A man has plotted his course through life; what happens when fate takes the wheel?
| The Biker, The Troll, and The Magic Mountain
* * * *
I don’t know why I agreed to be the ‘blind escort’ to yet another of my brother Jeremy’s office trolls, other than the fact he was my brother, and he always had my back whenever I needed him. My name is Matt Phearson, 31, single, and aside from a pretty satisfying IT management job, I ride a Harley.
My conditions for the escort ‘job’ were the usual, the troll would have to dress down for me, as I wasn’t about to dress up for them. I’d be a gentleman, but if they didn’t want to be seen with someone who looked like a middle-aged biker—well—tough shit.
I had plans for later on in the night, and I had no intention of baby-sitting the party troll until the very end of their little office party. There was a full moon tonight; the weather was cool and dry. My favorite overlook would be bathed in moonlight, glistening off the Mississippi River in the valley below and I had some serious meditating to do. This was MY time of the month, and little brother or not, I was going to enjoy it.
That was the reason I rode my bike up to the party hall that night, and after removing my leathers and tying them to my bike, I entered without enthusiasm to confront my ordeal for the night. I’d come to expect being saddled with one of the company ‘knuckle-draggers’ in these affairs, but since I had very little actual respect for the usual complement of company ‘suck-ups’ and’ hangers-on’ that usually attended, I had no qualms about bolting rather early in the evening.
Stepping into the hall, I received the usual glowering looks from the men assembled there, and the usual evaluating looks from their female companions. It seemed that scruffy looking biker guys are a natural curiosity for both men and women, but for different reasons.
My brother, spotting me, hustled over with his wife and a rather stunning black haired woman. Tall, slim and wonderfully curvaceous, I noticed that all eyes were on her as she sauntered over to meet me. Legs, from her ankles all the way up to—heaven, I was sure. Lenore was her name, and her face was expressionless, but her beautiful ice-blue eyes mesmerized me. There had to be a story here, I knew, but for now, we fluttered through the introductions and proceeded into the party.
She was dressed down to my standards, but she still managed to flatter the form-fitting jeans and long-sleeved white blouse that draped her figure, and the boots that she wore looked like she was really ready for anything. Uhmm… and her ass, well… My initial impression was—hot; and ice cold.
Little to no conversation; I didn’t really mind that, but I was curious what the story was behind this vision. My one vain attempt at chit-chat ended up with her snappy response of, “I don’t put out, so don’t even try.” Nice, I thought. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about any ‘after-party’ issues. I figured that there’d be no problem breaking loose from this dull soiree when it came time.
Finally, when she took a break to the ladies room, I asked my brother what the hell he’d set me up with. He laughed, telling me that knowing my dislike of date setups, and the dislike of their office ‘ice queen’ for socializing , he’d decided to kill two birds with one stone. Their new manager had insisted that his staff attend with a guest of one sort or another, and this seemed like a safe, neutral solution to both our problems.
By then, she’d returned, and in a fit of pique about being used for a goalpost in their little game, I asked her to dance. Surprisingly, she complied and we whirled smoothly out on to the dance floor. She was nearly as tall as I was, and as we went through our moves she put her face into my neck, and began to hold me a bit tighter than I’d have expected. It could have been my imagination, but at times, I sensed that she was actually trying to smell me.
I couldn’t help but notice that no one attempted to cut in for a dance, which for me was fairly normal, but for a ‘looker’ like Lenore, that seemed a bit unusual. I figured that she must have one hell of a reputation in my brother’s company. No one approached her for a dance in between dances either, which equally puzzled me. To me, she looked great, felt great, and smelled great, and aside from her shitty attitude, she’d of made one stunning decoration on the arm of any of the young men at the dance.
It’d be my luck to have been set up with a vampire or something, if there was such a thing, but I knew my brother better than that. The fact that she’d been sniffing into my neck probably meant she had some kind of terribly contagious disease, and that everyone was trying to maintain their distance out of fear. Thanks, Bro!
Although she seemed to be largely into herself, she was an excellent dancer, and was undaunted by anything the band could perform. Although I was pretty well versed in most popular steps, I had to beg off on some of the really recent moves. Whenever that happened, she seemed content to join me at the refreshment tables, or pick up a drink with me to refresh ourselves if desired. Even then, there were no offers from the assembled gentlemen to take up my slack. She was polite for the most part, but very distant.
Finally, I thought it was time to make my break, so I began to make my excuses to Lenore, but she suddenly interrupted with, “Matt, does this party suck as much for you as it does for me?” Startled, I actually told her the truth, disregarding my usual caution about revealing my real thoughts about ‘official’ company party-times, especially to strangers.
