Yo dad, what’s up?
Hey, Charlie! Just sitting here thinking about how much water has passed beneath the bridge in the years since the last book; it’s been quite the party hasn’t it? What are your thoughts on the matter?
Well, I have heard that the ancient Chinese had a curse: “May you live in interesting times”, and recent times have been “interesting”, to say the least. For better or worse, there seems to be a changing of the guard, whether I like it or not.
But do you like it? Be honest now…
Have you ever known me not to be honest? I have to believe that me liking it or not matters not that much in the overall scheme of things, as it’s kind of like sitting on a hot stove; if you sit there long enough, you have to learn to like it. No, you know how we believe, that we were not created for our own happiness, but to help bring a bit of happiness to others, and by this find a bit of our own. It’s much like the message of The Crate; the only way out of ours is to first help someone out of theirs. This has been my message since we first met.
So, how would you describe our meeting to someone who had previously never heard of your story?
Well, I know that you had recently had a freak motorcycle accident way back in the Ouachita mountains which left you with a ruptured colon and gut-full of life threatening pathogens. That Zach had to leave you laying in the woods to ride for assistance, and after a very expensive helicopter ride, you woke up in the ER to find a team of surgeons about to rearrange your plumbing. And rearrange it they did, transforming your plumbing from what passes(get it? Passes? I kill myself) for that of a normal human’s into a some sort of two-legged Pez dispenser with a shiny new colostomy bag.
Yeah, Charlie, there’s not much more humbling to a guy than a ton of hospital debt and being unable to do anything about it except sit around the house pooping in a bag and feeling sorry for yourself. Then, further mental emasculation while you watch your wife heading out the door every morning to continue bringing home the bacon; it was not a good time to be a resident at the Casa del Whackos.
So riddle me this, dad; you’re sitting on the couch sporting an embarrassing medical appliance in addition to a recently stitched up Frankengut, it’s a cold, rainy day in January, and you decide to go for a ride. Any sane person would have stayed home; what prompted you to head out on the motorcycle?
Well, they say insanity is hereditary, as you get it from your kids. In this case it is doubly true, as it was Zach that came over to the house and suggested taking the bikes out for a spin, you know, a prescription for some two-wheeled anti-depressant. I had two Hondas in the garage at the time, a 1989 CB1 and a 2013 CB500X, and we decided to do a little comparison ride out in the Arkansas River bottoms. On our first pass through the area, we saw your crate back in the weeds, but as rabbit hunters were in the area as well, we didn’t think to stop at first, thinking that the crate was associated with them. It wasn’t until Zach and I had swapped bikes for our second pass that we noticed that the crate contained a ragged mess of a dog. When I first opened the crate, the stench was overwhelming, and the sight of your sunken face and hopeless eyes conjured up one word:
So why did you stop?
To be honest, I didn’t want to. We already had a plethora of dogs at the Casa, and I could only imagine the mange and parasites that that I would be introducing by bringing you home. But at the same time, I remember the feeling of loneliness I experienced just a few weeks earlier as I lay dying in the wilderness, especially when I watched Zach’s tail light vanishing as it bounced off through the trees. It was unthinkable to leave you in your condition, but neither was I in any shape to carry you on a motorcycle. And neither were you in any shape to be carried; you were so frail that I’m afraid you would have snapped in twain had I even attempted such a task. So we had no choice but to leave you and high-tail for home to return with the means to make things right. What did you think when we initially stopped?
To be honest, I couldn’t believe it; the few cars that passed hadn’t even slowed, so I thought it was the starvation induced delirium affecting my hearing when I heard the bikes slowing, then stopping. Then trepidation as the crate was opened, as my previous experiences with humans had not been especially favorable. My first impulse was to bite the ever-loving crap out of the first hand I encountered, but something about you guys seemed to be a bit different, so I allowed a bit of contact. Even though I liked it, I have to admit that it quickly wasn’t worth the momentary surge of hope; almost killed my when you both saddled up and rode away after getting my hopes aroused. My feet were in such bad shape from standing in my own filth that I couldn’t walk, so I had no choice but to return to the very prison from which I had just been released.
