The house, brown and squat and smelling of nicotine, left Reggie in a near constant state of fear. His room looked over the narrow alley behind the house and opened into the hallway directly across from his mother’s lonely little cave. Reggie nearly knocked down some of the legion decorative toys and trinkets his mother refused to trash, a Mighty Duck Puck from a 1997 Happy Meal, a wrist wallet from Burger King and a snow globe plucked from a neighbor’s trashcan.
Reggie snaked between stacks of newspapers and magazines, most of which predated him and many of which had taken on a sickly shade of yellowish brown. Of them all, there was but one stack Reggie deigned to look at, a collection of Cycling World rags from the 90’s and early 2000’s.
Reggie tingled when he imagined touching a Harley Fat Boy’s leather-wrapped seats and tasseled handlebars, hearing the off-beat rumble of a glimmering Victory Cruiser or losing himself to the wind aboard an Indian. Reggie liked big, American bikes with fat tires and low chassis. They seemed to him suitable conveyance for great men and minor gods.
He liked reading the comparison tests so he could root for the Harley Electra Glides and curse the Japanese crotch rockets. Indeed, the road test of the Honda CBR650 in the August 1996 edition remained his favorite – the chintzy, made in China (or someplace like that) crankshaft broke, locked up the rear tire and dumped the rider onto the road. Retribution unto he that abandons the path of righteousness.
He wanted something fearsome and long and stylish. A big Harley with hard bags and a low seat so Lenore could ride behind him, get mildly scared and then calm down when he said “it’s fine babe, I’m gonna take care of you.” He wanted candy apple paint on the fenders and a skull on the tank and pipes so loud it would make his ears bleed. To listen as the engine spat flame on the overrun, to watch as small children wept piteously into their mother’s arms, to feel each mighty thump of hellfire against combustion chamber roof.
A stack of brittle plastic baskets and broken folding tables threatened to topple and crush whoever dared use the couch. Reggie assessed the danger, nudged the tower of trash towards the entirely theoretical kitchen and braced the mess with an aluminum ladder. The remote control had long ago been lost to the piles, but Reggie’d managed to get the TV stuck on Speed Channel, which sufficed in direct proportion to the amount Speed Channel covered Sturgis.
This day did not suffice at all. A faintly gay announcer was talking about a probably gay rally driver from the clearly gay nation of France. Reggie was about to click the TV off when he heard the phrase “Red Canyon Rally.” The Red Canyon was close, on the way to Enclave and Reggie’s friend Big E was doing an early release program out there. He leaned a little closer and listened as the faintly gay announcer spoke.
Three time champion Sebastien Raikkonen’s Mitsubishi RallyArt team has given the Speed Channel exclusive access to the pit area as RallyArt attempts to set a new record on stage six. I’m speaking here with crew chief Mads Fangio. Mads, what are your priorities for stage six?
“As always, we’re trying to give Sebastien the tools he needs to compete. And on this stage, well, it’s got a lot of really high speed sections and fast corners. We’re setting the car up with stiffer front springs, the highest downforce setting in the rear wing and a 50/50 split in the differential.”
Could you explain what that means for the layman?
“Basically, we’re trading away agility and getting stability. Sebastien will need all the confidence he can get on a stage like this and he won’t feel confident if the car moves around too much on him.”
Reggie shook his head. Car people. Cowards in steel cans too scared to experience real speed, the primal brutality of the road. He watched as the camera cut to Raikkonen’s car. The red and white Mitsubishi Evolution was nothing more than an appliance. A toaster festooned with enough wings and flaps to make even the most hardened ricer blush – it had the typical tiny engine and huge turbo charger so beloved by the backwards caps and saggy pants brigade. The flatulent exhaust was almost loud enough to drown out a Harley.
Reggie called Raikkonen a pussy in his head, went to the mostly theoretical bathroom and relieved himself. The mother snored. The garbage loomed. The smells emanated and Reggie wished more than anything to escape. He tore the frayed edge of an ancient USA Today, wiped and headed back to the couch.
The race had started. Raikkonen wrestled with the wheel and forced tormented fart after tormented fart from the shitty Mitsubishi’s shitty four cylinder engine. Stones rattled against the thin, Chinese (or some place like that) sheet metal and the brakes squeaked with every application. Finally they got to a section of road straight enough to build up speed.
The Raikkonen’s co-driver called out “6 left over crest, tightens.” The driver approached at slightly more than 110 mph. Raikkonen let off the throttle at corner entry and trusted his rear wing and stiffer front springs to keep the Mitsubishi stable as he dialed in the steering. Midway through the turn the road bent up a small hill and visibly compressed Raikkonen into his seat. He used this added grip to force the rally car all the way to the left edge of the road. A particularly heavy shower of gravel and debris pounded the Mitsubishi’s under carriage as the driver’s side front tire dropped off the shoulder, saving Raikkonen some infinitesimally small fraction of a second.
