Remember TTAC’s Future Writers Week? You chose the writers. The writers wrote. The stories are in (well, most of them …). Here is the first one. Do you like it? Tell us. The stories will be published in the sequence in which they arrived in TTAC’s mailbox.
My neighbor growing up, Wayne Stork, was a quiet, gentle guy who loved machines. Growing up as a car nut myself, it was hard to miss the fact that the Storks had almost every kind of cool machine you could imagine – motorcycles, trucks, cars, boats, tractors, hay bailers, even a couple of bulldozers and a ramp truck. If it rolled, floated, or crawled, Wayne probably owned it at one time or another.
For a guy who loved machines, however, Wayne had one fault – he never took care of anything. As a result every machine he owned died within a few years of purchase. That was no problem, however, Wayne simply dragged it out into the woods and got something else. Nature took care of the rest.
Like everyone who loves machines, sooner or later Wayne brought home a motorcycle. It was beautiful black Honda 300 Dream with chrome exhaust pipes and hard plastic saddle bags. It was the first real bike can recall and the effect was mesmerizing on every kid in the neighborhood. It drew us in like moths to a flame and we spent hours admiring it as it sat on the car port.
Wayne was proud of the Honda. He doted on it, bought various doo-dads from JC Whitney and polished it religiously. Unlike so many machines that had preceded it, Wayne’s interest in the bike did not wane and he took good care of it – until he had his big crash.
Wayne’s crash was caused by a slick road in the latter part of autumn. His spill was not enough to do any real damage to the bike but it scared him enough that he brought the bike home, parked it under the eaves of the house and never threw a leg over it again
The years passed and the big Honda suffered as it sat semi exposed to the elements. The saddle bags filled with water and their once bright felt red linings rotted away. The seat split and its orange foam spilled out into the elements where it eventually hardened and chipped away in tiny pieces. Chrome parts pitted, then rusted and the paint faded to a dull hopeless shade of black. Generations of spiders lived in the nooks and crannies of the engine and their webs collected debris. The tires cracked with age and grass grew up through the spokes where it withered and died every autumn. The bike sat there so long that it ceased to be a vehicle and became a part of the yard. It languished, hopeless and forgotten, until the that I bought my own motorcycle.
Wayne’s son, Kenny, was especially excited when I brought home my Kawasaki. At 17 he wanted to ride in the worst way, and because my new bike was obviously off limits, he determined that the best way to get on the street was the old 300. So, like countless motorcycle obsessed teenagers before him, Kenny hatched a plan.
I wish I could say Kenny restored the old bike, but that didn’t happen. Together, we pulled the old Honda away from the side of the house and pulled the many strands of dead grass out of the spokes. We then used the garden hose to wash away a decade’s worth of cobwebs, dead bugs and dried leaves, pumped up the tires and added some lawn mower gas to the odd smelling liquid sloshing around in the old bike’s tank. After cleaning the spark plugs, Kenny used a screwdriver to jimmy the bike’s ignition switch to “on.” Then, Kenny started kicking.
He kicked once, then twice and on the third kick the old bike fired and struggled into a clattering, uneven idle. As it sputtered and belched smoke, Kenny revved the engine, pulled in the clutch and kicked it into gear. Easing out the clutch, he rolled the old bike down the driveway and into the street. After a moment of amazed shock, I followed on my Kawasaki.
The old bike chugged down the street and then out onto the six mile loop around a local lake. At every stop sign the bike shuddered and shook, but, when the time came to go again, it gathered itself and struggled onward. It wasn’t fast, but it was glorious. Upon our return, Kenny rolled the bike back to its place under the eaves from which, so far as I know, it never moved again.
You can say “they don’t build them like that anymore.” You can say that technology has stripped the emotion from the driving experience. You can say that today’s cars lack soul and that they will never be more than the sum of their parts. They said that back then too, and they were wrong.
Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, he talks mostly about himself.