Right you are, Ken (vespa59) wrote,
Right you are, Ken

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta...

The year was April. The month was 1999. It was a simpler life then... a time of innocence in a pre-9/11, pre-G.W. Bush world. I was taking flying lessons at the same airport in Scottsdale, AZ that one of the suspected terrorists was. My instructor's name was Dane.

Dane and I had spent months together in the plane and in various eateries and bars. As I approached the date of my final examination, the out-of-plane visits became more frequent, as he crammed my brain with information the D.E. might expect me to know. This here is the ground frequency for this airport. This is a private strip. That's a military operations area. Don't fly there.

Dane had was a connoisseur of strip mall theme restaurants, of which there is no shortage in Phoenix. His favorite was Chili's, and as a fellow lover of the Awesome Blossom[tm], I rarely tried to talk him in to another venue.

This particular night - our final meeting, two nights before my test - we were at the Chili's on Camelback and 20th street. I'd ridden Red Bike there, as it was my preferred means of transportation on a not-terribly-warm night to a place a mile and half from my house.

After the meeting, I was feeling pretty confident in my pilot skills. I did pretty well on all of Dane's quizzes, and I was planning to take the plane out for a few more touch and go's the following morning. As I rode east on Camelback road, I ran through emergency landing procedures in my head, and had imaginary conversations with myself about weight and balance. As I considered the proper takeoff distance for a Cessna 172 with a full fuel load and two adults on a 75 degree day, the throttle cable in my Vespa snapped. Crap. I pulled over, and hoisted the bike up on to the sidewalk, which was barely accessible due to a construction fence.

In seven years of riding scooters, I'd seen this happen many times and I knew how to handle it. The fix was to pull off the engine side cowl, get in to the carburetor, pull the broken cable out of the housing, and then tie it to either your hand or foot and use some careful pulling to actuate the throttle. It's a delicate procedure, but it can get you home. I remember running in to some difficulty getting the lid off the airbox on the carb. I might not have had the right tools. At any rate, I was greasier than Goober on race day by the time I'd pulled the cable out and rigged up a bypass.

I checked over my handiwork and realized that I couldn't put my cowl back on without obstructing the movement of the cable and possibly killing myself. My only option was to bungee it to the front rack of the scooter. I pulled a couple of nasty, greasy bungee cords out of the glovebox and began begrudgingly strapping my pristine red cowl to the rack. As I stretched the cord around the top of the cowl, there was a loud POP followed by a searing pain in my lower abdomen.

The pain was intense and it knocked me to my ass. At first I thought maybe the bungee had snapped, but as I put my hand on the painful spot and felt the oozing goo, I knew it was something more severe. I looked up through watery eyes in time to see the face of the man who had just shot me from a distance of about six feet.

I became dizzy and panicked. My belly was throbbing. I decided I needed to move my hand and check out the damage. I sheepishly and nervously looked down as I carefully lifted my hand, fully expecting pints of blood to spew forth and for me to die instantly. The scene was much worse than I thought. All the blood was....

....pink. My hand and stomach and shirt were covered in pink goo. I could also see the fragments of what looked like a clear eggshell.

"What the fuck? Why am I bleeding pink??"

It took a few minutes to surmise I'd been shot with a paintball. The close range made it still hurt like hell. There was a huge welt that was bleeding, although not terribly.

I looked up and noticed that the car that had shot me was stopped at a traffic light half a block away. I grabbed a chunk of cement from the sidewalk in front of the construction site and started running toward them. I only got about 10 steps before I saw the gun point out the window and decided to call it off. I fished my cell phone from the pocket of my now pink pants, squinting to make out the plate, but my battery was dead. I let the paintball assassins go.

As I rolled my bike in to its spot, my roommate buckofive opened the downstairs door on his way out somewhere. He took one look at me, covered in grease, pink paint, and blood and asked, "Dude what the hell happened to you?"

I shot him a look of death and went upstairs to drink his beer.

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