Redwood Nine: Season 03 Ch. 04byRoyceConnors©
Ch. 4 Pay It Forward
With the bikers taken out, Charming went back to the day to day lives its people led, except for a half dozen citizens sweating out the first signs of withdrawal. Those individuals were hurting badly, the drug's hold on them not letting go easily. Many tried to offset the symptoms with pot, booze or pills, but nothing could replace what the heroin had created in them.
Eyes were cast upon them, as they walked the streets aimlessly, unkempt and dishevelled. Their only goal was to find another hit and take away the agony they were in. The Hairy Dog was walked by, in hopes the bikers were freed and business was back, but the lack of motorcycles out front, kept telling them the truth of what they didn't want to know.
The sound of the club rolling through town had hopes return, but their presence was met with disdain for them. Them, being the cause for their suffering. The junkies were noticed and observed, the distress their faces carried hard not to see. The club rolled past them, following behind Wally and Moon, as they made their way west to San Francisco.
Everyone enjoyed the clear day and the warm weather, as they drove along, looking back at faces looking at them. The rush hour was over and the highway clear enough to enjoy the cruise, without dodging cars trying to exit the highway from two lanes over. 99 turned into the 205 and the club passed where Jake had taken JT and Piney on their first run. JT felt the pangs of memories hit him, seeing the familiar territory and equating it with Jake.
580 turned north after the hills and the group kept to it, avoiding the city traffic and cruised along the foothills. The city held nothing but noise and confusion and none of them wanted to be a part of it, as they neared the end of the mainland in Oakland. The sight of big water had everyone staring out the windows and the guys heads turning to take in the scenery. They began crossing the Bay Bridge to Yerba Buena Island, the roar of the bikes almost deafening, going through the tunnel, then over to San Francisco. The members of the commune began talking about the area to the others in the cars, explaining the city and the sights they saw.
The drove along Haight St., looking at the rows of Victorian houses, some painted in bright colours, while those on the sidewalk looked at the club. Some waved and others marvelled at the bikes, as they rumbled lowly along. They passed Buena Vista park and soon, Moon pulled over and parked. The club lined up and shut the bikes off, bringing a quiet to the area. Cars and houses reflected the owners' lifestyles, as peace signs and flowers were prevalent everywhere. Large, colourful letters spelling LOVE, were seen written on anything they could be written on.
"You can see where the roots of our commune began, JT. The people here, are the ones who have looked at society and saw the wrongs committed by government policies. They started the change happening that you see, helping spread the message to as many will listen. Come on, let's go meet them."
Moon went up and knocked on the door, waiting for it to open and listened to the music of Bob Dylan inside get turned off. The door opened and a long haired man walked out, an American flag used as a bandana to hold it. He wore a brightly coloured robe and had round, dark blue glasses on, his feet clad with sandals. He saw Moon standing on the porch and his smile stretched his mouth wide. The two hugged warmly, sharing a moment together, before Moon pointed out the group with him.
"Spirit, Poppy, Phoenix, Star, all of you are here. My heart couldn't be filled with any more happiness to see you all. This is a blessing."
"Great to see you again, Free. I brought some new friends along as well."
Moon introduced JT and the club members, as well as their girlfriends to Free, who went to each one personally to welcome them.
"So what brings you all here?"
"I wanted to let JT and the club see how we got our start and how we came to form the commune."
"Wonderful, wonderful. Do you wish to start a commune, JT?"
"We sort of have one already and Moon thought it would be good for us to see how we can make it better."
"Excellent. The world needs more love spread around and we'll be happy to show you ways to improve. Come in, all of you, let's celebrate and then we'll go to the park and talk."
The throng of people filed into the house and up the narrow staircase to the second floor. The familiar aroma of marijuana wafted to them, as they came into the living quarters. Three others, two women and a man, sat around on the couch and chairs, each with a hose to their mouths, drawing smoke from the large hookah. They stopped smoking and stood up, all wearing similar robes to Free. The lone man in a corner never moved, or raised his head to acknowledge their arrival.
