Some years ago now, Jake Rivers invited The Wanderer to take part in one of his writing challenges. Basically to write a story based (however loosely) on the title of a Country Music song. At the time The Wanderer only got 15,000 words of the yarn written, before something else grabbed his attention. However as some people might have realised, I've been in a black hole as far as writing goes for a while now and I've been hunting through my incomplete yarn files looking for inspiration. Another story appears to have done the trick, but that lead on to Denham Forrest completing this one as well.
As always I thank my proofreaders (some of whom, I'm sure were convinced I'd died, it had been so long since they'd heard from me) for their assistance in preparing this yarn for posting. I'd also like to thank my good friend Papatoad for giving me his observations on an early draft. Mind you, those observations did lead to me having to add about another 1,000 words. But when I'm on roll what's the odd 1,000 words or so, between friends.
"Reg, 'andy you dropped by mate, I need a little favour!" my cousin Pete said, as I killed Bonnie's engine. Pete hadn't even given me time to kick the prop-stand down, let alone climb off the bike.
Bonnie by the way is my 1962 vintage Thriumph Bonneville. She's probably a little old-fashioned when compared to modern bikes, but she's the real deal, something I'd dreamed of owning since I'd first clapped eyes on one as a young man. By then I had enough money to indulge my whims; I'd picked her up at an auction some years before, just after my divorce. Almost a derelict, I'd had Pete and his boys completely rebuild her.
I'd been out on the bike theoretically blowing the cobwebs out of my mind, after spending most of the night sat in front of the computer screen. I'd hoped the ride out might give me some time to think before I got down to work, yet again. Well, the ride would have blown the cobwebs away, if it weren't for the bloody skidlid law.
As I recall, I hadn't really been in the mood for writing anymore that morning, but I was running tight on the publishing date for my latest masterpiece, so I needed to push myself. To be honest I doubted spending the night forcing myself to write had done much good for my demeanour that day. And it could probably go some way to explaining some of the things I said and did.
"Was-up, Pete?" I asked him.
"Got this bird stuck-out on the London Road somewhere with a flat. I wondered ... well you see, Reg, Gary's out on a job that's going to take him bloody hours. I can't get out to the woman myself, the young lad's out with Gary and other fitter's skiving-off sick today, so I've not got anyone to watch the shop for me. Any chance you might nip out there and change her wheel for me? Otherwise she'll be waiting all bleedin' day!"
"I'm no fitter, Pete!" I replied. I wasn't really trying to talk my way out of the task. My cousin Pete was always doing me favours, so it was an unspoken rule that I'd help him out and he knew it. But experience had taught me not to show too much enthusiasm when it came to handing out such favours.
"Oh come on Reg, you can change a wheel on a Disco as a favour for your favourite cousin, can't you? Besides that, you never know, you might even get lucky!"
"Pete, I very much suspect that, if she were a tasty piece of stuff," I replied grinning at him, "That you'd be asking me to watch the shop and be on your way out there yourself!"
"Yeah well, I probably would, but her old man's a bit more than I could handle. And besides, Emma would have my guts. Yours too, if she thought you'd covered for me! But, what with you being single and all, you're not in the same boat are you? She is a fair looker mate and to be honest, I can't exactly see her husband calling you out."
"Look Pete, for your information, I don't go around chasing other people's wives. If they're separated or divorced, well then, maybe I figure they're up for grabs. Otherwise, I steer well clear of the married ones; I ain't no hypocrite, you know!"
"Yeah sorry, I forget about Geena sometimes. Anyway what about this woman's wheel?"
"Okay, what's her name and vehicle's registration number?"
"Good-on-ya, mate. Mrs Bonham-Smyth. I haven't got the vehicles registration number off-hand, but it's a blue Discovery. I doubt there's more than one Disco on the London Road with a flat tyre anyway."
"I assume she's got a jack and wheel brace." I asked.
"Yeah there's a jack in there, that I doubt has ever seen the light of day before, and there should be one of those extending wheel braces as well. Put that bugger in there myself, when I sold her old-man the motor."
