Bike-In-A-Box

Aunt Ruby is a large woman with a glossy, ebony complexion. And she doesn’t appear any too glad to see either of them, Nephew Cedric, or Tony, after she responds to their rap on the door and sees who they are.

“Ya comin’ to git that piece of junk outta my shed?” she growls, folding her arms beneath her heavy breasts.

“Well, not yet, Aunt Ruby. Tony is thinking about buying it,” Cedric replied, shifting his weight nervously.

“Then ya gonna be gittin’ it out?” she said, turning, fixing Tony under her hard gaze.

“I need to look at it first, Ma’am.”

“Well,“ she growls, “turn off the light when you’re done and be sure the door gits locked when ya leave, ya hear?”

“Yes, Aunt Ruby”

Tony follows Cedric as he cuts across the yard, through a side gate, and then follows him along a gravelled path to an unpainted shed that sets hard against the back fence. Fishing beneath a several empty flower pots, Cedric finally produces a brass key, unlocks the door, and switches on a bare light bulb that hangs from the rafters by its power cord.

“There she is, a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.”

“Wow! WOW!” Tony exclaims, stepping forward and grasping a large wooden box stuffed with motorcycle parts – wheels, cables, brakes, saddle. Toward the bottom he spots the primary chain. Below that is the secondary chain and the engine. “You weren’t lying when you told me it was in a box.”

“No sir, I wasn’t.”

You said it was running when you took it apart? And you’re sure it all here, every nut, bolt, and washer.”

“Everything.”

“So if it was running, why is it in a box and not on the street?”

Cedric dropped his gaze to the floor. “Sarg, I’m an air force cook. I work in the chow hall at the end of your barracks. I can whip you up an apple pie that will knock your socks off, but I can’t change a spark plug without getting the threads crossed.” He paused, and when Tony made no comment, he continued. “I was going to overhaul the motor. Somebody said it was easy. I was in over my head in an hour. And you can see where that went.”

“Do you have a clear title?”

“Absolutely. Notarized. It’s legal.”

“Okay, How much?”

“Seventy-five dollars, as is. Cash money.”

Tony is stunned. It’s a brother-in-law-price. But he isn’t sure he has the skills to get it together and get it running. He has his re-enlistment bonus. He can afford to take it to the shop in North Charleston, if it comes to that. After all, 1937 is his birth year. Hell, they are twins, him and this Knucklehead. During that moment of silence he feels remorse, perhaps he’s taking advantage of Cedric.

“You know, there’s an independent Harley shop between here and the base. Have you thought about taking it to him?”

“I talked to him, but he told me he didn’t work on bikes belonging to people of color. Of course he used different words.”

“I thought we were past that,” said Tony.

“Yeah,” Cedric replied, a tone of bitterness in his voice.

“Okay. It’s a deal, but there’s one condition.”

Cedric’s face tensed, and he withdrew his deal-making hand and let it drop to his side.

“Okay what’s the catch?”

“I’ll pay you twice what you‘re asking. One hundred and fifty dollars. In return you have to help keep your Aunt Ruby off my neck.”

“She’s not my aunt.”

“The hell you say. Then how the hell is she related?”

“She isn’t. She’s Tom’s aunt Ruby.”

“Who the hell is Tom and where is he?”

“Tom is her nephew. He worked the deal on keeping the bike in the shed and he was going to help me fix it. But since we made the agreement he was transferred to Germany. It’s been tough, so I call her Aunt Ruby because Tom suggested it might make her easier to deal with.”

Darkness has closed in as they drive back to the base. Tony is wondering how this is going to work out. He needs tools. He needs a way to get from the barracks to the shed and back. Maybe he’s just earned the prize as the worse impulse buyer of all time.

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