10:23:13 The Biker Angel

I suppose we all have stereotypes of bikers, you know those who seem to have nothing better to do than blast about on Harley choppers looking for a bar and a good excuse for some fight.

Over the years, I've tended to overlook such stereotypes. As one who's ridden motorcycles--Japanese--for possibly 100,000 miles, I can see a biker's looks has advantages: No motorist ever hit one on his hawg and said, "I didn't see him." Moreover, the biker, his spirit of self-reliance, seems uncommonly able to get going again after a breakdown on the road.


Several years ago, I had occasion to know this firsthand. I was driving an aging BMW 1600 up I-5, Seattle-bound, when copious smoke came out of the engine compartment. Engine on fire? I didn't know! Exited the nearest off-ramp and under the hood, I saw the problem: a leak off the oil pressure sensor. The oil was dropping on a hot exhaust manifold. Instant smoke and a lot of it.

My initial idea was to screw in the oil sensor tighter. The problem was I didn't have any tools.

I went to a nearby gas station, explained my problem and asked if they had a mechanic. They said the mechanic didn't work weekends, plus they didn't loan tools. They suggested I try someone else. As across the road, where I heard pretty much the same story, but that service station attendant added I couldn't park on their property, not if I'd be looking under the hood of my ailing car.

As you might guess, a tough spot. Halfway between Portland and Seattle in a two gas-station town and little else.

I commenced to circuit the town, a few minutes of driving at best, hoping against hope for a hardware store.

Then, of all things, I saw a hole-in-the-wall where they seemed to do nothing but repair Harleys. I went up to the owner and asked if I could borrow a tool, a wrench to tighten my oil sensor. (My Beemer fumed in the background.)

No doubt he'd seen it before. He brought out a crescent wrench and said, What you really need is piece of wood. Jam a stick in the hole.

What? Won't it catch fire?

Nope, doesn't get hot enough.

But I'm going to Seattle.

It'll be okay.

(As if I had any choice but to believe him.).

So I took out the oil sensor, left it dangling from its wire. Found a stick I whittled to fit in the gaping oil hole. Got it in tight and was on my way again.

If I ever harbored ill-will toward bikers, I had none after this experience.

Put it this way, you, too, could be stuck in some no-name town with a reluctant car. Your new friend might be the next biker you see..

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.

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