I need a Harley-Davidson 2000 FXST Softail Standard.
I need you to hurry. The Manufacturer's Suggested
Retail Price is $12,355 not counting freight charges
which run maybe $200, and of course tax and license
and other miscellaneous costs. If I moved to Los
Angeles, the price would increase $290 for California
Emissions. There aren't enough vehicles in West Texas
to warrant special concerns about polluting the air.
We've got more dust whirling than exhaust fumes.
Let's say $12,500 and change.
Looking out from my third-floor office window, I can
see a long way north and west past the I-20 loop
where last year a car fell off the overpass onto
another car crossing under and crushed most of a
family. Every day at noon I jog on that
farm-to-market road. If I kept going, I would end up
at Anson and Lubbock and Amarillo, then, who knows,
maybe Colorado, maybe California. Every day I have to
pass the plastic flowers, the weathered teddy bear
wired to the rail where the two cars met.
I would purchase the Harley Softail Standard myself,
but I don't have $12,500. The year 2000 model is
offered in Vivid Black, Sinister Blue Pearl, and
Luxury Rich Red Pearl. I prefer black, simple and
formal as an evening wedding or a funeralthe
Alpha and Omega color. The chrome sets it off, laced
wheel spokes intertwining like a cat's cradle net of
string stretched across the gulf between a child's
open palms and fingers.
Everything gleams: the forks, the headlight, the
breather cover, the pedals, the Twin Cam 88 balanced
engine, growling, throbbing as if all the hearts of
the good Dead were beating in sync, lifting the rider
above dark streets, disembodied, one with the machine
trailing a blood-deep laugh in its wakea
comfort to sleeping children, the voice of
retribution to Evil skulking in alleys, stoned on the
Forgive me. I sometimes get a little carried away,
and I haven't even mentioned the long, clean lines of
the dual pipes flowing down the side like parallel
paths to the celestial city, like fighter planes in
formation, like the double-bladed sword of the angel
Gabriel. I may have gone too far.
The Harley Night Train is indelibly black, the
Springer beautiful and ostentatious, the Low Rider a
song remembered and hummed in the daytime, the Fat
Boy a screaming charge of Marines, the Heritage
Classic a parade of decorated heroes welcomed home.
They each cost more than I would ask of you. The
simple, single-minded Standard will do for me.
It's true I recently turned fifty, true my father
never permitted me to have a motorcycle or even the
Cushman Eagle I fantasized in church every Sunday of
junior high, staring at Lindy Henderson's
honey-blonde hair draped over the back of the pew
within touching distance. I rescued her every Sunday
from fates worse than death. She was always grateful.
She would climb up behind me, lock her arms around my
waist. We roared off into a Technicolor sunset.
Yes, my knees are going, and I can't see fine print
without my bifocals. Soon I won't be able to wear
leather; soon I'll be unsteady in boots. I haven't
had to fight in years. I may be starting to lose my
edge. Hurry. People are dying.
Right now, a man too drunk to clearly recall who is
to blame for his ills, is standing before a rent
house where a coed lives alone. Tomorrow we'll read
how her phone service had been mistakenly terminated.
A college sophomore is pulling over on the interstate
to change a flat less than a bumper's length from
chartered busses, eighteen wheelers. A high school
boy is placing his father's pistol in the front
passenger's seat and driving to school as if it's
just another day of tenses, chemical reactions,
probabilities. A down-sized engineer is poised on the
roof of his last project. A convenience store clerk
waves at the man banging outside on the glass door:
"Sorry, I'm closing up." A baby won't stop
About the time I learned to ride my Schwinn, I prayed
each night before I lay me down to sleep. Every
Saturday I listened to the Shadow on the Philco radio
in our living room. The mysterious crime fighter
always appeared just in time, his reverberating laugh
striking fear in the heart of Evil. Sometimes prayer
seems all we've got. A friend is shrinking before my
eyes. When I ask how he's doing, he looks away and
says, "Fine." Another friend is afraid of
the sun. Another, lost without her child.
My wife's fatherthe composer of choral anthems,
is buried inside his body. The name of the angel he
wrestles in the desert is Parkinson. Unlike the
Biblical Jacob, my father-in-law cannot pin his
angel. He cannot lift his arm for the downbeat, the
flourish at the end. Last week when my wife visited
her father in the nursing home, she placed her ear
close to his mouth to receive his whispered blessing:
"Get out of here while you can."
May, 1967, I was cruising at ninety across the
midnight desert this side of Yuma. A Del Rio radio
evangelist told me to place one hand on the
dashboard, believe and be healed. What did I need of
healing? I was twenty-one in a fast, black car aimed
toward L.A., Malibu, North Hollywood. I was a summer
away from the assassinations of Reverend Martin
Luther King and Robert Kennedy, from the Tet
Offensive and Khe Sanh, from the Chicago Democratic
National Convention, my senior year at a university
that assured me all was right with the world if my
button-down-Oxford-cloth shirt matched my navy slacks
and Wejun loafers, if my hair was short, if I joined
R.O.T.C., the Peace Corps, accepted the call to a
I've been reading a book by a rabbi who believes God
answers prayer when we help others who can't help
themselves. I'm willing to risk his being right. I'm
practicing my laugh. You know what I need from you.
Hurry! There's a long waiting list.