August 05, 2009

August 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 8

Welcome back to another summer issue of Truckin'.

1. Modigliani by Paul McGuire
Rafi handed me $25. The $20 bill was crisp, but the five singles were wrinkled. One of them had the eyes of George Washington blacked out by a pen... More

2. Locust Swarm of One by Sigge S. Amdal
Bright light stung his eyes like an impenetrable carpet of white needles. He winked to dull the eyeball itch, trying to carve out some detail in the white dark. Was it completely clear or clearly a blizzard, he wondered, as everything outside the windows just displayed the distinct sharpness of a void?... More

3. Top of the World by Katitude
The road twisted and curled around the mountains with no guardrails to soothe my fear of heights, and my bike was not handling well at all. The street bike, with the tires that already had a major trip's worth of wear on them, was not made for this kind of terrain. The weight of camping gear raised the center of gravity and with every curve I thought I could feel the rear tire slide a bit... More

4. Maui Rescue by Michael Friedman
I had heard numerous horror stories about unsuspecting people being robbed on the side of highways by people they thought were going to help them. My heart almost pounded out of my chest when two 300-plus-pound Hawaiians got out of the small truck... More

5. Fish Store by Arthur Rosch
He gunned the motorcycle. He turned the amplifier all the way up and thwanged a huge chord. He was going to accelerate into the swimming pool, electrocute, overdose and drown himself all at the same time. Someone would find his corpse in the next couple weeks, sitting there at the bottom of the pool on his Harley, with his Claxton Wanko guitar strapped around his shoulder, his Boogie Amp short-circuited, his blood full of dope... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

The August edition of Truckin' marks the debut of Katitude, who shares a true road story about her adventures to Alaska on a motorcycle. This end of the summer issue also has several veterans with Art Rosch and Michael Friedman returing to the mix, and everyone's favorite Norwegian, Sigg S. Amdal, is back with a dazzling tale. I'm happy to say that we'll be seeing more of Sigge in the near future.

If you help spread the word about Truckin', you will increase your karma substantially! Tell your friends and family and co-workers about your favorite stories. The scribes here write for free and you'll be doing me a huge favor by helping get the some publicity.

If anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list, or perhaps you are interested in writing for a future issue, then feel free to contact me.

I have to sincerely thank the writers for sharing their bloodwork. Thanks for taking this leap of faith with me. And a special thanks goes out to you, the reader, for your loyalty and support over the years.

Be good,

"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way." - Bukowski


By Paul McGuire © 2009

Rafi handed me $25. The $20 bill was crisp, but the five singles were wrinkled. One of them had the eyes of George Washington blacked out by a pen.

Rafi didn't say anything and just nodded. I didn't say anything back. I was actually disappointed. He still owed me $200 and at the pace that he had been paying me back ($25 every two weeks), Rafi would be debt free in at least four months... provided that he didn't borrow any more money.

We were paid every other Thursday. Museum security guards made a couple of bucks above minimum wage. The paltry pay was for the simplicity of the job. Most of the time, I slacked off or stood around all morning and talked about the Yankees with Rafi for hours on end. By mid-afternoon, we had figured out how to solve the team's pitching problems and worked out at least three possible trades.

As soon as Rafi got his check on Thursday afternoon, he rushed to the bank to cash it. He spent the rest of the day telling me how he was going to blow his cash.

"I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho."

The first time he told me that, I assumed that he was joking, because I had only known him for a few weeks. A couple of months passed and I noticed the pattern... we got paid on every Thursday morning, and all afternoon Rafi insisted "I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho" and then he was absent from work the next day. Rafi called in sick every other Friday. Rafi never went on vacations. He never had enough days because he always called in sick and instead of docking him pay, the union made him use his vacation time to cover the days when his sick time ran out. You got five sick days a year at the museum and ten total vacation days. You also got one personal day at the beginning of every month that you could use towards a sick day or vacation.

