"Uh, where are you going?" I asked.
"Just around the block," he said, and throttled up, lurching a little as he rolled out of the parking lot and onto the street. He went around the corner and out of sight. The image of his business shirt rippling across his back remained in my mind for a moment. Of the many reactions I had anticipated from him, hopping on my bike and riding off was not even in the ballpark. After what seemed an eternity, my father appeared around the corner and pulled smoothly into the parking place.
He then told me about a motorcycle he had owned when he was 18. "When I was in the service at the Jacksonville air base, I had an old Harley-Davidson Flathead 74, not the kind with the overhead valves," he said. "It had a shift on the side. I was cruising along on the old Jacksonville highway, going about 45 or 50 miles an hour, when I saw a block of wood on the road. I had on hard-toe military safety shoes and decided to see what would happen if I kicked that block of wood." He started to smile. "I thought I would never get the feeling back in my leg. It was numb for about 30 minutes." He laughed. "Don't ever do anything like that."
Toward the end of that summer, a friend and I rode our bikes to Hot Springs, Ark., to visit my parents at their vacation condo. I knew that my mother now was going to find out about my purchase. As we rode up to their apartment complex, she happened to be standing on the balcony. I took my helmet off, expecting her to be upset, but she showed no emotion. After my friend left and my mother and I were alone, I asked her what she thought of the motorcycle.
"You're old enough to do what you want," she said. "Does your father know about this?"
"Did he ride it?" This was a question I hadn't expected.
"Yes, he did."
"Did you lose sight of him?" she asked. Another unexpected question.