I just have two quick things for you today…
Well, actually – it’s just one thing, but it’s in two parts.
I took part in a personal ritual over the weekend (October 16-19) called Biketoberfest.
Biketoberfest is an annual event here in this part of Florida. It’s centered in Daytona Beach, but its effects drift up to Flagler Beach (and to many other nearby communities).
Over the four days I did lots of riding, drank lots of beer and watched a lot of good bands. Biketoberfest is a great experience even if you aren’t a biker…just for the people watching opportunities alone.
At one particular venue called the Hog’s Pen (which is really nothing more than a large vacant lot across the street from The World Famous Iron Horse Saloon) there are several vendors set up for the event hawking their wares.
It’s about fifteen feet square, surrounded by netting to contain stray baseballs thrown by bikers whose aim isn’t what it should be. Nothing remarkable in and of itself, but…
On the collapsible seat is a guy wearing a clown costume insulting every person who walks by – hoping to get them mad enough to part with $5 in an attempt to dunk his ass.
The clown is the primary impetus of today’s blog.
His insults are not “family friendly” – he knows his audience, and there are no holds barred in his barrage of put downs. Appearance…sex…race…religion…color…sexual orientation…nothing is off limits.
Dozens of people gather around the booth just to hear what he comes up with next…and they are rarely disappointed.
As I stood there with some friends, in the back of the crowd, out of the line of fire, I decided that this clown needed a place in an Ike story.
Which leads us to…
As you know (from reading this post) my current project is a collection of short stories about Ike.
After watching the clown insult people (and get dunked a few times) I decided that he needed to be in a story…so for the rest of the weekend I tossed around some ideas in my head and on Monday I sat down and began writing.
I’ve written about 1,700 words so far – which probably equates to about one-third of the story.
Last night (Oct. 21) I read what I have so far at The Inspired Mic and the audience approved…and wanted to know what happens next.
I think it’s only fair that you – my virtual audience – be privy to the sneak preview, so I’m posting it here. The only thing you miss out on is hearing me read it…probably a blessing!
So – with no further ado – the beginning of…
Leaving St. Augustine just before dawn, he felt like the only person on Earth…or at least the only one awake.
The wind rushed over his face and his ponytail tugged at the back of his head. The Atlantic Ocean, less than one hundred yards to his left, deposited a salty film on his riding glasses.
The rumble of his classic ’74 Shovelhead was lost to the wind, but he could feel it throughout his entire body. Intake, compression, power, exhaust…the powerful V-Twin beneath him worked at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute, but screamed in one continuous roar.
Ike relaxed in the saddle, propped his feet on the chrome highway pegs and enjoyed the solitude of a morning ride on A1A.
By the time he reached the Flagler Beach city limits the sun was rising over the ocean, casting long shadows on the empty streets, and melting away what little chill hung in the air.
While most of Flagler Beach was still sleeping, merchants prepared for the coming day. Bar employees washed away the remnants of a frenzied Friday night, cleaning the slate and making it ready for the next wave of leather-clad, alcohol-infused partiers.
Day two of Biketoberfest was in the books, and while the media reported a largely successful event, focusing on the thousands of bikers descending on the area, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-state money, Ike was all too aware of the activities that didn’t receive any press thanks to a concerted effort by local authorities to make certain situations go away quietly.
There was no point in souring the public’s taste for such a lucrative source of tax dollars by making arrests after every bar brawl or issuing countless DUI’s. For one week out of the year the city commissioners recognized the value of selective leniency, and local law enforcement was encouraged to share in said attitude.
The courtyard dining area of The Golden Lion was deserted, with the exception of a few employees setting up for the day ahead. Saturday was typically the busiest of the four day event, so the crew had a few hours to make the restaurant look as though Friday night had never happened.
Ike righted a barstool on his way to the table under the stairs leading to the rooftop deck.
“Morning, Ralph,” he said, settling into a chair.
Ralph Donabedian looked up from Friday’s receipts and nodded. “Morning, Ike.”
“How’d we end up yesterday?”
“Close as I can tell, at least fifty percent up from last year.”
“Nice. Today should be even better. Perfect weather.”
“The money’s nice, but it’ll be good to have my parking lot back.”
Ike glanced across the street at the half-acre of tents and vendor booths. It was one of the few vacant lots in Flagler Beach and contributed to the popularity of The Golden Lion since patrons hardly ever had to worry about parking. During Biketoberfest Ralph converted it to a money maker by renting space to vendors, who paid handsomely to sell tee shirts, pins, patches and all sorts of Biketoberfest memorabilia. There was also a beer tent, so thirsty bikers could drink while they perused the vendor tents without having to walk across the street to the Lion.
Tucked into one corner of the lot was the only occupant allowed to use space free of charge, a dunk tank with a brightly colored sign encouraged passers-by to drown the clown. All day long a man in a clown suit sat on the collapsible platform hurling insults at the crowd, enticing them to plunk down five dollars for a chance to send him for a swim. The money collected was donated to a charity, the reason for Ralph’s generosity.
