ࡱ> ` |bjbjss .U&HHHHHHH\d8d8d88848\\L8989"Z9Z9Z9Z9Z9Z9 LLLLLLL$DMhOV3LH3@Z9Z93@3@3LHHZ9Z9HLBBB3@vHZ9HZ9 LB3@ LBBVJ@HHJZ9,9 (^ivd8@$]J K^L0LiJxPAjPJPHJZ9 ;DBd<h=Z9Z9Z93L3L7BdZ9Z9Z9L3@3@3@3@\\\#(d\\\(\\\HHHHHH  Chapter 1- Oso Summer, 1984 Fairfield County, Connecticut Billy held the police report but couldnt get his eyes to focus on the words. His heart was pounding and the pulse in his temples pounded with the same beat. Oddly, he felt light-headed in spite of the high pressure drum roll that his heart was supplying for his brain. His eyes finally focused. The chain struck the headlight and rode up the quarter fairing, cleared the top of the Plexiglas with a snap, and connected under Roberto, aka Oso, Acevedos chin strap, fatally separating the rider from his bike, was as far as Billy got before dropping the police report. Billy kept thinking, The smallest chain of eventshow can seemingly normal decisions over the course of an ordinary day have such punishing ramifications? What if I didnt have to work the extra shifts, or decided to blow them off? If only Oso had gone straight to the lake instead of coming to visit me. Or, he stuck to the road. What ifs werent helping his pounding head but his mind was wrapped around them like a python on prey. Osos last day played like a broken record in Billys subconscious. Oso was gone and Billy lived ona new life changing detail that would last forever. Billy was getting his first taste of survivors guilt. It was a taste that would become a full meal. Earlier that same day: Payphone inside The Fallout Shelter Port Chester, NY Billy begrudgingly dropped a dime in the payphone slot. He wasnt looking forward to letting his buddy Oso down by canceling their weekend plans so last minute. What started as a part time job to meet girls and drink legally had slowly become as full time as he could handle. New Yorks drinking age was slow to rise from 18 to 21. When it did, it included a Grandfather Clause: a magnet for Southern Connecticut young adults living in their own states newly inflicted pre-21 prohibition. The Fallout Shelter was a nightclub rehabbed from a long abandoned warehouse squeezed between the paved-over spur of a seldom used freight railroad line and a highway access road. It was the perfect out of the way location for a bar with live music and was close enough to the New York/Connecticut border to attract the Fairfield County, CT crowd in addition to students from several local NY colleges. Billy knew hed be spending the bulk of his free time at bars so he wisely chose to work in one, hoping to earn more and drink less. Billy should have been getting off his shift by now and on his way to enjoy a rare weekend away from work. Instead, the needs of the service overruled; his boss Derek had fired the Assistant Manager and asked Billy to stay and work a double shift. Hired as an ID checker, Billy had learned to bar-back, and was eventually given easy day shifts as a bartender. More coveted night shifts followed. Now he did most of the work around The Shelter and this wasnt lost on his boss. Dipping in the till is the quickest way to get canned anywhere, explained Billy on the phone. Bonehead move for Gordo, bro. He should have known better, but it works out for you. What kind of raise comes from this battlefield-promo amigo? inquired Oso. Roberto Acevedo carried his nickname Oso (meaning Bear in Spanish) since he was born in Costa Rica at more than 10 pounds to his 55 mother. At age twenty, he now stood over six feet tall and carried a stocky 235 pounds. His ears stuck out. His mom joked that it was a birth defect that could have been avoided if he came out into the world before his head grew so large. He wore his dark, straight hair long to try and minimize the effect of his protruding ears. This only added to his fuzzy bear appearance. Osos eyes were brown and his tan skin was prematurely wrinkled around them. Slightly near-sighted, Oso often squinted. He didnt own a pair of corrective glasses or contacts. Billy didnt answer right away, then, Time and a half this weekend for picking up the extra shifts. Not sure after that. I may become the new assistant manager or stay just the highly qualified, indispensable assistant Ive always been, but Derek had to throw in the extra bucks to string me along. He made the money too good to say no and still go to the cabin this weekend. The Shelter is screwed without you. Tell me about it. Billy, also just twenty, had been described by his close friend Lindy once as corporate deviant with his wavy long sandy hair not quite matching his clean-cut boyish good looks and charm (rumor was that he only needed to shave about once at month). He was almost six feet tall but he hadnt filled out in the shoulders yet. Though strong and athletic, he had a wiry look about him which made him look young for his age. His blue-grey eyes were soft and thoughtful and were very disarming when combined with his easy smile. He had a habit of subtly tilting his head and switching focus from eye to eye during conversation that captivated attention and added a feeling that he was enraptured while others spoke. Beyond that, his qualities were hard to define but women loved him and men bonded, respected, or became jealously intimidated by him