[ THE MEN ]

PARTS COUNTER

Some people think he is just
a sour old man
with a limp
and a limitless supply of curses
which he shouts generously
at the mechanic
and the parts manager.

But I know why
the man behind the counter
at the motorcycle shop
is such a dour old firecracker.

For years he has stockpiled parts
one at a time
from wrecks that show up at the shop.
He has
for many afternoons
screwed with carburetors
and ignition advance units
and breathed the gray, sooty filth
that spews from exhaust pipes of bikes
that haven't run in years
but under his magic touch come alive
with only a few hours of work.

I know why.

The old man used to race,
the Catalina Grand Prix
and at Steamboat
and Riverside
and Daytona
and the bowls of his old tarnished trophies
carry a haphazard baggage of bolts
and rubber bands
and slightly used spark plugs,
and dust.
He never speaks of his racing career.

This man has tasted glory at the racetrack.
and he has acquired the skills
to tune Triumph motors to sing like
twin sopranos.
But you still need a to make a buck,
so he sits in this motorcycle shop
from 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday
and there is always some tightwad
who offers $17 instead of $20
for a starter solenoid.
Asshole.

For these reasons and more
one should carefully consider
before forming an opinion
about the old man
behind the parts counter.