Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Boris
THE PRICE – Part One
I have no idea why the woman turned her vehicle across my path. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Since her reason or reasons for doing so would have no bearing on what happened next. And what happened next I can replay, at will, in my head, where it lurches along like some kind of amateur school film-project.
And I’ll play it for you in a second.
But first I shall address the reason why I ran into her as she executed a right-hand turn across my route of travel and thereby set into motion a truly magnificent cascade of events and experiences, which are known to all who truly ride motorcycles and which are called The Price.
And I’ll get to them in a second, too.
But first things first.
I ran into her because I ran into her. I did not avoid her because I did not avoid her. Yes, I should have. But I did not. Is she at fault? Legally? Sure. But who cares? I’m the one with busted everythings. Am I responsible for not avoiding her? Of course I am. Should she maybe have seen me and not made the turn? No idea. I am not her. I can only answer for myself, and the simple fact of the matter is that when she turned across my path, I face-planted into the side of her dirty and altogether vast SUV like a shopping trolley full of freshly butchered beef.
And that’s that. No ifs, no buts, no excuses. I failed to not hit her and therefore I failed. C’est la guerre. Merde se.
I felt the front wheel of the VROD I was riding hit her car. I felt the forks bending backwards and my hands and arms being torn off the bars with the force of brutally instant deceleration. I was only doing maybe 30km/h, but that was an elegant sufficiency. When almost half-a tonne of Harley and Horrible Bastard goes from 30km/h to zero in half the length of that Harley, there’s always gonna be a fucken fanfare.
I think I even heard the trumpets as the side of my helmet splashed into her car with a dull fibreglass-and-bone crack, and I pitched sideways off the bike and landed on my left side on the road.
I was conscious and not in any kind of shrieking pain.
Good result! I cheered inwardly.
I saw a tubby middle-aged woman looming over me. It was the driver. “Stay where you are!” she shrieked.
“What the fuck did you do that for?” I growled and lurched to my feet. My head was clear, and apart from some pins and needles in my left hand, I appeared to be hale and well. All around me cars were stopping and people were gathering.
“There’s an ambulance on its way, mate.” a bloke said.
“I’m good, mate,” I said. “I don’t need one.”
The driver gazed at me in horror and retreated back to her SUV, muttering something about her kid being late for school, and I went to pick up the VROD.
It was lying on its left side in an assortment of its puddling internal liquids, its front wheel tucked hard against the front cylinder of its wondrous engine, and pieces of it were strewn around the impact area. I wanted to cry. That such a great-looking bike (or any great-looking bike) could be turned into ugly scrap so easily and quickly has always upset me. But this dismay has always been tempered by a spark of perverted glee I feel whenever the Road Gods contrive to send an ugly bike to the scrap-heap.
I grabbed the handlebars with both hands, bent my knees and started to heave the slowly haemorrhaging beast upright, but my left hand refused to co-operate. I could move my fingers, but they felt tingly and weak. I must have banged it hard. I shrugged, changed my stance and somehow levered the bike upright with my right arm and some serious quadriceps action. Yes, adrenaline is a glorious thing, but so is being able to bench 140kg. But I could not push it very far because once again, my left hand would not provide the pushing needed.
A bloke approached me.
“Mate, you might wanna sit down,” he said.
“You might wanna give me a hand pushing this off the road,” I panted. I was suddenly panting. And thirsty. And I hate people telling me what to do, especially when I’m panting and thirsty.
“You’re bleeding,” the bloke said.
I looked down. There was lots of coolant and petrol, but I could see no blood. My pants were intact.
“That’s just petrol,” I puffed, heaving on the bike, which was still being a very stubborn ‘I’m in gear and my front wheel is stuck to my front cylinder’ kinda thing.
“No, from your sleeve,” he said, pointing at my left arm.
Sure enough, drops of blood were dripping from the cuff.
I undid the zip with my right hand and lifted back the leather. An unseemly amount of blood-covered bone greeted me.
I zipped my sleeve back up and went to sit on the kerb, while the bloke who told me about the blood was joined by another bloke.
“Take it out of gear,” I advised them.
They did that. The VROD began to eeep at them. It does that when it is parted from its proximity fob, which was in my pocket. They looked frightened and confused, so I levered myself up to my feet again. I cannot access my jeans’ pocket sitting in the gutter. I got the fob out, tossed it to one of the blokes and then shrugged my way out of my jacket. I was gonna be fucked before I permitted my new Gimoto masterpiece to scissored from my body, because I knew what was going to happen not long from now – I had travelled this road before. Certainly with less gore-flecked bone poking through my hide, but the back of an ambulance is not unfamiliar to me.
My hoodie kept the cruel-looking protrusions covered, but I did allow the firemen who were first on the scene to have a look.
“Nice job,” the looker said.
“Thank you,” I smiled. It is always nice when a professional comments on your work.
“Do you think I might have some water?” I asked, as he very tenderly, but very expertly bandaged and slung my arm.
“Sure,” he said, handing me a cold Mount Franklin. “The ambos should be here soon.”
But it was the cops who arrived next.
