Dick Bregstein and I were in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, rattling the picket fences of the Amish with the thrum of our BMW exhausts. Yet things weren’t right on this day. We had the doldrums. Not the kind that come from the occasional hard time at home or in the office, but the devils that mock you from the inside out.
Dick had savage biker doldrums. His BMW “R1100R” had a recurrent stalling problem that manifested itself with a kind of wheezy chant. His bike seemed to say, “I think I can... I think I can...” whenever it tried to pass my K75. The slide-hammer relief valve, which squirts whale oil on the Johnson bar, was sticking. (This was the story Dick gave me. The week before he’d blamed a shift in the earth’s polarity for the same thing.)
Above: My riding buddy and Mac-Pac pal, "Leather" Dick Bregsein. He is seen here in one of his many disguises. Some folks cannot recognize him as the motorcycle is upright.
My doldrums were of a more intense nature. I suspected the tide was running out on my all-consuming love interest. A woman cannot hide the little signs her heart has turned. Just that morning, the most stunning beauty I had ever held in my arms said to me, “I dreamed I stabbed you 37 times.”
That’s not quite the same as “Don’t touch me and get the fuck out,” but it’s not good. According to a book on dreams, the knife can mean a number of things. Not one of them was a symbol of romantic longevity.
“You don’t seem your usual, happy-go-lucky, eat-shit-and-die self,” said Bregstein. “Woman problems?” We were pulled over by a field where two Amish gentlemen in straw hats were antiquing ladles — to be sold at a roadside stand — by spreading manure with them.
“I figured,” said Bregstein. “We all figured. In the Mac-Pac pool, I have 5/23-23. That’s May 23rd for the day she stabs you 23 times.” (The Mac-Pac is the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeast Pennsylvania and the world.)
“My riding-club buddies are running a pool on when I’m going to get stabbed by my girlfriend?” I was incredulous.
“Everybody but Clyde,” said Bregstein. “He told her he’d kill you for a flat fee.”
“What was the fee?”
“Ten bucks and a six-pack,” said Bregstein. “He wouldn’t get that much if he won the pool.”
If I’d had the doldrums before, they were really bad now.
The best way to beat the doldrums is to go into a motorcycle shop and buy farkle. Nothing makes a man feel as good as holding new farkle in his hands. Seeing the farkle installed on the bike runs close, but that feeling passes. This is because new farkle gets absorbed by a motorcycle within a day or two. Then more farkle is required to keep flagging spirits elevated. This is the same business model for heroine.
By law, there cannot be a BMW dealership farther away than the planet Mercury. Dick and I rode to the one in the northern hemisphere. It was there I fell in love with a beautiful BMW factory LED stoplight bar. At first I thought it was “retro,” and then I realized it was just “German” stodgy. That made me love it even more. It cost $18,467.00 and my heart broke for the second time that day. Bregstein found a “prescription” windshield for his “R” bike. The prescription was so strong that he could see three days into the future. This accessory cost three dollars less than the Louisiana purchase, and for the first time ever, I saw Dick burst into tears.
BMW riders are not afraid to show their emotions and the dealership was filled with crying riders. But real riders harness the power of their emotional frustrations and get on with life. Bregstein and I did what all men do when confronted with the actual cost of farkle: we looked at gloves instead. Disillusioned men can never have too many pairs of riding gloves.
The current style of riding gloves was apparently influenced by Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. They come in flamboyant colors with protruding armor on the knuckles, finger joints, and wrists.
I hate them.
Bregstein slipped on a bright pair of grape-flavored, battle-armored gloves and hissed, “Just call me ‘Donatello.’”
“I can’t believe you know the names and matching colors of those stupid turtles,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” asked Bregstein. He slipped his hands into the gloves and jumped down the aisle in a series of bad karate moves.
