Wordcarpenter Books
The Motorcycle Inn
 
8
 

leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

 5. Math. Either side of a right triangle that is not the hypotenuse.

 &

 

"There's a heck of a lot to running a B&B," said Legge, putting his napkin beside his plate. Stomach protruding, felt the weight of responsibility. Dark horizon appearing on a sunny day, heavy cauliflower clouds whispered uncertainty.

Gail Legge, relaxed in her chair with some cherry brandy in her favorite mug. Penny had ran around outside with Harry, now sitting at her feet exhausted. Harry muddies, dirt on his face, full like his father, now entering a food coma.

"When are we getting a dog?" he asked, careful not to sound impatient.

"Where's that place that has the dog ads?" he asked his aunt.

"Down on Perivale Road. Not far from here. First big farm on your left going towards the lake. Know where that is?" She looked at him closely.

"Perivale? Yes. In Spring Bay."

"Getting to know the Island a bit more?" Told her about riding and the guys at The Wick.

"Harold spent time there I think. Loved everything about riding that motorcycle. Everything, right down to his jacket and goggles. Have you told those guys about your B&B yet?" Silence answered her question.

"There's so much that I need to do." Pleading. "I don't know where to start."

"You have the beds and bedding now, and the place is looking cleaner. Might want a second fridge. Lemme know about that."

"Old Doug was telling me about insurance I need and commercial zoning. I mean where do I get that done? What kind of insurance do I need? How much is this all going to cost? I don't have much leftover after the moving expenses and stuff. I mean I don't even know much about motorcycling. What am I getting into?"

Gail stood up, inspected the kitchen, taking an inventory of the things that could be moved around.

"Not as difficult as you think. Use the same home insurance as Harold so they have all the information about the house, and just tell ‘em that you need insurance to cover liability for visitors. And the commercial license is from the municipal office in town. It's easy to put it all aside but you need to do it. School will be out in a month so you should be set up by then. You're not far from having a functioning guesthouse. Just a few more hurdles and you're there." Do it fast and make monumental errors, he thought.

"The authorities will be here knocking on my door asking me for paperwork." Floundering without a paddle. Politely.

"Put those other signs out on the main road and people will start showing up. Kagawong along the downtown strip and at the highway turn off to Gore Bay. Can you get more signs?"

"I have two more. Bought them at the hardware store. Don't I need permission to put them up?" Shook her head in irritation.

"You just put ‘em up and don't make a big about it. If someone isn't happy with them then they'll tell you, but make it so they look good. Most of the time if it looks good people don't mind so much."

"You think the business will be good?" Patted Penny leaning against her knee.

"You have three rooms, maybe four if you use the one on the first floor. Could be busy for July and August. Lots of motorbikers here for those months. It's the new thing in the last five years. You know anything about fixin' bikes?" Shook his head, lifted an empty beer to his lips, too afraid to get another.

"I'll try and learn."

"Listen, you jus' make sure you're ready and they'll come. No expense to you. You have the rental income from Detroit covering your living costs here. Jus' don't think too much about it. Jus' let it happen." Penny panted from the patting. "Keep all the money aside but keep some for when you need to declare your income for taxes." Shadows returned overhead, his face heavy, eyes nervous and scared.

"Dad, when are we going to get the dog?" Harry stood at his arm, leaning against his shoulder.

"How ‘bout the weekend?" Taking on more responsibility at this point seemed foolish. Didn't know the first thing about raising a dog.

"Cost much these dogs?"

"No, no. Get one for free. But don't get yourself a wrecked dog, already hurt by bad owners. Get a puppy and teach her. Be kind to it. You got enough land here you don't have to worry about traffic." Had thoughts of a big mean dog barking his business away.

"I want to get a puppy." Looked lonely, forlorn thoughts at facing summer without friends in an unknown land. "I can take care of it Dad. "

"Okay, on the weekend we'll have a look." Hugged him and ran outside, followed by Penny.

"You know once you put up a sign on the road you're in business. You ready?"

"No, that's my point."

"I mean mentally. You ready for it - to have strangers into your home? To ask them for money? To serve them?" Shook his head, defeated. Immensity beyond words.

