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Sunday Edition


The Family Code

By Bandit with images by Wayfarer

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Gabriel rode hard, fought hard and searched his soul year after year after he found himself in the Chopper homeland of Sturgis, South Dakota. He ultimately discovered a spot of land in Boulder Canyon, containing a modest cabin and a heated shop space to die for, but a double shot of Jack on the rocks at the Oasis lounge in downtown became his solace from his haunting blues.

He leaned on the bar, all 6’3” and 220 pounds with a massive full head of hair and a full beard. Whispering to the bartender, a worn out blonde who got dumped during the rally five years ago, he yearned for female companionship. He drank almost every evening and watched the holidays roll into town.

Gabriel recently started smoking cigars. He ate steak tips and French fries from the Loud American club down the empty street. Something clawed at him like a bad dream, a scolding mother or the fight, when he nearly killed a man in a blind rage. He felt like a soldier missing an arm.

“What’s eating at you,” Shirley said and knew when to pour him another drink.

“I don’t know,” Gabriel said. “I can’t figure it out.”

“Was it a girl?” Shirley muttered making change. “It usually is.”

“There’s been a few,” Gabriel said and took a swig of the Jack before the ice fully melted. “There was one.” His voice drifted off.

“What happened?” Shirley wasn’t half-bad looking as she shifted her large boobs under her taught bra straps and her succulent cleavage jiggled, but Gabriel wasn’t having any of this local broad. His soul searched but he didn’t understand the rule.

“She was the best,” Gabriel stumbled as if he tripped over a bottle of whiskey. “I couldn’t settle down, I had to ride.”

“Where?” Shirley asked but wasn’t waiting for an answer. A young cowboy pushed in the front door and made for the bar with a bag of sliced sausages churned with spices and peppers from a recently cleaned deer.

Gabriel looked at the Christmas lights flickering through the half empty tumbler of Jack Daniels. He looked up as Shirley’s mini-skirt bouncing down the rubber pads that insulated the concrete deck from her synthetic work flats. She still looked cute and her butt bubbled to the rhythm of the country song drifting from the flashy jute box, “Just give me a girl…” the singer said over and over.

Gabriel gathered up his gear and stepped out of the swinging doors into the Sturgis night. He looked up and down the empty fall street and made his way to the only friend he had, his rusting Softail with upsweeps and high-bars. Christmas cheer began to lighten the street with glistening ornaments and shimmering garlands.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, the weather was still dry and reached 60 degrees during the day. He wasn’t taking care of personal business and his bike looked grubby and grimy.

He worked in gold mine above Lead, and his pad was 3/4s the way up Boulder Canyon, but still held a Sturgis address. He turned off off Eddy Lane near where the famous photographer lived, Buck Lovell, before he took his life in Deadwood.

His home was a biker’s nirvana, warm, on a couple of acres in the Jack Pine strewn forest with a view of the rolling Black Hills around it. His shop, although beautifully insulated and drywalled with windows to the forest was unkept, held just a few active tools and an FXR manual. He also had a J&P catalog and a small work bench with one vice, still not bolted down. All his remaining tools and equipment were sequestered in crates and boxes. The unused shop was a biker’s dream, but no projects promised action on lifts even after three years.

The bastards turned off daylight savings time and darkness swept the canyon way too early. He crawled into bed with his socks on and fell asleep thinking about his conversation with Shirley and the girl who got away. She wasn’t the hottest broad on the block, but she worked with him, supported him and stood by him.

His depressed pattern started again the next morning when he awoke, made strong coffee and stumbled into the shower. He wound his way up to Lead where he operated an excavator linked to a massive drill bit and dug from 8 to 5, with an hour for lunch and usually an El Pollo burrito and a Coke. He checked out the cute Hispanic girl behind the counter with long flowing hair and dark mascara made up eyes. She wore a tight skirt cupping the ass he would like to grasp with his dirty hands.

She winked at him and he pulled on his long full beard and wondered what she saw in his dusty overalls and flannels. He piled rock until the angle of repose took over and started another pile. An engineer guided his mindless operation as he grabbed a rubber grip coated lever and started to drill another hole. Vibration and noise surrounded him.

At 5:00 he made his way to his Harley and started to think about the snowfall coming. He would need another way to get to work. By 5:30 he was slouched over the Oasis bar on his favorite rickety stool. Shirley rushed to his spot on the horseshoe bar.

“The usual?” She asked. Her smile bright and glistening. Her fingernails adorned with a copper metalflake coating glistened and sparkled as Christmas lights came to life. The soft rouge on her cheeks would warm any new customer.

“Yep,” Gabriel said. “Jack on the rocks.” As she walked away her mini-skirt revealed freshly shaved legs. The enhanced softness, the curves of her calves and the alluring motion of her thighs made him want to break his rule.

