Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Usual Suspect

Verbal [telling Detective Kujan the story of Keyser Soze]: He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents' friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money. And like that he was gone. Underground. Nobody has ever seen him since. He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. "Rat on your pop, and Keyser Soze will get you." And no one ever really believes.
Dave Kujan: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
Verbal: Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe
in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.

Verbal: Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone.
                                          -The Usual Suspects  1995

I tell my children stories.  I try not to embellish but sometimes it is to make a point and give them a warning.  I also try to make myself or the situation as badass as possible. Having a background in medicine makes for some cool stories sometimes. But not this time.

Are they fables?  No animals involved here. Parables? Maybe.  

All are true.
I think there is a little of Keyser Soze in all of us. 

Maybe just on the road.

I was in the airport picking up my eldest the other day.  She had finished her work in Ohio and was coming home by herself.  She's a mature 16 year old and I didn’t worry.  I hope I have set some kind of precedent in conducting themselves in any situation.

My middle daughter asked if I had ever lived in Ohio.  I was in a talkative mood so I said “No, not really.  But there was almost the time I had to spend the night in jail there.”

 I thought my daughter would fall off the airport bench.  Her eyes widened then narrowed in expressions of surprise then suspicion. 

“No, Mom, you’re kidding right?”

“No, I am not.”  

My lesson in child-rearing:  always keep them guessing. And my children have wild imaginations, thank goodness.

I proceeded to tell the story of having my Dad’s 1978 Buick Regal for the summer in Chicago and needing to drive it home for the fall.  My sister was up in Evanston and we shared the car, finally realizing it was more trouble than it was worth.  I was living in a campus fraternity for its cheap housing and became friendly with my fellow students.  A fellow student RK was also living there and he was also from NJ.  He had wanted to drive home to surprise his parents so we made the deal that he would share both the driving and the gas money.

Driving from Chicago to NJ is not a big deal.  You allow yourself an entire day, plenty of gas, money, pack some food that can fit into a cooler, hopefully some compatible music on the radio and some good conversation.  If Harry and Sally could do it, RK and I certainly could.

The trip started out fine.  Going on I80 in Indiana was quick, painless and RK fell asleep.   No problem.  He was a bit of a pain the ass anyway only I didn’t quite know the extent yet.  I found out this easy way that college men could sleep through anything and despite having the radio at a sizeable decibel, RK still slept.  God only knew what he did the night before. I really didn’t want to know. Someone that sleepy perhaps shouldn’t be behind the wheel.  Maybe that was his ploy.

I have a lead foot.  I am a very good driver and can handle speeds.  By the time Ohio came, I was anticipating the monotonous mind-numbing ride through Pennsylvania so I was speeding no doubt. 

Well, unfortunately, it caught the eye of an Ohio State trooper.

 I was stopped. Little did I know it was not just a quick review of my license, a tongue lashing, then a scribbled ticket by the always tightly-wound, perfectly-groomed State Trooper. 

No, it was a command to follow him to the nearest police station. 

He said I was going 82.  I was really going about 92.  I went with his version of the story.

RK slept all though the entire exchange. 

We got to the station.  I was not the only one stopped that September day. Me, a truck driver and a father and son team.  What a group.   I figured it was as good a time as any to wake RK up.  Talking loudly did not work.  Screaming didn’t either.  I finally had to shake him.  Incoherently he finally awoke and you can imagine his surprise when I said “Hey, R you need to wake up.  We are at a police station.”

I would have preferred a Harry in the car.

For what seemed an eternity, we all sat on the bench waiting our respective speeding sentences, Me, RK, the trucker and the father/son team.  The trucker went first, grumbled at the window and was through in about 20 minutes.  The father was next and eyed RK as he was whispering very loudly “Do you know who he is? He’s Senator AD from Illinois.”  I never followed politics that closely in college so RK could have been telling me it was Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo for all I knew.  But as a tribute to his party, the father/senator listened to the spiel, paid his money and left without incidence.

My turn was next.  The verdict was to pay the $120 dollar fine or stay in jail to appear in court the next business day.  It was Saturday. I didn’t have all the money. I had about $50 left after paying for gas. Yikes, two days.  My parents would have a conniption.  How would I ever get into medical school with an arrest record?

I turned to RK who I knew was holding out. It turns out he had about $100 and seemed overly annoyed to part with it too.  We had already recently just stopped for gas (that I paid for) so we were good until NJ. 

“R, I need your money.” RK started to argue but when I told him (perhaps not true) we would both have to stay in jail, he relented.  A day in the car with RK was enough but two days together?  I was ready to sell some jewelry if not more.

We paid.  We got back in the car.  No bid deal.  RK fell asleep again and I drove the majority of the way. He made a pain in the ass of himself yet again in NJ by not knowing the right way to his house leading us back into some nasty streets of Philadelphia at 2am. 

So ended my story.  I should have added some more badass elements but my daughter got the overall message.

The problem is that I am not sure what the message even was.

Perhaps not to ever ride with RK.  Don’t speed. Don’t trust adolescent men. Never rely on men for money. You can do even the most stupid of things and still wind up in jail. Politicians are people too. Your mother is not a saint nor a sinner. Perhaps there is the devil in all of us. Or maybe the trick was convincing a child the devil never existed.  

And like that, poof.  

She’s gone.  

Drove away, I heard.

In a minivan, no less. 

Speeding as usual.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Butterfly

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.

-       from Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry by Stephen Dunn

I noticed the butterflies first as I got out of the car.  It is August.  It is that time of year. Two butterflies, a swallowtail then a monarch, both on this roadside bush. Then mooing with the smell of cows and gasoline.  In times like this your senses are heightened and everything is perceived.

I stopped to help at a roadside accident yesterday.

My youngest and I were headed to a concert up north.  It's her favorite boy band.  We hadn’t really planned the day out.  She had woken up late and found me outside gardening.  Just me and my best helpers, the dogs. I like to work solo anyway.  I have neglected the garden for about a month and it showed. Weeds are always easier to pull when they are a foot high.  My daughter was tearful that we hadn’t gotten tickets although she said I had promised her months ago.  Thank goodness there were still some left.  Just the cheap seats and just the way I like it. One must always keep promises to children.

We left in plenty of time although that didn’t stop me from my usual speeding on this particular road.  It’s somewhat rural as you get farther from the city into Pennsylvania.  The state police seem to ignore this stretch of highway and everyone knows it.

I travelled as usual.  My iPod plugged in and singing my awful collection of 70s, 80’s and 90’s music. My daughter belted into her iPod and seatbelt too.

He came up on my right.  Not enough time for me to spot him on the right rear view mirror given the loud Suzuki warning.  Since I was going 75MPH he must have been going at least 100-110.  I can’t calculate relative velocity that quickly in my head but it was fast. Very fast. I don’t usually take notice but the white gas tank was in contrast to his bright red jacket.

I didn’t think about it for the next 5 seconds of travel time until I saw that motorcycle in two pieces by the right guardrail. 

I know CPR.  I also know ACLS.  I never bothered to learn ATLS since I don’t work in ERs and it’s only if you have equipment of that sort anyway.  

 I stopped.  Me and a guy hauling a trailer full of cattle.

At first it was hard to see him in the brush but his mangled body was there.  His head was at a funny angle to the body and his right arm turned unnaturally also. His helmet was still in place as if that really mattered now.

Silence.  Except for the butterflies, the cows mooing and the whirl of the traffic flow still going 75 MPH.

We tried until the armada of emergency people came. Just me and the cattle guy.

Despite efforts, nature reclaimed it’s own.

And this one was just a butterfly of 19.