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Crash, or Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo Which Comes to Mind for Some Reason


by Peter Gerrard

…a sudden clarity and focus follows the attention-grabbing realization that things are not right and maybe you’re going too fast or not in control even though you’ve negotiated this particular left turn on the bike trail underpassing Alton Parkway hundreds of times (later you will do the math and realize it’s closer to a thousand) 

and even though (following a test pilot’s Plan A) you lean and brake it isn’t enough and you go to Plan B which means going into the drops for more leverage but it only takes a millisecond to know that’s not enough either and Plan C is do you lay it over or try and bounce off the post-and cable fence bordering the drop into the rocks of

the wash and that bouncing seems the best option but it isn’t there’s an ejection and you’re airborne part of your mind aware of the sound your bike makes clattering skidding sliding away from you and down the trail and an impact unlike anything you’ve ever felt your vision can’t keep up with the warp speed acceleration into another dimension and then “Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am” you’re stopped but you can’t see straight except to hazily establish now you’re facing away from the wash and its rocks your Oakleys are gone the sun is scorching your

retinas you’re in a squat position and when you try and straighten you can’t as you’re somehow attached to the post and cables but you can’t see how or why as you’re being interrogated by the merciless sunlight that makes you squint and close your eyes except for brief glances that reveal your right glove’s caught on a bolt which you yank free but your jersey’s burrowed more deeply in a fitting and won’t tug away so the obvious solution is to tear at it, it rips with a sharp complaint and you are not constrained but as you try and rise up to take pressure off where the cable’s cutting into your abdomen you can’t your right leg feels snapped mid-femur and three

tries are three-strikes-and-you’re out and not moving seems a good idea but unsustainable because you’re unsteady and now nothing’s holding you from falling backwards and down into the rocks and while you wait for a solution to come to mind one presents itself as you hear a bike approaching from the direction you were headed and then the click of a shoe unclipping and a disembodied voice asks if you’re ok and you can’t come up with a snappy comeback except “Can I order a cheeseburger?” but you hear “Not really” (it’s from you) and he tries to

help you stand but you can’t but he’s big and strong enough to get you over or between the two cables and into the shaded sloping wall of the underpass where you excise your phone from the center back jersey pocket and you still can’t see straight so you stab at a name on “RECENTS” and call your son instead of your wife and it goes to voice mail so you don’t even know you’ve called the wrong number and by habit you put the phone in what’s left of your back jersey pocket and there’s an ambulance people are asking questions and three of them hoist you onto a backboard and then onto a gurney and you say you need your bike and by the way where are my sunglasses I think they went into the wash and one of the responders sees them in the rocks and retrieves them as you’re being loaded into the back of the ambulance and you say (more urgently than regarding your glasses) putting your foot down (metaphorically as you are on your back and you couldn’t stand anyway) that your bike has to

come along and some voice says “I don’t know how to get the front wheel off” and the instructional part of your brain explains about thru axles and that you need a 5mm Allen wrench and there’s one in the saddle bag but it’s as if you’re speaking in tongues no one is listening and you hear a radio button toggle chirp and someone says “Transporting patient to Mission Hospital” and you try to explain that you’re a Kaiser patient which is a block away and you say it again and then some explains that you need a trauma center and Kaiser isn’t it while someone says “The bike’s inside” and the rear door closes EMTs are asking if it’s ok to cut your jersey and shorts off you while tapping an IV into your right arm and asking if you need any pain meds to which you say either “Yes” or “That’s a good idea” there’s poking in your left arm and when you open your eyes after realizing you didn’t have to be in the dark you see four bright round lights in a white ceiling and a brushed aluminum panel the size of a household wall

plate but there’s no electrical plugs just an unfamiliar fitting below “OXYGEN” all-caps in red to the right of which is an IV bottle hanging on a stand then you feel the transmission engaging and the ambulance begins to lurch back up the ramp that you didn’t negotiate siren winding up then wailing as you feel the rumble of tires speed speed speed there’s your phone’s ring tone and no one pays attention when you explain it’s underneath you, pushing against your back in the pocket of what’s left of your jersey, and you try again but maybe you’re talking in tongues

again NO ONE IS LISTENING and you want to assuage the concern of the unknown caller who’s desperation

and concern you can feel in the ringtone’s sound and vibration as you don’t want anyone to worry or think you’re dead but they’ll have to wait the ambulance is slowing and beeps backing up the door opens and there’s new people and more round white lights it’s suddenly cooler now and now there’s new IV lines and a plethora of gauze and bandages and wraps accompanied by scrubbing and the redolence of disinfectant, portable X-Ray machines

and pin prick lights seeing if your pupils work as the rest of your clothing and helmet socks and shoes are going going gone replaced by blankets “Get him scanned” and you’re in motion again below more lights but they’re not as antiseptically aggressive then through a door and into a CT Scan machine which moves back and forth humming like bagpipes at a funeral you hope it’s not "Amazing Grace" then you’re back in motion and the lights change back to the round interrogation confessionals now there’s new people who express concern about your knee “No, it’s my femur” but maybe you’re speaking in tongues again then you feel the parting of the Red

Sea or Blue Sea of Scrubs and Moses is there with a name badge indicating he’s the Main Trauma Doctor and he is saying you’re mostly OK except for some worrisome issue with your intestine (old news) and maybe you’re too old to be riding a bike, which is tough to counter with IVs in both arms and mostly naked on a gurney (there was a mention of Fentanyl a couple of times) but he’s way out of line on that one you think and it’s your first positive thought since failing to make that damn left turn and you notice your older son is standing there and you ask him what happened to your bike he says he found it outside the ER tagged with your name like it was a lost child at the airport and he's laughing as your errant garbled voice message made him think you'd crashed-out on the Lizards trail in the Newport Coast Wilderness and were being airlifted while you (clearly) had said you're behind Blizzard in Irvine and now you're laughing too, thinking, huh, Blizzard, they make games, and you'd metaphorically been the pinball in one the universe tilted and misplayed.

Peter Gerrard grew up in Southern California, and ended up “Behind the Orange Curtain,” specifically Irvine. While he attended UCI for graduate school (which he never finished), his wife Kim and two sons are Anteaters with degrees. He likes to ski, and ride bikes that are embarrassingly expensive but at least environmentally justifiable. Classes and seminars at IVC and Chapman keep his interest in writing fresh. 

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