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November 28, 2022

Lead Belly

By David Donaghe

Chico hit the brakes, backed off the throttle, and pulled his Fat Boy off the main road and onto a gravel dirt driveway on the outskirts of Harlem Springs, Arizona. Tiny and Dirty Dan followed. They slowed down, not wanting their tires to slide out from under them on the gravel, and pulled up to an old mobile home at the end of the driveway.

Lead Belly took a pull from a bottle of Jack while he sat on the front porch watching them approach. His 1984 Harley Davison Shovel Head sat parked next to a beat-up 1968 Ford pickup truck. A halfway grin crossed Lead Belly's face when he saw his bros from the Road Dogs motorcycle club pull up and park their scooters.

"I figured you all would show up this morning. You guys want a drink?" he said, standing to his feet. Chico climbed the steps onto the porch; Tiny and Dirty Dan stepped up behind him.

"You knew we weren't going to let you go through this alone. We wanted to make sure you're okay," Chico said.

They did some backslapping and a tear tracked down Lead Belly's face. "I'm fine, bro."

"You know we're here for you," Dirty Dan said.

"I know man. Here, you guys have a shot while I go inside and get a few more chairs," Lead Belly said, handing them the bottle of Jack. He stepped inside the trailer.

"Do you think he knew?" Tiny asked after Lead Belly went inside.

"What? That Cheri was on the shit? Of course, he knew, with all those trips she was making to Phoenix, he had to know. You can't get that shit here. There will be no Crystal Meth in Harlem Springs as long as I'm the president of the Road Dogs."

"The walls of this trailer are paper thin," Lead Belly said, when he stepped out onto the front porch with three more chairs.

"I'm sorry bro," Tiny, a massive biker built like a refrigerator with a long scruffy beard, said. "We didn't mean nothing by it."

Lead Belly waved them off. "No problem, bro. Have a seat."

They sat down and passed the bottle back and forth. "Yeah, I knew. We fought about it all the time. You know my history. I don't know how I had the strength to resist. She used to do lines right in front of me on the kitchen table. It was everything I could do, to say no."

"You should have told us. We could have done something to help," Chico said.

"I thought that if you knew, you'd kick me out of the club. I thought, you'd think I was back on the shit again."

"No, if you were back on the shit, I'd know, but we could of done something about Cheri. We could have forced her to go to rehab or something," Chico said.

"She wouldn't have gone. I should have cut her loose along time ago, but I was afraid to," Lead Belly replied.

"You loved her, man. That would have been a hard thing to do," Dirty Dan, a short grubby-looking biker with a gray beard said.

"Yeah, well it's too late now. She's dead."

"Don't worry about the services or anything. The club will cover everything," Chico said and stood to his feet. "Why don't you climb on that scooter and ride down to the clubhouse with us. We'll do some partying. I know there's some women down there that would love to help you keep your mind off your sorrows."

"There's never a shortage of women hanging around the clubhouse," Tiny said.

"There's that girl Janet from Subway. I swear that girl has a thing for you," Dirty Dan replied.

Lead Belly laughed. "No, you guys go. I don't feel up to it."

Chico stood on the front porch with his right hand in his pants pocket. A concerned look crossed his face. "All right, bro, just don't do anything stupid."

Lead Belly waved good-bye and watched his club brothers climb on their scooters and ride away. Once they pulled onto the main road and roared away, he pulled a 357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk handgun from his vest. He took a bullet from the box, setting next to his chair, popped out the revolving cylinder put a bullet into the cylinder, popped the cylinder closed and then gave it a spin. Putting the barrel of the weapon up against his temple, he cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.

After leaving Lead Belly's mobile home, Chico and his bros headed to the main road, turned left and headed toward town. Another motorcycle, an older ratty looking Pan Head passed them by going the opposite direction. The rider, an older bearded dude wearing worn out jeans and a scruffy denim vest waved as he went by. Chico glanced in his rearview mirror looking at the patch on the guy's back. Hitting his brake, Chico pulled into a Seven Eleven and pulled into a parking space. Tiny and Dirty Dan pulled in next to him. They killed the motors and climbed off the bikes.

"Who was that guy? He looked familiar. Is he one of ours?" Dirty Dan asked.

"I never seen him, but I seen his picture. This is some strange shit, man, but he looked like someone from The Book of The Dead," Tiny replied. The Book Of The Dead was a leather bound photo album that they kept pictures of their fallen brothers.

"It looked like he was heading toward Lead Belly's place. Did you see that box of bullets under Lead Belly's chair? I think he's gonna eat his piece. We'd better go back," Dirty Dan said.

Chico let out a sigh. "You're right. This is some strange shit. I've seen that guy before and I seen that patch. It's the halo patch. Remember that time when we had that trouble with the Hell Raisers in The Devil's Punch Bowl? That guy showed up then."

"That's right. I remember now. I must have blocked that shit out, and remember when Sonny passed? We were outside of the clubhouse talking when he and Sonny appeared out of nowhere on their scooters like a couple of ghosts. This is weird, man," Tiny said.

