Charlie’s custom-built chopper vibrated underneath his numb butt. Denim stuck to his legs as they sweated beneath the black leather chaps wrapped around his jeans. Charlie paid no heed to the inconvenience. Here in the loneliness of the Mojave desert, he was king, a loner, happy to be free of society.
It’s not the Charlie disliked people, but he hated their foolishness during the work week. The weak minded office drones would come and beg for his help with their computers and databases. Charlie was just the technical janitor to the people whose IQs were easily thirty points below his own. Somehow, in the vast universe, a decision was made to put the foolish in charge, and that is what Charlie hated.
His only salvation was the weekend. How he loved to hop on his iron horse and ride away from the insanity. Like most desperate and depressed Californians, he would follow the line of RVs, boats, motorcycles, and cars east away from the cities. The mountains, deserts, and casinos a few hours away in Nevada were their drug. They offered a release from the group thinking sameness that permeated their work lives. All of the exiles were rebels that were merely stuck on a hamster wheel to survive.
Charlie never knew where he would end up. A GPS sat on the phone in his pocket, but he never used it until Sunday afternoon rolled around. Charlie’s black and chrome bike gleamed in the noonday sun as it moved into the sleepy desert town. He estimated no more than a dozen people were living there. A faded wooden building sat amid the tumbleweeds and dust. At least twenty Harley-Davidsons were parked around the structure. An old analog gas pump sat off to the side.
Charlie drove up and was glad to see the pumps were still functional. “Pay before you Pump” was scrawled in black marker across the glass over the counters. He got off his motorcycle and plopped his half helmet on his left mirror. Charlie strolled over to the old building. His sweat-soaked legs were stiff from his two hours in the saddle seat. His black t-shirt soaked up the sun’s heat. Sweat stains circled his t-shirt where shirt and body sweat met.
He walked inside and for a moment was night blinded by the darkness after being in the bright sunlight. Twenty Hell’s Angels and a few women all turned his direction. A gray-bearded man walked up towards Charlie. The man had to be at least six-feet tall and stood almost a half-foot taller than him. His height was exceeded only by his girth. The man was a structure of intimidating muscle and fat. He stopped a scant foot away from Charlie and stared down at him.
“What do you want?” asked the stranger.
“Just some gas.”
The man nodded and started towards the old lever-style register that sat behind the aged paneled counter. “Weekend warrior.” mumbled the biker.
“Excuse me?” asked Charlie.
The man rested his massive hairy arms on top of the register. “You’re a weekend warrior, a wannabe. You dress up like a Steve McQueen movie and think you’re some kind of rebel. You’re a wuss. ”
Charlie began to bristle up inside. Who was this guy to judge him? He put up with enough of that in the office. “You don’t even know me.”
The large stranger laughed, and the rest of the bikers behind Charlie did the same. “You’re just some office drone with money who hates his life, and so you come out here trying to escape, but you don’t want to escape. You need your money and luxuries. So, you play dress-up on your motorcycle to feel like you might be a man.”
Charlie could feel the anger inside him rising. He wasn’t going to be bullied by some fat biker. The desert was open and free and his sanctuary. Nobody was going to take that away from him. “You know nothing about me. Why don’t you just take my money and turn on the pump.”
Charlie heard the sound of scraping chairs and boots hitting the wooden beer-soaked floor behind him. Fear replaced anger and shot down through his spine.
“Why don’t we step outside.”
“I don’t want any trouble, I just want some gas, and I’ll be out of here.”
The large man smiled, and Charlie felt somebody grab his shoulder from behind. His body was shoved hard against the front door. Somebody opened it, and he succumbed to another push. Charlie took two steps trying to keep up with his momentum, but tripped on the third and landed face first in the dust. Steel toed boots began to assault his ribs and legs. Dust stirred all around him and filled his nostrils and mouth.
“Stop!” yelled the familiar voice of the stranger.
The constant barrage of pain suddenly ceased.
“Nice bike,” said Charlie’s adversary.
Through watery eyes Charlie watched the large man walk over to his motorcycle. The man opened the gas cap to check the fuel level and put the lid back on. He turned to the other bikers, “Let’s ride.”
Without a word, the entire group walked over to their bikes. The ground seemed to rumble under the sound of the Harley-Davidsons. Dust once again filled Charlie’s world, and he instinctively twitched and curled to avoid being hit by the passing bikes. As the dust settled, he saw his adversary riding at the front of the pack on his chopper.
Charlie stood up slowly. Pain filled each movement, and he wandered back into the building. Charlie sat down in a creaky chair and reached for his cell phone. He pulled it out of his front pocket to find the front shattered by a lucky boot kick. The sound of shoes walking on the wood startled Charlie, and he looked over towards the bar.
“I’m Frank, the owner. You must have had a nice bike.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You’re still breathing. Feel free to use the phone by the register to get yourself a ride to wherever you came from.”
Charlie sighed and thought to himself; I wish I didn’t have to call Jason. He’s going to tell the whole office about this. I’ll never hear the end of it.