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Stray Cats

Story time ('s a long read)!

By Cassidy

Synopsis: Sometimes a wrench isn’t needed to loosen a nut.

“It’s a start,” I thought while hanging the “Help Wanted” sign on the community center’s bulletin
board. A disinterested party would be less prone to pass judgment when completing tasks on the
three-acre plot that defined the ten-room Tudor house, three bay garage shop, and its upstairs loft
that at one time my deceased wife and I had called a home.

Despite the passage of three years it didn’t seem enough time had passed, but the grounds needed
to be tended as well as the exterior and interior of the house, shop and loft. The mere thought of
attempting the landscape and house cleaning tasks that brought her pleasure caused me to
experience severe bouts of depression and anxiety attacks. Excess baggage accumulated during
thirty-five years of marriage needed discarding for me to move on.

The house, grounds, and its occupant needed to live again. Ten rooms, many of which I had
avoided since the day of her passing, needed to be cleaned. Years of newspapers had to be
bundled and carted to the recycling station, spider webs needed to be removed — no doubt to
protests by their makers — and windows were in need of renewed transparency.

Perhaps I hadn’t offered sufficient pay or maybe people no longer had the capability to perform
such tasks, as days passed without word from a candidate for the position of “life restorer.”
After adding one more newspaper to the stack and rinsing out my coffee cup, a knock at the front
door took me by surprise. Before responding, I peeked through the leaded glass windows that
framed my front door to see a twenty-something Goth/grunge, Chesterfield smoking, Rachel
Ward type.

My knee-jerk reaction had been to not open the door, but the second thought saw some potential.
“I’m Willie,” she said, attempting to force the semblance of a smile on a face unaccustomed to
forming one. “I saw your sign hanging in the community center. Is the job still available?”

I didn’t see a vehicle of any kind parked at the curb or in the drive.

“How did you get here? I didn’t hear a car pull up,”

“I walked,” she said while field crushing her cigarette, exhaling her lungs full of smoke in my
direction, and then lighting another. “I’ve done it before.”

Her habit didn’t bother me and a wave of the hand and one step to the side followed by one to
my rear disbursed the plume that exited her nose and mouth.

“What do you know about landscaping and home maintenance?”

“Nothing, but I learn good.”

“Yeah right. ‘You learn good.’ Well come on in here and we’ll talk a bit about what I want done.”

Over the course of the next hour we toured the house and grounds. I detailed the tasks to be done
while she would nod, look around, and then nod again.

After one of her nods she spoke. “Before you offer me the position, I have to tell you I have a
record. My parole officer told me that I have to tell a potential employer in advance, and then
they have to notify him that I applied for a job. I have this form that has to be filled out and
mailed in.”

I sensed embarrassment as she spoke. Her eyes fell to inspect her feet and the ground; and the
voice that had boomed when she announced herself became muted.

My sensibilities suggested that I stop the process and send her on her way, but there appeared to
be something to her to counteract the fleeting thought of being looted or maimed. The
community center was five miles from the house. It took determination to walk that distance not
knowing if the trip would be fruitful. If it hadn’t been or wouldn’t be, the trip back to town
would be that much more difficult.

“When do you want to start?” I asked

She lifted her eyes and mumbled, “How about now.”

“Okay then,” I said. “You can start on the exterior work first. Follow me to the basement and I’ll
show you where the tools are kept. Whatever you don’t know how to operate, either let me know
and I’ll show you, or you can read through the owner’s manuals. Make your own hours and start
where you want. Do you want to be paid in cash or by check?”

“You can give me a check. Make it payable to Willie Mallory. My parole officer would want to
see it; and he made arrangements to have me cash anything I get at the check casher across the
street from his office. I have to see him on Tuesdays; so can I have that day off?”

“As I said, make your own hours and work what ever days you like. It doesn’t matter to me as
long as you give me a good honest day’s work. My name’s Art Powell, by the way.

“Yeah, I know. You put it on the ‘Help Wanted’ sign.”

I left her alone in the basement and retreated to the house’s interior to watch the financial news

At first I didn’t hear any activity, but then heard the high-pitched shriek of the trimmer/edger. A
peak out the window revealed her slashing through the knee-high grass that had grown over the
past three years. She had been smart enough not to attempt running the motorized push mower
through it and spent the remainder of the day clearing a portion of the front lawn.

As the sun set on the mild early June day I watched her walk down the road toward the main
street, with her ratty looking backpack slung over one shoulder.

After she had disappeared into the distance, I went out to survey the quality of her work. The
thought of entering the basement caused shortness of breath and a pounding in my chest. Sweat
beads formed on my brow. After touching the door handle the shaking in my hand grew
uncontrollable. My right leg locked at the knee causing me to limp noticeably. I chose to peek
through the basement window rather than enter my wife’s domain.

She had cleaned the basement and placed the owner’s manual of each piece of equipment on it.
Chain saw, lawn mower, wood chipper, log splitter, aerator, rotor-tiller, shovels, rakes,
pitchforks, picks, axes, water hoses, and electrical cords had all been arranged for easy access
and use. One item, the trimmer/edger, had been left outside the basement door and had been
tucked partly under the deck after she had locked it up for the evening. Would she attempt to
steal it? I would have to chastise her, if and when she returned.

Awakened by the sound of the trimmer, I took a quick glance at the clock and another out the
bedroom window. She had returned and was hard at work at six in the morning.
After putting some semblance of order into my day, I brought her a cup of coffee. She gave me a
nod, took two sips, and then returned to work on the front lawn.

As the day wore on, I signaled her twice to come to the front door to take a break and drink
either a glass of lemonade or ice water. Her soft facial features had become crusted with dust and
sweat. When she took her first gulp of the water, what didn’t find its way into her mouth rolled
down the sides, leaving marks. She wiped her mouth with her shoulder, nodded, and once again
returned to work.

I spent a day sitting on the front stoop watching her work. She had the strength and endurance of
a Draft horse, the disposition of a Morgan . . . and usually at the end of the day smelled like one.
Thankfully, each time she would return she looked and smelled cleaner than she had when she
left the previous day.

Over the course of the summer she had manage to convert the exterior of the house and grounds
from one that would cause Gomez and Morticia Addams to be proud to one that rivaled Mike
and Carol Brady’s.

Her work ethic amazed me. She labored every day of the week except Tuesday from first light to
sunset. Each Wednesday morning, she would hand me the form from her parole officer to be
completed, and then mailed. I presumed it to be his kind of reporting.

At the end of the long, tiring days she would face a five-mile walk. Occasionally I would offer
her a ride to her “place” as she called it, but had always been greeted by a mumbled ‘no thanks.’”
With the exterior work completed, I outlined the work to be performed on the house’s interior.
She, as in the past, would nod upon receiving the instructions.

Work began with washing or re-white washing the stucco walls of the first floor rooms. The
wooden doors, floors, built in bookcases, millwork, and furniture were re-oiled and buffed dry. It
took her on average two days to complete each room and it took three to clean the family room
due to the massive amounts of newspapers and magazines that had accumulated over the years.

“Would you like some help with this room?” I would ask.

She would grumble, “I’m okay” and would return to her project for that given day.

“Could you take me to the dump? The truck’s full.” she asked when the truck’s bed had been
filled to capacity.

I wanted her to know that a trust had developed and any residual apprehension had evaporated.

“If you know how to drive, take it yourself,” I said.

“I can drive, but where’s the dump?”

I gave her directions, tossed her the keys, and then sent her on her way.

When she returned I had prepared lunch and extended an invitation for her to join me. To my
surprise, she agreed.

Her European table manners surprised me.

Trying to understand her motivation I asked, “Willie, why do you work so long and hard?”

“I don’t want to go to jail no more ever again.” Her manner of speech contrasted with her table
manners. “I want to learn stuff and make money and one day go to school. Jail sucks. I hate it.”

“What do you want to learn?”

“Doing this stuff is okay. The landscape design stuff looks like it may be a good job, but I’m still
looking around. When this job is done – when I’m not working for you no more, I may get
another to make some more money to go to trade school to learn better this stuff.”

As she spoke I thought about correcting her grammar. My motive had been selfish for not doing
so as I didn’t want her to quit the job — if she took my comments to be criticism versus

I asked her not to bother with my bedroom when she started work on the second floor rooms.

“Could you unlock the last room on the right,” she asked.

“We’re not going to do that one just yet.”

“How come?”

“That was my wife’s private room and I’m not ready to go in that one.”

“Didn’t you two sleep together?”

“We slept together every night until she died. She kept her clothes in there, along with her
personal things. She had so many. We decided early on to make that one her dressing room.”

“What did your wife do?”

“She was an artist. Her studio’s in the loft located over the shop. When we finish the house, we’ll
start on it. Maybe then I’ll be able to come back and do this one.

“How did she die?”

“Not right now – some other time. Yeah, some other time I’ll tell you.”

The look on her face told me she had sensed a problem.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “You’re breathing all weird and you’re sweating for no reason”

She had no way of knowing that I had not set foot, nor could set foot in that room since my wife
passed. The thought of entering the room that had been deemed a shrine would be beyond her.
“It’s fine. Must be the dust in the hallway,” I said while gradually distancing myself from the
bedroom door. “It’s fine.”

Another look at her face told me I had not given her a very convincing argument.

“Do you want to do the maid’s quarters up on the third floor?”

“Sure,” she said.

“No one’s been up there in years. We never used it so I have no idea what you’ll find.”

“Don’t matter; it got to be done so show me where it’s at.”

We made our way to the third floor quarters via the back staircase. When I opened the door dust,
webs, and bits of mouse droppings greeted us.

“When I get this window cleaned, There’ll be a nice view from up here,” she said, while rubbing
her fist against the pane of glass.

It took three days for her to clean the room and bath. When she finished, it rivaled the
appearance it had the day the one hundred-year old house had been built.

“What do you want to do with these clothes?” she asked. “I found them in the drawer.”

“Toss them.”

“Can I have them?”

What could she possibly want with three drab dresses that were quite possibly three times her
age? “They’re maid’s uniforms. What would you want with them, you’re not a maid.”

“I know, but I could use some clothes.”

“Take what you want, and then toss the rest.”

Despite the days growing shorter, it didn’t stop her from working twelve to fourteen-hour days.
When it came time to clean out my wife’s studio loft, I sent her up the flight of exterior stairs
with instructions to toss out everything except the paintings.

“You coming up to show me what to be do?”

“No,” I said gasping for air. “Just do as I ask. It’ll be fine. Use your judgment.”

“You sure you ain’t sick or something? You’re doing that funny breathing thing again and you
started to sweat all over.”

I wasn’t sure if she was concerned for me or worried that she might lose her job if I fell sick.

She took a mid-day break to eat the lunch I had prepared.

“What kind of paintings is them?” she asked.

“I don’t know. She called it ‘Post Modern.’”

“Looks like lines and dots. People pay money for things like that?”

“They do and there’s and art gallery trying to buy them.”


One day, midway through her cleaning of the loft, I caught sight of her standing in the shop
staring at its back wall.

“What are you doing in here?” I asked between gasps for air. The pounding in my chest caused
me to clutch it with my right hand while I steadied myself against the shop door in fear of losing
my balance and collapsing. “Looking for tools,” she said in defense of her action. “I need a pry
bar and thought there might be one in here. What is this place?”

She turned and noticed my physical condition and then ran toward me to assist me from falling

“You dying or something?” she asked with concern.

“I’m fine. Give me a minute.” I said while slowly regaining my breath and balance. “It’s my
shop. I used to build race bikes and repair and restore street bikes.”

“You sure you don’t have some disease or something? This thing you do is weirding me out.

What is it?”

“I told you it’s nothing. Don’t ask me any more. Okay?

“Is that you in those pictures?” she asked attempting to change the subject.

“In my younger days, yeah.”

“You won these trophies, plaques and stuff?

As we talked about them I regained strength.

“Some of those trophies are older than you. Raced all the time when I was your age.”

“Why did you stop?”

“Stopped racing after a crash. Got a concussion and lost some of my depth perception and
peripheral vision.

“The wrecked one in the corner – was that the one you crashed with?”

“No. That was my wife’s. Tatiana’s.” As I spoke the sound of my heart reverberated in my ears.

“Some drunk ran a traffic light, crashed into her, and killed her. Haven’t touched a bike since and
don’t have plans to touch one ever again. The drunk and his insurance company paid me off and
put a gag order on it. That’s all I can say. If I talk they can make trouble; so I shut up and collect
my checks.”

“Is this her? She was pretty,” she said, while removing a picture from the wall.

“Yup. That’s a picture of us. It was taken after I won my class during bike week at Daytona
Speedway. About three months before my crash.”

“What’s this bike? It looks new.”

“It is new – a birthday present. She never made it home to see it. It’s a Honda CBR 600 RR.
Hasn’t moved from that spot since it arrived on the morning of her death.”

“That’s so sad.”

For the first time in the almost four months since we had met she showed signs of emotion. It
seemed that determination and purpose had replaced it. I wondered if hearing of my loss
triggered memories of hers.

What’s this bike?”

“That’s one of my old race bikes. It’s what used to be called a kit bike. It’s a 1970 Honda CR750.
I bought that new from Honda Racing Corporation. The dealers couldn’t sell them.”
Talking about the bikes stopped the deafening sound of my heartbeat.

“And this one?”

“That’s a Kawasaki GPz 750. I raced that one as well. Bought that one new and converted it to
race specifications.”

“What’s this blue one?”

That one’s a 1957 Harley Davidson Sportster. I restored that one for a customer who tried to give
me a rubber check. I’m stuck with it now.

“What are you going to do with them?”

“One day I’ll get them running and sell them off. Here’s your pry bar,” I grumbled while handing
it to her. Why had I told her so much? “Let’s get out of here and don’t come back in here again.


“Fair enough”

Willie went back up to the loft while I stayed behind to have a private moment with my wife’s
bike and the memory it inspired.

“Art, there’s two people here. They came to see your wife’s paintings. What do you want me to
do?” she asked, interrupting my viewing of the financial news channel.

That damn art dealer and his assistant were at it again. Since her death they had been like
vultures. Each time they would show up they would up their offer.

“Is it the tall skinny guy and the woman who wears too much make-up?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t think she wears that much. Looks like she wears expensive clothes and fancy
jewelry, though.”

“Tell them to have a seat on the porch. I’ll be with them in a minute.”

Willie had them sit on facing Adirondack chairs. They both displayed hungry looks, as they
anticipated feasting on the last paintings of the late Tatiana Livingston-Powell.

I knew at some point they should be sold. I didn’t want to negotiate for more money, and I
wasn’t hung up on sentimental value. The time had not been right for me to sell them yet.

Once again the offer had increased. The tall skinny guy with the assistance of Miss Heavy Makeup offered a one-year membership in the gallery and a sharing arrangement in the profits should
a sale occur after the initial viewing.

I sent them packing without an acceptance or a denial. They would probably return in a month’s
time with another offer.

As I watched them back their car down the drive Willie approached.

“I think that lady gets wet panties when she sees you,” she said with a chuckle.

“What are you talking about?”

“She’s hot for you. Why don’t you take her out on a date or something?”

“Leave it alone Willie,” I mumbled.

By early November, with the exception of my wife’s private room, all of the work on the house
and studio had been completed. There was light maintenance work, but I had pretty much run out
of things for her to do.

“What are you going to do with that camper and trailer?” she asked one day after mulching up a
pile of raked up leaves.

My ’69 Avion eight-foot truck bed camper had fallen into disrepair over the years. It hadn’t been
used since I had last attended a race nearly fifteen years ago. Despite it being partly covered by a
now frayed tarp it looked to be in bad shape.

The twenty-foot black and white box trailer with the faded rendering of a bike and the letters
“Powell Racing” had been my rolling shop. It had also fallen into disrepair. I wondered if the
compressor and the power generator would work after all these years.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about them. Clean them out if you want. Come spring time, I’ll hang a sign on
them and try to sell them.”

“Did you use them when you went racing?”

“Yeah, Tatiana and I used to live in the camper when we went and the trailer had been my mobile
shop.” The thought of entering the camper caused my breathing to change “Start on them
tomorrow if you want. Haven’t seen their insides in years. I don’t know what you’ll find when
you go in them.”

“You okay?

“I’m fine, and stop asking. It’s nothing.”

The following day she ran extension chords out to the camper, set up lights, and started work on
the camper. I felt sorry for her as the camper’s interior had mildewed and traces of moss coupled
with mouse droppings lined the walls and floor.

I peeked inside when she used the truck to make a store run. The interior of the camper had been
washed down with bleach, the stove and refrigerator now worked, the bath had been serviced,
and the mattress and cushions had been removed and trashed.

She approached from behind me as I was reminiscing from a safe distance about days spent
traveling the tour in that camper. “I bought new stuff to replace what went to the dump. The store
guy said he’d bill you. Was that okay?”

“Whatever you want Willie,” I said.

The trailer clean up took her one day and consisted of a quick sweep and a power wash. Without
assistance from me she managed to get the generator and compressor operational.

The dread of having to tell her that our time had come to an end bothered me because at times
her presence reduced the bouts of loneliness. I would invite her to share Thanksgiving dinner
with me, give her a bonus check, and then bid her farewell after she finished cutting and splitting
the firewood.

While watching her walk off into the darkness I racked my brain to come up with an excuse to
keep her in my employ. Undoubtedly she had saved the money she earned and probably had a
decent nest egg to propel her onto her next endeavor, which I hoped would be a return to school.

If she accepted my offer to join me for dinner we would discuss it.

“Willie, join me for Thanksgiving dinner?” I asked.


“Do you want me to come and pick you up?”

“Oh no. I’ll walk. It’s okay it’s not that far. Plus I like to walk. Makes me to think things good.”

Willie and the catering truck arrived shortly after one o’clock. One delivered a traditional
Thanksgiving dinner while the other delivered a surprise.

The sight of her left me confused. Her hair had been styled and she was wearing one of those
maid uniforms that had obviously been cleaned and pressed.

“Willie,” I exclaimed. “Look at you.”