She returned with his tumbler briming; the amber shared only with the correct number of ice cubes. He took a sip and immediately felt pain relief.

“How are you feeling today?” Shirley asked concerned.

“It just doesn’t go away,” Gabriel said and lit a cigar, the brown tint pushing into his mustache.

“It will,” Shirley muttered and dashed off to another customer. She really wasn’t interested. She’d heard it all before.

Downtown Sturgis felt the Holiday spirit with the Harley-Davidson block fully adorned with crimson and sparkling white decorations. Gabriel wasn’t feeling it, when in walked a semi-tall broad wearing a business suit.

Gabriel’s compressed-leather upholstered barstool positioned him, so he could see the entrance on main and the entrance to the side street, Harley Avenue.

He faced the side street but couldn’t mistake the woman in the warm red overcoat with a mink collar. Her high-lighted brunette locks bounced perfectly on her shoulders. She immediately opened her coat to reveal soft white cleavage framed with a matching set of pearls perfectly enhanced with her dainty pearl and diamond earrings.

Like a Ferrari rolling into a biker bar parking lot, she appeared like a bastion of wealth and sex from her high-heals, the amber stockings, her perfectly contoured body, the brass buttons glimmering against her vest and the satin white unbuttoned blouse.

She threw open the overcoat and removed her cashmere scarf. Her brown eyes scanned the bar and suddenly contacted Gabriel. In the flash of a camera, he sat up straight, pulled at his dusty beard and yanked his long thick hair into a pony tail and tied it off.

With each carefully placed female step, his muscles twitched, the dust disappeared from his work boots and his buckle shinned for the first time in months. She moved around him and looked at the leather pad on the adjacent wooden barstool.

“May I?” She asked her voice as soft as an Al Green song.

“Of course,” he stammered.

Gabriel stood briskly and helped her remove her overcoat. He hung it on a brass hook on the massive wooden pole at the corner of the bar.

She smiled and moved over the barstool as if it was her golden thrown, her face as warm as a glowing candle. Thin and angular, shapely with her torso enhanced with magic boobs she sat.

Shirley approached glistening. Even she blushed slightly as she asked. “What can I get you?”

“Make it an old fashion,” she said and turned to Gabriel as if they were old friends. She smiled and said, “Can I get you anything?”

That’s when it happened. He looked into her soft brown eyes as she slipped a delicate hand over his thigh. Her eyebrows, perfectly tattooed, eyelashes enhanced, lips Botox augmented, luring, sparkling red lipstick aligned with those lips didn’t mean a fucking thing. She had her hand on his thigh.

Gabriel tingled everywhere. His heart pounded and he began to melt. He managed to sputter. “What’s your name?”

“Bethany,” she said, took a sip of her drink and licked her luscious lips. Then in walked two big road workers wearing their flourscent vests splattered with asphalt tar. They joked and hollered to Shirley for beers. The taller one turned toward the bar and froze.

Bethany’s sleek palm left Gabriel’s thigh abruptly. She stood, took a deep slug of her Old fashion and snatched her overcoat off the hook.

The big man sneered at her but didn’t say a word. Suddenly, Bethany foamed at the mouth in a psychotic rage and smeared her lipstick with the back of her hand. Gabriel stood, not knowing what to do or whom to do it to, but he suddenly understood the transformation he encountered and the thin veil of her allure.

Bethany stormed out the door. “Motherfucker,” was all she said and disappeared. The big man sat at the left corner and took a swallow of his beer and sighed. “She nearly destroyed my business and my family. I’m Fred,” he said and reached out for a friendly shake.

His partner rolled his eyes. “He’s right, she’s trouble.”

“She’s the hottest thing I ever had in bed, but then I knew my family came first,” Fred said and rubbed the stubble on his chin. “In fact, I need to finish this beer and head home. You’re lucky I came in.”

“Thanks, I think,” Gabriel said and took a slug of his glass of Jack.

“Do you have a family?” Fred asked. “My kids are more important than any roll in the hay.”

“No,” Gabriel said. “Well, I did have a supportive old lady who had two sons, but I didn’t stay.”

“Have you ever reached out?” Fred asked. “We all make mistakes.”

“I should have,” Gabriel said. “It’s been a while.”

“It’s never too late,” Fred said. “All the make-up and cologne in the world can’t hold a candle to the kids. We miss that too often. It’s all a rouse and cover-up for what lies beneath the big boobs and died hair.”

Fred and his partner finished their beers and hit the road home. Shirley returned to Gabriel. “Ready for another?”

“Not tonight,” Gabriel said reaching for his keys. “He was right. I need to make a call.”

Before he reached his bike the phone rang in Montana. “Hello,” Laurie said her voice as soft as floating clouds in the afternoon.

“Baby, it’s Gabriel,” He said. “I hope like hell you’re okay?”

There was a long hesitation and Gabriel weighed his options.

