What happens when you find the thing of your dreams?
|The toddler ran from the bathroom and down the hallway, naked and dripping wet.
“Amanda, where are you?” Lisa called.
The child’s mother followed her into the bedroom, pretending not to see the little girl in the corner with her hands over her eyes. This had become a nightly ritual that Lisa looked forward to, a special time that only Amanda and she shared. It was their
little game. Lisa looked in all the usual places as Amanda sat in the corner and peeked between her fingers, giggling.
“I hear you,” Lisa called from the closet. Closing the door, she turned suddenly and sprang at Amanda.
“Aha!” she cried out. “I found you.”
Lisa picked the child up and quickly toweled her dry before laying her on the bed.
Amanda found a tube of baby cream and began playing with it, talking to herself in the gibberish that Lisa and her husband George called “mandanese,” while Lisa applied some powder.
“What are you saying little one?” Lisa cooed. “Can you say Mama?”
Amanda continued to play with the tube of cream, lost in her own little world.
Lisa went to the dresser and got a set of pajamas. When she brought the nightclothes back to the bed, Amanda stared straight into her eyes. A chill went through her when the little girl spoke her very first words with startling clarity.
At the last minute, George looked up and screamed as he barreled toward the old man in the center of the dirt road. Jerking the wheel of his pickup hard to the right, he narrowly
avoided hitting him, and headed toward the embankment. The truck bounced over a small mound of leaves and branches, throwing George around the cab of the truck. When it finally banged to a stop against a pine sapling, George’s nose cracked hard on the steering wheel sending a bright flash of light behind his eyes. Blood and tears coursed down his face and onto the front of his shirt.
“God damn it!” he yelled as he got out of the truck, slamming the door. He was pissed and he was going to bust someone’s head, even if the guy is a hundred and ten years old. He looked back to the road that went around the perimeter of his new farm and was surprised to see that the old man was gone.
“Where are you, you old coot?”
There wasn’t a trace of him anywhere. He went over to the road and looked at the ground to see if there were any footprints showing which way the old geezer had gone, but it was as if he had never been there at all. George stood there for a moment, scratching his head and bleeding onto his shirt when something caught his eye in the woods beyond the road.
“That you Grandpa?” he called out. “Hang on a minute, I want a word with you.”
It had it be the old man. George was going to read him the riot act for his nose being busted. He charged into the stand of trees and brambles, tearing at his clothes and skin.
“How did you find your way through this stuff, Pops?” he muttered.
The woods were thick on this part of the farm. George had just inherited it from a grandmother he hardly knew, but he was grateful to her just the same. He had received the letter from the lawyers informing him about the farm while Lisa was pregnant with Amanda. At the time he had been laid off for months and making some money doing odd jobs around town. But the bills that were piling up in the trailer were starting to go from due to overdue. The farm was like a gift from heaven. It was his free and clear, with nothing to pay but taxes and utilities, and in George’s opinion, that was not a bad deal at all.
At the final closing, the lawyers had given him the plans of the house and surrounding two hundred acres of fields, forests, and buildings that had belonged in his family for too many generations to count. Searching the woods, he finally worked his way through the dense stand of trees and came upon an old tobacco barn that he did not recall seeing on any of the maps.
The barn was in sad shape. The roof was almost nonexistent, the siding was missing in more places than it covered, and George could see right through to the woods on the other side in more than one spot. As he circled the barn, still looking for the old man, his anger was slowly replaced by curiosity as he got a better look at the dilapidated structure. On the opposite side he found the heavy double doors and a road that led into the barn, though the road was now home to a few trees that were at least twenty years old. The doors were closed and the latch that would normally hold a padlock was empty. He gave the rusty handle a slight tug and watched as it came off in his hand.
“Damn, I better watch myself in here. A broken nose is bad enough without getting a split head to go with it,” he muttered.
He reached into the crack between the doors and tried to pry them apart, but they wouldn’t budge. Placing a foot against one door, he yanked as hard as he could on the other. With a loud snap the door broke free, sending George to the ground on his backside. He looked up in time to see the giant door falling, heading right for his lap. Rolling quickly to the right, he threw his hands over his head as the door crashed to the ground, mere inches away from him. Now he was really pissed. God help
anyone who crossed him now.
