I spent the week performing my usual tasks at the dealership and toward the latter part of the workweek my schedule demanded that a car had to be delivered to a customer who lived in one of the mansions adjacent to the golf course. Upon approaching the gate a security guard greeted me and after identifying myself he opened the gate and granted passage. After driving the car into the customer’s garage and handing the key to a uniformed chauffeur, he handed me a twenty-dollar bill and a cold glass of lemonade. I thanked him and walked down the drive to await my ride back to the dealership.
I recognized the name on one of the brick gate supports while entering the chase vehicle. “Collins.” My three students came to mind. Margaret had been divorced and the name had probably been her husband’s.
That evening seated at the kitchen table of my apartment eating dinner, I wondered if Mrs. Margaret Collins would date a motorcycle trainer, car humping guy wearing a charcoal gray three piece suit with a calf-length pleated skirt, white silk blouse, a navy and gold tie, knee-high three-inch heeled black boots, make-up, painted nails and a honey blonde wig. It would be for naught as she lived on the other side of the state and the name on the brick gatepost in front of the house that triggered the thought had probably been a fluke.
After dinner I switched on the computer to check my e-mail. Tim’s screen name flashed.
In light of everything that happened last week I would like to give you one last opportunity to redeem yourself. If you follow the curriculum to the letter I’ll withdraw the threat of suspension and re-certify you for an additional three years.
Think this over very carefully, because the state does not want to lose a trainer of your caliber. The room will be reserved in your name at the Motel 6.
See you on Sunday morning.
Timothy T. Belmont, IV
Chief Trainer and Regional Site Coordinator.
“Dan, we need you as a trainer. I spoke to my superiors and they agreed that last week wasn’t a real threat because of the boy’s bad attitude – Sean Collins.”
“He’s not a bad kid. . .,” I started to say.
“There was nothing to his claim of harassment, you and I both know that. I called him two days later, after he’d cooled off, and he withdrew it.”
A smile crossed my lips. “Kids – never know what they’ll do.”
“Dan, I’ve been authorized to give you a clean slate. If you stay reasonably within the curriculum today – none of this crazy stuff that isn’t in the handbook – I’ll recommend that you be given a five-year trainer’s license.
“But, the state curriculum. . . .” Tim would never understand how important it was for us to teach them how to ride the right way.
“Dan – please don’t push me. I’m on your side on this, but you don’t sign my paycheck.”
The students began to arrive and greet us. They expressed surprise that I remembered their names. Sean didn’t acknowledge me, however Jason and his mother greeted me warmly as did the remaining students.
“I helped my mom a bit this week with her throttle/clutch control and her shifting and stopping,” Jason said calling me aside. “She’s really nervous and doesn’t want to do badly in front of you. She feels that she’s letting you down because she’s not doing well.”
“Tell your mom that. . . . No wait. . . . I’ll tell her. Margaret. . . .” As she approached I notice that her gait caused her bottom to sway and her conservatively sized breasts to bounce. “Jason mentioned your concerns to me. Ride the motorcycle today and have fun. Okay?”
“Hello, Sean,” I said, extending an un-accepted hand. “Did you take your bike out at all this past week?”
He ignored my greeting and question, choosing instead to mount the motorcycle he rode the previous week and wait for further instructions.
The remaining students mounted and started their motorcycles in anticipation of making a few warm up laps of the range. Some struggled to get their bike running, but all managed. Tim went through the instructions as I performed the demonstration lap on the motorcycle that Margaret rode.
“The bike knows the way Margaret, so just hold on and tag along.”
“Yeah, right,” she said while mounting the bike. She struggled through the remainder of the course; and after the mandatory riding exercises, Tim and I set up the licensing test.
“Dan,” Margaret said. “It’s not necessary for me to take the test. I have a fair idea of what to re-enforce when the boys ride.”
“You’ve come this far, so give it a shot,” I counseled.
Sean and his mom argued over something while Jason stood quietly by with his hand on his mom’s shoulder. After a moment Sean stormed off and mounted his training motorcycle in anticipation of the licensing test. I was too far away to hear what they argued about, but guessed that Sean was upset that his mother had decided to give the test a shot and that Jason had supported the decision.
Tim gave the signal for all of the students to mount up and ride over to the testing zone.
“Yes,” I said, with satisfaction, when Margaret joined the group.
The two boys did well, as did Paul, “Red helmet” and “Dude.” Some of the others struggled, but were successful. The last to try would be Margaret. As tense as she seemed to be sitting on her bike, she would certainly fall over.
I went to her, sat on the front fender of the bike, and then looked her in the eyes. “You don’t have to do this. Your sons won’t think any less of you if you drop out. I can’t speak for Sean, but the expression on Jason’s face each time you fall over shows his fear for your safety”
“I have to do this,” she said with scared determination.
Tim, standing with hands on hips, had noticed what had occurred and had an ever observant and non-too-happy expression on his face.
I smiled to gain Margaret’s attention. “I’m not a psychiatrist, but you’re apparently competing against your ex-husband. You want the boys to see that you can do anything he and they can.”
She looked at me; and the beginnings of a smile formed.
I went on. “Do this because you want to – not because you think you have to.”
She started the motorcycle and, riding with caution, she made her way through the zone. She lost points, but not enough to cause her to have an unsuccessful test.
Tim gave each student their individual score and then stamped and initialed each learner’s permit. There would be twelve additional licensed motorcyclists on the highways and byways of the state.
I moved to set up the afternoon class and Margaret followed.
