Raising Hell

The motorcycle had seen better days and it had been sitting in the rain, under a tarp, for over a decade. The seat was torn and the foam rubber padding that once supported the vinyl was exposed. The yellow material was moldy and decayed. The bike had been tipped over occasionally, but never laid down. The signal lights were held in place with some baling wire and the electrical system was shot. The headlight had to be hot-wired before it would cooperate, and the brake light seldom illuminated. It ran fine the last time he started it, but that was months ago. He couldn’t remember the last time he rode but he suspected a quick jaunt would ease his troubled mind. He was stressed out and he desperately needed to vent his frustrations.

Zane came upon the Honda from a Craigslist ad, but that was ten years ago. As it turns out, the Shimeks had a left-over Isuzu Trooper that had been scuttled for parts and stitched back together like Frankenstein’s monster. After some clever negotiations, Zane made a deal. It was an ‘even swap’ they agreed as the two men exchanged pink slips. The ecstatic pair parted ways knowing they had both just made the deal of a lifetime! The Honda was a customized beauty when it first arrived at the Shimek household! The fuel tank and side fairings were doused in black lacquer that seemed a mile deep. The trim and tank were tastily adorned with obnoxious crimson red flames! It was dripping with chrome, and the Honda came complete with auxiliary driving lights and an aftermarket windshield! The machine was immaculate in all respects meaning he had low miles and brand-new tires!  The shaft drive was a huge advantage for a biker on a budget, meaning Zane would never contend with a rusting drive-chain. The Honda Shadow was virtually maintenance-free and that suited Zane just fine. To his delight, the previous owner had made some significant modifications to the engine. The factory installed components were engineered for fuel efficiency, but the installation of an aftermarket camshaft breathed new life into the cycle. The horsepower was significantly increased, and because of this the Honda required high octane fuel.

It was ten o’clock in the morning on a Friday and the weather was optimal for motorcycling. The Honda was parked on the walkway that lay adjacent to Aiden’s front door. The cycle was sandwiched in between the Isuzu and Aiden’s living room window. Parked directly behind the Honda was Elise’s Ninja which would need to be moved if he had any intensions of extricating his motorcycle from the parking area. Zane rarely felt the urge to ride, and the prospect of removing the tarp from Elise’s Ninja in an effort to roll it out of the way seemed like too much of a hassle. Having said that, the keys had somehow found their way into the aging biker’s hand. He didn’t know how they got there; they just did. “I might as well see if the battery has any juice,” Zane thought as he absent mindedly inserted the key into its receptacle. Upon twisting the key a smattering of color-coded warnings illuminated. The oil light beamed red for example, while the neutral light was green. Zane was curbing his enthusiasm as he reached down towards the left side of the fuel tank. He felt around for the fuel cut-off valve and rotated the petcock’s small lever into the ‘reserve’ setting. He pulled down the choke mechanism and crossed his fingers. “It’s the moment of truth,” he declared as he focused all of his energy onto the push-button starter switch located near the handle grip. The starter motor spun the engine, and the big V-Twin caught fire, meaning it started right up. The machine came equipped with an aftermarket exhaust system and the customized muffler did little to stifle the pulsating loping growl that was produced by the reciprocating pistons. The loud exhaust reverberated from Aiden’s windowpane and bounced back up against the Trooper. It was a symphony of mechanized divinity Zane reasoned as he contemplated whether or not the flat rear tire would hold air long enough to take a ride? He suspected he picked up a nail. Whatever the reason, it took about a day and a half before the slow leak rendered the meaty tire useless. Prompted by the music of the loping engine, he decided to rummage through the deck box in order to procure a bicycle pump. He had to kill the engine at this time because the hot exhaust would make it impossible to fasten the air chuck to the valve without getting burned. He managed to get the tire inflated which encouraged him to add some additional fuel. He had just enough gasoline to mow the lawn a couple of times; he could do that, or he could use the fuel to feed his thirsty beast? There was less than a gallon of the 92-octane fuel remaining in his red plastic can and it was allocated for the lawn mower. He forgot about the lawn!  Zane gingerly wrestled with the funnel as the distinct odor of fresh gasoline permeated the confined space. He sealed the tank and restarted the engine. The Honda roared back to life as Zane’s blood pressure increased! He was acutely aware of his accelerated heart rate and his mouth began to water! It was time to move Elise’s Ninja out of the way because it was nearly time to ride! The only remaining preparation was to gently remove a collection of spider-webs that had accumulated between the inoperable turn signals and the passenger seat!