Free introduced them to the group and were welcomed to take a seat where they could find one. The two women and the other man passed the tentacles of the hookah to the women and Free packed close to a quarter ounce of pot into the large bowl. Before he lit it, he blessed the bowl and its contents, expressing the love shared between them in smoking it. He lit a propane torch and touched the flame to the bowl, the six hoses sucked on to ignite the herb.
Every girl coughed out huge clouds of smoke and passed the hoses to the next person. Once it had went around to every person once, there was no call for another, as eyes turned red and closed to slits, faces wearing smiles of euphoric happiness on them.
"What kind of shit was that, Free?"
"We grew it ourselves, so, I don't know what shit it is. I got some seeds from a friend who came back from travelling around Europe. He never said where he got them all from, but said it was all amazing shit."
"Well, he wasn't shitting you, that stuff is awesome."
Everyone else voiced their agreement, as they mellowed out from the hit. Free didn't want to spend time sitting around in a vegetative state and had everyone get up and led them outside and down the street to the park. They followed him through the trees, along the winding path, until it opened up to a large grassy area. Pockets of people were sitting around talking, some waving to Free and the others, when they noticed them.
Free had everyone sit in a large circle and waited until they were comfortable, before talking.
"Welcome to our home, everyone. This is where we first started talking of changing the way we lived and how we treated one another. We were all fed up with the way things were done and the rules they wanted us to live by, so, one by one, we went through everything we were opposed to and came up with an alternative that we liked instead. I'm sure Moon Child has explained the basic concept of who were are, is based on respect, trust and love, so I don't think we need to discuss what they are about."
Everyone sat and listened intently to the tall, slim man, his bearded face always showing an inner peace, his movements emphasizing his words in gentle motion. The concepts and beliefs of what they practised, were discussed more in detail, bringing a focus to what Moon was concerned about. JT understood, as did the others and saw where the conflict of ideals lay. In his own mind, he could see that the club and the commune were based on the same principles, but the direction and purpose were completely different in scope. He understood that crime and violence were a part of their lives, no matter how far removed they wanted to be from the system.
More than two hours had passed, before the group broke up and headed back along the street. The club seemed to stand out from the rest of the neighbourhood, most everyone adopting the hippie look. Girls had flowers in their hair and painted on their faces, many adorning their clothes as well. The guys with them, were hard to distinguish from the girls, their hair equally as long and dressed the same. No one looked at them with distaste, or disdain, but smiling and flashing peace signs at them instead. JT saw the unified belief of what they had just heard Free tell them about.
As they filed back inside and up the stairs, JT noticed Tom standing on the sidewalk and looking at everything. He walked back and stood beside him, noticing his look of despondency.
"What's up man?"
"I was just thinking of Beth and how she would just dig all this shit. She was in to all this sort of stuff, all the peace and love stuff."
"She was my girlfriend."
"Did you guys break up?"
"So, why aren't you with her, Tom?"
Tom looked at the ground, trying to decide if he should tell JT, then looked at him and saw the trust in his eyes and looked around for anyone who could overhear him.
"JT, I got to tell you something, but you can't tell anyone else, not even the club, okay?"
"Sure, Tom, I promise. What is it, brother?"
"I'm a draft dodger. Beth was my girlfriend and we were looking at getting married at one point in time, then I got my notice and decided not to go to join up. The only thing I could do was leave my business and Beth, so I wouldn't get busted. Tom Whitney isn't even my real name, it was my eighth grade teacher's name."
JT was stunned by the admission and looked at Tom with confusion.
"You're a draft dodger? No shit?"
"Yeah. I guess you think I'm a coward, or something?"
"No brother, I don't. I understand why you don't want to go. This war is bullshit man and I wouldn't have served if I had of known it was going to be like this. What did you do before you split?"
"I had a locksmith business. I made great money and had a decent place and shit. Beth understood, that if I stayed with her, I'd be sent to prison and lose my business anyway. She didn't want to see that happen, so we sort of had to break up, only because I could never be with her again. Like, I really dig Flower and everything, but Beth was really special to me."
"Shit, dude, that sucks."
