Harley Davidson and My Father
Dr John Talbert had just stowed away in a quiet corner of the intensive care ward with hopes of catching a nap when his name echoed across the hospital public address system. "Shit" John cursed to himself "what now?" Dr Talbert had been faculty at Chilton's Memorial Hospital for almost eight years and had steadily spiraled from resident prodigy to a resident ghost. Why had he decided to be a doctor anyway? It had all started with his father, an electrician by trade, who had seen his son's mental gifts at an early age and pushed him relentlessly. Ironically, this unstoppable force that drove him through most of his adult life had passed away last year leaving John a shell of his former self.
"Dr Talbert please report to the Emergency Room - Dr Talbert please report to the Emergency Room" The public address system announced. "No rest tonight" John thought to himself.
The emergency was anything but an emergency. A teenage boy had managed to insert a billiard ball into his mouth, but lucky for him the boy possessed a piggish face complete with a snoot for a nose that could inhale considerable amounts of air in a single snort. As for the mucus that once resided inside this nose now it ran down the boys face making shinny slug trails as it dried. John's mind wandered to his own childhood "Great green globs of greasy grimy gofer guts" Turning to the nurse "What pray tell is the emergency?" John asked, "This obtuse little man is breathing fine and a shot of cyclobenzaprine will release the ball from his mouth." To himself he also wondered why the lad had chosen the four ball; it seemed like an odd choice. "I have never seen anything like this" the nurse stammered and looked at her feet." Part of John wanted to reply with a comforting word, but he had run out of those a long time ago. He pushed his way out of the cramped little room and opening the door almost ran into the poor little piggy's parents. If the genetic theory had ever need validation it stood before him. The doughy man and his extra doughy wife with there protruding foreheads and slack jaws blocked his retreat. "Is my little man going to be alright" the father asked. At least that is what John thought he said, with the man's horrible diction and articulation it spewed out all jumbled together as a run on word. "The current predicament is easily rectified" John answer purposely using words the man would struggle with, "Although, his future looks bleak considering his compulsion for trying to ingest large objects." Before the little hamster wheel in the poor fathers head could grasp the insult John was off, down the hall, and out the door.
Still looking for a quiet place John went to the small hospital chapel which was connect to the main building by a long hallway and had apparently been an after thought. It jutted into the parking lot so from the sky it looked as though the hospital had a tail. Stopping briefly at the lavatory he threw cold water on his face and looked into the mirror above the sink. The face that stared back looked tired and older than he was. Incandescent lights had robbed his skin of elasticity and color. The search for, but never finding rest had taken the shine from his eyes and hair. Slamming his fist into the unbreakable mirror John turned away. When had he become this man that stared back at him
In the chapel John slept while others prayed. To anyone coming through the oaken door it would look like a physician finding God. The buzzing of his beeper, only drug dealers and doctors still carried beepers, woke him with another urgent page. What? Had some little brat stuffed a marble in his nose? The pew was hurting his back anyway so John made his way to exam room #14 were the man that would change his life waited.
"Holly F'ing Crap-o-la" the resident said as he skittered to a stop before a still slightly disheveled Dr John Talbert "It's Harley freaking Davidson". Confused why a motorcycle was in his exam room and not a garage, John walked through the door. The man on the gurney was easily seven feet tall and built like the proverbial brick shithouse - even at his advanced age. Tattoos, mostly tribal, coiled around every inch of visible skin below the neckline and the muscles underneath had the striations with a grain usually found in cattle. His hair, although caked with blood, was dark as coal and when standing must have run down his entire back. The man's face was covered in bandages, but the obvious trauma to his left eye was evident by the leakage that ran yellowish brown down the side of his face. With the layering of muscle on muscle with tendons like cables and veins the looked as large as a garden hose making this man look like he had walked out of a graphic novel " By his injuries it seemed he had walked out of the novel and into an oncoming train. Which in fact he had.
