(ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr
leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles,
upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)
limb or an appendage of an animal, used for locomotion or support.
THE FOLLOWING is a brief history
of a few years in the life of Kurt Legge, born in Dearborn Michigan and raised
in a blur of downtown Detroit apartments.
flat-footed runner with a runny nose, he only survived childhood because his
father died; high school, his hand wiping his nose, he kept to himself to get
away from the de-habilitating timidity that twisted his tongue into a sloppy
mass of pink tissue void of sinew that carried any semblance of coordinated
muscle. When his father died only then could he see a better future, rosy and
perfect, in a secure womb waiting to be born. But his life did not change so he
endured the imperfect present, ducking with his fleet foot, avoiding the
emotions of life whenever it surfaced. So he ran like a gazelle, best footwear,
the act of running was his own private Idaho.
He always worked but at jobs
that would allow him his privacy with minimal interaction, a computer hack,
video game developer, lone wolf. When he hit forty, weak-kneed with brittle
sausage toes, green with life and love, Legge found his way to Manitoulin
Island in Canada, the rock of his ancestors in the middle of the Great Lakes, a
place he had never been but which had always stirred in the wind of his
A snowy isle. The cold
indifference of snow and numbing cold of its touch, it shared a cruel history
with Legge, one tainted with the shouts of his father telling him how to roll a
snowball three-feet high into a snowman, too cheap to buy a proper snowsuit. To
Legge snow was like a white fire that burned, a thing that disturbed him from
his insulated world of monitors and mice.
He knew ever since the
snowman debacle that his father only saw the flaws in what he did, in his
Windex-wiped-clean eyes revealed critical doubt plain as rain. A wink could
never hide the shame. Hockey and tennis and swimming were a prolonged exercise
in futility. He could never do enough but his older brother Bron could. Table
talk at dinner as if he didn't exist. All he wanted was to escape. Dreamed of
running into the safe haze on the horizon.
Tall and thin-boned but with
strong sinew of ankle and elbow, Legge felt safe when he was running. No one
ever talks to you when you're moving at a speed too fast to talk. He would
downshift for long walks and pick it up when there was risk of encountering
others. Bron didn't shy away from calling him a coward or "pussy" for always
taking off. He covered his chipped front tooth with his hand when he was
confronted, and rubbed his nose when someone really got close, a shield of
armor reflecting intruding energies, looking at his feet and thinking of his
shoes. Hollow-cheeked with hair like fresh cedar cracked open at the trunk,
chary like a bird to man, he slipped his way through life unwilling and
uninterested in engaging the human element, that slippery thing shrouded in
mists, a thing he could not understand.
He took some computer
courses but they were at night when most were dozing after their workday, some
zonked on weed. If the professor was one of those who asked students direct
questions he would not return, dropped like a two-faced friend. He paid rent
and walked to work and grew his moustache long enough to hide his upper lip and
a bit of the tooth.
Shivering in undigested
memories infringed by over-pressing images, he could not love and had not found
love. Tethered dreams were still his when he typed at his computer, sending in
his work and paid in the bank without ever leaving the security of his
apartment. Interaction had become extinct, set apart out there, a fiction only
for those who chose it, a great stage of ludicrous reaches of absurdity. But he
watched and ran his way past it all, away from the icebergs and frozen tundra
nibbling at his toes, fighting him, laughing at him in cadence with his father,
voice critical and full of peril.
Working from home came about
from a meeting with a fellow student who wanted to write programs at home so he
could play videogames. Nathan Schiff was an addict of the same sort a gambler
will stop at nothing to make his money back. Any kind of computer game that
required hand-eye coordination attracted his attention. Legge helped write code
for new games that came from Nathan's ideas, which they sent to the big names
behind mainstream videogames. He let Schiff handle the selling. Legge only
needed to be paid.
And like all late-night computer
gamers Schiff had the diet of a hacker. Tortillas, pizza pockets, high-energy
sodas, sugared buns iced with pure bliss. When they first met he had bragged
about how he had ridden a horse and seen Niagara Falls with his girlfriend Rita
on their first date and how he had once took a pitch in the face without
charging the mound. Pure American underachiever. Told him he had the best game
that no one had ever seen because it was still an idea. He didn't have the
language to make it but Legge did. Reluctantly, pulled by the soft suction of
possibility and a chance to recoil behind his farouche shell to remain
untainted by the barbs that scratched all who engaged life, he agreed to help.