"Yeah. So I left after I sold all my stuff and changed my name. I figured I could hide out somewhere and wait until the draft was over, maybe pick up where I left off."
JT offered him a cigarette and took one himself, lighting both and giving Tom a chance to collect himself and his thoughts.
"I started doing B and E's, so I could make some money to get by, small businesses and shit and it just seemed to be an easy way to make a few bucks."
"How long ago was this?"
"Back in '65."
"You've been on the run for three years?"
"Yeah. I got homesick once and snuck back into Sacramento, thought I'd take a chance and see Beth, 'cause I really missed her. I looked up her name in the phone book and went by her place, just to see her, you know?"
"Yeah, that must have been really hard to let her go like that."
"No shit. I could hardly put a thought in my head, that she wasn't in it. Anyway. I was sitting across the street from her place, waiting to see her come out and when she did, she was with this other dude and they looked real happy together, so I left and didn't bother going back again."
"Fuck, that's gotta hurt, man. I'm so sorry, brother."
"No, it's cool, JT. I'm glad she's happy now. She was really fucked up about me doing this, but I had no choice and she understood that. I can't stop thinking about her at times and today just brought back those memories again."
JT nodded his head in understanding, knowing the decision he made, had changed the course of his life, always running from the law and never having any place he could call home again. He imagined himself and Suzy in the same situation and knew how hard it would be to let her go.
"So, what's your real name?"
Tom looked around again, his fear of being found out weighing on him heavily.
"No worries, brother, your secret will stay with me and I won't tell anyone, you have my word."
"Thanks, man. I know I can trust you, JT. I've never said a word to anyone about it, not even Wally."
JT put his arm over Tom's shoulders and hugged him to himself.
"Dude, it doesn't matter who you were before, you're one of us now. You're a Son and a brother to us all and we love you man, always remember that."
"I do. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life and then when Wally told me about the club and stuff, I felt like it was something I could belong to and feel like someone again. I'm happy again, JT. That's something I haven't been, since I left."
"You'll always have a place to call home with us, man, always."
"Thanks, man, it really means a lot to me."
JT looked in Tom's eyes and saw the feelings of devotion and knew he were sincere. They hugged and held onto that feeling of brotherhood, letting it reassure Tom that he was welcomed openly.
"Come on, brother. Let's go inside, before they wonder what the hell happened to us."
"Yeah, let's go."
Tom followed JT inside and up the stairs, walking into a thick layer of smoke hanging in the air. Everyone was immersed in a discussion about the commune and the many facets of it. Moon was relating some experiences of free love to the others and stopped when JT and Tom walked in.
"Hey, thought we lost you guys somewhere. Come on, you're missing out on some great smoke. Free broke out the hash and it's killer shit."
JT and Tom took the hoses passed to them and drew in deeply on them. The bubbling in the hookah stopped instantly, when the smoke hit them with its powerful affects.
"Shit, that's wild stuff. What kind of hash is it?"
"It's red Lebanese, JT. A friend of ours sent it back in the mail from there, disguised as a souvenir dish and said there was spices in it as well. I just about shit myself when it arrived. He's been backpacking around Europe and northern Africa, checking out all the local dope they have and he sends back stuff."
"Cool. Never had hash before. I really like it."
"Yeah, has a smell and taste all its own, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, it's really spicy tasting."
"The gifts of nature bless us with its bounty."
"No argument here. I'd love to buy some of that."
"I don't know if there is going to be any more coming, but we will give you some of ours to take with you."
"It is our gift to you. Let me break a piece off."
Free took the plate shaped piece of hash and snapped off a large chunk and handed it to JT, still leaving a large amount for themselves. JT was impressed with the offer and thanked him profusely for his gift and offered to repay it any way he could.
"Moon tells me you and a couple others are good with cars. Our old school bus died last week and it would be a blessing and more than repayment in kind, if you could get it running again."
"My pleasure, Free. Where is it?"
"It's in the back."
"Let me have a look and see what's wrong. Anyone want to help me?"
Piney and Lenny rose slowly, trying to keep their balance, suddenly feeling the effects hit them.
"You sure you can do this?"
"Yeah, JT, let's do it."