"That guy's name is Cave Man. He died back in sixty-eight. If he's here, then he's here for a reason," Chico said.

"Yeah, I remember him. He and Big Mike used to be tight. Big Mike was down in Florida visiting his mom when Cave Man died. We'd better go back, man," Dirty Dan replied.

Chico lit a smoke. "If Lead Belly wants to take himself out, there's no way we could talk him out of it. Maybe that dude can. Let's ride." He tossed his smoke to the ground, climbed back onto his bike, fired it up and hit the highway. Tiny and Dirty Dan pulled in behind him and they roared down the highway heading to the Road Dogs clubhouse.

* * *

I touched down on the highway one hundred miles West of Harlem Springs Arizona. My radiant steed of dazzling light shimmered when I touched ground, losing its brilliance, and changed into an older Pan Head Harley Davidson Motorcycle. My name is John Brown, but my bros call me Cave Man and I'm a troubleshooter from beyond. When they told me in Biker Heaven that one of the bros was in trouble and needed a little help, I volunteered for the job. Whenever I get the chance to come back and be mortal for a while, I take it, but it was more than that. When they patched me into the club, those long years ago when I was still alive, I swore an oath: Road Dogs in life and Road Dogs in death. I take my word seriously and when a bro's in trouble, I'll do whatever I can to help.

I rolled past the old oak tree that I hit at over one hundred ten miles an hour, back in 1968 after a flesh-eating zombie bit me. That crash bought me a one-way ticket to Biker Heaven. After I partied for what seemed like eternity, the powers that be asked me to join up with a group of troubleshooters that wear the halo patch. Whenever there is trouble in the biker world and they need help from the other side, they send us. Cranking the throttle, I headed east passing a dirt trail leading back to an old cabin that Sonny used to own. Sonny, a former chapter president, is now living it up in Biker Heaven after cancer took him out. Sonny left the cabin to the club after he passed and the bros still partied there sometimes. It felt good to feel the breeze blowing through my hair and the wind in my face as I motored down a lonely desert highway heading toward Harlem Springs.

When I hit the edge of town, I passed the Road Dogs clubhouse, a bar known as The High Noon Saloon, and continued east. The bros were at the clubhouse like usual, but my mission wasn't there, I needed to have a talk with Lead Belly. A feeling of nostalgia shot through me when I passed Honey Suckle Court, the street where I grew up. I turned right onto an outlying road and headed south. Three motorcycles passed going the opposite direction and I recognized Chico and a couple of the bros. I grinned and waved, knowing that there'd be talk in the clubhouse tonight if they recognized me. It ain't everyday that you see a biker from the great beyond rumbling down the road on his Harley. In my rearview, I watched them turn into a Seven Eleven parking lot and park their scooters. I turned off onto a dirt driveway leading to an older run down mobile home sitting off by itself. I pulled up to the trailer, killed the motor on the Pan Head and climbed. off. Lead Belly's eyes widened when he saw me. He was sitting on the front porch with a gun in his hand with the barrel up to his temple playing Russian roulette when I rode up, but when he saw me, he lowered the piece to his lap. Two evil-looking demons wearing filthy black robes stood on both sides of him, hissing in his ear. "Do it ... one more time," one of them said. Green slim covered the demon's face, he had warts all over his skin and I saw pieces of decayed flesh on its evil cheek. They both reeked like three-day-old road kill.

"You have no business here!" the larger of the two evil sons of bitches said turning toward me, but Lead Belly couldn't hear them or see them. He had his eyes glued on me. I drew my hand back as if throwing a soft ball and a ball of blue light shot out of my palm hitting the evil SOB in the chest. He flew backward and both of the Devil's imps disappeared into a flash of white light. Lead Belly jumped to his feet and the pistol fell to the deck of his front porch. He stuck his hands out if front of him to stop me.

"Hold it right there! I know who you are! You're dead! I saw your picture! You're in the Book of the Dead! If you're here, that either means that I'm dead too, that I ate my piece and you're here to take me away and I'm not sure I wanna go! If I'm not dead, I'm startin' to lose it and I'm seeing things! Either way, I don't want what you're sellin.'"

I raised my hands into the air. "Calm down, bro. I just want to talk. You're up there on that porch playing Russian roulette and thinkin' about killing yourself. You can forget about Biker Heaven if you do that. You'll wind up on the lost highway, and that's not a place you want to be."

Lead Belly fell back to his chair and motioned to another chair. "Sure. Let's talk. It's probably just the Jack making me see you anyway. You want a shot?"

A grin crossed my face when I climbed up onto the porch. "We'll have some of mine," I said, pulling a bottle from my vest pocket. "It's a hell of a lot better than the stuff you can get here on Earth." I took a hit, sat down in the chair facing Lead Belly and handed him the bottle. He took a shot, his eyes widened and a smile crossed his face. "Hell yeah. That has to be the best Jack I've ever tasted."

"And it don't give you a hangover in the morning," I replied and took back the bottle.

"What do you want to talk about?" Lead Belly asked.

"I'd like to talk about, could of, should of, and would of," I said.

