Wednesday, September 8, 2010
by R. Eric Johnson
Rodge sat on the four-wheeler with his hands on his hips, looking back over his shoulder.
”You outa the way?” he cried. The force of his breath blew ashes off the end of the Marlboro clenched between his teeth in a snowy spray.
With his left boot, he engaged the reverse and began to back the machine off the makeshift trailer that his friends, Smooth and Bonner, had welded together the weekend before.
The contraption consisted of an old rusty boat trailer, sawed and shortened, with the load bearing members reinforced with tubing, which was salvaged from a discarded metal headboard. Smooth had stumbled over the headboard last winter while hunting and brought it back for just such a project.
The ramps creaked as Rodge eased the machine off the trailer and down the ramps. The duct tape, which secured the bracing to the ramps, began to stretch, and Bonner flashed an uneasy look at Smooth.
“C’mon back!” Smooth yelled confidently, waving one arm in the air and not paying Bonner any attention.
“You got it!” Rodge was half way down the ramp when one of the coat hanger support members on the right ramp began to fail.
Seeing this, Rodge employed his, self described, cat-like reflexes, and stomped hard on the rear break. The front end of the four-wheeler rose slowly off the trailer as the rear wheels locked.
“Stay with it son,” Smooth yelled, as he took a step backward. Bonner began to move toward the impending disaster only to be halted by one of Smooth’s huge arms.
“Better let him ride it out.”
The four-wheeler was perpendicular to the ground now and rotating about the rear wheels.
Rodge had begun to crawl over the handlebars in an attempt to stay on top of the situation.
Bonner and Smooth watched, their faces screwed in sympathetic one-eyed stares. Bonner’s shoulders were up to his ears, and he was now on one foot.
“I can’t watch,” he said, and turned away, hiding his face in his hands.
Rodge had almost made it over the bars when his Bass Masters belt buckle became caught on the break cable. He yelled something that Bonner would later try to look up in the Funk and Wagnels, but not find.
The four-wheeler slapped it’s rider against the ground like a fly swatter, landing squarely on top of him, producing a Rodge shaped impression in the earth. It then continued to roll back upright, still holding the dazed limp man.
With his arms raised to the sky, and his hands open wide, Rodge rolled back up with the machine as if doing the wave at a football game.
Bonner could see that a small bit of concern had crossed Rodge’s face. The flattened bill of his hat and the fact that half his mustache was missing punctuated this look.
The four-wheeler abruptly came to a stop against the side of Bonner’s truck. The impact had thrown Rodge free, and he was now upside down in a large rose bush on the other side of the driveway.
Smooth lowered his arm and Bonner sprinted over to the scene.
“Rodge! You okay?!?”
“Ribs… Ribs,” Rodge said, obviously in pain.
“It’s only 9:00 in the morning. How in the world can you think of food at a time like this? We probably ought to get you to a hospital.”
“Ribs,” Rodge wheezed again.
Smooth walked up behind the kneeling Bonner and was standing with his hands in his pockets.
“You would think that a man could back his four-wheeler off a trailer after all these years,” he said, calmly.
Bonner tried pulling one of Rodge's arms in order to help free him from the bush. “Ribs,” came another cry from Rodge, amid the thorns.
“Let’s get him up so we can get this show on the road,” Smooth said, reaching for one of Rodge’s thorn covered boots. “Get the duct tape outta the front seat of my truck and fix that ramp.”
About an hour later, the four-wheeler, and Rodge, were loaded into the truck, and they were finally on their way to the hunting property.
Rodge sat between Bonner and Smooth, his breathing labored and wheezing. Neither seemed to notice that Rodge’s hands were braced against the dashboard, and there were little indentions in the vinyl where his fingers touched.
“Ribs,” Rodge wheezed.
Smooth turned off the blacktop and onto the bumpy dirt road, hitting a large pothole in the process.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” Rodge screamed, grabbing the two men by the neck in a desperate attempt to manage the pain. “Can’t ….Breathe.”
Rodge had both men in a headlock. His eyes rolled over white.
“Let go, you big baby! I can’t see the road,” Smooth scowled.
The truck was now out of control and swerving across the road. The trailer swung wide and took out most of old man Minyards picket fence. Smooth struggled for control of the vehicle.
“Rodge let go, I can’t feel my legs!” he heard Bonner scream.
“Stay out of the light,” Smooth replied with a horse croak.
“Riiiiiiibs!” Rodge managed to repeat, with higher intensity.
The truck left the road and started down a small hill, bouncing and jerking over stumps and rocks before striking a large pine tree and coming to rest.
Rodge loosened his grip from Bonner, who in turn, inhaled a sweet gulp of much needed oxygen.
“Smooth! Smooth! You alright?” Bonner screamed.
He was leaning over Rodge who had passed out.
Smooth’s body was pressed against the steering wheel and his nose was smashed against the windshield.
“Smooth, speak to me. You okay?”
Smooth turned his head slightly to Bonner, and said, “Ribs...”
R. Eric Johnson was born in 1969 in Adamsville, Alabama. He is a part time writer and part time metal sculptor. He writes about his family and friends and growing up in central Alabama. Eric has been published in local papers and nationally in a collection of award winning humor shorts entitled “Laugh Your Shorts Off” as well as several e-zines. Eric has also created a comic strip that ran in Creative Loafing magazine entitled Last Gasp. Eric finds humor in everyday situations and believes that humor and unbridled imagination is what keeps us young and content.