“It’s the only dress I have; and I wanted to get dressed up for dinner,” she said while fumbling
through her backpack for her cigarettes. She smoked heavily when she became unsure of the

“Come in. Sit down. I lit a fire. Would you like some wine?”

“I don’t drink no more. Quit when I went to jail; and told myself no more drink ever.”

“Water, ginger ale, coke . . . ?”


Ever the worker, she wiped a bit of dust with the skirt of her dress while I poured her a glass of
water from a ceramic pitcher. She took great pride in the condition of the room she had
resurrected from squalor.

At that moment I noted that she and Tatiana were of similar stature. As a going away gift I would
offer her some of my wife’s things if I could manage to enter the room and remain in it long
enough for her to make her pick.

“Come with me, I want to show you something,” I said, while handing her the glass of water. As
we headed to my wife’s room my breathing and heart rate rose, and my legs grew heavy. After
unlocking the door I motioned her to enter. “If there’s anything in here that you’d like, help
yourself. Think of it as a gift from Tatiana and me.”

She looked me over, and then entered the room alone. I returned to the dining room to set the
table and serve the meal.

She came into the dining room still wearing the wretched maid’s dress. “I put some stuff on the
chair. Look at them later and tell me if it’s okay.”

“Fair enough. Sit down and eat.”

We dined in silence for a bit.

“What are you going to do with them bikes?” she mumbled.

“Sell them one of these days, I guess.”

“Do people buy old bikes like that?”

“Yeah, there’s a market for them. There’s a big auction during bike week each March and there’s
magazines that accept ads.”

“What’s a bike week and where is it at?”

I poked at the potatoes, turkey, and broccoli that remained neatly piled on my plate as thirty-eight
years of memories flashed by.

“Daytona Beach, Florida – bike week started out years ago as a racing festival. They used to race
on the beach when the tide had gone out – up the beach, and then back down on the paved road.

When they built the speedway it got moved over there.” A tomato in my salad bowl got moved
over to the side powered by the fork. “Over the years racing’s taken a back seat to a week-long
festival of drinking, carousing, women wrestling in coleslaw, women flashing tits, loud bikes,
burn out contests, bike shows, and new bike demo rides. A few years ago some magazine called
it spring break for bikers. Damn, one year, the last year I went, one of the really raunchy bars,
The Boot Hill Saloon, had a Latte stand. I got sick of it and stopped going.”

“Coleslaw wrestling? Women flashing tits?” she asked with surprise.

“Yeah,” I said after a sip of wine. “It’s become quite sophomoric.”

“In jail some girls would flash them to get favors and stuff, but I….” Her voice trailed off.

What’s sophomoric?”

“Crude, ignorant,” I snorted. “Hate it. I hate going. The thought of going makes me sick.”

“Yup,” she chuckled. “Them girls that did that were all of that.”

“Did you get hit on in jail?”

“At first they tried, but I got a reputation after I broke a nose or two.”

“I can just imagine,” I said.

The rough and tumble young woman who sat before me trying desperately to change her ways
and attempting some degree of femininity had the capability of dropping me in a heartbeat. Yet I
didn’t fear her. She wanted to move on and accomplish something while I used her as an excuse
to continue my inactivity.

She looked at me across the table. “But if you’re going to sell them one day, wouldn’t that be the
place to go?”

“Suppose so. It takes lots of work to get a bike ready to be pushed over an auction block. If the
bike has a pedigree it usually sells for more than a derelict.”

“Why don’t you get them running and maybe race them again, and then sell them? Wouldn’t you
get more money for them?”

“I don’t know Willie. Maybe.”

“I could help. You said that you were going to sell this place, the camper, and the trailer come
springtime. Don’t people buy bikes in the spring? One of the guys I talk to on Tuesdays told me
that he can’t wait for spring to come so he can get his bike going so he could ride. He said it had
been down while he was doing time and it needed lots of work, too.”

I tried to read her facial expressions. Perhaps she knew that there wouldn’t be enough work to
keep her here and she feared going out to look for a replacement job. Then again maybe she
wanted to learn motorcycle repair. Her voice picked up some excitement when she talked about
her acquaintance and his bike.

“He’s correct. It’s a lot of work to get them back up and running. It’s just that they haven’t run in
years and I’m not sure if I want to do it just yet.”

“Maybe it’ll help you get over Tatiana?” she offered quietly.

My temples pulsed, but I didn’t lash out at her. “When did you become a therapist?”

“They told us in jail that we had to face things that bother us. I thought it would be good for you
to face the fact that Tatiana ain’t here no more and making the bikes go will make you cope with

“I don’t have to face anything,” I said with mild disgust.

“I think that you do,” she said in protest. “Every time you have to go anyplace that was close to
her or to both of you, you freak out.”

Perceptive little shit, I thought.

“Yeah, there was this girl in the cell next to mine that would do the same things you do whenever
she had to go to the showers. The counselor guy told us that she suffered from some disease
called ‘angry flooria.’”

“It’s called agoraphobia and I don’t have it.”

“He told us that something might have happened to her to make her get stupid at the thought of
going to them. The same way you get when we just went to her room, when we went to the loft,
and when you found me in the shop.”

She seemed to be comparing the loss of my wife to some prisoner who possibly was raped in a

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m fine and nothing’s wrong? I choose not to go into her
room, or loft, or shop.”

“Counselor guy said that she blamed herself for whatever happened.”

As she spoke the words I felt my chest tighten and beads of sweat form on my brow.

You’re doing it again. All I did was mention it and look at what’s happening to you. I bet. . . I bet
that you blame yourself because your wife . . . Tatiana . . . is dead.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you think some jailhouse counselor has all of the

I didn’t want to let on that she had hit the nail on the head. No, I didn’t want to tell her — if I
hadn’t taught her to ride, she would still be with me.

“Know what I think,” she said. “I bet you blame yourself for her being dead.”

“That’s enough of the penal psychology.”

The more she spoke, the more I had to face the fact that she had been correct in her analysis. I
blamed the bike she had been riding for her death and not the drunk who had hit her.

“The girl told us the counselor said to go real slow when she got stupid. One time it took her
almost all day to take a shower, but she did. He also told her to force her stomach muscles to
relax when she felt them tighten up. I don’t remember everything, but she said something about
trying to imagine herself floating and something about breathing.

“Do you really expect me to believe any of the things you’ve said?” I asked while wearing a
smirk upon my face.

“Just trying to help. Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

I had hurt her feelings. I knew she had been trying to help, but her helpful suggestions didn’t
apply to a man who didn’t want to enter a room . . . because he didn’t want to enter a room.

“Excuse me a minute, I have to use the bathroom.”

When I returned to the table she had been helping herself to a second serving of turkey.

“I appreciate your concern, but trust me. There’s nothing wrong.”

“If you say so,” she said while addressing the potatoes and turkey stuffing.

I attempted to change the subject and shift the attention toward her. “Can I ask you a question?

How did you end up in jail?”

“I got drunk, busted up a bar, and then beat up a patron. Did a year. Was out a week when I saw
your sign.” She didn’t make eye contact and her voice became muted as she spoke.
I sensed the same embarrassment now as when she told me she had a record those few months

“What about your family?”

“They threw me out when I quit high school. Now with my record they don’t want nothing to do
with me no more.”

“Where do you stay? Where do you live?”

“I stay in a half way house. Better than trying to go to my parents and it’s more better than jail.

Won’t go back to the gang’s clubhouse. Don’t want that life no more.”

Her voice bordered between whispers and held back tears.

“It’s none of my business, but if you get tired of staying in the halfway house, you could stay in
the maid’s quarters.”

“I don’t want no charity”

“Pay me rent.”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I guess we are in the same spot.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m too bummed out about my wife and you’re too proud to ask for, or accept help.”

After Willie left I went up to my wife’s private room. At the onset of the rapid breathing, chest
pains, and sweat beads, I forced myself to relax the muscles that began to tighten. With my eyes
closed I began a long slow exhale of a shallow rapid intake of air. It seemed as if an hour had
passed but it had only been minutes. I slowly entered the room taking short deliberate steps to
look over what she chose: jeans, tops, shoes, boots, leather jacket, and sweaters. The cocktail
dress and heels mildly surprised me, but her attempt at a lady like appearance, dressed in that
uniform, convinced me that she wanted to distance herself from her past. I too wanted to distance
myself from the past and perhaps with the help of the jailhouse psychology it would.

I picked up a picture of my wife. It had been taken when she won a new artist’s award.
“What do you think?” I asked. “Do you blame me? The bike? The drunk? Would fixing the
bikes, hiring a rider to ride them, and then taking them to auction help? What about Willie?”

The twinkle in her eye said, do it.

I re-folded the clothes Willie selected, placed them in a suitcase, and then went to my room and
called it a day.

I awoke to the sound of the chain saw. She was back at it and her busy work task for the day
would be cutting, splitting, and stacking the last of the firewood.

She shuddered and stamped her feet. The chill of the late November day must have penetrated
her thin jacket.

“There’s a coat and gloves in the basement. Put them on if you want,” I said after handing her a
cup of coffee.

She nodded, while warming her un-gloved hands with the hot coffee mug.

“I’ll do the bikes if you move into the maid’s quarters.”

She smiled, sipped her coffee, and then re-started the chain saw to cut yet another chunk of

Shouting to be heard over the saw, I said, “Join me in the shop when you’re done out here.”
With deliberate steps, conscience breathing, and a terrible urge to pee I entered the shop.

“Well bikes, we’re going racing in Daytona come March. When we’re done you’ll go off to the
auction block. Maybe you’ll make someone as happy as you once made me.”

I re-inflated the tires on the old Honda and Kawasaki, rolled them onto the two worktables, and
then strapped them down in anticipation of tearing them apart and making them go. My actions
seemed to occur in slow motion.

“Do you want to come and race too?” I asked the CBR. “Yeah, why not. Let me knock out these
two, and then I’ll work some race magic on you.”

I removed the body panels and the air box from the Honda in anticipation of removing the
engine. As I rolled the engine hoist over to the table to lift the engine out of the frame Willie
came in.

“You ready to learn bike mechanics?” I asked, trying to hide a faint smile.

“You ready to have a tenant?” She asked while exhaling her usual lungs filled with tobacco

I took the last bolt that supported the engine, signaled her to operate the hydraulic mechanism,
and then helped her push the engine hoist away from the bike.

We swung it around and placed the engine on the bench.

“Here’s the shop manual, read through it, remove the wheels, and then clean up the frame. Do
you think you can do that?”

“Piece of cake,” she said, with one of her infrequent smiles, while flipping through the pages of
the manual.

I started the engine disassembly and from time to time glanced over at her while she worked on
removing the wheels. She didn’t know what she was doing, but she was able to do it. With a
minimal amount of cursing she completed the task.

“Can you take the tires off the rims?” I asked, without making any eye contact. “The tire
machine is over there, in the corner.”

“I’ll manage,” she grunted.

I removed the cylinder head and valves, and then started re-grinding the valve seats and valves.

Luck ruled and the valve seats didn’t need replacing. That bit of luck saved me a day’s work and
would speed up the rebuild.

After she had broken down the tires and rims and cleaned and polished the frame, she
approached the bench.

“What now?”

“Take the truck, this list, this credit card, and head down to ‘Sweet Cheeks’’ dealership and pick
up these parts. Ask the parts guy if you can hang up this ‘Rider Wanted’ sign.”

“You’re not going to ride them?”

“I told you I can’t. We’ll find someone. Don’t’ worry. There’s always a wannabe looking for a

“Where’s ‘Sweet Cheeks?’”

“It’s at the corner of West Elm and Main Street.”

“You mean Cycle Mall?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“Where did you get ‘Sweet Cheeks’ from?”

“When you meet the owner, you’ll figure it out.”

While she made the parts run, I finished the valve job, assembled the head, and then removed the
pistons wrist pins and removed the cylinder bores and pistons as a unit. While it rested on the
bench the rings were removed from the pistons, and the piston rod clearances checked. Much to
my surprise the lower end of the engine was still tight and wouldn’t be in need of any repair.
Also, much to my surprise, the work helped me to relax my muscles, which caused me to focus
on things other than not wanting to be in the shop.

After washing the parts, I turned my attention to the bike’s front suspension and brakes, while
waiting for her to return.

In the time she had been gone which had been going on three hours, the fork seals had been
replaced and the front brake calipers and master cylinder had been rebuilt. When the fourth hour
passed I feared that something had happened.

“Where have you been,” I asked, mildly annoyed.

“I met this guy who said he raced for BMW in Europe. Your parts friend, Nick, and ‘Sweet
Cheeks’ said he’s pretty good. Told him to come over in a few days to meet you. You’re right
‘Sweet Cheeks’ is a piece of work.”

“When did you become in charge? We’re in the middle of this one . . . and now I have to stop
and get the CBR going to check this guy out.”

“Sorry, but they said he was good. I didn’t know you wanted to see him ride.”

“Do you think I want any jerkwater wannabe’s ass in these seats? Don’t worry about it. We’ll
figure it out. In the mean time start working on these tires.”

“Nick said you’d react like that. He told me that after your crash you had a whole bunch of guys
try to race for you, but you kept firing them saying they were no good.”

“Nick doesn’t know anything. He can’t even ride.”

“He may not know how to ride but he knows about you.”

“Yeah what did tell you?”

“He told me you were a good rider, a more gooder mechanic, and an okay teacher. He said you
taught some guys to race, and then built them bikes. He also said you made some custom bikes

“That’s Nick. He can stretch the truth a bit.”

“He said you’d say that too. He also said that you can be a pain in the ass at times.”

“Pain in the ass?”

“Yeah because you want lots of stuff your way or no way.”

“Yup,” I grumbled when having to face the truth about myself. “When it comes to bikes, that’s
me. Speaking of which, we got some work to do. Like getting those new tires mounted and

I explained how to mount and balance the tires, and then turned her loose on it. After cutting and
installing the rings onto the pistons, they were slipped back into the re-surfaced cylinder bores.
She struggled, cursed and smoked, but she got it done at about the time my task had been

I would have to give it up to her. She did some homework on me. I wondered how much “Sweet
Cheeks” told her. There hadn’t been much love loss between the two of us. She told a customer
that a bike he had purchased had been one of my customs when it had been one of hers. It hit the
fan when I found out and it caused me to stop doing custom work and selling it through her
dealership. In my mind we both lost out, but in her mind she blamed me for not understanding
customers and business.

“You can call it a day if you want,” I said, as the shop clock chimed eight.”

“How much longer are you going to stay?” she asked.

“I’m going to try to finish up the engine, and then put it back into the chassis.”

“I’ll stay and help.”

“Why don’t you get us something to eat?” I asked, handing her a twenty and the keys to the

When she got back with a pizza the engine had been assembled and hung from the hoist.

“Does this guy have a name and when is he supposed to come over?” I asked, as we dined on the
pie and sipped cokes.

“His name is Alex and he’s coming out next Thursday. You know — this bike stuff is pretty
interesting. Maybe I’ll do this instead of landscaping. Do they have bike schools to learn to do
this stuff?”

“Yeah, there’s two in Florida — one of which is in Daytona, and there’s one in Arizona.”

“Could we go to the one in Daytona and look around? Maybe I could get in.”

“If we have time we’ll see if they have a tour or something. Finish your coke, let’s get this
engine back in and call it a day.

She held the engine steady while it hung from the hoist while I inserted the rear engine mounting

“Hey Art?” she asked.

“Yeah what,” I responded while wrestling to get the bolt into place without stripping the threads.

“What are you going to do about that art dealer lady?”

“Nothing, why?”

“She’s hot for you.”

“She’s hot for the paintings. She couldn’t care less about me.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I got no time for her and her kind. Plus I got these bikes to do. No thanks to you.”

I turned out the shop lights and locked the door shortly after midnight. As I walked to the house
she called out, “Moving in tomorrow.”

The next morning I found her hunkered down in the doorway of the shop trying her best to keep
warm against the near freezing temperatures, with two trash bags that contained her belongings.

“How long have you been sitting here?” I asked.

“About an hour,” she said through chattering teeth.

“Well get in there,” I said while unlocking and opening the shop door and reminding myself to
move and breathe slow. “And go hug the kerosene heater while I put up a pot of coffee.”

Jail time must have had a sobering affect on her as she willingly accepted the dirty jobs I
assigned her. They had to be done, as they were all part of the bike building process. Everyone
wanted to do the glamour engine jobs, but no one ever wanted to do the cleaning, tire humping,
or gofer work.

Between task times she had read the shop manual and tried to match up the pictures with the
actual parts. She used her fingers to see things. Beneath the grunge and Goth there was way more
to her than what met the eye.

The thought of starting a freshened up race engine and burning off the top of a high compression
piston on the swill from one of the local gas stations frightened me. With Willie sent off to buy
five gallons of NASCAR race gas, I cleaned out the stale and varnished gas from the carburetor
bowls and jets.

When she returned the engine was ready to be started. I gave her instructions, and then rolled the
remote starter into place. With the remote spinning the rear wheel she got a nod, and then she
eased out the clutch. The engine fired, she squeezed the clutch back in, and then after shifting the
bike into neutral she held the throttle at a steady three thousand revolutions per minute.
The five minutes of running time seated the rings, and then the engine was shut down. It felt
good to hear the engine run again; and it sounded as it had fifteen years earlier. Its power pulses
elevated my heart rate. I wondered if it would give me life in return for the life I had given it.
I showed Willie how to safety wire the bike and left her to it while the disassembly of the
Kawasaki began.

Without my prompting, she cleaned and waxed the bike’s bodywork and installed it. The finished
product awaited a rider’s ass for final adjustment.

Getting the Kawasaki ready had been a replay of what we did with the Honda and after five
seventeen to eighteen-hour days both bikes had been prepared to do battle.

“You know Willie, we got these two bikes up and running and we don’t have a clue as to what
class to race them in.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know if they’re legal to race anymore.”

“You’re fu-king with me aren’t you?” she asked in shock.

“Let’s check the rules. I think we’ll be okay.”

“Shouldn’t we have done that before we did all of this work?”