Gloves are the ultimate 20-minute biker romance. According to a placard over some great-looking gloves in a locked bin, nothing beats kangaroo leather for comfort, protection, and endurance. Kangaroo leather is supposed to offer a seductive touch to your hand while being damn near bulletproof as far as sliding on the ground goes.
“Too bad we can’t raise kangaroos and make gloves out of them. We’d be rich. Exotic women would love us,” said Bregstein. Thus was spawned the adventure Dick and I would come to know as, “Making Women Smile By Going Down Under.”
Our research began by watching dozens of YouTube flicks on kangaroos. This curious animal has a face like a deer, ears like a rabbit, and legs like leaf springs. A Harley rider tried to breed them in the US a few years ago but the animals didn’t like his aftershave, apparently.
Above: Similar to other species, male kangaroos are often accused of thinking with the "little head," which develops a controlling personality at age 13.
We booked passage to Australia not unlike the way Burt Munro traveled to the US from New Zealand — on a tramp streamer — where we were required to work as part of our fare. The ship carried 25,000 tons of organic fertilizer and two shovels. Every few hours, Dick would press his ear to the hull, listen, and say, “I think we’re passing through the Panama Canal now;” or, “That sounds like Tahaiti to me.” Bregstein and I had eyes like lemurs when they let us out of the hold, six weeks later.
The ship dropped anchor 2 miles off Dinkins Cove, in New South Wales, Australia. They dropped us into the water 10 minutes later. Dinkin’s Cove is a community comprised of 22 bars,14 hotels, nine pawn shops, six whore houses, two movie theaters, and a government-staffed tourist information kiosk. It reminded me of most places in Nevada.
“I have two questions for you,” said Bregstein to the staffer in the tourist information kiosk. “How can we blend in as locals and where is the closest kangaroo herd?”
The lady in the kiosk advised us that the best way to fit in among the locals was to wear a khaki shirt and to get a hat that snaps up on one side. She then gave us the bad news. It was the wrong time of the year for kangaroos. The Kangaroos had gone north for the winter.
“How far north?” asked Bregstein.
“Trenton, New Jersey,” she replied.
We’d arrived in the height of the emu migration season. Hundreds of thousands of emus were migrating into town, and nesting on any flat surface that was 14-feet wide and 60 feet off the ground. They sought out factory chimneys or tenement fire escapes. They were nesting on every tree, bush, and building eave. Emus weigh about 170 pounds and stand close to six-feet tall. They mate for life. The suicide rate among male emus is about 68 percent. The surviving males are generally discovered to be deaf.
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No one walks around looking up during the emu nesting season. These huge birds defecate a near volcanic eruption of a white substance about the size and density of a large broccoli pizza. It is considered “good luck” to be crowned by one of these, but only by those who witness the coronation from a distance.
The lady in the tourist kiosk advised us to hire a guide at one of the local watering holes, who could show us where the kangaroos were wintering. Our first step was to acquire the appropriate outfits. The shirts were easy. The hats were a challenge. Dick found a cheap tourist copy of an Australian slouch hat in a joint on the waterfront.
“Does it make a difference what side I leave snapped up?” asked Dick, to the counterperson, who was dissolving into a puddle of bad tattoos and cigarette smoke.
“Not to me,” she said.
My hat made more of a statement from the bush. It looked like a partially deflated cowboy hat with a dozen corks hanging from the brim. The purpose of these was to keep flies and other insects from buzzing about my head. We found it in an outback outfitter’s shop under the sign “Hugh McGuffie’s — Welcome.”
“Are there a lot of insects in Australia?” I asked.
“Well, I’ll be blowed,” said the outfitter. “There are millions, but that hat will stop anything short of the Great Australian Loop Centipede.”
The Great Australian Loop Centipede is one of the few living things in the place that does not have a pouch. Each of its young is hatched singly, and fired from the far end of the tube – like a dart — into the ass of whatever target is presented.
“Are there many of those around?”
The outfitter laughed. “There’s three for every man, woman, and sheep in these parts. There probably one taking aim at you right now.”
