|Publisher:||Luther M. Mays|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.78(d)|
Read an Excerpt
One eighty saved my life, twice. It can save yours, too. It made me a bit wacky in the head, a bit off kilter. But it's an off-kilter world, so why not? Sometimes I connect a lot of dots in microseconds. Sometimes I overuse words. Sometimes my brain pauses and restarts. It's what losing a lot of heartbeats does to a person. But I still have to tell this story. Try to stay with me. I keep getting better, and I hope, with time, I'll be closer to normal. What exactly is one eighty? Degrees indicating half a circle? Diametrically opposed, starting one way, ending another? Kinda like my new, revised thinking style. Or maybe on a compass it's the point directly south, give or take a few degrees of declination?
Could be a straight line connecting two points, going on forever in two exactly opposite directions.
How about an amount of, say, money? Approximately: just under two bucks. Exactly: eighteen dimes, thirty-six nickels. Relatively: depends on the year — 1910, thirty-six loaves of bread — now, not even one loaf. Inflation. What a difference a hundred years makes.
So, if it's money, one eighty can be quite variable in value.
What if it's, say, um, seconds? A hundred and eighty seconds. Tick, tock. Wouldn't matter if it was in 2010 AD or 1910 BC, still can't make it go faster or slower. It goes. Once it's gone, it's gone. Bye-bye, so long. Farewell. Fsst. Fizzle. Can't bring it back.
It so happens, you can.
Three minutes: the most common length of a recorded song. At least for most of the music I love.
There are good songs and bad, love and hate, joyful and depressing — just about — well, probably for sure, any emotion known to man. Or woman. Yeah. That's for damn sure.
You can get lost in a three-minute song, but you can only run so far in three minutes. If you're really fast, you might make it three-quarters of a mile. Then you're spent, out of breath and feel like you're gonna croak. Been there, done that, can't do it anymore. I prefer a road bike.
But three minutes of a song ... that can make your whole day. Enough of them might even change your whole life, maybe even the whole world.
John Lennon believed that it's possible to save the world with a song. Cool.
* * *
I started out this morning with the full intention of enjoying every minute before I helped my client. Not a patient, a client. There is a difference, despite what HMOs and the VA says. I don't take money for my after-hours clients. I get paid enough from my VA pension and as a doctor. Besides, if I took money I'd need a license. A private eye license. I didn't really want that. Lisa has one and that's fine with me.
But, getting back to this morning, I had used a couple of weeks of vacation from my practice and now was ready to help my client in court.
One eighty has taught me so many things. Enjoy every moment, even driving.
As the garage door went down and I backed my gray 4Runner out of the driveway, I selected "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Not being directly from Alabama, but having roots and relatives there, and having had an extended stay in a hospital as close to southern Alabama as you can get and still live in Florida, I've always identified with that song. Also, my therapist played it during my second hospital stay. She played a lot of old songs.
Anyway, before long I was Sweet-Home-Alabama-ing it so hard that I ... Missed two lights.
I'm not sure if I ran them when they were red, or if I went through them legally when they were green. The part of my brain that drives while I sing must have done the right thing because there were no sirens. Or maybe the cops had been listening to music, too. Anyway, that's what happened to that. ... I think maybe it was more like a hundred and eighty-six seconds. Not exactly one eighty, but hey, it was pretty close.
I usually get lost in a song that I'm close to mentally or emotionally. Pretty sure that is why one eighty works. And occasionally a song will hit home that is ...
Like "30,000 lbs. of Bananas," by Harry Chapin. I've never been a truck driver. I like bananas, and I've driven on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so maybe I do have a few emotional attachments to the song. But mostly it's just a catchy tune by an artist I love.
That's what was playing when I lost the next little bit down the road. I was really getting into the part when he's coming down the hill and he loses his brakes, and he's going to run right into this town with his huge rig full of bananas when ... I ... um ...
Missed my turn.
No big deal, really. I just turned at the next road. Sometimes things happen. When those hundred and eighty seconds get going you can't — except for the song — bring 'em back. But, you know, maybe I don't wanna bring them back. Maybe if I'd made that first turn I'd have run somebody over. You never know. Things happen good or bad that you cannot predict.
Is that fatalistic? Certainly not impressionistic. Maybe it's depressionalistic? Anyway, I'm optimalistic. My feeling is that I just got a chance to ...
You know, look around some more. I got to see that incredibly yellow tree.
It was ... like ...
I mean, I was listening to a song about bananas, and there was a yellow tree.
That's just too weird.
That brings me to another point. Some people spend a lot of time when they compile recordings, getting the songs in the perfect order. I mean, I had a roommate in college who made a lot of playlists, seriously, a lot of playlists. He had tons of different artists. And they had to be in the exact order — his exact order. I mean ... I guess ...
Ah, geez. What's wrong with just allowing the right brain to ... kinda ... Enjoy the moment. To hell with the left.
