A road, curving into fields. Beyond, trees. Oaks. Horse chestnuts. A gnomish, corduroy- and Qiana -clad figure—wide lapels, bell bottoms, bow tie, news boy cap—rises from his wheelchair and lopes toward a Yamaha 250. With each listing, three-legged step he loses frailty. Strutting now, he tosses the cane aside.
Wait a minute. I know that guy. That’s Cousin Mike.
“Mike! You can’t go! You don’t have a helmet. Your head’s not on straight.”
I wait for him to look back; to say something dry or flip or inappropriate. “Hey, beautiful,” was his come-on line to all the ladies. He ogled you with bedroom eyes, clopped his way toward you, and tried to snug his arm around you. It didn’t matter if you were ten, 27, or 42. It didn’t matter if you were related.
The truck that scrambled his brains in August of ‘75 didn’t shrink his penile urges. The truck hit him square; hurled his flyweight off the bike and looped him around a telephone pole. He shouldn’t have been riding. He’d broken his arm channeling Bruce Lee in July.
He should have been learning circuit boards at university that fall. Instead he was doing ICU time.
He came out of the coma in January. A miracle, everyone said.
He re-learned how to walk, talk, eat. He partook of little pleasures: loitering, scoring pot, sidling up to women at bus stops. He dragged around his wrecked half—shriveled arm, lame leg—and made do with half a brain.
In ‘89 he was peg-legging across a four-laner when another truck batted him to the curb. His scrambled brains went through the shredder this time. No more cane. Demoted to wheelchair. Hello, Depends.
But now, he’d lost the diaper. He stood tall (for a short guy), his gaze fixed forward. He hoisted a leg over the machine. He had somewhere important to go. He didn’t have time to worry about helmets or not helmets.
He adjusted his cap forward; flexed the handlebars. Both arms worked now. The Yamaha putt-putted, but then he kicked it up. He faded from sight responsibly, at a cruising tempo, aiming for the piece of sky between the trees.