He became more eager by the minute! His eyes became slightly dilated as they glazed over, and the anticipation produced tiny droplets of perspiration around the base of his neck. He contemplated the best potential route because he needed to feel the wind beat against his chest. He needed to feel the vibration of the straining steel as he pushed the Honda to his absolute limits and beyond! The Honda Shadow was engineered for gentle cruising, but Zane tended to beat the machine as if it were a mechanized punching bag. He straddled the bike and carefully backed out from its parking space. Zane then pointed the front tire towards his destination an embarked upon a small crusade to ease his troubled mind.

The voyage led through some twisty curves and long soothing straightaways which brought him to a posh country club known as ‘Persimmon golf course.’ The presence of privileged elites always got Zane’s dander up because financial strife caused him to resent the affluent golfers. In his mind they were nothing more than glorified zombies living off the backs of their ancestor’s labor! Zane was in a hateful mood, and because of this he intended to ruin the serenity that the peaceful golfers were enjoying. There was a whole flock of them that day; it must have been a tournament. Zane knew it would piss them off, so he downshifted and twisted his grip causing the Honda to be throttled up to maximum capacity! He negotiated the twisty country lanes at a blistering pace and dove into the sharp curves with an aggressive fervor! The steep lean angle caused the foot pegs to strike the asphalt creating an outrageous shower of amber sparks! He banked and leaned and shifted his weight, while hitting his apex and keeping his line! Zane was feeling excessively belligerent, so he intentionally downshifted even though it wasn’t necessary. He rev-matched the raging engine to merge the screaming cogs with the rotating crankshaft! Upon doing so, the thundering rumble from the aftermarket Cobra pipes resonated from off the adjacent McMansions and reverberated the obnoxious sound waves back across the peaceful lane and onto the golf course! The angry flock of golfers stopped what they were doing in order to offer up quick scoffs while aggressively shaking their putters like enchanted scepters meant to throw bitter curses at him! Zane reveled in the carnage.

An authentic biker would agree that riding is sweeter with some music, and Zane was in the mood for some Beastie Boys. The song entitled Sabotage was blasting in the backdrop of his tattered mind as his relentless free-fall into madness intensified! He could hear the belligerent music in his head as if he were standing front row at a live concert! With an unsettling savage yawp he belted out the words, “LISTEN ALL OF Y’ALL, IT’S SABOTAGE!” The relentless pounding of the electric music fueled his latent desires to kill and win. “LISTEN ALL OF Y’ALL, IT’S SABOTAGE!” Zane felt like raging, so he let his mind run wild as he delighted in some wicked imagery! He thought of bouncing the Honda over the curb and across the sidewalk! He imagined doing burnouts in the sand traps after carving out random figure eights and donuts into the posh lawn! In total punk rock fashion, he imagined dismounting his steed in order to facilitate his need to beat the living snot out the ungrateful ‘wealthy pricks!’  Zane was feeling like a god; an old testament malevolent god who would rain down boiling piss upon the unsuspecting golfers as they scrambled to find cover in the relative safety of the pretentious golf carts!  Again, he considered defaming the luscious green lawn that made up the sprawling golf course. From origins unknown, a voice suddenly warned “They’d press charges like a little bitch!” The nefarious voice went on to suggest, “It would be worth it though!” It was a moot point however, because by this time the golf course was little more than a blip in his rear-view mirror. The blistering speed was enough to catapult him from the scene before his reptilian mind had a chance to indulge.            

He found himself at a four way stop. He could continue on his current trajectory which would lead to some soothing twisties, but instead the frenzied biker craved a high-speed burn! He was at a crossroads, so he headed south. He dumped the clutch and the Honda lurched forwards and leaned left. If the turn signal worked he wouldn’t have used it because Zane was peculiar in that regard.

He found himself on a path which led to some rural country highways that bisected lush meadows and family-owned farms. It was a narrow two-lane black top that begged to be ridden hard, and so he did! He accelerated like a scalded dog while coming upon a slow-moving pick-up which he immediately overtook as if they were standing still! By now the wind was crashing into his officially sanctioned Harley-Davidson jacket that he inherited from John. Zane promised to invite John’s energy on a ride sometime, but John’s ghost didn’t make an appearance on this occasion. Instead Zane was exercising his own demons! He was hell bent for leather and he ignored the speedometer’s input! Like a galloping thunderclap the man and machine roared through the picturesque countryside. It was a beautiful equinox day, and the early autumn sun was shining down. Zane was oblivious to the glorious serenity that was enveloping him from all fronts because his mind was laser focused upon the distant horizon! The wind was slamming against his chest and his heart was beating like a drum!

