At the white stone gates, at intervals , the uniformed cop held up a hand to allow other boulevard traffic to flow past the line of bikes and cars waiting to enter the city of the
My skin started to hum. The voltage in the atmosphere was amped to the max despite the fanning palms doing their damndest to make this day a celebration of the dead. “Don’t anyone light a match,” Lake said.
|Riley "Big Red" O'Rourke|
We weaved and shouldered our way through throngs of bikers, some startled at seeing three people not wearing cut, sleeveless denim, or leather, or visible tattoos— until they caught the badges. They growled and spit, then went back to their conversations. Lots of fucks and fuckers being said, Lake noted . They were paired with all the adverbs and adjectives known in the English language. The last of the attendees were in place at O’Rourke’s grave. On the gold-draped stand stood an obviously hand-painted casket with the motorcycle club’s colors and a patch on the foot. I spotted Rassler and the Chattanooga brothers milling around the head of the coffin. The Raleigh boys were at the sides and the Birmingham chapter at the foot. I wondered if there was some kind of strategy in the stations of those nearest the bier. I looked behind me. Pressing forward was so much human flesh in leather, cattle pens must have been emptied to supply the hides. The crowd quieted. The service was to begin.
Holding a microphone, the preacher began the service with a prayer, and those bikers in front of me removed whatever head gear they wore except those with do-rags. Bad hankie hair maybe. The silence quivered with tension and I was glad for the “Amen.” Immediately, Rush’s “Ghost Rider” flared from speakers hidden in palms. I thought it an apt song. When Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for Rush, lost his daughter and wife, he went on a motorcycle journey across America, and then wrote the song.
When the track ended, the preacher did the “we are gathered together” thing. The preacher paused, stepped back and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” erupted from the speakers. The crowd let out a collective yelp.
...the preacher read a passage from the Bible. It rang out in enunciated tones through the speakers , as if the preacher wanted everyone to hear and believe. “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable , and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Halfway through that passage from Corinthians I had my doubts about it being right for a biker funeral, but when the preacher said “Amen” a collective , testosterone-laden “whoop” blew through the air. Into the whoop came the Eagles, “Life in the Fast Lane.”
I swear every biker sang. They must have been nipping from flasks... Once the song ended and voices settled, the preacher read from another Bible passage: “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die . . . A time to kill, And a time to heal . . . A time to weep, And a time to laugh, A time to mourn, And a time to dance . . . A time to lose; A time to keep . . . A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.”
As expected, the blaster fired up another motorcycle song, this time Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” I’m thinking funeral as an excuse for a heavy metal concert. Certainly the crowd was much less restive than they had been before the music.
Next up, The Doors, “Riders on the Storm.” I’ve always loved that song, the thunder and rain effects. It was inspired, they say, by “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” a cowboy song. I reasoned that biker music must be standard at funerals. It certainly had a calming effect on the crowd, but I stayed alert, wary.
The music died and the preacher said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Amen.” He held up a cross. “Go with God and our Lord Jesus Christ brother Riley O’Rourke.” After a quiet interval, the casket was lowered into the ground by some automatic button. Shovels began to fly; their blades had the club’s patch painted on it. The Raleigh club was literally burying their dead. I got a good look at Rassler who worked his shovel demonically, his face red with sweat. The silent crowd was rapt with awe. It was then I sensed something in the air, a quiet determination. At the same time, something moved rapidly to my left. A man rushed forward, passing not six feet from me, weaving through the biker fraternity intent on seeing their brother buried. They’d let down their guard.
The would-be shooter and I were leaving a commotion in our wake . The grave shovelers halted. Rassler turned. Switch— on the other side of the coffin—paused. The shooter raised his gun hand. I aimed low in case I was jostled into an errant shot. Two shots rang through the air, cold and sharp. Mine got him in the buttocks.
His bullet went into the palms. He faltered a step forward, then went to his knees. I felt the stampede then the pause of movement. At least fifteen bikers jumped the prone, injured man and began stomping him. Grady spoke rapidly into a police radio. Lake stared at me. Rassler portaged around the carnage. Parting the crowd, he came up at the same time Grady arrived with his FBI contingent, the ATF and the police. The cops waded into the men bent on murdering the gunman. Lake stood next to me. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes were narrow with anger. Rassler said, “You saved my life.” Switch came up and raised his fist in salute.
I couldn’t respond for the hollowness in my chest. It was like someone or something had pulled a plug and drained away my core. I feared what lay ahead, what Lake’s expression was telling me. I simply could not speak for fear my body, its organs, would shut down. The faraway voice was Rassler’s. “You okay, girl?” He gave me a side hug.
I think I nodded and watched six burly cops pry bikers off the body of the would-be assassin. I didn’t look down, though I knew he was dead. “Come with us,” Grady said gently, taking my gun and my elbow. As we left the O’Rourke family plot, I heard a murmur, and then a rousing number sprang from the speakers: “Bat out of Hell” by Meatloaf.
Lake walked behind us, jaws locked, eyes like hard brown granite. Better if they played AC/ DC’s “Highway to Hell” for me.
This was totally unplanned for today. I've been slowly moving all book-related material from my other blog to provide equal visibility for all. As I was finishing up this article, I began to think about today being Good Friday... the day Jesus died for all of us...
I began to consider this elaborate funeral for a biker... I wondered, what would a funeral be like if today was the day Jesus died?
Would you be attending?
I think a lot about His place in today's world, especially around those holidays set in memory of Him...
Crowds gather for big game days...
Crowds gather for rock concerts...
Crowds even gather for a popular biker...
Now, Easter is many times just about Easter eggs and bunnies...
Tell me, have you ever thought about the fact that every holiday that celebrates Jesus now has another different type of celebration...
And it's bigger, better, and costs lost of money?
I think about those types of things...It saddens me...