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Around The Sun: The Angels Brawl

Steve Harrison and his girlfriend Jacquie find themselves caught up in a fight to end all fights.

*

The devil’s greatest victory is that he has convinced most of the world that he does not exist.

When we walked into the bar it was pitch black. All I could make out were the silhouettes of masses of big people.

There was one empty stool at the bar. “Do you want to sit down,’’ I asked Jacquie,

“No you sit,’’ she said. “I’ll stand.’’

So I sat down and tried to order a couple of beers. We strained our eyes, adjusting them to the low light. Those motorbikes parked outside began to make sense. The pub was packed with bikers. They were mean angry-looking men. On either side of me sat huge long-haired Hell’s Angels in full regalia.

Behind me Jackie was giving curt answers to questions. “Yes. No. Not really. England.’’ She was obviously trying to avoid getting into a conversation.

Turning round I handed her a beer. Trying to engage her in conversation was a very ugly angel, bearded, with missing teeth. He was in full leathers and looked to be a real bruiser. He was almost as broad as he was tall.

Grabbing my hand, he shook it vigorously. “Folk call me Bear,’’ he said in a drunken voice.

I faced the bar. What were we doing in this place? Just relax, drink your beer, then get out. I heard my own voice inside my head, offering sensible advice. Don’t show fear. Drink up and go.

Then a small voice said “Oh you’ll have to ask my boyfriend about that.’’

I was tapped on the shoulder. Bear spun me around. “I want to have sex with your girlfriend. She says I have to ask your permission.’’

Jacquie gave me a horrified smile. I was a dead man. Say goodbye to your teeth, I told myself. If I say yes he will think I’m a wimp and pummel me. If I say no, he will probably want to fight me for her, and I would stand no chance of beating him.

Nervously I hooked the heels of my boots into the top rung of the bar stool, standing as tall as I could. I towered head and shoulders above Bear. Looking down on him I said in my deepest, firmest voice “No.’’

I braced myself, sure he was going to punch me. He grabbed me round the waist and drew me to him in a hug.

“I love you limeys,’’ he said. “You are great people.’’

He talked at a million miles an hour, hugging Jacquie and me at the same time, knocking our heads together, slobbering drunken kisses on us. Relief swept over us. Bear wanted to be our best friend. Could he come and stay with us in England, he asked. Sure, anything Bear.

I indicated to Jacquie that we should drink our beers and get out of that place. Fate had another idea in mind for us. The big guy on the right suddenly grabbed me by the throat. “I hate the f------ English,’’ he growled through clenched teeth. He had me in an iron grip. He lifted me from the stool as though I was a rag doll. Then he shook me.

My new best friend Bear intervened. “He’s my buddy. Put him down.’’ Turning to me Bear asked “Do you want me to kill this guy for you?’’

“Not really,’’ I muttered. “I’m a pacifist.’’

I don’t know if Bear heard me. He hit the guy in the face with a bottle, and the guy let go of me. Another guy took a swing at Bear. It seemed suddenly that everyone in the place was fighting. Jacquie and I dropped to the floor. We made our way to the toilets, then out through their windows to the car park. There we jumped into our hired Volkswagen Beetle and sped away.

We were both in a state of shock. We drove on for mile after mile, determined to put as much distance as we could between ourselves and the Angels. Suddenly we began to laugh our heads off. The incident seemed too weird for words. Still laughing, we drove on to a place called Callistoga. We hung out there for the rest of the day. When it got dark we headed back towards San Francisco.

Then we were caught up in slow-moving traffic. There were red and blue flashing lights.

“Hey aren’t we near that bikers’ bar?’’

“Yes.’’

There were police cars and ambulances. People were being wheeled out of the bar on trolleys. There were bodies on the ground, some covered with sheets.

I rolled the window down. A policeman confirmed “A shoot-out. Hell’s Angels. Move on.’’

From time to time Jacquie and I looked at one another without saying anything as we made our way back to San Francisco.

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