One of the maintenance guys grew up with Rafi in Santa Domingo and helped get him the job at the museum. He told me that Rafi let loose on Thursday night and went on a three-day binge. As soon as we got off work on Thursday, Rafi rushed uptown and scored. He smoked the rock like a fiend and picked up a girl, sometimes two. By Sunday morning, he ran out of drugs, the hooker left and he was broke and jonesin'. He was so worn down after being up for three days straight that he went to bed at noon on Sunday and usually slept for the next 18 hours.

"I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho," Rafi said to me while we both worked the Modigliani special exhibit.

Like clockwork, Rafi did not show up for work on Friday. On Monday morning, I expected him to tell me about his weekend, except that he was absent on Monday... and Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, everyone wondered what happened to Rafi. I asked around but no one seemed to know about his extended disappearance. I found the maintenance guy that grew up with Rafi. He told me that Rafi had been murdered over the weekend.

One of the hookers that Rafi had frequented did not tell her husband that she was turning tricks on the side. The husband followed his wife to Rafi's apartment and confronted the two in the hallway. The scorned husband went berserk and emptied six shots into his wife and when Rafi tried to flee the scene, the husband pulled a knife on him and slashed and stabbed him fourteen times. Rafi bled to death on the front steps of his apartment building. All he had on him was $42, a Metrocard, his museum ID card, and a pamphlet to the Modigliani exhibit.

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Locust Swarm of One

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2009

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are slowly approaching our destination, the conditions are great for traveling, and unless we get some surprise weather we expect to arrive on time in about nine hours. Don’t hesitate to make the most of your trip; our staff is here to serve you."

Bright light stung his eyes like an impenetrable carpet of white needles. He winked to dull the eyeball itch, trying to carve out some detail in the white dark. Was it completely clear or clearly a blizzard, he wondered, as everything outside the windows just displayed the distinct sharpness of a void?

"Introspective scenery they've got here," said his travel mate. From what he could tell he was a former professor, presently a drunk.

"What do you see?"

There, there, take it easy. The trip is nearly over, you’ll get out of here, and all will be forgotten. He didn’t listen to the professor’s reply, pointless small talk. They were seated next to each other on the train, there was nothing else committing them to care. Why should he?

Locusts twitch their hind legs in a certain rhythm, and what was a puzzle to science until very recently, was that the sense-hairs on their legs are directly wired to a very secluded part of the central nervous system deep within, which has the sole function of clamping the brain – thus causing a swarm. For how do you explain that the individual locust suddenly changes colour, grows more robust physically, and gets a hell lot more aggressive?

Well, maybe he flipped? Maybe it was his time to go? Maybe it was there all along, just that one day coming into the office, seeing all the same dull and dead white office furniture and make-shift corkboard walls, he just snapped! Enough! No more!

But how do you explain that thousands of these individuals all snap at the same time?

The answer lied in the sensors in the hind legs. A specific interval brought forth by evolution’s long track of trial and error, survival and death; if enough sense-hairs on the hind leg are motioned at rate x during a period of time y, then in all probability the density of the population is growing, until critical mass - - and you have a swarm. Incidentally, under the right conditions, this means you can have a swarm of one.

The toilet smelled inhuman; it was a piercing synthetic smell of citrus coupled with what once was organic decomposition in motion. It burned his eyes. He looked into his face, swaying back and forth in front of the mirror. He shuttered. It smelled as if someone with a bad case of aggressive diarrhea had given birth to a lemon.

Her Lolita socks played idly on the pull-out stool at a forty five degree angle, as if they promised disclosure of everything underneath, so clean, white and pure. No wonder he wouldn’t resist. Why resist an invitation?! There are no threats from social law where there’s no social being present, and she was selling meat to hungry roadside vagabonds, is all.

The professor had left when he came back to the seat. Good.

He had taken the water bottles and the backpack with him. No surprises.

