“Rowdy” Randy Cox, a woman staring down the barrel of retirement, is a curmudgeonly blue-collar butch lesbian, who has been single for twenty years and is trying to date again.
At the end of a long, exhausting shift, Randy finds her supervisor, Bryant, pinned and near death at the warehouse where they work. Upon the news of his death, she battles to find a balance between the joys of an exciting new relationship and the struggles of processing her supervisor’s unexpected passing.
The manner of her supervisor’s death leaves Randy unsettled and suspicious as she gets sucked into both a criminal investigation led by the police and an administrative investigation conducted by her employer.
As Randy seeks the truth, trust erodes, key friendships are strengthened, and more loss awaits her.
Warnings: violence, cancer death.
Liz is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:
“Yeah. You wanna ride the canyon?” Bear asked as she ran her fingers through her wild salt-and-pepper hair. Buck and I both nodded. I stowed my snacks and slid on my helmet.
“Okay. Everybody’s all gassed up, right? Last gas station before the canyon is at the casino.”
“We’re good. Filled up before crossing the causeway. Now stand back,” Bear said as she did a Jackie Gleason style windup before hoisting her short leg over the saddle of her bike.
We’d ridden many miles together and I was happy to see that her bike, a massive 1600cc Road Star, which she had lovingly named Champagne, was still on the road.
Buck fired up her Harley with a bone rattling rumble. I reminded myself to ride in front of her. When I rode behind her the engine noise was too much. I paired up the Bluetooth and Spotify again and picked a 1980s hits channel. Van Morrison sang to me about tupelo honey as I pulled out behind Bear, with Buck taking sweep behind us.
As we rolled slowly by PJ’s, the checker was walking out of the front door, gazing down at her cell phone. She looked up just in time to knock me out one more time with her bright eyes and toothy smile, making my heart race. I had to force myself to focus back on riding as we pulled out of the parking lot onto the main road.
We dodged big groups of college kids on bicycles as we passed through intersections until Dairy Glen turned back into farmland. Long, ramrod-straight county roads that ran between tomato and sunflower fields took us to the next county. The coastal mountains rose in the distance, the only thing to break up the scenery of the flat valley floor except for the occasional barn, well pump, or windmill.
Before long the three of us were weaving our way through the green rolling hills of Capay Valley, the two-lane road gently curving around orchards and dormant row crop fields. I saw some farms with livestock, including a few llamas and emu. We passed through the small towns of Madison, Esparto, and Capay.
Around the bend we got to Brooks, where the small farmhouses gave way to the casino, looming large, overlooking vineyards and the foothills. A massive banner strung across the front advertised an upcoming big-name concert. After the casino we passed through Guinda, and the road narrowed further as the terrain changed from wide-open valley floor to canyon, with steep wooded hillsides. The temperature dropped several degrees in the shade of the hills.
I did my best to stay focused on the ride and the road, but the heart-stopping smile I had gotten earlier in Dairy Glen, those blue eyes locked on mine, were a big distraction. I hadn’t given any woman a second look in years, let alone have one get my heart and mind racing.
Bear cruised along, never in a hurry, taking the curves with ease. I checked my side mirror now and then to make sure Buck was still with us, her aftermarket exhaust pipes echoing through the narrow canyon. There were hardly any other vehicles on the canyon road, though we did pass a few packs of cyclists decked out in spandex, riding fancy road bikes. As we rolled by a group of bikes on a steep climb, I watched one guy’s chiseled leg muscles working hard to pedal. The lady in front of him blew a snot rocket over her shoulder and he didn’t even flinch. I was glad to have an engine between my legs and opened the throttle to climb the last bit of the hill.
At the top of the hill, we zoomed by another gaggle of cyclists, resting after their climb. They were all off their bikes, panting and sweating even in the cold. One lady was throwing up in the bushes. Her jersey said “Veni, Vidi, Vomiti.” The slogan rattled around in my brain, drawing me back to my father trying to teach me Latin as a kid. I figured it meant something like: I came, I saw, I barfed. Another lady stood by, leaning on her bike frame, totally unbothered, sucking on one of those goo energy tubes.
My fingers and toes had started to go numb from the cold despite wearing thick socks and boots, and winter riding gloves. While on a short, straight stretch I took my eyes off the road again to turn on the heated grips. I pressed the button and looked up just in time to see Bear dump her bike over farther than I thought possible. Champagne, nearly on its side, cut over into the opposite lane and back.
I scanned the road for the hazard and had just enough time to register a small rockslide, scree and baseball-sized chunks of rock bouncing down the steep hillside and onto the road. I spotted a small gap and rode straight through, pebbles pinging off my helmet and shooting out from under my tires. I checked my mirror and watched as Buck, who’d had the most time to respond, swung out wide and avoided the whole thing with little fuss. That was Buck for ya.
Bear parked in a turnout a few hundred yards up the road. I pulled in behind her to catch my breath. I yanked off my helmet and pulled the bandana down off my mouth, heart doing somersaults.
Bear slapped her chest and let out a roar that reverberated through the hills and down the canyon.
“Awooo! Jesus Christ! Did you see that, Randy?”
“I can’t believe you didn’t dump it. That was some fine goddamn riding.”
“Wasn’t my first time, won’t be my last.” She gasped and shook her hands out.
“Good thing you’ve been riding since before you could spell motorcycle.”
We laughed wildly, which helped me relax and steady myself as the adrenaline rush faded. Buck pulled in behind us, tires crunching on gravel, and killed her engine.
Liz transplanted to California from New York over thirty years ago. She now lives in the East Bay Area of California and enjoys exploring nature with her wife and son.
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