At The Bottom of a Bottle (Or, A Can of Beer)

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about another day in a heatwave. ... view prompt



“—And so I told Little Rock, I’s like, ‘Son, are you blind or just plain stupid? That ain’t no puppy you done snatched up off the road; that’s a goddamn raccoon!’”

Shane circles the lip of his beer with his fingertip as Patch-holder Ma fills the sweltering air with her raucous laughter. Forty years of smoking has given her voice an almost stifling rasp, and her laugh is more hacking than anything, but no one pays it any mind. Ma could have one of those scary smoker’s tubes in her throat and the club wouldn’t treat her any different. Most they’d do is turn down the setting on one of the electric fans so she wasn’t drowned out in the noise. Not that Ma’s voice wouldn’t carry across a stadium on her worst day, anyway.

Ma wipes the sweat from her forehead as she continues the story, still chuckling as she goes. “Sumbitch has this fuckin’ raccoon peakin’ out the compartment of his bike, an’ he’s like, ‘But Ma, look at it! Don’t it look like one o’ them weird-ass husky puppies?’ I’s like, ‘Boy, you really is stupid, ain’t you?’” Another bout of cackling; the rest of the club snickers where they all sit around the table. The sun’s still up but most of them are well on their way to intoxication already, more than half of them nursing the last dredges of one beer or another while they wait for the end of Ma’s story.

“Man, what the hell goes on down in the Victoria chapter?” Hellfire laughs, earning a handful of cracks in return.

Shane huffs, but he’s not really listening. His mind’s not at the meeting right now, stuck, instead, on two nights ago at Rick N' Fowler's bar, where his best friend and fellow prospect Hugo—or Lilywhite, as the club knows him—threw a few ill-planned punches at some Crowheads and got his colors stripped.

The Crowheads, normally rivals to the Sirens, agreed to let it slide as long as it was promised not to happen again, but everyone who's known Hugo any longer than the time it takes to hand him a beer knew that was a promise he wouldn't be able to keep. Love him as Shane might, he's a hothead, tried and true.

So, the patch-holders convened and called a vote, and Shane hasn't seen or heard from Hugo since. Actually, he hasn't heard from him since Sharpie Dick, the Sirens’ Vice President, took his vest the night it happened, but he figured Hugo would have at least showed up to apologize. Perhaps Shane should have expected less from the guy that crashed his dad's bike and then blamed it on the old man. Shane's still not sure he's come clean about that one to the rest of the club.

Someone whistles to Shane’s left. “Hey, prospect.”

Shane looks up, blinking a few times to make sure his vision is focused. “‘Sup, Yee-Haul?”

Yee-Haul, a middle-aged man with a full beard and a permanent crest on his forehead where his cowboy hat rests, leans back in his chair and waves an empty beer can. “D’you mind grabbing me another beer?” he asks.

“Sure thing, man,” Shane says. Ma’s still talking, but he gets to his feet anyway, setting his own beer on the table. Minding doesn’t really have much to do with it; Shane’s a prospect, where Yee-Haul is a patch-holder—and a lifer, at that—and when a patch-holder asks a prospect to do something, it is that prospect’s duty to oblige.

“Red cooler over by the trash bin," Yee-Haul tells him. "Thanks, brother.”

Shanes thinks about Lilywhite as he goes, and Yee-Haul, and Ma. All of them have real names—Hugo, Luke, Penny—but their roadnames are what everyone knows them by. In the club, everyone earns a roadname at some point by doing something so out of the box or hilarious that it becomes their legacy. You can’t choose your own; the club chooses for you.

Lilywhite got shit-faced one night and went streaking through the neighborhood, lily-white ass hanging out for everyone to see. Yee-Haul made a joke about strapping a trailer to his pregnant mare, Lucy, because his truck was in the shop, calling it a redneck U-Haul (“A Yee-Haul!”), to which everyone promptly fell into hysterics. Then there’s Messiah, who rambled drunkenly about saving the world in a past life, and Comb-bridge, who came back from college with hair long and voluminous enough to make a L’Oréal model jealous, and Sinistare, who’s known for her awful resting bitch face. All of their roadnames are stitched between the shoulders of their vests, their MC colors, right above the Siren patch.

Shane doesn’t have a roadname. Not that it’s a particularly pressing matter, considering roadnames chosen during prospecting never carry through with the patch, but he can’t help feeling like he’s doomed to forever being Prospect Shane—Patched Member Shane, Lifer Shane—painfully and unrelentingly unaccomplished.

He’s not an outrageous person, never really had anything to make him stand out. Hugo was always the boisterous one, the “fun” one, the one that was never afraid to ride shirtless when the temperature was below freezing. Shane doesn’t believe that a person should need to endanger themselves or be legally rebellious in order to be considered fun, but then again, if you never do anything at all, what does that make you?

Human is what the answer should be. Working it out, maybe. Shane can’t help feeling like that’s not quite enough.

