This week’s worth reading is She Rode a She Rode a Harley: A Memoir of Love and MotorcyclesHarley: A Memoir of Love and Motorcycles by Mary Jane Black.
Here is an excerpt from her book:
The First Harley
On a sunny California Saturday, I’m sitting on the curb in front of our garage. My booted foot taps impatiently on the concrete, my hand swinging my helmet.. I’m waiting for Dwayne to bring my first Harley home. I see his truck curve around the corner, with a large black and white motorcycle hulking in the back of the truck.
I help him roll the Harley down the ramp onto the street. For the first time, I realize it is a police motorcycle, a Road King with hard saddlebags and a tall windshield. The Road King displays the black and white color scheme of a police Harley Davidson. The outline of the Mountain View police emblem it once wore peeks from beneath the white paint on the center of the gas tank. The buttons on the handlebars include ones for a siren and flashing lights. I push them experimentally. Dwayne laughs and tells me they’re disconnected, so I won’t be able to lead parades.
I push my leg over the wide seat and swing both feet up on the foot boards while Dwayne steadies the front. I perch high above the sidewalk and put my left foot down, balancing the bulk of the Police Special against my leg. Dwayne squats down by me. He shows me how to work the heel and toe shifter of a Harley. I step down on my heel to move into higher gears and down on the front pedal to move into lower gears.
“Take her off the kick stand, Baby.” I push the kick stand back with my left foot. I am standing on my toes since the motorcycle is too high for me to put my feet down flat. I look at Dwayne, and he nods.
I hit the starter button, and the motor rumbles to life. The motorcycle sways lightly beneath me like some strange beast as the vibration of the motor shakes it and me. I pull up on the shifter into first gear. Rolling the throttle forward, I swing my feet up. The motorcycle surges forward.
I plan to ride through the parking lot of the school across the street on a test ride to see if I can control the heavy bike. I lean slightly left to turn into the driveway, and the Harley tilts with me. I wiggle my butt, and she sways slightly back and forth with me.
My Harley and I dance together through the parking lot. Wind rushes over the windshield and across my face. Strands of hair tickle the back of my neck. I speed and shift out of the parking lot.
Slowing down in front of our garage, I stick up my left hand. Dwayne slaps my palm in a high five with a grin. I explore the streets of our small town, riding by our garage often to share my Harley joy. Each time I pass, I see Dwayne sitting in a lawn chair in the doorway. He gives me a thumbs up and waves his cigarette in the air. Sitting there in the glow of the street light, he’s the beacon I look for in the dark.
MARY JANE BLACK: studied English and journalism as an undergrad, and went on to pursue a master’s in English with a concentration on creative writing. Teaching writing and literature at the high school level for fourteen years, she nurtured her students’ voices as she hid her own. After long days of teaching, she would spend sleepless nights scribbling stories in tattered notebooks found in her classroom and writing short poems in the margins of her desk calendar. Her first memoir She Rode A Harley will be published by She Writes Press on October 1, 2019. Excerpts from it have been published in Shark Reef Journal and Oxford American Magazine. She now lives in Austin, where she is a literacy specialist for the State of Texas. Visit her at https://maryjaneblack.com/.