“What keeps the Great Australian Loop Centipede away?”
The outfitter glanced slyly from side to side, and said, “This...”
He showed me a WWII army surplus flame-thrower. It was only $489 Australian. I got it and told Bregstein it was for him, as it weighed about 90 pounds. I suspected the sale wasn’t quite legal, as the words “portable coffee maker” were stenciled on the tanks.
Our next stop was the bike rental shop. The pickings were pretty slim. Dick rented a battered R80 GS that was 32 years old. It had seen two decades of hard service with the Royal Australian Rabbit Fence Maintenance Corp., and had a special mount across the back for stringing wire. It had also been used to drag rubble carts out of a kiwi mine and as a delivery vehicle for a unique brothel called “Tarts On Two Wheels.” The bike still bore swatches of the bright purple livery of its last career, and guys all over town waved at the “Trollop Trolly” as Dick rode by.
I rented a faded blue K75 that had been unpopular with the locals.
“The bike is thought to be haunted,” said the dealer, whose name was Chancre Jack. “You can hear the ghost in the machine when you wind it up.”
Typical to the marque, the K75 snarled into life as soon as I hit the starter. It began to whine as the RPM climbed. I revved it once or twice, just to go up and down the scale, and then I saw the bike shop staff quivering.
“Can’t you hear the tormented soul trapped in the engine?” asked Chancre Jack.
“You mean this sound?” I asked, twisting the throttle. The bike whined like a beauty queen regaining consciousness at my house.
“That’s it,” shrieked the dealer.
“I’ve heard this before,” I said, switching off the bike. “It is the soul of a Valkyrie, seeking revenge.” I then showed the dealer the clear “porthole” for checking the oil. “By tradition, the K75 was assembled on Walpurgisnacht, in utter darkness. The story says a blind quality control inspector, a former circus midget, got trapped inside one of the engines. His face is sometimes visible in the window. His screams are present always.”
“I guess you don’t want the bike.”
“I’ll take it for free... And the spirit will be purged when I bring it back.”
“Deal,” said Chancre Jack.
When we stopped for gas, Dick asked me: “Do you think this trip has too many bad omens at the start?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we shoveled shit to get halfway around the world and we arrived in Australia at the height of a kangaroo drought. Then the only motorcycle you can rent is haunted. We have to wear these stupid hats. The trees are filled with huge bird-shit generators. And we haven’t even gotten out of town yet.”
I looked at him and sighed. “Dick... The adventure begins tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with that K75 and you’re riding the ‘Squeals On Wheels’ delivery wagon. This is like every trip we’ve ever done.”
“It is?” asked Dick.
And for the second time in his life, Dick Bregstein started to cry.
We spent our last night in town attempting to hire a guide — without success. It was the Sheila Bonzo Bangaroo weekend, or something like that, and no guy was leaving town. “Next time, one of us is going to have to check the national holidays and local customs,” said Bregstein. “We get caught up in this stuff entirely too often. Remember what happened to us in Albania.”
“Looking for a bit of cuddle?,” asked a woman’s voice. A woman’s voice can have many qualities. It can be husky and dusky. It can be light and musical. It can be mysterious or intriguing. Not this one. This one sounded like 25 years of heavy boozing, smoking like an industrial fire, and trading sex for chewing gum. (Not whole packs of gum either.)
Her hair hung straight down and she had a patch over one eye. She had a squashed cigar in her mouth that moved from side to side in an attempt to escape. When the bartender ignored her, she drank the warm spilled beer that collected the trough under the taps.
She was hot for Bregstein. The amazing thing is that she was the fourth woman like this to hit on him within an hour. (He wondered if they were sisters.) But she was the first to get huffy about getting the cold shoulder.
“Then why’s ‘ee advertising?” she asked.