He sighed as he sat down, drawing nearer to his destination, and looked around at the empty seats. He imagined talking to the ghosts of all those who'd traveled here before him, sat in his seat, shat in the toilet. Working class people like him. The cry of a hungry baby, the small talk of peers, the menacing silent threats from a mustached conductor through a cloud of cigarette smoke; it was all around him. Endless futures with fading strings back to their births, soon on their way to oblivion, headed for the end of the line.

He didn't feel anything. He could just as well be asleep. Some medically induced comas are said to completely remove all sense of vivacity from the produce of somatic stimuli. Not living inside of as such, but alongside to, as watched from a central focal point only without proper grasp or independent footing. Like being part of a silent movie, robotica theatre, clap-clap-clap, someone shot the piano player but nobody noticed. The show must go on.

He willed his mind to wake him up, but yielded little result, not even a headache. If he was dreaming this vividly then who knows, maybe his will was just a passing image as well. All of the mirages were looping in the white neverending nothing outside the moving windows. He didn’t like the new trains at all. Except for launch and landing there was absolutely no sense of gravity but the one you’d expect in your living room, spinning & spinning all around the galaxy. No sense of kinetics, dynamics, working mechanics, no centrifugal force. He might as well be completely still, while the maglev pulled the rotation of the earth all around him. It made perfect sense.

He got up from the seat and decided to find the driver's carriage, at the very front. It could just as well be at the end of the train, but if they'd kept the original furniture they had probably kept the locomotive as well. As he headed for the front, he realized that he had no memory of entering the train, and nothing before that either. Who was he? Or who had he been? Why was this happening to him? Wasn’t death supposed to be a great nothing at all?

He focused his inner eye on the grey nothingness in the beginning of time, the beginning of his memories, of all that was. They had to be there somewhere. Else he didn’t exist. He may never have.

He willed the ghosts to existence yet again, the people around him, passengers who were as unreal as his lack of memory. They were his puppets, he imagined, but felt no victory. He might as well be somebody else's mirage, a puppet of a puppet. His heart beat faster. He realized that there was no telling how long he’d been on the train. Maybe they were all uniquely experiencing the same shared hallucination, with everybody else posing as ghosts to the other, never had-beens and complete unknowns. Maybe they were all in hell.

The girl was there still. The smell of citrus hooked into his eyeballs. He jammed the door shut and looked at the ghosts in the benches around him. "It’s out of order," he said, having to cough. His throat was dry. I’m losing my mind, he thought. That's it. What’s my name?

He couldn’t remember what had happened. Suddenly he got an urge to search out the back of the train, not the front. There could be a way out of here. Maybe he could jump off at a juncture when the train had to slow down. They could be at a stand still presently, losing precious time. He ran. Strangely, the blurred images of people moved out of his way as he made his escape down the carriage corridors. Was he doing this, or did they do it by own volition? Had he created something as real as himself? How could he know he was real? Could they will him away?

"There you are!"

The stern voice of the professor shot through the carriage. Did he know him?

"You've been away for three hours, where the hell have you been?!"

He mumbled something.

"Come on," said the professor, and continued further back. "Let’s find our seats."

They had seats. This was something that was supposed to be, then. Something decided.

A scurry of people let them through to their seats. They were talking loudly, agitated, searching for something or someone, with a mixture of fear and hostility in their voices.

The two of them sat down, and the professor handed him a water bottle. "Just drink it all down; you’re going to need a lot of H2O."

He picked up his reading, Nature magazine.

"What's all this about?"

The professor looked at him. "Huh. Seems like I found you at the nick of time."

"Who am I?"

He sighed. "Just drink the water. It'll all come back to you in a little while."

By chance, his eyes fell out the window, and all of sudden a weak hint of texture was visible in the white. He recognized a cloud, or perhaps it was a mountain. All the sounds were getting clearer too. They were loud and frantic. The people around him, getting closer.

A pathway was made through the crowd as two conductors with batons made their way towards them. His hands clutched the armrest until they were all white and his legs pressed against the seat in front of them.

"Are you all right?"

This wasn't a train at all.