Lead Belly let out a snort. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"We're gonna talk about what could have happened if your old lady, Cheri hadn't of overdosed. What should happen, and most likely will happen, if you kill yourself, and what could happen, and most likely will happen if you don't," I said and handed him back the bottle. "The funny thing about this bottle of Jack is that it never runs dry."

Lead Belly smiled, feeling the fire in his belly after he took a hit and said, "Okay, so talk."

"You've seen that old Christmas movie, called The Christmas Carol, right?" I asked.

"Don't tell me. I'm gonna meet the ghost of Christmas past, present and future?" Lead Belly said and grinned. He took another hit from the bottle and handed it back to me.

"Something like that," I said waving my hand toward where my bike sat parked in front of the mobile home. My spirit bike changed into its true self, its colors magnifying and its brilliance radiating light. Another spirit bike, similar to mine materialized out of thin air.

"Holy shit! I ain't never seen a scooter like that!" Lead Belly exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "What kind of bike is that? It looks like my dream bike, only ten times better than I could even imagine!"

"It's a spirit bike. It's yours on loan while I'm here. Let's ride," I said standing to my feet.

* * *

We climbed on the scooters and motored down the road. "These bikes don't feel that much different! Where we goin'?" Lead Belly asked.

"We haven't opened them up yet. Believe me; they're out of this world. We're gonn take a trip through space and time," I yelled, over the sound of the engines. When we reached the paved road, we turned left. "Goose the throttle and pull back the bars!" I yelled and shot up through the atmosphere to the stars. Lead Belly shot up after me.

"Hot damn! I never owned a bike that could fly before!" Lead Belly said. The silly grin on his face made me laugh. He gazed about at the vastness of space and at the Earth orbiting below us. "How can we breathe up here?"

"We're not actually in our physical bodies. Let's head back," I said and descended through the atmosphere. We touched down on the same old dirt driveway leading to Lead Belly's mobile home, but this time things looked different. Trash littered the ground, old car parts lay scattered about and Lead Belly's Harley lay in pieces on the ground looking like a basket case. Yelling and screaming along with a couple of children crying emanated from the house when we pulled up.

"Who lives here now?" Lead Belly asked. "I never kept the yard like this."

"You do. This is three years down the road. This is what your life would have been like if Cheri hadn't of overdosed."

We climbed off the scooters, and climbed up onto the porch. Lead Belly paused next to the steps to listen to the noise coming from inside. "That sounds like Cheri yelling, but she never used to be that bad."

"This is what it would have progressed to if she had lived. Let's go inside. They won't see or hear us," I said.

"What do you mean they?"

"You're going to see an older version of yourself. It might freak you out a little."

"You better give me another shot of that Jack," he said gripping my arm.

I grinned. "A shot of Jack never hurt a damned thing," I said and we stepped through the front door. Standing in the living room of his small mobile home, Lead Belly's mouth dropped open in shock. Trash littered the floor; two small, filthy little boys wearing dirty diapers and no shirts played amongst the squallor. Lead Belly glanced at the older version of himself. He sat in his lazy boy wearing a dirty Harley Davidson tee shirt with the sleeves cut off.

"God look how skinny I am ... and dirty," Lead Belly said.

"You're back on the shit. Watch."

The older version of Lead Belly leaned over a coffee table, took a baggie from his pants pocket and snorted a line of speed.

One of the little boys toddled up to him with his arms raised and said, "Daddy."

The older version of Lead Belly back-handed the kid and yelled, "God, Cheri. Can't you get a handle on these brats? While you're at it, clean up this place!"

Cheri came out of the kitchen wearing a dirty pair of white shorts and a white wife-beater tee shirt. She looked skeletal and had a residue of white powder on her nose.

"Maybe if you'd get a job, they wouldn't bother you so much," she said and hustled the kids away.

"Look at their arms. See the burn marks? Cheri gets her kicks out of burning them with cigarettes when you're not here."

"God, she looks bad. I never thought about having kids, but if I did, I wouldn't treat them like this. I wouldn't make them live like this."

"That's what Crystal Meth does. It makes it where it's the only thing you care about and it takes you to where you don't want to go."

"This ain't real. What you're saying is that if Cheri had lived, this is what would have happened?"

"Most likely. You are better off without her," I replied. We heard the sound of motorcycles and I glanced at the door. Two Harleys pulled up out front followed by a pickup truck. A door slammed and we heard three men climb the steps up onto the porch.

"Oh shit!" the older version of Lead Belly said, and tucked the bag of dope into his back pocket. Someone on the front porch banged on the front door. It wasn't a pleasant knock, but more like a knock that a cop might make, or someone who was real pissed off at the person inside. The older version of Lead Belly jumped up and opened the door. Chico, Tiny and Dirty Dan swaggered inside.

"Hey bro," the older version of Lead Belly said and tried to give Chico a hug, but Chico shoved him across the room.

"You ain't my bro. You stopped being my bro when you went back on the shit, you damned tweaker," Chico said.

"It's like that, then?" the older version of Lead Belly said.