George jumped up, kicked the fallen door, and felt his toe crack in the process.
“Shit,” he yelled, reaching for the injured foot. When the echo finally stopped, George could hear every bird in the surrounding woods leaving a little early for the winter flight south. Looking through the open door, he realized that the interior was brighter than it should have been. Between the holes in the roof and the holes in the walls, it was almost as lit up as the outside. He got to his feet and limped into the barn, half expecting the whole damn thing to fall in on him. It was that kind of a day. Looking around he could see most of the things one would expect to find in an old barn. Broken, rust covered hand tools lay across a rotten workbench in one corner. On the shelf above it, a row of old glass bottles stood like soldiers in formation. An old carriage rig hung from a nail in one of the rafters, and George made a mental note to stay out from under it. A tarp covered what he figured to be just some more farm stuff that was no longer useful except maybe for low-income rat housing.
“Think I’ll knock this place down before it falls on someone’s kids, namely mine,” he said aloud.
He almost walked out of the barn right then, when the tarp caught his attention once again. He studied the ragged canvas
for a moment before moving toward it. Carefully side-stepping the hanging carriage rig, he went over to the canvas mound. Picking up an ax handle, he gave the tarp a couple of whacks to
let the local rat and snake population know he was there. Then George threw back the dust-covered tarp and felt his bowels turn to water when he saw what was hidden beneath it. Suddenly the old man was no longer of any importance. The old man was the farthest thing from his mind as he looked down at the antique motorcycle lying at his feet. He took a deep breath, collapsed onto an old bale of hay, and tried to evaluate just what he had found.
The bike was in miserable shape. The paint had all but fallen off the tanks and fenders. The wide, white-walled tires were worn and cracked with dry rot. All that remained of the seat was some scraps of leather around the edge where the rats had eaten it and nested in the cushioning underneath. The glass was missing in all the places that used to have glass and the right side looked as if the bike had been dropped. It wasn’t wrecked, but had been dropped over onto the side once or twice. A light coat of rust touched the frame, which seemed to be straight. All wiring was gone and the cables were missing most of their rubber coating. The exhaust pipes were not on the bike, but were thrown underneath. George rose from the bale of hay and reached down to pick them up.
“Guess I’ll need some new pipes,” he muttered, as they disintegrated in his hands.
The cylinder heads were odd in shape. There were two of them like he was used to seeing, but they sat straight on the engine block, not in the traditional “V” shape he was used to. Each cylinder had two corroded spark plugs in the right side, along with two exhaust ports directly underneath them. On the front of the bike was a fork system that resembled a springer front end. But where there should have been a set of springs and a shock, there was what looked like the leaf spring on his truck. The emblem on the tank, along with the size and shape of the large flowing fenders could only mean one thing.
“This is to good to be true,” he breathed.
Reaching up, he cleaned off the emblem with spit and his shirttail, laughing out loud when the emblem verified what he already knew. This was every biker’s dream come true and it was happening to him. He had found an old Indian motorcycle in a shed that he didn’t know even existed on his land.
“Hello, big chief. You’re coming home with me.”
Lisa heard the familiar rumble of George’s pickup truck as she finished rinsing the pasta for dinner. Crossing over to the back door, she parted the curtains in time to see him pull the truck into the barn behind the house.
“George,” Lisa called after opening the back door, “are you coming in for dinner?”
She carefully started down the six steps and towards the oversized double doors.
She waddled over to the open doorway and peered into the gloom.
“Lisa,” George burst out of the darkness, “you’ve got to see this.”
“Lord almighty George,” Lisa cried, grabbing her extremely distended belly, “are you out of your mind?” She slapped at him three or four times halfheartedly. “You can’t sneak up on an eight-months pregnant woman like that!” She looked up into his face and her tone slipped from playful annoyance to concern.
“What happened to your nose George?”
“I’m sorry Baby, don’t worry about my nose, you got to come and see what I found.” He gasped, pulling at the sleeve of her blouse. “This is unbelievable, this is beyond unbelievable, this is…”
“George, George honey, slow down, take a breath. You can’t rush a woman in my condition.”
