WHEELS OF FIRE By Mike Hadge

It was chilly for an evening in early July, but somehow that didn’t make a difference. Everyone was still out under the tent, drinking beer and eating steak tips smothered in the most succulent sauces anyone could have realistically expected. Since I had changed into jeans hours before, I was moderately comfortable, and the candles intended to keep away mosquitoes helped warm my outsides. It was a mixed crowd for the graduation party, or I should say, joint graduation party, as Jack and three of his cousins had all just graduated from one form of education or another. Naturally, Jack was off perusing the atmosphere, appeasing distant relatives and college friends. I fell into neither category, as Jack and I had grown up together. Through the years we always found something in common, though it was usually music. The only bands either of us had ever played in included the other – Jack on keyboards and myself on guitar. It was always difficult to find a bassist and drummer, but the ones we had found were there that night as well. The Thrasher brothers, Gil and Derek, were high school acquaintances of ours who had turned into the townies everyone predicted they would be. The former worked for various auto repair shops in the area, while the latter made a habit of getting fired from local restaurant chains. We had all begun catching up, as it had been no less than four years since we’d last spoken.

“Yeah, life’s pretty good” stated Derek, “But I mean, I guess I have the new bike to thank for that.”

“Oh?” I replied.

“Oh yeah, we both just got new motorcycles” chimed in Gil “I’m telling you, they’re great, you feel like you’re flying even if you’re just going thirty!”

“My commute to work used to be hell, but with this bike, I can zip through traffic and make it home in like ten minutes. It’s great!” added Derek.

“I’ll just ride it up and down the block for fun, it just has made my life more enjoyable in so many ways. Sounds crazy I know, but man, its fun” said Gil.

I had not been known for my competitive nature, nor my constant need to outdo people, but that’s simply because I hid them well.

“Yeah, mine’s good too,” I said, smirking on the inside because I had in fact driven my mother’s minivan to the party that night, and never owned a motorcycle. Hell, I’d never owned a Huffy bike with more than ten speeds. However, I felt that luck was on my side that night.

“Oh, you have a bike?” asked Derek curiously. “What kind is it?”

“Harley Davidson” I replied after not a second, really just glad that I’ve heard of a motorcycle brand. Damn, I was on.

“Really? They’re pretty outrageous, I mean for both cost and just structure” claimed Gil.

“Yeah, well, I won it on The Price Is Right. Fell in love with it after, you know.” I responded, feeling I had dodged a potential bullet right there. However, I wanted to up the stakes for myself, I was feeling saucy. “I mean, it goes pretty fast – like 0 to 90 in like five seconds.” Hmmm, I might have overshot it. Nah.

The brothers laughed together, and I joined in as to not cause suspicion.

“You’re kidding right?” Derek asked, giving me a clear opening to get out of this outrageous lie.

“No” I said.

“Wow, that’s really amazing. I didn’t think anything outside of an airliner could get that kind of speed” claimed Gil.

“Well, this can. I mean I’m no expert, but I think the jetpacks on the side of it help” I said for some reason.

“Jetpacks on the side?” asked Gil.

“Yeah, I mean again, I’m no expert, but I would think that jetpacks would account for any added speed it gets. It can’t fly or anything though, they’re just for speed”. Smooth, I was kicking ass tonight.

After about an hour, the party had begun to break up, and most of the diverse crowd had gone their equally diverse ways. Derek, Gil, and I decided that our time had come to part as well.

“Well let’s go look at our bikes first, I’d really like to see yours.” said Derek.

“Um, alright, yeah, sure, I’d like to see what kind of ‘bike’ you guys have too.” I actually made quotation marks with my fingers.

We strolled across the street, the brothers and I, to the parking lot of an abandoned fire station. Jack lived on a busy street and had a very small driveway, so it was only natural that many utilized the fire station’s parking lot that night. It had grown darker and the fruit flies had gotten hungrier by this time, and I could see the motorcycles parked in their spaces…right next to my mother’s minivan. This was it, I thought, my lie could not be carried on any longer. Nevertheless, I remained cool and calm. Gil showed me his bike first; revving it up to demonstrate what I assumed was the engine’s power? I just nodded and said “oh yeah, you gotta have that” to every feature pointed out by the brothers about their motorcycles, though they might as well have been speaking Chinese. Finally, they asked where my bike was parked. The jig was pretty much up, I’d had my fun but now it was time to admit it – I’d never owned a motorcycle.

“Oh, it’s right here” I claimed, referring to the minivan next to me. Needless to say, I had them both dumbfounded.

“I thought you said you rode a bike here,” said Gil.

“Yeah, I did,” said I, referring again to my mother’s minivan. Derek and Gil just gave me a look that seemed to be a combination of anger, amusement, and pity. It was as though they were extremely jealous of my awesome ride.

“Whatever”, said Derek, as the boys got on their respective bikes and revved their respective engines. I, in turn, switched on my mother’s minivan, which chirped with awesomely gentle power. As we all prepared to leave, the brothers now ignoring me out of their jealousy, I rolled down the window (half way…it was child proof), gave them an intense stare, and presented a simple challenge…

“Drag race. Right now. Your bikes against mine. Let’s see what you boys got.” I wasn’t letting this one go. I saw the two brothers give each other defeated glances before Derek sighed and said, “Fine, whatever. Whoever makes it to the corner of Main and Depot Street wins.” They were totally afraid.

“You are so on!” I pumped my fist and rolled the window back up. I turned up my soft rock radio extra loud to get riled up for the big race. I could hear the brothers revving their engines, and I countered with turning up Fleetwood Mac even more. The race was on, the moment was approaching. They lined their bikes up to the edge of the parking lot, and we got Phil, another mutual friend, to signal when the race started. He had a whistle that he carried around for just such an occasion, and prepared to blow it once we were ready to go. I pulled my mother’s minivan up to the starting line, staring the opposition down through my tinted windows, though they probably couldn’t tell. Phil signalled for the race to begin.

Three…

Two…

One…

And they were off, the brothers sped off on their motorbikes like bats out of hell, zooming up past the Dunkin Donuts in the distance before even a few seconds had passed. Using the last trick in my bag, I pulled out of the parking lot and leisurely drove home. “Hehe, fools.” I chuckled to myself. “This wasn’t really a motorcycle…”