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Almost Fiction: The steamer trunk

By Sam Jones

He owns several towels. As he lays them out on the bed, the hand towel, the face towel, the bath towel, the beach towel, he analyzes them and creates a ratio and proportional formula balancing each of their usefulness against their weight and size. Weight is not much of a consideration, but size is. He would be repeating this ritual with everything he plans on packing for his extended motorcycle trip. The expedition is not to be a short weekend blast, but rather an extended trip of months, of years, or maybe a trip of forever. If the possibility exists that he may never return then everything has to be planned right down to the size of his travel towel.

Let’s back up and remember how all of this extended trip business started.

In the morning, like every other morning, he got up, made coffee, sat at the computer, checked his “Favorites Pages” and realized that they were no longer his favorite. Giving a quick look to his e-mails, he also realized that he didn’t give a damn about the crap that clogged up his useless e-mails. No, he was not going to forward any of the drivel on to his friends. If they didn’t know by now who they were going to vote for president, his forwarding some inane comment or some spurious urban legend was not going to help make up their minds.

He turned off the computer, pushed the monitor back and drug out the bills that needed paying. The fuel bill was huge. The electric bill was twice what it was normally because it had been a hot summer and the air conditioner had run overtime. Having the computer, the phone, the cable TV bundled on the cable bill, he noticed something odd. It occurred to him that he was paying for a lot of stuff that he wasn’t using. A home phone, a business line, a fax line, a line for the shop and a cell phone all stared at him. Hell, he didn’t even like talking on the phone and couldn’t remember the last time there was a fax. Having returned to the nightly habit of reading, paying for 500 cable channels seemed a waste of money. Of course he had Netflix and Movies on Demand, but it had been weeks since he used either. Four Visa and MasterCard bills were paid every month, but he never carried a balance. If there was never a balance carried why, he wondered, was all this paperwork necessary and why didn’t he just buy things with cash?

He left the desk with the bills unpaid, questions unanswered, packed his gym bag and went to the gym.

While warming up on the treadmill the computer thing and the bills spun in his head at the same rate as the treadmill. They lingered as he loosened up on a bicep machine. They stayed in his head as he wrapped his hands and squeezed into his boxing gloves. As he got in the ring for a little light sparring they lasted until he got tagged by a right hook in the side of the head, which cleared his mind of anything other than keeping his guard up. Boxing is like riding a motorcycle; you can’t have anything else on your mind. If you do a car will come out of nowhere and put you in the hospital or a right hook will connect with the left side of your face and remind you to pay attention to the business at hand.

After taking a steam and a shower he dressed and went to the shop.

His was not a retail shop to make money; it was more like a clubhouse; a fort, for himself and his buddies to work on their motorcycles and restore some antique bikes. In today’s parlance it was a 1,500-square-foot man cave. He hated that term, never used it, but it was apt.

Looking around the shop, at the photographic equipment, at the motorcycles, at the reloading table and at the antique restorations he wondered why he owned all this junk. If he sold everything there would be a tidy nest egg. His friends could find somewhere else to play poker and drink beer. “It’s the Buddhists or Hindus or someone that says that you never own anything; your things own you. I ought to sell all this stuff, quit paying the rent and lighten up my life,” he said out loud to himself.

That’s when he started thinking seriously about the extended motorcycle trip.

The notion of traveling, owning nothing more than a motorcycle and packing all your belongings into a sidecar had been a romantic notion that rolled around in his head since… well… since forever. Eventually he modified his daydream by mentally removing the sidecar body and replacing it with a large steamer trunk that bolted to the sidecar frame.

A steamer trunk seemed to be the perfect container for the Grand Tour. If it had been good enough for the rich and famous of the ’20s, it was good enough for him. Later in his fanciful plans he removed the sidecar altogether and decided to ship the trunk wherever he was going.

Friends, college buddies, old girlfriends, people that sent Christmas cards that said, “When you are in town come and see us.” That’s what he would do; go and see them. Without the encumbrances of house, shop and junk he could travel and visit whomever he wished. Shipping the steamer trunk from friend to friend, he would be the perfect house guest, helping with the dishes without being asked, mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, telling funny stories around the dinner table… yes… he would be the perfect house guest. Before he outwore his welcome he would say, “Thank you,” and be on his way to the next friend, college buddy or old girlfriend. The host or hostess would say, “Wasn’t that a great visit. We can’t wait for him to return again next year.” In the winter he would ride south and in the summer ride north. Migrating birds had the right idea.

Maybe walking into that right hook had forced him into considering the realities of his life. Maybe it had removed reality and had him chasing a trip to fantasyland.

It didn’t make any difference. In the late afternoon, at home he lays out his towels and picks the one that would be packed. The others and the rest of his useless garbage will be sold.


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