The Walking Wounded - Cover

The Walking Wounded

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 11

The following Sunday was Christmas, and Kevin's turn to buy again. It was the third week of meeting after church, and already it felt like a tradition more ancient than the Tower of London – and though she wasn't sure that Kevin even knew it existed, Karin was aware that the Tower dated back to 1066. Already their after-church meetings had taken on such an importance that though the regular service had given way to a Christmas program, they thought more of their impending discussion than of what they'd just seen and heard in the auditorium.

It was a nice day – very warm for December, so warm that Kevin was again in just his vest over a black Harley t-shirt. No doubt there was a white Christmas somewhere, but not in Albuquerque. And as they walked together out the front door of the church building, he got a mischievous look on his face, one that showed through the beard.

"Got a thought for ya, Kar. What do ya say we go on the Hog?"

"On your motorcycle?"


"I've never been on a motorcycle in my life!"

He laughed, and as always people turned to look. Karin got the impression that laughing was a fairly new thing for Kevin – at least, laughing with any frequency was. "There was a time I hadn't ever been on a motorcycle neither, but here I am – Mr. Big Bad Biker."

"But Kevin, you were in your teens. I'm 33 years old!"

"See, you're young. You can learn." He leaned close, lowering his voice. "And besides, you'll enjoy it. Figure it's your Christmas present."

She looked into his eyes, and suddenly gave a mental shrug – it was, actually more like the gesture of throwing things up in the air and not caring where they land. "All right, big boy, I'll ride on your Hog. But," she said, shaking a finger in his face, "you had better drive carefully, or I'll pull all your hair out by the roots!"

"I ain't had short hair since I was 10 or something. I'll be good." And his voice lowered again, and was sober. "Karin, I'll always be careful with you." And on his tanned face came something Karin had never seen, and could hardly credit – above his beard, Kevin Farley was blushing.

He showed her where to sit, and how to keep her legs off the exhaust pipes. "Just hold onto my waist. If you want you can lean up against my back. As long as you move with me, you'll be fine. Just don't go leanin' the opposite way from what I do, or you could wreck us. It might not feel like it, but the bike wants to stay up when it's rollin'."

She'd heard the pounding power of the Harley's engine before, but never this close. Sitting almost above the motor, she felt the rumbling not just in her ears, but through her bones and into her gut. It was something new, something ... special. I can understand why he loves the bike so much, she thought. It's almost like a living thing. She got the odd impression, which she knew had to be pure illusion, that the bike was trying to communicate with her, not so much with the sound of the exhaust, but directly through her body.

She'd never before appreciated the fact that Kevin didn't race around town. Motorcycles sound fast, even when they're standing still, and she'd allowed that to color her perceptions. Looking over Kevin's shoulder she saw that he never got over the speed limit, and often was five or 10 miles below the limit. His hands were level with his eyes as he gripped the handlebars, almost looking like a chimp hanging from a branch – or a mountain gorilla, for he was far too big to be a chimpanzee. Watching the front wheel way out in front was a new experience for her. She did hug his waist, and lean against his back, and found that not only did it make it easier to conform to him as he guided the bike around corners, but it cut the wind a lot too. This guy is huge. I'd hate to have to buy clothes for him.

He drove down Juan Tabo to Central, and turned left there, staying in the left hand lane. Just before the first light he turned into a Blake's Lotaburger, on the corner where Burma met Central. She recognized the area from driving through it occasionally to visit her parents, but she'd never stopped anywhere along that stretch of road. Kevin pulled into the western side of the lot, picking a slot where there was plenty of room. Karin had noticed that while the bike looked – boss, she remembered was his word – it just didn't turn very tightly.

Kevin turned off the engine, and Karin climbed off the saddle while he put down the kickstand. She raked her fingers through her hair, glad that she hadn't curled it this time. Even huddled behind Kevin's broad back, she'd gotten a real windblown effect. She put her hair back into a semblance of order, looking around the neighborhood and noticing the 7-11 across Central, and the Conoco station across Western Skies ... though on this side of Central the cross street was, as she'd already noticed, Burma. Still looking around, she saw a sign in the window of the Blake's notifying the public of greatly curtailed Christmas hours.

"That was something else!" she said as he got off the bike.

"I knew you'd like it. Not everybody does, o' course, but I thought you would."

"I would never have believed it. I never was very good at riding a bicycle, and I thought this would be the same way."

"Was you always tall and big?" he asked.

"You mean 'were you, ' Kev. But yes, I was born big and I've stayed big."

"Okay, 'were you, ' I got it. I hope." He smiled. "I bet your size is why you weren't good at bikes. Prob'ly your parents bought your bike for your age, and it wasn't big enough for you. An' probably you was... were ... gawky until you got to be a woman. I bet you were skinnier when you were younger."

"I never was skinny, but it's true that I've gained some weight since I left adolescence. As for the size of the bicycles, maybe so, I don't know. I just know I wasn't good at it."

"Maybe I'll teach you how to drive the Hog. This baby's more your size." And he affectionately patted the leather of the seat. Then he waved at the clean whiteness of the Blake's building. "I found this place on one o' my runs around town. Turns out they're all over Albuquerque, but this is the first one I saw. Food's pretty good."

"I know – Blake's is a New Mexico institution. I've been eating at Blake's since I was a girl."

He looked at her – not down at her, not today, for her heels brought her almost even with his height. "Girlie, you sure do know how to spoil a surprise. But since I'm buyin', we're eatin' here, surprise or not."

"Okay, Kev, whatever you say. I guess I deserve that 'girlie, ' after what I called you earlier."

"Hey, I kind o' liked that. I'm more used to people callin' me a such-an'-suchin' so-an'-so."

Karin laughed at his way of indicating foul language without actually using it. "It sounds like you've had better control of your vocabulary the past couple of times we've met," she said as they began walking toward the door. "You're not stumbling over the words as you had been."

"That comes an' goes – it has ever since I ... what do you call it, got saved? Every time it comes it's weaker, and it seems to stay gone longer every time too."

"When God saves people, sometimes He takes things from them that minute and forever. And sometimes He leaves His children to wrestle with their temptations. I don't know why, not exactly, anyway. But it sounds like that's what's happened in your life." She paused while he held the door for her. "Thank you, Kevin! I don't know where you've been picking up manners, but I think you're doing very well. But as I was saying, I think that God took some things from you at the moment of your conversion, and others He's allowing you to struggle with."

"I'd rather He took 'em all away," he growled. "I got enough troubles bein' a Christian without havin' to fight all that too."

They were standing back from the counter while they talked, so that other people could step up and order. "Kevin," she said, "being a Christian is fighting all that. The Bible tells us that the Christian life is a war, and we're soldiers in it. We don't fight with guns and tanks, and our enemies aren't other guns and tanks. Our fight is against spiritual enemies – and part of that fight is dealing with temptation."

He grunted. "Maybe I oughta complain to God 'bout that." Then he grinned. "Not that it'll do me much good, will it?"

She restrained an impulse to thump him in the chest with the back of her hand. She wasn't sure how he would take that kind of playfulness. She'd been a bit forward and it had gone well, but she was wary of becoming too physically frisky with him – with any man, for that matter. She simply said, "No, Kevin, it wouldn't do a bit of good at all."

After they'd ordered, and gotten their food, and sat down at a table by a window which looked out on Central Avenue, Kevin said, "You know, Kar, I been readin' in the Bible, usin' that list you give – gave – me, an' I've come onto something that's got me puzzled."

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