What Time and How Burnt

The Toronado glided easily over the iron bridge into Queens. The pace of the street life picked up a bit, the lights sped by, bodegas as colorful as they were filthy, trash everywhere. They rode for a while and killed the bottle. Sadie was feeling happy, but not so much as to worry. She knew what her cut-off was and they hadn't even come close. The Toronado tended to work the whole lane but was easy enough to keep on a generally straight course regardless whatever was going on with the driver.

“Where we headed anyway?” she asked

“Flushing.” he said. “Hey let me fill up the tank okay?”

“Sure.” she said, and found a station a couple blocks later.

Billie Joe got out, located the gas cap, got the pump turned on and managed to hand attendant some cash all in pretty reasonable order. Sadie thought he held it together pretty well, considering the joint and half a bottle of jack plus whatever else he had downed before she picked him up. He locked the handle on full blast and let her rip. Then he came back into the car and grabbed the empty whisky bottle from the floor board. She heard him take the nozzle out of the opening and looking over the seat saw him kneel down behind the car for a minute. Then he stood back up and looking around, finished off the tank. Her eyes narrowed. He got in, and set the bottle, full now, back in the floorboard. It was wet and smelled of gas.

“What the hell you doing?” she asked

“Science experiment.” he said, and smiled at her. “Trust me, it's gonna be fun.”

He guided her, turn by turn, through the back end of Queens, the blocks getting progressively more industrial, the Saturday night foot traffic thinning out substantially. Finally they hit a massive chain link fence that seemed to go on forever. Tall lights were blazoning by the front gate which was covered in blue NYPD signs dictating all manner of instruction.

“Quick go right.” he said.

She turned before the gate and went on along down one side of the massive yard. Inside were all manner of vehicles. There were massive lights spread throughout the yard. Lines of cars spilled into lines of trucks which faded into lines of motorcycles.

“Okay, slow up.” he said “Riight.... here.” She stopped.

He leaned over the bench seat and produced a dirty old t-shirt from the duffle bag. He grabbed the bottle and opened the door. “Hold up here okay. Just ten minutes. If I ain't back in twenty, haul ass and hock my gear.”

The black woman regarded him, pale orange light coming through the windshield made her face glow. She about had the situation figured, but asked anyway.

“And what is it we're doing here?”

“Crime.” he laughed “Hell what did you think?” Then he was gone into the shadows.

Billie Joe ran at a crouch up to the fence, the bottle of gasoline under one arm. He felt around left and right, just above ground level, then, locating the rift he was searching for, climbed inside.

He guessed the dogs would be up near the front of the yard, if they were even out of their cages yet. It was still early. His head looked back and forth, searching, searching, and he crept fast and low, til finally he saw her.

He had wrenched this bike together over the course of a summer, cannibalizing parts from at least three other motorcycles, including the frame of one belonging to his dead father. He walked up fast and trying to not begin taking in all the lines and details, began emptying the bottle all over his machine.

“Sorry, girl,” he whispered, “but if I can't have you, ain't nobody gonna have you.”

He produced matches from his jacket pocket and lit her up.

Sadie, back at the car, glanced again at the clock on the dash, thinking she should have offered to hold on to his bank roll too. She had begun to grow tired of the particular graffitti on this part of the yard. Suddenly the door opened and Billie Joe slid in, out of breath.

“Okay, we're good. Let's go.” he said

It was then that Sadie noticed the rising light of the blaze, even though she couldn't see it, coming from Billie Joe's burning chopper. The yard started to light up with that unmistakeable color that accompanies a good size fire, shadows rising and flitting, running wild across the other bikes and cars. Neither Billie Joe nor Sadie said anything as they drove away slowly, the sound of dogs barking far behind them.