Chapter 11

The mechanics at Gold Country Bikes applauded as Jeremy wheeled his bike in through the store to the service area at the back. Luisa had just finished ringing up a customer as Jeremy came in. At 5’11” with wavy dark hair and dark –rimmed eyeglasses with an old lady neck chain, she looked like a young athletic future librarian. She pulled a copy of the Sacramento Bee from under the front counter and waved it in the air. The headline read “Placerville Teen Strikes Chord on Driving Issue.”

“Jeremy, I need you to sign this for me, “ she announced. “This could be worth big money on eBay someday.”

“You da man, Jeremy!” called out Miguel “Migo” Garza, the owner and head mechanic. His shaved head, stubbly goatee and plentiful tattoos made his indistinguishable from most of his customers. “I wish we’d had you on our side to fight for our rights when I was a teenager,” he said, slapping Jeremy on the back.

Jeremy put on his apron and grabbed some work orders. “I haven’t accomplished anything yet,” he pointed out.

“Of course, bicycling has risen in popularity since the driving laws changed. That’s good for the planet, as well as my business,” Migo mused as he put a bike up on a stand. “It’s probably helped reduce the rates of teen  diabetes and obesity in the country. What if you succeed and all these people biking return to their lazy-ass, sedentary, TV-watching, Dorito-eating ways, and die of heart attacks? Bro, you could be responsible for more deaths than Dr. Kevorkian!” He shook his head sadly. “Dawg, I am ashamed to know you.”

“Shut up, Migo,” ordered Luisa from across the store as she straightened the women’s jerseys.

“That’s no way to speak to your employer, young lady,” Migo bellowed back at her. “In fact, I believe I am well within “ – he broke off mid-sentence to gape at the woman who had just entered the store. She tottered in on 5” platform stilettos, tight black micro miniskirt and a sleeveless leopard-print top that desperately tried to contain her out of proportion breasts. Every inch of her skin was uniformly tanned, contrasting with her bleached blonde ponytail.

“Hello, y’all, I’m looking for Jeremy Anton?” she drawled uncertainly in a singsong voice, looking around at everyone in the shop.

Migo rushed forward and thrust out his hand. “Oh, my god. I’m a huge fan of yours. I’ve seen you dance several times in Reno. Can I take a picture with you?” He inhaled deeply, savoring her flowery perfume.

“Are you Jeremy?” she asked dubiously. “You don’t look like you’re in high school.”

“Jeremy! Get out here!” yelled Migo towards the back of the store. He smiled stupidly at the woman. “I’m Miguel Garza, Jeremy’s boss. I own this store. It’s a real pleasure having you here.”

Jeremy hustled out from the back room, his hands covered in grease. “What? Who’s asking for me?” He elbowed his way past his fellow mechanics who were all standing around staring. He stopped and beheld his boss grinning maniacally at a buxom woman. The woman turned to him and stepped forward.

“Hello, sugar. I’m Cupcake MacBeth,” she said as she reached out to shake his hand. She flinched and quickly withdrew her hand when she saw he was filthy. “I wanted to come and introduce myself since we’ll be opponents in the presidential election. I hope we’ll be able to keep name-calling to a minimum. After all, the people of New Placerville deserve the best we have to offer, don’t you agree?”

“What?” was all Jeremy could say. “New Placerville? Presidential election? Who are you? I mean, are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious, sweetie,” said Cupcake, as she smiled coquettishly and gave Jeremy a gentle shove on the shoulder. “Once you’ve seceded from the union, you’ll need a new leader. I’m opening up campaign headquarters and I wanted to do the civil thing and introduce myself to you. For the sake of the party, we should try to get along.” She addressed her remarks to all the men in front of her, waving her manicured hand for emphasis.

“What party?” said Jeremy. “Look, I’m not trying to be the leader of anything. I just want to be able to drive at 16.”

“Gimme a break,” Cupcake snapped. Her Southern inflection was gone, replaced by a decidedly New Jersey accent. “So that’s how you’re playing it? Young and innocent? Fine, have it your way. Don’t say I didn’t try to be nice.” She turned and attempted to storm our, but her long angry strides caused her skirt to ride up, so she had to keep both arms at her sides as she pulled her hem down.

Migo ran outside after her, cell phone in hand. “Can I still get your picture?”

Luisa surveyed her male co-workers with disdain. “Really? A stripper? Hey, guys, try not to slip and fall on your own drool, okay?”

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