Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 3, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 3

San Francisco has the crappiest climate in the whole world, thought Ranny. Sure, there were times when the sun shone and the fog stayed away all day, and if you didn't have a hangover and you didn't have to go to a stinking job, it could even seem like a nice place to live. But Ranny had lived here all his life, except for that year in the Army, and it couldn't fool him. Those sunny, warm days were just to suck you in so that you'd think that maybe the global warming crap they were always whining about on the TV was really going to kick in and make this a place fit for a human being - and then it was back to the same old rotten, stinking, cold, nasty-ass fog. It wasn't fog that just sat there and didn't do much but make it hard to see clearly. No, San Francisco fog came blowing in off the cold northern Pacific, or in under that Golden Gate bridge the tourists were always oohing and ahhing over, and it was bone-chilling cold.

Ranny was definitely not in the college-bound group at Potrero Hill High, and English Literature was not a course he'd gotten a great deal out of, but he had never forgotten that one memorable passage about fog. Not that he had memorized it, but he sure as hell remembered what that fool poet had said.

The teacher was an idealistic young man who'd moved to San Francisco from Billings, Montana. Apparently he felt that the climate, both weather-wise and socially, might be easier to take for one of his somewhat delicate makeup. As Ranny recalled, the young man had decided after Christmas break that teaching a bunch of uncouth, ungrateful young fools was not for him, and he had simply not returned to school. One night later that year Ranny had seen him again, but the circumstances were such that they hadn't spoken. A couple of neighborhood punks had decided to cruise Castro Street and invited Ranny along, only because they believed in strength in numbers, not because Ranny was a popular fellow. Telling his mother that he had to go to the branch library to get some information about a History project, Ranny eagerly joined the expedition. Harassing gays was a popular sport with high-school boys eager to prove that they themselves were all male. Whether they were trying to prove it to their peers or to themselves was not something that they reflected on. These were boys not much given to reflection.

Before searching for easy prey on the outskirts they had slowly driven through the main part of the district. The blocks just south of Market were like a street party every night. Music poured out of the bars, with their windows open onto the street to let the air out, the air superheated by the energy pouring out of the laughing, never-still young men inside. Big black Harleys, shining with chrome and leather, stood in clumps of three or four, their noses angled in to the curb like strange bionic horses from a time-warped Western movie. Their riders were not the long-haired, big-bellied men one saw astride those bikes elsewhere, nor were they the slightly-built young men strolling the sidewalks who attracted the scorn and hatred of the high-school bullies. No, these men caused distinct, but unvoiced, unease in the young toughs. They were hard-bodied, well-muscled men, and they stared out at the world from under their leather motorcycle caps with cold, appraising eyes. The boys' eyes were attracted to the bikes, but when they took in the figures lounging on the seats, feet propped up on the handlebars, they found that they could not face down the menace they felt radiating out from that pool of leather, metal, and flesh. And flesh there was - many riders wore only a leather vest on top, open to display nipple rings, possibly joined by a chain. Others were shirtless, clad only in black leather cap, pants, and boots. Ranny had even seen one who wore not leather pants, but only chaps with the seat cut out so that his bare butt cheeks were pressed against the seat of his big Harley.

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