So it's Monday and I'm in my office at the mansion. No shoots today, I'm just taking care of business. Gina, my secretary, isn't in either. Small Steve is down the hall working on his rough edit of our latest feature. It's a quiet place. I'm just about to collar Steve and take us out to lunch when the phone rings.
"Inana Productions," I say.
"May I speak with Leonard Schneider, please," says a woman's voice.
"Mr. Schneider, my name is Marta Gates and I'm calling from Carlsbad High School. Do you have a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass registered in your name?"
I sit a little more erect. "I do. What's the problem?"
"You also have a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury registered to you and your wife. And a 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood?"
"Yes. Surely they're not all on the lot at once."
Humor passed her by. "Are you aware that all three vehicles have parking permits on them, under the name of one student?" she asked.
"Yeah, the permits are under the name of Jane Osborne, right?"
She cleared her throat. "Why does one student have three vehicles registered with the school? We can't figure that out."
"That's so we can trade off vehicles how we see fit," I explained. "The Cutlass is Jane's, the Cadillac is mine, and the Fury is my wife's. We trade cars around though. Sometimes I feel like driving the Cutlass, so my wife will take the Cadillac and Jane will drive the Fury. Sometimes Jane wants some comfort and takes the Fleetwood. Bekka takes the Cutlass and I drive the Plymouth. Not that complicated, really."
"Could Jane simply drive one car to school?"
"What do you mean?"
Another throat-clearing. "It's just, we've never had a student with three vehicles registered with us. It would make life much simpler if Jane drove one, and one only."
"Simpler for who?" I asked.
"Simpler for the administration here," came the snippy reply. "From what I understand, Jane keeps showing up in different hot rods. Campus enforcement checks on them, and they come up as being registered to the same student. This confuses things."
"So you want to tell me why the campus cop is checking out my cars?"
"They are.... Unusual vehicles for a high school parking lot. Jane apparently drives a brand new Cadillac, and two cars that can only be described as hot rods. They keep turning up, and under the name of the same student."
I was losing my patience. "As near as I can tell, Jane has done what is asked of her to keep the school happy. What did you want of me?"
"You said Jane had a car of her own. Perhaps you could convince her to drive that one, and that one only, to school."
"Not gonna happen. We drive what we please around here. Yeah, Jane loves that Cutlass we bought for her, but she also digs driving the Fleetwood, or the Plymouth. I dig driving her Cutlass. Bekka, my wife, isn't picky, just so long as it's fast. Your campus cop will have to just learn to recognize the cars Jane shows up in. That will probably be the hardest thing he does all day."
Ms. Gates sighed. "Technically, there's nothing Jane is doing wrong. I was simply hoping we'd come to an agreement on this...."
"I thought we had. Jane drives what she wants to school. Problem solved."
Another sigh. "If that's how you feel about this."
"Oh, but I do. Although there is one question I have, which is are motorcycle parking permits treated differently than regular permits?"
"Yeah. We've been thinking about buying one or two. Do we need separate permits for those?"
"No--oo, they have the same permits."
"Good. That simplifies everyone's lives, now doesn't it?"
"Goodbye, Mr. Schneider." (*click*)
I put the handset down, and immediately picked it up again, dialing home. "Bekka dear, you know how we've talked about getting motorcycles? Let's go shopping today, as soon as Jane gets home from school."
Jane juiced the Sportster through the lot in second, looping around and coming to a near stop. She put her feet down, dropped into first, and powered back towards us in a more mellow manner, clicking up to third for the last fifty yards, then drifting in neutral up to the front. Bekka and I had already done this routine, adjusting to the feeling of the Harley. Jane killed the engine, lifted the borrowed helmet off, and swung her leg off the far side. She hooted with joy.
"Oh! I can get into that! Lenny, are we really getting one?" she asked.
"We're starting off with one, so we can all learn and get confident. Then I'm picking up a soft tail from Boss, who I'm sure can set me up with the hottest in outlaw fashions. Whether we get a third is dependent on how good of a girl you are."
The salesman grinned. "The Sportster is a good machine for anyone, novices or pros. You'll all be happy sharing it, except for arguments over whose turn it is to go out next."
"Can I ride it home?" I asked.
"You have a valid California license, so I can't stop you. You'll need to get the permit, then the license for riding motorcycles, but if you buy it, you ride it. Shall we step into my office?"
"Hell yeah!" chorused Bekka and Jane.
