Wordcarpenter Books
The Motorcycle Inn
 
Chapter One

1

leg: (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) 

1a. A 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.

Spindly-kneed, 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 imagination.

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 cyber existence.

"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 to light.

&

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.

"I 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 and parts.

"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 few months."

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 they were."

"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 of riding.

"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 bouncing ball.

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 motorcycle.

"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 bike."

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 Legge.

  
  
  
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Table of Contents

  leg: (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).

  1.  A limb or an appendage of an animal, used for locomotion or support.
  2. One of the lower or hind limbs in human beings and primates.
  3. The part of the limb between the knee and foot in vertebrates.
  4. The back part of the hindquarter of a meat animal.
  5. A supporting part resembling a leg in shape or function.
  6. One of the branches of a forked or jointed object.
  7. The part of a garment, esp. of a pair of trousers, that covers the leg.
  8. Math. Either side of a right triangle that is not the hypotenuse.
  9. A stage of a journey or course.
  10. The part of an air route or a flight pattern between two consecutive stops, positions, or changes in direction.
  11. One of several contests that must be successfully completed in order to determine the winner of a competition.
  12. Sports. One stretch of a relay race.
  13. The streams of swirled wine that run down along the inside of a glass. -ntr.v.
  14. The case containing the vertical part of the belt that carries the buckets in a grain elevator.
  15. A branch or lateral circuit connecting a communications instrument with the main line.
  16. A road radiating from an intersection of which it forms a part.
  17. One link of several stations in a communications network.
  18. The portion of the on side of a cricket field that lies behind the batsman and between the boundary and the extended line of the popping crease.
  19. A fielding position on this side in cricket; also: a player fielding in this position; long leg and short leg position, square leg.
  20. The guard covering the leg stump in cricket.
  21. Naut. The distance traveled by a sailing vessel or single tack.
  22. A straight-line portion of a flight pattern or air route.
  23. A portion of an entire trip or distance: STAGE.
  24. The portion of the total distance or course that each member of a relay team must complete.
  25. Something used to harness power or uplift.
  26. Either of the two inclined sides of an anticlinal deposit.
  27. One of several (as three) events or games necessary to be won to decide a competition.
  28. Either half of a double entry in betting (as the daily double).
  29. One of the two projecting parts of a structural-metal angle.
  30. A branch electrical circuit.
  31. A phase of a polyphase system.
  32. A bow made by drawing one leg back and bending the other: OBEISANCE, SCRAPE - used chiefly in the phrase to make a leg.
  33. A cut of meat. a. the back half of the hindquarters of a lamb, mutton or veal.
  34. A cut of meat. b. the drumstick of a fowl.
  35. A stretch of road in a race. a. the final distance of a motorcycle race or rally that goes to the finish line.
  36. A period or stage of development in ones life. a. a phase of growth from one distinct point to another.

 

 

 

  
 
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