Nice Day for a Ride

Fredrick Hudgin

© Copyright 2023 by Fredrick Hudgin

Photo by Javier Aguilera at Pexels.
Photo by Javier Aguilera at Pexels.

All right, get out of here! You’ve been moping and whining around the backyard all goddamned day. I know you wanna go for a ride. So GO!” My wife turned on her heel and stalked back into the house, slamming the screen door loudly for effect. Josh, Beethoven, and I looked at the door where she had disappeared, then down at the garden where we had hoed, tilled, and planted since breakfast. I looked up at the sky to see where the sun was—still a couple, three hours till dark. A slow smile spread across my face—a ride!
I scratched Beethoven behind the ears. He’s not really a St. Bernard, just a big brown dog with floppy ears and cheeks. “Josh, your scooter runnin’?”
Yep. Blow your antique off the road, Dad,” he said, smiling.
Effin’ kids on their Effin’ rocket bikes,” I muttered to myself as we walked to the barn. “They’ll never know how to fix loose timing advance weights with a paperclip.” Of course, then, they won’t have to, will they? There’s nothing mechanical left in their solid-state, fuel-injected ignitions.
I rolled open the door to the barn, and there they were in all their glory: My beautiful, sight-for-sore-eyes, work of art, only a little dented, but none the worse for wear 1981 Harley Sturgis right beside Josh’s gaudy, runs-forever-and-never-breaks, fully-erect, one-year-old, balls-to-the-wall, ported, polished, fuel-injected Harley Evo rocket bike. We both just stood there with these idiot smiles on our faces until another Harley passed by on Route 9, about half a mile away.
In my best Sam Elliot, I announced, “We should be going; daylight’s burnin’.”
The only thing better than lookin’ at Harleys is ridin’ ‘em. Josh’s Evo started on the first touch of his button. Mine would have if I’d remembered to turn on the gas. Really!
We headed out the driveway after the required number of backfires and sputters (mine, not his—I like to think of it as my bike, Moon Dancer, greeting the ride with a breath of fire.) I led until we got to Piedmont and topped off the tanks. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The temperature hovered just a little over eighty. Both bikes were running great. Where to go, where to go?
Josh was checking out some cuties in a pickup truck getting gas next to us. “How about runnin’ up to the dam, Dad?”
Oh, I don’t know,” I said, looking around. “All those good-lookin’ teenage girls just barely covered by their bathing suits. And them beggin’ us for a ride around the parking lot. Seems like a lot of bother.”
Josh looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
Oh, all right. Just this once.”
Somehow I managed to say that with a straight face. Josh just laughed and touched the start button. His bike roared to life. Moon Dancer only backfired once before she settled into her comfortable chug-aty-chug.
Off we went, the road a blur under our footpegs, the mighty sound from our exhaust pipes causing every head we passed to turn and smile. This would be a day that memories were made from. An hour later, the sun was inching toward the horizon off to our left as we turned north on the narrow two-lane road that led to the dam, twenty-five miles away. Live oak trees met overhead with glimpses of the beginnings of a beautiful sunset peeking through.
By the time we got to the dam, Venus was fully exposed (the planet, not the woman). Most of the people had already left. There were a few campfires spread around the lake, filling the air with the sweet smell of burning oak. The unmistakable sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd playin’ The Breeze came across the water from the nearest campsite. The firewood sure is aromatic these days, I chuckled to myself. We used to have to spend a lot of money to make smoke that smelled that good. “Ah, youth is wasted on the young,” I muttered.
The fireflies had come out, and the bullfrogs and crickets were beginning their nightly duet. The first cool breeze of evening gently passed over us as more and more stars emerged from the dusk. “Well, I guess we waited too long, Josh,” I said, turning my bike around. “Everyone’s getting’ settled in for the night or has already gone home.” I could see Josh agreed with me.
He turned his bike around also then pulled up next to me. “Hey, how about stopping at the Wagon Wheel on the way back? I heard they have a kick-ass band this weekend. Dennis told me they did a fifteen-minute Free Bird last night. Said it was like ol’ Ronnie VanZant, himself, stood on the stage.”