We went into the building to the salesman's cubicle, where I signed a few things and wrote a fat check. While he let the computers work their magic on my check, he asked, "So why did you decide on Harley-Davidson?"
"To piss people off," I told him. "Nothing like the sound of a Harley firing off to get under the skin of people."
"I want the speed," said Bekka.
"I like the thrill," said Jane. "That thing will be a boy-magnet."
The check came back as approved, and the salesman pointed us to the equipment shop for other things we'd need. We got fitted for helmets and gloves, and checked out their selection of leathers. We weren't impressed, and agreed to hit a store called Berlin Wall for our jackets. I paid for our helmets and gloves, then stepped out front where a dude was walking a spanking new Sportster up to the driveway. Our new toy.
The salesman came up and slapped me on the shoulder as I was putting on my new brain-bucket of a helmet. "Congratulations," he said. "You're part of a special breed now."
"Absolutely," he smiled.
"Good. My only real fear is getting hit from behind." Bekka and Jane pulled up in the Fleetwood and honked. Jane leaned out the driver's window and yelled, "So are we racing home?"
"Shit no," I replied. "Remember, this is a learning experience for me. I might freak out and end up pushing it home."
"Just always be aware of what's around you," said the salesman. "Have fun. You don't even have to stop for gas, we fill 'em when we sell 'em."
I crossed myself and fired up. I had to admit, having all that power between my legs felt good. Very good. I revved the engine a couple times, then waved Jane and Bekka up next to me. "Just head home," I told them. "If an hour passes and I'm still not there, then you can worry. But I might decide to have fun on this thing for a little while, okay?"
"My turn tomorrow!" yelled Bekka.
"I wanna ride it to school!" yelled Jane.
"Whatever," I yelled back. Jane piloted the Fleetwood out of the driveway and up Mira Mesa Blvd. I gave them a few seconds and then followed. I glided along in third, matching median traffic speed, then turned the throttle and dodged through traffic, adjusting to the handling. Every nerve in my body sang. I felt intensely alert, the motorcycle responding to my physical input. This was better, far better, than drugs. I hit the 805 northbound ramp and leaned into the throttle again, popping up into fourth, then fifth. My tear-blurred vision told me that I was at ninety and gaining. I felt insane. I dodged through traffic laughing. I was alive.
Too soon the Leucadia Blvd. exit came up. I sat at the top of the ramp, feeling the machine quaking underneath me. I sat there waiting for the light. A hipster girl in a Mazda pulled up alongside, leaned out her window, and said, "Cool bike."
"Not tonight, my wife is expecting me. You have a good night." The light changed at just the right moment and I made my left turn, headed towards home.
I beat Jane and Bekka home. I'd passed them on the freeway and hadn't even noticed. The Sportster got backed down between the Cutlass and the Fury, up against the wall. I sat there with the light off and the engine running, enjoying the adrenaline surge I still had going through my body. No doubt about it, I was addicted. I couldn't wait to see what sort of machines Boss knew of for sale. I finally swung off and went upstairs, dropping my helmet and gloves off on the love seat.
Bekka and Jane arrived a couple minutes later. "Are you insane?" were the first words out of Bekka's mouth. "We saw you pass us, and you were flying."
"I think I am insane," I told her. "That thing is a rush."
"Can I ride it to school tomorrow?" asked Jane. "I'll freak people out."
"No. I want you to ride around the neighborhood some, get used to the feel of it. Then we get our permits, then our licenses, then I buy another one."
"Boss is gonna shit with joy when he learns that we've started riding," said Bekka. "Gonna hit him up for a scoot of your own?"
"Undoubtedly. Do you guys mind sharing that one, at least for the time being?"
"I know that Gator Bait that is going to lay claim to that one, so we may be buying two motorcycles. I want to ride too, whenever I get the chance. But me showing up for shoots with helmet hair will drive Jeanette crazy, so it will only be an off-day habit for me."
"Tell you what, Jane, cut out from school at lunch. Go to the office and tell them you have business. Bekka, I know you're not on the board for anything tomorrow. We'll go to the DMV and get our permits. Jane, once you have your permit and an afternoon's practice under your belt, I'll say okay to you riding to school. Fair enough?"
"I'll do it!" Jane squealed.
"Good. Now let's fire the bong. I scared the shit out of myself riding that thing home, and I need to kill some of this adrenaline. Leucadia Pizza good for dinner?"