"Yeah. It's like that. We're here for your patch. Get your cut."

The older version of Lead Belly let out a sigh and went to a closet. He came back a few seconds later and handed Chico his club vest.

"Look at the kid. Look at his arm," Tiny said.

Chico crossed the room and bent down to one of Lead Belly's boys. He gently took hold of his arm and examined the cigarette burns. Chico ruffled the hair on the boy's head and then stood up. He motioned to the older version of Lead Belly and nodded at Dirty Dan. "Set him down at the kitchen table."

"That wasn't me. I swear," the older version of Lead Belly said. "It was Cheri."

"I guess you're going to pay for your old lady's sins," Chico said. Tiny and Dirty Dan man handled Lead Belly into the kitchen and threw him down in a kitchen chair at the table. Chico turned on a burner on the stove, took a butter knife from the cluttered kitchen sink and heated it up over the open flame. Once the blade was red hot, he stepped to the table. "Hold his arm out."

"No, please!" the older version of Lead Belly screamed.

While Dirty Dan and Tiny held him down, Chico burned off the Road Dogs tattoo on his forearm. He had to make several trips back to the stove to reheat the blade before he finished the job. The stench of burning flesh, and Lead Belly's screams filled the room. Cheri made herself scarce and didn't interfere. Finished with their grisly deed, Chico, Tiny and Dirty Dan took Lead Belly's cut, and loaded his bike onto the bed of the pickup truck. The older version of Lead Belly stood on the front porch cradling his arm. Tears streamed down his face. "This ain't right, man," he said.

"This bike was on loan from the club. We're taking it back."

"You seen enough?" I asked the younger version of Lead Belly, the one standing next to me.

"Hell, yeah. This is damned depressing."

"Then let's take a trip forward a few years."

The air around us rippled, reality shimmered and we stood on Lead Belly's front porch. A stench of rotten meat wafted from inside the trailer. An ambulance pulled up out front. We followed the ambulance attendant inside. The attendants couldn't see us. Lead Belly lay sprawled on his Lazy Boy, dead as a can of corn beef. A needle hung from his right arm. Trash and other debris littered the floor.

"Where's Cheri?" the Lead Belly standing next to me asked.

"She's in the bedroom. She's dead too. You both went out together."

"What about the boys?"

"The state took them a year ago."

We watched the attendants remove the bodies.

"What's next?" Lead Belly asked.

Reality shimmered once again and we stood at the back of the chapel in the Walker Brothers Funeral Home. A small crowd gathered in the front near the two coffins.

"Good Lord, I thought more people would have showed up. At least a few more of the Road Dogs," Lead Belly said.

"If you'll look up front, Chico's there. He's the only one, though. Look at his face. Notice the tears in his eyes."

"By the way he acted, you would have thought he hated me."

"He hated what you had become. As far as he's concerned, he failed you. He thinks it was his fault."

"Where's Dirty Dan? We were tight once."

I shrugged. "He died out on the highway. He was riding alone and crashed his bike. There was no one there to call 911."

"Let's get out of here. I've had enough of this shit," Lead Belly said.

Once more reality shimmered and we found ourselves on Lead Belly's front porch.

* * *

"None of that shit really happened," Lead Belly said.

"In some other reality, it did. That's what would have happened if Cheri had lived.

"What now?" Lead Belly asked.

"Let's see what happens if you do kill yourself," I replied. "Let's ride."

Climbing onto the spirit bikes, we headed down the driveway, took Main Street through town and rode about a mile and a half down the highway. I pulled over to the side of the road near a curve and we climbed off the bikes. "We've traveled about four years into the future," I said.

"What are we doing? Why are we here?" Lead Belly asked.

"Just watch."

A few minutes later, we heard the rumble of a motorcycle. Dirty Dan came round the curve; his back tire hit gravel and slid out. The sound of scraping metal filled the air as Dirty Dan slid across the highway. His head bounced off the pavement and he slid into a ditch. Blood pooled up under his unconscious body. I ambled over and Lead Belly followed.

"Oh God, man. Can't we do something?" Lead Belly said. We knelt down next to the dying biker.

"No, we're just spectators right now. He's gonna lay there for another two hours before he dies."

"Why are you showing me this if I can't do anything about it?" Lead Belly asked.

"Because, if you wouldn't have killed yourself, Dirty Dan wouldn't have been alone. You two were supposed to be riding together on your way out to the clubhouse. You would have called the medics and he would have lived."

Lead Belly turned away from the downed biker. "All right. I've seen enough."

"Let's get back on the scoots and head down to the clubhouse," I said.

We climbed back onto our scooters, rumbled on down the road and pulled into the gravel parking lot of The High Noon Saloon. "We've gone back in time, from when Dirty Dan crashed. We're back to the day after you commit suicide," I said. We climbed off the bikes, stepped up onto the boardwalk and entered the biker bar. The music was off, and a somber crowd gathered at the bar. Chico held up a glass of beer.

"Let's drink one for Lead Belly," he said. The prospects tending bar poured everyone a drink.

"God ... why'd he have to do it?" Dirty Dan said, barely able to keep his voice from cracking.