“But you have got to see this, Angel. It is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me.”
He led her to the back of the truck, threw back the old tarp, and smiled at her like a schoolboy.
“What do you think of that?”
Lisa gave George a quizzical look before peering into the bed of the pickup.
“What is it?”
“What is it?” he asked incredulously. “It’s an Indian motorcycle, honey. Probably around a 1948 or 1949, model Chief. It’s a valuable piece of machinery, Babe.”
“Humph,” she snorted. “It doesn’t appear to be worth anything to me.”
“Well it don’t look like much now, but it will someday soon. I aim to rebuild this baby and ride like the wind.”
“You better remember this baby instead,” Lisa said patting her belly. “Now come on inside, there’s a little girl that misses you something fierce.
“All right, all right. Give me a couple of minutes to get the bike off the truck and I’ll be in.”
“Okay, don’t be too long though, I made your favorite dinner and it’s just about finished.” Lisa turned, heading out of the barn and into the house.
George turned and started to unload the old motorcycle.
George rolled over and looked at the clock on his nightstand, the numbers on the dial throwing the only light in the room.
“Christ,” he muttered, “it’s only 4:45 AM? Where the hell is the sun?”
This was the fifth or sixth time he had checked the clock, waiting for morning to come. All he could think about was the old Indian motorcycle. First thing he was going to do was tear the whole bike down to the frame and go over each and every piece with a magnifying glass. There is no room for skimping on this project, he thought. This bike is a classic, a work of art. It deserves a complete and total restoration. George smiled at the thought of riding his completed Indian. The jealous stares of all his buddies at Mongol’s Café were going to be great. He hung out there on Friday nights, listening to his friends talk bikes and poke fun at him because he didn’t have one yet.
“We’ll see who is laughing soon, assholes,” he said to the darkened room.
“What was that, George honey?” Lisa mumbled, half asleep.
“Nothing Babe, go on back to sleep.”
He turned over and stared out the window. Real soon, he thought, waiting for the sun to come up.
Lisa woke up to the sound of Amanda crying in her crib. The clock on the nightstand read ten minutes after eight, and George’s side of the bed had long grown cold.
“George,” she called out. He didn’t answer.
“George,” she called even louder. Still, there was no answer. Amanda’s cries grew more frantic as Lisa called to George.
“Hold on baby,” Lisa said as she sat up, “Mommy’s coming.” She lifted herself off the bed with a grunt. Stuffing her swollen feet into a pair of slippers that George called her comfy shoes, she headed down the hall and into Amanda’s room.
The little girl was standing at the rail of the crib with her chubby pink arms raised, waiting to be picked up when Lisa got there.
“Good morning Doodlebug,” Lisa said soothingly, “did you have nice dreams?” She picked her up and carried her over to the changing table under the window and laid her down. Amanda was doing her usual repartee of babble sounds as she took turns placing her big toes in her mouth. Stripping off the warm wet diaper, she put it in a special diaper can that was supposed to prevent odors, but didn’t, and grabbed the wipes, cream, powder, and a fresh diaper.
“Hey Amanda, hey little girl,” she said as she cleaned her up, “say ‘mama, mama’.”
Amanda looked up at her and smiled her biggest tri-toothed grin before she said something that was close enough to mama for Lisa.
“Mna-mna,” she gurgled.
“Good girl!” Lisa cried, causing many more versions of the new word to be attempted by the little girl.
“Mna-mna, mna-mna, mna-mna…, zee-ors.”
“You got it baby girl, all except for that zee-ors thing,” she said as she taped the new diaper on. “Now where is your Daddy?”
Motion from the yard under the window caught Lisa’s attention. George stepped out of the barn like he had been called out loud, arms piled high with rusted motorcycle parts. She watched as he threw the parts into the back of his pickup and return back into the gloom. Lisa thought nothing of it until she was halfway down the wooden stairs. That’s when she realized he was still in his bathrobe and bedroom slippers.
George slipped the end of a length of pipe over the end of his socket wrench, hoping the extra leverage would free the stubborn nut that held the exhaust bracket. He dropped to his knees and brought all of his weight down onto the pipe. After pressing down for what seemed like an eternity, the nut finally snapped off the bolt, driving his clenched fists into the concrete floor with enough force to shatter bone.