"Listen, it's just like having me over. No different. Don't make such a big deal out of it. You make the rules. The fewer the better. People come to the Island to relax. Be comfortable. If you don't like someone say you're full. But don't put those signs up until you're ready." Empathy that had been in her heart was turning to impatience. They're just people, she thought to herself. Be good for the boy.

&

Patterson on his back changing oil on a mid-nineties Ninja, Morrell having a smoke rubbing his gums together at the entrance. Talked about the poor quality of Japanese screws versus American-made screws, and compared models using the esoteric language of motorcycle experts. Songs from the radio drowned any semblance of comprehension. Legge near Morrell watching him gum.

"Looks like I'll be running a B&B at Harold's old place," he said, nervous. "So I need to put up some signs along the road. Have any ideas of a good place for a sign?" Held them up. Morrell stopped gumming.

"The Motorcycle Inn? You mean for bikers?" Legge nodded. "I never seen before but I hear ya. B&B sure, you gotta lot of space there, or so it looks like. I never been inside. Them bikers comin' to the Island now are all sorts. Getting' yuppies or whatever from Toronto and miners from Sudbury. Even Americans are biking up here. Secret's getting' out that it's good ridin' here." Flicked his cigarette outside.

Placed the signs against the wall and took off his coat. Sun warming everything up.

"Good spot just up yonder," said Patterson, wiping his hands. "High traffic spot at the turn off. Put one on a fencepost but make sure it's facing the drivers square on. Gets windy here so put in two screws, good size with wide head." Never occurred to him not to use nails.

"I know wheres yer talkin'."

"Then you can show him," Patterson's halitosis spoiling the moment.

"I'm not yer damn tour guide, and the cops'll be coming up and down there." Patterson looked at him.

"You all legal now? Papers in order?" Morrell ignored him. Legge didn't want to get involved in that conversation, Turned away and stared at Morrell's Harley. The back tire wide and thick but the front skinny. Handlebars droopy, almost a chopper but not as serious as Fonda's bike in Easy Rider. Thinking of Easy Rider, Morrell made sense: the jacket he always wore, lined face from riding and thin from lack of eating and too much smoking. Countless miles roaming the Island, unconcerned with proving himself. Without the bike he would implode, slave to two wheels, dreaming of ‘the balance' during the night, leaning into corners that never end. Let his wife and children go on their way but had kept his motorcycling at maximum. Earnest fruition of self during the hot months the nourish patience in hibernation waiting for roads to clear during winter. Obsessed with living twice as hard in half the time.

"Ain't been legal since my truckin' days, but I'll tell you I'm never lettin' my biking go. Don't care to go to prison agin but I gotta ride. Y ‘see, spending all that time driving I was thinking how much better it would all be if I was feelin' that wind and in it more. None of this windshield crap." Rusted gust from cavernous lungs without the laugh. "Thought I'd get busted sooner or later but didn' know I'd go to prison. Never truck agin. Okay with that but not the bike. Cops don't know ‘cause I give ‘em no reason to bother me. Off the radar. Theyz never git me off a bike. Bastards." Lit a cigarette and spoke, smoke coming out in a cloud of gum and lip and hair.

"Harley's are loud and they stick out," Patterson added: "Cops don't like Harley riders. You'd go to jail for a long time if you get busted." Morrell raised his chin and adjusted his sunglasses.

"I tried different bikes but the best is the Harley. Jap bikes are like rockets and the old bikes are too tippy. Don't handle well like the old Nortons and Triumphs, but a Harley has the power you want for those straightaways that beg for speed. No, I found my baby. Not gonna give ‘er up. No sir. Got too much ridin' to do. Not enough time."

Patterson started up the Ninja, revved it high.

"You have screws and square head?" Legge too embarrassed to say he had a hammer and nails. Patterson deflected.

"You need your chain tightened. Don't forget to bring it by sometime over the next few weeks. You don't want that buckling on ya. Pop the crank shaft off and then yer screwed."

