"You ever rode a bike with a sidecar?" Andy asked when they went back to pick up the Harley.
"Nope." Ray figured to steer instead of lean into turns. How hard could it be?
"Let's wheel it out back so you can practice," Andy offered.
A narrow blacktopped strip behind the building, an alleyway of sorts, ran the length of the block – buildings on the left, a chain-link fence and tall shrubs on the right. Ray swung his leg over the saddle, the motion causing his bruised tailbone to twinge a reminder, and started the engine. A thrill shot through him as the bike growled to life, the ache in his tailbone forgotten.
"Man, that sounds good," he shouted above the beefy rumble.
Andy grinned. "Who's your ballast?"
Grace stepped forward. "I think he means me."
"Climb on in," Andy said. "Be sure to fasten your seatbelt." He turned to Benny. "Go ahead and get on behind your dad. Might as well feel how the bike's gonna handle fully loaded."
Benny couldn't lift his leg high enough to clear the seat. Ray got off and helped him, then endured another sharp stab from his tailbone climbing back on.
"Take it slow at first," Andy warned. "She's gonna yaw."
Ray eased out on the clutch and the bike headed for the fence.
"Watch out!" Grace shouted.
Ray hit the brakes and the bike slued toward the building. Sweat popped out on his arms as he brought the Harley to a shaky stop.
"Thing to remember," Andy hollered, sprinting to catch up, "most of your weight's in the bike and driver, so the sidecar acts as a drag."
Now he tells me.
The band of Benny's arms around his waist made it hard to breathe. "Loosen up, son."
Ray took a breath and tried again. Prepared for the drag this time, he managed to keep the bike pointed straight. The front end began shimmying and he stopped again.
"That normal?" he asked when Andy caught up to them.
Andy nodded. "It'll smooth out once you pick up a little speed. Go ahead and take 'er around the side streets here, get used to turning. Even with ballast, you'll need to lean your weight into the turn to keep the sidecar on the road."
Ray glanced over at Grace. Her skin had gone a sickly shade of gray and she gripped the edge of the sidecar with a look of determination.
What the hell have I gotten us into?
"Hang on," he said, attempting to make light of the situation.
Benny's arms tightened.
"Not that hard, son."
The band around his waist relaxed and Ray eased out on the clutch, accelerated through the shimmy, maneuvered the first right turn okay and then a left. Over-confident, he took the next right too sharp and fast. The sidecar lifted and headed for a power pole. Grace screamed. Benny screamed. Ray was too busy getting the bike under control to scream, but he wanted to.
He got them stopped and they sat for a few seconds with the bike half up on the sidewalk, its engine lobbing patiently, the nose of the sidecar inches from the pole.
Finally Grace asked, "Do you know what you did wrong?"
"Good." She released her grip on the sidecar and folded her hands in her lap, looking for all the world like somebody's grandma out for a relaxing Sunday afternoon drive. "Then let's be goin' to Vegas."
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