At the top of the small hill, the corner both tightened and dropped away as the Mitsubishi went ever so slightly airborne. Reggie expected the car, which looked so flimsy and effete, to crumple when it landed, but no such luck. Raikkonen let the car drift to the far right edge of the road, leaving four angry skid marks. He missed the unusual, high curbs by maybe 2 inches and accelerated towards the next corner. Reggie called him a pussy again and turned the TV off. Reggie removed a blunt from his blue jeans pocket and lit up. It was time for the hustle. It was time for 7-11.
Even by convenience store standards, Reggie’s 7-11 was bad. The clerks seldom bathed, the deli meats promised dysentery and the diverse clientele ranged all the way from sad to hopeless. A congealed soup of unburnt hydrocarbons covered the parking lot to half an inch thick, daily refreshed by the streams of leaking Cavaliers and oozing Hyundais. Behind the 7-11, spent doobies sank into pastes made from old bubblegum, chewing tobacco and what Reggie assumed to be vomit.
Lenore saw fit to ply her wares in that place – a joint if you wanted to slow down, an 8-ball if you wanted to speed up, a blowjob if you wanted herpes. Reggie liked Lenore, came near to loving Lenore, and so she only had to give up 15% of her take. Anybody else and it would be half.
He rested a hand on her shoulder and asked how it was going. Lenore simply shook her head.
“What’s wrong, babe?” Reggie asked.
“Them fancy people north of Lakeside don’t like me,” she said. “Called me a lizard. I said I don’t know what that meant and they said it meant I was a stupid whore.”
Reggie hugged her and said “it’s fine babe, I’m gonna take care of you.”
The Lakeside Drive to which Lenore had referred was a fault line. To the north, rich mongrels of indeterminate race, starched collars and late-model mini-vans lived in ease and tranquility. To the south of Lakeside Drive, Latin Kings of very definite Hispanic heritage, always white Hell’s Angels and unfailingly African Bloods sold powdered Vicodin to pregnant children and stood guard over their people’s proud heritages.
As the goal of a police force is always to protect people in mini-vans from people in dew rags, Lakeside Drive saw a heavy and regular police presence – heavy enough to give pause to smarter gangsters. Even most of the dumb gangsters stayed clear.
Aside from Reggie and Lenore, there had been cholo named Hector who used to hustle the 7-11 but he either wasn’t affiliated or wasn’t popular. At least, nobody retaliated after Reggie broke Hector’s jaw, laughing as blood ran over the Mexican’s religious tattoos.
For behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.
Reggie shook out his hands and prepared to enter, to punish the inhabitants of Lakeside for their iniquities. The small bones of Reggie’s fingers and wrists moved with the frictionless grace of youth as he slapped them against his abraded, old blue jeans. He was not afraid, he was not afraid, he was not afraid.
He smeared the glass doors with greasy fingerprints and glared at the cashier, a haughty and insolent trollop who fancied herself superior. She cowered and he smiled. Reggie paid for a beer but pocketed three strips of jerky in plain sight. Another cashier came out from the back to challenge him for theft, saw who it was, lowered his head and avoided eye contact. As Reggie headed back into the parking lot a black woman and her feeble white boyfriend held the door for him.
They’d better, Reggie thought. They who dare not match his courage. They whose condescension and scorn dissipated only when they’d grown to fear his hatred. Punk ass bitches.
The evening cold nibbled at the lacerated skin of his knuckles as he took up his post outside the front door. The making of those lacerations – Reggie smiled with the memory.
Reggie took pleasure in exhalation. He liked a gentle sigh in the morning, craved a little puff when he pressed his hips against Lenore’s bony buttocks, enjoyed a cloud of marijuana smoke escaping between his lips. He liked involuntary exhalations even more.
Like last night, when he made the fat man with pierced lips bounce off the concrete floor in Costco. Like when the security guard spit out his sunflower seeds and scrambled to give chase. Like when he lowered his shoulder into the security guard’s chest, felt the ribs compress and the spine bend against the shock, against the power and violence of himself. Reggie thought each exhalation a whispered prayer, holy and good to his ears.
A new BMW, big and black and phallic, ignored the no-parking zone in front of the 7-11, Reggie’s 7-11, and disgorged its contents. An older woman in a pencil skirt and blue silk blouse whose hair formed a sort of platinum helmet stepped out and extended her spray-tanned hand to a man still inside. The man was in his thirties, unshaven and had his arm in a sling. They looked exhausted. They looked like targets.
“Marcus,” the woman said, looking first to the man inside and then to Reggie. “Get out of there before we have to deal with these people.”
