He lay on his side on the wet pavement next to the injured man. His left hand was under the man's head, like a pillow. The injured man clung to his helper's right hand with both hands. They lay together in the warm, light rain, waiting.
The injured mans long blond hair was tangled in his own bushy beard- probably by the wind right before the accident. The other man lying with him had long black hair and a black beard- soaked and matted from the rain.
He had lain beside other people like this before. He wondered if it had to do with some kind of destiny, a special purpose. His Bro.'s and Sis's, the people from the club he rode with, were standing nearby. Some were directing the early evening traffic around the accident and some were keeping the gathering crowd back, well away from the edge of the road. Four of them were chasing the hit-and-run car on their motorcycles. They were at a remote intersection of a county highway and county road between two cities that were 40 or so miles apart. The area was mostly pine forest with clumps of birch and oak here and there.
He had a way of comforting and calming people during a crisis. He knew what to say, how to act, and to be sincere. His Bro's and Sis's called him Wolf. That's what he said his name was to Billy, the injured man.
"How's my old lady?" Billy asked.
"She's going to be OK, she has a broken arm and a lot of road rash but, she'll be OK."
"Where is she?"
"They took her to a nearby house to keep her warm and get her out of the rain." Wolf knew they really knocked her out because she was hysterical and freaking out. She was lying on a poncho on the grass behind Billy. She could see what Billy couldn't- he didn't have much hope-- and she started freaking so bad they had no choice but to knock her out with a punch until the paramedics got there and could sedate her.
The smell of the wet road reminded Wolf of mud- maybe a tinge of tar smell too. At first, there was a strong smell from the gasoline that had spilled from Billy's bike but it was fading as the rain washed it away. And there was the faint smell of blood. Billy was loosing a lot of blood and it was spreading fast in the rain. He had lost his left leg just below the hip and Rerun and Dragon Woman were doing the best they could to stop the bleeding. Dragon Woman had been a trauma room nurse for 11 years and this was one of the worse casualties she had ever seen.
Wolf's mind wandered through the past as he lay in the rain beside Billy. This was the seventh person he would lay with and be with during the final moments. The first one was when he was 15. A car had hit the older boy, Steve from down the road, on his bicycle. Wolf lay with him until the ambulance got there but the ambulance only left with a body. Then there was the woman in South Korea when he was in the Army. A fuel tank blew up in her hands when she was switching the line from the empty tank to the new one. He didn't speak much Korean and she didn't speak much English but, true compassion was like a universal language that allowed him to be able to comfort her. The other Koreans and Americans admired his compassion. The Koreans had bowed to him several times when he got up and the two American soldiers had given him a hug. The woman's daughter had hugged him too and he held her in his arms for several minutes while they both cried.
A few years later at Fort Polk, he had lain on top of a battle tank with the soldier who had been cut in half when he was pinned between a parked tank and a jeep that had not been secured properly. The soldier didn't know he was cut in half, he just thought he was pinned. And there had been other accidents where he spent the final moments with them. So they didn't die alone. A soldier in a car crash a few years later in West Germany and a Navy Seal that stepped on a land mine later that year on a covert mission in South America. And just a few years ago was a fellow worker killed in an industrial accident.
Most people can't do that… lay down next to a dying person and hold their hand through the final moments. Each time, he became more aware that most people couldn't do that by the way they acted and talked about it. A lot of them actually asked him "how" he could do that. He didn't really know, he just knew he had been given that special ability and that it was the spiritual and right thing to do. But, he wondered why. Why was he there so often right when a person was in their final moments of consciousness? Why was he picked to be one of the few to have such a gift? He could feel it deep inside that lying down with them was what was right- what he was supposed to do. He felt he was not there just by chance- he was there to serve a higher purpose.
Some he knew, some he didn’t. He’d only been close to one. One of the guys he worked with in the factory. They drank together a lot and were both on the Peshtigo City Volunteer Fire Department. They worked together in the factory making custom interior for corporate aircraft… literally put living rooms in Lear jets. A high pressure air line had burst and a piece of shrapnel caught Jesse square in the jugular artery. He was gone before the ambulance got there. Wolf lay down beside him as the pool of blood spread. The piece of metal had lodged in the artery in a way that nothing could be done to stop, or even slow the bleeding.
“I ain’t gonna make it am I Wolf?” Billy asked. Wolf popped back out of his memories… “I don’t know Billy, I ain’t a doctor.”
“How bad is it?”
“Well, you’re pretty messed up man, but I think you’re gonna make it.”
“Will I ever walk again?”