The two flight attendants stopped at his seat. They looked serious.

"What's the trouble here?" asked the professor. They didn't reply.

"We're conducting a safety landing on an airstrip in ten minutes where the police are waiting for you, sir. In the meanwhile, please remain calm."

The way they held their batons indicated that calmness would be enforced, if necessary.

The professor turned to him instead. "What the hell is going on here?"

Everything was coming back.

"I'm... I'm so afraid of flying."

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

Maui Rescue

By Michael Friedman © 2009

To make the most out of life, you have to be open to the lessons that universe provides you, regardless of the crazy ways in which they come. Whether it is people, a situation or a circumstance that has manifested in order to teach you a how to grow as a person, one has to be open to the messages that these experiences bring. A great example of this occurred to me on my recent trip to Maui.

After taking a 2:30AM flight out of Las Vegas, the wife and I arrived early the next day. Exhausted and hoping for some time to catch my breath, the owners of the bed and breakfast thankfully let us check-in early. After taking a quick nap, we decided to go get dinner and watch our first sunset on the island. Although I had managed to get a little rest, I was still spent and really just wanted to relax, however I caved into my wife's desires as I often do and we headed off for our first sightseeing trip.

After driving 20 minutes, we found a pull-off that offered a beautiful view of the sunset. The only problem was that when I was backing up to turn my car around to face the sunset, I backed over a mound that consisted of macadam, dirt, and rocks. As soon as I went over the mound, my back right tire began to spin and I realized I was stuck. I had managed to get the back tire completely off of the ground as the mound crushed the bottom outside panel of our rented Dodge Charger. We referred to the car as "Battlestar Galactica" because it was so big, so I knew there was no hope of me getting the car free by myself.

I immediately began freaking out. Tired, dazed and somewhat disoriented from the flight, the last thing I wanted was to be stranded on the side of the road on a stretch of highway that had no lights with no clue where we were and almost no cell phone reception. I completely lost my cool and started thinking the worst. My wife had to walk away to let me cool down and regain my composure because I was raging like the Hulk on crack.

After furiously trying to dig us out with my bare hands (which only let to a bunch of cuts) and blaming our situation on the fact that we should have gone back to the bed and breakfast and just skipped stopping, I did my best to calm down. I took out my cell phone and called my rental car company's roadside assistance number. The sun was on the verge of setting and it was starting to get dark. The somewhat incompetent roadside assistance people kept asking me where we were. I became even more flustered because there were no signs posted to help us give a location to tell them where to go. After giving the best possible description of where we were, they told us it would be an hour to an hour-and-a-half before they could get to us.

I was on tilt thanks to the length of time we would have to wait before we got help. I continued to assess the damage to the car, and even though I knew I had insurance to cover the situation, I lost once again lost my composure, thinking the worst. My wife was now laughing and taking pictures of the scene of the crime, and kept telling me to relax and enjoy the sunset because everything would be okay. I felt like strangling her as she just kept repeating her words. My frustration over our situation continued to mount instead of doing what I should have done, which was listen to the wise words of my wife. I kept thinking the worst, refusing to enjoy a single moment of the beautiful sunset.

Twenty minutes passed and I was still frustrated with my predicament, but somewhat humbled after having had my ego crushed by my embarrassment over the situation. I finally relented and tried to take in the remaining moments of the sunset. There was nothing more I could do. A few minutes into appreciating the vivid colors a small, beat-up purple truck purple pulled along-side of my car. Both fear and adrenaline began pumping through my veins. Having lived in cities on the East Coast most of my life, I had heard numerous horror stories about unsuspecting people being robbed on the side of highways by people they thought were going to help them. My heart almost pounded out of my chest when two 300-plus-pound Hawaiians got out of the small truck.

I stood there completely stunned with visions of me having to fight these huge guys if they had decided to rob us. My wife started talking to the defensive tackle-sized gentlemen. Once I finally snapped out of my paranoia, I realized they had stopped to help us. Within a minute, the three of us lifted the back end of the car over the mound and we were free to drive away. Completely shocked at what had happened, I graciously thanked the gentlemen repeatedly and let them know how stupid I felt.

