The engine sputtered. Then ran. Then sputtered worse and cut out.

My motorcycle began quietly rolling down the highway, losing speed to the surrounding traffic. Some folks gave space as I worked to cross four lanes of commuter traffic, but most continued past without slowing. One man came close behind me then aggressively switched lanes to pass on the right with his horn blaring. It was horrible. Powerless. Alone.

My bike came to a halt on the shoulder of the highway a quarter mile from an exit. There was no gas station near the ramp, but it was a quiet place to work on the motorcycle, so I pushed until gravity allowed the bike to coast.

The slow jaunt gave me time to examine the debris along the highway. First came the rubber shrapnel of an exploded truck tire. Large sections of sidewall lay intermingled with fragments of tread protruding rusted steel belting. Next came the head of a shovel. It looked unused but for the jagged stump of wood where the handle had been broken off. I wove my way through these until a crumpled lady’s brassiere appeared. It was purple and I ran it over in a moment of childish enjoyment.

The exit led to a frontage road that intersected two city streets in a confused jumble. Avoiding the mess, I coasted the motorcycle onto the sidewalk and stopped under a tree. It was summer and the sun was high. If I was to be broken down, it was best done in shade.

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