The Gift That Changed a Life

Áron Antal

Mr. Able was a proud citizen of Sanctuary; he was a friendly fellow, liked by everyone in town. He was a nice old man, polite and calm, did no harm to anyone in his life, and was totally healthy both mentally and physically, despite his age. He had only one son, who lived in California, a businessman, so much so that he hadn’t been able to visit in years. He wasn’t at Mrs. Able’s burial. She died five years previously, on the thirteenth of July, from a heart attack caused by a wild night-motorbike-rider, whose exhaust was so loud that it caused Mrs. Able’s end. That was the reason that Mr. Able hated bikers so much. He never liked them, even when he was young, it wasn’t his style; but he started hating them more when the Japanese sportbikes invaded America with their four-row engines and fancy paint jobs. These bikes were super appealing for the youngsters, who put loud exhausts on them and thought that the road was their racetrack. And he downright hated them since his wife had died from one of them.

He was about to turn seventy-five the next day, on the thirteenth of July.

– Five years have passed in loneliness – he thought. – My only wish is that my son could visit me. I haven’t seen him in the past seven years. He couldn’t even come to his mother’s burial; he was too busy. And since then I haven’t spoken a word with him. How could his job be more important than his mother’s burial? But perhaps I should forgive him. He was trying to establish his life. At that time he found himself a girl. I wonder what happened with their relationship? But since our argument we haven’t exchanged a word. I don’t even know that he can forgive me.

With these thoughts in mind, he fell asleep in his bed.

In the morning, he woke to the sound of someone ringing the doorbell. He put on his bathrobe, went to the door, and opened it. To his biggest surprise, instead of the postman, he saw his son.

– Father! I would like to apologize for how I behaved and what a jerk I have been throughout all these years! Please forgive me, for mom’s sake!

– Oh son, I will!, I will! – cried out Mr. Able in tears.

– You don’t know what a relief it is for me to hear that!

– I know it.

– Also, happy birthday, dad.

–Thanks, son. Have you…

– Yes I have visited mom, and said a proper goodbye to her. I hope that she will forgive me as well.

– I’m sure she has forgiven you already. But come on in!

They talked all the day through, about Shaun’s business, life, and about how he was going to marry his girlfriend the next summer.

– I’m so glad to hear that! I always know you would find the perfect one one day.

– Oh, I almost forgot! – said Shaun.

– Forgot what exactly? – asked Mr. Able.

– Your birthday present! Come out, it’s in my van.

They walked out to the street where Shaun’s business van was parking. When he opened the back door, Mr. Able was speechless. Inside the van was a vintage motorbike. But when Mr. Able was finally able to get a word out, his son got a phone call.

– Sorry, dad, but I have to go now, it’s very important, but I’ll come back as soon as possible – he said, pulled out the bike from the van, hugged his father, and drove away.

Mr. Able was standing, wordless. His son had given him the one thing he disliked the most.

– I shall kill what killed my wife, he thought, walked to his garage, took a gas canister and a lighter, and approached the motorbike. But when he was about to pour gasoline on it and burn it, he realised that his son did not know the circumstances of how his mother died, and it was a present after all, so he decided to keep it. He put it into his garage and tried to forget about it.

One month later, Mr. Able realised that he had a motorbike, and started thinking. After an hour or so, he came to a realization about why he never liked the riders; he actually did like them once upon a time. He remembered a day that he had long forgotten: he was standing by a motorbike shop with his friends in 1963, staring at a special limited Hungarian model: Pannonia MT63 motocross, which was a rare Hungarian import, said to be more reliable than any Harley-Davidson, sold with T1 models of the same trade. They talked about how from their saved money they would all buy one of these (they were way cheaper than other brands), but fate thought otherwise. The next day, his father’s station wagon broke down, which he used to commute to the next town to earn money for his family, and they had just renovated their house, so they had very little savings. Mr. Able thought he would help his family out, so he gave all his savings, the fruit of years of hard work, to his parents to repair his father’s car. This way he never had the chance to buy his dream, and he became envious of his friends, since they had such great adventures in which he could not take part. And this was the origin of his hatred of the bikers.

– Why are negative memories more likely to stay in the mind? – he thought. He became delighted and felt different. He went out to the garage and realised, just then, that his son had bought him his dream from the far past: a Pannonia MT63 motorbike.

– How could that have happened? I never told him about this ever! He became super excited and sat on the bike. It had a comfortable seat, a light suspension, and a lifted exhaust.

– What are you waiting for, dad? – asked Shaun, who  had just arrived back. – Take it for a ride!

Mr. Able hesitated a bit, but decided that now was the time to make up for the past. He stood up and kicked the kickstarter. The engine revved up on that characteristic two-stroke sound. He felt super nostalgic, pulled the clutch, put the transmission into first gear, and drove away towards the horizon full of joy.

This even changed his life through his new attitude toward riders. He still did not like the loud motorcycles, but he made new friends due to his new hobby and rode his bike almost every day, sometimes with his friends, whose relationship waved goodbye to the lonely days. All of this was made possible by his son, and he couldn’t thank him enough. He felt a bit guilty that he had become a rider, like the one who had caused his wife to die, but he thought that if Mrs. Able could be with him, she would be proud of her handsome husband for having a nice hobby at his age. And with these delightful thoughts he rode his bike and commuted with it everywhere, visited his son regularly, and rode for many years and more, always thinking: how an “unintended” present can change a life.