"Here I am, this city kid who prides himself in keeping his cool and I totally screwed up. I don't know what we would have done without you," I said.

"No problem guys. You're on vacation. Have a good time. Mahalo," said the driver of the purple truck as they got back in and drove away.

I watched them drive off and began to rethink everything that had happened and how I reacted. I was brutally honest with myself and quickly admitted that I had handled the situation poorly. Despite being someone who believes in positive outcomes, especially when it comes to relying on oneself, I relented to fear and paranoia and became caught up in negative emotions that proved to be completely unproductive.

Looking back at the situation, I realize that my wife had handled things the right way. Calm, cool and collected, she focused on the positives, never lost her composure and managed to keep me from jumping into the ocean. I learned a lot from her actions and I'm amazed at how easy it is to slip into the negative. In the end, I just needed to calm down, focus my thoughts and trust that things would work out if I took control of the situation.

I've learned a lot of lessons from this experience. The universe once again provided me with a first-hand opportunity to understand both myself and my thought process. The only problem was that it came in the most unexpected way, but I guess that's just the way it is supposed to be. I am now confident that I will handle things differently the next time something like this happens.

Michael Friedman is a writer from Las Vegas, NV.

Top of the World

By Katitude © 2009

There are two ways to get from Toq, Alaska, to Dawson City, Yukon. Neither are easy, although I am sure that they are much easier than they were in the past.

You can take the Taylor Highway through Chicken to the border, then the appropriately named Top of the World Highway to Dawson City. Or you can go the long way, taking the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse and then up to Dawson City from there.

My husband and I stood in the visitor's centre in Toq and tried to decide which route to take. One was shorter but more grueling, the other longer but paved. Well, mostly paved. We had ridden along part of the longer route and had come face to face with the never-ending cycle of road repair in the far north.

We knew the longer route contained gravel patches kilometers long as well as a chunk of roadwork that had been the worst we'd ever gone through. The combination of the wettest summer in memory and the passage of huge heavy RV's and trucks had churned up a slurry of mud a few inches thick. I'd lost control of the bike in it and had ended up six feet to the left of where I was supposed to be. I didn't drop the bike, but it was close. Neither of us were eager to head back east that way, but we had talked to another biker who had gone the shorter route a few weeks ago when it had been raining, and his statement that he "had no business being up there on two wheels" had stuck in our heads.

The woman behind the counter at the Toq Visitor's Centre told us of other bikers who had recently gone the Taylor/Top of the World route. "It's hard-packed dirt mostly, some gravel. I drove up that way myself a few days ago, it was dry and in good shape."

OK, let's do it. How bad can it be, we asked each other.

Our first moment of real doubt came when we stopped for coffee about an hour in. The road had started out nicely surfaced but was becoming more broken up as we progressed. Asphalt patches were making it a bumpy ride. Keith gave me an out.

"Do you want to go back?" he asked.

"No. It might get bad but at least it's not ankle deep mud," I replied.

And we went on.

The road continued to break up until all that was left was gravel. The landscape became more barren as we gained altitude and around that point it had begun to drizzle making it even less lovely. The road twisted and curled around the mountains with no guardrails to soothe my fear of heights, and my bike was not handling well at all. The street bike, with the tires that already had a major trip's worth of wear on them, was not made for this kind of terrain. The weight of camping gear raised the center of gravity and with every curve I thought I could feel the rear tire slide a bit more than it should have.

Just after the town of Chicken, Alaska, the gravel disappeared leaving only hard packed dirt. The drizzle had wetted down the top layer of dust and made the road surface even more slippery than it was before.

I hated the bike at that point. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I even wondered where the zone really was. I was in clench mode. Teeth clenched against the fear, fear of falling, of going off the road, of this never ending. Hands clenched, wet and cold, around the handgrips in a constant adjustment of throttle and brake. Muscles clenched against the cold that was creeping in with the rain through my new so-called waterproof jacket and pants. I just wanted to stop.