"That's Harley freaking Davidson," the breathless resident said again "Ultimate Cage Fighting Champion of the World". Like cogs in a machine John's brain clicked into position and the memories came flooding back. His father had been the head electrician when the Ultimate Cage Fighting Championship had come to Ohio and he had spent weeks rigging the hockey arena for the event. John had even gone to see his father at work and stood inside the solid steel cage made of forty gage reinforced chain link, which had been shaped into an octagon. The floor had felt surprisingly bouncy under has feet, and was decorated with randomly placed pink flowers the size of a basketball or larger. John later learned the flowers were bloodstains that had been scrubbed out to the best of the staff's ability with bleach water and circular scrubbing. Hanging from the rafters above the cage was a sixty-foot banner with a full body picture of the man that now lay on the gurney in front of him. He wore a shredded pair of jeans and a classic leather orange and black Harley Davidson vest, which was open in front reveling the massive chest, and the six-pack abs of the warrior. Harley's hair was loose and wild with the permanent wet look that had become his trademark. The wrap around mirrored sunglasses completed the look. John could still remember looking up at the banner while walking in little circles until vertigo caused him to lean against the cage for support. John did not know when his father had entered the cage and stood behind him, but when he turned into his father he saw the tickets in his fathers hand and hugged him.
Harley was conscious and could breath without a tube so John sat on the little wheeled stool next to the gurney and quickly gleaned what he could from the patients chart before speaking to the man. The chart showed a clear toxin screen and no history of mental disorder. The X-rays told another story, one of pain and broken bones (32 breaks in all) all occurring before this current incident. Ribs, fingers, vertebrate, and Harley's left thigh bone had all been broken leaving a network of scars which had been hidden by the tattoos. Turning to Harley John spoke to the man for the first time "Is your pain manageable?" In a gravely voice came the reply "Fuck You". Stunned John asked the giant if he could examine the injured eye. Harley attempted to rise to his elbows to look the doctor in the face and John noticed for the first time he was sitting on the man's blind side. Moving to the other side of the patient he asked again if he could remove the bandage, if the damage was sever a surgeon would need to be called to save the eye or Harley would surely face blindness. "Fuck you" came the reply for the second time and although the man obviously had significant damage to his body and it was a wonder he was conscious, he swung his feet over the rail of the gurney prepared to walk out.
The night of the Ultimate Cage Fighting Champion young John Talbert and his father entered the arena hours early and found their seats, three rows back center stage. Hoping to see the night's warriors warm up or possibly get an autograph John had dragged his father out the door. The room was filled to capacity and by the time the event started and the tens of thousands of lights his father had powered shined, twinkled, and strobe to the beat of the primal music that poured from the wall of speakers. Each fight was better than the one that preceded it; once a hand had been caught in the chain link of the cage and before the referee could free the man a vicious throw had ripped it free snapping the fingers like precooked spaghetti. When Harley Davidson entered the area every smoke cannon and spotlight fired simultaneously in an orgasm of sight and sound. His opponent was equally large, but softer and reminded John of Bull from Night Court a popular TV show at the time. Harley took a huge swig of water from a bottle then blew it into the air spraying the crowd and the TV cameras.
It took enough tranquilizers to put down a rhino before Harley finally lay motionless on his back with his good eye closed and his breathing shallow. "Get me a damn number nine tray before this guy wakes up" John order and the resident produced one from a storage cabinet under the sink. A full body examination was difficult due to the heavy scarring and the past two decades of abuse, not to mention new X-rays had been ordered but not completed. It appeared the train had struck Harley square in the chest throwing him off the tracks and breaking his left wrist and four ribs. Four ribs? A train had struck the man and with the exception for the damaged eye yet to be looked at all he had sustained were four broken ribs, a broken wrist, and some bruising. He should be dead. Slowly John peeled back the gauze and bandage from the left eye, once free from the dressing the eye rolled out of the socket and hung halfway down the check suspended by the optic nerve. The eye socket was fractured and mangled and would require a team of surgeons to fully reconstruct it. The wound reminded John of an exit wound from large caliber handgun with chunks of flesh forming pedals round the gaping hole were the eye once sat. As John personally rebandaged the eye, something he usually left to the nurses, he barked at the examination room full of people to get the operating room prepped and a scalpel jockey here ASAP.
