Surtch Pherther had merely to squeeze the Vespa’s brake levers for a safe approach to the Tillage station… Somehow he managed, slowing in a wide arc through the lot to a spot near the doors of the welcome refuge.
“Damn,” hollered his brother, rolling in on the right, punctuating with exaggerated flexing of his left hand, “I almost couldn’t slow it down–clutch, shift, brakes, you name it.”
“Yeah, tell me about it, and I just have brakes to control.”
Eager to get inside and get hot coffee inside of them, they removed their thin gloves and their glasses and helmets while shivering toward the doors. For the wet and cold in which they’d been immersed for nearly two hours, every movement was a challenge, even thought and speech were slow. Needless to say, they left on their coats and other layers, foolishly few as they’d worn.
They had set off that morning in the face of a rainstorm threat–a threat that by north DeLusiville had become a promise, and just before Call’s Mill, a bully. Surtch had wanted to stop at Lutrec Marsh to gather any leftover magic from the year before, but such weather is only for curses.
In Agton Canyon the downpour really set in, and with each slight gain in elevation, the degrees dropped, until–at the pass, just a mile or so from the Tillage station–they hit a ride low of thirty-four Fahrenheit. Wet is wet; cold can mean discomfort; windy cold can be dangerous; but from all the time they’d spent in the harsh outdoors, the brothers knew that cold and wet in riding wind can be deadly, especially for the underprepared. Hypothermia is, after all, a skilled and silent seducer.
For about an hour at the corner booth they cupped large coffees in their convulsively shivering hands and tried not to shake too many crumbs from the donuts they’d bought. Fortunately, by the time they suppressed the storm’s effects, the dense overcast was breaking. It wasn’t exactly warm out, but afternoon sunlight was shining through. Surtch picked up the last of his groceries and packed his cooler, reluctantly scooping ice with his bare hands.
“Shit, man, that’s hardcore,” said a guy walking by, pointing at the laden scooter, “Did y’all come over the top?”
“Yeah, ‘bout an hour ago, all the way from the City of Contradictions. It was thirty-four up there.”
“Shit…,” shaking his head as he entered the station.
Across the lot, Surtch’s brother idled in wait at road’s edge. Surtch rolled up on the right, nodded, and after a moment, seconds before throttling onto the highway, casually said, “You know, I’m considering getting a motorcycle”.