As it turns out, Dick had the right side of his hat snapped up, which in southern hemisphere bar circles means, “Gentleman with limited sense of humor and questionable taste in cigars desires the company of a worn-out bar frowze — with eye patch — for pointless conversation and ghastly sex.”
“What does it mean with both sides snapped up?” I asked the bartender.
“It means your friend is acquainted with sheep.”
This is the kind of information you cannot buy at any price.
Then it was my turn.
“Are you the two guys looking for a guide?”
This voice was different. It oozed from blue eyes, short blond hair, seamless tan lines, and lips like one of my adolescent day dreams. She was a second alarm stunner... The kind that simmers for an hour or two before you realize you’re watching the words slip from her mouth as she speaks. There was instant chemistry between us, but it was the formula that generally results in a stink bomb.
“Take off that stupid hat,” she hissed. “The people in this town have been selling you shit and telling you worse since you washed ashore. Do you see anyone else wearing hats and shirts like those?”
I’d been having my suspicions. Bregstein and I seemed to be the only two guys in town who looked like the extras from a Crocodile Dundee movie.
Her name was Sheila.
“Not the Sheila Bonzo they’re all talking about?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes like she and I had been married for years. (That’s the way a woman who’s been to diplomatic school asks a man, “Are you really this fucking stupid?” I remained motionless and expressionless, as any response is interpreted as a “yes.”)
Sheila told me her story, or the parts of it she thought I’d swallow. She was desperate to get to a remote spot in the Australian outback, but some son of bitch had taken all her cash. Her only alternative seemed to be working as a sheep dipper on an interior-bound mutton drive. And that would take six months to cover 200 miles. By coincidence, the very thing Dick and I were looking for could be found in the same location.
“Only a chump would try to make gloves out of kangaroos,” said Sheila. “The best leather for biker gloves actually comes from wombats. And not any kind of wombat, but the giant vampire wombat. I know where you can find the last giant vampire wombat cave. They are in there hanging upside down by the millions.”
Now Dick and I rolled our eyebrows. The plot had suddenly thickened — like quicksand around our throats. We started out looking for kangaroos and went to the place where they are made, only to discover there weren’t any and that kangaroos weren’t what we really wanted in the first place. And now a total stranger, albeit a mysterious and hot-looking one named Sheila, was willing to put us on to a good thing, provided we took her with us.
“I don’t know,” said Dick. “Maybe we should ask somebody...”
“Who?” snapped Sheila. “Which of these assholes would you trust with the location of the last-known cave of giant vampire wombats?”
“I don’t know,” said Dick. “Maybe him...” He pointed to guy in biker gear passed out on the bar, blowing little bubbles in a puddle of warm, soured beer.
Sheila turned to me, looked into my eyes, and said, “Would I do this if I was lying?” She open her shirt and showed me the tops of the most perfect tah-tahs I had ever seen.
Dawn was a rumor in the skies when we headed into the outback. Dick led, following the rabbit fence into the interior. His bike was loaded with the impedimenta of basic leather tanning. He carried the coffee-maker strapped to his back. Sheila clung to the back of my bike, filling the pillion with a warm presence I hadn’t known in a while. Romance starts easily on a motorcycle as the rider and pillion candy are already two-thirds of the way there. I tried to help it a little by squeezing the front brake every now and again, causing her to slide forward, bumping my back with her yielding, but firm breasts. (This is known as copping “the about-face feel.”) She threatened to kick me in the balls after I tried this for the third time.
The heat in Australia rises slowly and settles in the air — about six feet off the ground. It is heavy with the moisture of life, the calls of birds with rainbow beaks, the scent of flowers that devour their young, and the penetrating stares of scandalized marsupials who carry their kids and car keys in the same pouch. And sometimes there is the rumble of distant thunder, the sound of stampeding Huntsman spiders, each one weighing more than a pound.
Above: The weakest section of the Great Australian Barrier Rabbit Fence, dividing Australia from neighboring New Zealand.