“I got excited about hearing them run and forgot.”

She didn’t know that the thought of living again got in the way of everything.

While Willie wandered around the shop looking for whatever and cleaning and straightening
things up along the way, I read through the rules published by each of the four sanctioning bodies
that I had printed off their web sites.

The Kawasaki despite its age would be eligible to compete in the Championship Cup Series
(CCS) in the Middleweight Super Sport class. It would also be legal to race in the American
Sport Bike Series (ASBA) Sport Bike class. When we converted the CBR it too would be
eligible to race in that class. Bikes in that class would be limited to one hundred and five rear
wheel horse power, but that wouldn’t create a problem. On a good day the Kawasaki would
produce maybe ninety and the Honda would be at the edge. There would be no home for the old
Honda in CCS or ASBA, but we could compete in the American Historic Racing Motorcycle
Association (AHRMA) series in the Formula 750 class and the Formula Vintage class. The CBR
would also be legal in the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Super Sport class.
“Willie,” I called out. “Breathe easy – the bikes we just finished are eligible for four classes and
the CBR is eligible for two.”

She laughed, as she exhaled her usual lung full of tobacco smoke.

“Are there shows in Daytona for bikes like this?” she asked, gesturing toward the Harley

“There are. What do you have in mind?”

“Could we do this one too?”

“Don’t we have enough to do?”

“I’ll do it on my own time – when I’m not on your clock.”

“Suit yourself, but you’ll be on the clock.”

Willie started eyeing the Sportster while I got the CBR up and running. Her new acquaintance
would ride while we followed behind in the truck. It reminded me of the state road test.

While waiting for the wannabe to arrive, I made a list of the parts that would be needed to
convert the CBR to race specifications.

Willie beamed when she saw a lanky looking fellow enter the shop. She ran to his side and said,

“Art, I’d like you to meet Alex. He’s the guy I told you about.”

“Hey Alex, what’s going on. Willie tells me you raced for BMW in Europe?”

“Yeah, in Holland – BMW Boxer Cup.”

“Did you bring riding gear?” I asked, while catching sight of a bubbling Willie — who’d become
excited about the fact that this guy might be something more that just a motorcycle racer.

“It’s in my car, I’ll get it,” he said, while leaving the shop.

“What do you think, Art?” Willie asked, still wearing a smile.

“I’ll let you know after he rides the bike.”

After rolling the bike out of the shop, starting it, warming it, and giving it one more check over
before allowing Alex on it, I gave him the route. He was familiar with the roads and agreed it
would be suitable for a display of his skills. It would be a thirty-mile loop that included high and
low speed turns, transitions, blind and down hill turns, and one long straight.

With Willie and I riding in the truck, we followed him as he made his way along the route. She
was excited, while I watched his movements. He had talent, but smooth transitions weren’t in his
riding vocabulary. Everything was abrupt. Braking, throttle control, up-shifting, down-shifting,
hand induced steering inputs, body and feet induced steering inputs — all incredibly rough.

“Nice meeting you Alex,” I said shaking his hand to bid him farewell “Call you in a couple of
days. I want to take a look at one more rider.”

“You don’t have another rider to look at,” Willie fumed, when Alex was safely out of hearing
distance. “What’s wrong with him? He looked okay to me.”

“He rides like shit. He muscles the bike. No finesse. He’s not going to ride my bikes. He’ll crash
them — sure as hell.”

“They said he was good; and he won races.”

“He may have won his share, but I don’t want him riding my bikes. His riding style sucks.” I
glared at her.

“I guess Nick was right,” she grunted. “You are a pain-in-the-ass when it comes to bike riding.”

“Do you want to see good riding? Take a look at this.” I slid a tape into the combination TV/
VCR that hung from the shop wall. “When I tell you, switch the remote to frame-by-frame.”

We watched the training tape for about five minutes.

“Switch it now. Watch the rider’s right hand. Pay real close attention to the how he makes the
transition from throttle to brake, and then back to throttle. Rewind it, and then watch what
happens to the bike.”

“Wow. Everything seemed so smooth and seamless.”

“Run it forward at real-time speed. I’ll tell you when to press frame-by-frame again.”

She watched intently. She didn’t know what to look for, but she was trying to see things.

“Okay, slow it down. Now watch the rider’s upper body. His shoulders don’t move. They remain
parallel to the handlebars. Did your buddy do that, or were his shoulders dipping all over the

“They moved,” she mumbled.

“If we find someone maybe one half as good as the guy in the video we’ll be okay.”

“That’s you isn’t it?” she asked with both admiration and disgust in her voice.

“In my younger days, yeah,” I allowed.

“Well, everybody isn’t like you,” she said, while storming off to smoke herself back to a relaxed

Yeah, I upset her. She probably was in the early stages of a crush on the guy, but there would be
no way he would get near my bikes as he didn’t have what it took to ride fast. I didn’t want my
bikes or Tatiana’s to be ridden by a calf wrestler.

The next morning Willie moped her way around the shop while I rebuilt spare sets of carburetors
for the Kawasaki and the Honda. My concentration was interrupted by the sound of a scooter and
then a knock at the door.

I turned to face a three-quarter sized, maybe twenty-ish, Grace Jones looking guy dressed in a
baggy sweatshirt partly covered by a ski jacket, jeans, and work boots carrying a duffle bag with
what I imagined to be his riding gear.

“I saw your sign hanging on the bulletin board at Cycle Mall, is the ride still available? My name
is Luke, Luke Anderson.” He thrust his hand at me, which I accepted.
Willie hung back and acted like she was too busy cleaning a workbench she had already cleaned
twice that morning.

“Yeah, it’s available. Who licensed you? My name is Art Powell, by the way, and over there, by
the bench, is Willie Mallory. She’s my right hand.”

Willie’s head snapped up at my comment about her being my right hand.

“I have an AMA expert license and I’ve competed in Formula USA,” he said, while giving a nod
to acknowledge Willie.

He spoke in a gentle man’s voice that was neither feminine nor overly masculine.

“Is that your riding gear in the bag?” I asked

“Yes it is.”

“Get changed; I want to see how you ride. You’ll ride this CBR on my test loop, and then I’ll let

you know.”

He ducked into the shop’s “john” while Willie approached me.

“I can’t believe you’re going to give that little fairy a chance to ride for us?”

“Watch your mouth, you,” I admonished. “How would you like it if people referred to you as a
jail or yard bird?”

“That’s different.”

“No it’s not. Name calling is name calling; so stop it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled.

“I want to give him a chance the same way I gave your buddy a chance.”

“Alex’s not my buddy.”

I snorted. “Get the truck ready while I get the bike ready.”

Luke stepped out of the “john” wearing matching black, red, and white leathers, helmet, gloves,
and boots.

If his riding ability matched the quality of his riding gear, he had possibilities. While starting and
warming the bike I gave him the loop’s directions.

He nodded, and then mounted the bike. His stature was not sufficient to allow him to put both
feet on the ground, so he had to cant his body to the left to allow his foot to touch down while his
other foot remained on the peg.

I entered my truck, and then signaled him to head out.

“Art,” Willie barked. “The fairy can’t even touch the ground with both feet.”

I ignored her remark for the time being and watched Luke intently. “Pay attention. When we get
back I want you to tell me the difference between Alex and Luke’s riding style.

Willie’s body language told me that she was intent on being biased toward Alex. I hoped it
wouldn’t blind her to Luke’s actions if he turned out to be a very smooth and efficient rider. After
we had gone five miles I could tell the kid had what it would take, but I wanted Willie to make
the decision. Coercion would be necessary, yet the hope she would see the difference and
perhaps learn something about efficient riding styles powered me.

When we returned Willie stormed into the shop leaving Luke and me outside to discuss his ride.

“The ride’s yours if you want it. Come on in and look at the other two bikes you’ll be riding.

This one will be converted in time for Daytona. I’ll have to get you CCS, ASBA, and AHRMA
credentials, but we can do that at the track. Be sure your AMA stuff is up to date.”
He nodded and smiled, but looked off in the way Willie had gone. “Are you sure? She doesn’t
seem to agree with your decision.”

“She’ll come around,” Is said, hoping I was right.

Luke changed into his street clothes while Willie and I exchanged dagger stares.

“We’ll talk after he leaves.”

“You bet we will,” she snarled.

Luke came out of the “john” looking apprehensive. “Look – I want the ride, but I don’t need

“We need a rider and you seem to fit the bill. Where’s the trouble in that.” I spoke more toward
Willie than Luke. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay.” I gave him a nod and a wink.

As he exited the shop he turned, waved, and then said, “Talk to you then.”

After wheeling the CBR into the shop, I turned to Willie. “Okay let’s have it.”

“I can’t believe you’re going to let that little queer ride your bikes.”

“I told you once to stop with the names and I’m not going to say it again; and what makes you
think he’s a fairy or queer or whatever.”

“I saw him at Cycle Mall. He was looking through the racks of women’s clothing.”

“Yeah so. Maybe he was looking for a gift.”

“He went into the changing room to try them on. Nick, your parts guy friend, said he’s a clothes
crosser or something and ‘Sweet Cheeks’ said that he might be taking female hormones.”

“Sounds like a whole bunch of hearsay to me. Tell me one thing. Who rides the bike better, him
or Alex? Be honest.”

She dropped her head, turned away, lit a cigarette, and then plopped herself down on the shop
stool. “Him, but I don’t like him.”

“Look at me Willie and listen carefully. You walked up that drive a little less than six months ago
looking for a chance; and I gave you one. Do you think someone like “Sweet Cheeks” would
have given you a chance? I’m asking you to do the same thing. Give Luke a chance. If he does
anything stupid to embarrass us or cause us harm then we’ll get rid of him. Remember the whole
purpose of this is to sell these bikes. If you learn something along the way, then good for you.”
She dropped her head. “It probably sucks to be him. Can you imagine a worse place for a sheboy than a motorcycle store? I still don’t like him, but I’ll give him a chance because you asked
me to. And, your right – ‘Sweet Cheeks’ didn’t give me a chance. I tried to get a job there and she
laughed at me.” She mumbled more as she studied the shop floor.

“What was that?”

“I’m not afraid of much, but people like Luke scare me.”

I studied the girl I had come to admire. “You may like Alex and maybe you may want to date
him, but believe me when I tell you. He’s no good. He’s a user.”

“How the hell do you know that?” She looked at me in amazement.

“You can learn a lot about people from the way they ride,” I said, “and the way they treat other
people’s possessions. Think about the way the two of them ride, and then tell me which one of
them you’d rather have as a friend, which one would you want working for you, and which one
you’d like…well, you know….”

She gave me a look much like she gave when she needed more information to fix the lawn

I looked up from putting the final touches on the GPz. “Willie, after the first of the year we’ll
start working on the CBR, so let’s take the last two weeks of the year off and relax.”

“That’s fine with me.”

“What do you think you’ll do? Go see your parents, maybe?”

“Nope. Want nothing to do with them – or them with me. I tried and they said no. I’ll probably
hang around here. Maybe I’ll clean that Sportster up or something.”

“Want to eat Christmas dinner together?”

“Sure. You going to ask that art dealer lady to come too? Her name’s Monika – she’s divorced.”

“Will you stop with her already. I told you I have no time for such foolishness.”

Over the two-week layoff she would ask to borrow the truck and would disappear for the day. On
occasion I would think about where she would go, but it wouldn’t be any of my business. My
one concern had been that she wouldn’t use the truck for anything illegal. I knew she had been
intent on changing things in her life, yet there had been times when my prejudices got in the way.

On Christmas morning she clumped down the steps to the kitchen. I expected to see her dressed
in her usual jeans or cargo pants and a sweatshirt. To my surprise she wore the dress she had
selected from my wife’s things.

She had done her hair, had a touch of make-up, and perfectly filled the red satin thigh-length,
plunging neckline cocktail dress. In her right hand she held a pair of black three-inch heeled,
open-toed shoes — and on her feet, over nude pantyhose, she wore her work boots.

“Nice shoes,” I joked.

“I can’t walk down stairs with these stupid things,” she moaned while removing the boots and
slipping into the heels.

“Have a cup of coffee; and I’ll go and get your present.”

“But I don’t have one for you.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

I returned to the kitchen with my wife’s jewelry box, placed it before her, and said, “Take what
you like.”

She couldn’t speak, didn’t change facial expression other than to open her mouth in awe, slump
back in her chair, and then a fidget to light her cigarette. When she finally spoke, she uttered,


“I don’t want to sell them, can’t see giving them to charity, so I figured I’d give them to people I
know and like, as gifts. The room is unlocked so if you want to take another look around, you
can help yourself to whatever else you want.”

“Art, I can’t take her stuff like this.”

Her blush made me feel uncomfortable coming on the heels of my difficulty with entering the
room. “Sure you can. If you don’t take it, I’ll have to bundle it up and send it off to a thrift shop.

I would rather see it go to someone who’d appreciate it than to someone who’ll pick through it.

Plus if the stuff doesn’t sell, they’ll unload it on a recycler who’ll make paper or something else
out of it.”

It was all one more step back toward life for me. Slowly, all of the stuff from my past would be
making its way to a re-cycle bin of one form or another.

After dinner we sat around watching vintage racing videos.

The morning of New Years Eve she asked, “Can I borrow your truck this evening? I was invited
to a party at ‘Sweet Cheeks.’”

I nodded and tossed her the keys. The fear of her being caught in a DUI dragnet with my truck
wasn’t a concern because of her pledge to herself not to drink ever again.

I sat at the kitchen table as the time approached ten in the evening when I heard the familiar
clump of her work boots coming down the stairway. She entered the kitchen wearing my wife’s
navy blue sequin gown. It’s fitted bust and straight skirt looked if it had been spray painted onto
her body. Her hair had been styled atop her head and she wore glitter make-up. She looked
radiant. She held a matching clutch bag in her right hand and her shoes in her left. Her down coat
had been draped over her shoulders.

“Wow, look at you, but aren’t you a little over dressed to attend a party held in a dealership?”

“So what? I love this dress and it feels so good. The lining feels nice against my…. I like it,” She
said unequivocally.

“Trying to impress that Alex character?” I asked.

She gave me a stare, which told me my assessment of Alex had been correct.

“Nah. You were right – he’s a pig. Tried to hit on me like some of the girls did when I was in jail.

Had to put him in his place.”

“What did you do?” I asked not really wanting to know the answer.

“I told him no way. Should have punched him out, though.”

“Willie,” I exclaimed.

She smirked. “Dressed like this I don’t think I could fight nobody anyway. Plus . . . don’t want
to . . . because I’m too pretty to fight and pretty girls don’t fight. – – – I don’t think so, anyway.”

“One word of caution. Outlaw bike clubs sometimes show up at ‘Sweet Cheeks’ parties. So
watch your step.”

“Do you want to come along?” She asked. “I could invite you?”

For a moment I considered her offer, and then remembered how much I hated dealership parties
even with Tatiana by my side. “No, you go, have fun, you earned a good time. Don’t forget to
change out of your boots.”

“Funny, Art. Real funny,” she said, while passing through the kitchen door toward my truck.

Later I was awakened by the sound of a slamming kitchen door and Willie’s voice shouting.

“Get in there, sit down, don’t move, and shut up, or I’ll kill you.”

“What’s going on here?” I yelled, while making my way toward her fury.

Upon entering the kitchen, I saw Willie, her hair in a shambles and her make-up smeared. She
stood over Luke, who had blood dripping from his nose and mouth. His right eye appeared partly
closed by swelling around it. He was dressed in a black halter dress that had been torn.

Willie screamed as her chest heaved in anger. “I had to rescue this little shit from having his
brains beat in.” He tried to pick up some guy. And when the guy discovered Luke’s a guy, he beat
the shit out of him. I told you Luke’s a fairy, but you wouldn’t listen. ‘Give him a chance,’ you
said.” She stared at me as if I had orchestrated the entire evening.

I didn’t want to escalate matters, but the first thing was to get her to act with reason.

“Willie, I told you to stop with the name-calling – I’ll not have it,” I shouted. “I want some
answers and I want them fast. The first answer I want is if you hate him so much, why is he here?

“Well I couldn’t leave him there – they would have killed him. I may hate him, but nobody
deserves to get beat up like that. Maybe I felt sorry for the little fai….”

“What did I tell you about names?” I admonished her.

“No, no. It wasn’t like that.” Luke interrupted us with a squeaky tear-laced voice. “I didn’t try to
pick anyone up.”

“Shut up L – u – k – e….” Willie growled.

“Both of you shut up,” I barked. “I’ll tell each of you when to talk. What did you see, Willie?”

“I was talking to Nick when there was a whole bunch of shouting over by the bar. This twerp….”

“What did I tell you about names. One more time and your ass is out in the street – got it.”

“Fine,” she said, standing up. “I was doing okay before I met you.”

I stared at her and then spoke in a much quieter voice. “You think?”

She nodded and sat. “He was getting his ass kicked in by some guy. I ran over and whacked the
guy who was beating on him.”

“Your turn, Luke. Let’s have it.” As I spoke I attempted to stop the bleeding from his nose and

“I went to the bar to get a drink and this guy approached me and asked me to dance. I said ‘no’
and tried to walk away. He grabbed me, and then tried to kiss me. I tried to get away, but he held
me by the wrist. See the mark?” He lifted his hand and wrist to display the fingerprints left by
someone with massive hands. “This other guy shouts ‘Junior, you’re trying to kiss a guy.’ When
he heard that he punched me. I wasn’t trying to pick anybody up. I was minding my own
business and trying to have a good time.” His tears mixed with the blood on his face.

“Willie, how bad did you mess up this ‘Junior’ guy?” I asked, hopeful that she didn’t maim him
beyond repair.

“He’s okay. Didn’t even bleed when I hit him.” She grinned.

“What about police? Will they be knocking on the door?” I grumbled.

“Nah,” Willie laughed. “He’ll be too humiliated to make trouble. He’ll have to explain why he
tried to pick up a guy dressed like a girl, and then being decked by a girl dressed in a gown.”
I tended to Luke’s wounds while Willie went to change her clothes.