Though, you know the latest about the left, right? The right brain and the left brain — everything is connected and works together. You can lose some speech areas in the left brain, for instance, and still learn to speak again. Pretty cool.
I happen to know this because of my near-death experiences. My brain has proven its ability to coordinate both sides. It even floats around in space and picks up the thoughts of others.
I didn't believe it at first, either.
Anyway, the point I was making is that there is a bit of artistry in making a good playlist. Especially with the new high-res digital stuff. Takes up a lot of memory, but the sound ... ooh-rah! Yep, I was a Marine. ... Well, that's not precisely true. I was a Navy doctor with the Marines for almost a year, before I got injured.
Getting back, I like my recordings to have a random order. Kinda like life. When I record, I look at what I have out and go with the flow. Sometimes I'll pull out some really old suckers. You know, 33 1/3 on plastic. Yeah, plastic. (They call it vinyl now. Who wants a piece of plastic?) That was back when you had something you could identify with, not just electrons floating around in some digital matrix using laser beams or ... whatever. No, you had metal, or like, diamond needles that converted plastic squiggles to sound. Talk about cool. Now it's all about smoke and mirrors, digital mumbo jumbo, magic crap that only physicists can understand.
In honor of oldies but goodies, I think it appropriate that I played "Yesterday" by the Beatles. Cool, huh? Now you try to sing along with that and you can do it, but it's tough, man, unless you have a really high voice, at least if you're a guy. Have you ever noticed how a lot of the great songs by guys are almost, like, soprano? Like Rod Stewart. What's with that? Anyway, I diverge. Could be from a little too much of ...
Well, you know. We don't want to get into that. Not just yet.
Anyway, "Yesterday" is playing when I pull up to the courthouse, and, of course, I have to sit and listen to the whole song. You can't cut something like that off in the middle. It's just not right. And Lennon is getting to the last line, "I be-lieve in yest —"
There's a knock on the window. How can you do that to me? I mean, Come on! I'm obviously sitting here, in rapture, listening to a wonderful song, a world-changing song, and you , like, knock on my window? It's not like I'm doing anything illegal: smoking a ... you know, or laying half naked with a babe or something. And I don't have, like, a gun sitting on my dashboard. So, what the hell!
I look around and ...
I have to turn the music off.
Sometimes that hundred and eighty seconds can help you. Sometimes the opposite.
Anyway, she's been helping me a long time and she's ...
Nice. You get what I mean when I say nice, right? So, yeah, I open the door. Immediately.
"Lisa, how are ya? Man, what a nice morning, huh?" Yes, it's a beautiful morning, but I said nice.
Lisa has reddish-brown hair, maybe you would call it auburn. It's not real long and it would look really cool in a spiky do, but she's not into that. Though, she does like rock and roll, and the old tunes I play. But she's worldlier than me: listens to NPR, constantly tells me about podcasts that taught her about physics or astronomy or our founding fathers, not to mention all the forensic stuff. She visits her paralyzed sister in a nursing home every day.
No, Lisa's way nicer than I am. She's got eyes that in the right light look yellow, but I think they're really greenish brown; you might even call them buckskin. When I first met her in Afghanistan, I thought she was wearing contacts. Like, they did a number on my brain. Maybe she's part cat or something. Weird. But it's okay. I like cats. With her, I've taken it a bit further than like. I think.
She's shouting. Not really happy this morning. Her eyes have dark circles under them.
Yeah that's my name, a nickname. Hang on.
"Var. You're running late. Come on. Hurry!"
Lisa has a serious Type-A streak. I'm glad because I need it.
She helps me with my, you know, accoutrements. Chair is in the back. I don't normally need it but keep it in case. Yesterday I fell off the last four feet of the climb with O.J. Cromwell and bent my leg prosthetic, so I can't walk right. We pull the chair out and I'm good to go. Battery's all charged. Yeah, that's why I have the solar panels on top of the 4Runner. It helps in case I get lost sometime during another one eighty and forget to plug the battery in at night. But last night I remembered. So it's all charged and ready, and I scoot on in beside her as she walks. I want to get behind her, wave her ahead a little, enjoy the ...
Yeah. You get it. But I have control over my urges.
"Go ahead, Lisa. I'll follow you."
She knows, I think. I start to fall behind.
I push the forward toggle with my good hand, the right one. The chair boogies up beside her before Dorkmeister down there gets control of every thought. I'm glad I still have those urges, believe me, but it's hard being a guy sometimes.
"Bad night, huh?" I ask.
"Yeah. She's getting worse. Ever since the stroke. ..." Her voice falls off. "I don't want to talk about it."
Lisa doesn't say that for fun. That's her way. I'm used to it, and I respect it. Doesn't talk about her problems. I know to shut up.