"Yes, I see," he said when
he saw how the bad guys would ultimately lose in the battle for high ground.
Nathan Schiff chewed potato chips thirsty for salt that added spice to his
"The good guys must win, led
by this chap I'm going to name ‘Hardcastle.' It just won't sell if they don't
and I need this apartment."
"You think we can sell it?"
Schiff was beyond any doubt it would become a cornerstone in the evolution of
the computer gaming industry - the Model T Ford of cyber entertainment.
"Come by tomorrow with your
gear and we'll see what we can do." Legge ran home and gathered all his USB
bits and pieces. He showed up the next day ready to devour the idea and set
himself up so he could earn a living from home. He rubbed his nose and mumbled
his way through transcribing the game into programming language as it started
taking shape in his mind's eye. He ate tortillas that Schiff left and felt the
uplifting air of hope.
In his world of one, his
friendship with Schiff and Rita was a change. They mostly talked shop so none
of it was the gooey jelly of life's emotions still indecipherable to him like
Greek. From New York, Schiff was darkish, smart and nerdy. Thrived in isolation
like him, seldom traversing bridges only taken by those able to partake in the
un-binary world of human interaction. His wife Rita, domineering and
malcontent, yet accepting of what she had - an ideal partner for this lucky
friend of his. If only...
Schiff knew who he was and
that was the secret source of his strength - a nerd but knowing. He dreamed of
great minds, Einstein's mustache as it twitched along with words so few
understood. He was a man who had studied while others went to football games
and parties. Like a turtle, he inched ahead and slowly amassed an encyclopedic
base of facts that remained hidden, except when Legge threw him a bone. He was
a man who was sure to succeed, and because of this Rita stuck to him like a fly
Now, on the front porch with
the man from New York, Legge hunched over in his oversized jacket like a lizard
in cotton, Schiff with some news.
was talking to a buddy of mine Tibor and he needs a guy to fill in for a guy
who just got busted and thrown in the joint. A few months. He's a good guy,
always lendya money if you need it. Just fill in. You might like the motorcycle
shop. Busy place called The Bike Haus. He needs a guy to handle stuff in
the warehouse. Parts and stuff. Thought you might like the change. It's in
Hamtramk so it's not too far. You're looking a little pecid, gotta get out
more. You like to go fast. You're always running. A motorbike would getcha off
that dodgy knee of yours."
Legge rubbed the top of his
nose that didn't itch, and bowed his head to indicate thought. He knew Tibor
was an old friend of Schiff's from New York and he wanted more work so he could
buy his apartment.
"Rita! The burgers are
almost done. Bring the goodies."
A dash of blond hair
sprinted into the kitchen and appeared with a neat array of buns and
condiments, her hands large and firm, more than big enough to hold the full
tray. Proud and hearty.
Tibor Trosok was a big man
of few words, a tattoo of some indecipherable bird on full display on the
forearm, waving it proudly when he spoke. But he recognized the shyness in
Legge, because of this seldom spoke in the rattle between the warehouse walls,
heating up and cooling down all day all summer, a racket full of motorcycles
"We get a lot of repeat
customers coming in for an oil change or to take a hitch outta the chain. You
know, normal maintenance. We have ‘ta do it good every time. Gotta take care of
our customers. Anyway, you just do what I ask and we can get through the next
Legge lifted his eyeglasses
to ease the pressure on his nose, smelling the rubber tires waiting to be sold
like cattle to the slaughter. Tibor pointed to the Kawasaki poster on the wall.
"That model is our core
product, a rally bike, on/off road for both streets and dirt roads, have some
good models, like the KLR 650, good bike. Sells well because it's a good bike.
Just work with me or the mechanic Rainer. He knows what needs to be done with
those parts there for example. Needs to be sorted."
Legge was still processing
the smell of oil and rubber with an underpinning of gasoline, stirring
something strong in his gut.
Al Rainer's beard fell to
the nape of his neck, like a long arrowhead of white hair, neat and angular but
dark on the tip from the gunk on his hands - residual grease that formed the
tip to the arrowhead.
"How much do you know about
motorcycles? ‘Cause I don't wanna be teaching you about this part or that bike.
You gotta use yer head here. This is high season, guys hitting the road and
tuning-up their bikes. Wish Ray was here. Damn drinking laws."