“Damn it!” He shouted to no one in particular.
Sitting back onto the floor, he studied the now half-stripped Indian while his knuckles bled unnoticed into his lap. The tires and rims were leaning up against the workbench that held the fenders, gas tanks, and other parts that had come off the bike in somewhat easier fashion. The difficult part was all of the rusted and corroded nuts and bolts that simply refused to budge under a wrench. Two empty cans of liquid wrench were tossed to the side already, and a third was almost gone as well.
George sat there trying to plan his next move when something at the edge of his vision caught his attention. A figure stood in the doorway of the barn.
“Lisa? Is that you?” He asked. “Come take a look at how far I’ve gotten, Babe.”
The figure didn’t move. Suddenly a picture of the old man in the road came to George as if it were beamed in via satellite.
“Hey!” He yelled jumping to his feet. “Hey old man, come here a second.”
The old man vanished from the door as George raced across the barn.
“Come here you old son of a bitch, I owe you something.” He reached the barn door and launched himself through it, nearly plowing into Lisa and knocking the plate of bacon and eggs she was carrying to the ground.
“Did you see him, which way did he go?” George asked frantically.
Lisa stepped back and looked at her husband as if he were some being from another world. He was still wearing his slippers and his robe gapped open, showing his boxer shorts underneath. Decades-old grease and oil seemed to cover every part of him not clad in terrycloth. Thick blond hair stuck out of his head at crazed angles and his sour breath hung in the air like a soiled blanket.
“Shit, George,” she gasped. “Are you insane?”
“The old man, Lisa,” he demanded, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Where did he go?”
Lisa jerked herself free and took another step back, more to get away from the stench of his untended mouth than anything else.
“I didn’t see any old man George, and I don’t know what your problem is, but you can leave me out of it!” She turned and headed back toward the house, stepping over the remains of George’s breakfast.
“Lisa,” he called after her. “How could you not see him? He was right here.”
George watched her dismiss him with a wave of her hand, waddle across the yard and slowly climb the stairs of the porch before slamming both the screen and back doors. Scratching his head over the mystery of the old man, he finally thought about what had transpired in the last two minutes. What the hell just happened? He wondered.
He squatted down, picking up the fragments of the plate that had once belonged to his grandmother, and headed towards the house himself.
Lisa sat on the porch glider facing the road, snapping beans into a battered saucepan, when a UPS truck turned into the driveway caught her eye. They had started coming more and more frequently these last two weeks since George had brought home that damned motorcycle. She was growing to hate the bike the more George was growing to love it.
The shiny brown truck came to a halt along side of the front porch rail, and the passenger side door slid open.
“Good afternoon, Lisa, is George out in the barn?”
“Sure is, Jerry, he just about lives out there now,” she replied. Jerry was one of the many new things that the bike had brought into her life; George was the one it took out.
“Sure is going to be a sweet ride when he finishes it up,” Jerry said.
“I guess,” was all she could muster. Her distended belly was really starting to be extremely uncomfortable.
Jerry sat back in the driver’s seat and put the truck into gear before waving one last time and driving into the back of the yard where the barn lay. Lisa watched him go with a sigh of dismay and disgust.
“When is it going to come to an end?” she asked herself aloud. All of George’s time and attention goes into the barn and that damned bike. He leaves before dawn at God knows what time, and returns long after dark. He even takes his meals out there as well. She tried letting him go hungry for a day, but he didn’t seem to notice. She was starting to grow concerned about his obvious weight loss, so she brought food out to him. Only this morning she had stood there staring at him for over fifteen minutes before he finally noticed her. All that she got for her trouble was a grunt and a peck on the cheek from him, before he grabbed a wrench and turned back to that damned bike.
She finished taking the ends off the beans and worked her way to her feet with a groan. Time to go wake Amanda and have a little snack. At least some things around here are still normal. Digging her thumbs into her lower back, she stretched and tried to relieve some of the discomfort that never went away. She grabbed the pan of beans and the paper bag full of ends and went into the kitchen. Placing the beans in the sink, she ran the water at a trickle to rinse them before heading up the back stairs to Amanda’s bedroom.
