tagNovels and NovellasBy Air Mail Ch.03

By Air Mail Ch.03

byTaLtos6©

***
This is a sort of split chapter in terms of locales, since a lot is going on in more than one place.

Amelia still struggles a little to try to plan something for when Craig gets home - while Craig himself tries to urge his mechanical steed faster, hopefully without him needing to die for it.

Later on in the afternoon, I'll reveal another pair of characters altogether. I wanted to take the reader out of Cascade for a little while as well.

0_o


*************

Craig woke in the morning and wasted no time, other than over one cup of coffee – and he shaved while drinking it - spitting occasionally when he didn't look beforehand and got half a mouthful of frothy shaving cream from the mug left there from his previous sip, before almost scrambling to get done and over with on Iron Mountain.

He tried not to run up the 105 steps and he closed up the tower, grabbed the logbooks and locked up before heading back down.

As he rushed carefully so as not to forget anything, he found himself hoping again.

Hoping that Amelia had missed him a little and hoping that he might be able to tell her how he felt at last and hoping ...

Praying that Tad was alright and had made his way back home at last.

Craig only had very slight expectations about Amelia, but he knew that his trip would go better with a hope – if not a song – in his heart.

He filed his fantasies of Tad away again, where they'd stay safe until he was in his room again that night. He wondered if they would even recognise each other after so much time.

Finally, he'd loaded up his old Indian warhorse as best he could and turning on the headlight momentarily, he saw that the bulb came on yellow after a week of being idle up here. Craig wasn't fazed. He was more concerned over making it into Fairfield with it running – since it was already just on the top end of being on reserve.

He manoeuvered the machine to the top of the trail down and looking back one last time to think of anything forgotten, he said goodbye to his annual prison for the last time.

He rocked forward and back a little, enough to put the machine into high gear and then turning the ignition on – but leaving the headlight off – he held the clutch in and pushed off down the hill with only one foot. That hadn't been easy to do, none of it.

Inside of forty feet, he let out the clutch and the motor was turning over from the mechanical advantage of the weight and inertia and the beast fired twice, coughed once and it was running.

Craig was grinning as he began his long ride home. He only gave in to doing the 'yahoo' thing once.

He had to force himself to stay slow and gentle after almost missing a turn – which would have meant a long, cushy soft ride through the air as he plummeted to the extremely hard landing of his death in one case, and whacking into a tree in another.

But after a rather spectacular (if he did say so himself) speedway-style sliding turn at full throttle and dragging his inside foot, because there was no way to brake without throwing him and his dependable Indian into a solid granite wall at in excess of 'Holy Shit' velocity, he did finally manage to slow to a more civilized and less life-threatening pace.

He did still have the odd and occasional moments of pulse quickening:

Once when he saw a black bear sort of sitting very near to the edge of the trail and once when he realized that the wooden bridge which spanned the last creek in his trip ended with a chain strung across it to keep innocent people from being killed by frenzied fire lookouts on their way back home.

He cheated death in the first instance by grabbing the clutch and rolling off the throttle so that by the time that the bruin realized that something was coming and spun to look uphill, Craig had already coasted well past it and was back on the throttle.

Though as he breezed by, Craig was finally able to come to a definitive answer about whether bears shit in the woods or not.

They do apparently, though at least a few are somewhat partial to using trails for that biological function.

And he'd ridden right through the steaming heap, too.

He guessed that the bottom of the frame, the front of the engine crankcase, both crash bars and his boots and pant legs had been adorned, and as he rode on and the mess soaked into things ... He decided that he'd been right.

The second was more a test of Craig's steely nerves as he realized his error while almost already on the bridge.

The morning dew was still there on the planking and even with both brakes locked and the rider (which would be Craig) doing an admirable job in making some death-defying, leaned-over gyrations to hopefully keep the beast a little upright, he slid along to just about the point where he'd have to decide to lay it down and pray that he slid underneath the chain cleanly.

That didn't happen.

Craig mis-timed his lay-down moment and the whole show came to a stop with the bike sideways on the bridge and the chain not six inches from his leg.