“Luke, why are you wearing a dress and make-up?”

“I’m trans-gendered.”

“Trans what?” I was without reference.

“Trans-gendered. I was born into the wrong body. I should have been born female.”

“We’ll pursue this later. Right now I have to stop this bleeding and patch you up. It doesn’t look
like you’ll need stitches.

While wiping the blood from his face, nose, and mouth, visions of Willie, dressed in that elegant
evening gown — taking out some guy — caused me to chuckle.

“You think it’s funny? Me being beat up?” Luke whimpered.

“I wasn’t laughing at you. The thought of Willie defending you caused the smile and laugh.”

My patient chuckled as well. “It was pretty funny, especially when all of his friends started
laughing at him.”

“What’s so funny?” Willie asked as she clumped into the kitchen while exhaling smoke from her

“We were laughing about the vision of you downing that guy dressed as you were.”

“You think it’s funny?” she fumed. “I don’t. The first time in my life I get the chance to dress up
all sexy in a gorgeous dress – wear make-up – wear fancy jewelry – look and feel all pretty –
have cute guys finally flirt with me – not have them think of me as one of the guys – a hired hand
– and it gets ruined . . . and you think that’s funny?”

She appeared to fight back tears.

I felt a tinge of guilt because she had been correct. Most of the time I did view her as a hired
hand. “Sorry Willie.” I reached across Luke to raise her chin with the index finger of my right
hand. “It’s just the sight of seeing you dressed as you were standing over the guy with clenched
fists struck me as funny.”

“None of it would have happened if it wasn’t for him.” She pointed an accusing finger at Luke.

He looked away. “You didn’t have to defend me. I could have taken care of it.”

“He would have killed you,” Willie scoffed. “Didn’t you see his knife?”

“Look you two,” I said, “I’m going to bed. I’m way too old to deal with this shit. Put him in one
of the bedrooms for the night. We’ll sort all of this out in the morning.

I left the two of them in the kitchen to the sounds of eerie silence.

My ceiling became the most interesting thing in the world, as I thought about my next move. I
was close to tossing Luke out the door closely followed by Willie and scrapping the whole idea
of racing the bikes. All of the crap and the bikes could be sold through an on site auctioneer. I
didn’t have to go to Daytona. Granted, the two race bikes were up and running and would fetch
more if sold at the vintage and antique motorcycle auction and the Sportster would be easier to
sell in that venue as well. Tatiana’s CBR could be consigned at “Sweet Cheeks.” I didn’t need the
drama of a trans-whatever and a social reprobate.

After a few thousand tosses and turns sleep finally found me.

“What did you do with Luke,” I asked Willie, who’d been sipping coffee and sucking on her
cigarettes, when I entered the kitchen the following morning.

“He’s up in my room sleeping.”

“What’s he doing up there? I asked you to toss him in one of the bedrooms.”

“That wouldn’t be fair to you. I dragged him back here so he’s my responsibility. You got into the
middle of it because I happen to rent a room from you. If there had been a private entrance to my
rooms you would have never known what happened until either one of us told you.”

“What are you going to do with him when he wakes up?”

“I don’t know. Kick the shit out of him for maybe screwing things up maybe”

“Willie,” I laughed, as it was clear she didn’t mean it.

“I should, but I won’t. Did you see that he is growing tits? He wants to be a girl and has been
working on it for the last five years. We talked a little last night and he was telling me about it.

When I helped him out of his clothes, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them.”

“He mentioned last night he was trans-gendered. Do you know what that is?”

She shrugged. “No I was hoping you did. All I know is he wants to be a girl.”

“What really happened last night?” I asked. “Be honest and don’t lie. This important because we
agreed if he caused trouble we would get rid of him.”

“When I got there, ‘Sweet Cheeks’ and her friends welcomed me and Nick couldn’t have been
nicer. I was having a nice time. It felt good to be treated like a woman. Anyway, I saw Luke
come in dressed all fancy like you saw him last night. He drank some wine and pretty much
danced with a group of girls. I met them. They were nice enough and accepted him as a girl. He and I even danced once.”

She paused to refill her coffee cup, and then lit another cigarette.

“He went to the bar to get another drink while I went over to talk to Nick again – he’s really cute.

I heard some one yell ‘you little faggot….I’ll get you….’ When I turned around this guy they
called ‘Junior’ was pounding on him. No one went over to help him. Some of them were
chanting ‘beat him…beat him.’”

Tears began to form in her eyes while she spoke.

She stopped to gather herself giving me time to think about what had happened. Had I been there

I wasn’t exactly sure what I would have done. Had I been in Junior’s shoes, I would have been
angry, but I wouldn’t have been in Junior’s shoes because I never would have forced myself on a

Willie seemed to have her emotions back under control. “I went over to try to help him when one
of the guys pushed me to the floor. I got up and started swinging. When the big guy went down, I
grabbed Luke and came back her. You know the rest.”

“Yeah,” I said. “At least the story didn’t change all that much from what you said last night.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked with her eyes fixed of the table surface. “Are you going
to fire me and take away the stuff you gave me – throw out Luke when he wakes up.”

“You tell me what I should do.”

“I would get rid of Luke, get Alex to ride, and then continue with the plan.”

“Forget Alex,” I said flatly. “I’d rather send the bikes to a crusher before allowing him to ride

“Well maybe we can find someone else. I’ll ask Nick. He seems to know lots of people. Maybe
that guy I talk to in the parole office knows someone.”

“Or maybe we can figure out what makes Luke tick. Technically he didn’t do anything to harm

“But he’s trans…trans…what you called it.”

“Trans-gendered. Neither of us knows what it is, so we better figure it out before we make a

“They’re your bikes.”

“Yeah they’re my bikes; and right now I’m inclined to talk first, and then act. Let’s hear what he
has to say.”


“Call me when he wakes up,” I said, before leaving the kitchen to head off to the shop.

I entered the shop, pausing to be sure my breathing and heart rate didn’t rise to uncontrollable
levels, took a seat on one of the stools and then looked to the two race bikes to give me an
answer to my questions. They appeared to be the only intelligent things on my property. Do I
give up now or see it all through to completion? Continue taking chances with Willie? Give Luke
a chance to explain? Give him a chance at racing my stuff?

“What do you think old friend,” I asked the old CR 750. “What about you GPz?” I asked while
my fingers hovered over their gas tanks, hardly making contact with them. “Yeah, that’s what I
though you’d say. You guys want to go and you think Luke and Willie will get you there, huh. I
agree with you…well then…let’s do it and get it done. At least when we part company it’ll be on
a high note.”

I went over to the tools and started gathering the ones needed to re-pack the wheel bearings on
the trailer. It would be sufficiently warm to work outside and there hadn’t been all that much
snow to cause a hazard when a few wheels would be off it.

I donned my thermal coveralls; with a floor jack in one hand and a jack stand in the other the
trailer wheel bearings became the target. A second trip brought out the tools, which included my
air gun. With the left side tires removed, I cleaned and re-packed the bearings. Before I started
work on the right side Willie approached.

“Luke’s in the kitchen.”

“How is he?”

“Sore. Do you want me to finish up out here while you two talk?”

“No. You and I are a team in this so we may as well do this together.”

“You going to toss him?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Luke sat at the kitchen table watching us closely as we entered. He wore the torn remnants of the
dress from the night before. His left eye had swollen shut, the cut on his lip had begun to scab,
and dried blood caked in his right nostril.

“Willie, ice down his eye and wipe the dried blood from his nose. I’ll be back in a minute.” I
returned with a warm up suit and handed it to him. “Put these on.”

He left the room to change.

“He looks terrified Willie. He’s afraid of you and isn’t sure what I’ll do.”

“What should we do?”

“We have to go easy on him. Make him something to eat and offer him some coffee.”

Luke returned to the kitchen holding his dress in his hand. After taking his seat, Willie handed
him a cup of coffee. He clutched it with both hands and slowly took a sip.

“I wasn’t trying to pick him up. I went to the bar to get a glass of wine,” he said. “I can tell from
your faces that you don’t want anything to do with me. I’ve seen that look a thousand times from
a hundred different people.”

I shrugged, but Willie gasped.

“The look,” she said. “I hate it when I see that look. I’m sorry Luke; don’t think of me a that kind
of person who gives people ‘the look.’ ”

“For the time being,” I said, “let’s put that aside. I want to know what’s going on. I think you
owe me that much. I did offer you a job riding my bikes, and if you’re involved in anything
illegal I have a right to know because it will reflect back on me.”

“There’s nothing illegal in wanting to become a woman,” he said, as the tears rolled down his
face. “I was invited to the party; and I went as the person I am. I didn’t go to fool anybody or
pick up anybody. I wanted to have a good time like everybody else. I tried to tell that Junior guy
to leave me alone, but he kept insisting. When that other guy said something, that’s when it

“As I said, let’s put some of last night aside. It’s over and done with, but you’re going to have to
help me with this trans-gendered stuff. I don’t know what it’s about and neither does Willie.”
Willie looked on and seemed to be listening with intent.

Luke looked me directly in the eyes. “I knew early on that I wasn’t a boy who’d grow up to be a
man. It wasn’t as simple as being raised by a macho athletic dad and a mom who wanted a
daughter. It was more a case of me wanting to be female.”

I didn’t understand any of what he had said.

“Do you think being a woman is a picnic?” Willie said letting him know her life wasn’t all
cookies and cream.

“Come on, Willie,” I said. “We agreed to listen, and then talk.”

“’Sweet Cheeks’ told me that you’re taking female hormones, is that right?” Willie asked.

“Yeah. Been taking them almost regularly for five years,” Luke whispered. “I started after
turning sixteen — after my father threw me out of the house.”

“When did you tell him?” I asked.

“We’d been driving home from a race at Kershaw in South Carolina. I used to live with them in

“I know that place,” I interrupted.

Luke nodded. His actions were distinctly feminine at times. “He was all happy because I’d
finally scored enough points to get my expert license. He had been thinking and talking about
ways to build a newer and faster bike. He even talked about competing at some national events.”

“So your dad taught you to ride and race?” Willie asked.

“Yeah, I love it. He built bikes for me to race since I was five. We’d race all over Florida,
Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. I competed against grown men and held my own.”

“How did you tell him?” I asked. “I imagine it wasn’t the easiest thing to do?”

He continued at a decibel above a whisper. “My dad asked me who in racing I most admired. I
told him about this successful Canadian Grand Prix rider who had raced all over Europe during
the 1970s. He left it all behind to return to Canada to transition from male to female.
“I heard about him. I forgot his name, though,” I said. “I shouldn’t have said his or him because
she’s legally a woman. She wrote a book about it. It’s not a ‘tell all’ kind a book, but more of a
‘my life’ one.”

“Then what happened?” Willie asked, while re-filling his cup, and then sliding a plate of
scrambled eggs in front of him.

“He asked me why I wanted to imitate a freak, so I told him I wanted to do the same thing. That’s
when he threw me out.”

“Been there,” Willie said and pushed the salt and pepper to within Luke’s reach.

“Where do you live and how do you earn the money to pay for the hormones?” I asked. That was
my way of asking him if the law would be following us to Daytona.

“I tried being a hooker,” he said.

Damn, that’s the ballgame, I thought.

“But couldn’t do it. That’s why I got so upset when Willie accused me of trying to pick up that Junior guy. I live in a room over the deli down the block from Cycle Mall; and I work three –sometimes four jobs to earn the money. It cost almost two hundred fifty dollars each week for the hormones. It will cost almost seventy thousand dollars for my surgeries.”

Willie stood up. “Surgeries? You mean you’re going to cut off your dick?”

“Willie,” I exclaimed, “a little less graphic please.”

“They don’t really cut it off. It’s more like turning it inside out.”

Willie stood up and walked outside, while I sat and stared.

I tried unsuccessfully to get my mind around turning my . . . inside out. Shit. I involuntarily
pulled my knees tightly together.

I didn’t know anything about the trans-gendered world or the world of surgically changing sexes.
It wasn’t something that was on my radar, but I would have to find out if this kid was going to ride for me.

I left Luke to finish his meal and went outside to join Willie.

“What do you think Willie?” She knelt in front of the trailer’s tires as she attempted to remove
them. “Do we toss him out or what?”

“I feel sorry for him. Everybody and everything is against him, but he still goes on.”

“He reminds me of someone else I know,” I said.

“Do I look that pathetic? Did you hire me because you felt sorry for me?”

“You looked a little like he does right now,” I admitted. “At first I felt sorry for you, but soon I
learned to admire you. Your determination to change your life in a way inspired me to get off my
ass to sell the bikes, my wife’s stuff, and this place.

“Maybe I was mean to him. At first I hated him because I thought he was a flake. But, can you
imagine a guy who’s willing to have his dick. . . . Wow. That’s determination. Let me go and
check on him.”

Willie went back to the house, while I finished up the trailer’s wheel bearings.

After completing the work and putting away all of the tools I rolled the old Honda and Kawasaki
off the tables and positioned them by the shop’s bay door in anticipation of loading them into the
trailer. Thoughts of seeing the bikes parked in the pits of Daytona fueled me.

While I worked on the list of parts needed to convert the CBR to race specifications, Willie
popped her head into the shop

“Can I borrow the truck?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Luke and I talked and he’s going to move in with me. He’ll pay rent too. We’re going to get his
stuff. You down with it?”

“Are you okay with it?”

“In jail the counselors told us we should help someone if and after someone helped us. You
helped me so I’m going to help him.”

“What about his being so different?”

“We’ll work on that.”

“From the look in his or her eyes I don’t think you’ll change his or her mind.”

Willie stared directly at me. “Maybe it isn’t HER mind that needs changing.”

Three hours later Luke parked his scooter in front of the bay door, and then helped Willie carry
his belongings to the maid’s quarters.

I had to be crazy to go along with this set up, but then again, my heart told me I had to see it

At first the two of them entered into a peaceful co-existence. Each morning Luke would brace
himself against the elements and ride his scooter to his various jobs while Willie would first tend
to the upkeep of the house and grounds, and then come into the shop.

“Willie,” I said when she entered later that week, “let’s put the two completed bikes in the trailer,
and then push the CBR onto the table.”

“What about the Sportster? Should we put that one in too?”

“Yeah, I forgot,” I said. “Let’s put these two in one behind the other and move the Sportster to
the other table. I should check it to make sure it still runs. I’d hate to have had you spend all that
time cleaning and polishing it only to have it sit in the trailer. I forgot to mention it to you, but
we’ll have to ride the bike into the show. It’s part of the judging.”

“You know Art, you’re one strange dude. You have us do all kinds of work with out knowing if
what we’re doing is doable.”

“When did you become so bright?” I growled.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to you to make sure it ran before you had me spend the better part of
three days cleaning it?” she said in disgust.

“I guess. But I hired you without knowing if you ran right.”

She blushed and then continued to clean the Sportster with various polishes applied using tooth
brushes, Q-tips, baby bottle brushes, test tube brushes, various sized polishing wheels, ultra fine
steel wool, and a cut down natural bristle paint brush. I charged the battery, changed the oil,
drained and flushed the fuel tank, added fresh gas, and then installed new spark plugs.

“Ready to start it, Willie?”

“Yeah,” she grunted. “Same as before?”

“I don’t feel like kick starting it, so we’ll use the remote starter.”

It came to life and settled into the typical Harley lope of an idle. Potato, potato, pop, pop, potato.

Willie smiled broadly when we rolled it into the trailer and tied it down.

Despite her not owning the bike she had taken ownership of it. It would be her baby and she
would shepherd it through the show process. I wondered how many packs of cigarettes she
would smoke while awaiting the judging. The ride in show held at the Daytona Beach
Convention Center generally lasted the entire day despite the advertised hours of eleven o’clock
to three o’clock in the afternoon. Logistically it would be a pain because I would have to ride it
for her, hitch a ride back to the track with Luke, work on the CBR during practice, qualifying,
and then go back and pick her up.

We spent the better part of the next five weeks converting the CBR to race specifications. A
steady flow of discarded original Honda parts left the shop while race specification ones came in.
Within the din of drill presses, screaming Dremels, grinders and the occasional spark from a
welder, there had been times when a fearful expression appeared on Willie’s face. I could tell she
was anxious whether every new part would find a home.

When all but the new bodywork had been in place, we started it. The snarl from the new exhaust
system seemed to please Willie’s sensibilities, but I wouldn’t know if sound alone would produce
sufficient horsepower to run with the factory race teams.

We lined one of the bays with plastic and vented it with an exhaust fan to make a paint booth. I
explained the fine points of preparing and painting injection molded lightweight plastic to her,
and then turned her loose. There were times when she would come out looking like she had been
on the losing end of a paint ball fight, but she managed. We agreed to put contingency award
stickers on the bike after registration with the various manufacturers that posted prize money.
With Willie’s much needed help and determination, we managed to get the three race bikes ready
with ten days to spare. The cushion allowed us to book time on “Sweet Cheeks’ chassis dyno.

The day after Willie’s Tuesday meetings with her parole officer she entered the shop in tears and
cursing out every known being.

“What, what?” I asked. “You look as if your parole officer said you have to go back to jail.”

The soft facial features that complimented the elegant evening gown before she went off to the
party had once again grown hard. Hard like the day I met her. “I can’t go to Daytona. He told me
I can’t leave the state for another year.”

If she didn’t come along with me, I would be lost. “Maybe I could talk to him.”

“It won’t do any good. He said the only way I could go is if someone posted a bond.”

“What kind of bond.”

“Cash. Seventy five thousand dollars cash money.”

I looked at her face, thought of Luke, looked at the bikes, the picture of my wife, and then my
reflection on the windowpane.

“Get in the truck Willie.” I said while searching the workbench for the cordless telephone. “Let’s
go talk to that guy.”

After a quick phone call, I joined her in the truck.

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know yet.”

It would be a quiet ride to the town’s municipal complex. The walk to the offices of the parole
board seemed like a death march for both of us.
After waiting for over an hour the consummate “do nothing” government employee granted us
an audience.

