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Christmas Day... A Road Memory

    • 611 posts
    December 18, 2014 4:27 AM PST
     Christmas Day

    Jake “Edge” Walker

     

    It was a cold clear Christmas day in New Mexico when I wheeled up to a small hole-in-the-wall bar. I was just looking for a place to warm my bones and this one had a neon Coors Lite sign that was flickering in the morning light. I had nowhere to be and no one to be there with, so I chose to be alone with all the other folks that were at a bar on Christmas day.

    It was a light crowd, maybe 10 or 12 folks. Two other bikes were out front and it wasn’t hard to tell who was riding them. I gave them a nod as I came in and headed for the bar. There was a young tattooed woman behind the bar and she was obviously in a bad mood. I slid a five at her and said “Coors draft, please.” She pulled a schooner of draft, plunked it down on the dark scarred oak bar and scooped my fiver up.

    When she rang up the beer, I noticed that it was $1.50 but she only gave me back $2.50 in change and she immediately turned and went to serve others at the tables. When she came back she glanced at me, my untouched beer and the change that she had slapped in front of me. In those days, every cent in my wallet was carefully counted and I had been ‘skimmed’ for a buck. I motioned for her to come over and she stalked over and glared at me. “Yeah?” she asked in a challenging voice.

    I grinned at her and said “Seems like you took your tip before I could give it to ya. The change is a dollar short.” Without a word, she stomped back to the ancient cash register, popped the drawer open and ripped a single from its nest, slammed it shut and banged it down in front of me. I thanked her, then slid it back towards her. She gave me a look that would peel paint and stalked away, leaving the dollar soaking up the beer on the bar.

    As the afternoon passed, I could see a cloud settle over her. It was obvious that there was more on her mind than the bar and its patrons. Something was eating at her and since I’m a ‘fix-it’ kinda guy, I started to take an interest in this lil pint size gal with the set of Harley wings tattooed on her ample chest. She had given up trying to ignore me and had grudgingly started to accept my tips. I asked her if there was something wrong and if I could help somehow.

    She got everyone a new drink or beer and motioned me to follow her out back for a smoke. We walked outside, where she turned on me with a ferocious look and blurted out the same old story and I could tell it choked her to even say it. By the time she was through, she was in tears and I was just standing there, shaking my head. She stood off a little way from me, hugging herself and trying to regain control of her sobs.

    I asked if she knew of a pawn shop that was open on Christmas day. She just stared at the ground and shook her head. I nodded and told her that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that sometimes people come into your life for a reason. I stomped out my smoke, turned and wandered back into the bar and I was thinking hard. I walked over to the two riders and introduced myself and told them about the problem that had presented itself to me. One of them agreed to look at what I had, so I went to the bike and opened the left saddle bag. I pulled out the 45 ACP I had acquired in the last town in a poker game. Then we walked back out of the bar into the alley behind.

    The $100 bill felt like it would do, he was happy and we walked back into the bar. I finished my beer and motioned for her. When she got to me, I asked her for her name and she said “Half Pint”. I asked if she had a way to get home and she said she was walking since she lived close. At that time there was no helmet law in New Mexico and I asked if she had riding gear with her. She gave me a look of distain and replied “What do I look like, a newbie?” I grinned and asked when she got off work.

    She rolled her eyes at me and said “20 minutes ago, the bitch hasn’t showed up to relieve me and the sitter costs more per half hour. Where is all this going anyway? You wanna play Santa Clause? Well, f*ck you! I can take care of myself! I don’t need your f*cking charity!” Before she could walk away, I snagged her arm and pulled her back to me and stared hard into her green eyes.

    “This ain’t about you,” I said quietly. “It ain’t about me. It’s about your kids and their absent dad. It’s about Christmas and giving and by GOD you are not gonna let your pride get in the way of that. Now call the gal that’s supposed to be here now, get yourself ready and we’re gonna go get something together for your children. Trust me, I’m as close to Santa as you’re gonna get right now. Got it?”