Craig was proud of himself for NOT having an asthmatic episode over it, but the whole deal reminded him of what he'd forgotten to do in his hurry to leave and ...

Well he shut the bike off and walked into the woods a few paces and crapped there instead.

Back in business or so he thought, several minutes later, Craig started the bike and it died inside of two hundred feet, just as he was about to make the road into Fairfield. He re-started, but it died on him again. Looking into the tank, he got his little jiffy can out and poured in all that was there, which came to maybe a large cupful.

With it running again at last, Craig did his best to guess the most economical rate of travel and he actually laughed as he turned into the gas station and had to grab the clutch in a hurry as he ran out of the last of his cupful just in time.

He coasted up beside the pump silently.

The one with the sign on it saying that it was out of order.

He thought that it was just stupid, since it was the old kind and he could see the gas in the glass reservoir. For that kind, you told the attendant how much you wanted and he pumped it up there so you could see that it was all honest and aboveboard, the cylinder level showing what you'd get when he squeezed the nozzle valve. Then he saw that the hose was cracked right through.

A little huffing and pushing his 580 pound (and that was unloaded) beast later, he was next to the other pump and having his tank filled by an ancient-looking geezer.

"Nice day," Craig offered.

"Didja hit a bear?" the old codger asked, waving his hand as if to disperse the cloud.

"Not exactly," Craig replied, almost dying to get to at least some velocity faster than the Speed of Smell. He wanted to skip it, but he remembered that he also needed his little 'just in case' can filled.

Just in ah, case.

----------------------

Amelia woke up and realized that she'd slept longer than she'd wanted to and almost jumped right out of Craig's bed, which catapulted the old teddy bear onto the floor. She picked him up and set him onto Tad's bed while she stripped the bed to get new sheets on it first thing before she'd even put on a stitch of clothing.

As she hustled to the linen closet, she found that she could see right into the bedroom where she'd left her mothers and saw that, of course, they were up and gone long before, since no matter what happened, the café had to be gotten started for the day and that was likely why she'd awoken alone. Rosa would be down there working too.

She was almost in the bathroom when she walked back and picked up the teddy bear to put him back on Craig's bed where he belonged.

She settled for a fast shower so that she could wash her hair in case the hot water ran out and pulling on some pants and a flannel shirt, she headed off downstairs.

Remembering for the second time that this was a day off for her, she answered that she'd have breakfast whenever there was a chance to get one or if they were too busy, she'd make her own from the extra eggs, pancakes and sausages or whatever was handy.

Five minutes later, Amelia was already most of the way through her first cup of coffee when Rosa slid her breakfast over to her and she sat back to look through the patrons sitting there before looking out and deciding that Cascade, Idaho on a sunny September morning might be a little small and homey, but it was a nice place to be from anyhow.

"What's the plan, Missy?" Marjorie asked as she sat down across from Amelia to have her own coffee, "Is there anything that I can do to help matters along in your nefarious plan today?"

Amelia chuckled and had to set her cup down before she spilled any of it, "I don't know, to be honest. I think I'll need another cup of go-juice, since I've got the time for it today."

She raised her nose at a sniffy angle and said, "I shall have to ruminate on it and see. Why, I might even require that a list be drawn up."

She laughed at herself, "I dunno yet, Mom. I'll need to do some washing for myself and I've already changed Craig's bed. I'm gonna need one of those big old paper bags like they hand out over at the grocery store and –"

"What for?" Marjorie asked.

"Well unless I miss my guess, Craig would have taken a couple of those meter things with him in the spring to do a few of the practical lessons for his course while he was up there, just the small stuff that he could pack and that wouldn't get damaged on the road.

So he'll be bringing them back and they'll have to go ... in the shop that Uncle Deke and Rosa built for him inside Uncle Deke's hangar all ready for him to start his business – that Craig doesn't know about yet. I already took all of his other stuff there, though I didn't set it up or anything 'cause I don't know squat about it all. I just know that it's delicate.

I plan to wait for him to get here and then I'm gonna – if I can, that is - spirit him away to the hangar. I've already got an old sheet over the passenger seat in my car for him to sit on and –"

Marjorie held up her hand, "Wait up, cutie. What's all that about now? Why does he have to be sitting on a sheet?"

