GreatDaneHank was my first son, a gentle soul that kids loved and animals were attracted to. We were inseparable, spending every moment of our day together except when I went to work. They wouldn’t accept his kind because, well, Hank was a Great Dane.

Hank was what most folks would consider a lemon. He had Addison’s disease and dilated cardiomyopathy, demanding a regimen of shots and pills. His large brown eyes, which when pointed directly at you, were slightly crossed. The top of Hank’s head had ridge that made him look as if he were wearing an ill-fitting yarmulke. His fur was brown with a black mask, which meant he was a fawn like Scooby Doo though unlike Scooby Hank’s ears weren’t cropped and hung like an elephant’s. A dense swath of curly hair ran along his back like a bad toupee. But Hank’s gentle disposition and lumbering playfulness made him a neighborhood superstar. During our walks folks I didn’t know would approach us and stop to swoon over Hank, clearly knowing who he was as I stood to the side, ignored.

My dog had more friends than me.

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Folks,

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t written in a while. This will change next week with a series of new stories that will start in a week or two.

Why haven’t I been writing? I am producing and hosting a new television series called What Could Possibly Go Wrong? for the Science Channel. You can check it out here: http://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/what-could-possibly-go-wrong/. The entire season – ten, 1-hour episodes – will be simulcast on Science Channel and Discovery Channel. The show premiers Saturday, February 7 at 10pm.

Please watch!

And expect new stories soon!

Kevin

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MW3Smoke rose from the cigarette in my mouth. It burned my eyes, transforming the setting sun before me from orange to a pale brown. I wasn’t a smoker, but the alcohol coursing through my veins drove me to stop and buy a pack. I stood in front of the 7-11, smoking and staring at the sun

The sun dropped below the horizon as I finished the cigarette. I lit another one, then started my motorcycle and headed home with the cigarette dangling from my lips. It bobbed in the wind, periodically releasing ash and sparks over my shoulder.

Elizabeth walked onto the porch as I pulled into the driveway. She watched me get off my bike, then said flatly, “You’re drunk.” I had not stumbled or said a word. I had only made eye contact with her and yet she knew. After fifteen years together, my wife could tell whether I had been drinking from subtle changes in my behavior that others never noticed.

I lied. “I had one beer.” Actually it was true if I ignored the bucket of liquor that accompanied that beer.

She frowned, seeing though my bullshit. “I thought you were gonna lay off?” When she realized I was not going to answer her question, she continued, “Are you coming in for dinner?”

My son Gage ran from the house on the stiff legs of a two-year-old and yelled, “Da!”

I lied again. “Not now. I want to mount that rear fender.”

“OK. It’ll be on the stove when you’re ready. Gage and I are gonna eat now.”

They went inside the house and I headed for my shop. Once inside, I grabbed the bottle of gin tucked among motorcycle parts on the shelf. I filled my mouth then sat on a stool with the bottle between my feet. I lit a new cigarette and stared at the motorcycle with no intention of working on it.

The smell of Loctite came to me. It was an odor intimately tied in my brain to working on machines. Combined with the fresh wave of alcohol from the gin, it was now relaxing me. I stared at the motorcycle on the lift before me, running my eyes over the curves of sheet metal which mirrored the wheels and engine. It was a lovely form that caused my thoughts to drift slowly. They floated here and there, eventually coming to my first motorcycle and how I had cajoled my Old Man into buying it for me.

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My wife lay on the road, her motorcycle in pieces beside her.

A taxi driver stood nearby smoking a cigarette, oblivious to how a sound had saved his life.

Elizabeth might have been pregnant, but we did not know.

I was scared.

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Russian“You’re what?” the bearded man asked with a crumpled forehead.

“A plutonium physicist,” I answered gasping.

A battle had just ended between twenty-four greasy bikers with wiffleball bats in a penis-shaped ring called the “Coctagon.” I was out of shape but won and after being handed five hundred dollars had slipped away amid the chaos. I was standing alone catching my breath under a scraggly Creosote bush when the bearded man had ambled over.

“How the heck did you become a biker?”