with minimal interaction. Oso noted unemotionally, We can do the cabin next weekend, maybe add some hiking along the Appalachian Trail. The thru-hikers should be coming through soon. Oso, youre way too understanding. Id be pissed-off if you cancelled on me at the last min Oso interrupted, Youd get over it. Besides, Ill catch more fish without your yakking and making me fish your beer cans out of the lake. Billy hummed a bar of the James Bond suspense music then added encouragingly, Maybe you can talk Barbara Bach into taking my place, or Lois Chiles, or both. You can have more fun without me Im sure. Youre the Bond Girl fanatic, Billy. Besides, Lindy would get jealous and theres no room on the bike. Ill have to carry my own gear, since now we wont be riding up in your Jeep. Then Oso smiled and added sarcastically, You can have them choppered in if it makes you feel less guilty. Billy laughed then added, I think the chopper is busy this weekend. Have a good time, sorry again for bailing out. Ill make it up to you. Well head up to the lake together soon. Osos last words to Billy were, Pura Vida, which Billy knew literally meant, Pure Life, and was a motto of Osos Tico heritage. Oso loved to ride and, with Billy staying to work, he looked forward to straightening out a few backcountry curves along the Hudson River on his way to the lake cabin in Putnam Valley, NY. Theres no way he could have afforded his BMW R80G/S new, but like Billys promotion, Osos good fortune had come at someone elses misfortune. Oso got a box of parts and pieces along with his bike when he bought it from a middle-aged man with graying hair and major roadrash. Scrapes on the bike, broken mirrors, pedals, cables, etc. indicated that the man had gotten off easy with all his parts still attached. In the wake of his contact with the road and a few choice words from his wife, the man was willing to part with the bike at a rate that Oso, barely nineteen at the time, could almost afford. Billy kicked in the balance with his tips from the bar. Oso had even borrowed Lindys black Dodge Ram pick-up truck to get the bike, strapped down in the truck bed, back into town. He spent all last summer pounding and grinding The Phoenix back into shape. He smiled while he worked and thought, You shall rise and ride again. Repainted to be unique in high-visibility mustard yellow, Oso took pride in his ride. And, like any true artist, he even signed his hard work on the gas tank when it was ready for the road. All of this streamed through Osos mind while he rode: The middle-aged man with road-rash, extensive body and fender work, and even the less than enthusiastic reaction of his folks when he first brought his bike home. It was a surprise to everyone except Oso that hed taken a motorcycle safety course before obtaining his license, albeit as much to lower his insurance as to keep the rubber on the road. Oso was always the gentle giant, introspective, and quietly doing his own thing. Phoenix was just a perfect extension of his aura. He adapted quickly to change and was now looking forward to the ride as much as the fishing and hiking. He could really think while riding. Important issues could be worked out or hed just let his mind wander, like the time when he first met Billy, who he really would miss this weekend at the lake regardless of what hed said on the phone. Billy was Osos biggest fan and his best friend since the seventh grade, when Oso kept him from getting stuffed into a locker. Having spent kindergarten through sixth grade in private schools out of town, Billy arrived in the public school system aggressive and eager to earn a tough reputation. Anxious to shed the newbie tag and claw his way into a few social groups, he joined the hockey team when they needed a goalie. Settling in to his new position, Billy allowed nine goals in the season opener against their cross-town rival. Oso had hardly noticed the new owner of the locker next to his until the morning after his schools opening-game loss, when the hockey team decided to play stuff the goalie. In the frenzy of their small riot, they tried shoving Oso out of their way. Oso knew how to break up a fight. He was slow to anger, but once provoked, he was a force to be reckoned with. He didnt much like the arrogance of the hockey players in general, and as a group this character flaw was magnified by their predatory pack mentality. He took the leading scorer, a scrawny right wing named Joey, and gave him a short flying lesson across the hall. Joeys sudden, loud stop against the far row of lockers momentarily froze everyone in their tracks. Next, he grabbed a larger defenseman wearing a practice jersey by the back of the hair, yanked him backwards off his feet, smiled and said, Five for fighting number seven. In fact, take all the time on the floor that you need. The bell rang. Julian, the team Captain, said, Lucky for you we have to get to class, in a less than convincing attempt at saving-face before this new, oversized challenge. In the rapidly clearing hallway, Billy looked at Oso and said, I was just about to show them my Bruce Lee Kung Fu moves. Oso laughed. They were instant friends. Time to stop for one beer with Billy at the Shelter on the way, Oso thought as he finished topping off