VFW Post 1782, White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Mitch Miller’s POV
I pulled into the parking lot of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, my iPhone directing me here after spending four days driving here from Bethesda. I didn’t have much; a few extra clothes in my saddlebag, some cash and credit cards, and my DD-214 and medical discharge papers. There were a few bikes in front, I backed in next to them and turned the engine of my Softail Slim S into the spot.
As I got off and stretched, removing my helmet and putting it on the seat, I looked down at my favorite possession. I’d taken the model, based on the classic World War II era motorcycles, and had it custom painted. Instead of the olive green, I had it painted in the desert camouflage pattern I’d used in Iraq. On the left side of the tank was a large Marine Corps logo, and on the right side was the emblem of a First Marine Division Scout Sniper. On top, below the gas cap, I had my ribbons and medals painted along with my rank badge of Sergeant. The motorcycle had been my present to myself when I returned from my first deployment to Afghanistan as a sniper. I had no way to tell that seven months later, I’d have completed my rounds of chemotherapy, lost my left testicle to cancer, and be discharged.
I looked around the lot, it was a busy place for seven on a Thursday night. Taking out my phone, I texted my buddy, Donut, that I was here. Nate Donaldson had been my platoon leader for my Iraq deployment, only six months after entering the Corps. He was the one who helped me get into Sniper School, and he kept in touch after his enlistment was up. He now worked as a Deputy Sheriff in Washington County.
The sun still had a few hours to go, and as I walked to the door I could see the lake was full of boats. Minnesotans had a short season for boating and motorcycling, so on a warm night like this, people took advantage. I opened the door, allowing a Korean War vet to come out with his cane, then stepped into the bar.
The place was a little nicer than other VFW’s and Legion posts I’d been to, but much was the same. A large L-shaped bar dominated the room, along with big windows looking out over the lake. I took a spot at the bar, and the older lady came over. “Welcome to Post 1782, can I get you something?”
“Beer, please.” I looked at the tap. “You have anything with more taste than Bud? I can’t stand weak beers.”
“Got just the thing for you, then.” She came back with a glass, the beer was dark brown in color, and I could smell the roasted malt. “It’s a Surly Furious, brewed here in the Cities.”
I took a sip, it was damn good. “Ooh, I like this,” I said. “Can I get a bacon cheeseburger and fries? I’m starving, I haven’t eaten anything since Chicago.”
“Sure thing, honey.” She put my order in, then stopped by after she’d taken care of some other customers. “I hadn’t seen you before, you passing through?”
“Not anymore, I just got discharged from the Marine Corps, I’m coming back to go to school and find a job,” I told her.
“No kidding! What’s your name, honey?”
“Sergeant Mitch Miller, Scout Sniper,” I said as I shook her hand.
“Dolores Silvers, my husband was Marine Infantry back in the early 80’s,” she said. “He’ll be in later, once the kids left I took this job to stay busy. You mind if I introduce you to the house?” I shrugged my shoulders. She went over and rang a bell, causing the place to get quiet. “Hey everyone, this is Mitch Miller, USMC Scout Sniper. He just got his discharge and is back here to go to school.” The place erupted in cheers, and over the next twenty minutes a bunch of people came up to say hi. I met a dozen fellow Marines, and somehow my food and bar bill was taken care of, despite me offering to pay.
I was just finishing my fries when someone grabbed my shoulder, I turned around to see my buddy Nate standing there in shorts and a Harley T-shirt with a biker cut. “Mitch, how are you?”
I got up and pulled him into a hug, smacking his back before I got him to sit next to me. “I’m doing all right, I guess. Good enough for them to let me go,” I said.
“You’re looking thin,” he said.
“Well, I dropped thirty pounds during those rounds of chemotherapy, but at least I have my appetite back.”
“How is your schooling going?”
“Good, I should finish my degree by next summer,” I said. I’d kept in touch after he left the service, he had talked me into taking a distance learning law enforcement program, the same one he used to get his requirement met to be a Peace Officer in Minnesota. After he got out, he went through the interview process and passed his Police Officer Standards and Training exam, and was hired on as a Deputy. It was the same path I hoped to take, except my goal was to become a SWAT sniper.
We talked for another hour, the sun going down as we catch up on what has been happening in each other’s lives. I asked him about his cut, the patches show him as a member of the Northwoods Riders. “You’re a Deputy, this can’t be an outlaw club, right?”
He laughed. “No, this isn’t Sons of Anarchy, more like Sons of Arthritis. The club is family oriented, always has been about a bunch of people united by their love of riding. It was formed in the seventies, and now we’re seeing second generation members coming in along with others.”
“How many in the club?”
“We’ve got sixty-two patched members, add in old ladies and prospects we’re up close to a hundred. Shit, we even run a day care in the clubhouse, plus we have the best food of any club you’ll ever visit.” He leaned back and smiled. “We even have our own Chef, Snake. That man makes a mean gumbo, I’ll tell you that. If he wasn’t such a club guy he’d have his own restaurant.”
“Really? Most clubs I’ve visited you’re lucky to get a decent burger.”
“No, Snake is amazing. He’s been running our kitchen since I was in diapers.” He just smacked his lips, obviously remembering something. “We missed dinner, unless there are leftovers in the fridge. You want to head over?”
“Sure,” I said as I got up and left a big tip. “How late does this club run?”
“They really don’t close, but the bartender is done by midnight on weeknights. Most of the members have jobs, kids have school, it’s more of a party on the weekends. It’s open for breakfast on weekdays too, a lot of the members have his food before work, especially if they are dropping kids off at the Club daycare.”