“What’s this all about,” I asked in a polite tone that hopefully masked my anger.

“If you want to take her out-of-state you have to post a bond.”

His tone angered me. Condescending pile-of-shit dressed in a cheap, wrinkled suit.

“That seems a bit unfair in light of her performance over these past months. She’s demonstrated
responsibility, consistency, stability, and loyalty.”

“Eighteen months probation is eighteen months probation.”

The more he spoke the more I wanted to plant him. He caused my long dormant temper to hover
a hair below the surface. “Is there an appeal process?”

“The appeal process is for you to post the bond. If she comes back with you the bond is returned. If she doesn’t the bond is forfeited.”

I decided to roll the dice and hoped they didn’t come up snake eyes. “What happens if she elects
to attend a trade school and stays?”

“Trade school. What trade school.”

“She’s thinking about attending classes at a motorcycle training school.”

“The bond will be returned upon certified evidence of enrollment and the continuation of the
weekly reporting. In this situation by the school.”

Seventy-five grand – one hell of a gamble. Everything in me said “don’t do it” and everything in
me also said “do it.”

“I’ll be back in a minute. I have to make a telephone call.” After making my call I returned to the

“Willie, could you leave us alone for a minute or two.”

She left the parole officer and me alone.

“Okay,” I said. “Here’s the deal. Your money is on its way. I want an assurance that what you
told me will occur as you stated it. If I find out later this bond is shit. Trust me you’ll never work

“Am I to take that as a threat?”

“No, my dear man. It’s a promise. Fill out the paper work. The person who’s delivering the check
is probably outside waiting for me.”

Willie came out of the ladies’ room and witnessed Monika handing me a check. I went back in to

Mr. Parole Officer’s office, endorsed the check, picked the paperwork up off his desk, and then

“You sold the painting didn’t you?”

“Yeah what of it.”

My breathing grew shallow and rapid, my chest ached, and sweat poured off my brow.

“Yeah, but . . .what about the better . . .did she take . . . advantage?” Willie stammered and

“Shut up and get in the truck. We got bikes to dyno,” I gasped.

We had two six-hour days at fifty dollars per hour at our disposal. When I had first built the old
Honda and the Kawasaki there had not been such a thing as a chassis dyno. We measured
horsepower by the seat of the pants. If the bike gave the rider a kick in the ass when the engine
hit its power band, we knew it made power. In today’s game the technician/mechanic needed a
computer print out to tell him.

I rolled each bike onto the machine, strapped it into position taking care the rear wheel had been
positioned on the roller, connected the various probes to the air box and the exhaust header, and
then started and warmed the engine.

The first dyno run told me what I already knew. The old Honda started to make power as the revs
approached three thousand and then produced linear horsepower and torque to its redline. A fuel/
air adjustment coupled with a jetting change accomplished nothing.

The Kawasaki paralleled the old Honda until the revs approached eight thousand and then its
additional kick came in. It was what I referred to as the “other” engine. The first part caused
elation while the “other” engine caused orgasm. Additional changes while the bike had been
strapped to the machine proved fruitless.

The old Honda pulled eighty-five horsepower while the Kawasaki pulled a surprising ninetyeight.
The bulk of the dyno time had been spent on the CBR. I did most of the session cursing because,
in part, we had to use a laptop computer to fine-tune the handful of computer chips we had for
the engine’s ECM. The days of screwdrivers, vacuum gauges, mercury tubes had vanished –
punching keys on a keyboard to change ignition timing and fuel/air ratio now ruled.

Between dyno runs, while I fiddled with the cam timing and exhaust can baffles, Willie would
wander off to visit with Nick at the parts counter. When she would hear the engine start she
would come back to help out. I thought that her visits were to kindle a relationship with him.
Luke would be her charge, but I assumed her love interests lay elsewhere, possibly with Nick.
After the dyno tuning of the three bikes had been completed, we drove back to the shop, but not
before a brief encounter with “Sweet Cheeks.”

“So Art’s going racing again,” she proclaimed for all within listening distance to hear.

I felt the beads of sweat forming on my brow and my right leg begin to lock up. The sight and
sound of her and her voice recalled memories of the day when I bought the CBR for Tatiana.

“How far do you think you’ll get with a felon and a fag?”

She led the onlookers in laughter at the expense of Willie, Luke, and me.

“Farther than you might think,” I answered with a slow, deliberate pace. “Farther than you think.

Let’s get out of here Willie, we still have some work to do.”

“I went on the parts department computer and Googled trans-gender and trans-sexual. There’s
lots of stuff about it,” she said, while staring out the side window of the truck as we made our
way back to the shop. “I read a about the surgeries and the hormones. One article talked about
going to therapy and having a psychiatrist sign off on the person’s mental health. There’s another
one on something called a real life test. Luke is going to have to live as a woman for up to a year,
maybe longer, before he can have surgery. Do you think that’s why he went to the party dressed
like a woman? Do you think he was testing?”

“I don’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know. We could ask him or we could keep researching this
trans stuff, so we learn. Neither of us are any good to him if we don’t have any idea what he’s
going through. Does he talk about it or say anything?”

“He mostly talks about how thankful he is for getting a chance to ride your bikes. I don’t think he
fully trusts us. Don’t blame him much for that. His dad threw him out. I called him names and he
got roughed up at the party . . . and that’s just the stuff we know about. The time since he told his
family must have been pretty tough years.”

“Maybe when he feels safer and more comfortable he’ll open up. Let’s give him his space and
see what happens.”

“Do you think he uses a girl’s name? Should we ask him? Do you think it’ll help if we use she
instead of he?”

I couldn’t imagine wanting someone to call me a woman’s name or use a female pronoun to
describe me. “When we get back, use Tatiana’s computer and see what else you can find out.

We’re in this, so we better figure it out.”

Five days before departure I sent Willie off to an oil change place to have the fluids changed in
the truck. I packed the trailer with tools, spare parts, a portable gas grill, and fold-up camp chairs.
When she returned with the truck we slipped the camper into its bed.

While Willie bounced between packing her things for the trip and surfing various trans sites, I
prepared a checklist.

Luke came through the kitchen door to clean up, change, and then get ready to go to his second
job. Despite his growing accustomed to the new surroundings, he was still wary. He rarely
initiated a conversation with me.

“How’s it going Luke?” I asked.

“It’s okay I guess. One of my bosses is going to fire me if I take time off to race, so I’ll have to
find another one when I get back. I need that extra money.”

“Do you want me to talk to him?”

“Her, but she won’t listen. She’s a motorcycle hater. Won’t even let me park the scooter near the
place. I have to leave it at “Sweet Cheeks” and then walk the rest of the way.”

“Ask ‘Sweet Cheeks’ for a job when we get back. She’s always hiring and firing over there. Job
security is an oxymoron there.”

“Don’t want to work there. It’s like going in harm’s way for me.”

“Then why did you go to her party?”

“It was a chance to go out, dance, and look and feel pretty. It’s better than staying cooped up like
this. . .the way you do.”

His answer startled me. “What did you mean by that?”

“You never go anywhere. You send Willie all over the place. It’s like she’s your robot or
something. It’s like you have a remote in your hand. When you want something — you press the
buttons, and then Willie snaps and goes.”

I didn’t like the image he had drawn. “That’s not fair. She’s paid well, has use of the truck when
she needs it, and I give her things she needs like clothes and stuff.”

“She told me about the clothes and the jewelry. I think you give them to her as a way to fantasize
that she’s your wife or something.”

“Just hold on now. That comment’s not warranted.” Anger rose within me. Maybe I should have
tossed him long ago?

“Oh it’s ‘warranted’ alright; and it’s exactly what they say about you at ‘Sweet Cheeks.’”

“W. . . W. . .What do they say down there?” I stammered.

“Look, Art. You’ve been okay to me I don’t want to go into this; I’ve said too much already.”

“No really, I want to know.”

He shrugged as if it was my funeral. “They call you the ultimate wet blanket, the guy who sits in
his tomb all day, dresses up his employee in his dead wife’s clothes, and then goes up to his room
and jacks off fantasizing about her.”

Everything he said had been true except for the jacking off.

“So what do you call me?”

“Nothing like that. If I had to pick a word for you I guess it would be “unhappy” and that’s too
bad. You’re the guy who’s given me a ride and a degree of tolerance.”
I let the “unhappy” crap roll off me. People had thrown that at me for years. But the rest I had to
deal with. “Degree of tolerance? I wouldn’t say that. Willie’s upstairs right now, looking up trans
stuff — trying to learn more about it. She prints it out for me to read, and then we discuss it. So, I
think your word ‘degree’ is quite unfair. We are trying to be totally ‘tolerant.’ ”

“Well, you don’t show it.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Whenever you see me wearing a skirt or a dress, you seem to give me a dirty look.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know I did that. It’s not intentional. Tell you what – when I do it, call it to my
attention. Fair?”


To him it seemed my attempts to understand him hadn’t been attempts at all. He thought that my
attitude toward him had been the same as everyone else’s. Changing to suit him wouldn’t be fair
to me and he changing to suit me wouldn’t be fair either. A happy medium seemed beyond me.

“What’s going on you two?” Willie asked as she entered the room.

Luke looked at me with an expressionless face, as if he feared my telling Willie about our

“We’re talking about jobs. Luke’s going to lose one when he comes with us to race. His boss
would rather fire him than give him time off.”

“Don’t worry,” Willie said. “You’ll find another.”

“I’d better be going. It’s getting late,” Luke said, as he left the room looking none too happy.

“What were you really talking about? The tension’s intense in the room,” Willie said.

“He held up a mirror for me to look into and the reflection was none too pretty.” I shook my
head. “I got to go into the shop to be sure we have everything on this check list.”

“I printed out some more stuff for you to read.”

“Leave it on the table; I’ll look at it later.”

The words wet blanket and tomb bounced around in my brain and rang true. In past years I had
been a bundle of nerves and a ball of energy five days before departing for Daytona. What has
changed? Lot’s of things. Two of the bikes would be the same and the trailer and camper would
be the same. The battle of wanting to and not wanting to go — waged on; and it had been noticed
by all. If I didn’t come to terms with this fast, the trip would be a disaster.

Three day before we left Willie packed the camper with non-perishable food after giving it
another cleaning.

The night before we were scheduled to leave for Daytona, I found Luke and Willie talking at the
kitchen table.

“Luke’s female name is Lori and would like us to call him…err…her that when it’s reasonable,”

Willie said, while I removed my coat. “She’s worried about causing trouble in Daytona.”

“What name’s on your AMA expert license?” I asked.

“Luke,” he said.

“Well,” I said. “When you’re on or near the bikes we’ll refer to you as Luke; and all other times
you’ll be Lori. Fair?”

They both smiled. It would be a huge step on my part to call a boy “Lori.” “Do you two ladies
feel like helping me hook up the trailer?”

The two days we spent heading south to Daytona Beach passed in relative quiet despite the
music that blared from the truck’s radio. Willie, during one of her excursions with the truck, had
installed a XM radio with my blessing. We drove straight through with Willie and I taking turns
at the wheel.

Lori, on the other hand, spent her time within the confines of the camper studying the track map I
had drawn for her. She had never raced Daytona and had become fearful of the banking and the
deceptively tricky infield. The new configuration would be a mystery to me as well as I hadn’t
ridden it. The plan would be to sneak out on it and walk it to determine visual references,
braking, and turn in points.

At times during the journey Willie and I attempted conversation regarding Lori. We both agreed
after extreme frustration to refrain from using pronouns. Our talks quickly spiraled into pronoun
hell, so we agreed to refer to her by name.

“Lori has a lot of work to do,” Willie said, as we drove through the night.

“What do you mean?”

“This test thing…Lori has to live, talk, and try to think as a woman.”

“Oh,” I said. “Lori should begin to talk like you?”

“Real funny, Art.”

“I know what you mean, so don’t get all pissed.”

“Lori is going to have to learn to think ‘woman.’”

“Won’t that be hard since Lori can’t wear dresses and skirts while Lori’s at the track and in the

“Clothes have nothing to do with it,” Willie said, with the same determination she demonstrated
whenever she tackled a new project. “Lori’s going to have to present herself as female at all
times. I’m going to help the best that I can and you’ll have to do your part.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Don’t ever send Lori to the men’s room or any other place that’s exclusively male.”

“Willie,” I groaned, “that’ll be tough. Lori’s going to have to sign in as ‘Luke’ and be male.”

“I figured that out. When Lori’s wearing her racing suit you stay with her and when Lori’s not
wearing it she stays with me. I’ll make sure she’s female and you make sure he’s male.”

Willie took complete command of Lori’s transition. I stepped back and went along for the ride.

When we arrived at the speedway, we lined up with the other participants who operated vehicles
that had been too large to fit through the infield tunnel and waited our turn to cross over the track

I had been to Daytona speedway many times so the magic of the track didn’t faze me. Willie and
Lori, in contrast, had been hanging out of the window of the truck to take it all in. I feared I
would have to tether them when practice and competition started.

We found a location, parked, unhooked the trailer, and then drove to the infield campground to
set up our temporary home. Willie and Lori got the bed while I slept on the fold-down dinette

Friday morning Willie, Lori, and I went to the official’s table to sign in and get our credentials.
Luke’s AMA license was accepted by the CCS officials and the rider number 124 assigned.

ASBA also recognized Luke’s credentials and approved the same number.

Willie and I unpacked the CBR and Kawasaki, while Lori trailed behind straining her neck to
view the newly re-designed pits. I had never raced CCS or ASBA so my reputation as a bike
builder would be of little or no benefit.

We rolled the Kawasaki up onto the tech ramp and waited while the inspectors did their thing.

They searched for traces of oil mist on the down tubes of the front suspension and engine,
checked that the all the nuts, bolts, and fasteners had been safety wired, and checked that the fuel
tank breather, engine breather, and carburetor overflows had all been vented into a plastic
container. Everything they had checked had not changed over the years. The engine oil catch
basin had been a new addition to the bikes. The rules mandated that a pan had to be secured to
the bottom of the engine and had to be of sufficient size to accept all of the engine oil. This
addition had been an attempt to keep oil from a blown up engine contained so it wouldn’t spill
onto the track and cause a stoppage in the race for a lengthy clean up. Rather than buy one, I
cobbled my own, and then added absorbent felt. It raised an eyebrow, but the chief inspector
signed off.

With our “Passed Tech” sticker prominently displayed on the windscreen, we rolled the bike off
the stand and parked it off to the side, and then rolled the CBR up onto the stand.

The inspection would be the same except for the engine coolant overflow. The Kawasaki being
air-cooled it didn’t require one, but the CBR did. Willie laughed when I strapped a plastic baby
feeding bottle to it. When she saw how snugly it fit into the crevice and how effective it would
be she changed her tune. The bike passed; and we affixed our sticker.

We would have to do the same thing with AHRMA and the AMA. It would be a long tiring seven
days of racing.

While Willie stuck on the numbers we had purchased before we left, I fueled the bike in
anticipation of the first round of practice. I mentally prepared myself for between practice repairs
and adjustments. I hoped that my guesstimates with ride height, suspension compression, and rebound were correct.

When the officials signaled the riders competing in the Middleweight Super Sport class to the
take the track, Lori rode off on the Kawasaki. Willie and I took positions along NASCAR pit
road and watched the practice.

The sound, smell, and sight of the practice session captivated Willie, as she had never witnessed
such an event. I jokingly grabbed hold of her belt.

“What are you doing?” she yelled.

“I don’t want you to drift away.”

Lori clocked consistent high one minute – fifty second lap times. Respectable mid-pack times for
a twenty-four year old motorcycle. Hopefully when she came in her feedback would help me to
make it go faster.

During the debrief she mentioned that the rear wheel hopped when she exited the infield. I
changed the air pressure in the rear shock, the spring adjustment, and then sent her back out. The
adjustments got her into the mid-one minute forty-nine second range, which put her in the top
ten. She would be competitive provided she didn’t fall off.

When ASBA called their practice Lori headed out on the CBR. Out of the box it proved to be fast
and her lap times translated to the top ten riders. When she came in after practice she wore a

“I’ve never ridden bikes this fast,” Lori said, almost breathless.

“You’ll do fine b…b…L…L…young lady,” I said, hoping no one overheard what had been said.

I sent Willie off on Lori’s scooter to the shopping mall across the street from the speedway to
buy some steaks, or whatever, to cook on the portable grill, while I read through the event
program. Lori retreated to the camper to further study the track map. The week had rapidly
become a logistical nightmare.

After competing in CCS and ASBA we would have to pack up everything and head off to Deland
to go through the AHRMA inspection process, and then load up everything and head back to the
track. AHRMA had its own pit location so we would have to leave the trailer connected to the
truck and bring it back to the campground after the first of the two days of vintage racing. I
became more and more thankful for Willie’s help. She had the makings of a great crew chief and
had organizational skills that couldn’t be learned — natural born skills.

After eating we relaxed and listened to the free concert sponsored by the track campground; a
mediocre, at best, blues band. I cringed as they butchered “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Born to
be Wild,” and feared that regardless of what band had been booked for the evening concerts,
renditions of the two songs would be heard over and over again.

When the concert ended Lori called it a day while I sat in the relative quiet of the campground.

Willie felt the need to take a walk. “I think good when I walk,” she said.

What’s on her mind? I thought.

“What’s going on, Art?” she asked, upon returning from her walk.

“Nothing. Just sitting here listening to the quiet. Why do you ask?”

“You got different today.”

“What do you mean?”

“You smiled once and even laughed. Joked too — when you grabbed me by the belt. You feeling

“I’m fine.”

“You know what? I think you’re getting off on racing again. All of a sudden you got a spring in
your step. Never saw that. It’s like when I wore that blue dress on New Years. It made me feel
great and I think watching Lori ride your bike did the same thing for you.”

“Go to sleep, Willie. It’s getting late. We have a big day tomorrow.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll be in, in a minute or two.”