the tank, stowing a six-pack for the lake, and buckling his saddlebags closed. It would be getting dark soon. Deer are a road hazard at dusk. But, other than wildlife, advanced warning of oncoming headlights made night riding up the Taconic Parkway and along the winding, hilly streets of the Hudson Valley, if not safer then at least more enjoyable. The three-quarter moon was already up in the still-blue sky. Oso smiled, Tonight is going to be a good night for riding, and for fishing. The familiar streets around town started sliding by the view through his visor as he worked through the first few gears. He began humming his favorite song that Lindy wrote especially for him: One Down and Four Up. Kick start Spread my legs apart I need The open road today Give me An easy ride Take me Anywhere, take me away One down and four up Feeling through turns were leaning from side to side One down and four up There are no seatbelts on this E ticket ride I try To read your mind Theres no Telling what Ill find Miles fly By in a blur Knees squeeze I feel the engine purr One down and four up Feeling through turns were leaning from side to side One down and four up There are no seatbelts on this E ticket ride Wrap my Arms around you And I lace my fingers across your heart If you Only knew That I have loved you from the start I feel Wind rushing through my hair Our Hearts Are racing the engine Like two Bats out of hell straight to heaven Hold tight Its just you and me Saddled up Were always rolling free You are My love my guy And we Will never say goodbye One down and four up Feeling through turns were leaning from side to side One down and four up There are no seatbelts on this E ticket ride One down and four up Feeling through turns were leaning from side to side One down and four up There are no seatbelts on this E ticket ride One down and four up Feeling through turns were leaning from side to side One down and four up There are no seatbelts on this E ticket ride Oso had been on two wheels for as long as he could remember. While he hummed, he remembered crying when his dad had the bike shop put training wheels on his first bicyclea Schwinn Stingray. After a quick lesson from his parents on balance and brakes, they let him practice on his own when he promised to stay on his block. He rode straight to his friend Javiers house the moment he was alone and had his pals older brother take the training wheels off. It was three or four days later before Osos parents noticed they were missing and he was riding without them. Oso eventually traded-in that Stingray for a ten-speed. Later, he bought a 50cc mini-bike that he could only ride legally on private property. He smiled at the recollection, squeezed the grips on his BMW, and knew that he was on the machine that he always wanted when he grew up. The traffic light at the top of the hill changed through yellow to red. Oso slowed. The church parking lot to his right was empty and the low curb wouldnt be hard to hop. Oso considered, Take a right at the light up ahead or shortcut with an immediate right through the church lot. The R80G/S was marketed by BMW as a street legal off-road bike, in fact, G/S stands for Gelnde/Strasse or cross-country/street in English. Hopping a curb isnt exactly cross-country, Oso thought, but using Germanys best two-wheel ingenuity might have its time-saving advantages. Through the lot and skip the light, Oso decided, lifting slightly out of his seat to take the double bump of the curb below his wheels. He leaned-in as he rounded the back of the church and checked for traffic coming from the light he skipped, now on his left, before turning right onto the crossroad. He rolled level and then right to exit the lot since traffic was clear. Theres no way of knowing if Oso ever saw the chain in the twilight that marked the parking lot as closed from this side street. The chain struck the headlight and rode up the quarter fairing, cleared the top of the Plexiglas with a snap, and connected under Roberto, aka Oso, Acevedos chin strap, fatally separating rider from bike, the official report would read. Chapter 2- Billy 2 Years Later Billys latest Saturday morning struggle was made somewhat more complicated because he was somewhere in the waking process: not still sleeping, not fully awake, and definitely not fully sober. Billys first realization that he was waking was when his brain started processing pain. Pain, not completely unwelcome. Pain. Ah yes, I earned this skull-crusher mixing liquors again last night, Billy recalled. Ive gotta learn to stay the course on just one distilled flavor. The idea of cutting back on the quantity of liquor intake didnt cross Billys mind while awake, asleep, or suffering through a raging hangover. That thought was never initiated. Billy grabbed at the tail end of his dream: winding roads with an ever-familiar biker leaning way into the turns. The bike goes faster and faster. The riders helmet flies off as he turns to smile. Oso. Time standing momentarily still, he drops a gear while goosing the throttle and the front wheel jumps as he launches forward towards the horizon. Oso becomes a smaller and smaller dot in the distance, but hes still turned and smiling. Too late, his subconscious-influenced dream was slipping