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Almost Fiction: Betty

Betty had developed a problem and was not feeling perfect. It wasn’t a life-threatening problem but it was bad enough that she had to be given a rest. In the ensuing weeks, once out of the picture, the man she lived with met and dated a new love, eventually inviting her home as a possible replacement. While Betty was convalescing, little by little this new paramour inched her way into the man’s life and Betty’s surgery was put off. Over the next months each time the shop was cleaned, swept or reorganized Betty got pushed back further into the catacombs of the shop.

When she thought about being replaced and pushed into the corner, leaking, her tears of transmission oil grew to more than an indecent puddle. Her self-image was now that of an old woman, cast aside for a pretty new face. However, like those fish who freeze every winter and then re-emerge alive when the river again runs deep, Betty was not dead, she was in limbo, frozen in time, waiting for spring thaw, waiting for wrenches to replace gaskets and seals, twisting her back to life, making everything right again.

Knowing how easily distracted men can be when they think about motorcycles she held no animosity toward her replacement rival. Men read and talk and manufacture figures and collect specifications and categorize data, save their money, know precisely what they are going to buy, go to the dealer and when “lust overcomes them” forget everything and buy the “red one.” For all Betty knew her man had gone into the Harley dealer to buy parts for her leaking transmission and instead came out with a shiny new red motorcycle. It wouldn’t have surprised her one bit if that was exactly what had happened. Betty knew that if women can run amuck with shoes men can do it with motorcycles.

Beginning life in 1986 as an Evolution-powered Highway Patrol FXR it wasn’t long until the man “civilianized” her with a new set of clothes. The new paint was topped off with “nose art” like a World War II fighter plane. On both sides of her gas tank Betty Boop, the cartoon character from the 30’s, languished resplendent in a champagne cocktail glass. Funny, the man thought she would be called “the Boopster” but no, on her first ride his companions christened her “Betty” and that was it.

At one time, there was only Betty. She had been both the everyday motorcycle and the touring machine who took the man from coast to coast and from border to border. She’d been painted twice, re-fendered twice, the engine was freshened up once at 75,000 and rebuilt at 125,000. With each new refurbishing, she smiled knowing that she had the power to quicken the man’s heart. But inevitability surrendered perfection.

After miles and miles, showing some age, after conditions that would have destroyed lesser machines, tiny chips of paint from a sand storm in Texas, a scratch on the fender from a bird strike in Iowa, a nick on the chrome where a woman’s high heel hit a muffler all would have reminded the man of where they had ridden and all the wonderful history they shared. But no, currently, instead of a “memoir to golden times gone by,” those self-same marks were now seen as nothing more than old age spots and warts. With this attitude, the man was looking around for a replacement ride and Betty was feeling her mileage.

Her current ailment was not catastrophic but it was bad enough that she could not be trusted. “Imagine,” she thought. “I cannot be trusted? I have never left my man out on the road and I have taken him anywhere he wanted to go. Can’t be trusted? Me? Really?”

Instead of the perky young thing she used to be, the Rapunzel or the Cinderella that caused awe in everyone and drove Prince Charming crazy, she was now alone in the corner of the shop like Sleeping Beauty, asleep for 20 years, waiting for the kiss.

Neglected yes, but not forgotten. No… the man never forgot her and when someone asked about Betty and if he was willing to sell her, a pang of nostalgia intermingled with guilt and that very night bikes were moved in the shop, parts were pushed aside, projects were reassigned and Betty slid out of the corner and onto the gurney where tool boxes were unlocked and an operation begun. It didn’t awaken her as would the kiss from the charming prince but it did arouse her slightly from her dreams.

First the obvious needed to be taken care of. The primary was opened, the clutch basket removed, the O-rings, gaskets and seals replaced, everything made new and then the surgery was closed. Because of a past careless disregard, cables were removed and lubricated, the carburetor was gone through completely to remove any stale gas that might have turned to putty but that was an easy job, the man had remembered to add gas stabilizer. Wheels were removed, brakes were checked and just for good measure new pads were installed. Tires were made new. The front end was drained, flushed and replenished. If there was something that needed to be done, it was done. Betty had been put aside because she was leaking transmission oil not because she was broken or dead. Therefore, to rejuvenate her, her rehabilitation was just a matter of reinstating good habits of maintenance.

Little by little with every removal, replacement and adjustment, after the cleaning, the polishing, the new oil, tires, spark plugs, gaskets, O-rings and seals after all the effort to bring her to life she finally felt a soul oozing back into her being.

Betty was pushed off the lift, gas was added to the tank, battery wires were attached to a new battery and with the push of a button it was indeed the kiss from Prince Charming and she was awake.

All of this was to be more than just a start and a ride around the block. New registration tags were added to her license plate and a current insurance card was slid into an envelope. That meant there was new hope for a return to the highway. She knew it. The man knew it. They were back together and the only thing obstructing them now was a sunset on one side of the horizon and a sunrise on the other.

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