    She stared into my eyes, searching for truth and gauging me for trust. He eyes flicked over my worn riding vest, snagged on the LHR patch, lingered over my name patch “Edgewalker” and then gave a small nod. As she turned away, I looked up and saw that the entire bar was staring at me and I returned their stares, unashamed and with a little humility. There were quite a few nods, a couple of smiles and then all went back to what they were doing before. Right at that perfect moment, Half Pint’s replacement blew in the front door rambling about sitters and car trouble. When I glared at her she shut up, headed for the bar and did the ‘count-out’.

    I walked out front, got the bike ready and as I kicked it to life she blew out the front door. Heavy black leather riding jacket, cinched tight waist belt, small black leather purse slung over her shoulder and sturdy riding boots completed the attractive image. I picked the bike up, folded up the kick stand and just sat for a moment, letting the Triumph motor warm up. She stood patiently beside me and when I looked back and nodded, she swung her shapely short leg over the pillion pad. She kicked the pegs down, settled in and gave my shoulder a slight squeeze.

    At the first red light, I yelled over the sound of the straight pipes “I don’t know this town. I got a hunnerd bucks but we still gotta pay the sitter. So where to now?”

    “The sitter’s covered from my tips so hang a right at the next light and we’ll hit Target, OK?” I nodded and off we went. From the toys and clothes she picked, I could tell her kids were pretty young. I slipped a small bracelet for her into my pocket while she wasn’t looking. She was keeping a running total in her head and when we hit the cashier, it was only about $80. I raised my eyebrows at her and she grinned up at me. “Gotta have dinner!” I smiled back at her and for the first time since I had met her, she had a ‘real’ smile on her pretty face. It was a good honest face with bright green eyes and a cute freckle-covered upturned nose over a nice wide full-lipped mouth. This was the face that a man had left behind. Two small children were now in his past, for whatever reason. I stayed behind, paid for the bracelet and caught up with her at the bike.

    You may not think that someone could get $80 worth of toys and clothes on a stripped-down rigid frame Triumph chop but I’m damn good with bungee cords and she knew just when to help and when to step back. Then we hit the grocery store and she carried all of the groceries in her lap and arms. A true “Road Lady” showed her colors that day. As we pulled into her yard, two kids came blowing out the front door and skidded to a stop, wide eyed and scared. Their mom stepped off the back and called them over. They walked over and the sitter came to the door and just watched.

    The little boy looked to be around 4 or 5 and he squinted up at me and said “You’re not my daddy.” Then he scowled at my bike and said “That’s not my daddy’s motorcikle e’der.”

    “Nope, I’m not your dad and this is my bike. We found some presents from Santa though. Ya wanna see ‘em?” Well, his face lit up and he asked “Are you one of Santa’s helpers? Momma tol’ me allll about them. She said they are EVERYWHERE!”

    “Yeah, I guess I am. Would you help me get the presents off the bike?” He nodded and as Half Pint stood there with her arms loaded with groceries she grinned and gave me a smooch on the cheek and headed into the house. Lil Joe helped me unload the bike and carry the presents into the house. It was a simple and sparse house but it was clean and smelled good. It smelled like kids and cinnamon and pine tree. There was a small Christmas tree in one corner with a very few small packages under it. I laid the Target bags under the tree and told Lil Joe to do the same.

    After we ate dinner, I sat in a corner chair nursing a brew and watched her dole out the gifts and the clothes to her kids. They were both jumping around with the kind of frantic crazy energy that little kids have. Before the sitter left, Half Pint took one of the small wrapped packages and gave it to her and when she gave her the sitting-money, I saw that she gave some back. When she came back in the room, I saw tears in her eyes and knew that she had just gotten another “gift” she hadn’t expected. Christmas has a way of kinda sneaking up on you, ya know?

    By the time she had bathed and put her kids to bed, I had gone out to the scoot and dug my half pint of Jack Daniels out of the right bag and had a smoke in the clear cold night. When I wandered back inside I made my way to the small scarred kitchen table and sat down. I thought about what I had just done, the pistol I had sold and the joy it had brought to this small family. I still had my carry-piece, I had won enough in the poker game to get down the road a ways and I had still managed to bring a little Christmas cheer to someone that needed it.