“Sure, might be a while, but you’ll walk again.” Wolf knew he probably wouldn’t though. He knew he probably wouldn’t make it to the hospital. Billy didn't even know he lost his leg.
Wolf didn't know Billy before the accident- just another biker in the wind. But that was enough to bond them for the moment. Billy could sense that Wolf really cared and it made the pain and fear more bearable. A westbound car full of drunken teenagers that ran a stop sign had broad-sided him. The impact threw him into the path of a southbound pickup truck and that threw him back into the northbound lane 20 feet down the road. The northbound semi locked all his brakes but just couldn't stop in time. Wolf and his Bro's saw the whole thing happen. They had been north bound a few hundred yards behind the pickup truck. They were on their way back from a biker rally in Appleton. The "Children's Miracle Run" was an annual event that pulled bikers from all around the state to raise money for the Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. Many of them went together every year and this year 25 of them were running together in a side-by-side pair of lines-- a "pack run" as they called it. They were all wearing leather vests bearing the same patches of the Recovery Riders Motorcycle Club- all bikers who were recovering alcoholics or addicts. They were a very tight group, even though some of them were from different chapters.
Tears were trickling across Wolf's cheeks, dripping to the road like the rain that streaked across his face. No one could tell he was crying because of the rain. He just didn't think it was fair that this guy had to get hit three times and then live just long enough to suffer. His lady had been thrown clear by the first impact and was going to continue her life as a widow. Wolf could tell they had been a happy couple. He didn't really know it since he never knew them before- he just felt it in his heart. He could feel it in Billy and hear it in his voice.
"I don't think I'm going to make it Wolf. I'm getting real tired and I think I'm gonna go unconscious."
"Hang in there Bro, the ambulance will be here in a couple more minutes," Wolf answered.
"I don't know man, I'm pretty sure I'm going to die." Billy struggled to get a deep breath and keep his eyes open. He squeezed Wolf's hand a little more and said, "Tell my old lady I love her man. Tell her I'm sorry I didn't see that car."
"She knows you love her man. And this ain't your fault."
"Wolf, find her another good man for me, someone who's gonna take care of her."
"We'll all be there for her and help her as long as she needs us Bro."
"I ain't gonna make it man. Thanks for staying with me till the end. Man, I don't even know you but you're a true Bro." Billy took another deep breath and let it out slow. "Thanks for helping me Wolf, I think I'm going in a minute."
"When you're ready Bro. I'll hold your hand until you get to the other side." Billy closed his eyes and took a last breath.
Gorilla comes over and taps on Wolf's shoulder and nodding his head towards Billy, silently mouths the question… dead? "Ya, his body just died but his spirit is still here. He's gonna leave any minute now." Wolf started thinking Billy's spirit was lingering too long. He prayed to Billy, "You gotta do something man… go on home or come back… you gotta make a choice right away or you'll get trapped in between." A few seconds later Billy's hands squeezed Wolf's one last time then went limp and fell to the ground. Wolf heard Billy's silent voice say "thanks man, good bye." Wolf looked up into the rain and squeezed the tears from his eyes. "Good bye Billy, ride free, ride in peace."
Gorilla and Viking Lady helped Wolf get up and Kickstand lit a cigarette and handed it to him. "You OK Bro?" Gorilla asked.
"Ah no man, it really hurts when things like this happen" Wolf answered. "I'm gonna need some help taking care of his old lady for a few weeks. I promised him we would."
"Hey, you know we'll take care of her," answered Peaches. Every one nodded their head, "ya, that's right, we'll help her out."
Wolf told his people he needed a little time alone and walked off into the nearby woods. A few minutes later they heard a wailing howl. Then seven or eight other howls answered back from deeper in the woods. Some of them felt tingles knowing Wolf's spiritual connection with wolves. He was part Native American and wolves were one of his totem animals. Slingshot wiped tears from his eyes and looked up in the sky wondering why shit like this had to happen. He realized the rain had suddenly stopped when the wolves were howling. He was surprised to see three eagles circling just above the trees near where Wolf went into the woods. They were all watching the eagles when they heard a wolf let out another howl... a lower more mournful howl than the first ones. The seven other wolves all answered a few times then it went silent. Wolves were not common in that part of Wisconsin, and Eagles were rarely seen either. The bikers realized that some deep spiritual stuff had just happened and the goose bumps sent shudders through a few of them. They watched the eagles settle gracefully into the silent trees while Wolf walked back to the road. A siren could be heard way off in the distance- they couldn't really tell if it was an ambulance or police car.
One by one, his people put an arm around Wolf's shoulder or wiped the tears from his cheeks. "He made it home OK," Wolf said.
Wolf didn't say much more that day.