“How you doing there, mate?” one of them asked while the other directed traffic.
“Good,” I grinned. All thing considered, I wasn’t lying.
“You remember what happened?”
“You want to tell me about it?”
“Not right now,” I said. One should never speak to the police when one has one’s arm bones glinting in the morning sun. Everyone knows that.
“Maybe later?” he said.
“Anything’s possible,” I smiled.
And then the ambos arrived. They exchanged a few words with the firies, while I spoke to a tow-truck driver about where the bike needed to go.
Then I rang home.
“Where’s mum, boy?” I asked my son.
“In the shower.”
“Tell her that I am fine, but I have had a slight accident, and I may have broken my arm. I’m gonna go to hospital and I’ll call her from there.”
Then I rang my brother, Al.
“Al, I have a seriously fucked arm. Some cunt turned in front of me and I centre-punched her car. I’m being taken to Westmead, hopefully before I bleed out. Call the following people, please…”
I walked to the ambulance, climbed in and lay down on the gurney. I was still not in anything that could be described as pain, I could wiggle my fingers, and I appeared to be lucid and focused. Of course, I could drop dead at any second from a massive stroke or cardiac apocalypse, but right then, the good ship Borrie seemed to sailing before a fair wind.
“We’re going to Westmead hospital.” I said to the ambo driver.
“We were going to Blacktown,” he replied to a question I had not asked.
“Please take me to Westmead,” I said through gritted teeth.
“There’ll be a bit of a wait there,” he said.
“Then I shall wait.”
Westmead hospital, in my vastly experienced opinion, is a vile, crumbling shithole. It needs new beds, new trolleys, a new menu, three times the number of nurses, a coat of paint and some new carpet. But it has all the lights and buzzers when it comes to the best doctors, surgeons, and anesthetists in this country. If you’re gonna stick your arm-bones in the air and wave them around like you just don’t care, Westmead is where you should be doing it.
Not fucking Blacktown. Never fucking Blacktown. Threaten to rip out your cannula and stab the driver in the face with it if he takes you to Blacktown. Stay conscious. Even if you only have a litre of blood left. It’s the only chance you have.
We pulled up at Westmead and I was wheeled into Emergency.
It was Tuesday morning, but it wasn’t quiet. People had fallen off rooves. Ethnic groups had been shooting handguns at each other. Old people had been having issues.
It was maybe three minutes before the head triage nurse approached me. I was flat on my back, neck collar affixed (it went on in the ambulance), smashed bones covered by bandages and hoody sleeve. I was full of intravenous morphine; none of that green whistle shit. The ambo and I had come to an agreement about how much pain I was suddenly in and he kept loading my veins until everything was more kosher than a Jewish bride’s underpants – and almost as sweaty.
“Hi,” said the nurse.
“Hi,” I replied.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I sure can,” I smiled. “But first I have to tell you something else.”
She smiled back. “What’s that?”
“I have five stents in my right coronary artery,” I beamed.
“Five?” she blinked.
“Five,” I confirmed.
Seconds later I was wheeled to another part of Emergency and surrounded by doctors and nurses.
“We’re going to cut your clothes off,” someone said.
“Sensational,” I enthused. “The last time that happened I was out cold and missed out.”
In moments I was naked, then gowned, X-rayed and topped up with more drugs. The ceiling was crawling a bit. It was not really going anywhere, but the black speckles in the plaster ceiling tiles seemed to be in motion. I was not scared. I embrace my hallucinations. I watched with interest. There was nothing else to look at.
And then there was.
“Hi,” said a blonde girl with a stylish bob and smoky eye make-up who was suddenly leaning over me. “I’m Julie. I’m the orthopaedic surgeon.”
“Hi,” said a pretty brunette as she hove into view above me on the other side,” I’m Deborah. I’m the head trauma doctor.”
“Ladies,” I smiled at them.
“Your wife and son have arrived. And the police would like a word.”
“Cool!” I enthused.
My beloved wife was concerned, but calm and collected. My son was likewise prepped.
“How bad is it?” she asked.
“It’s a nasty compound fracture,” said Dr Julie. “But we do not think he’s critical. We’re just waiting for the X-rays, then we’ll reduce the wound and see about some surgery.”
“Hi, I’m Constable Whatever,” said a police officer suddenly looming above me.
“Howyadoin’?” I asked with as much genuine concern as I could.
“Do you wish to make a statement about the accident?”
“More than life itself,” I assured him.
He looked all expectant.
“If wishes were kisses, constable.”
“I don’t understand,” he blinked.
“Well, if wishes were kisses,
And kisses were songs,
I’d sing for you melodies
Vibrant and long.
Through crashing crescendos,
And moments of grace,
Composing such music,
Inspired by your face.”
It’s amazing what leeches out of one’s brain when it is swimming in an ocean of meaningful chemicals.
“Right,” said the constable. “Could I maybe see your license.”
“Boy, please pull it out of my wallet and give it to the policeman. Then put it back when he’s finished and give it to mum. If the Tartars come in the night we may have need of saddled horses.”
The policeman wrote his name and number on the back of one of my business cards, recorded the details of my license and left after asking I get in touch when I was able.