“Desperate companies, arranging party favors to entertain desperate employees, all trying to pretend to be thrilled at an opportunity to suck up for free food and booze. Not really my bag, but frankly, I have better things to do this evening,” I muttered, more to myself than to her.
Taking hold of my arm, she looked at me and asked, “Since it seems like you’re leaving anyway, could I impose on you to give me a ride home?” Surprised, I informed her that I’d arrived on a Harley, and I was headed for the hills when I left the party. Why she was suddenly showing interest in me at this moment was a puzzle, but if she was simply looking for a ride home, it probably indicated that however she’d arrived, she didn’t want to return the same way. Another fuckin’ prima donna. Not my problem, I decided, and tried to shake her off.
The fact that I’d brought a bike to the party didn’t seem to deter her in the least however, and she continued to press me to get her away from this party. She seemed to have thawed a bit towards me, but I figured that this was calculated simply to get her way. Women!
Starting to waver a bit at last, I warned her that I was going to one of my favorite remote spots tonight, a very remote site, and I wouldn’t be coming back this way for some time. This was the moment I expected her to back off, but she simply put her hands on her hips, and sized me up, slowly and deliberately.
It was getting late, and I really had no time for this crap I thought. Turning away from her I left the hall and went to retrieve my bike. As I reached the bike, I heard her speak up once again behind me. “Is this a private party that you’re off to, or can I tag along?”
I turned and this time, in the light of the rising moon, she had transformed into something almost surreal. A soft breeze was blowing through the parking lot, and it’s affect on her hair was almost hypnotic, strands of her ebony locks slowly swirling about her head and face, reminding me of the Medusa of mythology. Momentarily, I thought that myth had become real, because I felt that I’d been turned to stone, then she smiled, for the first time all night.
When I saw her smile, I suddenly felt released from my brief paralysis, and a sense that the “Ice Queen” had begun to thaw; perhaps even the “gnarly biker” as well washed over me.
What the hell, I thought. If she could keep her mouth shut and stay out of my way, which certainly seemed probable given her behavior all night, it wouldn’t really matter if she took the ride or not. I’d certainly make sure that she remembered this ride though. No one gets a ride without paying the ticket price. I hope she had up to date life insurance!
While I was still making up my mind, I noted that she was not exactly dressed for an outside excursion, and offered her the use of my leather jacket. It was well worn, but she accepted my offer, and when I passed it to her, she immediately brought it to her face and inhaled deeply a couple of times. I was beginning to suspect a relationship between her sniffing and what she was sniffing.
In my saddlebag, I had a ‘skid-lid,’ left over from my sister’s days of riding with ‘big brother,’ and I had no idea why I still had it on board. My sister Eileen had moved away a few years ago after graduating from college, but I’d hung on to it for those times she returned to visit. Memories of our trips washed over me as I pulled the half-helmet out of the pack, and I even thought that I might resent loaning it to Lenore, but for some reason I didn’t. Curiously, it fit Lenore perfectly.
* * * *
Eileen was the reason for my brief nocturnal trips to the bluff overlooking the Mississippi valley, on moonlit nights, and the celebration of life that we toasted in those days. We had discovered what she called “Magic Mountain” on a road trip shortly after she entered high school. I’d just purchased my bike as a gift to myself, celebrating my first year of college, and she had pestered me relentlessly for rides.
It’s not really a mountain of course, but it is a pretty high bluff along the Mississippi River Valley along Wisconsin’s western border. We’d discovered it on one of what she called our “expeditions” along remote trails through densely wooded areas. It was just a break in the brush alongside the road, and for a moment I was just going to keep on trucking down the road, but Eileen squealed in my ear to get my attention, while pointing back down the road that we were on.
Returning to the break, I parked the bike up off the road a few yards, and she and I began the long trek to the top of the bluff. Eventually we reached the top, where we discovered a long-abandoned lookout, cleared at one time, with a panoramic view of the valley, and an absolutely breathtaking scene of the Mississippi River, snaking it’s way slowly to the Gulf of Mexico.
As it turned out, there was enough of a pathway to the top to allow my bike to carefully navigate the little turns and bumps for a complete ride to the top. The last time Eileen and I had taken this trip was just after her graduation from high school, just before leaving for college. Our parents had been divorced for many years, and as the ‘grown up’ in our home she relied on me for the ‘adult’ advice on life’s stuff.
That last time, we ended up there well into the evening, and we discovered that the moonlit illumination of our retreat was as close to magical as anywhere could get. She was 18 years old now, and I’d brought a bottle of fine Merlot to share with her before she left for school the following weekend. We’d toasted our times together, and made one of those adolescent oaths to commemorate this evening whenever we had an opportunity.
As we raised our glasses, there came from somewhere very nearby a piercing, drawn out howl, seeming to last forever, raising the hair on the back of my neck. Eileen however, merely took it as an omen for her continued good luck, and began walking towards the howl.
