The Bodfish Bandit, a short story

Jan 22, 2008
Country flag

A short story by Ronald Swartley

I FIRST BUMPED INTO this guy at a service station on the
edge of East Bakersfield. You see, I'd made the mistake of
leaving my blue, lightning-striped helmet sitting on the
saddle of my four-banger while I went paying a visit to the
gas man's john. These kids-just coming home from school I
guess-made a grab for the helmet. But, lucky for me, they
went the wrong way after snatching it.

They ran right by this guy I'm trying to tell you about. He
had his BMW parked off at the edge of the ramp, working on
the gas tank it looked like, and he neatly, painlessly,
collared this kid who had the helmet. This guy retrieved
the helmet, and then proceeded to a short, off-the-cuff
lecture on the evils of petty thievery. That's the scene
that caught my eye as I came out of the john-this fellow
with my helmet dangling from his forefinger, lecturing the
now well-chastised kid.

Well, I was grateful. That metallic blue, lightning-striped
helmet and I had gone through a lot together. Daytona,
Baja, and Atlanta to name a few. More important, I happened
to be wearing that helmet the very moment I met Mona.
Mona's my baby. When she's not in school, she lives up near
Lake Isabella, at this place called Bodfish, Californìa.
That's where I was headed when I ran in to this guy at the
service station.

So, being grateful and all, I asked him how I might repay
this favor he did me. I was real serious about it too. So
he thought for a moment, rubbing his chin, looking off into
the distance; then he said yes, there Was some thing I could
do. He'd drained this water out of his gas tank, see, but
he didn't know if he got it all. Would I follow him for
five miles or so, since he happened to be going the same
direction I was? Sure I would, I said. I'd be glad to
follow him a way-to be sure he didn't get stranded out on
the road somewhere.

So I wheeled around, strode smartly back to my bike, and
mounted up. I looked back over at this guy then, expecting
to see him ready to go, and he'd hardly moved. He was going
about things awful slow-slow as molasses.

He kind of struck me as the "Slow" type anyway. He was of a
middling height, age about 55 maybe, bald as a ball bearing,
and moved slow-awful slow. I could tell those five miles I
had to follow him were going to be pure hell. Even if he
hadn't been the dawdling type-which he was-that BMW 60 of
his was bound to be slow of its own accord.

He finally did get ready to go though. What really made me
laugh was the sight I saw as he donned the leather jacket
which he retrieved from his saddlebag. Plastered all over
the back of that jacket was a great big yellow dragon,
snorting big red flames, and with a lot of white teeth
gleaming. It was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever
seen-this meek, humble, slow moving old cus, sporting a
yellow dragon On his back. Jeez!

Anyway, he got his leg slung over the saddle, got the bike
started up and in gear, and eased out onto the highway. We
had to stop at both stop lights going out of town. I pulled
up beside him at the second one and asked him how his bike
was doing.

"Oh, fine," he said meekly. "Yes, it seems to be running
just fine."

Poor old cus, I thought. What are guys like that doing
riding motorcycles out in traffic anyway.? But, what the
hell-he'd saved my helmet for me hadn't he? So I gave him a
smile of encouragement. He seemed to need all the help he
could get.

We moved on out of town then, me keeping a discreet distance
behind. Yeah, I didn't want it to seem like I was rushing
him any. There would be plenty of time for my style of
riding after I got past him. I was looking forward to the
twisting, turning course of Highway 178 as it moves on up
the hill toward Lake Isabella. Yeah, it was gonna be sheer
pleasure moving expeditiously around those curves.

The old guy up ahead was keeping that BMW at a rock steady
55 mph as we covered the flatlands approaching the hills.
That was probably as fast as he'd ever gone, poor guy. Too
bad he'd never really gotten to smoke it down the road like
a real clutch'n throttle grabber. Oh, well...

We were approaching the first curves and the first upgrade
soon, and I was itching to start leaning and powering
through those curves. And I was thinking of Mona too, at
the end of those curves, 30 miles up the road.

"Well old fellow,"I muttered," It's time I said "adios" and
"sayonara." I revved the "750" and prepared to make the old
cus long gone. But, damn ! A car coming. Two cars. Have
to ease around between curves I guess... And yes, now's the
time! But no, I let him get a little too far ahead there
somehow. I'd get him on the next straightaway though, and
that was for sure.

Jeez! I laughed at that fire-spitting dragon again. It was
still a comical sight to see as I watched it disappear
around the curve.

I slowed a little and shifted down. This road was
definitely starting to get serpentine. I banked the bike
way over, keeping a careful eye out, because I didn't want
to catch up so fast that I'd ram into the back of the poor
old geezer.

