I love driving into Albuquerque at night but not anymore— the memories are too strong. Let me backtrack a bit. I and my wife, Carol, lived in Chicago and enjoyed it immensely. All this changed, however, when Carol got this fantastic job offer in San Diego. It included her CPA experience and offered senior level management, a real career maker. So, the decision to go for it was no question. I'm in my early forties and a little bit over weight (Acually, pudgy is a better description) But I do have a medical degree in pathology. Carol is thirty-three and has a Master's in financial accounting. blond hair and a dynamite figure. I'm not sure which is most important. Throughout our eight year marriage, we've made sacrifices for the other, and it was my turn. Consequently, we packed our bags and went to California. After the movers came and went, we stuffed the remaining small items in the car and set off. Basically, the household got the trunk and backseat; we got the front.
The reward for this trek is Albuquerque. By now the road has climbed a couple thousand feet, you're tired, the car is tired but there is a faint glow ahead amidst the black shadows of the looming mountains. When you finally get to the horizon, you come upon this huge bowl of lights shimmering below you. From the stark mountains you wind down and down into the warmth of civilization. I think it is a city ordinance that every dwelling must have its lights on until 4:00 am. It's a sparkling oasis that offers a relaxing respite on this journey. The next morning we were semi refreshed and set out again. About a hundred miles west of the city the car air conditioner gave out a wheeze of warm air and died. A gas station attendant said we needed a new condenser and he didn't have it. A foreign car away from a big city is not the easiest thing to repair. The only available part was in Phoenix. We had a choice: Go back or press on. We decided on the latter.
Driving through the desert on an August afternoon is not fun. If you have the windows up, the car is stifling. If you roll them down, the air from the blast furnace crouching outside is unbearable. Carol rummaged around the backseat to find some old cutoffs and brief tops we could slip into. Then we made our big blunder. Instead of traveling west to Flagstaff and then south to Phoenix, we decided to drive directly to Phoenix over the mountains figuring the route didn't look bad on the map and the air at that higher altitude wouldn't be so hot. Mistake. The map lied about the road and we lied about the cooler air. By the time we reached the place called Slow Low, we were sweaty, cranky and hungry. On this stretch of highway the only building to be seen or had been seen was a one story building offering gas and food. That sounded pretty good. I pulled off the road, parked beside the structure and the two of us went in.
The difference in temperature between the sun and mere shade is amazing. It was still hot outside and after spending the desert's late afternoon in an unair-conditioned car, Carol and I were cooked so, the dark unlit interior was more than welcome. Long and low, the ramshackle structure gave off the weathered sturdiness that everything in the desert has. The only light came from a couple of windows and the screened door but it was enough and no fixtures were lit to add their heat. One end of the large room housed a couple pool tables. Above each was an unlit bank of florescents that would provide excellent bright shadowless light. Lazily I rolled the cue ball off the rails. I've shot a little pool in my day and know a good table. These were despite their age. Nicked and scarred from numerous angry cues and left to burn cigarettes, the table's cloth was well brushed and the solid surface still ran true. If anyone besides Carol and the bartender had been there, I'd have looked for a game.
Instead, I sat at the bar next to Carol. The bartender stood before us and waited. Tall and lean, he wore faded jeans and long sleeved shirt, laundered until it was hard to discern its original green and red checkered pattern. Standing silently behind his grizzled beard, this long drink of water waited for our order. Watching Carol's breasts as she flapped the tank top for some air, he was in no hurry. When we ordered a couple hamburgers and beers, he just nodded and disappeared behind a curtained door at the end of the bar.
While Carol and I waited for the food, we sipped our beers and I looked around. Between us and the pool tables at the other end were four or five tables and a scattering of old fashioned bent wood soda fountain chairs. The tables, some round, some square, were all covered with red and white checkered oil cloth wiped clean so many times white spots erased the original pattern. Each held a six pack beer carton whose divisions held the condiments. The standard ketchup and mustard were there but the other four sections held Tabasco, Liquid Smoke and two unlabeled bottles of green and black fluids. I know from oriental cooking if it is black or bright green, it is hotter than we East-coasteers can imagine. Large sugar containers of dried red pepper flakes rounded out the display. I didn't know who these customers were but they liked their food well spiced. They also smoked. Every table had one or two deep ashtrays for the evening's entertainment.
