Stretch Willoughby stayed still for a few moments when his lanky frame finally came to a complete rest. He mentally assessed his condition. He was breathing without effort. He could still hear. The riders on the crotch rockets that had been following him were calling out to him as they parked on the shoulder and began to run in his direction. He could see the sun bearing down through tinted shield of his full-faced helmet.
Oh yes, that helmet, it had been a gift. His son custom painted it to match his Harley before presenting it as a birthday gift. Stretch didn’t like to wear helmets. He hated full-faced helmets even more. This one, however, might rather have been a gift from the angels than from his son. It very likely saved him from massive head trauma.
Stretch was showing off for some riders on crotch rockets that he had met at a convenience store. Crotch rocket was a common term used by many motorcyclists in reference to the super fast sport bikes that are popular with many young riders. Stretch loved to brag how fast he could take the curves with his custom chopper. Today he wasn't satisfied with bragging. He was determined to show them.
"Just follow me and when I get too far ahead I'll stop to wait for you," he had told them.
The bike crossed the outside white line of the highway while he was going 70 mph in a fairly easy curve. He knew then that he wasn’t going to hold it. Somewhere between “uh oh” and “oh shit!” he lost control of the chopper as he left the pavement.
The momentum of the impact launched the tall man’s six-and-a-half foot frame over top of the bars and he started tumbling ahead of the bike. Fortunately, the seven-hundred-pound bike stopped before he did. If not, it might have crushed him.
Neither riders nor motorcycles are built for such impacts. The possibility of surviving a crash had diminished exponentially in the last twenty of Stretch’s sixty-one years. Nonetheless, though beat up badly, both he and the bike had survived, sort of.
One of the other riders was leaning over him now.
“Are you okay, man?”
“It’s too soon to tell.” Stretch’s voice was muffled by the chin guard that was built into his helmet. He began moving his body a little bit at a time to check for function and pain. First, he twitched his digits. Then he flexed his ankles and wrists. Knees, elbows, shoulders and hips followed. Last, he moved his head about without pain so he got to his feet.
The second that he put weight on his left foot he winced. He could walk on it but it hurt. He knew from experience that, even though he could walk, there could be a fracture. That was the way with the many small bones of the feet and ankles.
Stretch took off his helmet and hobbled over to where bike laid. Two of the other bikers helped him to set it up. The third was on his cell phone.
“Who are you calling, if you don’t mind my asking?” Stretch didn't want the cops coming.
“I was calling 911 to get some help for you.”
“Cancel the call for now, please.”
The man touched the screen on the phone and put it into his pocket. Stretch explained that he made his living driving a truck and, thus, if Barney Fife came out and cited him then his life might get more complicated than it already was. He couldn't afford to lose his job over being foolish on his motorcycle.
“The bike is pretty beat up. What are you going to do?”
One of the guys, as it turned out, was a mechanic. He was assessing the damage critically.
The right side handle bar pointed straight up vertical. The left was also pointed up but only to about forty-five degrees. The headlight was on but would be of no use after dark. The front brake lever was broken off. The right foot peg was missing. The license plate and tail light were hanging loose. Stretch didn't like turn signals any more than helmets. If he had, some of them would be broken off too. The wheels were still round and they turned true.
“I’m going to drive it home, if all possible.”
“How far is home?”
“It’s about thirty-five miles. I’ll try to get hold of my son. He might be able to start this way with the pick-up and ramp but I’m not going to stay here long either way.”
“Are you sure that you’re okay?”
“I’ll know better tomorrow but, for now, I’m fine.”
The rider who was a mechanic discouraged riding the bike. Twisting the throttle in the right direction with the grip pointing skyward was challenge. Shifting with a bum foot was painful. Stretch had to hook the heel of his right boot into the frame in front of the engine for lack of a foot peg. The worst part was the seat that was bent upward at the front and caused considerable discomfort to his man parts while riding.
About seven miles from home, Stretch’s son showed up with the pick-up.
“I made it this far without it falling apart,” he said to his son. “It isn't worth loading it up now. I’ll just drive it on home.”
Stretch put the bike into the garage when he got it home. A visit to the emergency room confirmed that his foot was broken in two places. The next day, his right shoulder and left hip had stiffened up. Later, it was determined that he would eventually require surgery on both.
The bike was going to need a new frame. The engine, gearbox, wheels and gas tank could be salvaged. Most everything else was scrap metal now.
Stretch was telling the story to a fellow Harley rider a few weeks later. Both agreed that angels must have guided his son in gifting the helmet to him. Then the friend smiled.
“What?” Stretch had no idea why his friend was smiling so big.
“You just had to show those crotch rocket riders how to corner your chopper. What you actually did was give them a story that they’ll cherish telling for a long time. The story about the big dumb Harley guy that thought that he could corner better than they could will never get old in their circles. You’ll be another urban legend”
“Yeah, I know. It’s already getting around. I guess I have it coming to me.”