…to be continued

For John: conclusion


The three men were sitting next to each other outside of John’s front stoop; directly underneath the sign that read, “ROAD KING!” The old homestead looked the same, despite the fact that it was superimposed onto 40 acres of lush meadows and robust forestry. Separating the meadows from the tree line was a lovely stream adorned by tall sunflowers that swayed in the breeze alongside of some soothing banks. The front stoop overlooked a sprawling front lawn that covered at least three acres. There were no fences, and Maggie was free to meander the entire countryside without the burden of a leash. 

By this time John’s folding chair was replaced by an old ratty sofa, that the eager duo found for free alongside of a random curb. They were on their way to the Chevron to buy cigarettes when they came upon the abandoned couch!  Zane, who was riding shotgun, eagerly jumped out of John’s Toyota pick-up as if to claim his prize. “I can’t believe our good luck,” Zane said! In all actuality he could believe the good luck. John was the slowpoke of the outfit, and it took him a little while longer to exit the truck. Upon inspection he said, “Wow, Maggie is gonna LOVE this!” The best friends both grabbed an end and tossed the grateful sofa into the bed of the burgundy Toyota. John began to hum a happy tune as he positioned himself behind the wheel. With all of the enthusiasm of a joyful pup, Zane eagerly called out “Shot-Gun!” They drove as fast as the Toyota could go, because there isn’t any traffic in John’s new Kingdom. They arrived at the store, where they picked up five pounds of beef jerky and a couple of cartons of Lucky-Strikes!

The happy pair returned home where the family was waiting. There would be a special meal prepared that very evening in John’s honor. All meals are special in John’s private heaven; but somehow it never gets old. Zane and John backed into the driveway where Aiden stood vigil. “Where did you get that,” he asked with an innocent curiosity? “WE GOT IT FROM OFF OF THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!” John shouted with enthusiastic glee!  Without hesitation, the three men unloaded the couch! They had to jettison the folding chairs and slide the refrigerator three feet to the left in order to accommodate the large piece of furniture. After they were satisfied with the arrangements, John said, “Let’s see if it will fit all three of us!” Aiden immediately took the bait and plopped down in the center while his Dad and John sat one abreast. The view was heavenly.  Maggie and Elise could be seen in the far distance of the sprawling front lawn. They were frolicking and playing and rolling in the clover while a lazy kite danced effortlessly in the partly cloudy sky that resided over the crystal-clear babbling brook. John sat there with his friends while silently thanking his lucky stars! “Would you like an RC Cola, John,” asked a stealthy voice from beyond the archway that led to the Shimek’s front door? It was Renee and she had prepared a silver tray which supported three glass tumblers filled with freshly crushed ice.  As usual, John was pleasantly surprised by the constant stream of flowing kindness.  “Aw Shucks,” he said! It was John’s way of saying thank you.

John was a good man.