"Looks okay for now," said Morrell. Usurped Patterson at every chance. "Give us your square head and some screws." Waved him to the toolbox where he found them with ease.

"You get yourself some tools for your B&B," said Patterson, holding up his wrench. "Guys'll wanna tinker and tighten when they stay over. Ask Morrell for a list of tools you really need. And get yerself over to Needles there in Kagawong and tell Tuttle about it. He gets a lot of business."

"I got all the tools yer'll ever need Legge. Don't you worry about that. Sure I have some extras. Ah, you can pay me with beer. Barter system is best. Need certain things if you're gonna call yerself a motorcycle inn. Don'tchu worry. We'll take care of ya."

"Just as long as you have free beer." 

"Damn right!" said Morrell, putting the tools under his seat. "Got yer signs?" Legge put them in his knapsack. "Follow me. Ready to stop behin' me where I pull over. It's near the cop station so be alert."

Barely able to manhandle his RD backwards, Legge slipped it into gear with a high clutch rev, leaving Patterson to shake his head at the lack of poise.

 

9

leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

 6. A stage of a journey or course, esp.: a. Naut. The distance traveled by a sailing vessel or single tack.

 &

 

Legge left his signs screwed tight on a cedar fence posts selected by Morrell. In Kagawong sailboats and powerboats moored at the docks, owners busy repairing with epoxy and varnish. Café patios peopled, maps spread out and kids running around with toy guns. The lighthouse freshly painted, pristine in its nineteenth-century sheathing. Waterside porches busy with people thawing from winter, hopeful with expectations of summer. Spring run off had come and gone; time to clean the yard and plant the garden, no black flies yet. Out of winter storage motorcycles left idling, well-oiled engine when it hit the roads. The May long weekend was here and the summer residents had arrived.

A Honda Goldwing with panniers parked at Needles Restaurant near the new Motorcycle Inn sign across the street. Had an arrow pointing down the shoreline to Dragon Head Lighthouse. Legge had an hour before the school bus dropped Harry off. Had to go in; it was business.

 &

Harvey Tuttle, proprietor of Needles Restaurant, looked out from the front porch of the saloon, watched Legge take off his helmet and forgetting to first remove his eyeglasses. Recognizing Harold's motorcycle, Tuttle saw before him a novice rider yet to have his brush with death. The proprietor had seen his share of death. Liked to think it was because of his extraordinary courage but others might disagree. When young he and a few of the boys would go out as far as they dared in March when ice was still busting up, they had rules to their games. Only after catching your fill were you allowed to take a dare, refusal the quickest way to shame. Proving tougher than their fathers, Tuttle and his friends pushed the envelope and lost a few to stupid dares. Falling into ice-cold water only had to happen once before they knew the power of God's wrath against youthful folly. Body shaking, teeth clattering as if possessed by the devil. Changed his ways after his brush, sailed some then bought the restaurant, safe and warm and all his own. Liked to think it was dangerous in its own way, but in the back of his mind knew it was as far from ice-cold danger as possible.

Legge walked up the wooden steps under a second-floor balcony, past wooden tables on the porch warped by the wind and snow. A couple shared some wine along the wall, motorcycle helmets placed on seats.  Wood creaked under him when he sat down at the window facing the bay. Old mill of limestone, church and cemetery, overcast sky and beach.

"See the fishermen at the mouth of the river over there?" Tuttle pointed past the old mill, bent menu in the other hand. "Salmon there but you need to know what you're doing to handle the current. A few years back an Italian was swept out to the bay. Dead in five minutes from the cold. Lost his footing. Poor chappie." Harvey Tuttle's neck lined and moist, like soggy sandpaper, but tough as leather, a map of his life. Full head of hair combed back, thick eyebrows fell over his brow into his eyes, sandpaper moustache hiding an unexpressed thought, pain of a disturbing memory. Nose crooked from a past break.

"Salmon?" Face blank.

"The salmon go up the river to spawn," he replied. Tuttle winked but Legge didn't know why. Legge unzipped his jacket. Beads of seat on his forehead.

"What de ya have to drink?"