Sounds good to me,” my mouth already waterin’ in anticipation of one of the Wagon Wheel’s famous cheeseburger gut bombs. “Let’s ride.” I reached for my leather jacket that should have been tied to my sissy bar and realized it still lay across my toolbox by the door to the barn. “Dammit,” I muttered. “Gonna be a cold ride home.”
We stopped at the exit to the parking lot as a truck passed by, going the same way we were. It wasn’t just any truck. No, from the smell it left hangin’ in the air, it was a very special truck. It was hauling hogs.
Now everyone has somethin’ they hate more than just about anything else in the world. For me (besides elderly, oriental, male drivers), it is riding behind a fully loaded trailer hauling hogs. Those evil, red-eyed bacon makers feel the same about me. Not only do they have a case of the ass about where they’re goin’ (hogs being one of the most intelligent animals in the barnyard), they are packed into those trailers until they can’t turn around and kick the ass of the poor bastard behind him that’s sniffin’ their balls. All they can do is stand there, grunt, fart, piss and shit. Since that’s all they can do, they do a lot of it. The problem comes when the truck makes a turn, and that wonderful perfume, Essence d’Hog, kind of a toilet water that had been sloshing around their feet, runs out the slots in the sides, down onto the wheels, and is broadcast into the air behind the truck. Anything or anyone behind the truck gets a free application.
Only for me, it’s worse. I swear those sons of sows save it up for me until I am behind with no place to go, then they make me pay for every pork chop, slice of ham, and piece of bacon I’ve ever eaten. You laugh, but it’s not funny. You see, it’s happened to me enough times that my wife had a hot and cold water faucet installed in the barn for me to hose off before I come into the house. Some guys attract girls. Some guys attract guys. Me, I attract hog trucks. Call it fate.
Josh was just sittin’ there on his bike shakin’ his head. It’s like he can’t believe this is happening again. “Dad, you are truly blessed” is all he can manage.
Screw it. The sun is gone, the stars are shinin’ in all their glory, the temperature is droppin’ like a stone, I don’t have a jacket, but I do have a hog truck. Maybe it will keep me warm. Its taillights were disappearing around the next turn as we pulled onto the road.
It’s not as bad as I’d feared. Nope, it’s worse. The hogs knew they had me. The truck could only go about twenty-five miles an hour down that curvy, hilly road from Hell. Those two yellow lines in the middle of the road slowly burned themselves into the back of my eyeballs. Every so often, I would try to pass only to have to swerve back behind the truck as a car appeared comin’ from the other direction. Each time I got close enough to try to pass, the hogs reached deep within themselves to spew yet another geyser of pig offal onto the floor of the truck, which immediately got broadcast into the air I was riding through.
Who would have believed barnyard animals would have enough intelligence to coordinate that kind of team effort? It’s like the hogs had a manure gun they all worked together to load, then the fire control officer waited until I pulled within range before he let me have it. “Here he comes! Wait for it. Wait for it. Almost here. OK, everyone, let ‘er rip!” You’ve gotta respect that kind of discipline.
I remember how much trouble I had teaching new grunts ammo conservation in their first firefight. Maybe I should be takin’ notes.
My headlight had grown dim from the deepening layer of hog crap building upon its lens when we finally got to the Wagon Wheel. Josh and I parked our bikes well away from everyone else so the smell wouldn’t spark some kind of mercy mission from the other riders. The last thing I needed was a bunch of bikers trying to help us out by washing off our bikes using their own private garden hoses.
Josh acted like he didn’t want to go in. “Dad, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, we stink! I’m leavin’ a footprint trail of hog crap behind me.” He had suddenly found something really interesting on the ground next to his bike and was studying it while he waited for me to change my mind.
This is sad, but I gotta admit I was sorely tempted to just get back on my ride and go home. But, hey, this was a biker bar, and everyone knows bikers smell like crap. “Nah. Come on. No one will ever know. These are bikers, fer God’s sake.”
Well, I was wrong.