A tear rolled down Chico's face. "I don't know man. It was that Cheri. I guess he couldn't live with out her."

"Listen to the pain in their voices. You can see it in their eyes. They love you, man," I said.

"Yeah, yeah," Lead Belly said, but I heard a catch in his voice.

"Check out the old ladies. See that young girl with the dark hair? The one crying her eyes out. That older woman is crying to console her."

"Yeah. That's Janet from Subway. She's a hang around."

"She hangs around this place because of you. She's crying for you, bro."

"She'll be all right," Lead Belly said.

"Yeah, maybe."

Once more reality shimmered and we found ourselves out front of the Walker Brothers Funeral Home. Motorcycles lined the curb. We stepped inside and stood at the back of the chapel watching the services. Tears filled everyone's eyes while the minister spoke the eulogy. He went on about God giving and God taking away.

"He's wrong about that, this time," I said. "God didn't have anything to do with it. You did. You caused all this pain because of your selfishness."

"Lighten up man. This hasn't even happened yet," Lead Belly said.

"But it will, if you don't man up and go on with your life."

We watched the rest of the services. When it came time for the people to walk down by the coffin and pay their last respects, Janet, the girl from the Subway broke down and burst into a sobbing fit. "She loved you, man," I said.

"Yeah, yeah. Okay. Let's get out of here," Lead Belly said.

We sauntered out the back door; I climbed onto my scooter and said, "Let's roll."

"Where to now?"

"We're gonna take another little trip into the future."

Time rippled, the scenery flashed by for several seconds as if we were traveling over a thousand miles an hour. Things returned to normal a few seconds later and we pulled up in front of a small blue house in a run-down neighborhood.

"Where are we at now?" Lead Belly asked.

"We're on Honeysuckle Court. I used to live down the street."

"Who lives here?" Lead Belly asked.

"Janet, the girl from the Subway."

We parked the scooters, crossed the lawn and climbed up onto the front porch. Lead Belly hesitated, but I grabbed his arm and we stepped through the door and passed right through without opening it.

"How'd you do that?" Lead Belly asked.

"We're not part of this reality. The normal laws of physics don't apply right now."

Lead Belly looked about, taking in the middle-aged woman sitting on the couch knitting a shawl. A fat, baldheaded man in a dirty white shirt sat in a La-Z-Boy watching TV. Two chubby little boys played with toy cars on the floor and a thin girl sat next to the woman coloring in a color book.

"They can't see us can they?" Lead Belly asked.

"No and they can't hear us either."

"God, is that Janet?" Lead Belly said, gazing at the woman. "She's had to have put on at least a hundred pounds. She looks old. How long's it been?" Lead Belly asked. "And that fat bastard. I recognize him. He's the guy who used to manage the Subway where she worked."

"He still does. It's been ten years since you killed yourself.'

"Ten years? She looks like she's aged at least twenty-five or more."

"That's what happens when you live a life filled with depression."

"What's she got to be depressed about?" Lead Belly asked. "She has a nice house, three kids and a man to take care of her."

"A man she doesn't love. She settled for second best. The man she really loved killed himself ten years ago. Look at the sadness behind her eyes, and the bruise. You can barely see it under her make up."

"The fat bastard beats her? Why I ought to knock the shit out of him right now!"

I laughed. "If you tried, your hand would just pass right through his head and he wouldn't even know it. He only hits her every now and then, and then he acts like a whipped dog begging for her forgiveness. He loves her, in his own selfish kind of way. He knows that she doesn't love him. That's why he drinks. He settled for the wrong woman too. She was his eye candy, his dream girl and all the while, working right in the same store was a sweet girl who would have made him happy, but she carried a few more pounds on her than Janet. If you wouldn't have killed yourself, you and Janet might of got together and they'd of had a chance."

"Honey, why don't you slice up that pie and dish us up a bowl of ice cream," the fat man on the La-Z-Boy said to his wife. Janet smiled, put her knitting aside and went into the kitchen.

"It's the only pleasure she gets out of life; eating, and maybe her knitting," I said.

"So what happens to them?" Lead Belly asked.

"They grow old; the kids go off to college. She gets a heart condition and dies. He last for a few more years and then his liver fails."

"This place is depressing. Let's get out of here," Lead Belly said.

We swaggered through the door, climbed back on our scooters and headed up the road. The air around us shimmered, reality rippled and once more, we sat on our motor scooters in front of Lead Belly's mobile home.

* * *

We climbed off the motorcycles and stepped up onto his front porch. Lead Belly took a seat and I sat down across from him. I pulled a bottle of Jack from my vest pocket and handed it to him. He took a shot.

"Are we back in my place and time now?" Lead Belly asked.

"We're back in your place and time. I wouldn't try walking through no walls or doors like we did earlier. You might get a knot on your head." An evil-looking demon in a dark robe tried to crawl up on the porch, but I pulled my forty-five. A pulse of blue light shot from the barrel and the Devil's imp disappeared in a flash of blue light.

"What was that?" Lead Belly asked, in shock.

