Sidecar

**I wrote this a while back. I submitted it to a short story magazine and was rejected, but I’m proud of it still**

The motorcycle rattled and rumbled over the cobblestones in the old town square. The engine sputtered and spat smoke as it ground to a halt in front of the only brick building around. The driver gritted his teeth, a stub of a cigar rolling left to right. The passenger in the sidecar stared straight ahead, his goggle-clad face expressionless as the smoke wafted into his headspace.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” said the driver as he killed the engine and climbed off the greasy bike. He snatched a satchel from the side of the bike and strode into the building. A signing reading “Staccato Brothers, Attorneys at Law” hung over the door.

The passenger said nothing, still staring and still.

Now absent of the grumble of the machine and its driver, the town square was awash in the usual soft noises of late evening—people telling stories and laughing at the street cafe, a street musician strumming his mandolin on the corner opposite a cafe, and the fountain in the center of town quiet and bubbling. Strings of twinkling lights laced themselves across the streets creating a lattice of sparkle and stars between the dimly lit walls of stucco-covered buildings and the open green space of the square.

A dog barked from across the square. The sound echoed off the buildings then faded into the melodic sounds of the evening, slicing through the general murmur only to have the murmur heal itself like a knife through jello. Then the dog barked again.

The passenger turned his head slowly. Looking at the dog. The dog barked again and padded a few steps closer to the man in the motorcycle sidecar.

The passenger lifted his goggles onto the top of his leather helmet, his eyes masked in pale against the soot around his eyes. He tilted his head to the side and the dog did the same.

***

Moments later, the driver stomped backwards out of the door of the building stuffing papers into his satchel. “That’s bull! You haven’t heard the last of William Pasley!”

William muttered more to himself as he strode back to the motorcycle—things about lawyers and fairness and getting even. The cuff of his jeans caught on the footpeg as he started to climb on, he stumbled backwards and let out a curse word. He kicked the bike before climbing back on again. He straddled the saddle and then stomped on the starter. “Just wait, Walter.” Stomp. “We’ll get what we deserve.” Stomp. “Just you wait.”

The motorcycle choked to life. A blast of smoke erupted from the tailpipe.

Walter said nothing, still staring and still.

They rode off, overpowering the sounds of the square once again, rattling and rumbling over the cobblestone street until they came to idle at the edge of the square where they could overlook the entire town—the buildings stair-stepping downward, the docks stretching out for nearly a quarter mile, the ships docked for the night, and the sea reflecting the light of the nearly full moon.

“What are we gonna do, Walter?” asked William, grunting as he pulled on fingerless, leather gloves.

Walter reached up and patted William’s knee.

“You’re a good little brother,” said William, choking back tears. “Mum was right about you. You always take care of me, even when I’m supposed to take care of–”

A small growl cut William off. The growl appeared to be coming from Walter’s feet. The growl grew and the blanket covering Walter’s knees began to rise in random spots, tiny mountain ranges forming in the stiff fabric.

“What’s that, Walter?” asked William. Walter grabbed his brother’s hand as it reached to remove the blanket. “Let me see, damn it.”

The edge of the blanket flipped up as the escaping entity pushed in the right spot. William pulled his hand back quickly as a small, gray face snapped at his dirty, knuckled fingers. Walter reached forward and grabbed hold of the bony, patchwork body of the dog. The dog wriggled a bit, but seemed to find Walter’s grip welcoming.

“A dog!?” William’s face began to turn red. Walter looked up at his brother then back down at the dog. “We’re having this much troubles and you picked up a mangy dog?”

Walter stuck out his lower lip.

“Walter, what is wrong with you?” asked William. “Here I am, fighting with everyone, fighting for you, and you go and bring us another mouth to feed? A mutt to give us fleas on top of our other problems? Baby brother, what are you thinking?”

The motorcycle engine shook. William wanted an answer and was was willing to sit on the edge of the hill and wait all night until her got one. “Well?”

Walter puffed up his cheeks, and began digging around the floor of the sidecar as William continued on about responsibilities and respect and how right now he just wanted to be heard. Walter sat up, pulling on a pair of heavy leather gloves, and then reapplied his goggles with a snap. He reached over the side of the car, pulled the holding pin, and pushed his brother away.

Only William didn’t move.

Walter did.

Slowly at first, the sidecar carrying Walter began to roll down the hill. It would move and then briefly be caught on a cobblestone’s edge until it crested the mini-mountain only to accelerate further down the hillside. Within seconds Walter’s car gained speed—brakeless and rudderless, but this didn’t bother the little man, for now all he could feel was the rapidly accelerating wind pushing at his face and pulling at the stray locks that were not tangled in his goggles or tucked under his helmet.

It could never be said that William was particularly quick thinking, but the realization of what his brother had just done could have been lapped by every thought that had come before it. He sat atop the bike, mouth open and wide, watching the back of his brother’s head move further away, the face of the small dog peering over over his brother’s shoulder, almost smiling.

Walter on the other hand was usually quick thinking, or at the very least quick acting. So when he looked ahead and saw a cart on the road directly in his path, he began to search for a way to prevent crashing into it, after he wrestled his new furry friend back onto his lap. The cart appeared to be filled with lettuce, the most profitable crop of the local farmers. He leaned to the left quickly to try and nudge the car over, but to no avail. He bent down into the side car and pulled out his umbrella. Walter never left home without his umbrella.