She hit the nail on the head. I did enjoy seeing my Kawasaki on the track in the hands of a good
rider. The sound of its engine screaming as it wound up to its red line electrified me. It had been
like a long over-due shock treatment that I needed to blast myself out of the doldrums of the past
three years. It raised a question. What did I miss more – Tatiana or bikes and racing? Easy
answer to that one.

Willie and Lori doubled up on the scooter while I walked over to the pit entrance. After
unlocking the trailer and removing the two bikes, we took up our hurry-up-and-wait positions
under the trailers sunscreen.

The pit announcer called the CCS class. While I pushed the bike to the entrance to the hot pits,
Willie and Lori rode the scooter.

When the riders were allowed on the track for qualifying attempts, I started the bike to warm it
while Lori strapped on her helmet and gloves. Willie gave her a squirt of water before mounting.

Lori practiced a slow motion race start to get the feel of the clutch, and then took off.

Willie and I crawled up on the pit wall with stopwatches in hand, while we waited for her to
circulate around in anticipation of her first hot lap.

The out lap was slow as was the second. She picked it up on her third and let it all hang out on
the fourth and fifth. Willie clocked her at a high one forty-eight while my watch showed a low
one forty eight.

Mid way through the twenty-minute session she came in.

“Could you soften the rear up a bit more?” she asked, almost apologizing for making an
additional request.

Willie gave her water as I took another turn out of the rear spring and dropped the shock’s air
pressure by one additional pound.

Lori displayed a good feel for the bike and could communicate in both technical and layman’s
terms what it had been doing on the track. This information would be vital in dialing in the more
sophisticated CBR suspension.

After a slow out lap, the second and third laps were high one forty-sevens. Good enough. If she
stayed on the bike and it didn’t blow up we would get a payday.

After the qualifying session, Lori rode the bike back to the trailer while Willie raced back to join
her — leaving me to carry the cooler and tools.

Why don’t you two go over to the official scorer and find out where we qualified while I check
over the Kawasaki?” I asked Willie. “When you get back I would like Lori to rest while we wipe
down the Honda and fit the tire warmers into place.”

“Okay,” they said, while speeding away on board the scooter.

While I continued to check over the Kawasaki they came back. Willie cursed a blue streak, while
Lori stood by in silence.

“Those f–king dopes gave us a defective transponder, so we didn’t get a time. We’re going to
have to start last.”

“Calm down Willie,” I said, “we’ll be okay. By the way, did you hear yourself? One hell of an
example you’re setting for Lori. Ladylike… remember.”

“Oh f–k you, Art.”

“Come on, let’s get the Honda ready,” I chuckled.

The announcer called the ASBA qualifying session onto the track and it was a repeat of the CCS
one. Her lap times were quicker, but she couldn’t improve her position in the top ten.
During the lunch break the butterflies in my stomach returned after a long vacation. I raced and
built race bikes my entire life, yet that dry heave feeling never left. Another sign of life. Willie
had been correct. The bikes and racing had been bringing me back to life.

The CCS classes would be run that afternoon with the ASBA races run the following day. When
the announcer called the class, the two kids rode to the hot pits on the scooter while I pushed the

The riders took their sighting and warm-up laps, and then lined up for the race. The one-minute
board went up, followed by the red lights. The riders shifted into gear brought up the engine revs,
and then waited for the green light.

Lori got a good start and passed five riders before leaving pit road. My butterflies continued to
fly while Willie started to beat my right arm with her fists. If this were the way we would both
react neither one of us would last through ten laps.

When the lead rider crossed the start/finish line the counting began. One, two, three. Fifteen,
sixteen, seventeen. At the end of the first lap she had moved up to twentieth.

I put the clock on her while Willie clocked the lead riders.

At the end of lap two the leaders had been running mid one forty eights while Lori ran a low one
forty-seven. After the count, she ran fifteenth.

In order to get a payday, we would have to finish in the top five. She had eight laps to move up
ten positions. Doable, but difficult.

At the start of lap six, three riders rode off the track causing her to move up with out having to
work hard. At the end of the lap she had worked her way up to seventh place. I doubted she
would win because she was using up her tires. They had perhaps one — maybe two laps left in
them before they would lose most, if not all of their grip. Maybe enough to pick up two places
and give us a much-deserved payday.

Midway through lap nine the third place rider tucked the front end causing him to crash and Lori
managed to pass the sixth place rider after a three-lap battle that the track announcer featured.

The riders took the white flag. One more to go. Lori rode comfortably in fifth – not a podium
finish, but an in-the-money one.

After the race Willie gave me a big hug and kiss. Neither one of us expected it. When it naturally
broke off, we stared at each other momentarily before she ran off to get the scooter and head
back to the trailer to meet up with Lori.

I made my way back wondering if the brief kiss and embrace had been pent up in her and
spontaneously exploded at the site of seeing the successful fruits of her efforts. Perhaps it had
been directed at me for giving her a second chance at life and a few trinkets. It marked the first
time since my wife passed that I held a woman. Maybe this would in fact be the time to move on
and find myself a woman to hold.

When I got back to the trailer Willie and Lori were hugging and kissing as well. On the surface it
appeared as two kids celebrating their efforts – a budding young bike builder/crew chief and an
up and coming rider. Willie’s body became supple in Lori’s arms as the hugs and kisses
continued. It looked like love, but how did it happen? How could two people who were at each
other’s throats two plus months earlier be melting in each other’s arms? What didn’t I know?
What had I missed while mired in my own thoughts? One more thing to watch unfold.

“Good race Lori,” I said while shaking her hand and patting her on the back after she and Willie
ended their embrace.

As Willie and Lori reveled and celebrated by throwing water at each other, I started to put
everything back into the trailer. Our day was done and we would do it all over again in ASBA the
following day.

While I toiled, visions of a properly trained Willie working on race bikes for a living entered my
brain. She had magic hands when she moved them across the surfaces of the bikes. Despite her
limited experience she had the knack.

After they completed their celebration, Willie helped Lori wiggle out of her tight fitting leathers.

As she pulled on the sleeves from behind, her t-shirt pulled tight against her chest. The sight of
her breasts further cemented the reality that Luke wanted to become Lori. The thought of
someone changing sexes continued to escape my version of reality. I accepted the fact that it
would be something that she needed to do and marveled at the bravery of it all. It represented
something completely out of my realm, but it would be one more thing to learn about and

With the trailer locked up we got ready to head back to the campground to make dinner and
hopefully not have to wait in too much of a line to take a shower. Lori and Willie joined me after
stopping at the official scorer’s table to pick up our fifth place two hundred dollar winnings.
Back at the camper, Willie fired up the portable gas grill to prepare a dinner of chili from a can
and mystery meat hot dogs. I promised them a restaurant meal in Deland after we completed the
AHRMA technical inspection.

After our meal we listened to another mediocre blues band. As expected we were serenaded by a
second round of “Sweet” and “Born.”

Willie and Lori wandered off to tour the track campground and to get a better view of the band
while I sat by the camper to review the ASBA and AHRMA schedule. If we missed the Sunday
afternoon AHRMA inspection we would have to subject ourselves to the rush of Monday
morning inspection, coupled with finding a pit spot, and then getting the bike ready to race. If it
did become a Monday event we would probably miss out on a practice session. No use worrying
about it – whatever happens, happens.

Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of them as they walked the makeshift roads that separated
the sections of the campground. Willie had a gift and a talent for learning and adapting to things.
Life and jail probably forced the learning curve, but left her lacking in acquired social skills. Her
rough and tumble lifestyle had forced etiquette to take a back seat.

Lori, on the other hand had to cast off one way of living and learn an entirely new one. I feared
the new one. A naturally gifted rider, when given the opportunity to display her skills to a factory
team, or a high-ranking support team, they would leap at the chance to get her under contract.
Therein lay the problem. Women had yet to achieve the level of factory or support team rider in
motorcycle road racing. There had been woman competing on the national level, but as
privateers using mediocre, at best, equipment – mostly showroom stock bikes with a body kit and
a pipe. They would qualify either mid or at the back of the pack or in the second wave and
ultimately finish the race as a back marker.

Lori would have perhaps a double curse. She would have to compete as a woman with the stigma
of once having been a man. Women would claim she was a man and the men would claim
whatever. Couple it with the media malaise any degree of success would cause and life would
become unbearable. Wherever she would go she would become public domain and no doubt set
off a frenzy. I feared a very lonely and cold life for her.

Despite my change in location from the camp chair to what passed for my bed, thoughts of the
two of them continued to stop my sleep. I accused myself and charged myself guilty of
disregarding Willie’s sex. Often times to me she had been a hard working twenty-something slob
–even describing her to myself as a Draft horse. I laughed when her attempt at femininity had
been the wearing of, to me, a drab maid’s uniform – the off the cuff chiding of her inability to
traverse a stairway while wearing heels – her bad example of womanhood displayed in Lori’s
presence. My treating her as asexual had been wrong.

Yeah, I had, with Willie’s help, developed a passing knowledge of trans-gendered and trans-
sexual people. Again, guilty as charged for not taking more time to attempt a further
understanding of it.

“Art, some guys gave us beer to take back for you,” Willie said, while handing me an ice-cold
can as she entered the camper with Lori in tow. “Nice guys . . . and they asked us to stay, but we
declined. Drink up and enjoy. We’re going to bed.”

“Willie,” I asked. “Shouldn’t you be careful where you take … um … go with … err … Lori?

She got beat up once for being not what she appeared to be.”

“It’s cool. Lori stood beside me or kind of behind me and just sort of smiled. The one guy that
did talk to her was polite. The only thing he said – something like she really got the Grace Jones
thing working. She just thanked him for noticing, and then smiled.”

“Did those guys watch the races today.” I had fears that they would recognize her to be a him
while in competition.

“Nah. They said they hung out at ‘The Iron Horse’ in fact they called it the ‘I-Run Whore’ and
watched the burn out contest. They’re not in to racing. We told them what you told me. ‘We only
come for the races.’ They’re staying here at the track campground because their usual place got
filled up early and wouldn’t let them in.”

“Please be careful. I don’t want the two of you getting hurt.”

“I’m all for that,” she said while climbing into the bunk.

I sipped the beer, and then called it a day.

I awoke early, and then headed off to the pits. After bribing the guard with coffee and a hard roll,
he granted entrance before the official opening. I wanted to be alone with the bikes and would
look to them for guidance.

While standing between the old and new Hondas with a hand on each I asked, “What do you
think guys? Am I protecting myself or Lori with this whole — you’re this when we do this and
you’re that when we do that? Talk to me guys.”

Willie and Lori showed up and joined me in the hurry-up-and-wait process.

The track announcer called qualifying, so we made our way to pit road, Willie helped Lori put on
her helmet and gloves, shot some water into her mouth, and then helped her onto the bike. She
made a practice start, and then started her easy out lap.

Her second through seventh lap were consistent mid one forty-threes. If she could keep up that
pace and consistency there would be a fair chance of winning the race.

After qualifying Lori rested in the trailer while Willie and I worked on the bike. We had decided
to do a tire change and switch from the hard compounds to medium ones. The mediums would
come up to temperature sooner and hopefully allow her to squeeze a tenth or two more speed out
of the bike.

Two races went off before ours. While we waited I wandered up to the starting line to get a
glimpse of the starting grid. Lori would be starting from the middle of the third row. By my
watch she had been running in the top ten but the transponder said otherwise. If her head was on
straight we had a shot at the podium and perhaps a possible win.

Our race had been called and the riders came to the grid. After the sighting and warm up lap, the
riders lined up to take the start. Twelve laps. She would be mixing it up with factory support
team riders and with elite privateer teams. ASBA did not allow full on-factory teams to compete
in their series.

The one-minute board came up followed by the red light. Bikes in gear engines brought up. The
green light flashed and off they went.

Willie, with stopwatch in hand, waited for the riders to circulate around and cross start/finish to
complete the first lap. One, two three, eight, nine, ten. At the end of the first lap she rode in tenth
place. If she did no better, we would get another payday.

She had worked her way up to fifth. The lap times had been the same as the practice times. Her
riding style hadn’t over taxed the tires with the lap times or hurt her consistency and with any
luck she would make it to the podium.

The fourth place rider took out the third place rider with a desperate stuff move as the riders
entered turn one. We owned third place with three laps to go. The leader and the second place
rider were six seconds ahead leaving us no chance of winning or improving an additional
position. It would take a crash — and one didn’t seem likely to occur as the second place rider’s
lap times fell off and he had begun to ride conservatively. The riders got the checkered flag. We
got a third place finish.

I went back to the trailer to pack up and head to Deland to AHRMA technical inspection, leaving

Willie to revel in the winner’s circle antics with Lori.

“I’d like to thank Willie here…,” her voice boomed over the track’s public address system….
and Art for giving me the chance to ride their bike. Thank you.”

Lori pushed the bike back to the trailer while Willie rode the scooter. She beamed as she held the
third place trophy between her legs. There would be no way in hell anyone could take that trinket
away from her.

Willie helped Lori wiggle out of her sweat-soaked leathers, and then helped her into cargo pants,
sweatshirt and sandals. They both headed off to the women’s room to clean up while I stayed
behind to finish packing. Before leaving we three headed over to the official scorer to pick up the
seven hundred-fifty dollar payday.

After quickly unloading the old Honda at AHRMA tech, Willie and I pushed it to the line with
the remnants of the participants awaiting inspection. She stayed with the bike while Lori (now
Luke) and I went over to the official’s table to have them review his credentials and certify him
to race. My thoughts briefly drifted back to those of the previous evening and mentally kicked
myself in the ass for being a hypocrite. She wanted to be Lori and not Luke. I wanted him to be
Luke while riding. Did I fear embarrassment of his discovery? Did I fear for her well-being? No,
I feared my own lack of knowledge. The bikes represented simplicity and proved easy to
understand while people presented way too much complexity for my pea brain.

After certification we re-joined Willie and the bike, as they both approached the chief inspector.

“Art Powell? Is that really you? Can’t be. After all these years, ‘Art the Dart’ finally shows up.

Where’ve you been?” Sidney the chief inspector asked, as Willie and Luke looked on in

“Yeah, it’s me. The price and the timing were finally right so I dragged out the old bike. Meet
Willie. She’s the crew chief and Luke here is the rider. I’m just along to spin wrenches,” I said in
my legendary monotone manner.

“I imagine the kid’s a pretty good rider.”

“He’s not bad. He got a fifth in a CCS race and a third in a ASBA race,” I droned on.

“If you say he’s not bad then he must be great. Did he ever tell you kids the story about how he
beat one of the factory riders on this bike?”

“Come on, Sydney,” I said. “Check the bike over so I can get something to eat and go to sleep.

I’m old and don’t have the stamina for an ancient history lesson.”

“Yeah kids, it was great – last lap draft and pass at the finish line. Never saw anything like it.”

“Sid, it was thirty-six years ago,” I groaned. “If you add their ages together it might not add up to

“You were that good,” Willie said.

“I could hold my own,” I said.

“Ever the modest one,” Sid chuckled.

The four of us laughed it all off as the inspection process began.

“Hey Art?” Sydney asked. “Whose kitchen is missing a baking pan?”

“Watch it,” I said. “I bought that new.”

The kids laughed again, I chuckled and Sydney said, “Yeah right.”

The bike passed inspection, as did Luke’s riding gear.

“Good luck Art. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

We loaded up the bike and headed off in the direction of the track campground and a decent
restaurant with sufficient parking facilities to accommodate the truck and trailer.

Willie, Luke (now Lori), and I rode in the cab of the truck as we made our way to a restaurant.

“Do I ride as good as you did?” Lori asked.

“Lori, on my best day, I couldn’t come within one hundred feet of you. Even if I’d been riding a
bigger, more powerful bike.

“Tell me another one,” Willie said.

Sunday night in the Daytona Beach area and nearby vicinity – it marked the end of the first
weekend of bike week and the beginning of the “official bike week.” All of the restaurants had
immediate seating and ample parking due to the daytime exodus of the weekenders. Since there
would be no one to negotiate with concerning the choice of restaurant I chose to dine at a long
time favorite of mine, “Aunt Catfish.”

We took our seats in anticipation of a meal of catfish cooked in any of a variety of ways. A long
overdue bottle of beer quenched my thirst while Willie and Lori sipped on glasses of sweet tea. I
tried it once, but its vile taste eluded me

Dinner conversation centered on the day’s events. Willie reveled in having input into the preparation of the bike and Lori went on and on about it being the fastest bike she had ever

Willie not only took complete charge of the bikes, she also took charge of Lori’s appearance.

When they returned to the table after retreating to the ladies’ room for repairs, they both wore
conservative jewelry and touches of make-up to accent their matching cargo pants and

After dinner we headed back to the campground to call it a day.

I rested in bed while going over the schedule for the next five days. Monday and Tuesday would
be two rounds of AHRMA racing. Morning practice would be followed by a lunch break. Race
seven would be the Formula 750 one and race nine would be Formula Vintage. Wednesday
would be AMA technical inspection, practice, and qualifying with the bike show stuffed in the
middle. Thursday would be morning practice and in the afternoon, the race. Friday would be the
auction and thankfully the start of my trip home. I had no desire to watch the Saturday Super
Bike race or the Daytona 200.

At dawn I awoke, washed my face, dressed, and then drove the rig over to the AHRMA pits. I
didn’t bother to wake the…kids…deranged young adults…lost souls…girls.

After parking, I set up the portable grill and put up a pot of coffee. I also set up the canopy and
pulled out the old Honda to prepare it for practice.

While I got things ready I wondered if the day would be fruitful. If the bike ran well enough it
might garner a higher bid when it rolled across the auctioneer’s block. A freshened up racewinning (maybe) bike would fetch a better price than a basket case. If the Sportster did half way
decent in the show, it too would fetch a healthy price. A first year model with matching numbers
and painted with original 1957 paint should be worth something. If the Kawasaki brought
anything it would be a plus and if a local racer-type bought Tatiana’s it would be fitting.

The smell of the coffee must have awakened them as one by one they emerged from the camper.
Willie went over to the concession stand while Lori climbed aboard the Honda. She would be
racing a bike nearly twice her age against some riders that would be old enough to be her
grandparents or perhaps even great-grandparents. Riders her age referred to vintage racing as
“the old fart league.”

