might as well play along.
“ahem. how bout me?”
Almost everyone started laughing. The “heavens riders” were trying to be discrete...the three boys were hysterical..
“What?” said Willy.
“Um... what might that be sticking out of your side Willy my lad?” asked the Lutheran with a twinkle in his eye.
Willy looked down at the handle of the switchblade jutting out of his kidney. “Oh...That”.
He pulled it out with one hand while he cut a piece of pie with his fork. He held the knife close to his while he examined it in the light….while taking a bit of pie. “A cheap korean knock off of a chinese import of a bootlegged
Filipino blade. Pitiful.”
Everyone laughed the harder.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Dale.
“Our job is to find lost souls and bring them………..” began the rabbi...when there was a loud roaring sound from outside.
The sound stopped and four drop dead gorgeous, scantily clad young women, slithered into the cafe and undulated across the floor. They homed on the deadboys like a sidewinder missile toward an exhaust pipe.
“Sorrow fathers” intoned the voluptuous blonde with the thigh high boots….” these young men are coming with us.
With surprising little resistance the four young men were escorted outside to view futuristic motorcycles.
There they sat each had a 93 cu in liquid cooled, one hundred horse power, horizontally-opposed flat six engine. Each cylinder had an individual 28 silly meter carburetor. They had shaft drives and five speed transmissions and enough chrome to make eye’s bleed at a hundred yards.
They were all made in the U.S. of A. at the Honda motorcycle plant in Marysville, Ohio. Even Odin recognized the value of American Iron.
The warm, soft, luscious, voluptuous, athletic, endearing, enticing, hypnotic , flesh and blood Valkyries each escorted a deadboy to a rubber and steel valkyrie. They all mounted. One boy and one chooser of the slain per bike.
They waved to the preachers as they rode off to Valhalla.
“Damn”...said the Rabbi.