Chatters on the tide, p.1
Chatters on the Tide, p.1Robert Mitchell, Jr
Chatters on the Tide
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CHATTERS ON THE TIDE
Stepping off the shuttle at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, Monty cursed the heat and shuffled off to find his ride. As far as he was concerned, Virginia’s July heat was no better than Yucatan’s equatorial swelter, and the right name for this place was Patrick Henry Airport. That’s what they used to call it when he was kid, and history mattered.
Even at night the humidity was oppressive. But it wasn’t the heat Monty was worried about, it was the darkness. Every four or five steps he turned and walked backwards to make sure there was nothing following, his boots making scuffing sounds on the concrete.
Frickin’ airlines ought to be run like the frickin’ railroad. Oughta buy ‘em all pocket watches, he thought, irritable from the heat. If it hadn’t been for the missed connection, he would have been in Virginia before nightfall. Monty never went out after dark for nobody and nothing. He had only his black leather backpack with the Harley wings on the side, and he was thankful for the light load as he picked up the pace. He headed in the direction of his ride in long-term parking.
There wasn’t a star in the sky, and no moon. Even in in the middle of a limbo of asphalt mosquitoes began to work on the back of his neck. He smacked at one, and jumped at the sound it made. He stopped and looked behind again. He could see to the back of the lot, where beyond the chain-link fence there was only dark pines and silence. Turning back in the direction of the garage he almost ran.
The pinkish-lavender lights in front of the building made him feel a little better. He pulled open the glass door and went into the cavern of gray cement and scanned for his ‘76 Harley FLH Hard-tail. It was always this way, never remembering where he parked the bike, but he had his methods. He pulled a rumpled parking stub out of his front pocket and looked at the slot number he had scrawled on it almost a month ago. A35. The number on the concrete pillar said F.
“Beans-and-rice,” he said. Monty couldn’t wait to get behind the 45° rake of those chopper forks and tear up I-64. He hadn’t seen a soul since getting off the shuttle bus, and the lot was nowhere near half full with few cars to hide behind, yet he still felt he was being watched. He thought about the last time he had been out after dark, and he began to run.
Passing by the elevators on his way to Row 'A,' he saw the clock over the red doors. The big hand was almost on the twelve, the little hand on the seven. He had twenty-five minutes to get on the road, almost half an hour to build up speed. At 75 or 80 mph, things in the dark would all be a blur, and that’s all he’d be to them. An uncatchable blur. Being out after dark was unacceptable, but standing still at midnight made him want to claw his face and wail.
There was the bike standing alone. Sure, it needed some cosmetic work, but it was his chariot, and he got a shot of courage looking at it leaning sexily in A35. He put the backpack on the seat and strapped it to the sissy bar, put on his half-helmet, and got ready to start working. Times like these he wished he had electronic ignition because he knew bikes this old do not take well to long sitting spells. But like all aficionados of old Harleys he was part mechanic.
He gave her two half-hearted stomps just to get things moving around down there, then opened up the choke and got ready to give her a real go.
“Didn’t your momma tell you not to run with fast bitches?”
“Jesus!” Monty jerked around but the barrel of a pistol blocked his chin and pushed it back to straight ahead position.
“You shouldn’t be ridin’ fast bitches. You could get a disease,” the woman behind him said.
“Thank God,” Monty said.
“I never pointed a gun at a man and had him say ‘Thank God’ before.”
“That’s because you never pulled a gun on a guy who’s running from what I’m running from,” Monty said. “Take everything, it ain’t nothing. I got a couple hundred cash on me, and the backpack, that’s it, but it’s all yours.”
“We don’t want coin,” she said thumbing the hammer back on her .38. “We want the rings. Gimme, without turning around.”
“Aw shit,” he said, thinking back to two days before when he had sat across from Jordan at the Portico Merida in Mexico, just a couple of hours from Cancun. After everything he had been through, to part with them this way was torture.
He remembered how the jade rings had rested in his hand, looking such a comely shade of green in the sun. They were so worn and ancient he could hardly make out the designs. One was clearly a feathered snake biting its tail, the wings barely visible. The other looked like a chain of ants in single file, but he wasn’t sure. He stared at them, and for a minute he wasn’t dusty, or hot, or scared to death, he was in awe.
“Happy?” Jordan said.
“Twitterpated,” Monty said, stuffing the rings in his pocket. He took a pull on his lukewarm micheleda. “What the heck do you guys put in your beer anyway?”