“That parking lot is a gold mine for four days every year. If I were you I wouldn’t complain about a few disgruntled tourists who eat somewhere else because they’re too lazy to park a couple of blocks away,” Ike said.
“I suppose I can’t argue that,” Ralph said, “but I could live without the depravity.”
“It’s just harmless fun…bikers blowing off some steam.”
“Four days of steam is…”
A scream shattered the morning stillness.
Ike spun in his seat looking for the source. Ralph maneuvered his wheelchair away from the table to see a woman standing in front of the dunking booth shielding a young child from the source of her terror.
Ike sprinted across the street.
“What’s wrong?” he asked the woman, who was now kneeling next to her frightened child, both of them crying.
She pointed at the dunking booth. “Ricky wanted to look inside the booth,” she managed between sobs.
The water in the booth was no longer crystal clear. Blood from the floating body of the clown had turned it a dull rust color.
Ike whistled and waved the bartender over.
“Tiki, get them inside and make them comfortable. Get them anything they want.”
“You got it, Ike,”
Ike made two phone calls—the first to the Flagler Beach Police, the second to his right-hand-man, Brewski.
“Hey, we got a situation. Need you here A.S.A.P.”
He tucked his phone away and took the .45 from the waistband of his pants. Full clip, ready to go.
After the responding officers secured the scene and the medical examiner did his thing, two detectives interviewed the woman. When they were finished with her they stood at Ralph’s table. Ralph held a coffee cup with both hands while Ike ate a large breakfast.
“Do either of you have a statement for us?” the lead detective asked.
“I do,” Ike said. “These pancakes are fantastic.”
“That’s it?” the lead asked.
Ike shook his head. “No. I also think the coffee is pretty good.” He gestured toward Ralph with his cup. “New supplier?”
Ralph sipped from his own cup. “New blend. I think it’s called Jamaica Me Crazy, or something to that effect.”
“Listen…Ralph,” the detective said. “They just pulled a dead clown out a dunk tank on your property. I would think you’d have a vested interest in helping us find the killer.”
“Nothing personal, Detective Stanley,” Ralph said, “but I’ll put my faith in a higher power. I’m sure justice will prevail.”
“Who? Him?” Stanley pointed at Ike. “You think he’s going to solve this case before we do?”
Ralph finished his coffee and set his cup down. “By the end of the day, Detective, you will have determined the identity of the dead man from his fingerprints. You’ll probably know more about him than his own mother. Which means you will know that he was a recovering heroin addict and a former member of a notorious motorcycle club…”
“Gang…” Stanley interjected.
“You say potato. Anyway…I suspect his identity and history will put a damper on your enthusiasm to find his killer, a position that your superiors will support, if not officially, at least tacitly. That is not justice. That is politics. So if it’s a statement you’d like, write this down…At approximately 7:45 this morning Ike and I heard a woman scream. Upon investigating, Ike discovered a body in the dunk tank. He then called 9-1-1. The rest, you know. I’ll be happy to sign it when you’re done.”
Detective Stanley exhaled and shook his head. “If that’s the way you want it.”
“Good luck in your investigation,” Ralph said.
Brewski pulled up a chair. “I just passed two unhappy looking cops on the sidewalk,” he said. “You do that?”
“I can’t take all the credit,” Ike said. “Ralph did his fair share.”
“So what’s going on?”
“Super Cooper is dead.”
Brewski’s head cranked around toward the dunking booth, then back to Ike. “Dead?”
“In the water, as it were.”
“Don’t know yet, but we’re going to find out.”
“How did he die?”
“Shot. Twice in the chest, then dumped in the tank.”
“Cooper pissed off a lot of people with his trash talk whenever he was in the dunk tank. The list of suspects could get pretty long.”
“That was my first thought. Maybe he called the wrong biker a fag or made one-too-many comments about somebody’s old lady, but when he was up there, insulting anybody who walked by, he was just a clown saying whatever it took to get people to drop five bucks and try to dunk him. It all went to charity and outside of that booth he was as harmless as a kitten. I could understand an occasional drunk taking a swing at him, but putting two in his chest…I think that was more than just a bruised ego.”
“So, something from his past, maybe? The gang he was with up north, what was it called?”
“The East Coast Mother Fuckers. It’s possible. The MF doesn’t take too kindly to members jumping ship.”
“Where are we supposed to start?”
“With his car. It’s parked out on A1A about two blocks down.”
“His car? Won’t the cops want to search it and then tow it away as evidence?”
“Yeah, about that…nobody told them about the car. You know how these things are…people forget stuff. Happens all the time.”
The rest of the story will be available in my upcoming anthology “Path of a Bullet – A Collection of Stories Featuring Ike”.
It will be available on or about December 1.
As always – Thank you for reading