“I’d like to apologize for my son’s behavior” she said. “In many ways he’s picked up the habits and attitudes of his father.”
“Don’t worry about it. He’s a good kid and he’ll learn that there are times when a parent’s love and concern are good things. At his age it’s taboo to have mom tag along. He’ll outgrow it. And don’t be surprised if you do get an invitation to ride with them.”
“I’m in no way ready to go out and ride on the street with other traffic. Thanks to you and Tim, my sons got the best training available. I won’t stop worrying when they ride, but they now have a good foundation.”
“Well you take care of yourself.”
As I watched her walk toward her sons and the SUV, I wondered what it would be like to touch, date, and make love to her. “…falling, yes I’m falling…”and “…I’ll dream of her tonight….”
The afternoon group would be an exercise in keeping the group’s attention long enough to process them through the licensing test. Their goal had been to obtain the much-coveted stamp and the tester’s initials on their permit. I loathed those groups.
After storing the training bikes and equipment, Tim motioned to me to join him at the tailgate of his truck.
“Dan,” he said. “Let’s talk a bit.
“Suspend me and get it over with,” I said while untying my boots.
“You’re a damn fine trainer. You ride picture perfect demonstrations and you have a unique way of relating to the students, but your attitude toward the curriculum and those who administer and monitor it is deplorable. You’re a loose cannon and the program can’t afford to have one. All of the trainers have to teach the program the same way. We need continuity.”
“So that’s it.”
“For awhile today I thought you’d gotten it, but giving that woman special help to pass the test broke our deal. If we treat one person that way, we have to treat them all that way and we just don’t have the resources.
I stared at him wondering how we could be the same species. “I’m done?”
“For the time being, yes. You’re suspended indefinitely.”
“Indefinitely? What exactly does that mean?”
“That means that anytime you want to write a letter to me stating that you will follow the state curriculum and not go off on your own little excursions I will reinstate you; until that time you will not be allowed to teach a class.”
I nodded and then walked over to my car, gathered up the materials and put them on the tailgate of his truck along with my sweaty state-issued t-shirt and hat. He couldn’t have been clearer.
“‘Loose cannon’ my ass,” I grunted as I drove home.
“Let me get this straight,” Annie said, showing a bit of amazement. “You taught two classes with twelve motorcycle riders in each one.”
“Right, but I wouldn’t call them ‘motorcycle riders’ just yet.” I munched on the bran muffin she’d brought as I recalled my disappointment in Tim’s edict.
“Okay, let’s call them ‘motorcycle rider wannabes’ — will that do?”
At times it seemed like Annie was the only one who took time to understand me.
“Out of the two dozen riders, only one of them really caused you to stray outside the state’s curriculum — and you lost your certification over that?”
Again, I nodded, my mouth full of muffin. She gave me a look, and asked, “did you ever think that maybe you could have helped a lot of others the way you helped her, if you just did it the way the state wanted you to … once?”
I shrugged and swallowed. “Start crossing lines, and where do you stop?”
Annie just shook her head and looked away.
Summer became fall and legions of cars in need of winterization flowed through the dealership’s service area. My afternoon delivery list noted that there would be a stop at the Collins mansion.
As in the past, I announced myself at the gate of the mansion and drove the vehicle to the garage area. The chauffer had been dusting one of the cars upon my approach and greeted me with currency and a drink.
While turning to walk down the drive I heard a familiar voice.
“Baker? I’ll be using the SUV. Has it been delivered? Oh, it has? Great.”
The SUV and I arrived at the front gate at the same time.
“Yes,” I said, turning to face the open window.
“It is you,” she said with surprise. “Do you remember me? I was one of your motorcycle students.”
“Vaguely,” I said with a bit of a smile. How could I not remember her? “…A face I can’t forget….” The body of a model — and a voice that would make the dead swoon.
“How could you remember me? You must see dozens of students over the course of a summer.”
“You look a little different – not wearing a helmet and the fear of god in your eyes,” I joked.
She tried to hide her embarrassment. “Did I look that bad?”
“No – just teasing.”
Intent on her reflection in the rear view mirror she asked, “What brings you here?”
“I delivered the SUV.”
“Well it’s in good hands if you care for customers cars the same as you care for your students,” she said removing a speck of wayward lipstick.
“Thanks. I’ll tell the service manager that you’re pleased with the service.”
She waved goodbye and drove away as I climbed into the chase vehicle for my ride back.
“What was that all about,” the chase driver, a burn out from the sixties, and my sometimes riding partner said. “Do you know her?”
“Not really. We met by chance during the summer.”
“High maintenance, that one, with a higher profile divorce – newspapers – magazines – television.” Chuck said with a slight stutter. “She caught her ex-husband screwing her friend in one of the cabanas at the country club. The divorce dragged on for years. Her ex contested the pre-marital agreement, and there’d also been this big thing over custody of the kids and changing their names to Collins. Daddy’s money paid for it and now she and the boys live with her parents. The father gets to see them for a week each summer at their lake house.”
“Interesting, I guess – if you follow gossip,” I mumbled.
My day ended with three additional deliveries and a trip to the convenience store to pick up my previously ordered dinner.
After a shower I submerged myself in taffeta and lace before eating a dinner of sausage, peppers and onions on a Portuguese roll – washed down with a glass Chianti. It’d been a long and enlightening day. The mansion was in fact the home of Margaret Collins and her boys. Despite her nearness and the opportunity to occasionally see her – there’d be little opportunity to talk to her — let alone date her.
I’d once again “…dream of her tonight….”