“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 15

“Are you going to tell Bob your real name today or wait until Tuesday?” I quietly asked Franny as we headed back to our booth.

“Oh, I’ve already told him.  He thought the whole ‘fake name thing’ was really a cool idea.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said.  “Well good for old Bob.”

Yes, yes, I know…I sounded just a little bitter.

As we approached the table, Hank jumped up right away so I could get in and sit down…so very courteous.  Whatever…

“Everything okay?” he asked, again sounding a little worried…

“Peachy…just peachy,” I said with a big (maybe a tad phony) smile.

The bartender had brought over the drinks while Franny and I were in the Ladies’ Room.  I took a swallow of my Coke.  I was so thirsty.  It was icy cold…perfect.  Who needed  beer anyway?

I glanced sideways at Hank.  You know…I could play games too.  Maybe I would have a little fun with ‘my married date’.

“So…Hank…” I asked.  “What are your plans for tonight?  Franny and I were going into The Friendly Inn when we met you guys…want to come in with us when we get back?  Play some bumper pool?”

I was trying to sound normal and friendly but I know I wasn’t carrying it off very well…but like I cared…right?

Hank looked at me and tilted his head…almost as if he was debating what to say…it was odd…but then he laughed a little and said…

“Well, actually…” and then Nan appeared with our food and Hank didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence.

The food was really great and nobody talked much while we were eating.

I popped a last fry in my mouth and said, “Wow, that was excellent!”

“I wonder what that sauce was the cook put on the hamburgers?” Hank wondered out loud.  “I’ll have to ask Nan when she collects the bill.  It was really different…but good.”  Bob nodded in agreement.

I gave Franny a look.  What an odd comment from a guy about his burger.  It seemed strange to have a guy so interested in the food.

“What…are you a cook or something?” I asked Hank…a little bit sarcastically…for no other reason…than because he was “a married rotter”.

I wasn’t usually sarcastic to people…in fact I was never sarcastic to people…so it came out a little heavy-handed.

I instantly felt bad…but oh well…if you’re going to “cheat on your wife and abandon your babies”…you get what you deserve.

He paused…obviously feeling the sting of my remark…but then said…

“In fact, yes.  I worked for a couple of years at the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis as a sous chef.  Then I moved over to the Nicollet Hotel.  I worked there for about a year.”

“It’s what I do.  I cook.”  He gave me a tentative smile…maybe wondering if I was going to stop him from talking…again.

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 14

“Are you kidding me?”  I thought to myself.  Not only was he married…he was trying to hide it by taking his ring off.  What a complete idiot!!  Didn’t he see the white band?

I tried to shoot a ‘look’ at Franny so she could also notice the tell-tale white circle but her head was down as she was digging out her wallet from her purse

“Hi, folks…got to see those IDs you know.  Don’t want to lose my license serving any underage kids.”  The bartender said all cheery-like…

I should have appreciated this moment…especially after my stellar performance…but now…not so much.

After checking everyone else’s IDs, the owner looked over at me.

“How about you, dear…” the bartender asked.

“I’m just having a Coke.”  I said flatly.

“Oh.  Okay then, I’ll bring those drinks right over.  Enjoy your food and thanks for coming in…usually Saturday afternoons are pretty quiet around here.”

Polite chit chat with the owner filled the air for a couple of minutes and then he left.

Franny was all smiles and happy…apparently Bob was beginning to tell her some witty little story.  She leaned in to listen to him and I couldn’t catch her eye.

“You know…” Hank turned to me and started to say something but I gave him a tight, even smile and put up my hand to stop him and then said to Franny…

“Come to the ladies’ room with me, okay?”

My tone was more of a friendly order than a request.

“Huh?  Oh, sure,” Franny said, giving Bob an apologetic look since he was in the middle of his story.

Hank stood so I could get out…such a polite, nice…married man.  I think he said something to me but I paid no attention.  I just walked toward the “Restrooms” sign.

“What’s up?” asked Franny when the door had closed behind us.  I checked to make sure no one else was in the stalls…then I whispered to Franny…I don’t know why I whispered…

He’s “married!”  That’s what’s up.”  I said…while looking in the mirror to check out my hair.  “What a creep!”