“Hey, baby girl,” she said as she entered the room, “you’re already up.”
“Mama,” Amanda said, pointing at her.
“Good girl, Sweetypie,” Lisa praised, lifting the little girl from the crib. “Can you say Dada?”
“KayZee,” the toddler said.
Lisa looked into her daughter’s face for a moment, feeling a bit unnerved before laughing it off.
“No Sweety, your Daddy’s not crazy, just a bit preoccupied is all.”
“Kayzee, Kayzee, Kayzee ors, Mama, pfft,” she finished with a raspberry, her new favorite thing to do.
“All right Honey, whatever you say. How about a snack?”
“Nak, nak,” Amanda cried with glee.
“Then let’s go.”
George turned back to the bench to grab another part of the Indian and found to his surprise that it was empty. The bench contained only grease-smeared tools and remnants of meals to old too place a day to. He shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment, waiting for the cobwebs to clear. It was like coming out of a dream that was more intense than reality. Slowly he turned to face the motorcycle and felt the air leave his chest.
“Oh my God,” he gasped. “You are gorgeous.”
It was finished. It was a totally different bike than the one he had found four weeks earlier. Color the shade of a perfect tomato gleamed from the fenders and tank. Chrome beamed from every angle with the brilliance of a flashbulb. The Indian looked like a two-wheeled firetruck. George stepped up to his new ride like a virgin bride approaching her wedding bed. Grabbing the throttle, he threw his left leg over the saddle and sat on it for the first time. It was like an old baseball glove that hadn’t been used in years--a bit stiff, but a perfect fit. He unscrewed the gas cap and gave the bike a small wiggle. Fuel splashed noisily within the tank.
“Humph, I don’t remember filling it up.”
Replacing the cap, he twisted the throttle a couple of times before pulling in the clutch. Standing on the left foot-peg, the toe of his right boot found the kick-starter as naturally as if it had done it countless times before. George took a deep breath and dropped all of his body weight on the starter. The engine roared to life.
“Yeah!” He shouted.
He revved the motor a couple of times before getting off the bike and sitting on the bench. The motor purred like some mythical beast. A full minute later, he hopped off the bench and grabbed a screwdriver.
“I think you’re running a little quick, Baby.”
George used the screwdriver on the idle screw, and the motor slowed to a steady throbbing. The chrome air cleaner caught his attention and the image reflected on its mirror-like surface shocked him. Staring back at him was the face of a stranger. Long, curly blonde hair framed gaunt cheeks covered in weeks of beard growth. His eyes were sunken into their sockets and underlined with dark circles. He looked insane.
George collapsed on the floor of the barn and listened to the motor pulse while he tried to figure out what had happened to him. A strange wailing caught his immediate attention. He listened to the engine to try to pinpoint the cause of this strange whining, and felt his blood run cold as it grew louder.
“What’s wrong, Baby? Don’t die on me.”
He stood up and hit the kill switch. The motorcycle rumbled to a silent stop, and George let out a sigh of relief as the sound of a siren outside wailed in the distance.
“Good girl,” he cooed. “I’m glad it isn’t you.”
He picked up the screwdriver and turned to the bench to put his tools back in the toolbox. The sound of the siren was growing louder. Looking out the window, he saw the flashing lights of an ambulance tearing up the dirt road leading to his house.
“What the ..?”
George ran from the barn and up the back stairs leading to the kitchen. Throwing open the back door he ran into the kitchen and fell on his face. He looked to see what he had tripped over, and found Lisa lying on the floor with the phone clutched to her chest, a large puddle of amniotic fluid soaking her housedress.
“My God, Baby,” he gasped, rising to his knees. “Are you okay? Don’t move, the ambulance is almost here.”
He scrabbled over to her side.
“Get the hell away from me, George,” she wheezed. “I don’t want you anywhere near me.”
“Lisa, what’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me, you crazy bastard?” She cried as a contraction wracked her body.
A tiny voice peeped up from the high chair at the table. “Kayzee orse, Kayzee orse.”
He stood, went to Amanda and picked her up.
“It’s okay Princess, Mommy’s okay.”
