Bob's Triumph

He was in the shed, it wasn't all that late, about 10pm. It was dead quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. The ceiling light emitted an ochre glow that made the chrome and polished alloy shine a soft brown. He had the lead light on the stand next to the Triumph, so he could see properly. He was fitting a new set of points, she'd been running a bit rough lately. He started thinking about all the miles they'd covered. They'd been through a bit. The Triumph was like a cherished but temperamental lover, it had it's problems but the important goods were there. And it took some commitment to get the best from it. One highly-strung prima donna in the family was enough. He was lucky he had Ellen, and he started to think about her.

It's still hard to believe that he could end up with such a good women. One who also likes bikes. And she really likes them, doesn't pretend to like some would. You can pick that from a mile away. When he first met her it was the most important thing, well, second most, if he was truthful. They used to go everywhere together on the Honda Four. That was a bloody good bike, never missed a beat, ever. Sometimes they would go away for the weekend with not much more than a tent, a couple of sleeping bags and some toothbrushes. It was usually up in the snowy mountains. Always next to a stream, hoping to catch some trout. Around a campfire cooking spuds in their jackets, hot nights in the tent, mornings too. Sometimes they would go down the coast or up to Sydney. It didn't matter, they were always happy. Still am, he thought, but in a different way. I suppose that's what happens when you get older, some things are better, some things are different and some things aren't near as good, or missing completely.

It occurred to Bob that he could have made a big mistake all those years ago, the mother of all mistakes. He'd pretty much made up his mind that he was not going to get involved with another women unless she liked bikes; no matter how good she looked. Then Ellen came along and couldn't wait to get on the back of the Four. She was gorgeous too, still is. The best things in life seem to happen when you don't expect them. God! He thought. You could have let her go without ever knowing. What a waste that would have been.

The walls of the shed were wooden planks, they were vertical not horizontal like the house and most other wooden buildings. They were that grey colour that old timber gets, with black streaks. Looking like a black and white photo or old discarded railway sleepers, but not as thick. They were held together with strong, but slightly rusted half inch bolts through the 4 x 4 horizontal beams. The shed looked a bit strange from the outside. It originally only had three sides, like most cockey's sheds. Not long after he bought the Triumph he decided that he should put another wall on it, so he could lock it up. The only timber you can get these days, without paying an arm and a leg, was treated pine. The shed looked good from the front. He was going to use a rolla-door but decided to make his own doors using planks. Sometimes you can blend the old and new for a good effect, but that wouldn't work. The difference in the timber was enough. When you viewed it quarter on, the difference in the old and new timber was glaringly apparent. He thought it would blend in over time. Probably in another eighty years.

It was fun putting the front on, working hard and cracking jokes. Ellen cutting the planks on the drop saw. She wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty and could handle the tools like a pro. She liked working with wood but never had the affinity, like Bob, for steel, alloy and gears. It was mainly the grease and oil that she wasn't keen on, she always wanted to know how things worked, though. Bikes are for riding she'd say, but she understood.

There was a GS1200 BMW in the corner of the shed. Bob was pretty fond of it. He had bought it so that he and Ellen could take holidays on it, really cover some miles. It was a good bike, like most BMWs, although the seat was a bit hard on the long days. It wasn't the same as riding the Triumph, but at least you could be pretty sure it would get you back again.

Bob had owned a lot of bikes, but never a British one until he'd bought the Triumph nearly 10 years ago. He's still not completely sure why he bought it, but glad he did. One of his mates had had a 67 Bonnie years ago and had all sorts of problems with it. It used to handle well though. He sold it and bought a Suzuki. He really liked the lines of a Bonnie. It seemed to be perfectly proportioned. If he wanted to buy an old bike, it would have been logical to buy something without the temperament, like another CB 750, you can still buy them cheap, but there are more important things in life than logic. Ellen grasped that one too; you could see it in her paintings.

The Japanese bikes had been good, he had a lot of good memories, but you never had to do much more than adjust the chain and change the oil. That's why most people liked them. This was stark, more vivid or something. It reached out to you and said, look after me or I wont perform. I'll throw a tantrum. You were almost totally responsible for it's well being. If it wasn't for you, it would just sit there and look arrogant, like some Meriden union rep, organizing a strike.

He loved riding the Bonnie even though it vibrated a bit. It wasn't that really annoying type. The stealth vibration that you get on some fours, that you don't even know about until your hands and feet start to go numb. It was more of a thump or a pulse. A mans vibration, out in the open and standing up to counted. Sometimes the change from second to third needed a prayer as well as a shove with the foot. But that's ok, everything has it's price. He must get around to fixing it. He gets mesmerized sometimes when he is riding it in the hills. It was like going back to another era, when there was nothing digital and you could still be left alone. People used to take photos with film and cars had bonnets you could stand on without denting them. Simpler times. Ellen liked that idea too. Getting rid of the surplus and keeping things simple.