“How do you know?” asked Franny…who was also checking her hair in the mirror.  We were such “girls”.

“When we get back, look at his left hand and see the little white band of ‘non-tanned’ skin on his third finger.”  I said while pointing to my left hand.

“Nooooo!!”  I can’t believe it!” exclaimed Franny.  “I’m so sorry, Cooper.” She put her hand on my arm.  

“What kind of guy goes around picking up girls when he’s married!  What a jerk!  He probably even has kids!!” continued Franny.

Oh, that comment made me feel good…I hadn’t even thought about that…a little ‘Hank’ running around somewhere…waiting for his “ratty daddy” to come home…

“Well,” said Franny.  “I’m pretty sure Bob’s not married…at least I hope not…I’m going out with him Tuesday night.”

“Dinner at Charlie’s Cafe and then we’re going to see that new film, “The Russians Are coming, The Russians Are Coming”.  I heard it’s really funny.  I’ll have to check his left hand when we get back, to see if he has any tell-tale ring marks…”

I looked at her reflection in the mirror and she was turning her head from  side to side…admiring her new haircut…which was actually identical to mine.  Franny was always so happy and positive.  I was glad she was my best friend.

“Hey!  What about your plans to hook up with ‘Roger’ later this afternoon?” I asked her.  “Are you no longer interested in him?”

“Sure am!  Absolutely!!  But Bob is fun and super cute.  I’ll see what happens.  I just feel bad for you, Cooper.  Are you going to say anything?”

“No…of course not.  I mean…what can I say.  I kind of picked him up…really…and we are just ‘riding around”…after all.  But still…it is crummy.”

I put on some fresh lipstick…might as well look good anyway…and then we both headed back out into the restaurant.

“I hope the damn chicken is good.”  I said and let the door bang shut behind me.

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 13

I apologized profusely to sweet, young Nan…who had turned bright red but…had generously accepted my apologies…

And…after also apologizing to everyone else at the table and pleading temporary insanity…I quickly opened my menu and then slapped it shut.  I was ready.

Franny was still looking at hers and also occasionally peeking over the menu at me.

I gently cleared my throat a little…not to hurry her or anything…but…I did want her to speak first…

It was “my scene”…and even though she didn’t know it…she had the opening line to this little drama playing out in my mind.

Franny looked up from the menu and said…”What are you getting, Coop”

Yes!  I was “Center Stage”…

I glanced briefly at the menu again…just for show…and then I said, ever so kindly and politely to Nan, “I don’t feel like having a beer.  I’ll have a Coke…with lots of ice, please…and a chicken sandwich with fries.”

Then I handed Nan my menu.  I was so pleased with myself.  I looked over at Franny for her reaction.

Her mouth had fallen open slightly in surprise at my clever move…or maybe (okay…probably) because…without really meaning to…I had given my order to Nan using a heavy (and completely phony) Southern accent…a la Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire”…my favorite movie…

“I’ll have the same as her,” Franny said…pausing slightly and then smiling.  “Except…I do feel like having a beer.  I’ll have a bottle of Grain Belt with a glass, please.”

“My dad will have to check your IDs before he can serve you guys any beer.  He’ll be right over.”  Nan picked up the menus and headed toward the bar.

Feeling like I’d climbed Mt. Everest in the middle of a raging blizzard…with my oxygen tanks long since depleted…I leaned back against the booth.

I put my tanned hands on the table and admired my new Revlon Orange Blossom nail polish that I’d purchased yesterday at Larson’s Drug Store.

Taking a deep, relaxing breath I smiled across the table at Franny…and Bob.

“I’m hungrier than I thought!”  I said…with not a hint of a Southern accent…”I hope the food’s good.”

It never once occurred to me that we were sitting here with two strange young men…about whom we knew absolutely nothing.

Somehow it just seemed natural and perfectly fine.

I turned to ask Hank what he did for a living.  He was pulling his wallet out of his jeans’ pocket so he could show his driver’s license to the bartender who was headed our way.

My smiling eyes fell down to his hands.  They were even more tan than mine…

Except for a little band of pure white on the third finger of his left hand…you know…the ring finger…

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 12

The bartender smiled at us and motioned for a young girl who was standing right next to him to follow us and take our order.