The road paralleled the rabbit fence for 1400 miles, then turned slightly left at the first curve we encountered. There was a Donut King there. Most Americans regard the doughnut as a US invention. But most European cultures have a tradition that either involves a round fried pastry with a hole in it, or a simple fruit-filled, iced, dough-ball. Contrary to any claim the average American could stake to doughnut fame, the world’s largest doughnut, weighing 3.5 tons and measuring six meters across, was constructed at one of these Donut King locations, in Australia. The world’s largest doughnut-fed ass, however, is rumored to be on display in pink shorts at a mall in Mississippi. It too measures six meters across.
“What’s the problem here with rabbits?’ asked Dick, munching on a doughnut.
I explained how a pair of rabbits got loose in the 1880’s, when Australia was largely a wild settlement of convicts — like the District of Columbia is now. The rabbits mated with the indigenous Tasmanian tigers and the country was soon overrun by 200-pound rabbits that could rip the head off a horse. The fence divided the country in half, and all of the Tasmanian killer rabbits were hunted to extinction on the side that was worth anything.
“What about the other side?” asked Bregstein.
“Fuck ‘em. Who gives a shit?” I waxed philosophically.
“Well, what side are we on?”
“What difference does it make?” I said, pointing to a huge hole in the fence.
We camped alongside the malarial Billabong River, which in the rainy season, is two miles wide, 1800 miles long, and two inches deep. It hadn’t rained in 23 years and we fell asleep listening to rogue Giant Australian Loop Centipedes slurping from the trickle that was left. These are remarkable creatures, and we came upon one that was eating a radial tire it had ripped from a passing tour bus.
Sheila indicated we should make no noise and just slip away.
“Why?” I whispered.
“Because to anything reduced to eating a radial tire, your ass will look like the world’s largest doughnut.” She had a point.
It was odd waking up in the wilderness, nearly alone with a beautiful woman. Her tan was fading into a rich skin tone that seemed to invite one’s fingertips. I saw her at first light, standing in her panties and bra, and in the clunkiest hiking boots you could image. She had straddled the K75 and was attempting to start it by mashing the button and holding it. The bike was gasping.
“Stop,” I yelled. “You’ll fry the starter relay.”
She blushed and the crimson flush spread under her bra. “I always wanted to start a motorcycle. I thought I could do it without bothering you,” she said. “Do you think this bra looks too tight on me?”
It wasn’t tight at all.
Bregstein wasn’t fooled. Later that day, when she went off to hiss at the geckoes, he said to me, “Are you buying that shit she gave you this morning?” Before I could answer, he continued: “That bra wasn’t too tight. I think she bought it with the intention of wearing if for a few days and then returning it for a full refund. Keep your eyes open, my friend.”
“Hissing at the geckoes” is one of those cool Australian expressions that means “taking a piss.”
She did know a lot about giant vampire wombats. According to her story, she was raised in an orphanage in the nearby town of Dangle Creek. Sheila claimed she used to go into the cave on school trips, where her third grade science teacher demonstrated how you could knock the sleeping wombats off the roof of the cave with a rock. “If you used a skipping motion, you might get three or four of these creatures with one shot,” she said. Her class loved these trips and students would spend days gathering stones for the day-long vampire wombat slaughter.
Sheila described the giant vampire wombat as looking like your typical bat, but having a wing span of 8 feet. The female has five teats of varying lengths grouped together like fingers on as glove. Oddly enough, many of the females seemed to come in right and left hand models, depending on which side of the clan cave they were spawned.
“So what you’re telling us,”said Dick, “Is that these things come with pre-attached gloves — in varying sizes — already.”
“Now you understand,” said Sheila.
“That’s amazing. We’re gonna be rich!,” said Dick. “What happened to all the dead vampire wombats you left on the cave floor?”
“Something ate them,” she said with a shrug. Then she got suddenly distant.
We reached the 2800-mile marker on the rabbit fence that next day. “We have to turn left here,” said Sheila.
