Roadside by Mike Bryan
by Mike Bryan
The engine rumbled as Danny rolled the throttle and worked the gears of his Harley through the twisting canyons. The small brown package was strapped to the rear fender as the sharp aroma of wildflowers hung powerfully in the air. He was standing on his porch when it came, nondescript and foreboding, wrapped in plain brown paper.
He’d received this type of package many times before. Inside was a picture, a small scrap of yellow legal paper which had instructions and an address. It was always the same. The only things that changed were the who and the how. This one needed to look like an accident.
He had taken this route many times before and knew each bend and line that flowed through the jagged granite walls. His bike’s power band was in the driving torque of 3rd gear and as he throttled out of each turn he slipped it effortlessly into 4th screaming black streaks towards nowhere in particular.
The destination never mattered to Danny; the road was a place where he could free himself from the burdens of life, marriage, work and everything in between. Its subtle mysteries called to him and he was drawn to it as easily as migrating birds are drawn south to escape the harsh northern winters. Another sharp curve quickly materialized from the liquid haze of the road and Danny lightly pulled the clutch in and downshifted back into 3rd. He found his line and locked into the turn as cleanly as he has previously threaded the deadly needle of mortality from behind the safety of a sniper rifle. Danny swung the bike out wide and swiftly dipped into the curve, rolling on the throttle hard. The bike dove down and fit itself neatly into the sharp lines, sticking to the blurred asphalt below.
There’s a hairpin turn on the bottom end of the summit that has a beautifully deadly view. Like the siren song from mythology, the view pulls unsuspecting overconfident riders in, promising a glimpse into heaven and lures the ill-fated travelers to their death. He knew that curve all too well. He had flirted with it dangerously many times and had always ridden safely away. Not every rider had Danny’s success or skills. This was punctuated by the makeshift crosses and roadside memorials that nestled mournfully next to the scrapes and gouges created by adrenaline.
There is no substitute for a life steeped in experience, and Danny had lived his free from regret and (for the most part) independent of repercussions. It wasn’t until she came into his life that things began to change and he found himself in a standoff with reality. Relationships need the opportunity to grow and foster, finding true love is rare and finding a lifetime companion is even more elusive. She was both and, for a while, Danny had it all.
He had met her one night at a bar in Monterey. She was drawn to the beauty of the area and she quickly fell in love with the scenery… and Danny. Monterey is a beautiful place with dramatic views that leave cash infused tourists slack jawed and awestruck. Monterey also has a darker side. Immigrants from Sicily came to fish the fertile waters of Northern California and helped to create the vibrant history of the area. Organized crime came too. There was a time past when a case of Italian whiskey could get you a driver’s license, payoff the police, or a night with a beautiful woman. Danny worked for these men and had a taste for gambling. He owed them a lot of money and they used his services often to help cover his outstanding debts.
He thundered down the asphalt and the world sped by with Danny comfortably tucked into the slipstream of his existence. Getting away from the pungent salt air and drawing down deep into the valley roads, not readily known by the eager Midwestern tourists who plunge their blindingly white toes into the frigid ocean waters, was an escape for him. Tight corners, poorly paved roads and the wonderful heat of midsummer, where the coastal breeze gets forgotten by the dry burn of the valley in Northern California, was the fuel for his existence.
The scenic view was breathtaking. He had spent so many years of his life and so many miles trying to avoid its beauty. Today, it called to him and he curled his wrist downward, opening up the throttle wide. He gently slipped the bike into 5th gear and all his senses went numb except for his sense of sight. The beauty of that view, the mountains slowly melting into the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, burned itself into his mind.
He stopped thinking about everything. Veronica, the boys, money, debt, friends, it all faded away into the panorama that stretched out before him. The speedometer on his bike read 110mph and he didn’t have time to focus on the rusted steel guardrail hurtling towards him. The view was mesmerizing and its beautiful siren song flooded his head with its toxic invitation. The vista charged at him, fate pulling him into his next reality. Closer it sped at him, opening up before him like a beautiful flower in a time lapsed video as the sun caresses its petals, enticing it to open. He felt the warmth of the sun settle on his cheeks and he saw her beautiful face smile upon him one last time as he floated off into oblivion, the brown paper wrapped box with his picture and address inside still tightly secured to the rear fender.
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Mike Bryan 2016