“Lime, salt, red pepper sauce, a little bit of everything. You get used to it.”
“I couldn’t be here long enough,” Monty said. “Look, it’s getting on toward dark, so let’s wrap this up. I’m satisfied, but are you?”
“It will be three hours before dark, relax.”
Across the table Jordan ran his hands through his hair and then flipped through the envelope in his lap. The cantina was starting to fill up with tourists and Monty squirmed. This deal was almost done and he knew he had to stay calm and stop looking like a thief, but he couldn’t stop crossing and uncrossing his legs, drumming on the tabletop. All he wanted to do was get back to the hotel before dark and catch his bus to Cancun in the morning.
“Perfect,” Jordan said. “I almost wish I was flying back with you. It’s been a long time since I was in the states.”
“Miss it?” Monty asked.
“Me too. So why don’t you?”
“Fifteen years in the Yucatan and I still haven’t gotten close to seeing everything there is to see. It’s a land of mystery. If I went back to Cleveland I’d be bored in a week. Maybe I’ll visit soon. Maybe I’ll come to Virginia and look you up. We can have a beer together, without all the shit in it.”
“No offense,” Monty said, “but I wouldn’t give you my address if you put a viper in my chaps.”
“I don’t blame you,” Jordan said. “I’m a mess aren’t I?”
Monty looked at Jordan and thought he looked like he was fifty instead of thirty, his Caucasian face tanned into a Mayan mask.
“Yeah, you look like I feel,” Monty said. “Seen too much you wished you hadn’t, and wishing you could stop wanting to see more. Look partner, all B.S. aside, I really want to say thanks for what you did.”
“Hey, my pleasure. Glad to help, glad to see them in caring hands instead of on some fake shaman’s dirty little charlatan fingers.”
Monty let the man keep his pride. Jorda
“I hear ya, I hear ya. Well, adios,” Monty said, shaking Jordan’s hand. “See you on the other side.”
“Be cool,” Jordan said.
Scooting out of the cantina Monty went down the street to the Internet bar, ordering a coffee and waiting his turn behind the tourists, and artists, and teenagers. Through the glass he watched vendors selling monkeys and hash pipes to the tourists, hucksters pushing Wal-Mart blankets as being genuine foot-loomed by native Mayans. He ordered a shot of tequila while he waited, and the coffee washed it down fine.
When it was his turn he typed out an email.
Sent: Friday July 16, 2004 5:29 PM
Subject: Got 'em
Flight leaves tomorrow. I'll be back before dark, so clear the road and let my thunder pass! See you soon,
He caught a taxi to the hotel and holed up there waiting for morning. He kept himself busy, digging through a Ziploc bag containing a collection of hard rubber gaskets. Pulling out two that fit tight around the outside of the rings, he popped them into the nearly quarter-sized holes in his earlobes. He figured there was no way he’d get caught in Customs with them stowed there. In the mirror over the hotel sink he admired his primitive good looks, just knowing he was home free.
But when he came back to the present he was pretty far from home free, and the gun barrel poking behind his ear pointed it out in a manner far from subtle. He came to himself feeling more sick than angry, returning to Virginia from the Yucatan for the second time in one day.
“Are you okay? I said we don’t want your cash, we want the rings,” she said again, more forcefully this time. “Did you drift off to sleep or something?”
Sagging in the saddle, Monty reached up, pulled the rings out of his ears, and handed them over his left shoulder.
“Who’s ‘we’?” he asked.
“The D.O.D, that’s who.”
“Department of Defense?” Monty asked without sarcasm.
“Up yours,” she said. “You know who we are. Don’t turn around while I check this out.” Monty waited, thinking that he just wanted this to be over so that he could get moving.
“Okay, we’re done here,” she said. “But don’t turn around until you’ve counted to a hundred or I’ll start shooting. Got it?”
“Got it,” Monty said.
“You don’t seem too scared,” she said.
“I’ve been jacked at gunpoint before. Besides, I’m relieved you weren’t something else.”
“Fine professor, start counting. Out loud.”
“One, two, three, four...”
“Start over -- Louder!”
When he got to twenty-nine he heard the sound of a Harley starting up and he knew nobody could easily point a gun and speed off on a two-wheeler. He looked around and saw it sputtering off and caught the plate, “DUN TIM.”
Monty gave his ’76 a big and hard but loving romp. “Got me a fast bitch that won’t roll over,” he said.
Chatters on the Tide by Robert Mitchell, Jr / Romance & Love have rating 2.8 out of 5 / Based on39 votes