“How can you tell?”
She pointed to a rusted sign in a clump of twisted, dried grass. It read: “Turn right for the most desolate part of the country. Next comfort station: 3400 miles. $200 fine for random spitting or urination.”
“How would they know if I stopped to take a piss?”
“This is Australia,” said Sheila. “You’re expected to turn yourself in.”
The barren outback was amazing. Every mile was like a different segment of a National Geographic special. I had always thought those clips of life transpiring (under ghastly conditions) in a few seconds were time lapse photography. But I took one of several $200 pisses and watched in amazement as a plant sprung up from the wet spot in the dust, flowered, attracted a bee, which was eaten by a lizard, which was ripped apart by a huge bird, which was then knocked out of the sky by a weet-weet tossed by a passing indigenous person. All of this took place in 45 seconds.
The weet-weet is a throwing stick of the indigenous people of Australia. Depending upon the manner in which it is thrown, it can hop along like a tadpole, scurry sideways like a politician, or return to the thrower two years later to report on what it has seen.
The R80-GS handled the outback beautifully. Bregstein actually fell asleep several times, waking up when the bike ran out of gas and fell over. The K75 struggled a bit, wallowing in the GS’s backwash as we traversed croc pits and swamp viper bogs. At one point, the front wheel dug into the muck and the engine stalled. Dozens of Australian monitor lizards swarmed us. These reptiles are insidious man-eaters, so it was without hesitation I sent Sheila wading through the morass to fetch a cable end from the winch on the back of Bregstein’s bike. They hissed and backed off. Bregstein said it was professional courtesy.
The trip was becoming more of a challenge. Sheila’s initial enthusiasm never mentioned the barren outback, the crocodiles, the monitor lizards, the oppressive heat, nor the great white shark that Bregstein found in his top case. We were running out of essentials. Dick claimed the croissants were beginning to turn and that we were down to three slices of pineapple cheese cake. Gas was about to become critical too.
Sheila got more peculiar as we got closer to the cave. Her recollection of certain details became fuzzy. She hesitated when I asked why she left the region... And how she left this remote place. Her stories about exploring the cave dried up entirely. I saw her standing half naked in the dawn every morning. I saw her standing totally naked in the moonlight — totally naked for the exception of those clunky boots. She would never take them off. The boots were huge, and sort of triangular. They made it impossible for her to work the K75’s shifter in the delicate manner it demanded.
Her fascination with the K75 was the only saving factor. She wanted to know everything about starting it, shifting it, and where I kept my keys. (I knew the motorcycle would bring us together.) It was during one of these discussions that she kissed me... Kissed me and put her hand in my pants... Pants pocket actually. I told her that was where I’d kept my keys. But there was a hole in the pocket lining instead.
We found the village of Dangle Creek at the mouth of the cave on the fourth day. Some houses were still standing, but barely. Some were burned. There was no sign of an orphanage. In fact, there were no signs of anything.
“What the hell happened here?” asked Bregstein. Dick is hard to fool. Four burned out houses, six abandoned ones, numerous skull faces carved into posts, and a rotting rope dangling from a gallows told Bregstein that more than tumbling real estate values was at play here.
“Where was the orphanage?” I asked.
“The orphanage was a trailer that traveled from town to town,” said Sheila. “Not every town could afford it’s own orphans. We shared.”
“But where are the people?” asked Dick.
“Perhaps they went to a movie,” said Sheila.
“Could they be in the cave?” asked Dick.
“Yes, the cave,” said Sheila. “They are probably all up at the cave.”
There was less than an hour before nightfall and wandering around in a huge cave with waking vampire wombats held little appeal for Dick and none for me. Yet spending the night in this creepy town was out of the question. So we set up camp between the cave and the village.