"Coffee if you have some on," he said. "By the way, I'm Harold Legge's nephew, now living at his old place." Tuttle's eyes lost under the eyebrows, looking down to the worn floor.

"Hmmm." Slightly bent, the proprietor straightened his back and returned to the bar. Trout hanging over the counter, a taxidermist's magnum opus, over three feet long, a mammoth.

"Caught that in seventy-seven when the fishing was real good here," said Tuttle, returning with the coffee. "Rainbow trout from Lake Manitou. Could hardly hold it up. Call her Lily. The boys liked that one - they wouldn't let me eat it. Grown kinda fond of it now. Not many that big caught these days. Cost me a case of beer to get it all done up like that."

"Speaking of beer, that's my sign out there," pointing. "Trying to run a B&B down at my place." Nodded pensively, his eyebrows active, muscles forming at odd angles from a lifetime of squinting.

"It's an idea isn't it? We get lots of bikers coming here for the beach and refreshment. I'll show you." He followed Tuttle to the counter beside the telephone. A logbook, frayed edges and thick with ink and grime, pages full of past visitors, names and addresses, comments and dates. Tuttle flipped the pages slowly, smelling the paper in its yellowed state.

"Lots of names in here and lots of them come on motorcycles. I know the ones who are looking for a place to stay, especially after a few drinks." Laughter from deep in his gut, a barbarous yawp from a netherworld, bringing a thousands lines to life. "So when they come again I can tell them about your inn." A twinkle in his eye. "Beer? It's four and that's happy hour."

"Sounds good," said Legge. Sat at the bar, flipped through pages.

"Ohh!" grunted Tuttle, bent for the cold beer. "Damn back is the shits. Old injuries never heal right with me. Can feel them all. Too many damn scars. This was from a fall I took on the ice. Hard as cement. Cracked something, disk or vertebrae, but the doctors said they couldn't do anything. ‘Just let it heal,' they said. ‘Course I think it's all healed up after two weeks so I'm out fishing in the hut with the boys and sure enough slipped on the ice again. Whole thing was knocked out a' whack. Too many beers maybe, but I wasn't about to go back to the doctor! But it don't bother me much. Get along okay here."

"How long have you been doing this?"

"'Bout fifteen years ago now. Quit the sailor's life I was living. Damn hard to give up. Yep, sailed the Great Lakes all over, all five. Even Superior. Sit here and think about them days, all the places I've been to. In my early twenties when I left. My father was sleeping aroun' and was kicked out of the house so we didn't have much money. My old man was a plumber. Fished for food when I was a kid. But when I was hired on the boats I started as a deckhand. Moved up to the galley when some Spaniards quit. Oh those Spaniards were hotheaded. The captain got tired of ‘em fighting all the time so he kicked them off in Port Arthur. That's Thunder Bay now. Stayed on the ships almost 30 years. Damn good life that was. St. Clair River into Cleveland, Lake Superior and the lake head. I remember it all you know. Sent money back to Mom and stayed at sea. The ‘freshwater sea' we called it." Sighed. "Needles used to be a meetin' place for sailors a hundred years ago. Upstairs was an inn. Changed it into an apartment. Pays the bills." Motioned to the RD. "You been riding long?"

"A few weeks."

"Careful on that thing. Where were you before?"

"Detroit. Family from but I've never been ‘til recently." Sipped from his mug of beer.

Eyebrows burrowed hiding his eyes from view. "I know the Legge clan. Everyone has a story, eh?" Flushed, unsure if there was a story.

"Was thinkin' of getting' me one of them bikes when I retired from here but the rate I'm going I'll never leave. Keeping with my boat. Want to see it? It's at the dock there." Brought their mugs and stood on the porch.

"That's The Scimitar, the old sloop. Has been through the whole gamut that one. She's tested her mettle on the high seas out there. The North Channel is no small potatoes, gotta respect her. Fished out there for years." Thought of cold water and hidden rocks.

"I like the look of it but I don't know a lot about boats."