The siren became deafening before it finally shut down and all hell broke loose in the kitchen. Two medical technicians burst through the door and immediately started examining Lisa. From the front of the house came the slam of the front door and the sound of someone calling Lisa’s name. One of the EMT’s put an IV line into her arm as the other started questioning her about the frequency of her contractions. Their neighbor burst into the kitchen.
“Lisa, honey?” Fran Davis called. “Oh dear, are you all right?”
“I’m gonna be fine Fran. Could you please take Amanda for a spell?”
“Sure dear, be glad too,” she replied as she headed to where George stood holding his daughter.
“Hello George,” Fran sniffed in disgust. “Ever hear of a shower?” she asked as she removed Amanda from his grasp.
“Hi Fran,” he said sheepishly. “Thanks for doing this for us.”
“I’m doing this for the girls, George. You won’t get the time of day from me until you get some help yourself. I knew your Grandma for over forty years, Sonny and she’d a taken a switch to ya fer sure by now.”
“Uh, right, for the girls. Well, thanks anyway.”
“Humph!” she sniffed one final time and headed for the front of the house.
“Kayzee orse, Kayzee orse,” Amanda cried as she was carried from the kitchen.
George rushed back to Lisa as the two attendants were lifting the gurney into its full height.
“Wow, Baby! You believe her?” He asked with mock astonishment.
“George,” Lisa gasped. “You need to stay away from me right now.”
“Why, Lisa?” he asked, perplexed.
She raised herself up onto her elbows and hissed at him. “You spend the last month out in that damned barn, slaving over that damned motorcycle and you have the everlivin’ gall to ask me why? You and that motorcycle of yours can go to…” She ended with a shriek, another fierce contraction tearing through her as she collapsed onto the gurney.
“Sir,” one of the attendants said. “We have to be going now. I’d ask you to ride along with us, but we may need all the room we can spare in the rear, she is real close to delivering. You're welcome to follow us though. We’ll be taking her to Memorial.
“All right,” he answered. “You guys go ahead and I’ll be right behind you.”
George ran to the yard as the ambulance headed down the driveway, siren blaring into the midday sunshine. He frantically searched his pockets for his truck keys. His key ring was in his right front pocket, but his truck keys weren’t on it. Looking around the yard, he noticed that his truck was missing. As he ran to the front of the yard, his mind was spun with the events of the last half hour.
“Where the hell is my truck?” he yelled as he came to a halt in the center of the empty front yard. He stood there a moment scratching at his wild mane of blond hair when he remembered.
“Damn,” he cursed. “I traded it for the paint job on the bike. Why the hell would I go and do something like that for?”
Realizing that he hadn’t thought of the bike in the last thirty minutes brought a small chuckle out from somewhere deep within him.
“Guess I have to take the bike,” he said with a smile.
George headed back to the barn at a run, but was brought up short by the site of a lone figure standing across the field, staring at him.
“Hey, old man,” George shouted. “I don’t have time for your shit today.”
The old man turned and melted into the tree line along the edge of the field.
“Crazy old coot,” he mumbled as he entered the barn.
There it was, waiting for him like an old hound dog and as comfortable as an old slipper. Just looking at it made George feel better. To hell with that old woman next door and to hell with Lisa if she couldn’t appreciate the bike for what it was, a work of art. Jumping onto the seat, he twisted the throttle and kicked the Indian to life. Letting out a holler of victory, he pulled in the clutch, shifted into first gear and roared from the barn.
George headed down the dirt driveway and approached the two-lane county road that led to town and the hospital. Unable to believe his eyes, he slowed to a stop where the driveway joined the road and locked eyes with the old man standing directly across from him. It was impossible for him to have covered so much ground in so little time, but there he was. George got his first good look at him.
His face was ancient. Lines ran from every corner and back again, while coal black eyes burned on top of weathered, sun-beaten cheeks. Emblazoned across one cheek, the image of a white lightning bolt stood out in stark contrast to the rust colored flesh. Long, grey hair hung to his chest and one thin braid ended in a red feather. A striped blanket lay draped over his shoulders and calfskin trousers covered his legs. The image was made complete by the moccasins on his feet.
Sitting on the rumbling machine, George met the old man’s stare with one of his own.