Dick was positively giddy at the idea that we were about to become rich overnight. In the morning, we’d corner the market on bullet-proof suede wombat gloves. In the afternoon, we’d be the toast of the moto industry. He experimented with names and slogans for our glove line. Some contenders were:
• Soft To The Touch But Hard In A Tumble — Wombat Dick's
• Super Tough Wombat Dick's — “Straight From The Bush...”
Bregstein wasn’t the only one intoxicated by the excitement. As the fire reduced itself to embers, Sheila got hot. The stars were silent witnesses to the passion that unfolded. Some shot off into space, propelled by my desire... A desire fueled by the proximity of the savage Australian bush. Sheila’s skin felt like warm silly putty in my hands. And I felt her hands on me... All over me... Searching and probing. She was naked to the warm air, all but for those huge, clunky boots.
“Take them off,” I whispered. “Take off those boots.”
“In the cave,” she sighed. “I have a deformity with my feet, and I’m shy about it. But I’ll take off my boots in the cave.”
I understood her reticence. Despite my success with women, I too have a less than perfect physique. I have a genetic abnormality with my man-gland. Instead of one penis, I have five prehensile ones. My underwear fits me like a glove.
Night shadows drained into the cave as dawn spilled from the horizon. Sheila and I stepped into the palpable darkness. I thought the cave would be cooler than outside, with drafts wafting upward from subterranean passages. But it was hot and dank in there. And something smelled really bad.
“I’m taking off my boots now,” said Sheila.
The dedicated Twisted Roads reader knows I have a thing for modestly endowed women. Tiny hooters drive me crazy. But I also love women with tiny feet. My last lover had the sexiest feet on earth. I use to marvel at her sneakers. They were almost like toy shoes. I knew what I was about to see wasn’t going to be anything like that. But every relationship is different. I have learned to grow with my lovers — one foot at a time.
The sun rose in the mouth of the cave — directly behind Sheila. The beauty of the woman shone in a golden radiance. She existed as pure sensuality, etched in the most perfect light of day. My eyes traced the outline of her throat, her shoulders and her tight breasts. The sleek line of her waist led south to the gentle curve of her hips, and to extraordinary legs. These ended in...
I couldn’t believe the horror before my eyes. It was so utterly unexpected. I forgot to breath in that instant, and then I didn’t want to.
She had the feet of an emu. Huge, three-toed feet designed for ripping open termite hills or for kicking Cape Buffalo in the balls. I confess to the gentle reader that I screamed in panic. But this was nothing to what I was about to see. The gathering light revealed I was on a ledge 30 feet above the cave floor, and it writhed like something alive.
Above: She had the feet of an emu... I was horrified. I'd seen worse, but not first thing in the morning. And certainly not when sober.
This portal to hell seethed with Giant Australian Loop Centipedes. Uncounted millions of these disgusting creatures — each the size of a finger — thrummed against the fetid niter-stained walls of the cave. Yet I could see thousands of huge specimens, as long and as thick as a man’s arm, undulating in and out of this terrifying pile. White disjointed bones, picked clean, caught the light too. And then I saw the skulls, each frozen in a silent scream.
“That’s right,” hissed Sheila. “Meet the townsfolk of Dangle Creek. You’re going to be elected mayor today.”
“But why,” I stammered...
“To break the curse for another year. For every sacrifice I drag into this cave, I get to have normal feet for one year. But judging from the meat on your butter-ass, I might get 18 months out this deal,” said Sheila. “And then I’ll toss that other addle-pated twit in here too.”
“You’d sacrifice us just to have sexy feet?”
“You have no idea what it’s like to be different in a place like this.”
I thought of the women Dick had met in Dinkin’s Cove. “You know, I don’t see those feet as much of a drawback...”
“Shut the fuck up,” Sheila screamed. “Would you run off with me on your motorcycle if you knew I had the feet of a huge, flightless bird?”
“Not under normal circumstances,” I started to say. She didn’t give me a chance to finish. I was to going to add, “But I’d give it a shot if you didn’t scratch for worms or start crowing at dawn.”
