Just like the good ol’ days

Staging a Strip insurgency

“Yeah,” Possum said, “It’s ‘old school’ if ya went to school in 2009.”

The gleaming custom bike with the sign that read “Old school chopper for sale” sat under the lights in the clubhouse parking lot with dozens of other custom bikes at the second annual Show and Shine put on by the Runny Nosed Bastards MC. With its high-tech electronics, 3” open belt primary, hydraulic clutch and high dollar billet parts from end to end, it would have put the crownjewels of Jolly Old England to shame.

“Lookie here,” Possum groused. “It even has an electric start! How the Hell can they put ‘old school’ on the sign board without gigglin’ like a drunk cheerleader?”

“Huh?” Bear grunted, half of a hotdog dripping mustard onto the floor. “Tell me more about that drunk cheerleader, will ya?”

“Awww, give ’em a break,” Rick said, beer foam clinging to his mustache. “At least it’s got spoke wheels.”

“Yeah,” Possum agreed. “But where did ya ever see a 300mm rear tire in 1975?”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, it’s not the only one here claimin’ to be Old School,” Bear said, washing down the remainder of the hot dog with a stolen gulp of Rick’s beer. “An’ us old dogs are the only ones that know the difference. These young pups haven’t got a clue! Anything before X-Box is Old School ta them!”

“Ya know,” Possum said, stroking his chin in concentration, “maybe we should show these boys what Old School really looks like!”

“Yeah!” Bear said. “An maybe we can get a drunk cheerleader ta pose on it! We could get her a skimpy little plaid skirt, an’ a…”

“Let’s finish lookin’ around here, an’ go get started,” Rick interrupted. “I think I have an old rigid frame in the shed somewhere.”

“I could pull the Shovel engine an’ 4 speed outta my old FLH,” Possum agreed.

“I can find us a drun… Uh… I mean a set of spoke wheels an’ some other stuff,” Bear volunteered.

“Well, what’re we waitin’ for?” Possum asked, making a beeline for the doors.

Back at Bear’s place on Chickendiddle Lane, they began to take inventory of the parts scattered across the floor of the shop. Bear dragged up some folding chairs, and stuffed a huge chaw of Redman in his mouth.

Rick held up several rust-covered pieces that vaguely resembled a pedal and a couple of foot pegs. “These forward controls don’t match.”

Bear squinted, then spit tobacco juice at a lizard that was sunning itself near the door. “They don’t have ta match. This is old school, remember? None’a my stuff ever matched back then, an’ none of it was chrome. We just shot it black with a rattle can, an’ hit the road.”

“True,” Possum said, grabbing the parts from Rick and looking them over. “But these are a bit ratty even for us.” He took the parts over to the doorway to examine them in the daylight. The lizard scurried away, leaving a brown trail of tobacco juice behind him. “Aww, Hell,” Possum groused, “hand me the black paint an’ we’ll see how they come out.”

Two days later, they were attempting to slide the old springer front end through the neck bearings when Rick called a halt. “Ya know, this front end is way too long for this stock frame.”

Bear, who had bought the rusty piece of antiquity at a swap meet back in ’82, stood back and looked at the nearly-completed rolling chassis. “Well, it’s a 20-inch over, but I think we can make it work like we did back in the ’70s. Gimme the torch!”

An hour later, Possum eyed the smoking frame from a safe distance. “Uh, Bear… You’ve got the backbone bent clear down ta the support tube like a big V. I think that’s about all the rake you’re gonna get.”

Bear shut the torch off with a pop and dropped the hammer on the floor. “Does it look straight?” he asked, wiping sweat from his forehead with a greasy rag.

Possum stood in front of the frame, and squinted along the centerline. “Welllll… Sort of,” he shrugged.

Bear grinned, flecks of Redman stuck to his front teeth. “Close enough fer the gals we run with! Hand me that rattle can an’ I’ll touch ’er up!”

An old set of five-gallon fat bob tanks was given a quick coat of metallic blue spray paint from Auto Zone, and bolted on to help hide the “altered” backbone, and a fender off of Bear’s horse trailer was cut to fit and bolted on the back after a matching coat of blue.

It was early afternoon when Bear’s wife Christine appeared at the shop door with a plate of sandwiches and three beers. “Freaky,” she said, looking over her shoulder. “There’s a lizard rolling around in the dog’s water dish, and…” Her eyes fell on the chopper sitting in the middle of the shop floor. “What the hell is that?”

“That’s our old school chopper we’re buildin’ for the next Runny Nose Bastards show,” Bear answered proudly.

Christine shook her head. “It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Well,” Bear said defensively, “that’s the way we built ’em back in the day!”

“No wonder none of you could get any dates back then,” she said, handing him the plate and heading back toward the house.

“Women…” Possum grunted. “They just don’t have any nostalgia for the good ol’ days.”

It was almost dark when Bear first stomped his considerable weight down on the kicker to bring life to the beast. He’d kicked it through a couple of times with the toggle switch that served as an ignition in the off position to prime it, when Rick stopped him. “Hold on, Bear, we’ve got gas runnin’ everywhere.” He leaned down and gave the piece of bailing wire holding the hose onto the carb’s inlet fitting a couple of additional twists with a pair of pliers. “OK, that should do it.”

Bear turned on the ignition and gave it a good hard kick. The engine coughed, then roared to life after shooting fire out of the carburetor throat like a flame thrower. It caught the gas that had soaked Bear’s pants leg on fire, sending him running for the garden hose around back of the shop. The bike fell onto its side, spilling gas from the left side tank onto the floor, adding to the conflagration. As it hit the ground, the mismatched shifter hit the floor and knocked the transmission into gear. The bike started spinning in slow circles as the tire occasionally bit into the floor, and within seconds, the entire area was engulfed in a spreading circle of flames, setting off the smoke detector over the bench, and forcing Rick and Possum to retreat.

“Bear!” Rick yelled. “Where’s your fire extinguisher?”

“Ain’t got one,” Bear yelled back. He dragged the gushing garden hose around the corner, his charred Levis flapping around his right calf, and sprayed a stream of water on the growing flames. It sizzled and spat, charred puddles of blue paint and melted rubber growing beneath it as the engine died, and it slowed to a stop.

With the fire finally out, they gathered around the charred remains of the old school chopper.

“Well, ya know what?” Possum asked, shaking his head sadly.

Bear pulled his eyes from the smoking skeleton, and stared at Possum. “What?” he asked.

“If I remember right, this really is the way we did it in the old days!”

Christine heard them laughing all the way into the house, but had no idea what it was all about.


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