Amelia looked at the redhead a little blankly, "Well because he'll have ridden his old motorcycle all the way over from Iron Mountain, that's why. Think a minute, Mom. Ever since he got that thing, has he ever once come back from there clean?"

Marjorie thought for a minute and then shook her head, "Well no, not exactly."

"Right," Amelia nodded. "He's gotta ride down the mountain and then head over to Fairfield to gas up and get on the road to Boise. Unless they've repaved - well even paved it all, he'll be on at least a couple of sections of forest road before it gets a little better heading into Boise. I know that from hearing him talk about it.

He'll stop off there to hand in his stuff and get paid and then he'll probably hunt a little for something to wolf down, knowing how bad his tail's on fire to get home every year by then. And then he'll be off again with a full tank of gas and riding hell for leather back here. He hates it if he gets here after dark.

But in all of that riding, he'll just HAVE to get covered in pine needles, a few maple leaves and a ton of road dirt and dust before he even looks down at himself – and that's IF it don't rain – and you know that won't even slow him down, 'long as that old machine of his keeps going.

Why last year, his riding jacket was all covered with mud and it had burrs on the right side of it – shoulder to elbow and then some."

Marjorie's eyebrows rose, "Oh, imagine that."

"Uh-huh," Amelia nodded, "So when he finally hauls up here, who knows what's gonna be stuck to him, see? So I'm gonna get his meters and junk out of his saddlebags and into my car and - "

"Isn't he going to come in here to see us first, or isn't there some sort of allowance made for that in the master plan?" Her other mother asked rather innocently, "And what are you going to do? Just wave him into a reserved parking spot out front with a flashlight, and then ... take those things from him without even saying hello?"

"Well no ..." Amelia said, slowing down a little, "I'll probably ... uh, ... hug him near to death, likely."

"Wait a second," Marjorie said, "You said that he'll probably be filthy from his ride up here all the damn day long."

"Well yeah," Amelia said, "At least.

And that's if it don't -"

"If it doesn't rain, I know," Marjorie smiled, "I heard that part. So ... if you don't let him in here to see us first – which would be a big mistake, by the way, and then you take his delicate meters and junk and put them in your car ... isn't there a point somewhere in this that you'll get pretty dirty yourself?

Just from ... oh, hugging him near to death and all – like you told me. What then?"

Amelia nodded, "I know. I've thought of that too. I've got another old sheet over the driver's seat in my car for that."

Marjorie sat back and sipped her coffee a little thoughtfully.

Which made Amelia just a little nervous and she sat trying not to squirm in the blue glare of Marjorie's eyes.

The redhead nodded at last, looking a little satisfied, "I'm thinking that the answer to my second question – about a mile or two back on the road from where we are now, is that the big paper bag – like they hand out over at the grocery store will have a clean change of clothes for both you and Craig to wear back here.

And that will happen oh, ... sometime after the shower that you plan to share with him – you know, the other thing that Rosa and Uncle Deke put in this summer up there in the hangar to um ... go with the surplus army cot that he bought for those times when he gets into town after a long flight round about mid-winter when the road is crap and not plowed yet.

It all goes with the telephone that Deke also had put in so that he can call me when he gets in late to let me know that I can stop worrying because the other hazard to his life –AFTER the flying over all the wild country up here will be the two mile crappy road that doesn't get plowed but twice a winter if we're lucky."

She sipped the last of her coffee, tilting the mug up to drain the last drop and then she smiled over at Amelia, "You've just got to fix that little part where the OTHER two women – who RAISED Craig from a six year-old boy, I have to add – don't get their chance to hug him near to death."

She raised her finger and jabbed it toward Amelia, "Because THEN, I'd say that it's a not bad plan, Honey.

In fact, since you're one of the women in the family now and all, I think that we can speak a little plainly here, you and me. If you think that you can manage it, why even go to the hangar at all? There's nobody here now at all but Rebecca, me, Rosa, you and Craig, whenever he gets here.