Keith was able to comfortably go at a faster speed on his bike, so it felt like I was riding alone much of the time. He'd wait for me periodically, but would move off as soon as he saw me come around a curve or over a hill. He said later that he was able to get 10-15 minute breaks that way. I had none.

I remember thinking at that point that if someone told me I had to choose between riding that road again and never riding again, period, I would gladly hand over my keys and walk away.

But there was no walking away from that place, only going forward. The hope that it would get better mixed with the fear that it will only get worse, and left a metallic taste in my mouth. I sang in my helmet to keep my mind from skittering too close to the edge of a freak out. I became aware that when I was concentrating on the road, on keeping 800 lbs of bike and rider upright on two slippery wheels, I was singing Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", especially the verse that goes:
Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke it's true.
You'll see it's all a show.
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
Yes, a bit macabre. But it helped.

I lost track of time. At the 20 mph I was going, it would take forever to get to Dawson City, but I accepted that. I accepted the road, the rain, the cold. This is the worse I'd ridden in, and while unhappy about it, I was managing.

You adapt; you go forward.

And then, as we grew close to the Canadian border, it got foggy. And THEN it was the worse I'd ever ridden in. Not only was the visibility reduced to no more than 20 feet ahead of me, the visor of my helmet began to fog up on the inside, reducing my vision even more. I had to ride with the visor up, blinking away the rain while still trying to see what line to take on the road.

Suddenly, the Canadian Customs buildings loomed out of the fog. I had read that phrase so often in books, and only now do I have a real reference for it. One minute the world is a uniform grey, then the next there's a dark shape beside you. Very disconcerting, especially when you are already borderline freaked out.

We answered the requisite six questions, and when we were cleared I asked the agent if there was a place to pull over.

"See that shape just ahead on the right? That's the Welcome to the Yukon sign, there's a pull off right beside it. Pity it's so foggy; it's a lovely view most days". Yeah, I'm sure it is.

I barely made it over there, put the bike on it's stand and got off the bike before I started to sniffle. I pulled my helmet off and rested my head against the pack and cried, letting the tension of the last five hours wash away.

After a few minutes I put the helmet back on and off we went. It was still foggy, and we still had another few hours of riding, but as the customs agent had said, the roads were better here than on the US side.

Eventually the fog lifted and the rain fizzled away. There was no more slick mud to ride over; the Top of the World Highway was gravel. I never thought I'd be happy to ride on gravel. This eventually changed to a patched asphalt, and then to smooth blacktop as we rolled closer to Dawson City. Oh, the bliss of pavement!

I couldn't get the grin off my face as we rode the ferry across the Yukon River to Dawson City. I felt a million pounds lighter, and more kick-ass than I have ever felt in my life.

I had done it. And gained little bit more knowledge about myself in the process. To be honest, there's a part of me that wants to go back and do it again. But don't tell my husband that.

Katitude is a martini-swilling, motorcycle-riding, poker-playing, cussing role model for young ladies of refinement.

Fish Store

By Arthur Rosch © 2001

Trevor Joyce made sure that the two hundred foot extension cord was securely fastened to the outlet in his garage. Carefully he measured out the length to the swimming pool. He walked with the plastic reel, paying out the line, around his Ferrari, past his Bentley, and when he came to the last of his car collection, the Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, he kicked the cord firmly under its rear tire so that it wedged there. Backing up the driveway, he tugged at the line, ensuring that it was firmly seated under the tire and would not come loose.

The driveway angled steeply upward under a line of cypress trees. From the top Trevor could see the ocean and a big chunk of Malibu Canyon with its winding roads and private gated houses. He stopped and scratched at one of the tattoos on his right arm: it was the band tattoo, the famous one-eyed cat that rock fans instantly associate with the heavy metal group, Fish Store.

