A word from Crash

Currently I am having serious concerns about my ability to recall events.  I was concussed several times as a young man (hence the nickname) and lately I’ve been made aware of some memory loss.  Nothing too serious I think but I’ll be posting Fiction for the foreseeable future.

Right now I think I’ll relax and have a cigar.




The Gas Station

***Authors note: often when on a bike I watch other riders and I wonder what they are thinking, or how they imagine themselves. Some things we do just have no appeal to me. I am not a fan of large groups, or wearing club vests, or plotting my mileage with GPS. This fiction is what I wonder might happen in the lonely mind. This piece actually took an unexpected psychological turn.

Philip is using a wet, soft cotton cloth to clean his mirrors. This was the one he used on his bodywork and other shiny surfaces like his helmet but not his visor; there is a separate cloth for that. The soft cotton cloth is really just a clean white diaper. It has three panels, the center being dual layered because it is where business is conducted. This is good because that gives an extra layer of padding when he really needed to increase pressure on a tough spot. Bugs. Bugs are tough spots and sometimes when you rubbed them out you wound up with chunky parts, brightly colored bits of insect armor, adhering to the cloth and you had rinse, rub and repeat, then wipe things dry with another white cloth. Once done the wet cloth (diaper) goes into a sealed plastic to be taken out and washed at home while the dry cloth (diaper) went into another identical, clear plastic bag for later evaluation to see if it needed cleaning as well. They always did but you had to give them a chance. It’s what Jesus would do.

He, like the Bhudda, is under a tree in the shade although there was the risk of sap or bird dookie falling on the clean machine. Philip is willing to risk it. His fuel tank is now full, his mirrors clean and all he needs do is clean his visor, log his GPS data, reset it and he can be off. His routine is stopped by the sudden backfire of a car. Bang! Loud. Instinctively he ducks his head a little, like a startled turtle, head not all the way retracted just pulled in a little.

There is a scream. A woman. And hollering. A man. Dragging a twenty something girl out of the front door of the minimart a man stops next to the pump island. “Nobody follows, got it? I fucking mean it!” He fires a round back into the mini-mart. Philip cannot see where it goes but his mind sees an exploding can of Pringles. The man starts dragging/carrying the girl as he demands, “Which one?”

Philip knows which one. The girl’s car is a ten or twelve year old Honda Odyssey van. He had noticed it when he came out after buying a liter of water. All those minivan things looked like SUVs that had shrunk in the wash and dried ugly. Realizing now he has noticed the man too. He was here when he pulled up. Sitting under the same tree Philip was now under. Philip had noticed because the man didn’t seem to have a car. He was just sitting in the shade. Was this a spur of the moment thing or had the man been waiting under the tree? Could armed robbery and kidnapping be a spur of the moment idea? You surely had to have a plan if you were committing armed robbery and kidnapping.

The man now has reached the van with the girl and has her keys. Didn’t see that happen, Philip thinks. The side door violently slides open banging and bouncing on its stops and the girl thrown in like a bag of potatoes, carelessly, maybe even with bad intent, like he was trying to bruise the fruit. Running around the front of the minivan the man climbs in, almost dropping the gun as he brains himself on the roof of the door.

“Shit!” yells the man backing up a step and reinserting himself into the van.

Should have ducked, thinks Philip, surprised to realize that he is crouching behind his bike using it like a shield.

With a huge rev the van starts. It shakes as the man tries to release the parking brake and get it into gear. Philip can see him bang his gun on the dashboard, frustrated. There is more muffled yelling in the car and suddenly the front end lifts up under power; in gear and on the gas the van’s tires squeal in surprise on the smooth concrete.

The overweight clerk who had taken Philip’s money runs out of the store. “Someone stop him!” She shrieks. It is a command, not a pleading. Philips mind reels a tad because she so sounds like his mother when she, in frustration, would stalk the house screaming commands and demanding pity. “You better get out here now!” She would holler, “How can you do this to your mother! Get out here now!” It would have been better if she was drunk or a junkie. But she wasn’t. Dad had called her a shrew before he had disappeared. It took years before he looked up the word. Dad was right. She was mean because she could be. Cruelty was mapped into her DNA. All his childhood had been spent trying not to be mentally or physically injured. now, his brain is frozen. It’s a tone he and his sister knew too well: comply or flee. Either way you were probably going to get smacked around.