He leaned over the right side of the car and tried to push off of the cobblestones, hoping he could row like he would in a canoe. The umbrella bounced hard off the cobblestones and pulled itself from Walter’s hand, he grabbed and clutched it, but just barely. He looked at the dog, his eyes wide enough to be and fully visible behind the grubby lenses of the goggles.

If the ground was moving too fast he would have to try the wheels. He leaned toward the left wheel. He puffed his cheeks again and blew out hard as he lightly grabbed the left wheel with his gloved hands. The car slowly began to swerve to the left out of the path of the cart, but it was moving too slowly. Walter grabbed at the wheel harder still and it jerked quickly to the left, knocking the dog off his feet to land on the floor of the car with a yelp, the car sped past the cart, the breeze it caused knocked a few heads of lettuce off onto the road.

“Walter!” yelled William from above.

Something wasn’t right. Walter raised his hands and looked at them. . . the left glove was now missing, and the right was smoking slightly and smelled vaguely of fresh jerky. Up ahead the road leveled out at a cross street where a flock of geese were splashing in a large puddle. Walter reached down and plucked up the dog, displaying him near the front of the car. The dog saw the geese, and, just as Walter had hoped, began to bark his piercing bark at the billed bystanders.

“Look out, baby brother!” yelled William. He half hid his eyes as his brother clipped two geese, a cloud of feathers appeared and streams of water flew up from either side of the car. Walter was safe, and the leveling out and water had slowed him down a bit. William leaned forward and sped up, determined to catch up.

The water may have slowed the car, but it also made it slide further to the left and onto the sidewalk. Walter pulled the dog back in and ducked down as they knocked over a sign for a bakery, carelessly left out by the shop owner. Walter leaned hard to the right, and, barely missing a postal box, thudded back on the street.

That little detour gave William time to gain ground on the sidecar, and now they were moving down the hill side by side. William reached out his hand. “Take it!”

Walter crossed his arms.

“Take it!” yelled William again, reaching out his arm looking at William. Walter looked straight ahead and pointed. William turned just in time to swerve to miss a previously displaced goose.

William drove onto the right sidewalk: dancing between tables and chairs in a corner cafe, dodging a row of potted trees, and driving between a couple walking and holding hands. He could see Walter bounce around after hitting a few missing bricks in the road. Somehow the sidecar was able to straighten its path, but it was acquiring speed and nearing the docks where Walter was bound to crash into something—a boat if he was lucky and the sea if he wasn’t. . . Walter had never learned to swim.

The road was getting rougher and Walter looked worried. The dog whimpered and pushed his nose against Walter’s leg. Walter removed his goggles and helmet, tied the goggles onto the chin strap of the helmet, and tested the strength of the knot. He lifted the dog and placed him inside the oversized, leather helmet. As the sidecar jumped from the cobblestone streets to the planked dock, Walter dangled the helmet over the edge of the car and reached out as far as he could, swinging the helmet back and forth. Waiting for his moment, he let go with one final swing and released the goggles, with the helmet and the dog, into a collection of sacks of lettuce.

Walter looked back to see if the dog was ok, his blue eyes wide and concerned, but the shouting ahead made him divert his attention back to his path. “Look out,” yelled a dock worker who jumped out of the way to avoid being hit.

“What was that?” he asked another worker. And then “Gah!” as the motorcycle flew past just as close.

The dock was long, especially by the standards of other docks along the Flowdarvian sea, but it didn’t go on forever and Walter’s car didn’t appear to be slowing fast enough to stop before he reached the end.

Walter took a moment to slide his fist through the strap on the handle of the umbrella before opening it behind him. For a moment he smiled as the umbrella slowed the car, but soon the pull proved too much for the bumbershoot and it flipped inside out. He was nearing a stack of wooden crates at the end of the dock. He sighed, closed his eyes, and stretched his arms wide, embracing his fate.

William cranked the motorcycle, and as he passed the sidecar he grabbed on to Walter’s seat and jumped off the motorcycle landing hard on both feet, pulling along like a skier, digging his heels in as the sidecar crashed into the crates and stopped inches from the edge of the dock. The motorcycle fell to its side and slid off the dock and into the sea.

“Little brother! Little brother!” shouted William, throwing wooden planks off the side car. “Are you all right, Walter? Where are you, little brother?”

Buried under planks, in a cloud of dust, the soot ringed eyes of Walter blinked and peered out from the accidental cave. He let out a little cough.

“Oh baby brother, I thought I lost you,” said William, ripping through the rest of the wreckage between them. “I’m not ready to lose you yet, Walter. Please don’t leave me.”

William grabbed his brother in a bear hug and pulled him from the car. “You can keep the dog, I’m sorry. I’m just not ready to lose you, not yet. I know soon I—I mean you—”

Walter patted his brother on the back.

After many minutes, William released his brother and sniffed, wiping tears from his bony cheeks. Walter looked at the end of the dock, bubbles bubbling up from the blue bay.

“Oh, I can fix that,” said William. “Pete Brackish has pulled bigger things out of the bay than that. And you know I can get her running again. The important thing is you’re safe.”

A shrug and a half smile was all the younger brother gave.

“Mum would have been so cross with me if you’d have been hurt,” said William. “You know she holds me responsible for you.”

A small bark came from the direction of the town. Walter ran past his brother and crouched down to let the dog jump into his lap, he fell over as the dog licked his face.

“Well I suppose this little fella is gonna need a name,” said William. He helped his brother up and the three began to walk up the dock toward the lights of the town. “Oscar?” asked William. Walter shook his head. “Spot?” Another shake. “Sidecar?” Walter pushed his brother playfully.

“Yeah, I think that’s a good name too.”

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