(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The tranquillity of a small town in California’s San Joaquin Valley is shattered toward sunset one day when the Angelenos, a band of motorcyclists from Los Angeles, arrive unannounced, planning to spend the night and part of the next day.

Joel Bleeker, a lieutenant colonel during World War II, has returned from overseas to this peaceful haven, where he operates one of the town’s two hotels. Bleeker’s wife died two years earlier, her neck broken when she was thrown from a horse. Bleeker now lives a quiet and methodical existence, managing a small hotel with the help of his seventeen-year-old daughter, Cathy. Each day at precisely the same time, he checks his old redwood clock in the lobby against the railroad watch that he wears on a chain and keeps in his pocket.

On the day of the story, when Bleeker hears a noise that he mistakes for aircraft engines, he moves the hands of his redwood clock ahead a minute and a half before investigating the commotion. On the veranda of the hotel, Cathy sits with Francis LaSalle and Bret Timmons, local businessmen. Suddenly, the noise becomes so great that no one can be heard above the din. A column of red motorcycles invades the hotel like an army column bent on taking a town. It is led by a man on a white motorcycle, Gar Simpson, unctuously polite and powerfully commanding.

Simpson addresses Bleeker by name, asking whether his motorcyclists might use the hotel’s facilities, for which he offers to pay. He also asks whether Bleeker’s dining room can feed twenty of the men; the rest will eat elsewhere. The bikers ogle Cathy, thereby unnerving her father, who agrees to feed part of the contingent and allows them the use of the...

(The entire section is 700 words.)