I tucked my forty-five back in my waistband. "That was one of the Devil's misguided children. He wants your soul."

"All that stuff I saw. It wasn't real, was it?"

I shrugged. "It's what could have happened; what most likely would have happened. The future is an open book. It's like an unwritten page. We control our own destiny by the decisions we make, and the deeds we do."

"Janet doesn't have to marry that fat bastard?"

"No, life is about choices. Sometimes you make the right ones, and sometimes you make the wrong ones." I picked up his 357 and put it in his lap. "It's like this choice you're thinking about. With just one pull of the trigger, you'll change not only your life, but the lives of everyone around you."

Lead Belly set the revolver down next to his chair. "Let's say I don't kill myself? What happens then?"

I grinned. "That all depends on you and the choices you make, but let's see what might happen if you don't bite the bullet. Let's take another ride."

* * *

We headed down the driveway, took a left and headed down Main Street.

"Where we going?" Lead Belly yelled.

"I thought we'd head down to the clubhouse," I yelled back, so he could hear me over the sound of the rushing wind.

We motored through town, took the two lane highway heading toward Phoenix. Five miles west of town, we pulled into the gravel parking lot of The High Noon Saloon. Motorcycles, cars trucks and vehicles of every description filled the parking lot. Loud rock and roll music emanated from the bar. A couple of prospects sat out front guarding the motorcycles.

"What's going on here?" Lead Belly asked.

"Why don't we go inside and find out?" I replied.

We followed one of the club members inside, moving through the crowded bar room. Lead Belly stopped in the center of the room gazing about. Someone had decorated the room for a wedding. Presents sat stacked on one of the tables and a large wedding cake formed to look like a motorcycle wheel set on another table. The small bride and groom on top of the cake had been custom painted to look like a biker and his old lady.

"Who's getting married?" Lead Belly asked.

I laughed. "You are. Let's go up front so we can take in all the action."

We elbowed our way through the crowd of onlookers, even though they couldn't see us or feel us pass by until we stepped up next to the bride and groom. Chico stood next to another, older looking version of Lead Belly. Janet, the girl from Subway, stood next to Lead Belly. Her smile radiated happiness. The minister, one of the bros who served as the chapter's Chaplain, stood up to perform the wedding. The band quit playing. The Chaplain, an older bro with a long bead looked up and smiled.

"Let's start this shindig. Do you, David Henderson, AKA Lead Belly, promise to torture and torment only Janet Knight for the rest of your life and to treat her at least as good as you do your Harley?"

"I do," the older version of Lead Belly said. The crowd cheered.

"Do you, Janet Knight, promise to torture and torment only Lead Belly for the rest of your life and to put up with his shit to the best of your ability, only then resorting to fetching him upside the head with a frying pan?"

"I do," Janet replied.

"I now pronounce you man and wife. Kiss her already, so we can get on with the party."

The crowd cheered, and the older version of Lead Belly put her in a lip lock bending her over backward. I slapped the slightly younger-looking version of Lead Belly standing next to me on the back and said, "Let's go over to the bar and have a drink."

"I thought they couldn't see or hear us? How are we gonna order a drink?"

I laughed. "When I come back on these missions, I have certain abilities," I said and we headed to the bar. I found us two empty bar stools and we sat down. "Hey! Prospect! Give me a Jack and Coke and get my bro here a beer!" I yelled, projecting my voice.

"Yeah, yeah, keep your shirt on," the prospect tending bar, whose back was to us said.

"I thought they weren't supposed to be able to hear us, or see us?" Lead Belly said.

"It's a trick you pick up after you pass on."

The prospect turned around and set the Jack and Coke down on the bar, along with a beer. "All right. Who's fucking with me? Who ordered these drinks?" the prospect said, but a bro down the bar called for a beer and he headed down that way. I handed Lead Belly his beer and picked up my Jack and Coke. When the glass touched our hands, they disappeared.

"You look like you enjoyed that," Lead Belly said.

"Yeah, I always did enjoy fuckin' with the prospects." We finished our drinks, I ordered two more, causing the prospect some more grief, and then we watched the happy couple hit the dance floor.

"They look happy ... or I should say we look happy," Lead Belly said.

"Yeah, but remember. This ain't real. It's just what could happen, what most likely will happen, if you don't kill yourself, but in the end, it's all up to you. Life is about choices. Are you ready to ride?" I asked.

"Where to now?" Lead Belly asked.

"Oh, we're gonna fast forward a few years to the future," I said.

"Why not? It ain't like I got anything better to do," Lead Belly replied and we headed to the door, passing through the crowded bar room. Outside, in the parking lot, we climbed onto our scooters and fired them up. "Where are we going?" Lead Belly yelled, over the noise of the engines.

"You'll see. Let's roll," I said and cranked the throttle. I crossed the parking lot and headed east toward town. Lead Belly followed. Around us the air shimmered, I breathed in the scent of burning ozone and reality shifted once again. We hit town, headed down Main Street passing a hardware store and a bank. When we passed the town graveyard, I glanced over and saw several sets of evil-looking red eyes that looked as if they were peering at us from the pits of hell. I guess the Devil's imps are out in force tonight, I thought. I turned left onto Baker Street and pulled into the parking lot of Saint Ann's Hospital. We parked our scooters and swaggered over to the main entrance.