“I’m not a biker,” I answered, breathing heavily. “Just love to build and ride motorcycles. Started when…I was fifteen. Long before—” I took a deep breath then spoke through the exhale, “—I started collecting obscure science degrees.”

“And what possessed you to get in there?” The bearded man pointed over his shoulder at the scattered remains of the chalk lines in the dirt.

“I wrestled in college,” I said then took a deep breath. “And I’ve been drinking.”

“So you build motorcycles, have highfalutin papers, and wrestle. That’s quite a combination,” the bearded man said, rubbing his graying chin. “Never heard that one before.”

I stood up, breath returning. “It’s led to crazy stuff.”

“Like what?” the man asked.

“Grab us beers and I’ll tell you over there,” I said gesturing to a picnic table turned pale from years in the Southern California desert.

The man ambled off.

I sat at the picnic bench and felt the evening breeze wash over my skin. Sweat evaporated, leaving a chill on my skin that balanced the burning in my lungs.

The bearded man returned with beer. “Name’s Frank,” he said and shook my hand.

I returned the greeting then took a long pull of beer. Waves of relaxation passed through my chest and into my arms. “Are you sure you want to hear this?” I asked. “It’s about a run-in I had with a KGB agent in Russia. Not motorcycles.”

“There’s enough of them things around here,” Frank said, looking at the sea of bikes around us. “I wanna hear something else.” He took a seat at the picnic bench and waited.

“OK, then,” I said. “It started with a trip to a secret city in Russian called Sarov where they made nuclear weapons.” 

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Gossip_long1Ding.

A text message sat on the screen of my cell phone.

Biker A: Did u hear what Biker B did?

I replied by thumb: No.

Ding.

Biker A: He took his $ and left. U believe that crap?

I sighed. My conversation with Biker A was going to be long and having it by text message sounded exhausting. So I wrote back: Can you just call me?

Ten seconds later my phone rang, and Biker A, skipping all conversational formality, launched directly into bitching about Biker B. He screamed about how his partner was an idiot and was doing everything to destroy their business building sportbike-cruiser hybrids and café racer motorcycles. I listened, letting Biker A blow off steam. He needed it. But by the twenty-minute mark, I was getting tired and went to the fridge for a beer. As I popped the cap and leaned against the kitchen counter to take that fantastic first pull, my phone dinged through Biker A’s rant. On the screen was a text from Biker B that read: Biker A is destroying my marriage!

It was going to be a long day.

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geek2“Hold on,” Gilby said. “Let me grab the sheets.”

“Don’t rush,” I told him as he limped from his family’s guest room.

It had been one year since Gilby’s motorcycle accident. His left leg was broken when a man driving a pickup pulled in front of him, and Gilby, unable to stop his bike in time, hit the side of the truck. The man fled, and Gilby was left with a shattered tibia.

Gilby returned with a stack of linens. He dropped them on a chair and began making the bed. As I watched, the moment turned surreal, the air rarefied. Though I had known Gilby for years and slept in his house, the situation hit me – a man who played with Guns n’ Roses, who had once been lowered in a helicopter to a stadium of waiting fans, was making my bed after a day of riding.

To battle my sudden fit, I helped Gilby pull the fitted sheet over the mattress and brought up a comfortable topic. “My knucklehead’s coming along,” I said. “The springer forks and wheels are mounted on the frame. Now I gotta figure out the front brake.”

Without stopping his progress on the bed, Gilby replied, “You need a drum brake for a Harley between 1936 to 1948. Those are the years before they went to telescopic forks. The drum mounts on the star hub with five 7/16-inch bolts, and the backing plate with the brake pads anchors to the springer forks with a shackle bar. There’s also a sleeve and spacer you’ll need.” He paused to unfurl the quilt, then continued, “You can rebuild an original brake or get an aftermarket model. Either way, you’ll have to radius and trim the pads. But I’ll help you with that.”

I smiled. Gilby’s narrative of ancient motorcycle parts had broken my stupor by reminding me of the first time we spoke. And as I dropped a pillow into its case, my thoughts drifted to that day and how it was then he unknowingly put me at ease by revealing a trait most peculiar for a rock star.

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