"120 diesel horses, heart inverter, chart plotter, teak floors. Even have GPS now. The bastards. Can handle her share of fish. Trout, pickerel, whitefish, bass, never go hungry on a boat lemme tell you. Gotta like the life though. And hitting rocks is part of it. She's been torn before but that's part of the life on a boat, just like falling off your motorbike. Just part of it. But don't be stupid. Then you can go as far as you want." Tuttle looked dreamy. "Got her from Old Doug down the street. Had too much history with her. Wanted to start fresh I think."

"What history?"

"Had some history with his sons Kyle and Thomas on that." With slit eyes squinted at the North Channel beyond the bay.

"Young lads have a long history of doing foolish things and Old Doug's sons were no different. Old Doug had always warned them to be careful out there. Told ‘em the Indians seldom took it as a transportation route because it was open to squalls coming from the prairies in the west. Too unpredictable they said. But of course the sons don't think twice about it and look at it as something to do to prove their old man and them Indians wrong. Old Doug always told them to mind the wisdom of the Indians, that there was always a good reason for their rules. Only a fool and a dead man crosses an Indian he always said. Want to sit?" Legge sat across from him at the wooden table with the warped countertop.

"So one day Kyle and Thomas, who were always gung ho for a go in The Scimitar, take her out some time in June and got caught in a gale that come out of nowhere. This was a while back when regulations and weather forecasting wasn't as good as it is today. Like a hurricane they said, 30-foot waves. An American sailboat still here after the race from Mackinaw in Michigan was smashed against rocks near Sextant Point after being dislodged from its moorings. Terrible gale that tossed her around like a toy. One of those fluke storms you hear about when talking history of the Great Lakes. Edmund Fitzgerald in 1973 and all that. When they happen you feel you're in a great tub full of bouncing water spun with winds of 40 knots. Have you ever been in a storm on the water Mr. Legge?"

"No, thank God."

"The crashing of water and whirring of the wind stay in your nerves forever. Can never hear those sounds without reliving the horror of being at the mercy of God. Sends a shiver down you every time.

"So they were in the strait when the waves pushed them against the rocks at Maple Point. The impact threw Thomas in the water and the waves smashed him into the boulders that split his head open. Nothing anyone could do. Happened just like that. Changed Old Doug after that. Hasn't ever got along with Kyle since that day. Being the older one he blamed Kyle for lack of good judgment and disobeying him. Old Doug just never forgave him."

The school bus drove by heading for the lighthouse.

"My son is getting back from school in that bus that just went by." Legge stood up to go.

"Ah, just as well. I have to get back to work. Good meetin' you Legge."

At his motorcycle Legge saw her. Small woman in a pea coat, walking on the road beside the water, hands in her pockets, moving slowly. Long brown hair manhandled by the shore breeze. Boots high up to her knees as if expecting a flood. Waved to each other then both looked the other way. He guessed she was a local.

&

He and Harry walked past an old barn; old appliances and a rusted bathtub beside the house with weeds grown into the crevices. A tractor parked at the side door, rain barrel full and bent, mud splattered at its base. A shaggy Sheppard ran around the house barking, followed by a pack of dogs and puppies. At the front door a wooden sign: Dogs for Sale, Inq. within. The Sheppard approached, its tail wagging, tentative. A black and white puppy jumped on Harry's leg, bounced off and jumped again. The puppy's eye injured.

A boy looked at them with torn shoes and jeans worn with holes. The face tired, injured, a bearer of secrets. Said something that was lost in the cedar boughs.

"We ain't charging nothin' for that ‘un," said the boy, who had followed them, holding a long stick.

"Why's that? The eye?"

"Yep. We were gonna put her down ‘cause nobody wanted her. Sold her brothers and sisters all right, but not her. People only want the pretty ones. Kinda unkind in that way. But she was just as pretty before her eye got wrecked." Eyes brooding, senses alert.

"Is she all right? Can she see out of the eye?" Friendly and playful, liked Harry. White paws and chest, small head. A few months old. Maybe the eye will get better. Legge rubbed his nose hard.

"Dunno. Think she can. Cut her eyelid on a branch we reckon so maybe she can see. Looks like it doesn't bother her none. Always been happy that one. Maybe that's why she got nipped," said the boy, his voice solemn. "She'll make a good pet for someone if she finds someone to feed her."