For eighteen years Trevor had been the lead guitarist with Fish Store. As of last week, some snaggly little kid named Keewee Bonior was the lead guitarist with Fish Store. One by one, the old members were being squeezed out. Trevor had seen it coming; first it was the keyboard player, Pierce Holling. Okay, Pierce had lost three fingers in a car crash. But that was just a bullshit pretext for booting him out of the band. Pierce didn't need ten fingers to play rock and roll. It was really the paunch and the wrinkles, that's what it was all about. He just wasn't fucking cute anymore.

The extension cord reached all the way to the hedge at the far end of the pool. Plenty of length for Trevor's purposes. He wound it in long loops between his thumb and his elbow and returned to the garage, laying the cord carefully on the trunk of the Rolls Royce.

He went upstairs and got his favorite guitar and his little amplifier, the Boogie, the one he used for rehearsals, "the little screamer" as he called it. The guitar was the pearl-inlaid Flying Vee, once owned by the late guitar legend Claxton Wanko. It had played many immortal rock hits in Claxton's band. It had played "Eat My Heart Out," "Work Me To The Bone," it had played "Tough Love Tonight" and "Willng Pussy." Trevor had bought it at auction for six thousand dollars in nineteen eighty five.

He gave it a little wipe with a polishing chamois, flipped it around on its strap button, inspected it from the top tuning peg to the green serial number etched into its bifurcated body. He hefted the guitar in one hand, the amp in the other, and returned to the garage.

Trevor placed the guitar and amp carefully on the work bench that ran the length of the left hand side of the cavernous chamber. He returned to the interior of the house, walked up the soft purple carpet, past the billiard room and the theatre room to the master bedroom. He went into Lynda's bathroom; Lynda had been gone for weeks. She wasn't coming back. There was nothing to indicate her eight years of residence in the house but a hairbrush with a few wisps of blonde hair, a chunk of glycerine soap and a bottle of Jack Daniels, half empty. Trevor took a swig from the bottle, wiped his lips, then looked at his reflection in the mirror.

"The fuck," he said, mumbling to himself. He splayed his fingers and ran them through his long, lanky, thinning black hair. "Kick me out of my own band 'cause I'm going bald. I'm not going bald." He could not, of course, see the round circle of flesh at the very top of his head, like a monk's tonsure, from which his flowing locks seemed to emerge as if they were rivers running off some invisible glacial lake.

He took another swig from the bottle of whiskey and went across the bedroom to his own bathroom on the other side. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a little sealed glass bottle shaped like a bell. Morphine Sulfate, Two Hundred Milligrams.

"That should do it," he said, tapping the bottle with his fingernail. From one of the drawers he withdrew a rubber tourniquet and a twenty two gauge insulin syringe. He took these items back into the garage, and set them carefully next to his guitar and amp. He then got the end of the extension cord from atop the trunk of the Rolls and unwound enough of it to reach the work bench.

From the far corner of the double-doored garage, he pulled a blue plastic tarpaulin off his gleaming Harley Custom. The motorcycle stood there like a science fiction insect about to ingest some screaming prey. Its headlight was like the eye of a cyclops. Purple swirling paint swept in flames down to the One Eyed Cat logo painted on each side of the silver gas tank.

Trevor pushed it off its stand and wheeled it around his cars to the tool bench. There, he put it back on its stand and straddled its bulk. He reached for a roll of duct tape and pried a few inches from the fat cylinder and hung the sticky part from the bar of the motorcycle. Then he placed the amplifier in his lap, settling it as comfortably as possible, dividing its weight between the bike's saddle and his thighs. Methodically, he began taping the amplifier to his chest. Holding it with his left arm, he wound the tape around the amp, then switched off to his right hand and continued winding around his back, over and over again, until he had the electronic device reasonably secured to his torso.

He picked up the guitar and used a patch cord to connect it to the amp. Cumbersome, he decided, but certainly do-able. He put on his shades. He tied a bandanna around his head. He was already dressed in leather pants and a sleeveless leather vest that showed all his obscene tattoos.