Legge moving boxes into
corners and bringing old equipment forward and restocking. The store doubled as
a clearinghouse for excess parts from scattered manufacturing plants around
Detroit, secondhand parts making up most of the warehouse. That night he
reorganized brakes according to brand name - the Hondas with the Hondas and the
Kawasakis with the Kawasakis - in his sleep, feverish to begin the day. Rainer
always busy with a transmission job delicately handling gaskets and levers,
Legge was free to let his hands become the instruments of his vision, parts
lined straight beside each other, according the date and type, his binary mind
finding a tactile outlet.
Moving slowly was Tibor, the
overseer who missed nothing, a B-52 spy plane watching customers and deliveries
and mechanics and bargain hunters. But the man knew where it all was and had
heard it all before, a connoisseur who grew up with it, handed down from his
father, the founder of The Bike Haus in the seventies.
Rainer was still busy with
the transmission so Legge asked Tibor: "You like the re-organization of the
brake parts?" His enthusiasm breached the walls constructed around him.
The slow movement of the
eyes over the new rows of parts put a flush on his cheekbones, as if he had
windburn. "You're lucky Rainer is still busy ‘cause he'd have a bird if he saw
what'cha done. Yep, a bloody bird if he sees this. You have it organized
by color, that's clear. All very pretty." Looked closely at Legge but saw
nothing in his eyes but dry scientific curiosity free of emotion, objective as
a right angle. "But if I were you I'd get'chur ass in gear and put them back
how they laid before. Keep ‘em neat like you made ‘em but put them back how
"But-" Legge confused, the
new system far superior to the previous layout, but too afraid to offend his
new employer while he filled in for Ray.
"Sue it's all neat and tidy
but they should be grouped by design, something you can't see because you don't
know how engines work. See, Rainer and me know motorcycles, two-stroke,
four-stroke, spark plugs, gauged chains, pistons. These brake parts were
grouped accordin' ta brake design. Parts with similar design go with each other
or didn't anyone teacha that?" He tried to feign anger but it wasn't in his
voice. "Just stick with unloading that pile there into their existing category.
Got it? You can ride that thing can't you?" The forklift had been parked in the
corner but Legge had ignored it, not out of fear of inability but fear of not
having permission to ride it.
"I think so," he replied,
and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter for Legge. Mastering the forklift
took the entire first month, but after that sheer artistry. It wasn't in his
nature to throw caution aside to step over a threshold marked ‘beyond this
point lies landmines,' but Legge's enjoyment of the forklift spurred him on.
Thought he might like riding a motorcycle, one like the HONDA CB-1 400cc street
bike that sold well, an honest-looking bike easy to ride and practical, but he
kept taking the bus to Hamtramk. Holding on with two hands moving 100km on a
two-wheeled vehicle without with bumps and debris on the roads was overload for
his ultra sensitivity to his invisible boundaries, his realm of comfort from
paralyzing fear of the unknown. Safer to play a videogame and ride.
Rainer saw see his fear and
was harsh with Legge for the first few months, but seeing him on the forklift
fluent and graceful he grew to like him. Maybe caught a glimpse of his thoughts
"You gotta love the
motorcycle for its simple design man," he said, standing on one leg like he was
a one-legged surfer, other foot on a stool, eyes bloodshot and squinty,
grease-ingrained one-piece work suit, the Bike Haus insignia still
whitish against dark oil stains. "Chain, crank, bearings and spark plugs. Not
like a car that has two thousand parts. Better with the two wheels, that's what
I think. But ya gotta balance her. You can't repair a busted crankshaft, but
you can sure move that forklift!" To Legge the crankshaft was a dark cave in
some intricate system of miracles and mini bolts of lightning ignited by
inflammable gas creating the spinning of a wheel, a mystery so deep that it
could never be revealed. Too shy to ask Rainer "What is a crankshaft? How does
it work?" His belief system struggling to stay afloat without the need to
engage in the world beyond his safety perimeter. Mocking laughter would kill
his fragile sensitivities.
Big Tibor called him into
the office to let him know Ray was due back and that it was great to have him
but with Ray back there was no room. He knew it was coming but it still stung
him to the core.
Legge back to small computer
jobs given to him by Schiff but the work was slow. Lethargic spirit, his heavy
cloud-filled view of working from his apartment was suffocating. Missed the
smell of rubber tires and gasoline and oil, like a gunner to the lingering
scent of cordite. Kept thinking of the cordite.