She didn’t have far to walk it seemed, as a northern timber wolf, rare in these areas had taken this place and this moment to howl it’s lament to the full moon. I watched carefully as my sister neared the dark shape at the edge of the clearing, frantically wondering what I could use as a weapon in case she were attacked. She wasn’t of course, and even managed to stroke the coat of the beast while it eyed her suspiciously. It then allowed her to walk back to me, unharmed, as if to proclaim that this was truly the spot where magic was possible.
Once she left for college, I only saw her on holidays with the rest of the family, but if there was a full moon and clear skies on those days, we’d revisit the lookout and toast our continued good fortune with a bottle of fine Merlot.
* * * *
Tonight was one of those ‘perfect’ nights, but this time I wouldn’t be alone, and a stranger named Lenore would be with me. She was an imposition on my ritual of course, but I couldn’t think of a polite way of getting rid of her at the moment. I thought however, I could discourage her from ever trying this little trick again.
While I was wandering through my memory banks, Lenore had quite patiently waited for me to finish and get on with our . . . trip. Again, I was wondering why she was still hanging around, as there were always other choices to shuffling her ass back on home. But then, I was just being an asshole, I admitted.
A quick glance at her revealed that she’d mastered the ‘dress out’ quite well, as she’d donned the leather jacket and ‘pot’ helmet already, and was just waiting for me to fire up the ‘hog.’ Readjusting my load, the bedroll and saddlebags, I hopped on the bike, and assisted Lenore as she climbed on behind me. She had a small handbag with her that she relinquished to me for safekeeping—in the saddlebag, and we were ready to ‘rumble’ as it were.
Feeling her mold her body against mine, nestling her face against my neck, and sliding her arms up to secure herself to my chest, I was suddenly filled with a sense that this night was going to turn out more different for me than I’d have expected when I came to this party tonight. Even the moon was taking on a rather portentous aspect, causing my heartbeat to quicken in anticipation.
Oddly enough, I no longer felt as ‘in control’ of this evening’s events as I did when this evening began, but I was determined to make the best of it despite the presence of my unexpected rider.
As time had gone on however, familiarity with the trip goaded me into more and more reckless trips through the winding pathway to the top. Testosterone overload I guessed. Eileen came to refer to the trip as her personal thrill ride, and I tried to spice it up a bit each time we ascended the bluff to the top of “Magic Mountain.”
Now a stranger named Lenore was about to take that same trip to the top of “Magic Mountain” with me, and I was already beginning to feel a strangeness in this night that was very hard to define. Why am I actually allowing this? I’d never taken anyone else on my bike other than Eileen—not even our baby brother—Jeremy.
Lenore had begun scratching her fingernails across my chest, probably to remind me that she was now ready to go, so I tied on my leather skullcap and pulled out of the parking lot to the highway, and aimed us towards my magic mountain. It was just past dusk, and the moon was bathing the highway in a cool, sterile glow, challenging the piercing searchlight of my headlight.
I kept our ride low-key and laid-back on the way to the turn-off, trying to get a feel for how my passenger managed the balance of the bike’s ride. The last thing I needed was a complete ‘klutz,’ dragging me into the wrong kind of balance needed to make the turns we were about to endure.
To my surprise, she became virtually invisible on our ride, and as much as I tried to catch her unawares on sudden changes in direction I could feel no resistance to my moves. It was as though she had entered my body and become one with me. Eerie, I thought. Eileen had ridden with me countless times, and I’d never felt this level of control before, but the real test of her coordination was yet to come, I thought.
It didn’t take long to get to the trail winding up to the top of the bluff, and again, my passenger hung on, but she’d changed the position of her hands. Slowly her hands had slid from my chest to lock around my waist, although she now maintained her own center of gravity so that she could move independently of me if I did something to disturb the balance of the ride. I was beginning to re-evaluate my assessment of her uhm…peculiar qualities.
At the base of the bluff, I stopped my bike, and aimed it at an almost indiscernible break in the brush alongside the road. Leaning back to warn her that this might be a little bumpy and unpredictable, I felt her respond by tightening her grip just a bit around my midsection. I just couldn’t wait to crank this baby up, and take my ‘rocket’ to the moon!
This Harley was just an ordinary bike, for a Harley, but it sure as hell wasn’t meant to be a dirt bike. I had to be very careful in navigating my way to the top with a vintage 1981 Super Glide. Heavy, loud and unforgiving, it was the ultimate test of my ability to keep a smoking monster on a track that it wasn’t built for. It was also my best friend these past few years, transporting me out of harm’s way when things went to shit.
Ms. Lenore was in for the ride of her life!
* * * *