“Someone needs to stop them! He’s getting away!” She hit “away” like a fastball on the meat of the bat, hard. Somewhere, inside Philip, the little boy in his outfield took off at a dead run for the fence. Without thinking he jams his helmet on and jumps on the bike, turning the key and thumbing the starter. A solenoid hammers home, electricity flows and the motor turns and sparks, roaring into life. Sweeping the side-stand up there’s a satisfying clunk as the bike slots first gear. Turning the bars full lock left he drops the clutch and makes a turn so tight and clean it shocks him. Hooking his toe under the shifter he hits second as he starts starts up the grade to the road. The bars waggle gently in his hands and the suspension, now fully extended, lifts the front and the tire skims just above the road.

The power wheelie has stolen his focus and the intersection to the main road is right there and getting bigger fast. Chopping the throttle brings the front back to earth and he brakes and tries to turn. The bike won’t turn in. Fear boils in his mind. A single thought comes to his mind: press. He does. On the inside grip. The bike drops its right shoulder and leans into the turn. It rails. Impossibly faster than he ever dreamed it could. Parts of the tire that have never touched the pavement grip and bite and hold on as the bike makes a sweet arc and stands up as Philip starts pouring on the coal.

He is in third gear and already going faster than he ever has in his life. The tach is tickling the redline as he catches fourth. A nagging voice in his head warns not to rev so high, it may be designed to rev that high but you shouldn’t really do it… A metal Pegasus the bike flashes past traffic flying down the center of the road. In the haze and simmer of the road ahead he sees the minivan. A dot at first the van grows rapidly larger. Too fast! Philip squeezes the brakes.

It feels like nothing happens..

Squeezing harder the motorcycle pitches forward and settles on the front suspension. The van still gets too big too fast. More squeeze. The front bears down, fully compressing. The nose of the bike seems buried in the asphalt and Philip braces with his arms certain the bike is about to wash out the front of flip forward. It doesn’t. Releasing the brakes the front lifts back up and he settles in behind the minivan. Inside he can see the girl crying and rocking, sitting on the floor between the passenger seats. Looking into the rear view mirror of the van he makes eye contact.

The driver brake checks him, stomping on the brakes to get him to smash into the rear of the Honda. Philip grabs the brakes in panic. There is a clicking sound he’s never heard before, the brake lever pulses and instead of getting larger the minivan’s size stabilizes and starts getting smaller under full acceleration again.

Thank God the guy didn’t stop, Philip thinks. He has no idea what he would have done facing a gun. Ahead in the distance he sees flashing blue and reds. Coming the other way, could be on the way to the gas station. Philip realizes they might not have a description of the car. The lights are on a motor officer’s bike. He should stop turn on the hazards, flag the cop down. It’s the safe thing to do.

Without slowing Philip takes both hands off the bars and stands on the foot pegs waving his hands above his head. His bike slows losing distance to the minivan. A state trooper on a Kawasaki C14 flashes by but is hard on the brakes, the big bike squirming as it decelerates. Philip feels a moment of true fraternity, of empathy. Hands again on the bars he sits back down looking in the mirror and sees the trooper make a tight sanitary u-turn and then it’s just headlights and red and blues getting bigger. Looking forward he matches speed with the minivan. Before he can look back to see where the trooper is the trooper is beside him with a thumbs up and then snaps his wrist up to say, back off.

Philip rolls out of the throttle letting the bike slow with engine braking, something he always avoided, theoretically to keep engine wear down. Pulling in the clutch he rolls to a stop in a wide part of the road. Shutting off the bike he puts the side-stand down. Planting a foot he slides off the bike and nearly falls down. His legs are jello. He realizes he is shaking all over, quivering really, with excitement and fear.

A wailing siren comes closer and a Dodge Magnum skids to a stop next to him. The trooper flashes a quick OK hand sign. Philip nods yes and waves the trooper on. In a swirl of gravel and the smell of burning rubber the big Magnum is gone. Philip looks down at himself. He left without his gloves and his visor rag is back at the station. At his waist his riding suit is tied in a square-knot. He had sped. Gone too fast. Cornered too fast. Without gloves and, he realizes, without his helmet strapped on

Popping off his unsecured helmet he hangs it on the bars. An odd sense of shame settles on him. A confusing fog. He was pretty sure had just done a righteous thing in all the wrong ways. If his riding pals and Internet buddies found out there would be qualified praise. He would be a hero and a goat. And there would be nagging. How could he be so reckless and heroic at once. He had been riding in a long sleeve t-shirt.