I walked in the door, and the music actually stopped. Everyone was lookin’ around and testing the air like a bunch of prairie dogs with a coyote on the loose. My favorite waitress walked by and almost dropped her tray full of beers while she gagged for air. “Damn, Crow! You been rollin’ in the barnyard again?”
Sorry, Becky. We got stuck behind another damn hog truck on the way down here from the reservoir.”
Someone up there doesn’t like you, Crow. What’s this, the third or fourth time this year?” She laughed and walked away … fast.
I saw some of my friends over in the corner of the bar trying real hard not to notice me. I started over, and suddenly everyone at the table had to go to the can—left at least twenty beers behind in various states of consumption. I heard some bikes start-up in the parking lot, and there went Bedrock by the window in a cloud of dust and dirt followed by the rest of the crew.
I went to the can and thought about whether I should just go home and shower. As I sat on the throne, a guy came through the door and started coughin’ and swearin’. “Man, I think you better do a courtesy flush before the paint starts to peel.” A couple of more coughs, “Sheee-it that smells bad. Have you ever thought about leaving them burritos alone for a while?” Then he started gaggin’ and left without even doing what he’d come in to do.
After I finished up, I came back out. The packed bar I had entered four minutes ago was almost empty. Even the band had gone outside to “take a break”. Big Joe came around the end of the bar with a look on his face that would have stopped a charging rhinoceros. “Crow. I know this ain’t your fault, but, man, you just gotta leave. If you come in here on a Saturday night again, smellin’ like this, I’m tellin’ ya, I’m gonna 86 ya.”.
About fifty different replies went through my head in that split second. Then I just hung my head and said, “Joe, I’m sorry, man. You’re right.” And I walked out the door.
The people on the front porch all moved away as I came outside. “Wannabes.” I muttered as I walked by.
Josh was still where I’d left him by the bikes, trying hard not to laugh. “That didn’t take long. Is there anyone left in there?”
Yeah.” I wasn’t in any mood to chit-chat.
As soon as you went in, it was like you’d kicked an anthill.” he went on. “There were bikers kickin’, crankin’, runnin’ and gaggin’ everywhere. Funniest thing I ever saw! I almost fell off my bike; I was laughin’ so hard.”
Are you ready to go?” I asked.
He could see I wanted to get out of there. “Sure, Dad.”
For the first time in her life, Moon Dancer started on the first kick. I believe in my heart she was genuinely embarrassed and couldn’t wait to get away from the scent of the crime. We eased out of the parking lot and headed home.
At the first traffic light, we pulled up next to a beat-up family sedan.
I looked over at the old man who was driving and smiled. After a couple of seconds, his head snapped around to stare at me, and he got a look on his face like he couldn’t believe what had just drifted up his nose. Just about then, his wife leaned over and let him have it right on the side of his head. “Damn you, Marvin,” she shouted. “I told you to lay off them peppers.”
Whatrya talkin’ about, ya crazy old bat,” he shouted back, then he pointed at me. “It weren’t me. It’s him!” He gave her a dirty look and then gave ME a dirty look and rolled up his window.
They were still sitting there yelling and swinging at each other when the light changed, and we rolled out.
By the time we got home, I had left most of those bad feelings behind me on the road. Josh got out the hose and began to clean the worst of it off the bikes. My wife came out the back door to welcome us home and got halfway across the yard before she stopped dead, then said a little too loudly, “Oh no, not again!” Without another word, she turned on her heel and stalked back into the house.
For just a minute, I considered getting back on the bike and leaving, but where the Hell would I go? The cops were probably already looking for the two crazed bikers that terrorized that old couple at the light. “All right, gimme the damn hose.”
Two minutes later, she returned with a bucket of hot soapy water, some rags for the bikes, and towels for us. Together we washed the bikes and ourselves.
You know,” she said. “I kindda knew this was gonna happen. Don’t know why, but I knew.”
So, what’s for dinner, Mom?” Josh asked as we walked inside wrapped in towels. “Smells great.”
She had a Mona Lisa smile on her face. “Somehow, after what happened to you tonight, I think you guys will really enjoy dinner. I’ve got a big ham in the oven.”   

Contact Fredrick

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Fredrick's story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher