A short story by Captain Rat.
It was a starless, rainy night, lightning flashing off to the
east as Condom putted carefully home from the clubhouse down slick wet
had spent months late at night in his garage working on this chopper.
This was its first time on the street. Condom was pleased with himself.
Not only did the bike run beautifully, but the rest of the Flying
Forkers had dug the hell out of it.
Their praise was well earned. The chopper had started with bits and pieces of other bikes. The frame was from a Honda 750. The forks and front wheel were Triumph, the rear wheel Moto Guzzi, and the tank, BMW. The power plant throbbing beneath it all was a Harley 74, lovingly rebuilt by Condom himself. All those parts had come together to make one beautiful bike, low and lean in the front, broad and powerful in the rear; painted shiny black with blood-red pinstripes.
The biggest hassle for Condom had been the electrical system. He was a good welder, mechanic, and artist, but not an electrician. He just kept trying hookups until everything seemed to work. Finally, he gave it a name. Painted in blood-red letters on the massive gas tank was 'Time Warp'.
Occasional drops of rain pelted Condom's face as he cruised down the deserted avenue, watching jagged streaks of lightning decorate the dark horizon. He downshifted as he neared his turnoff, and as he slowed for the turn, almost as an afterthought, he flipped on this left turn blinker.
Suddenly there was a flash of blinding white light, and Condom didn't know whether it was seconds or hours later when he found himself sitting on the Time Warp, both feet on the ground in the middle o a rutty dirt road. He felt dizzy. He looked around. The avenue he had been on was paved, with white frame houses on either side. Nothing but trees surrounded him now. He asked himself the inevitable question, 'What da fuck?'
Receiving no answer, Condom gave the starter a kick. The machine roared to life, so he started riding, looking for a sign to tell him where he was. After a couple of slow, rut-dodging miles, he came to a crossroad. A weathered wooden sign stood at the corner, the words 'Mill Road' painted on it. Condom knew where Mill Road was, or at least where it should be and what it ought to look like. Last time he had been on it, it was blacktopped. Now it was dirt, though it looked wider and smoother than the one behind him. He ran his fingers through his long black hair, scratching the top of his head. He hung a right and headed up Mill Road.
The road meandered uphill, curving frequently, then descended, bringing the river in sight. If this is the right Mill Road, Condom thought, the old mill should be around the next bend. Sure enough, the mill was there, but it didn't look old and abandoned. The boards looked almost new, and a neatly painted sign hung across the front of the structure: 'Smith River Milling Co.' it read.
Mystified, but now halfway sure of his whereabouts, Condom putted on. Another mile down the road was another wooden building, with light showing through its windows. The sign on the front said 'Mill Tavern'. The Time Warp slid to a stop. Condom suddenly realized he was thirsty. 'Any port in a storm', he said to himself. He pulled up to the hitching rail beside two horses tied there, agitating the animals considerably, and switched off his engine.
Behind the bar stood a plump man with a handlebar mustache. Oil lamps hung from the walls and ceiling, illuminating the austere interior. Two men sat at the bar, sipping from heavy glass mugs. 'What'll it be, friend?' asked the bartender.
'Can of Coors', replied Condom.
'A what of what?'
'Uh, beer. Whatever you got.'
'Here you are. That'll be ten cents.'
'Great.' Condom handed him a dime. 'Reasonable prices.'
'Some folks think they're a mite too high. Costs more, though, what with the war goin' on and all.'
'War? What war?'
'Why, the War Between the States, of course.'
One of the other customers looked over at Condom and asked 'You a Rebel or a Yankee?'
Condom grinned. 'Well, I reckon I'm kind of a rebel.'
'How come you're wearin' blue?' Condom wore a pair of greasy jeans and a cutoff denimn jacket.
Before he could answer, the other drinker asked, 'You favor slavery, then?'
'Slavery? Naw, people oughta be free.'
'You like niggers?' the first man asked.