“Happy Halloween, old man,” he taunted. “Who are you supposed to be?”
“Tashunca-Uitco, yellow hair,” the old man snarled.
“Well I don’t have any candy today, and I don’t have time to play with you,” he said as he turned out of the driveway and headed toward town.
The bike handled like a dream. Mile after mile flowed by without so much as a hiccup from the engine. The steady beat of the engine harmonized with the sound of the tires on the pavement. George was rounding a corner that hugged a small
outcropping of rock when he noticed a figure on horseback up ahead. Slowing down so he wouldn’t startle the animal, he approached the rider cautiously.
“No,” he gasped. “It’s not possible.”
Perched on the back of the saddle-less pony sat the old man, staring at George with open disgust. He was shirtless now and his upper body was painted with small black dots, resembling hail. He seemed somehow younger than he had minutes earlier.
George gunned the engine and roared down the road, stealing sidelong glances at the rearview mirror. This could not be happening. There was no way for that damned old man to be out here, miles from the farm, on a horse. He checked the mirror and was shocked to see the horse as a tiny dot in the middle of the road. The speedometer climbed into the fifties, but the dot refused to diminish in size.
“Think you can keep up, old man?” George challenged and gave the throttle another twist.
The needle dove past sixty without a hint of slowing and George smiled at the rush of wind past his ears. Tears streamed across his temples like the arms on a pair of liquid glasses. The motor throbbed steady and strong, a testament to his diligent care and effort in rebuilding his masterpiece. He looked into the rearview to see how far behind the old man on the horse was.
“It can’t be,” he screamed as he turned to face the specter directly behind him.
The black and white spotted horse was right at the tip of his rear fender, spewing froth and steam from its mouth, hatred from its glowing red eyes. Riding atop of it was a much younger version of the man George had expected to see. His spotted chest was heavily muscled and glistening with moisture, the graying mane now jet black and billowing wildly behind him. One rippling arm gripped the horse by the mane as the other held aloft what looked like a club made of a flat stone the size of a large apple lashed to a hand carved handle, multicolored and decorated with beads, feathers, and paint. The forward edge of the stone blade was adorned in something far more sinister than paint.
Facing the road ahead, George buried the throttle, the speedometer well over eighty miles an hour now. The sound of the horses hooves striking the pavement behind him told him that he wasn’t gaining any ground. An ear-piercing scream threatened to split his head and shatter his sanity.
“Who are you?” George screamed frantically. His question met with another war cry from his left side. The warrior was gaining on him.
George glanced over his left shoulder and found himself eye to eye with the Indian, running neck and neck with the horse at over one hundred miles an hour.
“Why are you doing this to me?” George cried over the throbbing engine and clattering hooves. “Who the hell are you?”
The old man, now young, raised the vile looking club over his windswept head of hair and roared in a voice as loud as thunder, “I am Tashunca-Uitco of the Lakota Sioux, demon yellow hair. But to your kind I am called Crazy Horse!”
The club came rushing down, cutting off George’s scream before he could draw a breath.
The state trooper entered the maternity ward and spoke briefly with the station nurse before thanking her and heading down the corridor to room 407. He paused in front of the door and steeled himself for what he was about to do. This was the absolute worst part of his job and nothing would ever make it easier on him. Reaching for the handle of the door, he stepped back as it opened before him. Another maternity nurse stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her.
“Hey Sam, what brings you to our neck of the woods?” she asked.
“Evening, Jenny, I have the less than dubious honor of informing that new mother in there that we found her husband painted all over the center of County Road 1.”
“Oh my lord,” She gasped, hand covering her mouth. “That can’t be.”
“Yes ma’am, I’m afraid it is. How is the new mother doing?” he asked.
“God, that’s so sad,” she said, steadying herself against the doorframe. “She’s doing fine, no problems at all, until now. Delivered a beautiful baby boy with the most gorgeous head of blond, curly hair I ever saw.”
“That’s a good thing, keep her busy for a while and hold down the pain some, I suspect. What did she name him?”
Jenny looked up into Sam’s face, a tear tracing the length of her cheek, “She named him after his father, Sam. She named him George Armstrong Custer the seventh!”