I kicked Bonnie over to get the old girl started again, and she roared into life. "You owe me, you bugger." I shouted at Pete, as I circled the garage forecourt and took off towards the edge of town.
I'd been conned, yeah I know I had. But as I said, Pete and the boys at the garage had done me enough favours over the years. To be honest, had I just happened across the woman I would probably of stopped and offered my assistance anyway; unfortunately that was the kind of clown I was! I just preferred to give folks the impression that I was a bad-boy - it kind of helped to keep most people at arms length.
After cruising down the High Street - Bonnie's exhaust bumbling away loud enough to let the world know that I was passing - I headed out towards the bypass that would lead me down to the London Road. Winding the old girl-up, once I was out of the built up area, I enjoyed the exhilaration I always felt when riding her at speed.
About five miles along the London road I spotted the Disco pulled into a lay-by, it's off side front tyre totally flat. Swinging into the lay-by, I passed the Disco and slipped Bonnie on her prop stand in front of the car. Then walked back to the driver's door, unconsciously unzipping my leather jacket as I went. I almost flipped my helmet visor up as well, but for some inexplicable reason, I didn't.
"Mrs Bonham-Smyth, Pete Cornell from the garage sent me out to change your wheel for you." I said, inspecting the wheel, without really looking at the woman.
"Where's your breakdown lorry?" she demanded, through the half open window.
Actually I was damned sure that window was down further when I road past on the bike. By then it was more like three quarters closed. "So Mrs Bonham-Smyth, is nervous around bikers is she?" was the thought that crossed my mind. Yeah well, I did like to play the part of the ton up kid, even if I was pushing thirty-six.
All right thirty-seven, but who's counting, it was part of the camouflage really.
"No need for the tow truck lady, you've got everything I need in the back of your car. Besides it's out on another job at the moment and it could be well after lunch before it returns. Pete thought you'd been hanging around here long enough as it was, so he asked me to pop out and change your wheel for you." I replied.
I took a closer look at the woman through my visor and was surprised to find that her face appeared somewhat familiar to me. Something else that I noted, was that quite definitely very recently, she had been crying. It struck me that, if having to hang around and wait for her flat tyre to be changed upset her that much, she should learn how to change the bloody thing herself
A bit of a pity actually, her doing the old crying bit, that is. She was pretty attractive, except that her make-up was what can only be described as a disaster area. Not the way the elegantly dressed woman normally presented herself in public, I figured.
"Hand brake on?" I asked.
"Yes!" she replied curtly, turning to give me one of those looks. You know, like I'd just questioned her intelligence or something.
For some reason, I found it humorous that she couldn't see my face. And wondered whether that could be the reason for the expression of disdain that she had on her own face.
"Yep!" my mind said to me, "you definitely know that face from somewhere!" Then the old brain went into deep retrieval mode trying to place where I seen the woman before.
Retrieving the jack and wheel brace from the back of the car, I began to undo the spare wheel from its carrier on the rear door. As I did so, I caught sight of the woman in the rear view mirror. Yeah damn it, she was crying again; I could see her dabbing her eyes in the mirror.
Positioning the jack under the car, I raised it a little, until I was sure it was going to have the desired effect; then set about breaking the wheel nuts loose. I think I was on the last but one nut, when I suddenly realised why the woman had looked so familiar and that I could put a name to it that face. Mind you, I'd had to cast my memory back twenty-odd years and the name that I knew her by, wasn't Bonham-Smyth.
I'd remembered that there were a bunch of so called "it girls" that went to the same school as I. Most of them were real lookers who - I'd always thought - had a rather inflated opinion of them-selves. I figured I'd have some fun, whilst I changed her wheel.
"Right Anne, can you get out of the bloody car now, before I take it up on the jack please?" I shouted at the now closed window.
I heard the whine as the window slid down again and Anne's head appeared. "What did you say?"
"Would you get out of the vehicle whilst I jack it up, please? The ground here ain't too clever, and I don't want the jack slipping, if you move about at all."
"No, I heard you say that. What did you call me?" She demanded in a somewhat sharp tone of voice.
"Anne, Anne. What did you think I'd call you?" I replied.
.... There is more of this story ...