David, meet your Fenstemaker

Henry A. Pasternack


From: henry@ginger.sri.com (Henry A. Pasternack)
Newsgroups: rec.motorcycles
Subject: David, meet your Fenstemaker.
Date: 25 Oct 90 21:25:03 GMT

David Fenstemaker arced the big K1 into the lot at Alice's. His face glowed gently with the light of sublime pleasure as he prepared the embrace the warm companionship of his fellow motorcyclists. Laughing sweetly, he raised his clutch hand above his head and turned to face the gathered throng, his brightly-designed gauntlet a cheerful flourish of color set against the deep blue of the warm afternoon sky.

Heads turned inquisitively to take in the image of Fenstemaker's leather-clad form. Lowering his head in appreciation, he failed to heed the wide ribbon of his sticky front tire as it slowly and deliberately tucked under and forced the K1's forks to full lock. A look of startled fear strained his visage as David pirouetted through the air in slow motion and the K1 unceremoniously deposited itself on the pavement with a brief but agonizing screech. A bright streak of red paint and white fiberglass could be seen on the asphalt, painting in that universal language of tortured bodywork an unmistakable price tag of despair. Silence filled the air, as a thin, green trickle of fluid began to wend its way amidst the tiny pebbles and twisted cracks of the parking lot surface.

Visibly shaken, but working diligently to regain his composure, Fenstemaker untangled his limbs and unsteadily raised himself to his feet.He wobbled slightly but retained his balance as he gingerly probed with a torn glove finger the scratches in the rump of his brand-new Fieldsheer leathers. Turning to face the crowd, visor shattered and dangling from one side of his Lawson replica Arai Signet, he dusted off his palms, and forced the smile back to his lips. He extended his arms in a gesture of frivolity. Despite his best expression of nonchalance, his self-consciousness was given away as he nervously cleared his throat and exclaimed with forced enthusiasm, "Neat trick, huh?". Bewildered faces turned away and a low hubub of conversation returned to the crowd.

A sudden wave of nausea passed over Fenstemaker from head to toe and his vision blurred and darkened. He staggered and took an uncontrolled step backwards as if suddenly drunk. His boot nicked the sidestand of a gleaming black 1974 soft-tail touring Harley which wavered tenuously and crashed to the ground, nearly crushing the foot of its middle-aged owner who sat on the adjacent curb. The Harley rider sprung to his feet with surprising agility, and although he was able to escape injury to his person, his frantic lunge to restrain the toppling motorcycle was fractions of a second too late. The momentum of his sudden motion carried him past the Harley and he was unable to stop himself before smashing into Fenstemaker and sending the two of them sprawling to the ground. Man and machine littered the pavement. A small gray squirrel sprung from the Harley owner's shoulder and began to nibble on the back tire of the K1.

Fenstemaker had not yet removed his helmet and was thus spared a serious injury when the back of the Arai struck the earth with a solid thwack. Nevertheless, he was slightly stunned and began to mumble incoherently. A slight trickle of drool made its way from the corner of his mouth.

The Harley owner disgustedly lifted himself off of Fenstemaker's prone form and urgently moved to right the toppled v-twin. A few bystanders quickly hopped up to assist him. He had a truly pained expression on his face, his fingers combing his beard, a frown on his lips, as he surveyed the inelegant new fissures in the bright chrome of the Harley's cases and its once-flawless black lacquer. The others appeared ready to extract retribution, but being a sensible and compassionate man, the owner held them off with a slight shake of the head and a restraining gesture of his palm.

Full consciousness returned to Fenstemaker like the snap of a rubber band. Unaware of the calamity he had just caused, his gaze fell immediately upon the bloated form of the K1, wallowing like a beached whale on a black sand shore. Spying the squirrel which continued to gnaw contentedly on his rear Dunlop, he shouted in alarm, "Hey, you rodent! Get off my tire!" The squirrel turned its head for an instant to gaze into Fenstemaker's perturbed eyes and then returned to its chewing.

"I said, get off my tire!" screamed Fenstemaker and grabbed the squirrel by its tail. The small animal clung tenaciously to the tire as Fenstemaker dug in with both heels and began to heave with all his strength, both hands twisted around the squirrel's gray-haired appendage. Suddenly, the squirrel unclamped its teeth. A mighty boom filled the air as the tubeless Dunlop exploded. Shreds of rubber and kevlar flew in all directions. Fenstemaker clamped his hands to his ears, which, of course, were still covered by the remains of his helmet, and pranced about like a madman. The squirrel sprang back to its owner's shoulder. Fenstemaker tripped and for a third time landed roughly on his now thoroughly-bruised butt.