Quality, professional policing from go to whoa.
Then the ceiling started to roll for real and Dr Deborah appeared above me.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked.
“To the Resuscitation Bay.”
“Have I died?”
“No, we’re going to reduce the fracture.”
“In the Resusc Bay?”
“In case you die.”
I thought upon this for a second. Would this be a bad thing? Some would mourn. Many would cheer. Others would breathe genuine sighs of relief. Mastercard would be mildly traumatised.
“Is that likely?” I finally asked.
Doctor Deborah smiled and placed a tender hand upon my shoulder.
“It’s highly unlikely.”
Generally speaking, my passing would be unremarkable. I was not the People’s Princess and there would no avenues strewn with flowers or outpourings of national grief if I died. Nor should there be. It’s not like I ever gave a shit about starving African children.
But my snickering, yellow enemies would soil themselves with glee.
And I’m just not fucking having that.
I resolved to do my best not to die.
There are just too many fuckers I still have to cut.
Dr Julie arrived and uncovered my wounded arm.
“I’m going to photograph this,” she said.
“I’m kinky like that,” she replied.
“I want copies of the shots.”
“Sure,” she smiled. “Facebook, huh?”
Dr Deborah reappeared.
“I’m going to sedate you while we do this, OK?”
“It’s not anaesthesia, but you won’t be able to remember anything about the procedure.”
“That’s probably just well, isn’t it?”
“I think so.”
“You two are going to do unspeakable shit to me in a few minutes, aren’t you?”
Doctor Deborah giggled.
Then I was looking at my wife.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Like an explosion that is trying re-assemble itself.”
“They did some stuff to your arm.”
I looked at my arm. It was bandaged and throbbing.
“Your neck is broken too,” my wife added.
I was nonplussed.
“How the fuck is that possible? Unless the cunts just broke it then, my neck is fine. All my shit moves and works. There is no numbness anywhere.”
“That’s what they told me.”
Dr Deborah appeared as if on cue.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like shit. Why is my neck suddenly broken?”
“You hit the car, remember?”
I gave her my best ‘Don’t be a smart-arse bitch’ look.
“You have an odontoid process fracture.”
I don’t know much, but I knew enough about this to take that view.
The odontoid process (or peg) lives on cervical spine chunk two (C2), which is also known as the Hangman’s vertebrae. That’s the vertebrae and the peg the state seeks to break when it orders you dumped through the trap door with a length of hemp rope looped about your neck.
“Why am I not dead?”
“It’s a stable fracture and it isn’t all the way through the peg. You’re lucky.”
“Why am I not in pain?”
“You’re so full of pain chems I could saw off your leg and we could laugh during the process.”
I frowned with thought.
“Out of interest,” Dr Deborah said as she fussed with various tubes and bags full of liquid hanging above me. “Were you wearing a full-face or an open-face helmet?”
“It’s probably what saved your spine. A full-face with the chin-piece would have caused a greater transferral of the impact force to that area.”
I felt a vague vindication, but I was too busy still processing the whole broken neck thing to high-five her.
“So a full-face would have killed me?”
“Impossible to say. In this instance it might have. Every impact is different. Sometimes helmets help, sometimes they exacerbate the injury.”
“What if I had not been wearing one at all?”
“Let’s not play any more hypotheticals. Just keep that Aspen collar on.”
A few minutes later, I was wheeled into my ward, and told that I was scheduled for surgery to my arm the following day.
And so began my time upon the 78th tier of Hell, which was peopled by three shifts of disparate nurses, two roving see-them-once-a-day trauma teams, an angry Filipino cleaner, a creepy-looking Indian kid of about 15, an old non-English speaking Spanish lady patient on my left, an old non-English speaking Turkish lady patient diagonally opposite me, and directly across from me was Florence – the jabbering shit-fuck craziest old bat I have ever beheld.
As they wheeled me in and manoeuvred me into place I could behold none of them because I was still flat on my back. But I could hear them.
I could hear the quiet and gentle Spanish whisperings on my left. The Spanish lady had two visitors and they all conversed in the soft melodic chatter of a great and civilised people.
The Turkish lady had about 30 visitors, 10 of which were kids who were intent on re-enacting the Ottoman conquest of Eastern Europe in the space between the four facing beds and the corridor, while their mothers, aunts, female cousins conducted a high-volume jackhammer-like conversation that would suit the rugs-pots-and-slaves section of the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. I was instantly amazed at the volume and sheer circular relentlessness of their conversation, which only briefly paused when the Turkish lady had to vomit copiously into a bag, whereupon the chatter would redouble.
But all of this was as nothing compared to Florence.
Fucking Florence. Poor demented and tormented shit-on-the-floor Florence.
When they parked me she was sleeping; which is what she did during the day. I did not know it then, but it did not take me too long to work out that Florence slept all day so that she could spend the nights performing the song and dance of her people.
She was the gift that just kept on giving – except for the few daylight hours when she would sleep. But even then, the sour stench of her ever-opening bowels kept us company as we waited for the Florence-Kraken to wake…
TO BE CONTINUED