Besides, I need to get my head in the game. It takes about five minutes to cruise into the courtroom, so I get plugged in again, but only one ear, so I can hear her. I have to stop for a sec, 'cause the left arm hook doesn't manipulate the earbud, gotta use my right hand. Can you believe how cool an iPhone is? I mean, come on! Talk about rad to the max. It's going to be a hoot when the Bluetooth gets really small ear inserts that no one can see. No one will know you're tuning them out for, like, the Rolling Stones and "The House of the Rising Sun." Yeah. That'll get your thoughts cookin' in the morning. That was a really cool sunrise coming around that yellow tree.
Yellow means caution.
"You know the Judge hates to be kept waiting, even if this is a pretrial hearing." I'm presenting evidence for my client in what I will call "Case Number Two." My Case Number Two. The Judge is presiding. He's also a patient. It can be complicated.
Lisa twists her head as she walks and gives me a pursed-lip, prune frown. "While I'm talking to you, could you turn off the music?"
"Sorry. Helps me get into the mood." The Judge is a condescending son of a bitch, so I need something. Better than lighting up. Right?
I admit I like a joint every now and then. But nothing beats a bike ride in the Colorado autumn to give you a natural high the rest of the day.
That's when both cases started, three weeks ago.
Three weeks compared to one hundred and eighty seconds is a hell of a long time. But memory can put you anywhere in a heartbeat. Pretty cool.
Anyway, three weeks ago I'd been going at it: riding my bike twenty-four miles at about sixteen miles per, that's thirty songs — give or take. Morphine was pretty good, back in the day, but thirty songs coupled with an endorphin high of exercise? They could cut my chin off with a chain saw and I probably wouldn't care. I know that sounds ridiculous but coming from a guy who's lost a right leg and left arm, you can trust me. Even if I am a bit off kilter.
I was plugged into my iPhone and trying to zen out, seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, and, as it turned out, tasting the entire bike ride, interspersed with thinking about the case.
The case, you ask?
Yeah. Okay, I'm sorry. Because of my prior injuries, my brain takes a few left turns here and there. But, they all get connected pretty well, eventually. I'm still able to practice medicine, though I chose to do it only part time, and only on an outpatient basis.
Let me go into the first case, first. I'll get back to the bike ride and case two. And trust me: you won't want to miss the ride or case two.
Pretty soon you're going to be asking how the hell I know all this stuff, what all these people did, their thoughts and everything that follows. Like I said, my brain not only takes odd turns but it also wanders around in the air and experiences the thoughts of others. Not everyone and not every thought. That would make me God, not to mention make me a lot of money. But I only connect with a few people, and even then it can be spotty. And, over last year, that connection has been weakening. I'm hoping it means my brain is healing.
Oh, yeah. The other thing is, some of these people have been my patients. And some of my clients are patients as well.
So, if what follows at times seems to be me reading other people's minds, just go with it. I'll be there leading you along, bopping in at odd times with my odd thoughts. It's like a weed trip with a good friend and brownies after.CHAPTER 2
Case One — The Mirror Reveals
That Saturday, three weeks ago, the mirror arrived at Judge Craghead's mountain villa early in the morning and revealed exactly what the Judge had been hiding over the last year, but only to the delivery man. The Judge heard the doorbell and walked to the front door right by the bay window. Blue skies and vast mountains consumed the view from the huge bay window forever, or at least from Fort Collins, Colorado to the limits of the Judge's eagle vision. He didn't care about beyond. He'd been everywhere, seen every idyllic panorama in the world. He breathed deep, the air as bright and clean as the sky.
Outside the front door, the delivery man waited and watched the reflection of the panorama in the mirror and saw much more. When this first started, after an incident in Iraq, he thought he was crazy, as did his brothers in arms. But he came to accept it as his new normal and believed the mirrors. His doctor friend, Var, had a word for it, but he couldn't pronounce it. Var said those mirror visions made sense, considering what had happened to him in the war.
The Judge flinched when he opened the door, surprised because he was staring into the mirror the delivery man had purposefully placed in front of him. He'd unpacked the mirror, knowing that it needed to see, to reveal the Judge's true nature. After all, that was why he was here.
The Judge said nothing to the mousy little man, didn't even notice that his white tee shirt and frayed blue-gray overalls were sparkling clean despite his grimy hat pulled over greasy hair. The Judge only marveled at the beauty of the mirror, or rather the oak frame that surrounded the antique mirror. He'd found it at an auction of an old ranch estate two weeks ago. A deep gash marred the frame on the right-hand side, said by the auctioneer to have been gouged by the original ranch homesteader in the 1860s. Rumor said he'd slashed at his adulterous wife with a huge bowie knife, missing the first time and finding the mirror's frame. As the story went, the mirror did not fall from its perch thanks to a compulsive and careful Mexican housekeeper who'd hung it with sturdy nails beside the fireplace. That, according to the seller, was exactly where the mirror had remained until the Judge bought it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "One Eighty"
Copyright © 2019 Milt Mays.
Excerpted by permission of Luther M. Mays.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.