back into, well, his subconscious. Noise was registering on his brain penetrating the fog of his pain. Slowly Billy began mentally processing the intruding information, Music? Radio? Alarm! Who in the hell set an alarm? Did I? I think not! In his first conscious physical act of the morning, Billy struggled to get an eye open. He made an involuntary groaning sound as light reached his optic nerve and said hello to his brain. More pain, and bright light. He reasoned, If its morning, its certainly not early. Squinting, Billy barely made out the red digits of his LED alarm clock radio, 09:30am. Using the red blur as a target he swatted with his free arm and managed hitting the snooze bar on the clock and knocking his watch off the bedside table. New problem, Billy wondered. Free arm? Why is only one arm free? Something warm and firm was resting on his pinned arm, holding him in place. He rolled over towards it and the strong smell of stale cigarette smoke entered his awareness and something was tickling his nose. He identified the tickle and made a mental note, Hair- lots of it. He took another whiff, Aloe, peaches, and nicotine. Waking faster now Billy opened his other eye for more clarity, Long, straight, chestnut hair. He struggled with his hazy recollection of the previous night. Billy rolledHmmm, long-haired naked gal? slightly with his free hand to allow him to extract his pinned arm. Her breathing barely changed, Apparently shes in no hurry to wrestle her way back into the real world. Why am I? He tried to settle back in. No good. Some nagging feeling kept surfacing. Some thought was trying to remind him why he needed to crawl out of this comfortable bed with an obviously beautiful bed warmer in it. Lindy, not the girl in beddouble checkit is MY bed, must have set the alarm again. He had a brief flash of the previous night and seeing Lindy in his room. Something about food, yea, thats itbreakfast! I need to meet Lindy for breakfast. A short list of related thoughts sprang into his mind: Food, coffee, juice, WATER. The last thought was finally the push he needed to get moving to his feet, Water. I need water. Sitting up was a big accomplishment. Billy pondered, Now for my next trick Grabbing the bed, then the table, then a chair, and finally the bathroom door handle he was able to steady himself enough to reach a water source. He left the bathroom light off. Barely tolerating the ambient light coming from his room, he thought, Pee in the toilet and drink from the sink. Better make that a conscious decision. I dont want to mix that one up! From his years working at the bar, he knew that any piece of porcelain could be re-defined as a toilet and he wasnt about to bring that habit home, rental or not. To be extra careful with his aim, Billy leaned all the way over the toilet and steadied himself with his outstretched forearm against the far wall. His eyes were only inches away from a sign hed memorized from reading frequently, Pilots with short pitot tubes or low manifold pressure please taxi close. It gave him a short chuckle then he stuck his head sideways under the faucet and drank large gulps of water. Looking up from the sink as he washed his hands he saw the note, written on the mirror in toothpaste. The note was from Lindy; this wasnt the first time she was responsible for getting him home after drinking too much. Billy vaguely remembered her drivingHmmm, Ant-ya? Yes, Antjeand him home, and staying long enough to use the bathroom. She must have slipped in and set my alarm too. The toothpaste read, 3 aspirin, Kassis- 10, C.A.Y.A. C.A.Y.A. was shorthand for Come As You Are. Lindy knew that if Billy stopped to shower, he wouldnt leave until the hot water ran out. There was still the possibility that he might even crawl back into bed with his new German lady-friend if he didnt get moving and out of the house. Euro-gal, I better leave you a real note, the pencil and paper kind, Billy thought. At least someone is getting to sleep-in this morning. I wonder if youre dreaming in English or German; probably both. Hey, maybe I can speak German in her dreams. That would be totally cool. Achtung! Billy threw on blue jeans, Timberland boots with no socks, a dancing Rasta-bear t-shirt, and Ray-Ran Aviator sunglasses and headed out into the summer sun. The sunglasses were just a start. They were a cheap knock-off pair of the popular Ray-Ban brand that hed picked up for next to nothing in the city on Canal Street, the Ray-Ran logo clearly infringing on the Ray-Ban trademark. He was still trying to think of a second word in German while he carefully slid his helmet over his pounding head and lowered the tinted sun visor. He wanted the padded helmet over his ears before starting the big, loud motorcycle that once belonged to Oso, who had once taught him some swear words and slang in Spanish. Other than that, his foreign language vocabulary was extremely limited. Billy straddled the saddle, grabbed the grips, and mumbled from under his helmet, Phoenix, to Kassis! Vamanos! but the autopilot must not have been fully awake yet either. Billy manually kicked the bike to life and took it off of its stand. Fortunately, the trip to Kassis Diner was a short one. Lindy was on her third cup of coffee when Billy arrived at