The Wind in the Windscreen [long] [far-fetched]

Discussion in 'Classic Motorbikes' started by sean_q, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. sean_q

    sean_q Guest


    (Semi) autobiographical biker fiction

    By Sean P. Quinlan (having too much time and too little to do
    on his hands), with help from Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling
    and a few other plagiarized authors whose names he can't recall
    at the moment.

    Rat and Mole, nearing the end of a long day's ramble over Carriageways,
    Motorways and other British roads on their British roadsters, were
    relaxing at a wayside pub over pints of Newcastle Brown Ale. Draining
    his tankard, the Mole put it down with a sigh of satisfaction
    and said, "Ratty, you've often promised you'd introduce me to Mr. Toad,
    but never seemed to get around to it. Would this be a good time?"

    "A capital idea!" said the Rat. "You must excuse me, Mole, for putting
    it off so long; I've been so terrifically busy all summer. But it's
    never the wrong time to call on Toad. Early or late he's always
    the same fellow. Always good-tempered, always glad to see you,
    always sorry when you go!"

    They climbed back aboard their bikes and, disdaining to crank
    the motors electrically, kick-started them into life with
    a confident flourish and headed straightway for Toad Hall.
    Rounding a bend in the road, they saw an imposing mansion
    come into view.

    "There it is," said Rat, "really one of the nicest houses
    in these parts. Though we never admit as much to Toad;
    he's quite vain enough as it is."

    They took the rear entrance which led them around to the back
    of Toad's spacious garage. Here were parked many attractive
    motorcycles, among them a gleaming new Sportster, a Honda
    V45 Magna, a Suzuki Boulevard 650 thumper, an antique sidecar rig
    with a boxer motor and a few obviously long-term projects
    including a cobbled-together Triumph of the new Bonneville design.

    However, the place had an unused and a deserted atmosphere about it.

    The Rat looked around. "I understand," he said. "Streetbikes have
    played out. He's tired of them, and done with them. I wonder what
    new fad he has taken up now? Come along and let's look him up.
    We shall hear all about it quite soon enough."

    They strolled across the flower-decked lawns in search of Toad,
    whom they presently happened upon resting in a wicker garden-chair.
    He was looking at the screen of a laptop computer with a preoccupied
    expression on his face and a pile of bike brochures spread out
    on his lap. Parked on the grass nearby was his mobile touring HQ,
    a gleaming new, canary yellow 30 foot 5th wheel trailer.

    "Hello, Ratty and company," he said, without getting up. "So glad
    to see you, but I'm afraid I can't offer much good cheer at
    the moment; I'm in a bit of funk to tell the honest truth."

    "Well, meet my friend Mr. Mole here, and do try to buck up;
    things can't be as bad as all that."

    "Hello, Mole," said Toad, shaking his paw, "Always a pleasure to meet
    a friend of Rat's. Make yourself at home; drinks are in the cooler
    there... but, oh Ratty, if only you knew."

    "Knew what, Toady", said the Rat, throwing himself bodily onto
    the wicker couch by way of bracing his mind for some new, entirely
    self-inflicted (and tedious) litany of woe.

    "Well, the fact of the matter is, the more motorcycles I buy, the less
    I enjoy them," said Toad plaintively. "Here, let me read you something.
    It puts into eloquent language exactly how I feel." He pulled out
    an iPad 2 and pressed the touch screen a few times while Rat barely
    suppressed a giant yawn.

    "Here it is. Something from _The Second Jungle Book_ by Rudyard Kipling.
    It's about -- well, you know, Mowgli, the Jungle Boy."

    "Yes, of course I know about Mowgli. Now what about him?" asked Rat,
    trying hard to take an interest (let alone stay awake).

    "Try to concentrate, Ratty, this is important." But it was too late;
    fatigue from the day's ride, brown ale and boredom had finally overcome
    the tired Rat and he was gently snoring.

    Toad turned his attention with a sigh to his only remaining audience,
    the Mole, who was listening raptly (the novelty of Toad's obsessions
    not yet having worn off).

    "Well, Mole," he said, "Here's Mowgli then, talking to his friend Kaa,
    the giant rock python. He says, 'I have wished the sun to shine in
    the middle of the Rains, and the Rains to cover the sun in the deep
    of summer; and also I have never gone empty but I wished that I had
    killed a goat; and also I have never killed a goat but I wished
    it had been buck; nor buck but I wished it had been nilghai.'

    "You see, Mole, that's how it has become for me; whichever bike
    I'm riding, I wish it were something else. For instance the day after
    I bought that Sportster I wished I had gotten a Buell Ulysses instead."

    "Well I couldn't help noticing you do have some nice looking bikes
    in your garage none the less," said Mole.

    "Oh, yes, finest collection in these parts I may say," said Toad

    At this point Rat came awake just enough to prod the Mole with
    the toe of his riding boot. Unfortunately Toad saw him do it,
    and turned very red. There was a moment's painful silence.
    Then Toad burst out laughing. "All right, Ratty," he said.
    "It's only my way, you know. And it's not such a bad fleet
    of bikes after all, you have to admit."

