SHORT STORIES

The Road Ahead

            Ronald lifted up immediately as his bare ass hit the leather seat. The bike had been sitting in the sun, but knew he had little time and sat down again determined. The pain subsided quickly and he put the key in and settled his foot on the kick-start. He dropped his foot and the bike sputtered. A sense of deflation creeped in.  He was weak and was unstable as had been pocketing his medication for three days. But it was now or never, and he rose up and put all of his bodyweight on the starter. Putter. Putter. Fire. The bike roared to life as he heard a familiar voice scream his name. He ignored it and lurched forward. To look back would be admitting guilt. To look back would be admitting that Hospice existed.

He further turned the accelerator and moved into traffic. For the past three days, he had been warring against the fog in his brain to remember a reasonable route. A route that a naked, seventy-eight year old man on a stolen Harley Davidson take and attract less attention. If he could get of the access road and into the neighborhood near the park, he could take a back road all the way. The two lane back road on a Tuesday morning before lunch was likely to be pretty empty. He was counting on a long stretch to open up the engine and reflect for a few minutes before the real challenge began.

            He recalled one traffic light of concern, and it was approaching quickly. What luck, he thought as he recognized the black and white cruiser three cars from the intersection. He contemplated if or not to hop the curb or wait in traffic. He swerved out of the turn lane and guided the bike beside a long station wagon. He could feel eyes on him, but as long as they were not police eyes, he did not care. His peripheral vision revealed two young children excitedly bouncing and pointing in the back seat of a green station wagon. He could feel the ends of the Demerol drip fucking with him just as the light turned green. With the police pulling out of sight, he moved into the turn lane and made a right turn into the neighborhood. He heard a crash as he sped away from the intersection. He decided not to let that exit wither.

            This was a long strip of road, allowing him a few seconds to contemplate the major events in his life. As the bike approached 40MPH, he thought about his son. At 45MPH, he thought about Vietnam. At 50, he thought about his wife. He thought about his wife all the way to 65MPH as the entry booth for Denham National Park approached. A wide-eyed park ranger brought him down to reality and he waved as he slowed to circumvent the entry gate. He leaned into the first curve as hard as he could. He loved the mountain roads and sped on them all his life when it seemed safe to do so. He leaned into the second curve. The third. As he approached the fourth, he straightened out the bike and hit the gas. There, as it had been since he had had his first bike, was a break in the guardrail that had not been fixed in his forty years of riding on the mountain. He hit the gas hard and in seconds felt the bike get light. He was calm as the bike disappeared from under him and he wondered if the Hospice workers would change where they hung their jackets from now on. His only regret was for Bennie, who had been so nice to him, and hoped that he had motorcycle theft insurance.


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