Kassis. Her long, auburn hair dragged across her cup when she reached for the low-fat milk, which she preferred to the heaviness of cream. Lindy had paper napkins spread all across the table and was making notes for her songs and music. Some started soaking up the dribbled coffee and she swore under her breath. Billy slid into the booth across from her without noticing her attractive, athletic figure. He didnt look into her hazel eyes, but rather at the menu straight-away. He didnt notice that her hair was wet, from both the shower and her coffee, and that shed already run three miles this morning and was well into her day. She was dressed-down in ripped jeans and one of his old New York Giants souvenir jerseys and still looked radiant. He didnt notice that either, though shed have preferred him to. You got me home again, thanks, started Billy. But, how did my bike get there? Lindy took her time with her reply. One of lifes great mysteries, she finally offered. Youre a lot of fun this morning, dont you ever sleep? Billys voice was raspy from the hard night and he turned a clean coffee mug upright as a signal to the waitress that he needed some caffeine. Not all at once. Ill get the rest of my eight hours over the course of the day. I already ordered you a coffee when I saw you pull up, and the French Toast Slam. They didnt have a German one. You already had that at home, Im sure. Play nice. Whats the matter Lindy, dont you like German gals? Oh no Billy, its not that. Shes sweet. If she were sticking around Id take the time to warn her about you. But, thats the point isnt it? Shes leaving tomorrow. She is? Billy tried to look surprised. Dont play that game with me. The way it works, Billy, is you dont remember what I say when youre drunk, not the other way around. We had this conversation last night on the way home. Youre the King of the Pre-sabotaged Relationship. You specifically picked her because you knew she was a short-timer here in the U.S. What makes you so sure she didnt pick me? Arent I every European gals American Dream? Besides, what would you write about if I didnt give you all this free material? Looking like she was consciously biting back a retort, Lindy took a deep breath and changed the subject by asking, You feel like practicing later today? Billy considered. Still feeling the alcohol intensified pulse pounding in his head, he answered, No amps or microphones. My head is still ringing from the alarm clock. Did you have to set it so fucking loud? You know I did. Very funny. Well, maybe I can brush the skins through some of your light acoustic work, if you dont sing too loud or crack any high notes. Lindy grinned, Good, Ive got something new to run by you. Something I can laugh about for a change? Please? Or, is it another adventure deep into your self-help, psycho-dribble again? Lindy responded defensively, At least Im doing something constructive, maybe even trying to help you a little too if youd let me. I know how I got home last night! The arrival of their food cut their conversation short. Both ate like someone was going to take it away from them if they didnt wolf it down. They finished breakfast. Billy paid for everything because he owed Lindy for the safe ride home, and followed her out to the parking lot. He noticed the tie-down straps in the back of her pick-up truck and asked, What are those for? Lindy smirked, Guaranteed to hold 2000 lbs. Your bike only weighs 420. We used these straps to bring Phoenix home for Oso when he first got it, dont you remember? I dug them out of a box in the basement. The way youve been drinking lately, I knew Id need them eventually. Billys jaw dropped noticeably, And how does my bike get into, and out of, your truck for that matter? You wanted to know how you got home last night. Youre not the only one who can ride, you know. Your truck bed sits about four feet off the ground, who are you, Evel Knievel? Lindy explained, I backed my truck up to the loading dock at The Fallout Shelter and rode the bike right in. I never had to lift the bike at all. I had to ride up the stage ramp to get to the loading dock level and I got a standing ovation doing it. Im thinking about trying to include that in my act as a closer, the crowd loved it last night. Billys was more than a little surprised, You rode through the club on my bike? Better than letting you ride it. Friends dont let friends drive drunk you know. Derek helped me tie it down to the truck bed. Hes a good boss. He takes care of his employees even when they cant take care of themselves. Billy raised his voice, Thats crazy, and it still doesnt explain how you got the bike out of your truck bed back home at The Leaky Tiki Lounge. Well, I had some help there too: Dog and Spy. We used a keg loader and you and I have to bring it back to The Shelter tonight. That would have been your first clue Sherlock, if you werent so hung over. Its leaning up against the side of the back porch. It makes a great ramp from the tailgate to the ground. Billy snorted, Stunt biker bitch. Lindy blew a faux kiss, You say the sweetest things. You really know how to charm a girl. A simple thank you would have been soooo boring. Speaking of charming a girl, are you going to go home with food on your breath and not bring