'Uh, no, not much.' But Condom thought about the two black guys who took him to the hospital when he wrecked his old bike and broke his leg. He added, 'Some are ok, though. Anyway, they shouldn't be slaves.'
The second stranger smiled. 'You sound like a Union man to me. So what's that on your chest?' Condom had a Confederate flag patch sewn on his cutoff.
'I wouldn't wear that unless I stood for slavery,' said the man. Condom thought about that. Just then the bartender walked over with a frown.
'Hey, what are you trying to pull, mister? This here's a phony dime!' The bartender slapped the coin down on the bar.
'It's real. What's wrong with it?'
'The date says 1974.'
'So this is 1862. So that's a fake coin.'
'Holy shit,' said Condom, mostly to himself.
'Pay up. In real money.'
'I'll buy,' said the second drinker, plunking down a dime. Just then, shots exploded outside the tavern. The door burst open, and a young man in a gray uniform stumbled in, bleeding from a wound in his left arm.
'Help,' he groaned, and fell to the floor. Seconds later a man in a blue uniform ran in, drew a sword, and ran it through the fallen man's chest. He wiped his weapon on the victim's coat, sheathed it, and turned to the drinkers. 'Dirty rebel', he proclaimed. 'Say, what's that strange contraption outside?'
'Uh, 'scuse me fellas, but I gotta go now', Condom announced. He drained his beer and walked quickly out the door. As he kicked the Time Warp to life and roared off, four gaping spectators watched from the tavern door.
Condom rode down Mill Road back the way he'd come as fast as the bumpy dirt surface would allow. His mind raced. 'Holy shit', he thought, 'I can't stay in 1862. Where will I get gas and oil? What if I get drafted? He leaned around a 90 degree bend, accelerating before he saw them. Less than 50 feet away, taking up the whole road, were 10 or 15 blue-uniformed soldiers with rifles on their shoulders.
Condom couldn't stop in time, and he wasn't sure he wanted to. Just as he formed the hope in his mind that they would get out of the way quickly enough, it became obvious that they weren't even going to try. Each soldier went into a kneeling position, aiming his rifle straight at the oncoming rider. 'Fuck a duck', said Condom to himself.
He twisted the throttle wide open and the 74 responded. He laid down on the tank, his nose just behind the speedometer, keeping a low profile. The bastards still weren't moving, and bullets were whistling past him.
'This shit has got to stop', he muttered. He hit the brakes, throwing up a cloud of dust, downshifted, revved her up and popped the clutch. Just as he'd hoped, the front wheel came up, putting the whole bike between him and the bullets. Rearing like a cavalry horse, the chopper sped into the midst of the young soldiers.
Finally, they leaped aside, trading blind obedience for common sense. As Condom let the front end drop, he readjusted his grip on the handlebar, and his thumb hit the turn signal switch.
There was a sudden flash of light. 'Jesus Christ!' said the sargent. 'Whatever that was, it disappeared. Vanished!'
'I've never seen anything like it', said a soldier. 'We've got to tell the lieutenant!'
'No,' the sargent said, 'not a word. He'll never believe it.'
Condom found himself sitting motionless astride his bike. He looked down. The road beneath him was paved. He looked back. No soldiers. With a shrug of his shoulders and a mumbled 'What the fuck?' Condom started the Time Warp and rode on down Mill Road. Off to his left was the abandoned mill, and this time it looked abandoned. Then he came to River Avenue. He knew his way home, and he rode there, flat out and without benefit of turn signals.
Once home, Condom garaged the Time Warp, grabbed a can of Coors, and sat down to think. He said to himself, 'I've gotta tell my bros about this.'
Self said, 'Are you crazy? They'll never believe it!'
He started to say, 'But I can prove it!', but it quickly occurred to him that he really didn't want to do that. He drank his beer and stared at the painted aluminum can.
Then he drew his buck knife, and with its razor-sharp blade, sliced through each of the threads that held his Confederate flag patch to his denimn jacket.