"Who's the father?" he ask, looking at the dogs. "The Sheppard?"

"You got that right mister. He's the alpha male. He gits it all. His stick is always wagging, that's for damn sure. And the mother's right there." The boy pointed at a black and white border collie, same coloring as the puppy.

"She doesn't cost anything. What do you think Harry?" The puppy still pawing his leg, falling in the grass.

"We can't keep too many here so we was gonna put her down, but if you're interested then maybe we can hand her off to you."

"No, don't put her down," said Harry.

"She's a Sheppard-collie mix but she looks all border-collie to me, just like her Mom." The boy came closer, teeth mossy. "Collie's are the smartest of ‘em all. And loyal. Treat her good. No hittin'. Just smother her with your body if she's bad. Only do that once or twice though. She'll know after that. But no hittin'. A collie never forgive you. Too smart for that."

"Can we get her Dad?" Couldn't say no to what was in those eyes. He shook the boy's hand. The boy's shirt was deeply stained and shiny from the dirt, ripped at the neck.

"Shots?"

"Naw, so you need to git her done," said the boy, embarrassed. "Might have worms."

He and Harry in the front seat, hands patting the puppy, already smothered by love. Approaching Gore Bay he wanted to drop by The Wick to buy some extra motor oil and chain lube for his guests, rain hammering the top of the van. The collie oblivious to the weather, asleep on Harry's lap.

&

Cruised into The Wick, green doors ajar, letting rain wet the floor. Both mechanics there, Patterson dazed from fumes that filled the room. Tinkered with a gas valves and revved it high. Mac organized his tools in the corner, and pouring sawdust into a pail.

"The Legge man. No biking today? Just a wee bit of rain," said Mac, smiling at the puppy. Harry followed his father into the garage.

"Have a new member of the family. Just got her." Mac picked her up in his big hands, put his face into hers.

"Wee pup this one is." Tiny against his bulk. "Oh, you have a bad eye. Do you have a name for her?" He looked at Harry. Engine now idling high, exhaust wafting into his nostrils.

"I thinking I'll call her Manitou," he said Harry, absorbed in his thoughts.

"Smart kid Legge. I like it. The Great Spirit will be close to you at all times. Good medicine as the natives would say."

The engine stopped. In the silence Patterson's voice: "Is that a dog I saw in my shop?" Sweaty and mantled, standing over Manitou. "It better like motorcycles or it's not allowed in here."

"Her name is Manitou," said Harry, bold with an emerging chin. "She's my dog."

"Well does she like motorcycles?" Harry considered her for a moment.

"She's happy in here so yes, she does like motorcycles."

"She's a border collie isn't she? Those white paws. Collies are good dogs."

"Be good in a canoe," said Mac. "Balance themselves after a few minutes on the water. Great thing to see, I'll tell ya."

"Yep, if ya train ‘er she'll be a good one." Smoke from his cigarette swirled around his eyes, grease smudged on his cheek. Stepped back to the carburetor.

"I'll tell ya, get yourself a canoe, and she'd be a good companion to you. I'll tell ya straight. Collies are the right size for a canoe, smart with good balance. Fiberglass 18-footer with room for two, that's all you need. Camp wherever you want around here as long as it's within sixty-six feet of the water's edge. Thousands of miles to paddle if you wanted. Need a good dog for that, and now you have one."

"I want to get a canoe," said Harry. Patterson looked over, his eyes puffy from smoke.

"You and your canoeing Mac! The point is you got security now Legge. Need it for the inn. Need something. Can't just be sittin' there like bait. Gotta have something to protect yerself. You make that dog work for its food, hear me? Gotta be tough on the little thing so it knows right off the bat what's what and who's boss. Don't go waitin' aroun' for training that comes too damn late. Teach her with a few commands to begin, then she'll get the hang of it. You don't want no Pit Bull or Doberman guarding a friendly inn so it's good you got yerself a smart one. You take care of it young man. You hear me?"

Harry nodded, serious and august.

 
 

 

 

 
 
 

 
 

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