The howl of a well worn reverse gear first attracted the attention of Stanley as he sat on the front porch reading his evening paper. Laying the sports page on his lap and peering over the lilac bushes, he watched as the pair of teenage boys backed the tattered Dodge pickup up into the driveway across the street. A dusty and dented Honda was straining its tie downs with every dip in the drive.
A worn plank emerges from the garage, and the show begins. Youthful exuberance replaces experienced common sense, brute force overcomes planning, but in spite of it all the machine arrives on the garage apron intact. Whew. Now he can resume reading his paper without having to call the ambulance and having to race over on his arthritic legs to rescue a body crushed by the Honda.
The sunlight fades away in the evening calm, and its natural light is replaced by the artificial glow of electricity as it is driven through a filament. The garage across the street is now lit up and buzzing with activity as excited young voices pry and wrench on a faintly visible form, which is unmistakably the carcass of a motorcycle.
Everyday after school the two return to the job they have started. The smell of cleansers and aerosol spray paint hangs lightly in the neighborhood air, alerting everyone to the impending miracle which is about to appear from the bowels of this shop. Friday afternoon brings the new battery and a can of gas to the scene, and the spiffy looking Honda 350 is presented in the broad daylight to the rest of the world.
Stanley, who has been calmly watching the entire show every evening from the porch, gives up the six o'clock news to see this little machine make the noise of adventure for two young riders to share. The battery is installed and fuel is carefully poured into the freshly painted Rustoleum red tank. Gas valves are turned on, full choke is applied, and with a deep breath, the shorter boy pushes the starter button. A high pitched starter motor whine bounces off the houses and down the street, but nothing else moves into the sound-frame. With their fingers both boys began probing the mechanical nooks and crannies available to the touch, while periodically depressing the starter button again and again, until the battery finally runs out of steam.
Silence falls upon the garage. Teenage enthusiasm has failed to exorcise the mechanical demons possessing the Honda, which was why the bike became available to them so cheaply. Saturday brings more disassembly and disappointment to the driveway team, culminating in the ceremonial, "I'll push you down the street and you drop the clutch" routine, which seldom ever seems to work. Two tired kids trudge up the drive pushing the machine which they should be riding.
The neighbor from behind the flowered bush arises from his chair, unable to take this particular brand of pain anymore. He slowly walks to his garage and grabs the test light from the rusted toolbox, and he heads across the yard to the dwelling on the far side of the street. His presence is welcomed by the pair since no one else displayed a desire to help since the beginning of the project. "You guys checked for spark yet?" he asked in a kind and soothing voice which belies a certain knowledge of the subject. "Oh yeah, both plugs too!" the boys responded. "Good, then it must be fuel related. Got a screwdriver?" Opening the drain hoses in the bowl bottoms revealed (that gas was not draining from the hoses, and so) after tapping the sides of the bowls with the screwdriver handle, a slight trickle could be seen.
Removing carburetors from an old Honda can be quite a job, but with the dried rubber boots and manifolds slowly softened in WD40, it was done. The disassembly, cleaning, reassembly and installation took less than an hour, which amazed the two onlookers. The points cover was removed and sandpaper cleaned the contact surfaces to a light shine. The gap was set and covered back up again in fifteen minutes flat.
The recently dead battery had some bounce, enough to give a faint glow to the instrument lights, so the kick-starter got the poke from a foot. On the third try the little Honda lit off with a pop and a roar, spewing rust and dust from the mufflers as it danced about on the centerstand. Stanley looked at his stunned pair of assistants with a smile which only comes with the "I've been there, before" reality of mechanical things.
A serious lecture about motorcycle safety quickly followed, complete with a promise that each of them would get a helmet and a valid license. To his amazement, within two weeks both had helmets and were legal operators.
Twenty years and many machines later, they still stop by on their Sunday morning rides to say hello and show off the newest iron from Italy. These are pleasant moments to savor for the old biker from behind the lilacs who opened the door to a lifetime of motorcycling enjoyment.