“I made the worst mistake of my life, leaving you and your sons,” Gabriel stammered.

If Gabriel could see her soft face, he would have seen the big tear form and roll down her soft cheek.

“Could we, would we have a shot again,” Gabriel stumbled.

“Who’s that on the phone,” a rough voice jarred the mood.

“Please,” was the only word she said and the line went dead.

For the first time in years, Gabriel stood upright straight and narrow. He looked at the dark sky, but the brilliant flickering stars reached out to him for action. He refueled at the edge of town and rode to his house like his pants were on fire.

He showered and suited up for a long ride from Sturgis to Billings, Montana. He’d find her. He hit the road out of Boulder Canyon and down the winding 85 to interstate 90 heading due West into Wyoming and Gillett his first gas stop. His FXR felt like a happy horse bolting somewhere meaningful. The mag wheels and tires warmed the cold pavement at 80 mph for the 347 mile run. He gassed up, but the low temps jarred his bones.

The truck stop had little to offer except Christmas decorations and Santa shit. He bought a red and white felt outfit, stuffed it with newspapers and hit the road.

He rode hard for another 100 or so miles through Buffalo and into Sheridan, where he stopped for gas, rags and polish. He paused for 20 and detailed his motorcycle for the first time in years.

He found a fluffy Santa hat, which he stuffed inside his gear and kept rolling. He remembered her smile, how hard she worked as a bookkeeper and her love for her two young men. As he entered Hardin Montana his phone pinged with her address and one word, “Hurry.”

He googled the directions, gassed up and hit the road. He pondered the wicked bitch who lured him away and what Laurie said as she let him go. “My boys come first.” That was just three years ago, and the bimbo was gone in a month. He continued to roam but never understood what he needed until now.

Until Fred’s words struck home, he didn’t realize the true code of the west: The kid’s come first. He pushed into the outskirts of Billings and found Paradise Mobil Home Park, a 30-year-old dilapidated home park full of drunks, dealers and the destitute. He slipped behind the tilting home beneath the flickering, half-lit, neon sign with a rusting Office sign above the door. He donned his full-on Santa gear and rolled down the lane looking for number 13.

As he approached a beer bottle broke a side window and a man’s voice hollered. “I hate your kids.” Gabriel grabbed an aluminum baseball bat from the tall weeds and knocked on the door.

“What the fuck,” the fat bastard shouted in a drunken slur as he yanked open the door. Santa stood in front of him at the bottom of the narrow metal steps wearing shades and holding an old, tarnished baseball bat.

“Merry Christmas, motherfucker,” Gabriel said, stepped forward and drove the bat into the man’s gut, yanked it back and drove it under his jaw. He stormed up the steps, grabbed the man by the hair and pulled him out of the motorhome and into the dirt at the bottom of the steps.

The drunk scramble to his feet, grabbed a steel tubing lawn chair and smacked Gabriel. He wasn’t finished yet. Equal in height, Gabriel staggered back. He had a gym in his log cabin basement, but it only gathered dust.

Gabriel lost his bat in the weeds as the over-weight drunk charged, tackling him. Fists flying Gabriel blocked most and rolled over onto the gasping man. They rolled again and jumped to their feet. He was over-weight and had 30 pounds on Gabriel. He reached behind his waist and out came a long bowie knife. He grinned and lashed out. The treacherous blade slit the white fluffy collar beneath Gabiel’s chin. Gab stepped back to assess his options and pushed his disheveled Santa hat back in place, when one of Kate’s sons reached out with the bat.

Gabriel grabbed it, side-stepped the knife and finished fatboy’s jaw. He jumped down and snatched the long bowie-knife and handed it to the kid. “Your first Christmas present.”

Laurie ran down the steps and into Gabriel’s arms. Nick and Ron, her son’s came to his side. Gabriel kissed Laurie deeply and turned to her boys.

“It’s Christmas time, goddammit,” Gabriel said. “We’ve got shit to do. Load up. Let’s hit the road.”

They didn’t hesitate. In short moments the boys and Laurie loaded her SUV, while Gabriel kept an eye on the ex in the weeds, nursing a broken jaw. Gabriel decorated the rails above the car with red and chromed garlands. “Who’s going to ride with me,” he said as the oldest son climbed into the SUV with his mom and Ron, the younger one headed for the FXR.

“Let’s ride to your Christmas present,” Gabriel. “It’s been waiting for you guys. I knew I bought that place for a reason…”

Join the Cantina, Quick! Touch her.
Join the Cantina, Quick! Touch her.

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Reader Comments

Good story.

Bill May
Nashville , TN
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Editor Response Thanks brother!
Christmas brings the best out of some people. Time to reflect and ask Santa for forgiveness and direction.

Long Creek , SC
Sunday, November 26, 2023
Editor Response Or another bottle of Jack Daniels...

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