American Motorcycle Sound Effects
I saw Mel at the gas station on one of those summer days that was hot as fucking shit. I was driving the work truck, pulling the enclosed trailer full of mowers, trimmers and whackers. I veered into the parking lot, circling around like a great-white because the sonofabitch was basically a semi. A flock of bikers rumbled in when I was filling the tank. Husky, leather-wearing dudes with pensions, that probably gave to charities and would beat you up if you were having a hard time in public. They were going to take up everything, the bikers, that’s what they do, in bars, 4-way stops, whatever. I still needed to get my road beer. I was working more hours because I’d recently dropped out of community college and then I got kicked out my girlfriend’s apartment because she still went to college and it was a really big deal that I wasn’t going anymore.
I walked in, dodged the bikers who were grabbing bags of chips and talking about how great it was to be riding a motorcycle. I made my way to the back and snatched my blue 25-ouncer.
“Hey Devin,” I heard someone say behind me. I turned around to see Mel, his hand out, awaiting a shake. Jesus Christ. I hadn’t seen him since high school. He had an impressively low center of gravity and couldn’t talk right. We’d had a lot of classes together.
“Shit, Mel, tha fuck you been up to, man?” We shook hands.
“Nothing much, bro. Just livin the American Dream.”
“I can see that,” I said. He was wearing an American-flag do-rag, wraparound Oakley’s, blue jeans with cowboy boots and a leather vest with a bald eagle embodied across the back, no shirt underneath, just the vest, unzipped, his shiny belt buckle showing under his belly button.
“How you been?” he said.
“I’m doing, dude. Working landscaping, living at those apartments out near the corn elevators.”
“Wow,” he said nodding and gave me an awkward pat on the chest, “Good for you, you’re really doing it.”
“Yeah… well, thanks. I try.”
Then he just stood there not saying anything. The other bikers were leaving. Mel hadn’t changed.
I had to be on the wrestling team in high school because my mom was dating the wrestling coach at the time. Mel wrestled because he wanted to and he was actually good. We wrestled the 152 weight class together, it was stacked. We had a wrestle-off twice per week, once over who was going to start in the meet and again for who got to wear the new singlet, he usually won both and I never heard the end of it. I banged Mel’s sister though. I remember this one time he was going up against the captain of the rich-kid Catholic school. He was tall and lean and toned. He had a smirk on his butt-chin face with his teammates on the bench snickering at Mel. We’d already lost by points as a team so it didn’t matter what Mel did. But we already knew what Mel was going to do. He was going to try really, really hard and lose and likely puke afterword. Mel pinned the guy in the first round, slammed him with a head & arm that the douchebag didn’t see coming. Mel did it like it was nothing. He didn’t celebrate or anything, he just walked off, shook the disbelieving guys hand and made his way back to the bench. We all went crazy, you wouldn’t have known we lost, you wouldn’t have known they won.
“I think your buddies are leaving,” I said pointing at the last of the bikers strutting out the door.
“Huh?” He turned and looked back at them and didn’t budge.
“Man,” he shook his head in disbelief, with that goofy smile spreading across his face, “aren’t those Harleys something?”
“Never rode one, what’s it like?”
“Well, you know what they say about Harleys.” He shifted and slid his hands into his pockets, giving me a wink.
“I guess, I mean, no, I don’t.”
He ripped his hands out of his pockets and held them up to make-believe handle bars. “BBBRAAAAAAPPPP!!!” he screamed as he revved an imaginary throttle, his face red and spit flying. “BRAAA! BRA! BRAAAAPPP!” I lurched back. What I realized then was that Mel was more like Mel now than when he was in high school. He laughed really loud like he had just uttered the world’s greatest one-liner.
The cashier lady looked back at us and shook her head in a way that said she was confused and disappointed. I tried to look at her in a way that said it wasn’t my fault.
“That’s really cool, Mel.”
He opened the suctioned glass door and grabbed an orange pop, “it really fucking is, Devin.”
We got in line and bought our stuff while doing more small talk. I asked about his sister, he said she was in Washington saving the whales. I didn’t ask if it was D.C. or State because he said it like he didn’t know the difference. We walked outside in time to see the last of the bikers riding away.
“Well Dev, it was good seeing you,” he said, extending his hand.
“Yeah, Mel, you too.” We shook and parted ways. I got in the work truck. I saw Mel get into a rusted out Buick on the other side of the parking lot, the car’s serpentine belt shrieking as it turned over to start. He drove off in the same direction as the bikers, his broken exhaust spewing a loud winding noise. I lit a cigarette and cracked open my beer in the brown paper bag. I couldn’t believe he was doing that.
Jon Berger lives in Saginaw, Michigan. He has work recently published by Five 2 One Magazine.
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