Me: Hello there. I understand you are Karen's cousin.
CV: Yup! Me and Cousin Karen go way back. Her dad was my dad's brother.
Me: Did you grow up together?
CV: More or less. We both lived up in Coalville, Utah. We went to North Summit High School. She was a year behind me. I always kinda looked out for Karen.
Me: I'm sure she appreciated it. I understand you resume that role in this book.
CV: I'm still lookin' out for Karen, yup. Me and my biker friends.
Me: You're a Hells Angel, I understand.
CV: I see you got the name the official way.
Me: Well, I have to admit, I couldn't see the reason for the "s" if there wasn't an apostrophe. Grammatically, that's the way it should be.
CV: Yeah, I saw your post on Facebook about how you would rather take your chance with a bunch of motorcycle guys comin' after you than with fellow writers and your readers thinkin' you'd made a mistake.
Me: (blushing) Yes, that's true. I did say that. Right afterwards, I swear there were a bunch of guys on Harleys riding up and down our winding road to the beach in Kealakekua Bay, buzzing my house. I did a little research and realized that if that is officially the way the organization writes their name, it would be inaccurate of me to present it otherwise.
CV: (laughing) Those guys weren't buzzin' your house. There is always a big rally on Labor Day down at the Bay.
Me: Well, that's a relief to know! Just for the record, I still think it is ungrammatical. It was an ego thing. I want this book to be perfect. You know, you write a book, and most people will tell you how much they enjoyed it, and if they didn't, they usually are kind and just don't say anything, unless they really really didn't like it. But then there is always that one persnickety person and the first thing they say is "There was a typo on page 87."
CV: Anybody tells you it ain't up-to-snuff, I'd be glad to pay them a visit. (cracks knuckles)
Me: Do you like scaring people, Victor?
CV: Oh, anybody who knows me will say I'm just a big teddy bear.
Me: A big teddy bear on a huge Harley. So how long have you been a Hells Angel?
CV: Oh, I was in my twenties, I think. There's a pretty good process you have to go through. You can't just sign up. You're recruited and you have to earn membership. And you can't afford a Hog workin' at Mickey Dee's.
Me: Is it like pledging a sorority?
CV: Well, that isn't exactly what I'd compare it to, but sure, sorta.
Me: I understand that there was an event in the book that touched you.
CV: I'm an animal lover. There was Cousin Karen's friend, Toni, and her kids buryin' their dog. Toni gave a talk at his funeral, talked about how even though he was just an animal, she believed he was part of their eternal family, too. Kinda got me thinkin' about church stuff and about my dad. I lost my dad and my dog within months of each other, when I was a young teen-ager.
Me: That must have been extremely difficult.
CV: I was pretty mad at God for a long time. Stopped goin' to church. Made my mom kinda sad when I did that.
Me: Can't she just say, "This is my son. He's such an Angel?"
CV: (laughing heartily) Good one! I'll have to tell her that line.
Me: So what was your dog's name?
CV: Silverado. Named him after my pick-up truck. He was a black lab, but he had silver in his coat.
Me: I've got a little silver going on myself these days.
CV: He was kind of a Houndini, though, always gettin' out of his run somehow. He got hisself run over. That's when I told God I hated him for takin' my dad and my dog.
Me: It is hard to understand losses when you're a kid. It is hard to understand them when you are an adult, for that matter.
CV: I heard her talkin' about her dog there, and I found myself sorta hopin' the whole church thing could be true, that this ain't all there is. I, um--don't tell nobody else this--I got dressed up and went to church the next Sunday. At least I was dressed up for me. I wore a dress shirt with my blue jeans and my ridin' boots, trimmed the beard up a notch.
Me: How was it?
CV: The meeting was okay, but I gotta tell ya, I got some looks. And weren't but a few people come up and shook my hand and welcomed me. If church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, I felt like everybody else had on a Band-aid and I was the entire Intensive Care Unit.
Me: That must have been uncomfortable.
CV: There was one guy I would say was genuinely welcomin' and carin'. Talked to him for quite a bit. I think he ditched Sunday School to visit with me. His name is Larry McConkie. He said he had a motorcycle before he got married but his wife made him sell it. Some of the others, they were more curious than carin'.
Me: Funny you should mention that. That phrase shows up somewhere in the book, and it isn't about your character. Do you think you'll go again?
CV: I might. I'm kind of interested to see what kind of reception I get. I'm thinkin' I might just go around visitin' different wards, maybe do a little blog about my experience.
Me: You heard it here first, folks. Cousin Victor, coming to a ward near you. Shake his hand. (Olive, if he visits Winder 24th, it isn't good form to get out the hand sanitizer immediately afterwards.)
CV: Oh, Sister Olive. Karen's told me all about her. I know I would never pass her inspection. I think I joined the Hells Angels because I needed to belong somewhere. I'm kinda feelin' pulled to wanna belong to the Lord's kingdom here on earth again, too.
Me: Sometimes that can feel like pledging the sorority, too, can't it? Maybe you should spare the ward if you can find just one friendly nonjudgmental person per ward. Make that your goal, instead of judging them for judging you. Just a suggestion.
CV: (stroking his beard) I see what you're sayin'. So maybe instead of makin' my blog a rant about how people ain't friendly, I could talk about that one friendly person.
Me: Right! Blog about Larry. Tell us about how he's a family man who gave up his wheels to push a stroller. Tell us what made those friendly people stand out. Set them up as role models for other people. It's how we lift each other. Think about what unlikely friends Karen and Toni were at first. Life had to bring them together under some unusual circumstances for them to find their friendship.
CV: Okay, I'll do it!
Me: And Victor, thanks for all you did for Karen. You made a difference. I'll even forgive you for the missing apostrophe.
CV: Thanks for including me in your book.
Me: Someday maybe you'll understand why that wasn't an easy thing for me to do. I'll tell you about it later, off the record. But you just rode up and revved your engine and the next thing I knew, you were in the book. It happens that way sometimes.
CV: Thanks for my fifteen minutes of fame.
Me: Thanks for your time. See you around!