At twenty-two years old, the most outrageous thing he’s ever done is mistakenly eat a weed cookie that led him to have a conversation with one of the trees in Sharpie Dick’s yard, the same tree he later curled up and passed out underneath. He remembers it being a very funny conversation, but he doesn’t remember what it was about. He wasn’t found until the next morning, and everyone was more concerned than amused, at least at first.

Shane bends at the waist and opens the red cooler, fishing a can of Shiner out of the dwindling ice. From this spot, a few yards outside the shade of the awning where the meeting was held, the sunlight is blistering. It’s almost August in East Texas and the humidity seems to be at a hundred percent. For all Shane knows, it very well could be.

The sweat on his body just seems to attract more heat, and Shane feels perfectly justified in pressing the cold can to his neck. It’s sweating just as much as he is.

As he walks back, Shane continues to think. Perhaps it’s not all that bad to not have a roadname. Not everyone gets one. Leslie’s a lifer, been with the Sirens the allotted ten years and then some, and no one treats her any differently. Maybe it’s because Lifer Leslie rolls nicely off the tongue, or maybe Shane’s making a real big something out of an itty-bitty nothing.

On the paved area below the awning, everyone that could make it to the meeting—members, prospects, and hang-arounds alike—sit in fold-up chairs of various sizes, colors, and stages of wear. The meeting’s been over for an hour now, everyone left to just hang out, drink, and have conversations like they do every other day. Admittedly, everyone being gathered like this isn’t a daily occurrence, but the drinking and camaraderie is. As far as Shane is concerned, it’s just another day in the life of a motorcycle club.

Lost in thought, Shane misjudges the distance to the awning and ends up tripping over the edge. As he stumbles, the beer slips out of his hand and crashes to the concrete. It ruptures on impact, promptly spraying everyone in the nearby vicinity as it spins in rapid circles from the pressure inside the can.

Yee-Haul, Messiah, and Home Run all spring to their feet, holding their soaked shirts and vests away from their bodies. Two-in-One makes a hasty grab for the still-spinning beer and snatches it off the ground, bringing the busted end to his mouth and popping the tab to finish it off. Shane goes red up to his ears, stumbling over apologies, but everyone just bursts into laughter.

“Thanks for the shower, beer buster,” Messiah laughs, twisting the end of his shirt to ring it out.

“Careful askin’ him to grab you a beer in the future, man,” Hellfire jokes to Yee-Haul.

“Yeah, you make a habit o’ this an’ we might all just have to start bringin’ a change o’ clothes to these meetings,” says Home Run.

Shane laughs as he swipes a hand across his face. “Might as well put it on the roster.”

This cracks everybody up even more. At the next month’s meeting, underneath Messiah’s colors is a shirt that says “To Wear In Case Beer Buster Does His Thing Again,” and it sticks.

Prospect Shane officially has a roadname.


KEYWORDS/DEFINITIONS (in order of appearance):

Club/MC: motorcycle club, in which every member owns and rides a motorcycle (unless a member cannot ride, wherein they would need a partner that could escort them).

Chapter: a definitive region of a club, usually by city; some clubs have chapters across several different states, or even countries, while others might just be within one. Multiple chapters often convene together over serious matters.

Prospect: entering members of an MC that spend the first probationary year attending meetings and proving their worth before they are voted to "patch in."

Colors: the vest (also known as "cut") that members wear to show what club they belong to; every club has a different colored vest with a definitive patch on the back. These can be taken away by any patch-holder at any given time if the crime befits it.

Patch-holders/patched members: fully integrated members of an MC that have "the patch"; prospects are not considered patched members and are not allowed to participate in club votes.

Lifer: a member that has been patched for ten years or more.

Roadname: a nickname exclusive to the MC, given by the MC, and not to be used outside of it.

Hang-around: a guest to the club that is neither a member nor a prospect (e.g. a spouse, friend, etc.).

Roster: the itinerary for each meeting that is followed by the elected officials, wherein the details of the meeting are recorded.

August 07, 2020 02:14

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Grace M'mbone
09:26 Aug 13, 2020

You have a way with dialogue Taylor. So much so that I am already taking notes. Your story made me smile. It was filled with the colour of humour. Your plot flowed and I couldn't notice any grammatical errors. It would be an honour to me if you took a look at even one of my stories.❤️❤️ Keep writing dear.


Taylor Arbuckle
21:27 Aug 13, 2020

You're very kind. Consider my day made. I'm really glad you liked it. And I would love to, I'll make a note to do that as soon as I get home!


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Stephanie Kaye
00:17 Aug 13, 2020

The dialogue is outstanding. I could hear your characters in my head! I enjoyed this very much!


Taylor Arbuckle
21:24 Aug 13, 2020

Thank you!


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Jen Ponig
07:14 Aug 12, 2020

The characters in this story are hilarious. The descriptions and dialogue are so full of life. Shane’s minor dilemma of fitting in and earning an official “road name” is a very interesting angle to tackle the broader issue of identity. Great read.


Taylor Arbuckle
18:36 Aug 12, 2020

Thank you! I appreciate your feedback very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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