And so, readers, I sat tight while old Mo diced with dealers and pimps

And so, readers, I sat tight while old Mo diced with dealers and pimps

A month ago I was travelling the outback in convoy with a dozen bikers, only a couple of whom I knew. I was in a 4×4 with my old mate Mo. The bikers rode whopping chromed triceratops made by BMW and they were armored in black Kevlar and knee-high boots and full-faced helmets. It was hard to tell who was who in this cyborg tribe, but beneath their Terminator carapace they were honest men who ran laundries and steelworks and tinkered with bratwurst.

They set up their tents in the camping ground across from the pub in the waning town of Ivanhoe. Mo and I don’t sleep in camping grounds, so we drove out into the bush and camped in sand and cypress pine. A full moon threw silver light casting night shadows, and at dawn we crawled from ice-whitened swags and drove back into town for breakfast. Our biker friends were gathered around the bowser outside the store and we pulled up alongside them and Mo got out of the car and before I could stop him he was off, in among them, patting helmets and fuel tanks.

Mo is on the cusp of 100 years, but his humor hasn’t faded. His first impulse on seeing a group of people is to make that group laugh, to become its star. So when he was in the midst of our bikers he called, “Which of you fellows is going to be in charge of my ablutions today? My apertures don’t seal like they did. I ooze. So who’s going to be the boy with his finger in the dike? Form a queue and I’ll check your nails.” Our bikers stared and blinked at Mo, and at each other. Nobody smiled at his joke, because – they weren’t our bikers. They weren’t even bikers. They were bikies.

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These men were not in Kevlar leaning on BMWs. These men were in leather and denim and ink, astride Harleys. These men were not launderers and bratwurst pedants. They were drug dealers, standover merchants, and pimps. They were a bikie gang blasting through town on a run. One-percenters living free, living proud, no man’s bitch, no man’s orifice-monkey.

Is there another beast so pinheaded as the bikie in the contemporary zoology of idiots? What other group has taken the limp games of boyhood into adulthood? What other group clings to bunny-rug concepts of violent glory like a bikie does? Despite pulsing ugliness they are narcissists who bat their lashes at their tough-guy selves in shopfront glass and flex biceps they’ve mistaken for a career. They’re proudly unemployed because, bro, you don’t have to nine-to-five it like some square head when you’ve got action happening at street level. So I think they were surprised to be offered work as apprentice plumbers on an old man’s derelict reticulation.

Still sitting in the 4×4, I performed a coward’s calculus. What exactly is lost if a nonagenarian is beaten to death by Gypsy Jokers or Mongols? The notion that all lives are equally important is heartwarming nonsense; any actuary worth her salt will write the same policy on a nonagenarian she’d write for a Pekingese. It’s math. Is it moral, or wise, to risk my remaining 40 years to protect Mo’s minimal span? I thought of the rage of my readership when they learnt I’d sacrificed my life attempting to save a senior citizen who’d tried to make butt-janitors out of dangerous outlaws. It seemed best I sit tight in the car.

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During the American Civil War 90-year-old Barbara Fritchie leant from a window and waved a Union flag and shouted insults at Confederate troops as they marched through the newly conquered town of Frederick. War-hardened veterans stopped and lifted their rifles, but Stonewall Jackson rose in his stirrups and cried, “Who touches a hair on yon grey head dies like a dog. March on.”

Most bikies are Confederates at heart and I suspect the Sergeant-at-Arms of these meth-peddling thugs must’ve been a Stonewall Jackson fan. He mumbled something that was grandly Jacksonian concerning the proximity of CCTV. Then he kicked his hog alive and pointed north and they blasted out of town leaving Mo in a pretty blue cloud of carbon monoxide and confusion. I rushed to tell him what an old fool he was, that those bikies weren’t our bikers, and what a near miss we’d (he’d) had. But before I could he said, “Now, Anson, where are our boys?”

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