“Did you hear what happened to Janet’s brother-in-law?”


The guy in the black satin motorcycle jacket drew his index finger across his neck, and the teenage girl with the skull earring shivered slightly.

It was about ten at night, and there weren’t many people sitting at the outdoor cafe: a trio of ballerinas, a scruffy-looking dude reading a swinging singles publication, and the young tough couple. Through the window, you could see a guy drinking coffee and playing chess with himself.

“What happened?” the girl asked.

“Got creamed.”

He took a long time to sip from his glass of iced coffee.

“Well, what happened?” the girl asked when his dramatic pause became unbearable. She was no longer interested in the hommous and pita bread on her plate.

“He was riding his motorcycle down the highway. The dude got totally creamed.”

“Is he dead?” The girl was nervously using her finger to draw a smiley face in her lump of hommous.

“Yeah,” the guy said. “Dude got totally wasted.” As an afterthought he added, “Dumb fuck.”

The girl sucked the hommous off her finger. “That’s uncool,” she said.

They paid their bill and walked off hand in hand. Under her arm she held an artist’s portfolio. He was carrying a motorcycle helmet and knocking it against his thigh as they turned the corner.

As it got later, the only people sitting out front were alone. There was one guy reading a copy of the Tribune, and another staring at his cup of coffee who held his hands clasped in front of his lips as if he were praying.

A low squeak pierced the silence like a far-off air-raid siren. All heads jerked up at once, snapping to attention as the squeak became louder and louder until it was an unbearable banshee’s shriek with a rumbling underneath.

A red motorcycle flew into view, sliding across the street like Pete Rose coming into base. It kicked up sparks as it swirled and slammed to the ground. People poured out of the neighborhood bars, staring at the scene. Traffic stopped.

A man got up from the accident and, disgusted, walked away, wheeling his motorcycle out of view. The guy with the cup of coffee turned to me and exhaled sharply through his nostrils.

“That was a nice bike,” he said.