It didn’t seem to bother her, nor did it bother her that AHRMA racing would be for the joy of it.

Her efforts would be rewarded with a porcelain vase or a ten-cent trophy. Her body language and
facial expressions told me that she would be more interested in racing the bike.

I wondered if she looked at racing and riding as an escape from her reality of bumbling from one
odd job to another to attain her goal of becoming a woman.

A mental comparison of the physical movements of Lori and Willie revealed neither to be overly
masculine or feminine. They both moved with grace and a degree of style and neither appeared
to be caricatures.

Willie came back with donuts and egg sandwiches. I gobbled it down and continued to tend to
the bike while they huddled in the trailer to eat their food.

I couldn’t overhear their conversation due to the distance and the ever-growing sound of unmuffled motorcycles. I imagined that they continued their ongoing conversations about
hormones, real life tests, and surgeries.

Surgeries – I still cringed at the thought of what Luke was willing to do.

I continued to try to understand why someone would want to change his or her sex. It seemed
hard enough to live one life so how could someone walk away from something with a degree of
difficulty, and then enter into something with an even higher degree of difficulty. Try as I might I
couldn’t understand it. I resigned myself to understanding the two-wheeled mongrels that offered
limited pleasure and massive physical and mental pain.

I sent Willie over to the official’s table to get the practice schedule. Since the bike had been
entered in two classes, we would have twice the amount of practice time. It would take some
time for Lori to acclimate herself to the Grand Prix style shift pattern, pre-historic brakes, bias
ply street tires, and a suspension system with slightly more dampening than a pogo stick.

Our two fifteen-minute practices were at half past nine and eleven o’clock. Lunch would be from
noon to one o’clock and our first six-lap race would be at two and our eight-lap race would be at
half past three.

When our practice had been called, I reminded Lori to be mindful that the bike didn’t have a
slipper clutch, nor did it have a rev limiter and that she would have to pay attention to her clutch
control when she down shifted . . . and under no circumstances rev the engine above nine
thousand revolutions per minute. She nodded, while patiently waiting for me to start the engine
with the remote starter.

We got the signal, started the engine, lowered it off the stand, and then sent her on her way.

After an easy out lap followed by an additional ‘get acquainted’ lap the times began to drop. At
the end of the practice session the times hovered in the high one fifty-two range. Good enough.
The second practice would be a repeat of the first. The lap times did; however fall by one half

During the lunch break Lori and Willie wandered off to view the wide variety of vintage and
antique race bikes interspersed with modern, twin-cylinder and single-cylinder ones that filled
the various AHRMA classes.

Damned if I could distinguish any differences in the way they walked or gestured as I caught
glimpses of them at various times. In my mind two girls wandered around the pits.
The first races had been called after lunch, breaking the relative quiet of the mandated “no unmuffled engines running.”

Willie helped Lori get ready while I gave the bike one more going over. When the call came, I
pushed the Honda while they rode the scooter to the hot pit lane with the remote starter in tow.
The Formula 750 class included the cream of the fast bikes of yesteryear. Hondas like mine,
Harleys, Triumphs, Nortons, B.S.A.s, the occasional BMW, Moto Guzzi and the one off Ducati.
The blind could determine which bike rode past, by the sounds emanating from the exhaust.

Sounds that rivaled a symphony orchestra and much better than the racket produced by the blues
bands that performed nightly on the campground stage.

Lori had to start in the back, along with the other late entries. All part of the game, I thought
while performing the starting ritual.

The vintage bikes ran as they did in the day, which meant minimal muffling. It caused Willie to
cover her ears to muffle the volume as the riders took their positions on the grid in anticipation of
receiving the green flag.

One-minute board, red lights lit, first gear, revs up, face shields down, green light flash, and off
they went.

Lori would be competing against guys who’d been riding the same bikes since new. I chuckled
as she weaved past six riders on pit road before entering the track surface to begin her charge
down the short straight that led to the international horseshoe.

After the roar of the start, the noise level fell off to a point where we could hear the track
announcer. As usual the “owners” of the class fought it out for the podium position. If Lori had
anything in her she might possibly join in, but she had six laps to pass six riders to get to fourth
place. If the top three didn’t pull a breakaway she could play spoiler and find herself on the box.

My invisibility went away when the announcer recognized my bike’s once familiar paint scheme
and announced Luke’s and my name over the public address system. Causing me to smile.

“Give me a pen and paper,” Willie said.

“What for?”

“I have to write this down – Art Powell smiled twice in one day.”

At the halfway point, she had made it to fifth place and was still charging.

With two laps to go she had made it to third and was pushing the second place rider astride a
B.S.A. Rocket III. The leader aboard a Triumph Bonneville had checked out. If Lori could get
close enough she could pull off a last lap draft and pass move, provided she knew how to do such
a thing. At least she had a spot on the box.

Sure enough she completed a textbook move and ended up second. Barely – half a wheel length –
to the screams of the track announcer.

Lori completed a cool down lap and came to a stop back at the start finish line. Willie hugged
and squeezed her, and then let her remove her gloves and helmet.

I declined an interview with the pit reporter and directed him to Willie and Lori. I laughed as
they yipped it up and sprayed water at themselves, the reporter, and the photographer.

When Lori popped off her helmet I feared her discovery. I could always claim the paperwork had
been completed with the initial of her first name and people had made a mistake and assumed
that the “L” stood for Luke. To my surprise, she wore no make up. Earrings wouldn’t have
mattered because many a male racer wore a diamond or two in his ear. The sight of her helmetless quelled any anxiety. She sported matted sweat soaked hair, sweat beads mixed with the
water Willie threw at her, and dressed in her leathers no one could detect the trace of a figure.

After the celebration we went back to the trailer to check over the bike and to get ready to do it
all over again in the Formula Vintage class. The class had more participants than the Formula
750 one so it meant more riders to pass to get to the podium. She ran out of laps and only made it
to fifth.

After we had packed up everything and arriving back at the campground, I was ready for a nap.
Willie and Lori headed to the showers and at the mid-point of their destination they began to
hold hands.

As they entered the ladies room I wondered what others thought when they saw the two of them
wandering around the pits and the campground. I satisfied myself that they saw what they
wanted to see. When Lori wore her racing leathers, they saw a compact racer rather than a petite
young girl. It’s what they expected to see. When she wandered around with Willie, they saw a
petite girl hanging out with a tallish ash blond — two girls taking in the sights and sounds of the
campground and the band. The guys that gave them beer saw two girls, Sydney saw two kids
with a love of racing and the track photographer and the interviewer saw a racer and his
girlfriend crew chief. At times I saw two girls and at times I saw two mixed-up kids hanging out
with an old man teaching them the ins and outs of professional and amateur racing . . . and racing
for the fun of it.

I turned in early while the two of them hung out at the bandstand. I tried to blot out the sounds of
the blues band that hacked away at another variation of “Sweet” and “Born.”

When they returned and crawled onto the bunk they serenaded me to a conversation centered on
the surgeries involved in transitioning from male to female.

I winced at the thought of what Lori called the ultimate procedure. Granted I didn’t use it all that
much any more to obtain sexual pleasure and what urine managed to find its way out went in no
known direction, but it was still there. She knew what to do and how to get it all done and Willie
seemed to understand and accept it. The one underlying bond that seemed to join them had been
a purpose. Willie wanted to distance herself from her past and pursue a motorcycle career, while
Lori wanted to become a woman. If they could help each other they would use each other’s
strengths to find their place.

The second round of AHRMA competition on Tuesday proved to be a repeat of Monday. A
second place finish in the Formula 750 race and a fifth place in the Formula Vintage class. At the
end of the two days of competition, Willie had four ceramic vases.

Bright and early Wednesday morning we three unloaded the Sportster and the CBR. The latter of
the two went to AMA technical inspection while the Harley would be ridden over to the
convention center to spend the day parked next to other bikes that awaited judging by some anal
factory “expert” who would deem it original and worthy of a trophy or a collection of
aftermarket junk worthy of a ribbon.

After inspection, I approached the Sportster in anticipation of starting it and then riding it to the
show. The closer I got the more my right hand shook and stiffer my left leg grew. Sweat beads
once again began to form.

Willie and Lori took notice.

“Art?” Willie asked. “You okay?”

“What’s wrong?” A concerned Lori asked.

“Nothing,” I said, placing my trembling left hand on the bike’s right hand grip.

Willie pulled Lori aside and whispered something into her ear. No doubt Willie told her in her
words I would weird out when confronted with things that had a direct connection with my wife.

The kids had no way of knowing that Tatiana and I doubled up on the bike to test ride it, after I
had completed the restoration.

“Let me start this stupid thing so we can get over to the show.”

I turned on the fuel, cracked open the throttle, gave it a slow kick through with the kick starter,
turned the key to the on position, positioned my left knee on the seat and with my right foot and
leg gave it a healthy kick using all of my body weight as additional force. It failed to start. The
third attempt proved successful.

We donned our riding gear while the engine warmed. Willie and I doubled up on it while Lori
followed along on the scooter. We arrived at the convention center early because two of us had to
rush back to the track for practice and eventual qualifying.

“Willie,” I said after we had arrived at the judging area to demonstrate that the bike had in fact
been ridden to the show, “here’s one hundred dollars. Buy something as a treat to yourself for all
of the hard work you’ve done. There’s plenty of Harley crap in the convention center and Main
Street is two blocks south. Lot’s of vendors and shops with stuff to look at. Be sure to lock the
bike if you go shopping. See you after qualifying. It may be around five o’clock.”

Lori and I doubled up on the scooter, and then headed back to the track. We were quite the sight
as we sat in traffic along with all the bad running Harleys, Harley clones, choppers and the
occasional sport bike piloted by helmet-less balding middle aged riders hell bent on thinking they
appeared devastating to the opposite sex. They laughed, I groaned. Lori sat behind me no doubt
in awe of all the silliness going on around her.

We arrived at the track as Super Stock practice ended. There had been a red flag condition as one
of the riders crashed and disrupted one of the inflatable safety fences. The extra time allowed us
to get ready at a leisurely pace.

When we would be allowed on the track for the thirty-minute practice, Lori would get her first
taste of riding with the professional racers. The cream of the crop rode the latest and greatest
from Japan, Italy, and England. Bikes from the later two places could be counted on one hand,
but they would be represented and would be a pleasant distraction from the high-pitched screams
of four-cylinder engines revving at fifteen thousand revolutions per minute.

The factory Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and Yamahas fought it out for the quickest fast times. I
hoped for the fastest privateer time. If we could get that, it would mean an extra five hundred
dollars. She stopped once during the thirty-minute practice to report a front suspension problem
and to get a drink of water.

“The front end chatters when I go into turn one and the chicane,” she said.

Her complaint translated to a bottoming of the suspension when the bike decelerated from its
near one hundred-forty mile per hour approach speeds to approximately seventy to ninety mile
per hour entry speeds.

“Let me go up one more click on the compression setting and take out a click on the rebound

I couldn’t hear the clicks and did my best to listen through my fingers while turning the Allen

She managed to hold her own when the factory teams practiced their drafting techniques and
managed to hang on to the Yamaha team for a few laps until they split up to practice draft
passing. At the end of practice she was twelfth fastest. Not bad considering whom she had been
riding with and what they had been riding on.

After practice, I took the wheels off the bike and carried them over to the Pirelli tire distributor.

My intent had been to turn her loose to qualify on medium/soft compound tires. The practice
tires had been medium compound and they already had the practice sessions and the ASBA race
on them. If she didn’t chew up the medium/softs too badly I would have her race on them.
When the factory guys qualified, they would go out on race compound tires to measure their
speed, and then duck into the pits and stick on a gum ball super soft two lap maximum qualifying
tire, and then make a full out attempt. We didn’t have an extra set of rims so we had to make do
on my best guess.

After a lunch break, the thirty-minute qualifying session had been announced. Lori pushed the
bike while I carried the tools, stand, and water. My age began to creep in and I deemed myself
way too old to be doing this work.

The officials started the thirty-minute clock, and then gave the riders the signal to head out onto
the track. Once again, all of the bikes had been equipped with transponders, which allowed pit
control to register the lap times of each rider. The one hundred twelve percent rule would be in
effect and the pole setting time would be multiplied by the rule and those riders falling within
that range would be in the race. If she rode the way she had practiced, and perhaps picked up a
tow from a factory rider, she would land herself a good spot in the show.

Midway through the qualifying session she had been twelfth fastest and third fastest privateer.
We had agreed before she went out to come in at that point so I could check the tires.
“You got maybe four hard laps left in these tires, do you think you could push this thing a little

She nodded, swallowed a mouthful of water, flipped down the visor, and then took off.
At the end of the qualifying session she improved the position by one spot. The factory guys put
their qualifiers on and lowered their times as well. Her speed improved, but not enough to get the
number one privateer spot. She would start the race in the third row, third spot – eleventh place –
between the top running privateer and a support team rider.

We put everything back into the trailer freshened up, and then headed off to get Willie. We
previously agreed to treat ourselves to a restaurant meal and savor seafood at “Barnacles.”

We arrived at the convention center, only to be greeted by a pouting Willie.

“What’s wrong?” I asked wondering what could prompt her to be sitting at the curb by the

Sportster surrounded by cigarette butts.

“One of the judges asked me to start the bike and I couldn’t.”

“Yeah so,” I attempted to console.

“He told me to go back in the kitchen and make babies,” she said near tears.

“You didn’t go off on him did you?”

“Everyone laughed at me; and I didn’t like it.”

“Forget it. They’re jerks. Did you win anything?”

“They took points off because I couldn’t start it, and ride it past the judges’ stand.”

“Sorry Willie,” I said while lifting her chin to look in her eyes as Lori took a seat beside her and
placed her arm around her shoulders. “You have to understand something. The motorcycle world
is a bastion of un-harnessed testosterone. That fool who asked you to start the bike did so to label
you. If you started it you would have been labeled butch. The fact that you couldn’t, led him to
label you a baby maker.”

“I don’t like it. It’s not fair.”

“Nothing’s fair, Willie,” I said while Lori looked on and listened with intent. “In the motorcycle
world women are, in Harley-Davidson’s eyes, and to a more subtle extent the other
manufacturers, the great un-tapped market. They want to sell you bikes and dress you up in nonfunctional clothing. You saw the crap in the convention center.”

“How could they ride with those stupid shoes, and what’s with all the fringe and roses? And,
what was it with the leather bridal gown and the goofy looking hat with the veil?”

“They can’t. It’s all a show. Did you see all the derogatory stickers down on Main Street? The so
called voice-of-the-people ones?”

“Yeah, there was a really cute one. It said ‘It used to be about motorcycles – now it’s a f–kin’
fashion show.’”

“You’re in a double bind. There aren’t all that many female technicians wandering around
despite them attending the schools. Those faux macho type customers don’t like it when women
can spin wrenches better than men so they tell the service managers in the dealerships not to
have the girl or ‘bitch’ work on their bike. Women can’t make any money on the flat rate system
so they get relegated to bike prep, get frustrated, and then quit.”

“That blows,” Willie sighed.

“Yes it does, Willie, but right now that’s the way it is.”

I tried to read the expression on Lori’s face. Did she find herself between the crosshairs of
wanting to take her racing to the next level in exchange for her goal of becoming a woman? Or,
did she want to attempt both at the cost of criticism, humiliation, and discrimination? It would be
her demon. Willie had hers. I had mine.

“Well we got third place,” Willie said while taking a slow deep breath, and then exhaling it in a
huff. “One of the judges said after the ceremony that we would have won if I started it and rode

“Third place is better than no place. What’s with the packages?” I asked.

“I bought you a t-shirt and I got Lori and me some stuff.”

“Well, can I see it?”

“Later. How did qualifying go?”

“Tell her Lori.”

“We qualified eleventh,” Lori said with pride. “We were number two privateer qualifier. Riding
with the factory guys was cool. Way faster than I ever thought. I learned a few things too. What
did you buy me?”

“I said ‘later.’ Didn’t you hear?”

Same old Willie – snappy sarcastic response to a question. Things appeared to be back to normal.

“Come on you two, let’s go to ‘Barnacles’ and get something to eat. You two earned a good

We arrived at the campground as the sun began to set. Thoughts of turning snowbird might be a
plan as the seventy-degree temperatures of central Florida in early March had been a welcomed
relief from the low temperatures and snow back home.

I showered before the lines grew too long while Willie and Lori talked about their respective
days. I would have thought they would have grown tired of re-hashing things they couldn’t
change. Maybe talking brought catharsis.

When I returned from my shower the two of them headed off to the women’s shower with all of
the packages in tow. As the two of them entered the building, I wondered if Willie no longer
thought of her as a man.

I dozed in a camp chair in anticipation of the evening’s entertainment. The flyer left on the
windshield of the truck advertised Latin music. That would be interesting . . . “Sweet” and

“Born” performed with a Latin beat.

Wow, look at them, I thought, at the sight of two young women exiting the shower room dressed
in red leather mini skirts with matching leather jackets, black body stockings, and knee-high red
stiletto boots.

As they grew closer I realized the two women were Willie and Lori. Dressed as they were, they
looked striking.

“Well look at the two of you,” I said in amazement.

“Lori and I are going out to a dance club,” Willie said.

“I hate to say this, but as beautiful as you two look, you’re rape bait.”

“Lori knows of a dance club where the bikers don’t go, so we should be safe.” Willie said.

“Be careful you two. Remember we have practice and a race tomorrow.”

Willie laughed while saying, “Being a dad doesn’t become you, Art.”

The two of them mounted the scooter and took off for the club and parts unknown.

As I reviewed the image of Lori in my mind there had been nothing about her that would reveal
she wasn’t what she appeared to be. Willie must have worked some breast magic beneath the
body stocking to enhance what the chemicals and surgery had yet to accomplish, but everything
else screamed femininity. There would be no doubt in anyone’s mind unless told otherwise that
Lori was not Lori.

After the Latin band played their last song I called it a day very thankful that the evening’s music
did not include “Sweet” and “Born,” but did include “Suavesito.”