Aside from the bar patrons and the family by the window…we were the only other people in the restaurant.

There were a couple of ceiling fans lazily churning the air around.  There wasn’t any air conditioning…but that was okay.  The fans kept it cool enough…even though I felt a couple beads of perspiration on my forehead…

Bob and Franny led the way to a booth in the back and Hank and I followed but then Hank veered off toward a sign that said “Restrooms”.

“Be right back,” he said to me.

No sooner had we sat down, than the girl…who was about 15, cute as a button and sporting a pony-tail and braces…placed four well-worn menus on the table and greeted us with a huge smile.

“Hi!  I’m Nan,” she said proudly.  “I can take your order and bring you food but my dad, who owns this place, will have to fill any drink orders since I’m only 16…if you all want beer, that is.”

I silently chuckled…

Then she pulled out an order pad and politely waited for us…to do something.  I imagine just like she had been trained to do…not so very long ago.

“Well, I’m ready,” said Bob.  “I’ll have a cheeseburger with fried onions.  And a Budweiser.”

“Make that two,” said Hank who slid into the booth next to me.

His knee accidentally brushed against mine and I jumped a mile.  (Yes.  I was a little tense.  My big scene was coming up…)

“Are you okay?” he asked.  HIs voice had so much concern in it…how thoughtful…

“I’m fine!  Just great!!”  My voice was rising a bit..  “I’m fantastic!!!  Let’s just get this God damn ordering over with!!”

It was at this point that everyone stopped cold and just looked at me.  And can  you blame them?  Really?  I sounded completely nuts…

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 11

Bob and Franny were waiting for us on a bench outside the restaurant.

They were talking a mile a minute and laughing…like they had been friends for years.

In my paranoid, self-centered world, I prayed Franny wasn’t sharing any personal information about me…like how old I was.

Hank got off the bike and then before I could make any attempt to get down…or should I say…before I wasted any more time trying to get down…he just lifted me off the seat and placed me on the ground…like I was three years old.

I swear…I though he was going to pat me on the head…as in ‘good little girl’…but he instead just smiled at me and then walked over to where Bob and Franny were sitting.  I followed.

“This looks like a good place,” he said, peering inside the restaurant windows and then turned to me.  “What do you think, Cooper? he asked. 

He said my name so…so pleasantly.  Much better than before…when he was yelling at me

“Looks great to me.  Let’s go in.” I said.

Then I almost fainted when Hank grabbed my hand as we headed to the door…like this was an actual date.

There were booths along the back wall of the restaurant, tables by the front window where the family was sitting, a couple of tables in the middle and then a long bar than ran from the front to the back.

There were three men sitting at the bar and they all turned and smiled at us when we walked in the door.  I just love small towns.

I bet their jails are nice too…not that I would be seeing one…but just saying…for the record…I don’t mean ‘a record’ as in ‘ a police record’…I mean…

(OH SHUT UP COOPER!!!) *

* As the author of this piece of fiction, I give myself full permission to yell at any character I have created.  It’s just one of the perks of the job…along with raking in piles of cash…

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 10

But…wait!  Hold on!  Bob had said a “restaurant”…which…’by definition’…was absolutely not “a cheap dive bar with naked, dancing ladies, an opium den in the back and  a ‘neon sign flashing XXX’s over the front door”.

A “restaurant” was generally known as a place where families come to eat and families usually meant adults and children…so there.

I smiled and took a deep, calming breath.  No jail time for Cooper Malone today.  Awesome!!

I’ll order a Coke, I thought.  I love Coke.  Maybe I’ll order 2 Cokes…or a Pepsi.  Pepsi is a good choice too.

Let everyone else drink beer and flash their fucking ID’s all over the place.  “I’ll have a Coke…please.”

I planned the dialog in my head as we approached the town.

Opening Scene:  Restaurant interior…Cooper speaks confidently to the waitress…

“You know, I don’t think I’m in the mood for a beer.  I think I’ll have a Coke…” (and then all really polite-like) “with extra ice, please…”

The extra ice makes it really believable.  Right?  Right.