I made it around the curve and onto a little
straightaway-and no, I didn't run into him. I didn't even
get close. I though t there for a minute that maybe he'd
run clear off the road, because I didn't see him at first.
But then, I did see him, and somehow, some way, he was still
well up ahead. Jeez, I guess maybe I'd slowed down too much
for him coming around that last curve. Yeah, that musta
been it all right. Maybe I was being a bit too cautious
with him.

Well, there was a remedy for that. I shifted my weight a
little in the saddle, and hunkered down a little, and took a
little bit tighter grip on the throttle. I gave the Go-knob
a good twist and rocketed forward toward the next bend,
meanwhile watching the yellow dragon disappear again. Yeah,
the next time I saw that dragon I'd be right on top of it.

I whistled around the curve, banking sharply, engine whining
in high pitch. I craned my neck hard, looking for the BMW's
rear fender.

But there was none. No fender, no dragon, no trace at
all-not till I got clear around the curve. Then I saw him,
still up ahead and hardly a bit closer than he was before.
"Holy, holy, holy," I intoned in a low voice. "That must be
somebody else up there. I musta passed him somehow and
didn't know it."

But no, there was that yellow dragon again, flashing in the
sun, disappearing around the next curve. "Hey baby," I
moaned again, "this is waaay too much !"

I hunkered even deeper down in the saddle, gripped the
throttle even tighter, and pulled my visor down for the
first time. Yes, it was war now. Now we would really see
what we would see. This situation had obviously gotten
clear out of hand.

The next curve was to the right and I eased a little left on
the approach and blasted through it, well over and in good
control. A sharp left followed and I cut through,
accelerating, noticing the gushing, rushing Kern River down,
way down, below. Another sharp right followed, and I knew
that coming out of that next turn I would see the BMW again.
I knew that crotchety old cus would be there, close on,
wondering who the hell it was climbing up his back all of a
sudden. I smiled and chuckled at the prospect. I was
amused at the expression which was bound to be on the dude's

I roamed through that turn, hearing the high-pitched scream
of the engine reverberating off the cliff wall on the right.
Now! Now we'll see you, you old fuddy duddy, and at close
range too. I focused my eyes in then, looking for a
dragon...but there wasn't any dragon ! I refocused to a
middle distance-and there wasn't a dragon there either. I
threw them into long focus then and I spotted him. He'd
gained on me! The bald-headed, pot-bellied,
slow-as-molasses son-of-a-gun had gained on me. I blinked
my eyes several times, put my visor back up, shook my head
back and forth and then looked up again, and he wasn't
there. He'd disappeared around the next turn.

Well, I can't tell you how damned hard I worked to catch him
from then on. I called back from the past all the tricks
I'd learned from every race I ever ran. I took chances I
should never've taken, and dripped a gallon of sweat doing
it. I did everything humanly possible to close the gap
between me and that meek, humble faker, but it was no use.
It wasn't much longer and he was so far ahead that he was
totally lost from sight. Yeah, he was a regular fleeing

I ambled into Bodfish a little while later, crest fallen. I
dragged slowly through town toward Mona's mom's house,
feelin' awful low.

I was just about to turn into the driveway of Mona's place
when lo and behold something frighteningly, shockingly
familiar hove into view. Up there in Mona's mom's driveway,
standing isolated and serene, was a BMW 60, remarkable in
its similarity to the one I'd lost so much face with just a
few minutes back. I rechecked the house number, and, yes,
it was the right house. I nosed up into the driveway, came
to a halt, and crawled off. A second later and here comes
Mona running down the sidewalk toward me.

"Hi, Babe," she said.

"How doo you do?" I replied, a little weakly.

"Have you met Popsie?" she asked, looking over my shoulder
up the driveway. I turned, and there Was "Popsie." The
bald-headed, slow-as-molasses gent was coming out of the
garage toward us. We shook hands, and we both smiled; but
we said nary a word. Somehow he looked younger than I
recently remembered him.

Mona took me by the arm then, turned me around, and headed
me up toward the house.

"Popsie's a motorcyclist too," she said. "He spent 30 years
riding with the Highway Patrol," she said. "He still rides
in motorcycle races, too," she went on.

"Aw, knock it off!" I mumbled, barely audible. Then, a
little louder, "How's your sweet ass?" And she smiled.
May 7, 2005
Country flag
Reminds me of when I used to ride to work, end of shift I would set off on the Commando followed by a ratty old Honda (so ratty the relapcement rear shocks where just mounted alongside the old ones). He never went all that fast but with a slimmer bike would cut thorugh the traffic like a knife through butter. I would only catch him up after the traffic cleared and I could use the cubes.
Jan 22, 2008
Country flag
Many years ago, I was passed by a chick on a 750 Honda in heavy traffic, she would weave that big bike better than I could on my little RD, respect took a new meaning that day.