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Fiction Drama Suspense

Bruce knew he was about to do something stupid. And he didn't care. He marveled at that. Why would he put himself at risk like this? He was normally a safe rider. He never took unnecessary risks. Yet he knew that was about to change, as if yesterday and tomorrow meant -- nothing.

He focused on the rear bumper of the slow moving panel truck in front of him and decided it was time.

There was no way to explain what he was about to do. He wasn't late for anything. He had no place to be. Nobody was waiting for him. He had nothing special to get to.

He wasn't tired, or hungry, or thirsty. He wasn't especially sad, or angry, or upset. There wasn't a game on, or a show to watch. Nothing had happened to piss him off. Nothing had happened to make him irrationally exuberant.

He simply didn't want to be where he was at this moment: stuck behind an old crap truck that used to be a $29.99 per day U-Haul, and now was stripped of it's colors and probably carrying some garage band's crap equipment on the way to some gig at some crap bar in some town in this boring valley. He didn't want to be stuck in low gear while the piece of crap barely made it up the small hill on this winding back road that cut through million dollar vineyards that made crap wine he couldn't afford. He no longer could stand the smell of the burning oil and noxious fumes of it's rapidly deteriorating engine.

There wasn't much traffic on the road. It was dinner time on a Tuesday and he figured everyone had already made it home from work. They were hugging their kids and kissing their spouses and scratching their $4000 dogs behind the ears. Some of them might be grilling in their landscaped backyards, the breeze of the summer evening wafting the scents of steaks and hotdogs over the wooden fences of their quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods; white Mercedes SUVs and red or blue BMW sedans and heavily tinted Teslas lining the wide streets and clogging the custom-pavered driveways.

Others might have already found a bar stool to laugh and have drinks with friends or dates and eat garlic fries and sip some new cocktail that some hot bartender came up with.

Anyway, they weren't here, sucking poison from the truck's tailpipe, moving slow like an eighty year-old woman behind the wheel of an ancient silver, bumper-sticker laden Toyota Prius.

They were living their best life. He was here. Stuck.

Bruce downshifted his Harley to third gear.

The big motor whined as the RPMs surged and he felt himself thrown forward by the engine braking, the distance between his front tire and the truck expanding just a little. He pushed on the left handle bar and the bike leaned left and began to drift towards the empty lane where oncoming traffic might be.

He couldn't see far around the truck because of the hill. Just enough to know the space in front of the truck was clear.

Normally, the fact he couldn't see the oncoming traffic would have settled him into patience. But what was patience. Acceptance of mediocrity and stasis due to the fear of the unknown; paralysis caused by lack of balls. He'd been patient far too long. Something had to change. This was bullshit. Accepting being stuck was the proverbial last straw. He didn't care about the risk. He didn't care about the red flags or his conscience or the danger that was so real he could taste the acidity of it, like indigestion.

He swerved into the lane and gunned the throttle. The powerful bike accelerated so abruptly that he feared he would lose his grip on the handlebars. He was thrown back in the seat. He could feel heat behind his eyes, throbbing in his chest, and the pulsing rush of blood in his ears. He missed the truck's bumper by inches as he made his move.

He still could not see over the hill but he didn't need to see. He knew. Somehow. He felt it in every cell. Things were about to change.

He saw the truck driver's hand pop out the open driver's side window, waving backward as if to say, 'No, not yet!' He saw the man's eyes, wide in his head and shaking left and right in the tall, rectangular rear-view mirror. He felt a connection with the man's fear.

At that moment, as he approached the crest of the hill, his bike halfway along the side of the truck, he saw the rooftop running lights of the grey-brown Amazon Prime delivery van break the road's horizon.

The whole world slowed down.

Bruce felt the intense heat of the bike's engine through the thin jeans he had on and suddenly remembered those $200 armored riding pants he never wore.

He recognized Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' in his helmet speakers, barely audible against the roar of the bike and the wind.

He smelled creosote and engine oil and the mint of the gum he had been chewing.

His helmet mic tickled, and he pursed his lips to push it out of the way.

There was a surprisingly cool breeze on the tip of his right middle finger where the stitching of his leather glove had failed and his finger nail, dirty with whiteboard marker and pocket lint, was exposed.

Without intention, his left hand squeezed and released the clutch just as his booted left foot rocked the gear shifter up, switching back to fourth, the bike responding with a lurch forward, his right hand simultaneously feeding the gas to the 114 cubic inch Milwaukee Eight engine.

He was electric. He was alive. He saw everything, in an instant, unfiltered.

And then it was over.

The gap between his target, the front bumper of the panel truck, and his nemesis, the front bumper of the Amazon van, became obvious, then narrowed, then was all but gone.

He saw the truck driver's mouth form the words, 'What the fuck!' as he passed the cab so close he wondered if his helmet would hit the rear-view mirror.

He watched the Amazon van smoothly veer to it's own right in what must've been a last ditch effort to give him more room.

He heard a horn, a high-pitched, angry, steady trumpet.

He wondered if he'd closed his eyes because everything went black for a moment. Roaring wind, horn blaring, motorcycle engine blasting, but nothing in his vision. Just red-tinted blackness.

Bruce felt his freedom before he knew what had really happened. There was violent buffetting wind and rushing color in two directions instantly followed by smooth silence and bright light. He felt like he was flying above the valley. For a moment.

Then all at once he felt and saw and smelled and tasted everything again: the heat of the bike, the rumble of the road, the black ribbon of asphalt wriggling into the distance in front of him, the taste of bile in his mouth, the smell of his now-rancid breath, the quiet between songs in his helmet speakers. His vision was fogging up. He took a deep breath and lifted his visor to clear it, enjoying the relatively cold air on his face. He blew the breath out.

The vineyards, a blur moments before, became more distinct. The orderly rows of identical vines, bright green with new growth, struck him as beautiful in their symmetry. He wondered how big the grapes were. Probably still tiny orbs, their diameters no bigger than the stems that held them. He considered the miracle of the cycle of the vineyards. They looked near death in the winter, then sprouted like mad in the spring rains, flourished and sweetened in the drought of the summer sun, then were harvested as the days shortened and the nights cooled closer to freezing. And then it all happened again the next year. Exactly the same. But always beautiful and vibrant and alive. He realized in that moment that he hadn't noticed the vineyards in a long time. Maybe years.

Bruce heard a horn and checked his mirrors. There was the panel truck, catching up to him, flashing one headlight like a tired cyclops. The driver, a long-haired twenty-something with a thin, wispy beard and a backwards baseball cap, was still shaking his head in disbelief.

Looking down at his speedometer, Bruce realized he had let off the gas too much and was now well below the speed limit of the road.

He heard the first notes of "Anyhow" by Tedeschi Trucks Band in his helmet and smiled at the knowledge of the guitar solo coming up.

He downshifted, accelerated, and quickly left the whole crap situation behind.

June 05, 2024 13:09

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1 comment

Neeru Singh
10:28 Jun 13, 2024

Nice story. Detailing how boredom can make us take unnecessary risks.


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