any for your new frulein friend from the Fatherland? Billy conceded, Ugh, good point. Ill grab her something to go. See you later. Wait, what time did I commit to practice? You didnt. Mid afternoon will do. Get your frulein home. Shes staying with a friend at your old alma mater, by the way. Oh, and sober up. Youll hear me in the basement when Im ready. Lindy fired up her truck and Billy stumbled back into Kassis to grab something that he could fit in his saddlebags so he wouldnt have to wake Antje empty-handed. His thoughts were already wandering, Frulein. Good word. I think I just doubled my German vocabulary. Billy lived in the right half of a three story duplex with his housemates Dog, Spy, and Just Dan. The four bachelors didnt exactly keep an immaculate mansion. Even less so since the future for this house was now uncertain. They had stopped paying rent when they started getting bank notices for their landlord. One happened to slip open and it appeared that the mortgage wasnt getting paid. Their landlord had stopped answering their calls and they speculated that he was either on the run or in jail. Or, more likely, he overpaid for the house in the first place and walked away from the money he put down when he couldnt afford the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and upkeep. At least thats how Spy, the numbers-man of the house, had once tried to explain it at a back-porch gathering. The combination of the resulting state of disrepair and the duplex's vertical layout resulted in the housemates dubbing their bachelor bunker "The Leaky Tiki Lounge." Eventually someone realized that a Totem Pole was vertically stacked, not a Tiki, but by then the name had stuck. Lindy lived in the other half of the duplex with her air traffic controller housemate Roxie. Their side had much less mess and was more sparsely furnished. Both sides were painted in the same generic bone-white on all walls and ceilings with a very light shade of grey for the trim. The wall-to-wall carpets were a blue-grey that hid dirt well, a feature that the current residents looked upon as a plus since they had only one old vacuum cleaner between them. Anyone walking into either side of the duplex would immediately recognize it as a rental. Lindy used the basement as her sound studio. The guys had torn down the dividing wall making one large basement even though the rest of the house was set up to be two separate apartments. This increased the real estate of their more crowded side of the building and also made it easy to traverse between apartments without a key or being exposed to the outside elements. The guys major contributions to the basement were a dartboard, a chalkboard for scoring cricket, and a bubble hockey game- the house favorite for killing time. Plastic players that spun and slid in tabletop slots squared-off to get a magnetized plastic puck into the opponents goal. Each player was controlled by its own handle with just a knob for the goalies. The tabletop was protected by a large transparent plastic bubble, hence the name. Lindy was the games reigning champion. She spent most of her time in the basement and used the game as a diversion from long guitar practice sessions and to break up writers block when it occurred. Lindy felt that puck control was more important than shots on goal and would practice passing around the opponents stationary players when she was alone. When the puck stopped where her team couldnt reach it, shed walk around the table and play the other way. This distraction allowed her to focus on the task at hand while she contemplated lyrics or music in the back of her head. She considered the game to be her muse and kept her guitar and her notebook close at hand for when a rhyme or riff appeared promising. When the guys played, they had to do a vodka penalty shot every time they lost to the Russian team and a Jack Daniels penalty shot every time they were beaten by the U.S. Penalty shots could also be assigned for infractions of any other house rule, especially the breaking of anything, even breaking wind if the perpetrator could be properly identified. Billy rode down the driveway along the right side of the house, parked in front of the detached garage, and grabbed the grub from his saddlebag. He threw his helmet on the covered but unscreened back porch. It rolled up next to The Loco Beer Fridge which was an old refrigerator covered with leftover house paint to conceal the rust. Protruding from the refrigerator door was a Molson Golden tap. Along its left side was a schedule for replacing the keg with Just Dans name listed next. A padlocked box was welded to the fridge wall with a small donation slot cut into its top. No two chairs on the porch matched. Each side of the duplex had its own rear entrance which most occupants preferred over the matching front entry doors with inadequate overhangs that offered limited protection from snow and rain. Billy entered the kitchen, pilfered an open carton of orange juice from the real refrigerator, took a swig, and carried it along with the Kassis takeout to his small room on the first floor. Since he was partially responsible for the noise, pronounced music, which came from the basement, he was elected keeper of the ground floor. Dan and