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Southern Rail: Splitsville

By Robert Filla

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By the time you receive this issue of THUNDER PRESS, America will be on the brink of its saddest day of the year. It’s that annual event when millions of downcast American males huddle together, standing shoulder to shoulder, wilted flowers in one hand, stale chocolates in the other, staring at countless rows of cards resplendent in hearts and kisses. Yes, it’s the annual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (you didn’t really think that term had anything to do with gangsters being shot down in Chicago during the prohibition era, did you?).

Love is a fickle thing these days, with pre-nups and all manner of contingent escape plans well developed for the future after the honeymoon has lost its luster. Seems easier than ever to simply discard a life partner after years of enjoying mutual companionship that each swore would last until death. But then there are those couples that seem meant for one another, unending true love forever, as mushy as that sounds. I was pondering these ponderous thoughts when I heard from Tate.

Tate and I go back a ways, high school and then the early 70’s motorcycle-crazy times. We flew the same colors at one time, me as president and Tate at my right hand as VP. So… we have history—a lot of history and colorful stories that could fill several “adult reading only” manuscripts. But that was then and we’ve both settled down now, sorta—him in West Texas, me in Houston. At first when I received his phone call on New Year’s Day I was surprised. Later I would be in shock.

“Hey there, brother, it must have been a successful New Year’s since yer not in jail,” were the first words that came out my head.

“Already made bail, brother,” was his satirical reply.

We both laughed, enjoying the kinship shared by brothers of the wind. We bantered back and forth for a bit until he broke the tragic news. “I’m done, brother. Can’t do this shit anymore. After all these years, time to say goodbye to the bitch and get on with new things.”

I was floored and then asked, “But you two have been together forever. Why now?”

“Partners for more than 35 years, my friend. But I’m getting older and it just doesn’t work anymore.”

And while sitting there, listening to the rest but not really listening at all, I thought back to all the adventures we had in earlier times, me and my gal, Tate and his…

I remember the four of us going down to shoot guns on Port Lavaca Bay, drinking cheap beer and smoking some God-awful homegrown. And then we’d all head back up to the house for a big-ass barbecue where Tate would burn some meat and make his killer pinto beans. Then there were the birthday campouts along the river and the time when I rolled off my sleeping bag and ended up unknowingly in a nest of spiders. The next morning my left forearm and hand were so swollen from spider bites I couldn’t pull in the clutch for the ride home. But Tate and his lady sat right there for most of the day, nursing my wounds with rubbing alcohol until I was recovered enough make the trip. And those weekend visits down to Taylor’s Fish Camp at the beach to see them both always led to fun trouble. All that time and all those adventures together and now this? It couldn’t be.

There was a pause on the phone when Tate realized I wasn’t paying attention to him. “Hey, brother! I said, what about you?”

“What? What do you mean? I asked.

“I asked, what about you? You want her? I’ve seen the way you’ve looked at her before. And she’s definitely your type.” Tate replied.

“But damn, bro, wouldn’t it seem weird to you… knowing she was with me? Kinda creepy, ain’t it? And what about when I come out for a visit? How awkward is that? What am I supposed to do, leave her at home?” I questioned.

“I’d feel better knowing she was with a good friend and not some stranger.”

This was all happening too fast; too much to process. But I knew he wanted an answer. “I’m sorry, amigo, but I don’t think I can make that work. There is simply no more room in the shop for another bike. Even if it is a Shovelhead.”

I could tell he was let down but he did ask for me to spread the word that his ’79 Super Glide was up grabs. It’s got a fresh motor and tranny and a great-looking paint scheme that’s only a year old. But probably most important, it carries one hell of a history—3-1/2 decades worth.

So if you’re interested, give me a shout. But don’t wait too long ’cause… she really is my type.

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