Free led them to the back and showed them the brightly coloured bus, adorned with flowers and peace symbols in every colour.
"Certainly is colourful. So what's it doing, or not doing?"
"It turns over, but it won't start."
JT raised the hood and looked inside the bay. He did a check to make sure everything was connected and asked Free to turn the key. The engine cranked over and over, but nothing sparked to life. JT checked the wires and found them in poor condition. He pulled on the distributor wire and it broke in half. He looked at Free and showed him the wire.
"This could be the problem. It needs a new set of wires and I bet a new set of plugs as well. Any idea where an auto shop is around here?"
"Sure, got a Pep Boys not far from here. I can go with you and buy whatever we need."
"Not needed, it's on us. I'll ride over and pick up what we need and have this thing running in no time."
"You're good people, JT. All of you are."
"Thanks, man. We do our best."
They walked back to the front and JT started up the bike, getting directions to the store from Free. They watched him ride off and Piney went back and stripped the wires off and removed the plugs. He went about inspecting all the systems and shook his head, then looked at Free.
"Man, this thing needs some work. Takes more than putting gas in the tank to keep it running."
"I admit I don't know anything about fixing it, but if you can get it running, it would be the greatest gift you could do for us. We're all heading out to New York state, to a place called Woodstock. They're putting on a concert with tons of bands and it's a whole weekend of music and getting together."
"Sounds great, when is it?"
"They're holding it in the middle of August. Moon says he's going with the commune, are you guys going too?"
"Didn't even know about it, until you told me."
"Oh. I guess he was waiting for the right time, or something."
"Maybe, who knows. Anyway, we'll get this running right and you and the others can get there safely. How's the brakes on this thing?"
"It stops, that's as much as I know."
"Better take a look at them too. You know what? You should bring this into the shop and we can go over it front to back and see what it needs. Can't really do much here in the back."
"Much appreciated, Piney. That sounds like a good idea. When is a good time to bring it in?"
"Anytime really. The shop is closed right now, but we're opening it up soon, can't stay closed much longer."
"Why is it closed?"
"Long story, Free. If we can get it running today, bring it in tomorrow and we'll go over it."
"I will. Sky and I will will make the trip over to you, if it runs, that is."
"Let's go in and I'll draw you a map and give you directions."
"Cool. Let's go do a bit more hash and wait for JT to return."
"Twist my arm."
Free laughed and led him back inside, where laughter and excited talking was going on. They were talking about Woodstock as well and the acts scheduled to appear.
"Piney, you got to hear what's happening in August, brother."
Piney held up his hand and pretended he was concentrating, searching the cosmos for the answer.
"I see thousands of people gathered together, in a place far away from here. Music is playing."
The others sat in awe, thinking Piney was somehow in contact with the unknown.
"I see a name. Woodstock."
"How did you do that, Piney?"
"I'm in touch with the spirits."
The room hushed and everyone looked at him in amazement, until he could no longer keep a straight face and broke out laughing.
"Just kidding, Mary. Free told me outside just a minute ago."
Mary smacked his arm, upset at being tricked, but Piney pulled her to him and hugged her.
Everyone laughed at the prank, as Free broke off another piece of the hash and lit it in the bowl. Free passed a hose to Piney and the chunk glowed brightly, as they inhaled the aromatic smoke. Time seemed to stand still, the moment holding them suspended in euphoria, until the low rumble of JT's bike returning, brought them back to reality. They waited for him to come in, but after five minutes of waiting, they realized he wasn't coming in and headed outside.
"Hey, you're back."
JT raised his head from the engine bay and looked at them, then shook his head and went back to wiring the distributor cap with the new plug wires.
"Piney, think you're straight enough to get the plugs out and put them in?"
Piney picked up the ratchet and plug socket and began spinning the plugs in one by one on one side and then did the other.
"I had the guy gap the new plugs, so be careful, we don't have a gauge to check if it's out."
Piney smirked at JT and began tightening the new plugs carefully, making sure the electrode went in the hole cleanly. JT snapped the cap on top of the distributor and sorted out the wires to go to the right sides.