    "Well, Toad," said the Rat, stretching himself and sitting up
    with an effort. "You know---"

    But he never finished what he had started to say, because at that
    moment there came from the nearby road a whining sound that
    increased to a high-pitched roar as a half dozen sportbikes
    went by, as fast as their riders could push them.

    Toad stared at them open-mouthed, his eyes assuming a glazed look.
    "Of course," he exclaimed. "THAT's the thrill I've been missing.
    Going right to the very Edge ... pushing the Envelope ...
    life threatening risks ... stark fear ... adrenaline rush...
    That's _really_ living life to the fullest. I can't imagine
    why I wasted so much of my precious time plodding along
    on _cruisers_!"

    Mole listened in a kind of wondrous rapture to these heartfelt-sounding
    musings. But Rat became increasingly alarmed. Finally he pulled out
    his cell phone and speed-dialed the Badger.

    "This had better be important!" Badger's gruff voice came
    over the phone. He didn't like Company, and he liked being
    called on the phone even less. But the Rat was too agitated
    at the moment to care.

    "Badger, this is Rat. I'm over at Toad's with Mole. Something
    very bad is developing here and we need your help right away.
    Quickly he summarized what was happening.

    "Try to stall him. I'll be right over," said Badger, hanging up.

    Meanwhile more sportbikes had screamed by, followed by a few
    cafe racers. Evidently it was some kind of a rally. The Toad
    grew increasingly excited and irrational (that is, with total
    disregard for the vital fact that his riding skills were
    rudimentary; certainly not up to the level required to handle
    a powerful sportbike at the speeds these riders were going).

    He alternated pacing to and fro on the grass with sitting
    at the laptop and Googling for reviews of performance racing bikes,
    all the while telling Mole of his new plans with revived enthusiasm.
    And Mole, the perfect foil, played his part (unwittingly)
    to perfection.

    "Look at this one, Mole! The Hayabusa. It'll do 185 mph pure stock!
    That's right out of the crate! Of course I'd have it modded for
    some *real* performance..." and other boastful, conceited talk
    of the same nature.

    Just about then could be heard the approaching rumble of a Norton
    850 Commando. To Mole's surprise, Toad visibly deflated
    at the sound, his brave talk quickly fading away.

    It was the Badger. Who, wasting no time strode across the lawn
    right up to Toad and grabbed him by the shoulders (or what passes
    for them on an amphibian).

    "Pull yourself together, Toad," he said firmly. "And get a grip!
    Now see here. True friends don't let other friends make fools
    of themselves. Or put themselves in mortal danger, either.
    Now we've all been fairly tolerant of this latest craze of yours,
    the motorcycles, as long as you were responsible about it and stuck
    to bikes within your riding ability. The cruisers were fine. So were
    the dirtbikes, and even the adventure tourer. But now you're talking
    about a lethal weapon that could break your neck! It simply won't do,
    Toad, and you know it. Now promise all of us here and now that you'll
    give up on this sportbike mania."

    "_Shan't_!" cried Toad defiantly, with some spirit.

    "I was afraid it would come to this. All right, Toad, if you're
    not prepared to be reasonable then you leave us with no other choice.
    Help me lock him in the caravan, you two!"

    Somehow the three of them managed to frog-march the indignant,
    protesting Toad into his RV and mounted guard on the door.

    "You can't hold me here forever," he blustered through the window,
    as he started arranging the furniture, cushions and pillows
    to approximate the sportbike's riding position. Then he made
    high pitched vroom-vroom noises as he took the "bike" for an imaginary,
    death-defying spin over the twisty, narrow lanes around Toad Hall;
    the tour ending in a loud crash that scattered the cushions and pillows
    into smoking piles of ruin. Then there was silence.

    After a while, the three other animals began to relax. Perhaps Toad
    had seen the light.

    Alas, they had underestimated him. For this was no ordinary 5th-wheel
    trailer, it was in fact a toy hauler. Meaning there was a "secret"
    compartment at the back for hauling a quad, jet-ski, snowmobile
    or other small recreational vehicle.

    At the moment it happened to hold a long-neglected 1967 Honda CL90,
    purchased during Toad's short-lived "small-bore vintage scrambler"
    phase. It was, like all his bikes, in prime condition, if only
    a little dusty from disuse.

    While the three faithful, well-intentioned animals waited outside,
    thinking him asleep, he was actually gassing up the bike and turning
    it around to face the back. He quietly dropped the rear gate, fired up
    the motor and made a break for it with the choke full on, having
    no time to spare warming it up.

    Naturally he couldn't expect to outrun his friends on their powerful
    roadsters -- as long as he kept to the road. But he had taken them
    by surprise, giving himself just enough lead time to escape into
    the only terrain nearby where they couldn't follow.

    The Wild Wood.