He plugged the amp's power cord into the long extension cord. He turned on the amp. The light glowed green. Clumsily, he strummed a C Chord. Thwong! It echoed hugely in the garage. He got the duct tape and wound it around the join between the amp cord and the extension cord. He wound and wound, dozens of times, until he was certain the tape would hold.

"Yeahhh," Trevor drawled. "Ready ready ready."

He kicked the motorcycle into life. Its engine roared and he throttled it so the noise of the bike and the noise of the amp blended into a single savagely gleeful thunder.

Then he took the vial of morphine and filled the syringe with its contents. He had forgotten to tie off with the rubber tourniquet, so he used the guitar's patch cord to raise one of his few remaining useful veins. He had collapsed the big one inside his elbow and the big one that ran down the side of his arm, and most of the medium sized veins lower down near his wrist. But there was still the inch-long minor vein about two inches down from his elbow; he had been getting hits there for the last couple weeks, he knew he could hit it, even with all this stuff strapped around him.

After a few jabs, a few misses, he found the blood and mainlined that huge hit of pharmaceutical dope right into his bloodstream. It took only a few seconds to feel its soft blanket spreading from his innards to the periphery of the nerve endings at his fingertips.

"This is it," he thought. "The perfect rock and roll suicide!"

He gunned the motorcycle. He turned the amplifier all the way up and thwanged a huge chord. He was going to accelerate into the swimming pool, electrocute, overdose and drown himself all at the same time. Someone would find his corpse in the next couple weeks, sitting there at the bottom of the pool on his Harley, with his Claxton Wanko guitar strapped around his shoulder, his Boogie Amp short-circuited, his blood full of dope.

"Yeehaaaa!" he yelled, strumming the guitar. He managed to roll the bike out of the garage, extension cord trailing behind him. He went to the very bottom of the sloped driveway, just inside the swinging metal gate, gunned the engine, twanged the guitar, turned the motorcycle around and roared up the drive towards the swimming pool.

He strummed as he ascended. G Chord, Bflat Chord, C Chord, the famous intro to Fish Store's biggest hit, "Slam Me, Ma'am." He fought to keep his balance. He got to ten miles an hour, fifteen, twenty. He got to the very top of the drive and the extension chord snagged on a bit of outthrust pavement and whipped loose. The sound of the guitar suddenly died. The lip of the drive acted as a ramp and Trevor flew over the pool like a stunt rider, landed in the hedge, passed through it, tore through his downhill neighbor's fence and wound up on Malibu Drive, stoned out of his mind but not dead, carrying his guitar and his amplifier on his Custom Harley.

"Aw fuck," he said aloud, as he swerved across the dividing line on the serpentine road.

A Mountain Springs water truck honked at him and managed not to squash him. Unable to control the motorcycle any longer, he gunned the throttle, closed his eyes and simply let fate carry him. He hit a curb, went over some rocks, crashed through rhododendron bushes, flew into the air and finally landed with a gigantic splash in someone else's swimming pool.

He was still alive. Hands came to the bottom of the pool, pulled at the amp, pulled at his armpits, hauled him from the pool. A dozen teenagers avidly surrounded his stunned form.

"That was fuckin' great, dude!" One of the youngsters said. "Awesome! Did my mom set this up for my birthday? Fucking great... hey. Aren't you Trevor Joyce? Aren't you, like, Fish Store, dude?"

The kid did a naïve imitation of Trevor's duck-walking stage style, mocking the chords to "Slam Me, Ma'am," playing air guitar with his tongue hanging out.

Trevor handed the Claxton guitar to one of his young admirers. He took the bandanna from his head and wrung it out.

Not today, he thought. Not today. I've still got fans.

Art Rosch is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Petaluma, California with his wife, three cats and two toy poodles. The Miracle of Highway Six is an excerpt from his book Green Highway: Living a Good Life in a Changing America.