Bending at the waist he vomits whatever water he had taken on at the gas station. Chunks of banana and granola are along for the ride. Adrenalin does what he had heard–and now he knew. The road is deserted for a moment. No one saw him puke. Indignity avoided. Tugging at the knot at his waist he unties the arms of his riding suit then unzips his legs and steps out. There on the road side it makes him think of a snake skin, a shed. He used to find them around his grandpa’s place. Bull snakes mostly.

He looks at his naked hands. Runs his hands through his sweaty hair. He feels better. The shake and puke is over. The feeling is one of survival, almost triumph. Pulling the key from the ignition he unlocks a hard case and pulls out the mechanics gloves he carries, putting them on the seat. Turning he picks up his riding suit. Damn thing had cost over a thousand bucks. It was just in case. A prophylactic. A body condom against the world. Carefully he untangles it and with equal dignity folds it into a neat rectangle.

There is a small rock outcropping ten yards off the road. Carrying the suit he walks over to it, looking for a crevasse of some kind. There is a crack large enough to do the job.

Back at the bike he puts on his helmet and the mechanics gloves.

How far had that punk got? He wonders. Starting the bike he smacks it down into first, throttles up, dumps the clutch and let’s the bike do what it was designed to do.

Engine Chatter

Like a foaming horse, I broke.
When the throttle asked for more, I broke.
With the strain of twelve thousand revolutions, I broke.
I broke, I let go, I grenaded.

In a maelstrom of valves
And springs,
Rods and pistons.
I tore myself apart
Bleeding oil
And coolant
Shards of my casing,
I broke.

I broke valiantly,
WFO, at the edge
Then past the limit.
In smoke and fire
And torn metal I went
From beautiful noise
To shrieking chaos
To silent.

I broke.
I broke your heart
I broke my heart
And now a drooling wreck
Nothing will ever be again.
I broke trust.
I broke hope.
I broke the future.

Salvage what you can.
Pick the carcass.
Put me in the barn
Or let the weeds conceal
And consume me.

Just leave me be.

The Golf Cart

***Authors note: in my helmet I often think about what motivates us to ride. There are plenty of cliches about riding and why we do it. In this piece of fiction I was wondering about motivation and rather than just doing the usual stuff about trying to fit in I realized a character with a mercenary bend would be interesting to explore. This is the result. Originally it was to end with an encounter with sims 1%ers but I like this one better because its not as forced.

Barry is about as good at riding as he was at golf. Neither is his first love. Barry’s first love is getting his boot on someone’s neck and putting down some real pressure. That’s why he’s a realtor. It just didn’t get much better than slipping you elbow under some poor bastards chin and choking them out. That’s where the best commissions came from; the ability to put someone in a corner and grind to get the deal you know you deserve. Winning don’t suck, he says. Maybe that’ll be his epitaph.

Golf had been a necessary evil. Every want-a-paid-day-off jerk in the country does a golf lunch or tourney as an excuse to “improve client relations” or “close the deal”. It was a way to make your clubs and range fees tax deductible. A scam. Legal, but a scam none the less. Then again Barry did some pretty despicable “legal” things but none as weak as tricking the company into paying him not to work. That was just flat wrong…but he did it anyway; but only to make sure he could win. If The guys at Paragon golfed to make clients happy so did he and he took his clients to better restaurants.

Frickin’ golf. You had to buy special shoes and dress like the jerks in CaddyShack.

One thing he had never done was buy a golf cart. The guys at Shadow Creek had one–what a monumental waste of dough. Why would you do that? It was just stupid when you could rent one. Maybe those bastards had some kind of plan but Barry couldn’t see the win in the deal.

But this motorcycle thing was worse, you had to put out ten to twenty K just for the bike. It was like buying golf clubs made out of gold. Then there was wardrobe, which is the exact opposite of golf. No pastels and Dockers for riding. Black leather was the official uniform for this bunch. And mechanics, good God they were worse than AutoWerks! No Vaseline at all. Sons of bitches. He had been lucky and snagged a “divorce bike”–the gal sold it quick and cheap to piss off the other half. Every once in a while when just the right guy is giving the bike that too long, too angry look Barry figures there could be an incident. Probably get run down and smeared like peanut butter across the road by an angry ex husband for all the wrong reasons.

He had the vest and it didn’t bother him but there must be a special place in hell for whoever designed the boots. All the boots he had tried were hard to get on, weighed too much, get too hot and would rub you raw when you walked around in them. And in boot world waterproof clearly means something like “will soak your feet at the slightest sprinkle”…

Now, in order to close the deal on a strip mall that would be scrapped clean and turned into a couple of chain restaurants he was starring down the gun barrel of two thousand miles in a seat that belonged in an S&M dungeon. Glory, hallelujah.

