My muse is shaking her head at me. I have about one hour to finish this if it is going to be posted today.

The fire burned a hole in Benjie’s leg and took the skin off his chest and back, but remarkably it didn’t touch his face. He suffered the pain with a stoic acceptance, knowing he had brought it upon himself. While he healed he built kites. His siblings and friends collected the palm stems for him, then kept him company while he sat at the table and glued them together.

As Ben grew older his passion for kites was replaced by motorcycles. He would salvage an old rusty frame from somewhere and tinker with it, adding parts he’d accumulate from who knows where. The first couple of bikes he worked on, he never could get running, but it didn’t dampen his ardor for them.

When he was eighteen, he moved to Texas with his Mom and started riding dirt bikes. He worked at several different jobs and became the proud owner of a 125 and 250. He collected all the gear; boots, helmet, overalls, pads, and goggles. Every Saturday morning, he’d throw everything into his truck, strap his bikes in the back and take off for the track. The tracks were all over southern Texas, from Houston, to San Antonio and the Hill Country. His Mom just made sure he had something to eat and drink. A few times she was able to watch him race. It was exhilarating, but also scary. It surprised her to realize how much stamina and effort went into competing on a dirt bike track. And Ben was very competitive. He didn’t like to lose and started collecting tall gangly trophies. Every time he brought home another one, he proudly showed it to his Mom and let her ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over it.

When he was twenty Benjie went to Nebraska to help his Aunt and her family. His uncle was terminally ill with cancer and she needed help on their farm. But disaster struck. His Mom got a call at 2:30 one night. It was from a Doctor in a medical center in North Platte. He was calling to say Ben had run into a high tensile steel wire fence while riding his motorcycle and had been thrown off his bike. He’d hit the ground with such force, it had dislocated the ball in his right shoulder and shattered it into four pieces. Ben had been wearing all his gear, but he was a couple miles from the house and all by himself. He somehow managed to get himself back to the house. It seemed like 100 miles away, but was actually only about half a mile. There a neighbor found him sprawled on the floor going into shock. The Doctor was calling his Mom to tell her he had begun to operate and after seeing the extent of the damage, he stitched him back up and sent him to Omaha. So Ben had a not so smooth 6-hour ride in the back of an ambulance with his shoulder encased in ice.

Ben’s Mom flew to Omaha the next day and was able to talk to the surgeon for a few minutes before he started the surgery. He told her at first he thought he’d have to put in a prosthetic joint, but after taking into consideration Ben’s age, overall health and well-being, he decided to try and repair the ball and socket. Ben wasn’t happy to see his Mom. He told her she shouldn’t have come all that way and put herself to so much expense. He told her he was going to be fine. His Mom just held his face in her hands, looked into his angry brown eyes, smiled and told him he was being silly.

The surgeon did an excellent job. He made the right decision. There was a lot of scar tissue, but Ben slowly regained almost full range of motion. Three months later, standing beside his motorcycle, Ben told his Mom he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to ride it again. She felt like telling him he should get rid of it and not even think of getting on another motorcycle. But instead, she said, “You’ll know when the time comes whether you will, or not.”  Six months later, he was waving to his Mom as she watched him once again pull out of the driveway with his bike in the back of his truck. She noticed a new sticker on the back of his truck. It said “No Fear”.

Later Ben went back to Nebraska. He had a job to finish. The day, Ben turned 21, he attended his uncle’s funeral.

To be continued…..

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