    Toad had never before had the nerve to venture into the Wild Wood;
    it had a dangerous reputation. All sorts of Lower Orders, Riff Raff
    and frightfully common folk were rumoured to abide there. Them as
    didn't behave like proper Gentlemen, so it was said. But Toad was
    in too reckless a mood to care. And so it was that when the three
    others had been roused by his sudden flight to run for their
    own bikes and pursue, by the time they had followed his track
    to the wood's edge where they were forced to stop, all they could hear
    was the sound of his motor fading into the remote depths of the forest.

    "Quickly," barked the Badger, not one to give up that easily,
    "back to the garage!" There they found a few machines better suited
    to an off-road chase through woods. Badger selected the dual-sport
    Honda Veradero. Rat took the KLR-650 street/trail enduro; slower than
    Badger's, but better on rough terrain. Mole had to make do with a tiny
    Beta 250cc Trials bike. It was far slower than the other two, who soon
    left him behind; and yet in the end it was this machine that proved
    crucial to the whole rescue operation. Some instinct he only dimly
    understood prompted Mole to pack along a coil of rope. "We'll bring
    him home trussed up if we have to," he thought to himself.

    One after the other they entered the Wild Wood in pursuit of
    the now-distant Toad. His trail was not hard to see, but it did prove
    hard to follow. His scrambler had a significant terrain advantage over
    all of them except Mole, who stuck to his track rather than taking
    roundabout detours as did the other two. Soon Mole was actually
    ahead of the others and all alone. He stopped the bike to listen.

    Then the muttering began.

    For all this unusual activity had not gone unnoticed by the regular
    denizens of the forest. The weasels, stoats, ferrets, meerkats and
    other rowdy elements who dwelled therein always kept a sharp watch
    over their turf; and when the four "respectable" animals suddenly
    invaded this territory in a very noisy manner they couldn't help
    but attract unwanted attention. "While the Amphibian's away the Rodents
    can play!" was the prevailing sentiment. Almost immediately the word
    went around -- "Party at Toad Hall tonight! Pass it on!"

    These were the voices Mole heard, but he was too inexperienced
    to recognize their message. Besides, he was focused on finding
    his errant new friend. And, finally, find him he did. On the crest
    of a hill, overlooking the Wide World, where even the boldest
    of the animals feared to venture. In his haste, Toad had forgotten
    to lean out the choke. All Mole had to do was follow the sight
    (and scent) of the black exhaust smoke.

    Toad's scrambler had run out of gas with a fouled spark plug
    on the wasteful, too-rich mixture. He was sitting on a log
    with a downcast, embarrassed expression when Mole pulled up
    in the fading twilight.

    Tactfully, neither of them said anything for a while. Then:
    "I suppose we'll have to spend the night here," said Mole.
    "It's getting too dark to go back over such rough ground."

    "All right, Mole," said Toad in a subdued tone.

    A faint sound of bike motors could be heard in the distance.
    "There's Badger and Rat," said Mole. I'll go and lead them here."

    The four of them spent a cold, dreary night of it. No one disturbed
    them apart from a few owls hooting derisively and a rather impudent
    fox passing by with some cheeky, uncalled-for remarks about
    the four "toffs" having to "rough it".

    Then in the morning they back tracked, with Toad in the ignominious
    position of being towed by Ratty with Mole's rope; Badger scowling
    and silent.

    When they finally returned to Toad Hall it was thoroughly trashed.
    The elegant Banquet Hall was a ruin -- carpets soaked with beer
    and puke; cigarette butts and empty bottles everywhere; the pantry
    and wine cellar looted. Sprawled face down on the couch was
    a over-indulgent partyer dressed in a pair of grease-stained,
    frayed blue jeans and a black leather riding jacket with shiny studs
    and a rocker patch reading 'WILD WEASELS MC', over which was scrawled
    in garish day-glow orange lipstick the words, "KICK MY ASS,

    Toad was aghast. "Well, it serves you right, Toad, for acting
    the proper fool," said Badger. "It'll take you weeks to clean this
    all up, and I hope it teaches you a good lesson."

    But Toad wasn't listening. For the leftover uninvited guest's scooter
    was standing proudly in the middle of the dining hall -- a raked-out
    springer panhead chopper lavishly drenched in chrome, flashy gloss
    finish, Gothic spires, coffin tank, paintings of winged skulls
    (and primary case oil dripping on his valuable Persian carpet).

    Toad gazed at this wheeled apparition with his eyes wide and his jaw
    dropped. "It's AWESOME," he mumbled. "Simply awesome."

    The three others looked at each other. There was nothing more to say.

    Silently they climbed on their bikes and rode away to a well deserved
    rest in their own beds, without any further concerns about Toad.
    He could be counted on to busy himself with this new obsession
    for a very long foreseeable future, sculpting steel, chrome and leather
    into a large collection of showy, tasteless (and, most probably,
    unrideable) creations.

    sean_q, Mar 10, 2011
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