"What are we doing here? Are you showing how I'm gonna die?" Lead Belly asked.

"No, you'll see. Let's take a walk," I said and climbed off the bike.

When we reached the front entrance of the hospital, a band of five to six little evil-looking demons blocked the door. They wore black robes, smelled like road kill and their faces were covered with warts. I saw a few horns protruding through the hoods of their robes and their evil-looking red beady eyes peered at us from the darkness. Lead Belly jumped back.

"Whoa, man. What's this?"

"Oh these guys ain't nothing. They're just some of the devil's soldiers on the scout for souls. They hang around hospitals and funeral homes. When a person dies, they're vulnerable. That's why the powers that be on the other side usually send someone back to escort the person home. They want to make sure they wind up in the right place. Don't worry about these guys," I said pulling my arm back. I flung it forward as if I was throwing a softball. A ball of blue light shot out of my hand, hitting the Devil's boys and they exploded into a blue fireball.

"How'd you do that?" Lead Belly asked.

"It's one of the perks you get when you wear the halo patch. You are allowed certain powers when you come back on a mission." We passed through the front door of the hospital without opening it.

"What, is the older version of me dying? Did he crack up on his scooter? Where are we going here?"

I chuckled. "No, nothing like that. I thought we'd take a stroll down to the maternity ward."

When we entered the maternity ward, Lead Belly began to get nervous and I noticed sweat running down his forehead. "Man, I'm not used to this stuff. I hate hospitals."

I laughed. "Yeah, the older version of you doesn't like it too much either."

As we approached the delivery room, we could hear Janet screaming from down the hall.

"God it hurts! What'd you do to me, you son-of-a-bitch!" she screamed.

"Do I really have to go in there?" Lead Belly asked.

"Yep," I said and let out a chuckle. When we reached the doorway of the delivery room, I leaned against the doorjam and held my hand out to the room. "Witness the miracle of life."

Lead Belly stepped up next to me, a pale look crossed his face and he said, "I think I'm gonna be sick."

I snickered. "Yeah, and the older version of yourself ain't doing so good either."

The older version of Lead Belly had passed out and the doctor left him lying on the floor.

"I pass out? I can't believe it."

"Yeah, but you wake up in time for the main event."

We watched the delivery for the next twenty minutes while the nurses helped Janet through her contractions. When the baby's head crowned and he was ready to enter the world, the older version of Lead Belly stirred and climbed to his feet. He took his place next to the doctor and a big grin crossed his face.

"It hurts! It hurts!" Janet screamed.

"You can do it, babe," the older version of Lead Belly said.

"One more good push should do it," the gray-headed doctor said. Janet bore down with the next contraction, and the baby entered the world. A look of relief and pure joy crossed Janet's face and the young couple radiated happiness. The doctor cleared the baby's airway, cut the umbilical cord and slapped the baby on the ass.

"Congratulations. You have a fine looking baby boy," the doctor said. The doctor carried the baby to a table, cleaned it up, wrapped it in a baby blanket and handed it to the proud father.

"It sure is something, isn't it?" I said to Lead Belly.

"What?" Lead Belly asked.

"The love a good man and a woman share. The miracle of life," I said. "Have you seen enough?"

"Yeah, get me out of here before I hit the deck like my older twin."

I let go with a belly laugh, we headed back out into the hallway, and I said, "You come back here two more times -- but I'll not bother to show you that." We passed through the glass doors of the main entrance and climbed back onto our scooters.

"Where to now?" Lead Belly asked.

" I think we'll take one more little ride into the future," I said and fired up the scooter. We pulled out of the parking lot, I goosed the throttle and we headed down the road.

* * *

Reality shifted, we breathed in the scent of burning ozone and blasted down the highway, heading east. Ten miles outside of town, I turned right onto a long tree-lined dirt driveway and pulled up to an old farmhouse. Lead Belly pulled up next to me.

"Who lives here?" Lead Belly asked.

"You do."

We climbed off the bikes and approached the house. An elderly couple sat on the porch swing on the front porch, under the awning, enjoying a glass of lemonade. A young boy of no more than fifteen years sat on a stump in the front yard working on an old motorcycle.

"Don't tell me. That old geezer is me?"

"Yeah, and that's Janet sitting next to you."

"Who's the kid?"

"That's your grandson, John. Notice the Road Dogs prospect patch on his denim vest?"

"Yeah."

"Well, son, do you think you can make that old thing run?" the old version of Lead Belly said.

Janet patted the old version of Lead Belly on the leg. "Of course he will, old man. He takes after his grandpa when it comes to mechanics."

"I know I can make it run, Grandpa. This thing is so cool. It's one of the old Evolution motors. Harley hasn't made these things in over twenty years."

The old man on the front porch smiled. "I'll tell you what, son. If you can make that old thing run, then you can have it."