For John pt.2

Renee stood silently in the cold mist as John angrily pushed against the door from inside. “AW…COME ON GAWDAMMIT,” came a shout from behind the threshold! In John’s inebriated state he didn’t recognize that he failed to disengage the second lock!  He pushed on the door repeatedly while cursing his own bad luck. The frustrated man began to knock on his own door from the inside! “OPEN THE GAWDAM DOOR,” he shouted! “OPEN THIS FUCKIN’ DOOR,” he said! From the other side of the door Renee calmly reported, “I think the door is locked John, try using the lock in the doorknob instead!” Renee offered the kind words with a supportive and nurturing tone. John heeded the helpful advice and repeated the phrase, “in the doorknob.” With his instructions set in place john focused his intention on the doorknob as he fell down upon a knee and caught his balance against the door. He was at eye level with the doorknob, and he began to fondle it with the drunken curiosity of a small child. Upon careful scrutiny he remembered how to twist the latch. Upon doing so his weight pushed the door open and his limp and semi-lifeless body tumbled out into the night. “ARE YOU OKAY JOHN,” Renee asked with a professional affect? “AWWW…AWWW, HELP ME UP GAWDAM IT,’ he commanded as he stared up at her silhouetted figure. He didn’t recognize her at first, but when he realized it was Renee he found his focus. John loved his neighbors, and he didn’t want to come off as being a drunk. As per his belligerent request, Renee offered her right hand to John as he struggled to regain his composure. By the time John got back onto his feet, the comprehension of an unexpected guest had begun to really set in! His unstifled joy commanded him to give Renee a hearty embrace! Before she knew what was happening Renee found herself firmly wrapped within the arms of the drunken man. The uncomfortable gesture lasted long enough for Renee to redirect John’s energy in order to get him to calm down and focus on the task at hand. As if he were a small child, she led John back to the relative safety of his sofa. She sat him down and looked into his eyes while explaining the situation. She knew John couldn’t drive, and her heart began to sink. For a glimpse of a moment, John’s divine self was compelled to ease the despair that suddenly appeared from within Renee’s pleading eyes. His thoughts were hijacked by an unknown quantity which had come to intervene. Without John’s consent, an intruding voice struggled to manipulate John’s speech. The foreign entity wrestled with John’s musculature. The words, “Aw wan you take my truck,” slid from behind John’s cognitive recesses. It was a drunken sort of vernacular which loosely translated into, “Please feel free to use my truck. I wish I could offer more help but, as you can plainly see, I’m quite out of my mind at the moment.” The thought of borrowing the truck hadn’t crossed her mind, and even if it had, she wouldn’t have asked. But suddenly the solution had presented itself. The keys were laid out at arm’s length on the coffee table, and John extended his drunken arm and attempted to point. “Der is duh keys.” “Der is duh keys,” he repeated with increasing intensity. “Der is duh keys,” he said a final time! 

Renee respected the wishes and drove briskly off into the night. Meanwhile john stumbled back towards the silent stereo. He hit the power button and was greeted by a song entitled, “Lido Shuffle, by Boz Skaggs. The music was blasting its way through the F.M. radio, and John’s dilapidated mind agreed it was the perfect drinking song! In fact it was John’s new favorite song, and he was compelled to sing along! He belted out incoherent lyrics with an intense sort of ferocity that was incongruent with his natural state.  In a feeble attempt to keep the party rolling, John aggressively nodded his head up and down as he drunkenly attempted to keep the beat. The lyrics suggested John have “one more for the road,” so he danced a drunken jig and simultaneously scanned the unkempt living quarters for a misplaced bottle of Bacardi 151.

Time crept by while the radio played on. Soon another song came on that suited his tastes, and then another. The tempo of the biker music slowly subsided, and John’s dwindling aura was teetering on the precipice of extinction. The plight of the life force was irrelevant in John’s opinion. If Death were near she was more than welcome, he reasoned as he struggled towards the bathroom. The party was over because John’s nausea suddenly took precedence. He could barely function, and the delirium impeded his ability to reach the toilet. He desperately needed to vomit so he marshalled all of his remaining resources with the intention of making it to the restroom before he expelled the noxious waste all over himself and the carpet.

By this time an unspecified amount of rum, and at least forty ounces of Colt-45 malt liquor, joined forces, and overwhelmed his body’s ability to absorb the poison. It was the kind of drunkenness that had him laying naked and face down on the floor with one arm draped over the commode. His bare chest was planted firmly into the linoleum and his gaze was facing the base of the toilet. Through bloodshot eyes, John stared at nothing. The rancid smell of festering vomit permeated the small bathroom. The weight of his head compressed his left cheek firmly into the coldness of the damp tile.  An undignified spittle of vomit was clinging to his lower lip, and transparent lifeless drool had pooled upon the urine-stained floor. His head was throbbing, and the mental fog was dense enough to cripple his ability to think rationally.

Suddenly he felt himself enveloped in a purely merciful radiant love that emanated from origins unknown, and he felt compelled to yield to the unexpected sensation. It was if a benevolent invisible sphere appeared with the intention of easing the anguish. If only for a moment, a grateful smile manifested upon his unshaven face which signified his acceptance of the elusive, yet quantifiable entity. The peaceful spirit reminded John of joys yet to unfold and John remembered the pain of his past, as peaceful loving energy permeated the small bathroom like highly charged gamma rays. The uninvited specter reminded John of the value of friendship and community which triggered pleasant emotions. Although his body was immobilized, John’s mind drifted towards a lucid dream in which he encountered the neighbors for the first time. The Shimeks had commandeered John’s attention as his life flashed before his eyes. His rational mind was convinced he was dying, yet he was unshaken. Instead his attention was laser focused upon a time when he had just finished adhering his flag above the threshold of his new place. It was a good memory, so John offered up minimal resistance as the vison flashed upon the backdrop of his poisoned mind.

