It was Marvin’s first date with Madalyn, a beautiful woman who loved motorcycles and had just bought her first new bike. In order for her to show off her newly-acquired prized possession they agreed to meet at the Harley dealership before going to dinner. As he pulled his bike in she was standing in the parking lot wiping off non-existent dust from a brand new sparkling black Sportster.

Perfect gloss black paint, no chrome, blacked-out engine, black wheels, black seat, black pipes, black front end, black frame, she was dressed in black leather and a black helmet hung from the black handlebars. “My god, you look like a dangerous panther, one of those sleek black leopards who are never seen or heard by their prey until it is too late. You are the most dangerous animal in the jungle that lives invisibly in the shadows. The two of you are gorgeous… truly magnificent.”

“So, you like it?”

“What’s not to like? You are the perfect matched pair, a tandem twosome of desire.”

Marvin said just the right things. She latched on the helmet, pulled on the gloves and the two of them headed out for a break-in ride up the Pacific Coast and a late dinner.

One hundred miles later, at the edge of the ocean, at a restaurant known for great seafood and private dining, the two riders pulled into the parking lot, de-helmeted and, while watching this beautiful woman again wipe at invisible dust, Marvin chained and locked both motorcycles.

Inside, seated at a window booth with a Pacific Ocean view, they sat uneasy. Although they had known each other for a long time and normally words would have come to both of them smoothly and effortlessly, this was their “first date” and their conversations about motorcycles and the waves that were breaking 100 yards away were slightly stilted and a bit forced. However, it didn’t take long for them to relax.

“I wasn’t kidding about you looking like a dangerous black panther. You and the bike, the two of you are spectacular and if I didn’t know better I would be afraid sitting here with you… afraid for my life,” from Marvin.

“What makes you think you shouldn’t be afraid? As a matter of fact this is how I get all my victims. I take them for a ride, bring them to this restaurant, to this very booth, I plan every detail, we have a great meal and when the time is right I strike, go for the jugular, suck their blood and turn them into my vampire slaves.”

“OK, that does it. We are getting separate checks.” Marvin pushed his chair away from the table four inches in a mock defensive posture. “And I might as well tell you here and now, I don’t kiss on the first date or do anything else.”

“We’ll see about that,” was Madalyn’s response.

Later, after a glass of wine, halfway through dinner the conversation became more of what they were used to. They talked about the new Sportster, about the purchase, what she had in mind for the bike and generally everything was more relaxed.

And then, begging for another compliment, “Do you really think I look like I am riding a panther?”

“Of course. First of all, most motorcycles look like some kind of animal. Fast sport bikes look like cheetahs. They are lean and light and always ready to run down an antelope. Mid-size Harleys, Dynas and Softails are lions who roam the savannas in packs. Tour Glides and Ultras are elephants capable of hauling any weight over any distance. BMW dual-purpose bikes remind me of camels. With their huge tanks they can store enough water and pack enough weight to cross the Sahara Desert.”

“You know, you’re right,” Madalyn agreed. “I’ve seen motorcycles that remind me of animals. Suzukis and Yamahas are herds of wildebeests waiting to be dinner for a pride of lions.”

“Vespas are chimps and baboons,” from Marvin.

“V-rods and that strange Ducati, the Diavel, those weird power cruisers are hyenas. They make unearthly noises and I don’t get the way they look.” She understood and made a very good point.

“And your Sportster is a black panther. You know black panthers are leopards with genetically mutant black coats. If the light hits them at a precise angle you can see their spots at the basecoat. You’ll have to be careful not to let the sun catch you at the wrong angle. You’ll spook your prey when they realize you are a dangerous predator.”

“That is all part of my charm. The victim knows they are going to be the victim but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. It is like the snake who hypnotizes the bird, turns it immobile, puts it to sleep and then strikes. The bird knows it’s a snake, knows it is being hypnotized, knows that it is doomed but it doesn’t move because it is fascinated and doesn’t care.”

“Humm,” Marvin was thoughtful.

After dinner, after Marvin picked up the check, after they walked out to the motorcycles, after they got their coats, they walked down to the beach to the edge of the water.

The moon moved a little further across the sky while the two people sat on the sand quietly watching one of nature’s rare gifts, the Red Tide. The water sparkled with an unearthly glow. Bioluminescence, tiny microscopic animals radiating a phosphorous iridescence, reflected the moonlight turning every wave into neon blues and greens and reds. Like their distant cousins the fireflies, in order to find mates these minuscule creatures sang to each other using ghostly, mysterious shimmering lights. As nature rolled and spun them in the surf a bizarre almost supernatural radiance was created.

Marvin and Madalyn watched the diminutive playful fireworks show in the waves and accepted it as just one more gift from the evening.

Joining her on the first ride on her new bike, the dinner, the suggestive “first date” verbal prattle, the free bioluminescence show, the night was perfect.

And then she made her move. The Black Panther nuzzled up next to his neck and like the bird that had been hypnotized by the snake, Marvin didn’t resist as she first kissed and then bit softly at his neck.

If he had really been frightened there would have been a vampire’s caress and blood. However, tonight the kiss and the nuzzle meant passion which he gave in to with no reluctance.



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