Awakened at three o’clock in the morning by giggling girls who had spent a joyful evening, I
pretended sleep as they stumbled around the unlit camper in search of the bunk.

I awoke and walked over to the trailer to get the bike ready for practice and the race. I left the
scooter for the two girls. They showed up fifteen minutes before the final practice wearing traces
of last night’s war paint and broad smiles.

I mentally prepared myself for a stray comment if anyone questioned Lori’s appearance from the
night before. I could always claim she was a bit of a flake like the deceased Barry Sheene or a
throw back to ‘70s glam rock. I had reached the point of also telling the truth. “He wants to be a
she. You got a problem with it?”

“Come on Lori, get your leathers on. We got to get going.”

The two of them went into the trailer and it seemed like seconds, but five minutes later they
emerged from the trailer with Lori dressed and ready to practice.

“Give me five hard fast laps, followed by five easy fast laps, and then another five hard fast laps,
and then come in.” I said. “We’ll check the tires and suspension to see where we are.”

She nodded, and then took off.

“Willie, time her. Use both watches. First five on yours, second five on mine and the third five
back on yours. Be sure to show me your watch before you re-set it.

The first five laps put her in the top ten, the second five in the top fifteen, and the last five back
in the top ten. She came in wearing a smile.

I checked the tires and smiled too. Perfect choice for the weather conditions, the bike, the
suspension, and the rider.

“That’s enough Lori.” I said, while looking around to see if anyone was within hearing distance.

“Ride it back to the trailer so we can put fresh tires on it and clean the brake pads and rotors.”

With any luck we could crack the top ten. Perhaps be top privateer finisher, and if we really
stepped in lucky horseshit, a podium.

After lunch the two girls watched parts of the Super Bike and Formula Extreme qualifying.

When they returned I sensed nervousness in Lori’s eyes. Willie kept fumbling with her cigarettes
and at one time she had a lit one between her lips and another in her hands.

“Calm down ladies,” I said. “It’s only a race. We can only do what we can do with what we

When the Super Stock race started, the pit announcer called the Super Sport race to the hot pits.

Altogether there would be sixty bikes in competition. When the lead riders completed twelve to
fourteen laps of the eighteen-lap race they would be running into lapped traffic, and then the real
fun would begin. The leaders would have to pick off the back markers to come through.

“Lori,” I said while patting the top of her helmet. “You look like Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun.’

Sitting in the plane with his oxygen mask on breathing stupid, snap out of it.”

“This is for real. I never raced at this level,” Lori said with a bit of a quiver in her voice.

I laughed, patted her on the head again. “Show ’em what you got, kid.”

When the Super Stock race ended, the officials lined up the riders for the Super Sport race. Willie
had changed into her red leather mini and body stocking and played umbrella girl. She was
eating it all up and playing the game.

“Look at you,” I exclaimed. “You’re the last one I’d expect to see playing umbrella girl.”

“F–k you Art,” she said with a broad smile. “This is my day too.”

The riders took their sighting lap, and then their warm -up lap. The officials re-grid them,
signaled for crew members to exit the area, and then put up the two-minute board. Moments later
the one-minute board came out followed by the red lights. The riders shifted the bikes into gear
brought up the revs, flipped down their visors . . . and in the blink of an eye the green light

Lori got a decent start, but got out muscled going from pit lane onto the track surface. After they
circulated around on the out lap and made their way back to start finish, the count began. She fell
to fifteenth place at the end of the first lap. I hadn’t been all that concerned because riders one
through twenty had broken away. If she could work the draft she would probably make it into the
top ten by the end of the second lap.

Willie kept beating her fist into my right arm. Her whole body shook as the riders completed the
second lap. Lori had moved up to tenth by taking advantage of the draft and getting a good drive
out of the chicane.

With two laps down, I didn’t think my arm would make it and wasn’t at all that sure Willie
wouldn’t need an ambulance before the race ended. I hoped she wouldn’t stab herself with the
umbrella or set herself on fire with all of the matches she used to try to light one cigarette.
With seven of the eighteen laps complete, Lori remained in tenth. She had made it up to sixth but
got caught out of the draft and got passed. As long as she stayed at the end or in the middle of the
lead pack we would continue to have a chance.

She managed to hang on to seventh place as lap fourteen came to a close. She continued to hang
on to the tail end of the lead pack, but the eighth place rider’s times started to fall off reprieving
her from having to continue to fight him for the position. As the lapped riders started to come
into play she could quite possibly pick up an additional spot.

With two laps to go she maintained a solid seventh place. Good enough to be the top finishing
privateer and a good enough for a five thousand dollar payday.

When the checkered flag waved it was Team Yamaha followed by Team Kawasaki, and Team
Suzuki. Her seventh place finish put her one position behind Honda’s unofficial — official race
team. Not bad for a bike prepared by an old fart, a jailbird, and a guy who wants to be a girl.

We all met at the trailer. Willie was doing one of those slinky girl walks while Lori tried to
emulate it while still dressed in her leathers. All thoughts of her discovery stopped haunting me.
Luke went away and Lori came to stay.

I checked out the bike, and then started to wash off the bits of rubber that got splattered all over it
— in anticipation of pushing it across auction block. I satisfied myself that I could still do it.

Build a race bike that would be competitive, put a rider on it, and be mildly successful. Granted
some mixed-up kid gave me a kick in the ass to do it, but I could still do it. I smiled to myself,
and then mentally patted myself on the back.

The two girls continued to dance and spray themselves with water, and then it suddenly got real

“Luke,” a booming voice called out.

I turned around and saw a giant of a man towering over both kids.

“Yes dad,” Luke said with head bowed and eyes down.

“Nice race, son,” the big man said. “Who owns this bike?”

I stepped forward. “It’s mine. My name is Art Powell, and this here is Willie. She’s my chief

“Boy,” Mr. Anderson asked, “you still want to be a girl?”

“Yes dad, I do.”

“Hmm,” he mumbled as he walked away. He paused, turned around. “Your mother wants to see
you. Come to the house tonight. You two come too. And bring an appetite.”
Willie and I looked at each other. We had probably been thinking the same thing. Do we go and
get beat up defending the kid, or enjoy a good meal?

With the trailer packed, we three walked over to the campground to prepare mentally and
physically for the evening meal.

After my shower, I took a seat in my camp chair and began the wait for the two girls. I knew he
wasn’t yet a girl physically, but I couldn’t really see him as a guy either. I wondered if the
thought of fulfilling his dream propelled him to ride as he did these past few days. I also
wondered if that’s what his father saw. I didn’t need to be in the middle of a family dispute, yet I
didn’t want to see any harm come to her.

The girls exited the showers wearing the red leather outfits, but substituted the black body
stockings for white ones. I chuckled at the thought of the infamous outlaw motorcycle gang who
sometimes referred to themselves as “Red and White.”

Bike Week traffic being what it was, it took us a little less than an hour to drive the fifteen miles
to Lori’s parents’ house. I knew of the general area due in part to its proximity to the biker bar
named “Last Resort.”

Mrs. Anderson met us at the door. I went in first, while Lori and Willie entered together. An
emotional mother hugged her son, stepped back, and then hugged him again. She had tears in her
eyes. They appeared to be “you’re home tears” versus “you hurt me tears.”

Mr. Anderson came from the kitchen with two bottles of beer. He handed me one, and then
clinked his to mine. “You build fast bikes.”

“Thank you,” I said before taking a sip and stifling our conversation.

Mrs. Anderson escorted us to the dinner table where we would dine on a pork roast, greens, and

“Boy,” Mr. Anderson said, “I don’t understand you wanting to be a girl. I don’t accept it, but we
want you to come back here. I got one condition, though.”

“What’s that,” a very fearful kid mumbled.

“No illegal stuff. You get pills from doctors by prescription, you talk to specialists, and you see
official surgery doctors. And, you get a real job. Them new dealers out by the highway are
looking for people all the time. You agree – you stay. You don’t agree – go and don’t come back.”
I noticed that Mrs. Anderson had once again begun to cry. She too didn’t want her son to be a
girl, but she didn’t want to see him come to harm or be maimed. I took all of this to be some sort
of family reconciliation.

“Okay,” Lori said.

“Good,” Mr. Anderson said. “Let’s eat. And you, Art, tell me how you made that bike and my
b…b…b…kid go so fast.”

“Ask Willie. She’s the builder. I just spun the wrenches. She promised me she would go to school
and get really good at it.”

We all laughed, and then sat back and had a most enjoyable meal.

After dinner I left the table to savor my third beer while seated on a chaise lounge on the
Anderson’s front porch.

Mrs. Anderson joined me on the porch. She leaned against one of the support pillars as she
handed me what would be my fourth beer of the evening.

Lori mirrored her mother’s stature and features: high cheekbones, large dark eyes, tooth paste
advert smile.

“This ‘becoming a girl’ stuff don’t seem to bother you, does it?”

“I don’t pretend to understand it, but it’s something she feels she has to do.”

I drained the last bit of beer from the bottle before reaching for the one in Mrs. Anderson’s hand.

She bordered on tears as she spoke. “I always treated him like a boy. He played sports, raced
with his dad, dated girls, but then he told his father about becoming a girl.”

“From what little I’ve read, it’s something he was born with and not something you’ve done. I
suppose it’s a folly to blame yourself.”

“I can’t help but blame myself. He came from inside me so it’s me who made him what he is.”

“Mrs. Anderson,” I said while placing the beer on the porch floor, and then rising to take her
hand. “The more you blame yourself, the worse off you’ll be. It’s no one’s fault. Things like this
happen. There’s not much I can say to change your mind. All I can say is he wants and needs to
be a girl and will do so with or without your help and support. You might want to look at the
person you raised. Her gender is what it is. Her character is what you had a big part in making,
and that’s really good.”

“These past five years I kept dreaming something happened to him and that he was dead,” She
said while whipping tears from her face.

“I don’t know what he…um…she went through, but I do know one thing. Willie is one hell of a
friend and protector to her. She won’t let anyone near Lori – she wants to be called Lori.”

“I’m a mother and it hurts me to see my child in distress.”

“Well, I don’t know if this helps, but there seems to be less distress when there’s no mention of

“I don’t think his father and I can accept it.”

I reached down to the floor to retrieve my beer to take a long slow sip from the long neck bottle.

“I can’t help you there. I do know she has a friend who understands and accepts it, so I guess
that’s enough.”

We hugged, and then went back into the house.

Lori elected to spend her evening with Willie and me, much to the despair of her parents. She
agreed to move back into their house when we headed north.

We stopped at the “Last Resort” for a walk though. The girls thought they could buy new outfits
and I obliged them — paying for two new ones for each girl. They also reveled in the attention
they and their leather outfits garnered.

We returned to the campground after doubling back to check out “Pub 44.” I purchased some
jewelry and another two outfits for each girl.

I lay in my spot staring at the ceiling enjoying the thought that after the next day’s events it
would be homeward bound. At the same time I wrestled with what to do next. The prevailing
plan had been to sell the property and move to a simpler non-memory-triggering premises. It
seemed like a good one, but it would be flawed because the memories hadn’t been in the mortar,
sticks, and tools. They had been in my mind.

The girls giggled in the bunk, an occasional moan was followed by “That was nice — do that
again” followed by more giggling and moaning.

After hooking up the trailer we headed to the auction held on the grounds of Stetson University
in Deland. I filled out the paperwork on each of the four bikes and agreed to send them across the
block with no reserve. Whatever I could get for them would be good enough. The CBR might
fetch a decent number as it had a newly acquired pedigree.

I left the girls with the bikes, while I snuck off to make a telephone call. Upon my return, the
girls had wandered off allowing me to have one last private moment with the three race bikes.
Tatiana’s sat between the old Honda and the Kawasaki. After straddling the CBR and placing a
hand on the gas tanks of each bike I said, “Well guys this is it. We had our time and it was a good
one. Give someone else the peace and joy you once gave me.”

“What are you doing, Art?” Willie asked with a laugh while Lori looked on. “Taking one last
imaginary ride? You sentimental old suck. You going to kiss the headlight on the Sportster and
bid it a fond farewell?”

“Shut up, Willie. It’s something you won’t understand.”

“But I do, Art. I really do.”

I think you do Willie, I thought, as I hopped off the bike.

Much to my surprise, the Sportster sold for fifty-five thousand dollars. I saw fifty of it, which
was more than I had thought it would garner.

The old Honda fetched twenty thousand net, while the Kawasaki netted, ten.

When the CBR came across the block, I had Lori stand next to it. She looked quite fetching in
her peasant blouse, skirt, and heeled sandals. Willie, who wore a similar outfit, posed with Lori
for a picture. The bike sold for net twenty five thousand dollars. The new owner had been one of
the competitors who spent considerable time during the previous day’s race staring at its tail

As promised, we stopped at the motorcycle technician school in Daytona Beach so Willie could
take the tour and talk to a guidance counselor. Lori and I sat at a table surrounded by vending
machines, video games, and a pool table in the student lounge sipping coffee.

“So what are you going to do, Lori?” I asked.

“I’m going to go and live with my parents, get a job, and then save my money so I can get my

It seemed racing took a back seat to her goal of becoming a woman.

“If Willie decides to go to school here would you watch out for her?”

“We already decided if she likes the school and wants to attend, she’d stay with me.”

“What about your parents?”

“I think they like her.”

“What about you?”

“I want to marry her.”

“How are you going to do that? You’re not going to be a guy anymore, remember?”

“I don’t care. I love her, and I think she loves me, and I want to be with her.”

What kind of life lay before these kids? I thought. Would it be filled with the love they appeared
to have for one another? Would it be filled with arguments about their chosen life, and then end
in some kind of despair? Despite the laws regarding discrimination, would she find meaningful
employment? Would Willie find prejudice in her chosen field? All were unanswered questions
that I feared to answer myself.

“How does she feel about all of this?” I asked.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself? Here they come.”

The guidance counselor and I gave each other a nod.

“Willie,” I said. “Lori says she loves you, wants to marry you, and wants you to stay at her
parent’s house if you decide to attend school here. Any truth to that?”

“It’s all true,” she said as a tear formed in her right eye. She fumbled for a cigarette before she
realized she couldn’t smoke in the building.

She bought a cup of coffee from the vending machine, and then slid a chair next to Lori. They
touched shoulder to shoulder, and then held hands. I faced two kids that were in love.

“It won’t be easy. The field isn’t all that level.”

“We love each other. We can handle it,” Willie said, while holding Lori’s hand tighter and again
bumping her shoulder.

“How much will the tuition be? With or without room and board?” I asked, already knowing the
answer to my question.

“Eighteen thousand dollars inclusive. Tools cost extra. The basic tool box is another three

“When does school start?”

She twirled a cigarette between the fingers of her left hand while she continued to hold a tight
grip on Lori’s hand with her right.

“They have a course starting Monday and the next one starts in June.”

I thought of the bond and then looked into her eyes.

“Is this what you want?”

“I think so.”

“Don’t give me ‘think,’ ” I growled. “Do you want this? Do you want Lori?”

“Yes, and yes.”

“Well good. You start Monday. The tuition is paid, as are the tools, plus I’ll give you the ones in
the trailer. The school has walking-around money for you on deposit, but there’re conditions to
getting it. Any subject that you achieve less than an ‘A’ you get no money that marking period.


Willie nearly fainted upon hearing the news; and Lori had tears streaming down her face.

After she gave me my hug and kiss, Lori got hers, and then we three went into the guidance
counselor’s office to finalize the transaction.

Unbeknownst to Willie fifty percent of the proceeds of the sale of the Sportster had been
transferred to the school before we had visited it. I had been that confident she would want to

While we reviewed and signed the paperwork, which also included weekly reports to Willie’s
parole officer, the guidance counselor had one of the trainee technicians unload my tools and put
them in the workstation that would be assigned to her. My tools coupled with what she had just
purchased would give her a good foundation.

“What can I possibly do to thank you?” Willie asked as we left the office.

“You don’t have to thank me. It’s me who has to thank you,” I said.

“I don’t understand?”

“One day you will . . . and when you do, you’ll smile.”

When we parked the camper and trailer in front of the Anderson residence the girls ran in to tell

Mrs. Anderson kept saying “bless you, bless you,” while Mr. Anderson grunted, groaned, and
then smiled as he saw the trophies that had been won by his offspring.
When I handed him two checks totaling five thousand seven hundred-fifty dollars his smile

“Mr. Anderson,” I said while leaving the house to head for the truck. “Lori earned the money fair
and square. She . . . rode her ass off. You did a great job teaching her. Please be sure she uses that
money wisely.”

“I’ll guarantee you that,” the big man said.

“Take care of my girls,” I said to the Andersons while turning to face Willie one last time when
she and Lori came out of the house to bid me farewell. “One last thing Willie.”


“Here’s the rent money you paid me. I saved it for you. Don’t say it –just use it wisely.”

“Haven’t you given me enough?” she asked while giving me a hug that would crush an oil drum.

“Well what’s next for you? Sell the house? The remaining tools?”

“No. I’m going to spend the night at the campground over at the fairgrounds. I want to get an
early start. Maybe I’ll find a bike or three in need of restoration at the swap meet. Might as well
piss away this chunk of change on rebuildable bikes and parts. Got to do something with the rest
of my life. Might as well spend it doing something I like. Could even make a buck or two along
the way. Who knows maybe another Willie may knock on my door.

“I knew it,” she exclaimed through a broad smile. “Once you got back in you wouldn’t get out.”

“You better stop that. It’ll make Lori jealous.”

“Nah, Lori’s cool with you and me. We did get you something for the trip back. Something to
keep you warm and comfortable.”

Willie had the same look in her eye and wore the same smile she had when she wore the blue
sequin dress on New Years Eve.

“Ready to go to the campground Art?”

I turned in the direction of what sounded like a familiar voice.

“M-O-N-I-K-A,” I said expressing shock.

“Shut up and get in the truck. We got bikes to make into collectible art.”

Done Deal.

The name of the TG Canadian GP racer is Michelle Duff.


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