By that time the food arrived, and we dug in. The burgers were good. Simple with thick slices of onion and tomato, they sure beat the eight dollar monstrosities that are today's norm. Now, I gobble my food so, while Carol finished hers, I continued to look around. The walls of this place were plastered with beer signs waiting to be lit for the evening. Every brand was represented with a few of the gaudier logos used as decoration not really signifying that the beer was offered. The far wall by the pool tables held numerous license plates. As I concentrated, I realized they were the smaller ones from motorcycles. Representing different states, they probably signified visits or visitors. Suddenly, I knew where we were and it wasn't good. If I had been smart, I would have taken Carol by the arm and gotten out of there. Unfortunately, I didn't.
While Carol was finishing the last few bites, the roar of motorcycles filtered through the door. Thirty or forty scruffy bikers followed the noise and the bar was filled. No one even spoke as the bartender started putting out bottles of beer and tequila. Mostly men, the chapter included about ten women; all of them dressed in dirty tight blue jeans stuffed into motorcycle boots. Whiffs of urine stench said they'd been properly initiated. The group had made a run somewhere because all had their colors on. They were in high spirits and celebrating. "Runt, Fatso, Foxy Bitch," nicknames that went by so fast, I couldn't catch them all.
"The Stings" was the name above a circle emblem with an ornate scorpion stitched inside on the backs of their Levi jackets. "It's my nature" was the motto emblazoned underneath. Many had cut the sleeves off to make vests and for some, whether man or woman, that's all they wore They were loud, hell, they made more noise than their cycles. Headgear varied from rolled bandana sweatbands to German WWII helmets covered with Nazi swastikas. One even wore a Sioux war bonnet. All had tattoos on their arms—and that included the women. I assumed that under those with sleeves, it was the same. A profane, colorful bunch.
When the bikers came up to the bar for refills, me they glanced at and ignored, Carol they stared at and drooled. Now, Carol is an attractive woman. Tall, she carries her 120 pounds well. She says she's ten lbs. overweight but all women say that. At any rate, it sure went into all the right curves. With her large breasts, her body looks ripe and sexy which the worn cutoffs and thin tank top didn't hide at all. Her facial features are something else again. With crystal clear blue eyes and long honey blond hair pulled back into a severe ponytail, she has those porcelain doll good looks that make her look haughty and conceited. In addition, she's got an icy stare to her that she used to dismiss the bikers like they did me.
These people didn't like us and I was more than happy when Carol and I went out the door. In the parking lot. we found the car's exit blocked by a long row of cycles. I started back, but Carol, still testy from the trip, pushed past me to go in ahead. If she had just been polite, I think we would have gotten out of there.
"Would you assholes move your bikes so we can get out of here," Carol almost screeched as she said the words before I could stop her.
"Why of course, ma'am," one of them said. As he stepped near, he smiled with the most dazzlingly white even teeth I'd ever seen. Holding out his hand, he said, "My name is Auston."
He was big. Well over six feet, Auston must have weighed 230+ pounds. Curly blond hair faded into a full beard that did not grow on his lip. Large brown bedroom eyes joined strongly chiseled features to make for a very attractive man. Dangling from one ear was a gold ring. When he flashed those pearly whites, he had the jaunty charm of a swashbuckler and the good looks of a god. "You need to be taught some manners, " he said grabbing Carol's hand I knew what was coming but before I could move, two bikers clasped my arms to set me down. A couple circles of Duct tape and I wasn't going anywhere. They even put a strip over my mouth so they didn't have to listen to me. Still holding Carol's hand, Auston watched all this until he was sure I was out of the way. By now, she had that stare going full bore—she could make an ice cube want a blanket. He tilted his head back as rollicking peals of laughter roared out almost lifting the roof. God, he was a handsome brute.
.... There is more of this story ...