You have no idea how hard it was to ride away, Charlie; the only other option we had was for one of us to stay, but as it turned out, that would have been a very bad idea. You see, the old CB1 didn’t have a fuel gauge, and Zach ran out of gas on the way home. I had to borrow a gas can, run to the station, gas up the bike, then return the can before heading home to fetch the truck. By the time we were able to return, hours had passed and we were convinced that you would be long gone. And we thought this fear realized when we came upon the forlorn crate with no dog in sight, and I walked up and saw your lifeless figure inside. My heart sank; we were too late. Then, I heard a faint rumble from inside the crate, and I remember thinking “if you have enough strength to growl, you’ve got enough strength to live”, and for the second time that day, you emerged from the crate.
Yep, that was a crazy ride back to the house; I wasn’t too sure about getting in a vehicle with strangers, but the warm truck was infinitely preferable to an icy crate, so away we went. One thing I’ve always wondered; why were there so many people at the Casa when we got there?
Zach called Tara, his fiancée at the time, to tell her of a damsel in distress that we were bring home. At the same time, I had let Mom know, and she and Alex had the first aid supplies prepared like a triage ward. Then the word spread amongst a bunch of my motorcycle buddies, and before we knew it, a party had broken out in the garage, right where the best parties usually happen. I do remember you not being too sure about all of the attention; that sure has changed since then, you insufferable diva! What do you remember most about that first night in the garage?
Well, first the overpowering smell of all things motorcycling; chain lube, sweaty helmets, gasoline, all mixed with a generous helping of testosterone. I think it was because of this that we began dreaming of crossing the country by motorcycle. Then there was my new crate, but this time the door stayed open and it was filled with quilts, but I noticed that, although Zach did elect to sleep in the garage with me, he had the softest sleeping bag. So, when he toddled inside the house to tinkle, I immediately shang-hai’ed the prime sleeping spot, a practice that I have maintained ever since.
So I’ve noticed, you insufferable bed hog; sleeping with you is like sleeping next to an active volcano; you start the night fairly inconspicuously, only to spread like black hairy lava to engulf the entire bed. Which in fact is how you came to discover your dream of world domination: first the bed, followed by the Casa, then the state of Arkansas, then the world; from the beginning, you have been fairly unstoppable in your quest to attain the title of Charlemagne Bravissimo, Benevolent Dictator of the Universe!
But first comes the message, right, dad?
And what message would that be, Charles?
First the message of The Crate, and how we all have them; a crate could be a cubicle at work, a mind numbing career, a chemical addiction, a toxic relationship. Although my personal crate was made of plastic and steel, a crate constructed of fear is much more effective at constricting our ability to move freely. But even when you and Zach freed me from mine, you made a glaring mistake: you didn’t show me a better way. Without a vision of the better life that awaited me, I saw no alternative to returning to my former prison. Many humans do the same: they leave a physically abusive spouse only to find a mentally abusive partner. Give up methamphetamines only to resort to prescription drugs. Quit a mundane job only to find another just like it. Why do you think the recidivism rate is so high among convicts recently released from prison? I’ll tell you; like me, they haven’t been shown a better way. And that’s why I’m here, to show that there is life beyond the bars. But there is one key point that needs to be remembered…
And what is that, o exalted one?
Just as it’s true that the only way to get what you want is to help enough others get what they want, the only way out of your own crate is to help someone else from their crate. No matter what the media would have us believe, we all matter, as do our actions however small they may seem in the grand scheme of things. Look at me; who would have ever thought that a ragged dog left to starve by the side of a lonely highway would now be compiling a second book?
Oh, so that’s what this is, a segue into introducing a new book? A sneaky way of bringing those unfamiliar with the story up to speed, as it were?
I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, dad…
No you didn’t, Charlie, that much is obvious.