The octagon looked much smaller with these two modern day gladiators inside. When the bell was struck the man John remembers only as Bull burst out of his corner, bobbing and weaving, ducking his head, and holding his hands away from his body with the fists held high in the classic kick boxing stance. Harley walked toward his opponent with his hands by his sides as if he were meeting the man for the first time and was going to shake his hand and offer him a cold drink. Bull circled and danced, feigning forward then retreating " Harley stopped and just stared. Suddenly, Bull threw a vicious overhand right looping through the air with a tight arch targeting Harley's head. The punch struck Harley on the side of the face with the force of baseball bat. Bull had already jumped backward preparing for a counterattack that did not come " Harley just stood and stared. Bull looked confused either by his opponents lack of aggression or by the strikes lack of effect, either way Bull decide to seize this advantage and end this fight quickly. Closing quickly Bull came from the left this time with hook-uppercut combination, his favorite finishing move. Harley was there - then gone, moving like a big cat he pounced driving his shoulder into Bulls midsection causing a combination of spit, mouthpiece, and snot bubbles to fire across the cage. Suddenly, Bull found himself on his back looking up at Harley who had mounted him and pinned both of his arms to the mat with his powerful legs, the rest of his weight squarely on the mans chest. Harley then began to rain punches down on his helpless victim with such voracity and rage the audience who had been screaming at the top of their lungs fell silent. Before the referee who was badly out of position could react Harley had pummeled the now almost unrecognizable Bull to a bloody pulp. "Rip his eye out and throw it up here" John's father was yelling, his face red and the veins in his neck pulsating with each scream. John had never seen this side of his father and it scared him. "Rip his eye out and throw it up here" John's father yelled again this time rising to his feet.
Dr John Talbert waited for the surgical team to assemble and noticed Harley was now awake. His inner monologue debated against asking Harley about the incident that had brought him here and the fear of enraging a man who he had seen almost beat a man to death. "How do you get hit by a train, anyway" John asked trying to be casual, but found himself sounding thin and childlike. "The train started it" Harley replied then laughed at what John now could see was a joke. "Please I want to help" John answered surprised because he had not wanted to help anyone for a long time. "Help?" Harley looked away "Then let me die"
Harley sat up and looked into John's eyes with the same stare John had seen twenty years ago in that cage and said
"Have you ever had 300,000 people scream your name? Have you ever been invincible? I have. I have and now I am dying. I want to be able to go out on my terms. Help me. Help me walk out that front door."
The referee had come to aid of the helpless Bull and grabbed Harley's arm, trying to stop the carnage. Harley hesitated just long enough for the crowd to let out a universal breath then dropped a final forearm across the man's face with a sickening crunch. Harley then rose to his feet and without wiping the blood from his hands and arms strode out of the arena. Bull lay motionless on the mat and as John panned across the faces of the crowd he saw the wild eyes of men staring back at him. His father never spoke of that day again and soon after John gradated high school and went to college.
"I can't and I won't" John stammered to Harley who was requesting what would probably result in a death sentence. Although John was not sure of this, the man had faced down a train; maybe he could just walk out of Chilton's Memorial Hospital. Pushing that idea from his mind John tried to explain that surgery was the only chance Harley had to keep the eye and ever see again. "Then we are back to Fuck You" Harley said as he swung his feet down to the black and white tile floor. Harley stood and for the first time since arriving, now John could appreciate the size of the man again as he towered over him by almost two feet. With one long stride he was at the door and with the next in the main foyer of the hospital less than fifty feet from the front door. John darted around the man and posted himself at the front door arms open wide blocking the exit. John was alive again and whatever had been out of whack in his brain clicked into place. Like David versus Goliath he glared at Harley preparing himself for whatever came and knowing what Harley had meant by feeling invincible.
The eye struck him high in the chest " instinctively John brought his hands up to defend himself and the optic nerve became entangle with his thumb and forefinger. The giant had pulled the dressing aside and tore his own eye from it's damaged socket throwing it at the doctor. The blood ran down his face like bloody tears and all John could do is stare at the eye he now held in his hands which was staring back at him. "Throw it up here" his father had said, now sounding more like a premonition. When John raised his eyes Harley was gone, out the door and into the night. The police and hospital staff searched until dawn finding only a blood soaked bandage.
Now back in his loft Dr John Talbert sat on the edge of his bed letting the days events mingle and merge with his memories.
Tomorrow would be a new day.