I know what you want to do, Baby. And you know that I'm on your side. Why not just drag him upstairs and wash yourselves off right here? Unless he gets in real late, Rebecca and I can take Rosa to the theater and watch a movie together so that you've got the time to talk to Craig and then fuck his brains out like you're both a pair of bunnies."

And that reminds me – " Marjorie began, "About those rabbits – "

"Thanks, Mom" Amelia smiled a little shyly, "And I haven't forgotten the rabbits for old Bonny. My plan was to take Craig with me tomorrow to hunt them up for you, just like we always used to do."

She leaned forward on one elbow as she lifted her mug, "I just don't know if it might be better to still take him out to the hangar, since it's neutral ground and all. I might just get further with him there in less time – not that I'm exactly trying to rush him or anything. Do you think I'm being a little too ... "

Marjorie beamed, "Why hell no. Why would I think such a thing? Me? Come on, girl.

Get outta there and take your plate to the kitchen. I'll make you another mug of coffee while you do that and you can come right back here to daydre – I uh, mean ... plot and scheme some more.

And I really like that shirt on you. Though you ought to tie your hair back while you go about all your nasty preparation work. Let him come home, kiss the lips right off him and all with it tied back, so your hair doesn't get near those nasty burrs, shoulder to elbow and on down."

She smiled warmly, "You want a tip? Keep it tied back and if you can, and it works out alright, ride him like a cowgirl and untie your hair just before you get going. Men love that, just sayin'."

--------------------------------

Craig was making good time, whenever he had the time and the reasonably straight and smooth road to look at his watch. He just didn't need the way that half of the wildlife in the state seemed to need to think about jumping out in front of him the way that it had been going. Where he didn't have a reasonably clear view for a distance on either side of the roadway, he slowed a little to give himself at least a fighting chance at seeing what was in front of him out there contemplating suicide.

The worst was the time that he came around a bend and slowed out of no other reason than he felt a little odd there – like something was about to happen. He saw a cow elk then, not far off the road, so he slowed even more.

That was when all seven other cows chose to step out into the sunshine, since it was such a fine day for it and all. Craig stopped, not quite believing the whole thing, and when he did, they all came over slowly to get a look at him – which was something not only unexpected, but also very strange.

It was almost hunting season, he reasoned, so if nothing else, these girls ought to be just a mite shy and nervous – yet they weren't, or at least, they didn't seem to be. Craig sat on his idling machine thinking that he must have been star-crossed somehow. He might not be worth much of a look to a human girl, but hell, Clementine and her friends here were looking a little interested.

She – that is, Clementine herself, was slowly stepping up on his right side with her neck out and her nose extended. Craig wanted to laugh and apologize that he couldn't help her, having forgotten his little elk-mating stepladder.

Because first impressions could count for so much with females this big and all.

That was the moment when he heard the snort from over on his left side and at that instant; Craig knew that cow elk can be such fickle things, since it was the bull over there which really had their attention – the one who was just beginning to paw the turf under him.

He beeped the horn – which seemed to impress the girls to a minor degree to see their ears swing forward – but the big boy seemed to take it as the rough equivalent to Craig questioning his ancestry or something of that nature.

He shouted and the cows all stepped back when he told them that he really wasn't a large pile of bear shit – he just smelled that way. He heard the commotion from over on his left and decided not to look and that the time might be better spent in getting the hell out of Elktown.

He pulled some revs out of the engine and took off hoping that his Indian could out-accelerate what he knew was now pissed at how he'd dared to blunder into the midst of his hopeful-looking harem.

Holy jumpin...

He reached Boise – eventually, and headed for the National Forest offices to turn in his logbooks and keys. Normally, this could have taken him up to an hour, but he steadfastly refused the requests of everybody in the place that he leave.

"Hey," he smiled, his own sinuses now impervious to his cachet, "pay me out, and I'm gone."

He was gone in under ten minutes – which he took as a gain, though he lost some while trying to find someplace where he could buy something to eat. He had to settle for a bottle of Coca-Cola out in the sunshine of a parking lot just a little happy that vending machines as a species lack a developed sense of smell, since no human could stand being closer than twenty-five feet from him, depending on the direction of any breeze present.

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