2 March 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 1

The Thunder and the Sunshine

Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.
– Tennyson, "Ulysses"

Club meeting, convened. Fluorescent lights shine candescent where once our faces were lit dimly red and blue by beer-sign neon glow. Captain up front, popping his gavel made from the antique walnut stocks of a Colt Peacemaker. Clack once, clack twice, call to order, Satan's Tramps. Captain's been captain for more than twenty years, don't see him losing the post anytime soon now. Tradition on his side. Grey whiskers venerable and sage streaming from his face, wrinkles in the corners of his eyes deep as plow furrows. He does not say My mariners, Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me, this is what he does not say, he says instead Billy Buddy will read the minutes of the last meeting.

Billy Buddy does so while me and Jimmy give each other pained looks of utterfuckinboredness. Captain throws open floor after minutes interminable of Billy Buddy. Spicko speaks up, says, My wife and I were talking, gets interrupted by deep-throated steel-rasped harrumph from Throttle, unnamed minister of righteous ritual, carnal convention, and leather-bound legacy. Spicko, pained look on his face, starts over, Me and the old lady was rapping and she was wanting to know about RV facilities at the retreat this year.

Jimmy leans over and snorts, saying sidewise, Boy it ain't like it used to be. In living testimony Stu sidles up to give his audio-book report on the latest Hunter S. Thompson. Well over fifty, he still disassociates himself from shirts and any other torso-wrappings, clothed from the waist down in leather pants, and from the waist up in ink only. His shaved stomach hangs heftily over his brass belt buckle, contour-lined blue and red and green, a living map of years gone by, of side streets passed and avenues ventured, of tailpipes rattling hot.

Not like it used to be as understatement of the age. Stu's woman is black, tall and regal, twenty years his younger, as knowledgeable about the inner workings of hogs, choppers, as any Tramp still rolling. I remember me and Stu and Jimmy and Throttle and Ben, now dead, rent apart in fiery conflagration on Highway 98 near Florida's Gulf Coast, I remember how we celebrated Nixon's resignation by cruising a juke joint in colored town and catching up with some down boys who'd screwed us over some crystal meth. That was where Jimmy lost his little finger, where I saw Throttle kill a man with his studded knuckles, his brawny arm covered crimson slick almost to the elbow, a gory glove. Said it was his third. Don't miss those days.

But now, looking down, perched on this folding chair, my beard grey with the days and months flown by unseen, looking down, seeing my own Stu stomach swelling out my black shirt and denim vest, tumescent, thick and real as the gnarled black roots of an ancient live oak, anchoring me fast to the earth, a weight ever reminding me of gravity's stranglehold, Old age hath yet his honour and his toil

It wasn't always like this, it wasn't, I can remember, when the nights are cool and (so daring) I leave the helmet couched on the rear and the wind flicks its lashes gently across my face, I can remember—

Clocking a hundred and ten, the shovelhead surging between my thighs, the grips writhing in my hands, the highway unwinding before me, the fields to either side blurred unfocused mosaic patterns green and brown, the hog surging with each swell of the road, me and the bike as one system symbiotic, united and roaring and raging faster faster faster—

A girl with hair like the soft down of a raven's breast, running down her back, a river flooding its banks, with eyes blacker than a moonless night, her legs so long and tan, her hands so tight about my waist, her face pressed to my shoulder, the tears hot and wet from the wind from me from the wind burning my neck burning in the wind—

A thin cat gray and white darting out and me cutting hard and losing the bike beneath me and we tumble like falcons falling fast so fast and the road reaches for me longingly (as She always has), striving to pull me down to hold and chain me fast to Her and as we tumble tumble dice scattered at seventy miles an hour She can only catch small parts of me to cling to and tear off and make Her own, the parts that do not count, the parts of flesh and body and weight—

And I remember the night so black the air so cool biting at my face my hair behind me a thing alive in the wind and the highway, the endless highway, dipping away before me, reflectors glinting like eyes in the night, pointing the path, directing me onward, the stars above shining so bright so brilliant, campfires, pyres, the Nevada desert an ocean of solitude washing about me, and the Harley bears me up a rise and there before me below me the lights of the desert city are spread brilliant and shining like a new galaxy a series of suns and stars heretofore unknown undiscovered and these stars this galaxy is below me, far below, and the wind in my face the hair swept back the shovelhead bears me higher and higher into the night sky into the universal ether, flying, flying, flying.

About the author:

Scott Yarbrough is a graduate of the Florida State writing program and earned a PhD in English at the University of Alabama. He teaches at a small college in Charleston, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife Leigh, his brand new baby girl Marie, and his golden retriever Sadie. He has published stories previously in New Orleans Review, Clackamas Literary Review, InPosse Review, and storySouth, among other places.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 4, No. 1, where "The Thunder and the Sunshine" ran on March 2, 2004. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction.

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