We moved to the doorway, where I waved in thanks as we headed to the parking lot. I moved over to my motorcycle, Donut’s was just a few down. “Man, I love the paint job on that thing,” he said. “I should do something like that.”
“My guy is in Virginia, you know anyone local?”
“I’ll introduce you to our resident wizard of the airbrush, Eve,” he said. “She is good enough to be a professional bike detailer. She could do something like this easy, she’s done more complicated stuff for school.”
“Really? She in college?”
“She was a sophomore in high school when she did her first tank job two years ago, but she’s REALLY talented. Loves motorcycles and customization.” I followed him out of the lot and through the streets as we moved to a more industrial section of town. The clubhouse didn’t look like anything from the outside, just another warehouse with rollup doors and a parking lot. We rolled through the open gates, he parked in his spot and I took a guest spot. I followed him through the door into the clubhouse, through the double doors with the Club emblem on the wall and into the bar/dining area. He looked around before leading me to a table, there were four guys and two old ladies around it. In the back, some people were playing pool, others darts, and the place was about half full. “Mitch, this is the President of the Northwoods Riders, Viper, and his wife Kelly. Mitch was in my squad our during my last deployment to Iraq, he just got out.”
Viper and Kelly stood, he pulled me into a quick hug followed by his wife. “Donut’s told us all about you, I’m happy to welcome you to our club. You have a good ride in from the Coast?”
“Yes sir, it was fun. I took the back roads, stopped a lot to see things.” I was quickly introduced to the Vice President, Tiny and his wife Katie; Master-at-Arms Moose, whose wife Sheri was running her bar in St. Paul; and the one and only Snake. “Donut can’t stop bragging on your food, I’m looking forward to trying some.”
“You staying for a while?”
“Yeah, I need to find a place while I look for an apartment around here. I’ll be going to school full time for another year, then to Alexandria for the Police Academy.”
Snake looked over at Viper, who nodded his head, then he turned back to me. “We’ve got some rooms upstairs for guests, you’re welcome to use one until you find a place. It will give you a chance to get to know our Club, and for us to get to know you. Most of us are prior military, and we run a clean club here. You can’t be a member if you have a record, in fact it’s mandatory that members obtain a Concealed Carry Permit just so we know you’re good to go. Donut already said he would sponsor you if you decide to prospect.”
“That would be great if I could use the room, thank you for that,” I said. “I can’t make a decision on clubs yet, I want to join one but I need to get used to the scene around here first.”
“I’d be worried if you jumped right in,” Moose said. “We like to have people be a hangaround for a few months before they prospect.”
The prospect manning the bar brought over a round of Summit Pale Ales and left one in front of me. Snake grabbed him and told him to warm up a plate of the red beans, rice and chicken. We talked about the club a while longer before my plate was brought out. I took one bite and immediately reached for my beer. “Damn, that’s not Minnesota spicy.”
“Nope, that’s island spicy. I spent a few years learning Cajun cooking in Grenada, kept up with it here. I’ve got everyone pretty well trained away from that ‘oh that ketchup is TOO SPICY for me’ thing up here.” He just laughed as I kept eating, using the fresh bread and beer to cut the burn.
“This is really good,” I told him.
“Thanks,” Snake said.
“Of course, it doesn’t take much to impress a guy who has spent the last year on MRE’s and hospital food,” Donut teased. “I think you had to get a doctor’s permission to have pepper there.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said. “I’m still recovering.”
“Donut said you got a medical discharge,” Viper said, “but he wouldn’t say why.”
“Not a big secret, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer seven months ago. Lost my left nut, it’d swollen to the size of a baseball, and then I had a couple rounds of chemo before they pronounced me clear,” I told them.
“So you’re like Half-Sack in Sons of Anarchy?”
“Kind of, except I didn’t get it shot off and they gave me a replacement ball made of silicone.” The guys started to laugh. “Hey, I ordered it and got Doc to put it in, it wasn’t like the Navy was going to pay for it. I didn’t want to go through life unbalanced.”
Just then a young woman ran down the stairs, joining a group of eight or so guys who looked to be between thirty and sixty years old. She was no more than twenty, and was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Her shoulder length blond hair was in waves, her face was perfect, her eyes just drew you in. She was wearing a crop top, her pert boobs holding it away from her flat stomach, and a pair of jean shorts and Vans completed the look.
I was gobsmacked.
I only looked away when Donut elbowed me in the ribs. I glared at him, noting the others at the table were looking at me like I was eye-raping their daughter or something. The men walked to the door as the woman ran over and gave Snake a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Dad, we’ll be back home late,” she said before she ran off behind them.
Well, that explained the look.
I watched the group leave, the guys she was with wore cuts from the Knights of the Moon MC. “Your daughter runs with another club,” I asked Snake.
“The Knights and us have been friends for a long time,” Viper said.
“And every one of them knows that I’ll kill them slowly if they lay a finger on my Eve,” Snake said as he stared at me. Point taken. That was Eve… wow. She was a senior then, maybe eighteen, and the whole club was protective of her.
“Well, I’m a little wiped out from the trip, I think I’ll turn in,” I said, hoping to defuse the mood.
“Come on, I’ll show you your room,” Donut said.
“Let me grab my stuff first.” We walked out, just as the nine riders fired up their bikes. Eve’s bike was an early 90’s vintage Sportster 1200 Deluxe, very close to stock but in mint condition. They took off, Eve in the center of the formation, and I was harder than I’d ever been in my life. It was a dangerous play, but I had to get to know this girl.