Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Greatest of Liars

Travis was the greatest of liars and a genius. A grease monkey, thief. Stoned, drunk, two
pack a day habit. He knew where the limit was and after flirting with it, getting burned, he would
always be on the move, angry at his misfortune, like a child who curses the tree he's just fallen
out of.

He'd bought a junked 1971 Chevy Camaro and turned it into a super mutant drag machine
that could cause hell to rise up in its wake. Late one hot summer night Travis and his friend
Doug took it to an abandoned strip of pavement out by the airport for a test run. What happened
after that is up for debate. When Travis showed up at a party later, he seemed to have a
different version of the story for everyone. “The whole car was engulfed in flames, I thought I
was in hell or something. I think an angel saved me.” He told me.

Travis' concepts of heaven and hell were an amalgamation of images and ideas he
collected from years of listening to metal, reading Dante's Inferno, and Hollywood. As much as I
disagreed with his romantic, Old Testament style vision, I was impressed by the poetic genius of

The story Travis had told me was total bullshit. I knew it then because his eyebrows were
still intact. Twenty hours after the party I was at the hospital talking to Doug. He and I were two
of eleven people waiting for some news about Travis' condition.

“So which version did he tell you?” Doug asked me.
“The one where he's surrounded by hell fire and one of his angels comes down and saves
“I haven't heard that one yet.”
“It's good. . . So what really happened?”
“He drove it up and down the street a few times, then took off at full speed, really opened
it up. The engine seized and there was a hell of a lotta smoke. He must've been stoned or
something, 'cause he jumped out of the car and started flipping the fuck out.”

We laughed. Stared down at the floor, then at the faces of the others. Time moving slow.
“Can you believe this shit?” asked Doug.
“What? This?” I responded.
“I figured at some point we might all be at the hospital waiting to find out if he would
live or die. C'mon he was a crazy guy. Pretty whacked out. But this too fucked up.”
“I don't know . . . Somehow it seems fitting.”
“How so?” Doug asked.
“Travis walking down the street, minding his own business then suddenly being struck by
lightening. I don't know . . . it . . . it's just . . . as crazy as he was, somehow it's not surprising.
“I guess that's true. But lightening? What are the odds?"

As we huddled together in the waiting room for the second hour of our vigil, I thought
about Travis' explanation of the afterlife. “Everyone goes to hell. You go, you do a penance to
cleanse your soul, and then you're sent to heaven.”
“Sounds like prison.” I said to him.
“Everything is.” Travis responded solemnly.

Somewhere near the fourth hour of waiting, the doctors came out and told his family that
he had passed. They'd done everything they could. For some the tears came immediately, others
looked relieved, they had begun grieving hours ago.I thought to myself, I hope God has a sense of humor.

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