Reggie threw his blunt onto the concrete in front of Marcus as the one armed man reached for the door handle. Marcus ignored him. Reggie ascribed this to either pain medication or disrespect. It didn’t matter.
“Motherfucker,” Reggie said.
Marcus and the woman stopped just long enough to smirk before continuing on their way. Reggie’s fury grew immense and he moved to chastise them grievously. He cared little that the woman was old and the man had a broken arm. Nobody disrespected Reggie at the 7-11. No force in heaven or earth would return him to those adolescent days of enforced humility and meek deference. Respect comes from fear alone and Reggie would have his respect.
Think you’re better than me? Reggie thought. We’ll see how you feel when I’m shitting in your mouth.
The female cashier ducked behind the counter and the guy in the back shrieked. Reggie threw the glass door open hard enough to knock down a Mountain Dew promotional display. He cocked his right fist and grabbed Marcus’ shoulder with the other hand. A strong, fluid strike began. Reggie’s hips uncoiled like a heavy spring. His shoulders and spine unfurled in concert, driving those still lacerated knuckles toward the smarmy fucker’s smarmy fucking nose.
Then all Reggie’s muscles, from the tiny nasalis maintaining his nostril flare to the strong quadriceps extending his knees, suddenly rose in revolt. A million cramps erupted at once, he involuntarily urinated, consciousness came and went. There was a period of silence before Marcus spoke to the woman.
“I’ll have to get one of those,” Marcus finally said.
The woman laughed, they stepped over Reggie’s prostrate body and disappeared out the door.
The agony of the flesh was a weakness Reggie’d long ago overcome and so the physical pain meant nothing. It was the knowledge that everyone in the 7-11, the toothless Indian customer and the snotty cashier, had seen him writing on the ground, drooling and pissing his pants. They’d seen him too weak for revenge, they’d all had cause to believe, however briefly, that Reggie perhaps did not deserve his respect, did not deserve to be feared, did not deserve a 7-11.
He’d never felt such loathing as when he’d watched that BMW vanish into the suburbs north of his 7-11. This was beyond the showy anger he used to intimidate Lenore’s customers. It went beyond the shallow heat of a casual beating. Reggie could almost taste the malice, he had shivered with the icy, giddy expectation of inflicting pain on every lace-curtain motherfucker north of Lakeside Blvd.
He wanted to laugh as their teeth broke and smile with each blow. He wanted them to look up in terror, exhaling unevenly with each plea for clemency. He wanted to place a boot on these people’s necks and feel them yield to his might.
Reggie left his 7-11 without explanation. Lenore’s panicked look, the cashier’s barely stifled laughter, the customer’s speechless horror – he acknowledged none of it. Humiliation finds its salve in revenge and Reggie would have his balm.
He picked a blue two story house on the north edge of Riverside Drive partly because the street lighting didn’t quite reach the front door, partly because the driveway was empty and mostly because Reggie wanted to act before his nerve failed.
A side door painted with the holy cross gave way beneath Reggie’s foot. He rubbed unburnt hydrocarbons into the thick, white carpet of a small hallway and rubbed his hands clean against a white towel with “Our Blessed Home” embroidered on the front. He turned into a dining room. Reggie marveled at the openness of it all. He didn’t see a single magazine or old newspaper, just a single row of leather books behind the table. Nothing blocked his passage, no aluminum ladders were required. He pulled the chairs in and out from under the table, amazed at the ease with which they slid over the laminated wooden floor.
Reggie continued into the front room. Stately white chairs with linen cushions and exposed wooden frames stood out from yet more white carpet. A cream colored, low table spread before the white, upright couch. Upon the table sat a leather Bible and a framed piece of calligraphy, the gilded words of which read:
You are fond of spectacles. Expect the greatest of all spectacles, the last and eternal judgment of the universe. How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs and fancied gods groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness. So many magistrates liquefying in fiercer fires than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in the red hot flames; so many celebrated poets trembling before the tribunal; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings …
Reggie wondered what sort of man would glory imagining his enemies liquefying at the hands of another. Where is the honor in such a punishment? What sort of impotence would lead Tertullian to leave vengeance in the hands of God? How could they such as this see retribution, inflicted by another, as anything but an admission of one’s own weakness? He pushed the calligraphy and Bible under the table, frowned and moved on. Rich people, man.
He opened a closet. In the foreground there were orderly stacks of table linens and what appeared to be photo albums. In the background a shotgun stood erect against the back wall. The gun glistened in the faint light, its oiled barrel and polished wooden stock spotless and clean.
It radiated power. Reggie reached his trembling hand out and laid fingers upon the holy relic. The shotgun was cold and smelled of oak. How many enemies had it felled in the hands of the powerful, the just, the ascendant? How many times had this blessed instrument been the tool of heaven, laying low the fetid weak, the corrupted meek and conferring glory upon the strong?