The flag was a relatively large rectangular placard the boasted the words ROAD KING! The bold black text was accentuated by an orange backdrop. The metal sign came complete with its own Harley Davidson Logo, and its sole purpose was to announce that “Bikers Live Here.” John was sitting in a folding chair with a half-empty bottle of Colt 45 malt-liquor perched strategically between his thighs.  He was sitting there admiring his handywork when the Shimeks pulled up in their Silver SUV. The neighbors shared the same driveway, so Zane wheeled the Isuzu parallel to John’s Toyota. Maggie, who had been obediently resting at the foot of John’s chair began to get excited, and for good reason. Renee and Elise were absolutely in love with the beautiful canine, and it was readily apparent. Elise was the first one out of the car and she immediately ran over to where John was perched asking, “is it okay if I pet your dog? Her dark eyes were shining like translucent diamonds, and her excitement was contagious. John lay on the bathroom floor basking in the healing energy when suddenly his vision turned dark! Images of Maggie and the happy young girl suddenly diminished as John’s attention focused onto the young girl’s father.

Zane’s first impression of John was one of resistance, meaning he caught the familiar scent of an ever-present lurking danger. He wasn’t afraid for Elise; he was afraid for himself. John was a drinking man and that troubled Zane deeply. He never considered himself to alcoholic, but Zane would admit that he abused alcohol occasionally. It’s been said that alcoholics can smell the affliction in others, and the trigger was enough to send Zane’s mind reeling. Memories of crippling hangovers and hateful confrontations flashed within the confines of his guilty mind. Subconsciously John knew Zane was in remission, so he wouldn’t tempt him. Instead of offering Zane a beer John said, “I like your HONDA!” The motorcycle was considered to be a rice-burner in biker parlance, and Zane anticipated the compliment to be followed up with a snide remark. A remark such as, “I’m bigger than you because I ride a real motorcycle, and only pussies ride Hondas!” That was Zane’s fear. He was afraid to confront a bully in front of the family. He feared he couldn’t do it without becoming aggressive. He taught the children that words are your weapons; but what if he couldn’t back it up in real time? “What if John tries to push my buttons,” he asked himself as he wrestled with three bags of groceries and a gallon of milk. He was grateful that he had a task to tend to because it gave him an exit. In an uninspired tone, Zane told John, “I’ve always rode Hondas.” Zane’s demeaner was slightly dismissive, yet he was still able to produce a friendly nod while doling out an innocuous smile. John offered up a genuine smile in return and said, “I like how you customized the handlebars…it makes it more nimble.” Zane nodded with appreciation and refocused his attention back to the task at hand. He proceeded through the archway that led around the corner and walked the few steps that led to the relative safety of their front stoop. He didn’t feel like mingling, so he proceeded to put away the groceries while the rest of the family visited with the friendly new neighbor. The image faded from John’s mind, as he was bombarded by a smattering of random memories and events that he encountered during his short time on earth. His vision included a glimpse of his own birth, combined with that of his wedding day. As if they were tossed into a cosmic kaleidoscope, the memories twisted and become knotted. John feared his entire life was nothing more than a tangled web of trivial events as he evaluated what he’d done with it. What was left of his rational mind had concluded that he was at the brink of death.

When John came back he found himself glued to the linoleum where he had been passed out for hours. He was dangling at the precipice of oblivion when Maggie came up to him and instinctively nuzzled at his wrist. She was a beautiful Golden Retriever and John’s only friend. His heart rate was slow and faint, and because of this, Maggie began to whimper and cry fearing her master’s demise. The faithful hound dutifully nudged up against the stubble of John’s pale face in an attempt to rekindle the familiar life force. John was unresponsive for a while longer, but soon his inner light began to flicker. “Why do you keep doing this to yourself,” asked the uninvited specter as she made her calculated departure. Once again John grappled with the fact that he was still in this world. Maggie sat whimpering by his side as John took stock of his situation. John’s immediate task was to vanquish the aching throbbing in his head, so he began to extricate himself from the bathroom floor. His primary objective was to find a drink of water.