    Half Pint came out of the back of the house, sat down, looked at my bottle and cocked an eyebrow at me. I handed it over, she tipped it back and a quarter of the bottle disappeared. I grinned at her, took a slug myself and put the bottle back in the middle of the table and took a pull at my beer. “What are ya gonna..” “What’s yer name…” We both started to talk at the same time and we laughed a good long time about it. I looked into those green eyes and knew I was treading dangerous ground. I was a “Road Man”, a drifter and I did not want to be hooked up with a beautiful woman and two children. No matter how strong her “Call” was, my Mistress was the road and I could not be caught in her net… without dying.

    I spoke first. “What’s yer name and can I sleep on your couch tonight? Damn cold out there and I got nowhere else to go except the ground. So, that couch looks pretty cozy. I’ll leave tomorrow, but if you have a few things around here that need to be done I’ll stay a couple of days more. It’s up to you.”

    She thought about it for a while, eyed me a few times and my tattooed arms. I had shed my riding gear before dinner and now was sitting before her. Harley tee shirt and Levi’s in my sock feet. I was lean, road hardened and weathered. Long hair, short beard and a ring on every finger, I was the quintessential ‘Outlaw Biker’ and it seemed to me that she was no stranger to this.

    “My name is Ruby and I figured that you would be trying to get into bed with me by now. You know, time for me to pay up?” She was watching my face and as I felt it turn to stone, I stood up and started to gather my boots and riding gear. I stomped into my boots and started to lace them up, anger and a weird hurt were there in my heart. She came over and put her hand on my shoulder and said in a quiet voice “Edge, don’t go. I just wanted to see what you would do. I don’t know how to thank you for what you have done for me and my kids. Please, don’t go.”

    I hung on the edge of a knife right then. My anger in those days was a “Force of Nature” that was almost impossible to control or corral. It was a big part of the reason I was a drifter, a man of the Road. As she laid her hand on me, calm settled over me like a warm blanket on a cold day. I looked up at her, deep into her troubled eyes and said “You owe me nothing except Respect. I did what I did because of your kids and Christmas, nothing else. I may be many things, some not so good but I am a man of Honor, Respect and Loyalty. If I wanted to get in your bed, or your pants… I would NEVER use your kids to do it. Do NOT ever say anything like that to me again. OK?”

    Was she afraid when she looked into my super-heated angry face? No. In fact, she nodded and looked satisfied with my statement. I slid the bracelet across the table to her and she teared-up again. We sat and talked until it was late, the JD was gone and the brew was wiped out. She went and got a clean sheet and I went out and got my bedroll and laid it out on the couch, stuffed the clean sheet into it and she leaned over and kissed me lightly on the lips and said goodnight. I went and took a quick shower and thought about the day and the things that had been laid before me.

    Later, just as I was dropping off into dream land I felt someone was standing in front of me. I gripped the 45 under my head and cracked one eye. It was Ruby and I could tell she was only wearing a white cotton tee shirt. I opened my eyes and asked her “Yeah?” She smiled at me and started to crawl into my bedroll. She looked into my eyes and said “I haven’t given you your Christmas present yet.”

    • 10 posts
    December 19, 2014 12:38 AM PST
     Good story
    • Moderator
    • 14384 posts
    December 20, 2014 3:40 PM PST
    I thoroughly enjoy your writing style. :-)
    • 2976 posts
    December 23, 2014 5:38 PM PST
    Yeah I enjoyed it.Hope you dont give up writing,I know it aint easy.
    Have a very Merry Christmas :)!!!
    • 44 posts
    December 29, 2014 1:02 AM PST
    Edge that was great love your stories
  • January 2, 2015 7:11 AM PST
    Damn Dude don't just leave me hanging there. Will there be more to come.
    Great Story
    Have a great year
    You are a hell of a great person
    Night Dragon
  • January 2, 2015 8:47 AM PST
    Would there be more as I would love to read it
    • 611 posts
    January 2, 2015 1:05 PM PST
    I am in the middle of the story about Jake and the knives. It is novel length and is about midway complete. I have published several stories on this website. Check out my blog for several. Thank you for your kind words!
  • January 3, 2015 6:13 AM PST
    Let me know when your first book comes out, because I will be buying one.
    Keep the quill moving my friend.
    Your Friend Night Dragon
    • 1 posts
    January 6, 2015 9:54 AM PST
    the problem here is I amexpecting the proverbial flop...but you continually exceed my expectations. The day will come when we will be in the same bar and i can listen first hand.