The young man beamed. "Thanks, Grandpa. Dad will be stoked."

The older version of Lead Belly smiled.

"When you get home, tell your pops to stop by. I've got a brand new bottle of Jack and some of them fancy cigars that he likes."

"I will, Grandpa. Are you gonna make the church meeting at the clubhouse this Friday night?"

"I'll be there son," the older version of Lead Belly said.

"And you better go to real church with me this Sunday," Janet said.

The older version of Lead Belly chuckled. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, old woman."

I glanced over at Lead Belly. She dies about two years later from cancer. You follow her six months after that. Have you seen enough?"

"Yeah, let's hit the highway," Lead Belly said.

We climbed back onto the bikes, headed down the driveway and headed West. Reality shifted; the scenery around us changed a bit and we rolled back into town and pulled up in front of Lead Belly's trailer. Everything looked the same as when I first pulled up. We parked the bikes and climbed up onto the front porch. Lead Belly sat down in his chair and I reached down and picked up his 357.

"Are we're back in my place and time?" Lead Belly asked.

I popped opened the revolving cylinder, picked up the box of bullets and filled all six chambers.

"Yeah, we're back to your here and now."

"What happens now?" Lead Belly asked.

"Now you have a decision to make. I'm tired of messin' around with you, you little pussy. If you want to kill yourself, then do it," I said and handed him the 357. Lead Belly's eyes widened, his jaw dropped and he stared at the gun in his hand. "What? Are you afraid? You won't even feel it. Once that bullet splatters your brains across this front porch you'll be done with this life."

"No ..." Lead Belly said, and laid the gun down next to his chair. "I ain't afraid. I want to live."

A smile spread across my face. "Good, then let's ride."

"Where to now?"

"Let's head down to the clubhouse. The bros are worried about you, and you need to be around people right now."

"Right here and right now?"

"No better time than the present."

"Will the bros at the clubhouse be able to see you?"

"Yeah, because that's the way I want it. I'm in the mood to do some partyin' before I head home," I said.

Lead Belly climbed off the front porch, we climbed back on our scooters and motored across town, but this time Lead Belly rode his own bike. We took the highway west and pulled into the gravel parking lot of The High Noon Saloon a few minutes later. You could have heard a pin drop or a flea fart, when we strolled through the front door. The women dancing on the bar stopped, someone turned off the music, and all the bros lining the bar and sitting at the tables watched us cross the bar room to the bar. We bellied up to the bar, all eyes turned toward us. I took a brass coin from my pocket, which had my name engraved on one side and the Road Dogs emblem engraved on the other. I slammed the coin on the bar. "I'm calling the coin!" I said, and several of the bros looked at me.

"Who's this guy? His face looks familiar, but I don't remember seeing him before," a bro down the bar said.

Tiny and Dirty Dan looked at me and both of their faces went pale. "I seen him before. His face is in the book."

Chico stepped up next to me and said, "I'll vouch for him boys. Produce your coins."

When you call the coin, everyone had to produce their coin. The biker who can't produce his coin has to buy a round of drinks. If everyone produces their coin, then the one who called the coin has to buy a round. All of the bros lining the bar produced their coins, so I bought the next round and ordered a Jack and Coke from the prospect-tending bar for myself. Lead Belly turned to Dirty Dan and grabbed him up in a bear hug and they did some back slapping.

"I love you bro," Lead Belly said. Then he noticed Janet sitting across the room at one of the tables and swaggered over. The next thing you know, the band started playing and they were out on the dance floor. I glanced over at them, looked over at Chico and grinned. We both glanced over at Lead Belly and Janet out on the dance floor and I heard him ask her out for dinner.

"Your boy there is going to be okay now," I said.

Chico sighed. "I'm glad to hear it. He had me worried. Thanks for your help man."

"No problem. That's why I wear the halo patch. To help bros that are in trouble. It gives me a chance to come back once in a while and ride my scooter," I said.

"How are things on the other side?" Chico asked.

"Things are good. That's why they call it Biker Heaven."

"How's Sonny?"

"Sonny's good. He sends his love," I replied.

"I miss him, ya know," Chico said and tears welled up in his eyes.

I put my arm around his shoulder. "I know. Sonny misses you too. You'll see him again, but it's gonna be a while. The bros down here need you. You're one of the best presidents that the Road Dogs have ever had, but when your time comes, it's gonna be a hell of a party at Biker Heaven," I said.

I partied at the clubhouse with the bros for another three hours and then we said our good-byes. After doing some backslapping with Chico, Dirty Dan and Tiny, Lead Belly came over, grabbed me up in a big bear hug, and introduced me to Janet.

"Are we good now?" I asked Lead Belly after we got done huggin.'

Lead Belly smiled, standing there with his arm around Janet. "Yeah, we're good."

The bros came outside, I climbed onto my scooter and they waved good-bye as I pulled out of the parking lot. I headed down the highway for about fifty-miles enjoying the feel of the wind in my face and then pulled up on the handlebars and shot up into the heavens passing through the stars.

Article © David Donaghe. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-04-23
Image(s) © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
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