Day 5: Dutch and the Freckle-Faced Girl
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

The morning was as cool and wonderful as it was brief. Soon the heat was on.

All the vents were open in my jacket. The space between my visor and my face begins to heat up. I open the visor. The space between my sunglasses and my eyeballs begins to heat up. I do nothing. Everything that stands still produces heat, radiates heat, like naked reactors. The scrawny dry trees and pale grasses are a spark away from a critical mass of releasing all their heat at once in a chain reacting blast. In the meantime they simply stood silent, stoic.

I have to keep moving. I have to keep the air flowing and the wheels moving. It's like I'm getting chased by the secret heat of the earth, chased deeper into it. The dryness is hostile. My focus has narrowed and I'm well beyond asking myself any questions about why I am on this road. I'm going to journey into the heart of the heat, and have an ice cold beer.

Eventually I have to stop for some water. I find a rare shade spot under a tree by the side of the road. As I start to drink I feel light headed. I put a hand out towards the bike to catch myself but the world spins and everything goes dark.

After some time I hear "He'll be fine, let's go. We have to get the bank before three or they'll be closed."

It's a voice a few yards off. The world wobbles in to focus and a face covers over me. A woman, young, button nose, freckles. She has a leather jacket on and a white t-shirt that says "FUCK CLOUDS".

"You look like you got yourself into a bit of a pickle."

"Yeah, I guess so..."

Behind the freckled girl I see another figure, stocky, short dark hair with bangs. A discrete nose ring. Behind her is a harley, gleaming in the sunlight like a white pegasus. Beyond the bike, the heat shimmered up from everything everywhere. The freckle-faced girl is wiping my forehead with a water-soaked bandanna.

"Hey Dutch, he looks just like Hunter S. Thompson! But less jaded!" the freckle-faced girl says gleefully. This is implausible; I know my beard is wild and at best I look like a five minute character in a Hunter S. story, part of some drunken backdrop who gets a line or two. But then again maybe I am like Hunter S. but less jaded. Perhaps she is onto something. "Maybe he can help us with our errands!"

Dutch grunts in what must be assent. I decide immediately that since they may have saved my life I am honor-bound to help them with whatever this errand is, as long as it's in the direction of the heart of the heat. I have a feeling it is.

Some part of me thinks I've been manipulated somehow, played like a sizzling piece of bacon, but I can't think how. It doesn't matter. Right now is about jumping into it and not turning away no matter what.

"What's yer errand?" I say, rising up on my elbows.

Dutch gives me a hard look. "We just have to get some money from the bank. We're closing our accounts and buying some property."

"Sure, if I can help I..."

"Let's get a move on then." She gets on the harley, and the freck-faced girl climbs on back and wraps her arms affectionately around Dutch's waist. The bike roars to life, a sonic force that makes the planet quiver. They roar away and I'm scrambling towards my bike to catch up.

I follow them for an hour. It's getting hotter but I'm like cold steel. We're doing 100, 110 through the ambling hills. The girls ride low, Dutch's arms stretched out to the high bars. The freckle-faced girl wears a small helmet but the Dutch's short hair just flicks in the wind.

We arrive into Blue Falls, TX at 2:55 PM. Dutch pulls up to the bank, I fall in behind her. The town is all dirt roads, old wood buildings. Across from us is the Whitefield General Store and the Bull Saloon. I ponder that a cold one would be just about right. Maybe play a few hands of poker. I'd bet Dutch would warm up eventually.

Dutch hops off the harley and turns to me, saying sternly: "Shout if anyones comes."

My puzzled face turns wide eyed as the freckle-faced girls pulls two enormous revolvers from under her petite jacket, holding them up, one in each hand. They gleam with the pegasus. She giggles. I groan. Everytime I am in Texas I end up on the run. There was the Brisket Incident, the Disco Dance Hall Riot, train heists and jail breaks too numerous to count. The Brisket Incident being the exception, the rest were not my doing. They simply pull me in.

Dutch and the freckle-faced girl stride into the bank. I listen to the breeze and hear someone whistling in the distance. Just as Dutch and the freckle-faced girl walk out of the bank, a cop car comes around the bend towards town, fish tailing in the dirt with sirens blaring.

Dutch leaps into the air with surprising agility, landing on the harley and instantly firing it up while the freckle-faced girl climbs on. I start my BMW and we are off in a cloud of dirt. The dirt road twists and turns and we ride it like wolves. We can hear the sirens behind us. There are three cars now, then four and five. Texas is a big place, we can't outrun the radios. I'm starting to feel tense, like maybe this won't work out as well as my other misadventures.

We fly through a turn. I see the Dutch motion with her hand, as if I'm to follow. Before I can wonder, she guns it and heads straight off the road. She plummets to the ditch like a comet, over the brush, and I'm right behind her, out of options. We turn and dodge shrubs and trees, slowing. I realize we're on a little trail. We pull up into a little wooded area, it's cool and shaded. I see a table, a cooler, a lantern. We're completely secluded. We kill the engines.

The sirens seem to be all around us, going this way and that. It's a jaw clenched search. Dutch and the freckle-faced girl hop off the bike, both laughing. Dutch has a nice smile. Part of me wants to elaborate on a few issues I have with how things went down, but I don't know where to start. Dutch opens the cooler and takes out three cans of beer, tossing one to me. The sound of it opening is a release, I'm unwound and unsprung, cool and refreshed. We gather around the table and start to tell stories.

They wanted the money to start a motorcycle museum. It's been their dream for years. This was their sixth and last heist, and they are at the cusp of realizing everything they want. I'm happy for them and we celebrate. The sound of sirens fades.

We start a fire. Stories get louder, then quieter, until we're all sleep in the sandy dirt, our motorcycle gear makeshift pillows and blankets. The cool and silence is a blanket and we sleep the sleep of the desert.

When I awake they are gone, along with the cooler and even the table. I stretch and wipe the dust off my jacket. I dig around for my last bits of beef jerky. I wonder if someday I'll ride into some lonesome town and see the girls' museum. It isn't really time for wondering about things though. TIme to get back on the road, time to push for a few more hours in the Texas heat until I'm clear into New Mexico.

I really need to stay the hell out of Texas.

[ tags: adventure bankrobbing dmc-lx3 motorcycle texas travel ]

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