In March, Schiff working on
a beer and a panzerotti, impatient with the cold, blabbered as an afterthought:
"Ray fouled his parole somehow so he's back in the joint. Tibor needs you
again." Schiff smiled, yellow teeth stained from neglect. Back again. Like a
Tibor ensured it was still a
temporary gig, and that poor bastard Ray had to serve out his drunk driving
beef. "So many laws now from when I was a kid. Damn shame that guy. Just a string
of bad luck. Nothing anyone can do about that. That's the thing."
Was like it was before in
the aquarium of the tactile. Cleaned up Ray's sloppy work and organized. He
spied the HONDA CB-1 as he rolled around the warehouse on the forklift,
relaxing his carpal tunnel and listening to Rainer talk about the magic of
motorcycling as it were a mystical experience, a middle-aged man married to his
"You tell me one other thing
you can do beside riding a motorcycle that gets you going so fast that if you
fall you die. You tell me Leggy. Whaddya think?" Legge thought of
roller-skating for some reason but only shrugged. "There's nothing that's why.
Nothing like a motorbike, man. You're just a child until you can handle a
Legge taking notes of the
endless words coming out of Rainer when the afternoons were slow, alleviating
him from long periods of minimal communication. Finding common ground through
forklifts and motorcycles, floodgates opened through tired door handles, a
boyish thrill at the mechanical toys before them to create something meaningful
out of a dreary afternoon. The cookie jar with the lid ajar, too afraid to
reach in and make a noise. Father in the next room, the wooden spoon
threatening to slam against his flanks at the first sight of failure.
Schiff hunched over studying
a printout of a program, eyeglasses thick, pencil active checking numbers and
symbols, syntax and spaces. Usually planting new flowers in the front garden,
Rita was inside cleaning the guest room.
"Tired of this work these
days and through with the damn cold. The ice has got into my bones. I can't walk
in this city and I hate looking at code. Something's gotta change."
Legge worried something bad
had happened, took a step back, rubbed his nose.
"So we've made a decision:
we're moving to Arizona near Rita's sister." Stunned.
"When?" Thunderclouds and
the breeze before rainfall.
"Pulling a hyperspace on the
weekend," said Schiff, shifting back on the couch. Said he had to live in a
warm climate to get the cold out of him. "And Rita got a job offer down there
in nursing so she took it. We're both tired of the winters. Never ends.
Miserable and cold. Why not be warm? Maybe the misery will leave too. If not at
least there's no snow and ice." Weariness showed through the eyeglasses, the
ruined eyes and wasted youth stuck reading printouts of code for others.
Sacrificed and used-up, grabbing a new start in snow-free streets, far away
from the icy streets of Detroit.
"Rita's all proud ‘cause
it's the first time she's ever had a job somewhere else and with a free airline
ticket. Gotta seize the opportunity ya'know." Legge nodded and blushed. Hand
still rubbing his nose, looking to the ground.
"We're going to stay with
her sister ‘til we find our own place. Should be okay in the transition phase."
He pulled his fleece closer to his neck as if chilled. "It's good for me to
support Rita if she wants this, and God knows it'll be different down there in
the desert. Have some new adventures. I mean why live in the extreme cold when
you can live where there is never any snow? That's where I want to live."
"Well then that's good."
Legge put out his hand halfway, unsure.
"You can come visit any time
you want. You're suffering from the same thing I'm suffering from. Good for you
to get out too." He shook Legge's hand and smiled at each other, both with the
thought that it might be their last handshake for a long time.
Numbed to traffic noise and
lack of trees and petty conflicts between strangers, public transport and
taxicabs and vendors and stoplights, unsafe areas and pollution, Legge asked
himself why stay? But he knew what it was. Inertia: the momentum that pushes us
along when we want to move over somewhere else. Why not go to New Orleans where
there's historic and geographic beauty, or to Hawaii?
Ray finished his time in
jail and took back his job at The Bike Haus so he was back to
programming at home, but after Schiff's departure his enthusiasm for his
computer work waned. His hands hurt from too much typing and his eyes hurt from
too much squinting. He went on long walks despite the chronic left-knee pain
that had been getting worse in the last few years. He was suddenly thrown into
a world where he had no friends at all, so he withdrew and waited the days out
at the shopping mart down the road and the bus stop two blocks away. Wished he
had a dog so he could have an excuse to walk in the park, prisoner in his
apartment and to his neighbors. He didn't even live on the earth; he lived in
the air as if in a tree like certain tribes along the west coast of the
Philippines. Sturdy tree forts.
He focused on paying his
bills and avoiding interaction with life, waiting for the penny to drop
pointing the way. Heads or tails? East or west? It's all binary language to