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Flying Angels

by K. S. Riggin

You’ve seen us on your Interstates. You’ve probably looked us over and judged us harshly — or else envied us. There’s no middle ground between the two viewpoints. We see your thoughts in frowns or smiles as we pass you, or in the middle finger or the thumbs-up sign you gesture.

No matter. We’re the Flying Angels, and on our bikes we are the gods of the road. We dart in between the business suits, the housewives with cars filled with kids, the students with their ears tied to cells. We’re free, and the road stretches into a distance called adventure. It calls us to journey into forever.

Sean and I, we ride tandem, me in the back. Our black leather presses close, my arms embrace his waist, and my lips whisper secrets into his ear. There’s music in the wind and in the song our bike sings. We listen to its words. It vibrates through our bodies and into our souls.

Sean’s lips play the same kind of music as the hog, but his body plays it in the night; Sean is hotter and sweeter than his hog, but I don’t want to talk about that. I want to tell you about Silver Creek Road...

Our band had grown to fifteen hogs — around twenty-five Angels, give or take a couple of female neophytes who probably won’t make it to their initiation. Angels aren’t easy men to pair with. They demand you take a back seat. Some women won’t do that. Of course, a couple of women do ride solo for that reason, but they’re raspier than sandpaper and mainly keep separate, at least from me.

I remember how that day the sun had streaked the sky to colors. It was hard to keep eyes on the road when sky paint was smearing layers of thick strawberry jam across the soft blue of the horizon. Sean doesn’t see things the way I do, so I was whispering the colors into his brain, blending them with the hum of the hog’s engine. Sean liked me to talk poet talk. He threw a kiss into the wind. My face didn’t feel it, but my heart did.

Because of the sky, I only half-noticed that Sean had followed the others off the Interstate. We were headed down country roads then. Pepper trees flashed by. I breathed in the smell and smiled. “Where’re we going?” I asked.

Sean grinned. I could hear it in his words as he answered me. “Should have been at the meeting last night.” He teased because I’d ditched it. I squeezed his middle and felt his chuckle.

I shifted slightly. My rump was going to sleep. It didn’t matter, really, if Sean told me our destination. When you’re on the road with the Flying Angels, destination is a dart on the map. Sean pulled over just in front of a large bridge. He dismounted, and I swung my leg over the seat. As I was limbering up, stretching legs and arms, Sean stopped me with a hand on my wrist.

“Jackie, we’re doing an initiation. I want you to stay here, understand?”

I started to argue, and Sean raised his index finger. It was his warning. Cross him and there would be dire consequences. Once I’d done so, and he’d left me in a gas station. Watching your whole band rev up and ride away gives you an awful feeling.

A couple of the solos had offered me a ride with them, but to hop onto another’s hog was a permanent move. I’d sat down and waited, wondering if Sean would ever come back. After an hour of tears and doubt, he finally returned for me. I wouldn’t ever buck Sean again, not unless I was ready to call it quits. At his warning, I nodded my head.

“It’s better this way, Jackie. You know how it went last time.”

Last time the group had initiated a new guy, they’d blindfolded him and made him walk a stretch of the train tracks. When I’d heard the train whistle, I’d gone hysterical.

I nodded again. My eyes were filling with tears, for no reason, except Sean’s softening in explaining. He kissed me briefly and walked off. Sitting down on a fallen tree, I watched as Sean went to join the others, I enjoyed the fine line of his back and the lithe rhythm of his stride. Smiling, I decided that Sean had a body built for a woman’s eyes.

As I waited, sitting beneath the pepper trees in the autumn sunshine, I at first scratched lazy patterns in the dirt with a tree branch. Then, bored with that, I lay on the grass and looked up at the sky, imagining cloud pictures.

“Jackie, come on,” Sean yelled as he came running out from behind a tree. I bolted up and stared. Sean never yelled, but I didn’t question. He was revving up the hog when I jumped on. Before I’d latched onto his waist, we were heading back the way we’d come.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, but Sean wasn’t talking. I shut my mouth and leaned forward into his jacket.

Outside of Bakersfield, Sean stopped for gas. I went into the ladies’ room and rushed out, fearing he might leave me, but he was waiting.

We stopped at a run-down motel. Sean brought the bike in, something he’d never done before. He caught my eyes watching him and brushed his hair back with his hand. His hand just clung there, as if he’d forgotten it wasn’t part of his head. I went to him and buried my face in Sean’s chest. In a moment his arms were around me and his mouth was searching. I knew it would be OK then.

The next day, Sean broke down. It was then I heard what had happened. Walking the bridge frets shouldn’t have ended in Corky’s death, but it did. Sean saw him fall, saw the way his head hit and split open. Sean saw...

Corky will never be a Flying Angel now — or perhaps he will somewhere up above — but he won’t be riding a hog with us. I close my eyes and try to remember him. Sandy hair, nice grin, hands that seemed long and angular. We hardly spoke. He seemed shy, at least with me. Sean once mentioned that he had a good sense of humor and liked to joke. Sean doesn’t mention him now.

Sean says the Flying Angels will have to go solo for a bit. The law doesn’t accept initiations gone wrong. Sean says we’ve got enough money to coast for a while. I know when it’s gone, we’ll stop and get a job like other people — for a while.

But then we’ll get back to being Flying Angels, and we’ll dart between the cars, riding the roads of freedom. I guess for now, Sean and I will find our own adventures without those nightly meetings. I never thought they mattered anyway. Destinations are all the same for us gods of the road.

Copyright © 2010 by K. S. Riggin

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