Closing the deal is closing the deal and, after hacking up every course in three counties except the cheap ones, he supposed he was ready for a change. This one closes and the damn bike is paid for ten times over. He thinks about using the money to buy a bigger, better, faster bike than that bastard Craig over at Empire. That would piss Craig off. All the realtors had someone in the “biker” spot, who could ride with and keep the clients.

The bike looked at him mutely in the early light of the open garage door. A chill in the air lied about the offerings of the day. They were leaving at the ass crack of dawn so they could get off the road by two o’clock and shunt the worst heat of the day. Picking his helmet off the seat he makes sure the DOT sticker is facing the rear. You only make that mistake once and shaking the title of “Wrong Way” was tough to do.

Standing there, helmet on, chaps and vest, fingerless gloves, dressed in black with a long sleeve Mötley Crüe tee he pauses, both excited and detached. In the moment he wonders if this is the zen moment, that event or instance when all this stuff will come together and make sense, transcend the business script and become something other than a golf cart. Two steps back to the bike and he mounts “cop style” from the right side. There is no key. Just a proximity switch. He turns a large chrome knob to ON and thumbs the starter. Electronic fuel injection sniffs the air, senses temperature, fuel and oxygen, then feeds the motor, starting smoothly.

Barry’s spine tingles and blipping the throttle changes the way it feels. The bike is rumbling, it is ready to stretch its legs. Its oil is fresh and clean, the valves snapping up and down perfectly adjusted, the crank spinning slow yet fast enough your eyes can’t see the individual rotations. Oil pumps from the reservoir, circulating and lubricating, flowing, part of the life force that drives the mechanical heart of the bike. Electricity is made and surges through the lights and to the spark plugs, leaving any extra as a tip in battery. The bike is an organism, a living thing, the body athletic, waiting to run.

Barry can’t feel it. He snicks it into first and with a timid clutch release begins duck walking into the morning. Barry has a client meeting to get to.

Dear Kieth

***Author’s note: I’ve always been taken with the concept lots of Christians carry that when we die and are resurrected that we are “made perfect”. This idea is extended to both body and mind. I’m not buying. This assumes God will make a basic change to the emotional/mental DNA of a person, that he will remove who we are and replace it with something not native to our souls. I believe change comes from within. God won’t reach down and lobotomize us to get what he wants, he wants us to become that ourselves. Remember that old saying, “You can’t wrestle a pig and not get dirty”? In motorcycling we pick our own pigs. And sometimes we end up smelling like one.

Dear Keith,

I really do mean Dear. You are very, very dear to me but I don’t know how to fix what has happened to you. We used to have a good thing. I was happy, you were happy. We laughed. We smiled. Things were good. I love what we had.

But things have changed. You changed. You used to be kind and you trusted people. You’ve become defensive and mean and you expect the absolute worst out of people. The other day at dinner all you could do was grump about what the waiter was doing and worry about the next mistake he was going to make. You used to be so positive and forgiving. Now, as soon as the phone rings it’s “wonder what he wants, probably needs x or y” or “is that Brit? What does she want this time?”

I don’t know why you’ve changed. I’ve tried to figure out if it’s me and I don’t think it is. It started after you got that motorcycle. First it was all the “idiots” in cars. Every car was going to do something stupid and then you got paranoid and acted like people were out to get us. On the bike or in the car you started pointing out all the stupid and bad things people were doing. Or not. I can never see the things you do. Then it became all the stupid or bad that could happen. It’s like your soul got soaked in paranoia. You changed. From the inside out.

Where is the Keith who laughed? The Keith who was silly and sang silly made up songs and stuck French fries up his nose and talked like Chumley the Walrus? You were fun. You saw daylight not death, hope not hassles–you used to see goodness.

I miss you.

I love you.

Where have you gone and how do I get you back?

If it’s something I’ve done I can change. I’ve tried to be there for you but I don’t know what you want. You’re unhappy and bitter and mean. You didn’t used to be mean. Did I make you mean? I can change. I just can’t go the direction you’re going. It’s too dark and full of anger. Not everyone is out to get you. I want to help you. I talked to your Mother and she feels the same way too. It’s like you need an intervention for an addiction to fear and anger and doom and gloom.

We can’t go on like this, it’s too dark for me. I LOVE YOU. Let me help, the world isn’t that bad. You need to see the goodness in people. It breaks my heart to see you sink into some kind of defensive depression like this. Let me help. I need to help. I must help because I can’t keep going down this road with you. Where are you? I want you back.

All my love,