The Harley rider's companions broke out in belly-churning laughter, pointing at the BMW and slapping each others' backs as tears of hilarity streamed down their faces. The Harley rider himself stood quietly, stroking the fur of the little squirrel, the sharp glint of disapproval and satisfaction piercing from his eyes.

Fenstemaker, furious and uncomprehending, stunned ears ringing painfully, struggled to tear the helmet from his head. After several fruitless moments, he was able with trembling fingers to unloop the fabric strap. In blind fury, he pulled the cracked shell off of his head and punted it like a soccer ball into the street. A crack came from inside his right boot and he winced in agony, hopping up and down on his left leg while he clutched his broken foot in near-panic.

As the helmet flew into the road, a Ford Taurus station wagon filled with children swerved violently to avoid it. The maneuver was unsuccessful and the helmet landed in the middle of its roof. A hollow thud was heard and a large dent appeared in the top of the car. The Ford lurched to a halt, dust and smoke billowing from its locked tires. The driver's side door flew open and a large and plainly infuriated man sprang from the inside. He stormed towards Fenstemaker, who, suddenly forgetting the pain in his foot, became aware of the growing seriousness of his predicament.

Fenstemaker began stepping backwards, pleading, "Please! Please! It's not my fault!" The Harley friends moved to block his retreat, flanking him and restraining him by the arms. The car driver, a menacing glower twisting his face, pressed ever closer, pulling up his sleeves to reveal heavily-muscled forearms leading to massive, clenched fists.

The crown began to chant, "Give it to 'em! Give it to 'em! Give it to 'em!". Fenstemaker hunched his shoulders, eyelids clamped shut, legs trembling. He began to sob.

A piercing siren squawked loudly as a uniformed motorcycle cop suddenly appeared upon the scene. Harley friends and the Taurus driver gave way as the officer unmounted his Kawasaki, mumbled terse codes into his microphone and quickly stepped up to the still-flinching Fenstemaker.

The police officer coughed deliberately. Fenstemaker timidly opened his eyes and stared into the mirrored glasses of the CHP. The image of his pathetic form was reflected back at him, and he winced. The officer pointed to the still-toppled K1. The puddle of green fluid now spanned several square meters. Scraps of rubber littered the pavement.

"Is that your motorcycle?" he demanded, a look of mild contempt clearly evident in his expression.

"Yes, officer, but..."

The CHP cut him off. "Fine, get it out of the way. You're blocking traffic."

"Yes, sir!" said Fenstemaker, clearly relieved at the unexpected interjection of law and order into what had seemed a hopeless situation. He struggled to pick the bike back up, but in his shock and embarrassment, he was unable to complete the task. The officer stepped to assist him, black police boots clicking on the ground with the sound of authority. Reaching over with one hand, the CHP heaved the bike to an upright position. Fenstemaker unsteadily pushed it to the side. The rear rim ground with an unpleasant metallic sound against the blacktop. The bulk of the left-hand fairing side was riddled with a network of cracks and scratches. The smell of coolant filled his nostrils while glistening droplets rained down from the bike's innards, wetting his boots. His right foot began to throb, and it was only with great difficulty that he was able to limp toward the curb where he crumpled with exhaustion. He looked up at the policeman.

"May I see your driver's license, registration, and insurance card, please," said the officer.

"Sure, guy, no problem," replied Fenstemaker in falsely cheery tones. He was trying to set the officer at ease. A look of confusion came over his face as he patted frantically at his leathers and suddenly recalled that he had left his wallet at home.

"Left your wallet at home, huh?" commented the officer. Fenstemaker sheepishly nodded his head in agreement.

"All right, pal, I think it's time to pay a visit to the station house." In a single, well-practiced motion, the officer hoisted Fenstemaker by his left wrist and snapped on a pair of handcuffs. A squad car had appeared moments earlier and a blue-suited police woman stepped up to take charge of the prisoner. She steered him into the back of the automobile. Fenstemaker's protestations were cut off with the slam of the door. In a moment it was over.

The CHP spoke briefly to the police woman, who slipped into the front seat of the cruiser and sped off toward town. He shook his head in amazement as he stepped behind the K1 and began radioing in its license number. A tow truck pulled into the lot. The officer took a statement from a number of witnesses, mounted his cycle and pulled out onto Skyline.

The sun was just beginning to go down, and the lovely white clouds were lined in brilliant shades of crimson. Motorcyclists gradually pulled on their leathers, packed their belongings and headed back down the hill. The tow truck, with broken K1 swinging in a cradle, had long since set off to the vehicle impound. As the stars began to come out, only the shimmer or the pale moonlight in a puddle of antifreeze remained as a reminder of David Fenstemaker's bad day.

--Henry