Like I could have a beer if I wanted to…but I don’t want to.  I am over 21 but…I just don’t want to drink beer…right now…today…even though I could…if I wanted.  Fade out…

And ‘former best friend’ Franny had better not say one damn word or there will be no “Roger encounter” for her at The Friendly when we get back.

That settled…I let my mind concentrate on Hank.  He looked older than either Franny or me…maybe about 25?  I wonder what he did for a living?

I knew for sure he was cute.  Oh yeah…he was cute all right and pretty damn sexy…he also had a kind of presence, not an attitude really, but something else…whatever it was…I liked it.

As we pulled up to the “Three Oaks Restaurant”, I noticed a family of four sitting by the front window.  Mom.  Dad.  Two little girls with pigtails…maybe 8 and 10.

Neither of the little girls were slugging down beers.  Not that they would be…of course!

“Settle down, Cooper.”  I said sternly to myself…as my thoughts ran crazily roughshod over any sensibilities that I may have had when this day had started.

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 9

“You know…I saw a sign advertising a restaurant just a ways back,” said Bob, starting his bike.  “I think it’s just a few miles ahead off the next crossroad.”

“Let’s head over there and get some burgers and beers.  We’ll all feel better then.”

I saw Franny pat his shoulder in agreement and without waiting for us to say anything…they took off.

“Well…aren’t they just the two little love birds,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath.

Hank looked at me and I saw the beginnings of a smile…

“Owen?”  he asked.

“Well…” I said, lifting my chin up a little defensively.

“I read somewhere that if you’re going to lie…you should make it as believable as possible and Owen is a really believable name…”

Then I rashly continued…with just a trace of pride in my voice.  “I’ve used that method before…:

“Oh, I just bet you have.” Hank said as he got back on his bike.  The hint of a smile had turned into a full grin.  I liked this look a lot better…it was ‘dagger free’.

So off we went…but not before he gave me a couple of motorcycle “PASSENGER RULSES” as in…NEVER fall asleep and NEVER grab the arm of the biker…while you’re in motion.

Well!  That all made perfect sense to me…now that I knew.

In a couple of minutes, we turned off the main highway and headed down a smaller country road.

Ahead of us in the distance, I could see Franny…my ‘former best friend’ and Bob.

I was hungry…we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and then it had only been coffee and a…

Hang on…wait a minute…brain engaging...

Had Bob said “beers?”  He had.  He had definitely said “burgers and beers.”  I remembered that very distinctly.

Dammit!  I wonder what small town jails were like…

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be 

so boring…”

Chapter 8

“Oh my God!! Are you kidding me? Cooper hasn’t ever ridden on a motorcycle…and she doesn’t have a brother! She doesn’t even have a sister!” Franny was laughing so hard she almost fell off Bob’s bike.

Unwilling…at this point…to make eye contact with Hank, I gazed…with what I hoped was some degree of nonchalance…off into the distance at the bright, yellow, sugar maples that dotted the area where we had stopped.

How very pretty they look, I thought…trying to at least mentally absent myself from this situation that was becoming increasingly unfriendly.

I knew full well that Hank was looking daggers at me.  I was surprised I wasn’t actually bleeding.

I also knew…it was probably not a really good idea to suggest to Hank that this would be a good time to  show me the “ins and outs” of being a proper passenger on a motorcycle.  I had some brains…

So…I kept that suggestion to myself and chose a different strategy.

As I made an attempt to get off this damn motorcycle…I indignantly declared with a voice full of totally, undeserved self-righteousness…

“Well then!!  If you’re going to get so mad…forget it.  Who wants to be here anyway?   I’m going home.”

Again.  Today.  What the hell was I thinking?

Like a lot of my good ideas and intentions…I had overlooked a few facts.  In this particular case…the simple fact that there was a considerable number of miles between “here” and “home”.

Also.  I continued to find it extremely difficult…if not impossible…to get off of this fucking bike by myself…without falling flat on my face!

And I was surely not holding out any hope that Jake was going to lend me a hand any time soon…

So, there I sat…trying to ignore the now muffled laughs of my ‘former best friend‘…what’s her name…?

And, of course…trying not to bleed from the wounds I had suffered from Hanks’ disappointed looks and reproachful words.

No one said anything.  As they say…”the silence was deafening”…except for the damning whoosh of cars speeding by us…

Yes.  Yes.  I know!!  Going really, really fast.