There were times when you just wanted to ride the green hills forever. Throwing the bike side to side, with the wind in your face. The staccato shadows would flash by, they held nothing but warmth. The engine would ebb and flow in harmony with the blue eucalyptus trees. The fresh scent would lift your soul. The kookaburras would laugh at the problems of the world. They, like you, knew what it was about. They could soar in the sky on thermals and currents. Effortless freedom without flapping a wing. Untouchable, as they looked at the world from dizzy heights. There was power and endless beauty in the place, but only the birds had a right to such freedom and grace.

He used to like taking the Triumph into town as well, or anywhere there was people. Almost every time he parked it somewhere, it would attract a couple of onlookers, often asking him questions. And then there were the blokes who "used to own a Triumph," they must have sold a lot of Triumphs. These conversations were sometimes in depth and Bob enjoyed them. It could be anything from Ted Turner, to stripping the street gear off them and racing in the scrambles.

Getting an old bike seemed to fit into the whole picture. He hadn't planned it that way, but when he thought about some of the other things he had been doing differently than he had before, it just seemed to slide in there. He could have stayed at the manager's job just for the pay, but it would have eaten him up in the end. Too many people just don't seem to get it. They keep going thinking they're doing the right thing, and it just burns them up. And then you've got nothing. He didn't blame them for it, he just didn't understand it. He didn't like the idea of dinner parties and all the talk about football, even when he liked being a manager. He used to forget about it all, every time he went for a ride, but now he hardly thinks about it at all.

Since he got the job at the winery, it's like the weight of the world's been lifted off his shoulders. Ed and Janet are good people and all he has to do is drive the tractor around, move a few bins and tend to the vats. It gets a bit hectic around harvest time, but hectically good. He never thought he'd say that. There was a connection with the stuff growing that you couldn't put your finger on. You'd feed and water the vines like they were your children and the more you talked to them, the better the wine was. You'd do all this, and you had something to show for it at the end, a beautiful bottle of wine. Thousands of them, and people would rave about it. You never thought you could get right into it, but you were reading all the things you could about the types of grapes, terroir, tanins, soil acidity, sugar levels, temperature, all sorts of things. You did everything you could, just to see if there was something you could do to make it a better vintage next year.

They'd talked about it in depth. Ellen could see that something wasn't right and she knew what it was. She knew it was the job, but she couldn't really explain it to herself properly, let alone Bob, she felt that he'd lost his edge. They'd lost their edge. It wasn't as sharp as it used to be, and she didn't want to let go of it. Bob knew it was the job too, but she wasn't too sure if he felt that they'd lost that spark as well. It was the spark that lifted their lives above the mundane, and took them to where it should be. It wasn't utopia, it never is, but it took her to a place that she thought she would never be able to reach. That was after quite a few failed relationships, long after the delusions of adolescence had faded.

She suggested that he quit his job. Bob didn't see that one coming. She said that they could pay the bills and live off the money she made from selling her paintings. It wasn't much, but they could survive, and it was getting better all the time. It took a while for Bob to take it all in. It was a mixture of mild internal shock and elation at the same time. He said he would wait until he got another job before he quit, but she didn't want him to be stuck there. She had always been worried about that. They talked about it for a bit more, and then he gave them three months notice. Two months later he had the job at the winery.

Ellen walked into the shed just as he was finishing the points. She said "did you get the points in." "Yeah, he said, "the old ones were pretty worn." "Show me a look at them." "See how their all pitted with that hole in the middle and breaking off at the edges. It's a wonder that it went at all," Bob said. She went over to the wooden bench and picked up a tube of Goddard's Glow and looked for a rag in one of the drawers. "In the second one from the top" Bob said. She sat down on the other stool and started to polish one of the mufflers. "Did you finish the painting yet," said Bob. "No, but I should have it finished tomorrow." He really liked this one, although he liked them all. "I think the colour you've got in the trees is fantastic, that's just what a red gum looks like." "I'll have another look when I go inside." She kept polishing without saying anything else, didn't need to. When she'd finished she got up from the stool and gave him a kiss. "Im going to go to bed, I'm pretty tired." "Yeah, I'll be in soon, I've almost finished."

The pipes had a few minor pits and stone chips, but they were still in pretty good nick. This was the second set of pipes, he had got them sent over from England. He had a friend over there who would be sure to get a set with the right dimensions. He knew about these things. You could buy them locally but they weren't quite the same. Probably made in China. No one else would know the difference, but he would.

He looked across at the tank. He always liked red, but the magical bit was where the white flashes came back above and below the badge, with the thin gold lines on the edge. Then he looked closely at the metal badge. It's a good name, I wonder who thought it up, it doesn't matter. And it's a victory, fighting for something worthwhile and overcoming your deep-seated fears, to hell with anything else that stands in your way. How fitting? Bob thought. It goes together like poetry.

FICTION. Written by Paul Harmon. 3-5-18

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