Spy each had rooms on floor two, and Dog had the third floor loft, mostly because nobody wanted to be exposed to his piles of dirty laundry. Wagering often broke out at the back porch gatherings on when Dog would clean his room enough to see the carpet. This bet was rarely paid off as nobody wanted to go up two flights of stairs to check. Antje was still asleep. Billy almost decided to wake her. Instead, he dropped the food and juice on his desk and barely got his boots and riding jacket off before climbing back into bed. Sleep came to Billy a lot quicker than waking. Chapter 3- Lindy Lindy slouched on the couch in the basement with her spiral notebook and acoustic guitar and was lost in thought while she worked through her lyrics and music. The open ceiling joists revealed the exposed sub-floor that did little to insulate or muffle sound. A few feet above those joists, the music of Lindys chords and the aroma of eggs and cheese from Kassis takeout lured Antje from her sound sleep. Billy felt a hand running down his body, and fingers running through his hair and thought, This is a much better way to start the day. I smell food, Antje whispered into Billys ear. I picked-up your favorite, a fried egg, Swiss cheese, and bacon sandwich plus half a garden salad with blue cheese dressing, he replied while planting a kiss on her forehead. Antje giggled, Scheisse, you have no more idea what my favorite food is than what my Deutsch screams mean in bed. Now it was Billys turn to laugh. He briefly thought, Excellent, a third and fourth word in German. I think Scheisse means Shit. And, Deutsch must mean German. Ill be fluent in no time, at least familiar with the important words anyway. Then he processed the rest of her sentence and replied, Well then, I guess I have some homework to do before you get your breakfast. Youd withhold food from your captive? Antje tried her best to put on a pouty-face. Billy slowly ran the back of his hand from just above Antjes knee all the way up the side of her body while gently exhaling a long breath across her exposed nipple. She shook almost imperceptibly. He looked up and into her eyes while inhaling through his nose then challenged, If you can reach it, you can have it: breakfast in bed. But be warned, I run a strong defense. We play a much more physical form of football here in my country. And, we use our hands. Billys hand continued its journey up and along Antjes body until he reached under her arm and started tickling with his fingers, I thought Euro gals didnt shave these. Ive been corrupted by your nations customs. Besides, our goalkeepers can use their hands too. Here, let me show you! Antje grabbed above Billys knee and started to squeeze, hoping it would tickle. The battle of breakfast had begun. Billy and Antje worked themselves into a rhythm, their own matching the rhythm coming up through the floorboards. Lindy was singing now as well as playing guitar below them in the basement. Damn her professionalism, Billy thought. Ill be damned if Im going to rush down there to practice. If by professional, Billy meant that she was making money playing music, then yes, Lindy was a professional. However, Lindy believed she needed her original music to support her before she considered herself a professional. Performing other artists music at The Fallout Shelter a few nights a week for tips and a small stipend didnt fulfill her musical aspirations; although she did love performing, even covers, much more than her day job waiting tables. Her first album Slices of NightLife had been fun to put together, even if it was self-produced and sales were limited to word of mouth. It was an amusing experiment: a collection of silly songs about nightlife and misadventures that were crowd pleasers in the bar as comic relief. She wrote those songs in the height of her romance with Oso. But now that Oso was gone, comic relief was about the furthest thing from her mind as she worked on her new album. Since Oso died, she had deeper things to chew on. Shed lost the love of her life and was also lost in her thoughts, lost remembering how they first met. Lindy became friends with Oso and Billy in their junior year at Greenwich High School at the early winter Ice-Breaker Dance. Neither Oso nor Billy were brave enough to approach a girl, much less ask one to dance, so they stood in a corner. Partially concealed by the DJ booth, Billy poured vodka into cups of Pepsi. It tasted awful, but they didnt know any better. Billys dad had put all his liquor into decanters so Billy wouldnt know what they were, hoping that would discourage him from taking any. Grabbing a clear liquid, Billy had hoped it was rum as he poured it into an empty soda bottle to sneak into the dance. The vodka and Pepsi wasnt quite rum and Coke but it had the desired effect on his and Osos low tolerance, underage bodies. Billy finally challenged Oso to Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who would brave his fear and ask a girl to dance. Paper covers rock, but Billy squirmed-out of his loss by demanding, Best-two-out-of-three. He was a natural born negotiator. Rock crushed Scissors in round two, and for the final insult, rock crushed scissors again. Billy lost in three-straight. Unaccustomed to losing, he held up