He hoisted open the garage door, its hinges quiet and smooth. The door
almost seemed to float upwards after its initial weightiness, he guided it
up, let his hand hang on it a moment as he took in the sight of his
brand-new SZX-750, its plastic white with a band of forest
green/black/forest green racing stripes, the silver cap to the gas tank, the
black and metal underpinnings, the plexiglas of the stubby windscreen, the
fresh rubber of the tires. He felt especially healthy, vibrant, comfortably
corporeal with his fitness and his new machine. He was gauged into the
phenomenon of his physical existence because of his throat, not sore or raw
but off a bit maybe, noticeable. He was just slightly fatigued, and he
could not be certain if it were this or nothing, or perhaps the onset of a
cold. He stepped around the front of the house the way he had come and
entered. His wife looked up from the kitchen table (his daughter remaining
focused on her dessert).
"Forget something, hun?"
He strode down the hallway and into the master bedroom. He went
directly to his dresser and opened the top drawer. He felt around briefly,
quickly locating the open roll of zinc lozenges. He thumbed one into a hand
and popped it into his mouth. He didn't suck hard candy for pleasure, but
the cherry flavor was not repugnant, maybe a bit too much like chemicals or
something, he thought vaguely. He slid the drawer shut and reversed his
course, again passing by the breakfast nook.
"Bye," he said.
"Have a good time," his wife drawled pleasantly in an echo of what she'd
said when he first left. He saw his daughter feeding herself another
spoonful of slightly melted Neapolitan ice cream.
He was noticing the taste after he'd put on his helmet. It was cloying
on him a little. There was always something mildly unpleasant about the
process of sucking down the lozenge, but he felt that they really did help
with colds, and so he didn't give in to the temptation to bite it into
pieces and be done with it. I've never sucked a lozenge while wearing a
helmet, he thought, I've never experienced this before. He swung his right
leg over the bike with ease, moved the weight off the kickstand, and was
mounted on his newest possession, which fit underneath him so comfortably.
He kicked over the engine, which rolled on and into an easy, gentle staccato
chug. He felt the cherry flavor on him and his body's humming motion. He
raised the tone with an unforced, almost imperceptible lowering of his right
wrist and comfortably hugged the frame, balanced while popping the kickstand
back with his left heel, and loosely splayed his feet. He employed the
motor to carry the machine forward, balanced it without effort, and
retracted his feet to rest in their prescribed spots.
He glided down his street, down another, wound through his neighborhood
and out into more commercial zones. The lozenge was slightly tiresome,
still nearly its original size. There was a mild urge to spit it out, not
nearly strong enough to impel him to do so even were he not driving and
helmeted. The minivan he was passing on the right swerved violently into
him, and his wheels jumped and caught at an angle, toppling him onto his
right shoulder and into a tumble. The cars coming up from behind had been
far enough back so that they were able to avoid him and each other without
many overly-anxious moments for their drivers.
He lay on his back with an immediate and overwhelming horror that
something was very wrong. Horror and suffering were all he could register.
Something in him pieced together some sense of it, his throat, the agony and
fear, he was choking, he couldn't swallow or inhale. The flavor pained him
now, the cherry, his desperate tongue stained with taste. He wasn't aware
of any other sensation, was unable to verify that otherwise he was only
bruised and scraped. He couldn't organize himself well enough to pick
himself up, and his arms and legs were spasmodically flailing as if he were
some variety of insect flipped onto its back. His visual system filtered
down to him that he was being attended to, but he was beyond their reach,
beyond hearing them say Are you okay, Don't move him, Somebody call 9-1-1.