Abundant Light Excerpt

Something Special

They pulled up by the grocery and café on a silver Harley. Rather, they sashayed to the curb, which is a movement you might not associate with motorcycles. The muscular, grey-bearded man drove, the thin blond woman sat behind, holding onto his small belly. You noticed their black helmets gleaming in the late-afternoon sun.

She hopped off,waited by the low patio wall. He was settling the cycle, like a bee honing its stinger into flesh. The loud strong engine left a hole in the soundscape; not silence exactly, but some powerful absence.

Unbuckling her helmet, she shook out blond curls of different lengths. No sweat. You noticed that on a hot evening after a hot day. Beneath her overalls, she wore a bright pink string T-shirt, and when she raised her arm to point, you saw the shaven pit, the firm muscles, the pleasant angularity of her figure.

Now he stood beside her in jeans, and white T-shirt, looking pleased with the parking space, with her. Maybe he was anticipating the items behind the glass of this gourmet deli—roasted asparagus, haricots verts with shiitake mushrooms, rosemary roast potatoes. Maybe he was deciding between a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or a light Pinot Noir. Leaving their helmets on the bike, they walked hand-in-hand toward the big door of the grocery.

Another couple arrived on the patio, finding a table in the shade with their brown-bagged dinner. He sat down first, taking out his Diet Pepsi and her unearthly green Sprite, a container of potato salad . . . Shuffling toward him, she stopped to take all the natural, undyed beige napkins from the condiment table. Heavily, she limped in a black shirt and baggy black pants, releasing a grateful sigh as she lowered herself into the blue net chair.

“I have lots of napkins,” she said seriously, as if this man had been spilling food for forty years. They were in their early sixties, just five or six years older than the motorcyclists—all of them white, all of them able to afford Oakville Grocery prices—but you knew these two wouldn’t have much to say to one another.

“How come she”—meaning you, sitting alone with a glass of zinfandel while your partner waited inside for a double espresso to fuel the long drive home—”has a tray and a real glass?”

His voice lowered discreetly. “Because they got their dinner ‘for here,’ and we got ours ‘to go.’ Better this way. They have to return the tray, the glass, inside.”

She nodded, forked a red potato from its bed of mayonnaise and scallions.

Two families emerged with nouveau pizzas, searching hopelessly for napkins.

You look away.

How long could it take to make a double espresso? Maybe Pat was scrutinizing the dessert shelves, too. That could take time.

The motorcyclists reappeared with a large brown bag. You wondered if their bike had a storage bin.

He put the helmet on her, pausing while she removed her sunglasses. Then he tugged the straps and clicked the buckle. After helmeting himself, he slides into the bike, keying the ignition. The glittery machine wiggled black and forth. Everyone in the café courtyard was watching, the napkined and napkinless alike. She picked up the grocery bag, gracefully mounting behind him, put one arm around their dinner, the other at the side of his waist. They disappeared up the street, heading north.

The motorcyclist seemed happier than the rest of you, somehow. Happier than the Diet Pepsi Man and the Sprite Lady, and the messy-fingered families, and you with your half-glass of decent zin.

They seemed to know something special, which they could savor quietly over dinner, together.

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