…to be continued

For John

Zane went out on a test drive one random Autumn evening to pinpoint an electrical gremlin that was plaguing his Ford F-250. The fates dispersed a small amount of misfortune towards the curious mechanic that night, so the truck lost power and coasted to a stop along side of the lonely Mount Hood Highway. Zane was unaccustomed to such bad luck, and he shook his head from side to side as if to say, “this can’t be happening.” With a cool demeanor, Zane marshalled his resources and set about to gauge the severity of his dilemma. He opened the hood of the stricken vehicle and upon investigation, he concluded that the coil packs were overheating, causing the engine to stall. “If I’m lucky, it’ll start once they cool down,” Zane reasoned as he slowly trudged his way back through the mud. It was a typical rainy evening and the soggy topsoil that doubled as the road’s shoulder was saturated with seasonal precipitation.  Zane bided his time as he pondered the gravity of the situation. It was getting late, and as usual, he didn’t bother saying good-bye; instead Zane abruptly vanished after dinner. Renee would have no idea where he was, or what he was up to.

Zane realized that Renee was left at home without a car, and she wouldn’t be able to give him a ride. “It’s about a quarter mile to the Chevron station, and I could find a phone and let Renee know what’s going at least.” He intended to inform Renee that he would be walking home. It would be about five miles Zane concluded as he contemplated his only option. He was really beginning to regret leaving his cell phone behind when he decided to crank the engine. It had been at least ten minutes since he became stranded, and he reckoned the coils would have cooled down by now. If the engine started he intended to immediately reverse course and hobble his way back towards home. “Come on lady, give me some sugar baby,” he thought as he twisted the ignition switch. The starter motor engaged, and the Ford sprang back to life! Zane quietly thanked his lucky stars and proceeded to navigate the Ford back up onto the highway when the drive wheels sank into the muddy soil. The tires grabbed and churned against the soggy turf trying desperately to gain traction. It was to no avail. “Now I’m really screwed,” he thought as the rear end of the pick-up slowly drifted sideways and sank further into the soppy mess. The Shimeks were not exactly what you would call economically viable. He knew they couldn’t afford a tow, so now the choice was clear. “I’m going to be walking.”  He was contemplating how long it would take to traverse the quarter mile that separated him from the Chevron station. He sat there in silence and calculated whether or not their Isuzu Trooper would have enough gumption to drag the Ford out of the mud. “I could drop the Isuzu into four-wheel low and hook the vehicles together with a tow strap,” he reasoned. Zane was optimistically considering the procedure when he recalled how the Isuzu was inoperable due to a faulty battery. The situation was becoming more and more dire by the minute.         

Suddenly his gaze was bombarded with flashing red and blue warning strobes that were emanating from a lumbering fire engine. The pulsing swirls of colored beams lit up the evening sky for about a mile’s radius. Zane watched the approaching fire truck through a rear-view mirror as it dawned on him that the emergency vehicle was coming to a stop. “This is all I need,” he thought. Zane hated drawing attention to himself, and the arrival of the fire department fueled a latent contempt for authority. “What the fuck do these assholes want?” he thought as the rescue team drew nearer.  The anxiety was amplified because the Ford was not exactly legal. He had just recently purchased it and had yet to acquire liability insurance and current tags. Zane incorrectly assumed the fire crew would promptly radio the local sheriff upon realization that he was not in full compliance with local statutes, and it annoyed him. Zane’s heart sank upon hearing the obnoxious ‘popping HISS’ that emanated from the fire-engine as the driver activated the belligerent air brakes. The large red vehicle settled into position parallel to Zane’s bogged down pick-up, and he drew an uncomfortable deep breath.