“Aaaaaarrrrgh,” She screamed. “I hate BMW riders. You think you are so fucking clever with your gadgets and your gear. You are all such assholes.”
I took offense as this rash generalization.
“It was so easy to lead you out here. All I had to do was flash my tits at you. If I’d offered to let you whisper into my sugar scoop, you’d have thrown Dick to the centipedes yourself. You even taught me how to ride your bike so I had a way out of here.”
There is nothing more discouraging than to have your number dialed right the first time. The centipedes were swarming beneath the ledge and I knew I had but seconds to live.
“Will you answer me one question?” I asked.
“Make it a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question,” she hissed.
“So there really are no giant vampire wombats hanging upside down in the cave, are there?”
“You are so fucking dense,” screamed Sheila. “See for yourself.” Then she dropped kicked me with one of those feet.
I felt myself falling backward over the ledge. It is amazing the kind of things that run through your head in a time of crisis. I thought of my last lover’s little feet, and how she’d get her toenails painted at a joint in Paoli. This one would have to go in for an estimate. A $500-deductible wouldn’t cover that paint job.
The drop was not quite vertical and my flailing arms found the stump of a walla-walla root. My own grotesque feet — two flattened loaves of Wonder Bread — were an inch or two above the snapping mandibles of the centipedes. I screamed one word: “Bregsteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!”
Dick Brgstein is a man of extraordinary patience, but he has his limits. On this morning, he’d carefully sliced the last of the pineapple cheesecake into three pieces, opened the last can of anchovies, and mixed some unspecified local berries with bog water for a celebratory breakfast. He’d set three places offering the nicest view of the cursed town and waited... and waited... and waited. He figured I’d taken Sheila into the cave for a pelvic examination, but would be back momentarily. Momentarily was becoming a honeymoon.
“To hell with the two of them,” muttered Dick. “I’m gonna make some coffee.”
He unstrapped the 90-pound “coffee maker” and flipped the switch marked “brew.” A strong smell of burning jet fuel filled the air. A green light flickered on, and Bregstein hit the button marked, “Dispense.”
There was a loud “whoooosh” and a semi-solid stream of gelatinous fire shot into the cave. It narrowly missed Sheila, arched over my head, and made a warm impression on the local centipede population.
I pulled myself over the ledge’s lip and discovered Sheila was gone. Bregstein said she’s ran past him at 62 miles per hour. “She had the nicest ass... But man did she need a pedicure.”
We never saw her again.
“Did I fry all the giant vampire wombats?” asked Dick. “This coffee maker sucks. It has one setting.”
“Dick, she sold us a bill of goods. The whole thing was just a horrible ploy.”
“I knew it from Day One,” said Bregstein. “I’d catch her staring at me, and suppressing that little sarcastic smile. I wondered when you’d get wise that I was the real target. Do you think there’s another cave around here filled with gloves?”
That’s what I like about Bregstein. He can always see the bright side of discharging a flame thrower into a fragile eco-system.
Four days later and we were back at the bar in Dinkin’s Cove. We decided to wear our hats and get ragingly shitfaced on our last night in Australia. I was thinking very kindly of Bregstein. This was the fourth time he’d saved my life on a ride. I wanted to extend a selfless gesture of appreciation to my riding buddy, who was presently drinking alone at the bar. But Dick is a man of intense pride. He is suspicious of appreciation... Especially from me. This would have to be a subtle gesture.
He never saw me snap up both sides of his hat.
Copyright Jack Riepe 2013
All Rights Reserved
On April 16th, 2013 — The prestigious Germantown Cricket Book Club grilled Jack Riepe on his new book — Conversations with A Motorcycle — which had been chosen as their "Book Of The Month." Highlights published here on Thursday, May 2, 2013.
• Authorities have determined that the subsequent attempt on his life was not related...
• A brunette suspect was not detained...
• No threat was found from a literary critic...
• The book was banned by a religious group...
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