Another beautiful summertime evening, hot and sultry in the daytime, but gloriously crisp at twilight…a cool breeze danced through the air, awakening moon and stars greeted the earth with bright, soft smiles, and crickets sang in harmony, rejoicing in their relief from the sun's harsh rays. Thaddeus Castello stepped out into the early June ambiance, a quick spring in his step as he trotted towards his motorcycle in the parking lot. All was quiet and dark, a very peaceful end to an exigent but overall rewarding day. He swung his tall, muscular frame onto the bike and started the engine, and grinned when his newly purchased sportsbike vigorously revved up and then gently purred, begging to go with speed across the moonlit roads. He pushed in the clutch, set it in gear, and was off gliding towards home.
For a change of pace, he decided to try a new route home. The drive from Blue Falls, West Virginia to Tibbston, WV would take just under half an hour for an adept driver as himself, but the night was just too magnificent to waste on the mundane scenery of the interstate. He took towards a back country road, having been told by a coworker that it later merges onto Greenview Run Road, which leads straight to Emerald Oaks (a small community three miles from the town of Tibbston), his home and the home of his girlfriend who lived just across the street. He leaned, allowing the bike to gracefully curve to the bends in the road and his mind to wander. What a wonderful day in so many aspects at his internship at WebTech, Inc... Finished his first significant operational program testing project on his own, received his first paycheck from the three full weeks of working five days a week, and had been starting to gain acquaintances and trust within the company. All seemed to be fitting together, piece by piece. He couldn't wait to get inside, but more than that, he couldn't wait to get a warm smile, a cheerful squeeze, and a "see, I told you it'd be OK" from his sprightly girlfriend. He knew she'd be waiting for his return this late Friday evening. Thaddeus shifted gears, eagerly awaiting the rest of the dreamy, moonlit night.
The low fuel light in the consol turned on, pulling Thaddeus out of his itinerant thoughts. He sighed, not wanting to stop for a second, but knowing that it certainly wouldn't hurt kill him to wait five more minutes. He still had about twenty miles to go, and there was no reason to risk running out of gas due to sheer laziness. He noticed a gas station sign looming above the trees, and he pulled in for the brief delay. It was pitch black all around the run-down station, and the only soul in sight was a modestly dressed man filling up a rusted, battered brown van. Thaddeus started fueling, occupying his boredom by humming a lighthearted Coldplay tune. A slightly stockier, dark-haired man strolled from behind the unlit convenience store and stopped beside the man at the van. "Nice night, eh?" he said to his friend at the pump, smoke puffing out of his nostrils and mouth. The tall, brawny man at the pump nodded. The shorter man, taking notice of a handsome motorcycle and similarly handsome young adult at the next pump over, lightly jabbed his friend. He glanced up from the pump, over to Thaddeus, back to his friend, grinned, and nodded back to him. The short, burly man initiated conversation with the clean-cut stranger, remarking, "Nice bike you got there."
Thaddeus hesitated for a second, not sure if he was being addressed. He smiled and returned, "Oh, uh thanks; just got it a few weeks ago at a used dealership. Ninja 650R."
"Well, ain't that a perdy little toy. Bet'cha paid a lot for that bike, huh?"
"It actually wasn't too bad of a price. It's a 2007 model, so I was able to buy it for around $2,000."
"Is that so? Well…I'm almost surprised ya didn't buy a new one. You look like the type that could afford it."
Thaddeus blushed and responded, "Well, not really. I mean maybe once I start my job for good in a year or two. Money's a still a bit tight right now. So this motorcycle is really a luxury for me."
"I hear ya on that one. Where do ya work?"
The youth paused, not sure how to answer such an inquisitive question from a complete stranger. Still, they seemed to just be making conversation in an attempt to avoid a somewhat awkward five minutes. After all, they were just hometown folks being sociable. He answered politely, "…um, at a computer database and programming company in Blue Falls."
"Oh, one of them smarty-pants computer programmer, are ya? You'll be makin' lots of money soon, I'm sure of that."
"Thanks. I certainly hope so."
All was quiet for a minute as both parties turned to pay.
The tall man, slowly punching numbers into the pump's keypad said with a warm smile to Thaddeus, "Have a nice night then, sonny. Don't be goin' too fast on that pretty bike."
"Yes, thank you, sir. Nice talking with you."
With that, Thaddeus slipped on his helmet, hopped onto his gleaming Ninja, and with a smile and a nod towards the friendly men, headed back to the secluded road. Bewildered, he wondered if he knew the men from somewhere, and if not, why they were being so interested and talkative to him. Deciding they must just be nice country folk, he shrugged it off and focused on the hushed countryside surrounding him. He shifted gears, reminding himself to hurry back to smiles at home. The shadowy road winded on, but he was already miles away in his blissful thoughts.