A light came on upstairs and Reggie grew afraid. He a mere boy, the owner of this house the keeper of such holy artifacts – how was he to stand against such a man? He grew afraid.
Am I really a chicken shit? Reggie told himself no, but there was something too earnest in his assurance. Something that bordered on the desperate.
A shirtless man in pajama bottoms saw Reggie, saw the shotgun, saw Reggie holding the shotgun. He, keeper of the sacred, raised his hands before Reggie. Who was this to wield the power of the shotgun? He whose flabby, exposed waist jiggled with each step. He whose lips curled in decrepit fear? Reggie grew indignant that one such as this should profane the relic with his frailty.
But was he worthy? More, perhaps, than this heretic, but truly worthy? Reggie trembled. It was not yet his place to punish the infidel. Perhaps later.
“Gimme your motherfucking keys, motherfucker,” Reggie said. Then, after a beat. “I won’t hurt you if you give me your keys.”
“Okay, okay. They’re right here, next to the garage.”
A woman’s voice came from upstairs.
“Jim, what’s wrong?”
The man turned and yelled upstairs.
“Honey, I’m giving him the keys. He’s not going to hurt us. Just stay upstairs.”
“Do you need me to come down?” She asked.
“It’s fine babe,” Jim said. “I’m gonna take care of you.”
Reggie palmed the keys. One said Acura, another Mercedes-Benz, a third Harley Davidson. Reggie leveled the relic at Jim and spoke.
“Open this fucking door and I’ll open your motherfucking head,” he said.
Reggie backed into the garage. Above the door jamb he beheld another framed piece of calligraphy.
And your lands shall become desolate; for you have rebelled against your God. You shall fall by the sword, your infants shall be dashed in pieces, your women torn apart.
Reggie ignored the superstitious incantation and turned his attention to the second blessed artifact, a brand new Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra. “Electra Glide.” The words rolled around Reggie’s mouth like a fine hashish. A battle charger imperious to the cries of the doomed, a chariot stained with the blood of the lowly. Reggie felt the leather seat through the holes worn in the crotch of his blue jeans. He braced the shotgun against his back and took hold the wide handlebars.
The Electra Glide coughed and spat, filling its stable with the stinging scent of sulfurous fury. The pipes emitted fire. The roar of the intake sucked at the very fabric of Reggie’s soul. Upon such a steed, how could a man deny the call of glory? Astride such a machine, how could Reggie fail to elevate his courage to greater heights?
He pulled the glistening motorcycle into the 7-11 parking lot and barked at the cashiers, customers and hangers-about. Those motherfuckers in the BMW, he said. Had been paid back in full. Lenore swooned a little and Reggie made a mental note to stick it in her butt later.
Just sitting on the Electra Glide Ultra was like packing on 20 pounds of muscle, stuffing a 9 mm into your waistband and making it rain at the club all at once. Reggie felt a contentment deep and pure, almost good enough to make him forget the humiliations of earlier. A radio broadcast, playing inside one of the leaking Hyundais, sent Reggie on his way.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
-John the Revelator
Reggie loved the feeling of wind in his hair. He loved the sound – a sort of bark, like the devil exhaling with each revolution. He loved the smell of oil evaporating off his pale horse’s cylinder barrels.
He’d have to dump the bike soon if he wanted to avoid the police. To do so, though, this seemed the necessity of yesterday. Reggie need not prostrate himself before the laws of man. Certainly he could ride though the Enclave developments and the Red Stone Canyon. Reggie was unafraid.
Why had he been afraid before? Those north of Lakeside weren’t as tough as Hector or the Bloods or the Hell’s Angels. All bullshit, all shiny BMW’s and $60 pajamas and weakness – all heretics profaning the sacred implements, the holiest of holies.
He pulled off the highway and entered the Red Stone Canyon. He would prove to himself – prove to the world, prove worthiness higher than faintly gay French rally drivers, smarmy BMW owners and flabby false prophets.
The big Harley screamed in pain as Reggie spun it to 8,000 rpm in first, then second, then third gear. The wind turned vicious in his hair and the engine quivered as if it would explode and still Reggie was not afraid.
Reggie approached the corner at a little over 110 mph. The fat tires squirmed under their cruel load. The soft, comfort tuned suspension bottomed out and the chassis juttered. The road turned up a small hill and visibly compressed Reggie into his seat. He used the extra grip to wrestle the sacred mount all the way to the left edge of the road. At the top of the hill the corner tightened and the Electra Glide Ultra went slightly airborne. Reggie landed and felt the front tire slip. The Harley bucked, veered right and headed straight for the high curbs.
The Ultra Glide crumpled and gave way beneath him. The sound was no more. The air clean and sweet. Then there was whiteness and then there was nothing. And still he was not afraid.