his cup and stalled, First let me finish. Billy sipped the warm drink. Exasperated, Oso finally said, Let me show you how this is done, and strode off with vodka-induced confidence, that lasted at least for the first few steps. Oso was as nervous as Billy about approaching a girl, but he wanted to show-up his buddy so he could hold it over Billys head and tease him later when he got out of line. In Osos opinion, Its always good to have one in the bank. Lindy and her friend Gail were pretending not to notice the less-than-sneaky guys who were conspicuously mixing drinks behind the DJ. Lindy stood with her back to the boys and Gail was telling her the play-by-play happening over her shoulder and trying hard not to giggle. As Oso took his first step towards Lindy, he noticed how beautiful she looked in a solid dark blue dress with crossing straps that revealed her shoulders and upper-back muscle tone. Her dress hugged her firm rear end then ended just above her knees, revealing chiseled calves held firm by the angle of her high-heeled, matching blue shoes. When he got close enough to tap her shoulder for her attention, she turned ninety-degrees and revealed her blossoming profile. The timing of her turn also caused Oso to poke her breast by mistake. He momentarily froze, and then almost retreated in pure shame. Lindy smiled, mostly with her eyes, then reached out and grabbed his arm before he remembered to pull it away. He hadnt fully recovered and his words came out in a whisper, instinctively in his native Spanish, Seorita, permiso! Then he recovered in English, You are most-beautiful this evening, a thousand apologies! From a nervous beginning, Oso and Lindy became inseparable. And, with Billy, they became like the Three Musketeers. Gail had to ask the young, shy Billy to dance that night, even though he finished the rest of the vodka straight when he saw Oso poke Lindys breast. But, magic moments are rare and none were to be found between Billy and Gail. Lindy vaguely remembered that Gail met someone else later that winter and slowly drifted away from the trio. Lindy smiled at the recollection of her introduction to the embarrassed Oso and shy Billy, quite the opposite of who they turned out to be, and then refocused on the guitar in her lap and the notebook in her hands. Lindy continued working through her newest song created from two-year-old notes and personal issues in the expanded basement. This song would be the anchor for her second album. Having been taught to write from the heart, her deepest feelings came pouring out now that it was broken. Watching Billy ride Osos bike was common enough, but climbing onto Phoenix herself last night had been quite another matter. Her riding skills were still intact, but she hadnt expected the flood of emotions that grabbing Osos, then Billys, well-worn throttle would bring. Lindy was already crying while she resurrected of the pieces of the eulogy shed tried to deliver a couple of years ago to the best of her recollection, which all of a sudden seemed like just yesterday. Speaking to Osos family and closest friends at his service after he died was the hardest thing shed ever been asked to do in her life. In case he was listening way up there somewhere, she was doing it again for him now, just for him, only better this time, and to music. She titled this, Cant Say Goodbye. Out of respect we dress in black Goodbyes under a sky of grey Time to speak, no words to say Tired of faking, No, Im not ok Cant say goodbye Cant bear to say goodbye to my buddy Bear For you my Bear, for you I cry Cant understand why you had to die I wish you could be here today Out of respect we dress in black Out of respect were here to pray Out of respect these words I say Ill always love and remember you and in my heart youll always stay Cant say goodbye Cant bear to say goodbye to my buddy Bear For you my Bear, for you I cry Cant understand why you had to die I wish you could be here today Billy lay in bed through at least a dozen revised verses, listening while Lindy struggled through her new song downstairs by herself. A large part of it was instrumental. Her short, well-chosen lyrics spliced into long guitar riffs of guitar chords, a little finger-picking, and even a couple harmonics. Lindys struggle came from the subject matter, not from her instrument. A guitar in her hands was like a scalpel in a surgeons. Meanwhile, Antje wolfed down her now cold breakfast like a hungry coyote. Billy briefly hoped his performance had something to do with her appetite. Then, he went back to listening to Lindy wrestle her way through her chords and verse. He knew he should be down there for her but he couldnt bring himself to get up and go do it. He had his own issues with losing Oso. Lindy kept telling him that her counselor called it Survivors Guilt. Billy refused to talk about losing Oso, and he didnt want anyone rooting around inside his head; not some professional, and often not even Lindy. When they did talk, Billy knew she was more there for him than he was for her. This only added to his sense of guilt. Billy finally rolled out of bed, Come on Antje. Lets grab you a helmet and Ill get you back. Where exactly is it Im taking you?     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