It was a typical fire engine with a forward compartment that would comfortably seat six. The crewman riding shotgun rolled down the passenger side glass and shouted, “Is everything alright?” The ambient rattle of the huge Diesel engine was drowning out his voice, so the concerned fireman repeated the inquiry. Zane thought it was a silly question, but he squelched his frustration and reported that the Ford had stalled. “It looks like you’re pretty stuck,” commented another fireman as he opened his rear door. Zane hoped the fire crew would remain in their vehicle, so he decided to preempt their departure from the noisy fire engine. To accomplish this, he quickly exited the stricken pick-up in attempt to intercept the firemen before they could approach the scene. As expected, the fireman swung his legs out from the opened door and started his ascent down the highly polished steps. The words, “You don’t need to get out,” quickly spewed form Zane’s mouth. It was his intention to keep prying eyes away from the expired license plates. With an artificial smile, he suggested the man should remain inside to avoid getting his boots muddy. The helpful fireman nodded subconsciously and asked, “are you in need of assistance?” Zane explained the situation and informed the crew that he had left his cell phone at home. There were two fire fighters in the back seat, one of whom offered up a ride to the Chevron. The man behind the steering wheel shouted, “There’s no sense walking in the rain if you don’t have to.” Zane knew resistance was futile and the man who attempted to exit the truck changed course and slid back towards the driver’s side, while motioning for the stricken motorist to “climb aboard.” Zane feigned appreciation as he half-heartedly kicked excess mud form his shoes and made his way inside of the large fire engine. Zane was not very skilled at small talk, and he reluctantly engaged the jovial crew as they bantered on. The driver piloted the large vehicle though the mist and back tracked towards the filling station. The entire voyage lasted no longer than five minutes.

By this time Zane was silently relieved because his eager benefactors had no intentions of ratting him out. Instead they were only being neighborly. He felt silly for worrying about the expired tags, and Zane was truly grateful for the kindness. Utilizing little more than facial expressions and body language, he thanked the crew for their assistance. With that, Zane hastily vacated the fire engine and proceeded towards the convenience store where he tried in vain to locate a pay phone. He realized that they ceased to exist in this new modern reality, so Zane informed the clerk that he had broken down and he needed to call for help. In an authoritative tone he asked, “do you have a phone I could use?” The cashier nodded agreeably and offered up his own personal device.

Zane had been absent for nearly an hour before she received a strange call from an anonymous number. Ordinarily Renee would let the incoming message go straight to voice mail, but on this occasion she reluctantly picked up the receiver. “Hello,” she asked with some nervous trepidation. “Hi Renee, it’s me,” came a voice from over the distance. “I’m broke down, and I got the truck stuck.” he informed her. “I was starting to wonder where you were.” Renee said to her husband. She was both perturbed and relieved. “Do you need a ride,” she asked in a nurturing tone? “Where are you,” she continued? “I got a ride in a fire truck, and now I’m at Chevron by the highway 26 cutoff,” he said with a sense of mild urgency. Renee responded by confirming the exact location and suggested that John could give him a lift. “No,” Zane said. “I don’t want to bother the neighbors. I was just calling to let you know I’m walking, and it will take a couple of hours to get home.” As the conversation continued Renee ascertained that her husband was being silly. “John would be super excited to give you a ride,” she informed him. “He really wants to get to know you anyway.” For some undisclosed reason, Zane had an aversion to John. Perhaps they both evoked each other’s own painful individual histories.

Renee confidently knocked upon John’s door which contained a relentless rhythmic pounding of biker friendly rock ‘n roll music. She knew John was home because his Toyota pick-up was strategically parked in the driveway and internal lighting was shining through opened blinds. Assuming John couldn’t hear, Renee knocked louder this time while crying out, “John! John are you home?” Suddenly the music went silent, and she correctly assumed that he had switched off his stereo.

John was a heart-sick lonely bachelor. On his day off John presented as a middle-aged biker, but during the week he earned a living by retailing industrial tools and equipment. On the weekends he would eagerly consume copious amounts of malt-liquor while smoking cannabis as if there were no tomorrow. Tonight was no exception. John was inebriated past the point of coherency because it was the beginning of another lonely weekend. He would consistently drink himself blind to escape from the crippling despair that had been thrust upon him since the completion of his divorce. By John’s skewed reasoning, the end of his marriage meant the end of hope, and everything that gave him pleasure in life had been reduced to a collection of sad memories. John depended upon his vices to help ease the pain, so he insisted upon self-medication to alleviate the heart ache. His efforts were in vain however, and loneliness only managed to intensify upon each subsequent drink.

Through a drug induced haze, John could hear Renee as she pleaded with him to open up. “John! John, can you open up? Zane is in trouble!” In his state of chemically induced delirium, he realized what was happening. He realized someone was knocking at his door! It took more than a few moments for John to re-establish command of his motor functions. John was totally out of synch with reality by this time, and he asked himself if he had ordered a pizza as he clumsily made his way from his sofa to the entryway. The music had stopped, and the only sound was coming from the deadbolt as the drunken man fumbled with the lock from within the confines of a studio apartment that would become his tomb.

…To be continued