There’s only ever been one woman on the cycle crew. Oh, sometimes a guy’s wife or girlfriend will join us, but it’s not quite the same. This one’s integral. She was always there—always been, since before I came. She’s something of a legend, even among her friends. They say she was struck by lightning in her twenties, and that’s why she’s so strange. We call her Lighting sometimes, but her real name is Sue Ann.
Her hair was so blonde, it could no longer be called golden. It flowed long and loose through a hair-band almost to her waist. Wisps of it, thin and crackly, formed a halo around her pointy face. Her skin was weathered—rough—and dark, making her golden-hazel eyes almost seem to glow. She looked old enough to be someone’s grandmother—she was certainly the oldest member of the crew. But if you asked, she only grinned and reminded you not to ask a woman her age.
She wore a loose gray mechanic’s suit that almost hid her gender entirely. Her voice was deliciously rich, but, like her slender form, barely feminine. Her lover, before he died in a crash, said she could melt any man’s heart just by looking at him, but she scared all the chicks away. She kept a copy of Pirsig’s book with her cycle manual, but if you asked, her favorite was Moby Dick. She was college educated—somewhere; no one knew where—and she had training as a nurse. In her wallet there was a picture of her taken during her senior year at the university, which she’d show anyone who asked. She looked altogether like a different person: golden-bonde and plump and pretty. But her eyes were the same even then—piercing, staring out of the photograph and looking straight into your soul. The smile, too, was the same—as if she knew exactly what you were thinking.
Apparently, she’d had a falling-out with her sister shortly afterward—she wasn’t allowed back home—but you could tell how much her sibling missed her. She sent a card every Christmas to Sue Ann’s latest address, and every one of them was covered with standard blue handwriting full of real warmth. Lightning, for her part, offered Merilee’s family free car servicing—though they’ve never took her up on the offer—and sends postcards from wherever she finds a place she likes. No one’s ever read those.
The rest of this story is lost in my memory somewhere. It was probably written soon after I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, because Lightning was supposed to be a member of a motorcyclist band mostly made up of local-area mechanics. This is a remembrance by a member of the group; Sue Ann is dead.© 2001 Fyrna Ela'eren All rights reserved.