Boss positively bellowed with joy when I told him what I bought. "God damn, Lenny, a brand new Sportster? Yer goin' all out, huh? And the three of you are gonna share it?"
"For the moment. Actually, I was hoping you would know of good custom putts for sale, like your soft tail. Something with class."
"I can call around, see what's available. I can think of a couple, but they're hot."
I laughed. "No, that won't do. I'm happy paying full price for something legal."
Boss chuckled. "Don't blame ya. So Gator Bait is gonna ride too?"
"She's looking forward to it. She can't wait to show off for the boys at school."
"Well, tell her I said no passengers until after she's been riding a while. Double packing takes practice. She needs to give new riders instructions, too, like leaning with the bike, and using the hand hold. She can't be givin' rides to everybody she knows."
"Your word carries weight with her," I said. "I'll let her know. We're going down to get our permits this afternoon. I'll let you know how that goes."
"Read the pamphlet, take the quiz. Any damn fool can pass that written test."
"Hopefully we're all damn fools, then. Talk to you later."
So that afternoon we went to the DMV in Oceanside and got our permits, allowing us to ride with no passengers during daylight hours. The "no passenger" stipulation was a blow to Jane, as it meant she couldn't tote around Lance on the back. If she wanted to spend time with him, she'd either have to drive her Cutlass or he'd need to borrow his mom's minivan, a vehicle he hated for its dorkiness. "He doesn't even have a helmet," I pointed out.
"He can wear mine," she argued.
"Listen pet, if the two of you show up on the Sportster and you don't both have helmets, I'm taking your keys. Anybody on that thing wears a helmet, period. Besides, I told you what Boss said about riding with a passenger. You get some practice first, then worry about carrying friends."
"Okay," Jane moped. "Can I still ride it to school tomorrow?"
"Get out and cruise around for an hour or so," I told her. "I want you to get used to the feel of that machine. Hell, I need to get used to the feel. So does Bekka. But yeah, riding to school tomorrow is okay. Get there a little early so you can get a parking permit on it."
Jane perked right up at the idea of cruising around. "Cool!" she said. "I'll grab my empty pack and hit Safeway for a few things. Enchiladas sound good for dinner tonight?" She dashed up the stairs for her helmet and gloves.
Bekka came downstairs, finished with the task of putting our bathroom in order. "Where's Jane headed off to?" she asked.
"To cruise around and stop by Safeway. I'm sure she's going to stop over at Lance's place to show off the putt. We're having enchiladas for dinner, by the way."
Bekka sat in my lap and said, "I'd be bugged at Jane getting first crack at our new toy, but to be frank I'm nervous about riding without a leather. You've at least got your denim, and I think Jane would be happy if she rode naked. When are we going down to Berlin Wall?"
"I'll tell Jane to come straight home after school tomorrow, and we'll get them in the afternoon. I know you two like shopping there, and you both could stand to get better boots for riding. You can have the bike all Thursday and Friday to get used to it. I'll play with it over the weekend."
"That works. Think they carry steel toes in my size?"
"Don't see why not. You want a pair of engineers like mine?"
Bekka giggled. "Absolutely. A pair of big black stompers."
"We'll find 'em."
Jane came home ninety minutes later with a pack full of groceries --- including a six-pack of Tecaté --- and a disgusted look. "I just had to stop by Lance's house the same day Detective Ross was off work for a court appearance. Him and Lance's mom were appalled that I was riding a motorcycle, and a Harley at that. Ross kept asking me what I'd done for you two that earned me the bike. I told him, it's for all three of us to ride for now. He asked what that meant. I told him that once we're experienced we'd probably get a couple more, so we can go cruising together. 'So where does Lenny get his money from?' he asked me. I told him that he knows what you do for a living. It's like he can't believe you guys are rich from doing porn."
"So what did Lance think of the new putt?" I asked.
"Oh, he was blown away," Jane smiled. "He's never even been on a motorcycle, and was bummed I wouldn't give him a ride. His mom said no to that anyway."
"So Ross doesn't like our new transportation," said Bekka, getting up and heading for the kitchen. "Damn shame."
"I'm getting the hang of it," said Jane. "I put it on the freeway for a couple miles, and I felt comfortable."
Bekka returned with beers all around. "We're going into San Diego to get our leathers tomorrow after school, so come straight home. You and me need good riding boots, too."
"Yeah, steel toes."