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 7

Feeling so relaxed after laying in the sun all day…and then having a late afternoon, slightly chilly breeze blowing thru my thin tee shirt…my eyes slowly started to close and I just ‘ever so lightly’ put my head down on Hank’s back.

Before I knew what was going on…Hank had abruptly pulled over to the side of the road on the gravel shoulder. My semi-closed eyes flew wide open.

I quickly raised up my head and looked around…wondering if “we were there” or at least “somewhere”.

“What the hell were you doing? You can’t fall asleep on a bike! You want to fall off and hit that asphalt going 70 miles an hour?”

Hank was yelling at me and pointing angrily to the black highway next to us. Just then a car flew by us so fast, I couldn’t even see who was driving.

“Were we really going that fast?” I asked. “Wow!”

Yes. Yes. I know! I was obviously missing the point since Hank was not smiling…nor was he answering my question.

Bob and Franny had driven past us but now had turned back, circled around and parked next to us.

“What’s up, man?” asked Bob. Franny was peering out from behind his shoulder…she looked pretty happy. Well good for her.

She wasn’t getting yelled at…by a complete stranger no less.

“She started to fall asleep…” said Hank. He had gotten off his bike and was trying to light a cigarette. I could see his hand was shaking a little…

“Didn’t you give her the “passenger instruction” spiel?” asked Bob…looking first at Hank and then at me.

“Why would I?” said Hank…sounding totally exasperated and talking about me like I wasn’t even there.

“She’s ridden hundreds of times on her brother’s Harley!” He looked over at me…and shook his head in disbelief.

It was at this point, that Franny…my FORMER best friend…burst out laughing…and she really shouldn’t have done that.

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 6

But really…how hard could “being a passenger” be?  I had ridden a “bicycle” for years when I was a kid…in fact, many times somehow steering my trusty, old Schwinn (don’t even ask) with no hands.

I actually remember cruising down the sidewalk…waving my arms wildly in the air…and shouting to anyone who cared to see…”LOOK!!  NO HANDS!!”

I also remember “being a passenger” on my friends’ bikes…I just jumped on the handlebars or on the bike’s cross bar.  See?  Easy…

No…being a passenger on this motorcycle was not going to be a problem…provided I could actually get on it.

A few seconds passed as I continued to look around for something to grab.

Then…my “no-name biker”…flipped down the kick stand on his side,  got off the bike and came over to me.  (Jesus!  What was he going to do?)

In one swift motion…he grabbed me around the waist, picked me up and set me on the back of the seat.

“My name’s Hank.”  He said grinning, as he got back on his bike.

“You?”  He asked, turning slightly around to look at me.

“Cooper.  I just love bikes!”  Oh my God.  I sounded like I was five years old.

But Hank smiled at me and said, “Yeah, what’s not to…”

Then he looked over at Bob and gave him a head nod.

The light had changed a couple of times as the four of us had been talking, but now it was green and Bob took off.  I saw that Franny had her arms around Bob’s waist so I did the same.

Hank looked back at me.  “Ready?”

“Absolutely!  I’m ready.”

“Well, Cooper, hang on.”  And I did.

We went around the block and rode back towards Lake Nokomis, the lake where Franny and I had just spent the whole morning and a lot of the afternoon.

We circled it and then headed for the freeway which would take us south…thru the southern suburbs and then out to the farm fields that surrounded the city.

Obviously, we weren’t going to cruise around the ‘mean streets’ of Minneapolis.  I was fine with that.  The speed of the bike was exciting!

Before I knew it, we were whizzing through one yellowing corn field after another…no longer on the interstate.

Hank had passed Bob and Franny a ways back and then had abandoned the colorless freeway.  He shouted to Bob over his shoulder that he was taking a more scenic route.

In the distance, I could see lots of hills vibrant with the early, bright colors of Fall.  It was spectacular.

(Okay.  Here’s the part when you, as the reader, might be saying…perhaps even out loud…or thinking…

“Hey!  These two nit-wits don’t even know these guys!”…And…if you did say OR think that…well…good for you.)

Exactly what the holy hell were we thinking?  Aside from how cute these two guys were…we were thinking absolutely nothing…zero.