Monday, October 20, 2008

My Six-Fingered Man

I just finished reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I've seen the movie about a dozen times -- though not as many times as my wife, who can proudly quote just about anything in the film: Cliffs of Insanity, Miracle Max, Battle of Wits, you name it. I'd meant to actually see the words on paper for years, but never quite got around to it until now -- which, as Vizzini (played in the film by the incomparable Wallace Shawn) would say, is "inconceivable!"

After I finished up, I went for a bike ride, Goldman's wonderful characters and hilarious asides still fresh in my mind. As I got warmed up and felt my legs settle into a rhythm, I kept hearing the voice of Mandy Patinkin as the vengeance-seeking Inigo Montoya, facing down the six-fingered man who took his father's life. "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. HELLO, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. HELLO! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I ride my bike for a lot of reasons. It's fun. It gives me an excuse to take things apart and put them back together. It gets me to work or to the store. It lets me live out fantasies of being faster or stronger than I really am. It reminds me of being a kid. But the one I don't face up to often is my very own six-fingered man. My father had his first heart attack at age 44 when I was a teenager. He survived. His second came at age 50, when I was in college. He survived again, though not by much. And his final heart attack struck at age 54, when I was just 28 years old. That one ended his life.

You don't get to duel with heart disease. You don't get a climactic battle scene in a castle, your sword flashing, blood pouring from your wounds, your enemy vanquished. All you get is another day marked off the calendar, another day healthy, another day survived, an endless series of scratches tick-marked in the enemy's flesh. But when I'm out riding, feeling the strength of my own heart banging against my ribs, I feel like I'm winning. I can look my enemy in the face and see the fear in his eyes.

Hello. My name is Jason Nunemaker. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

10 comments:

Tarik Saleh said...

Beautiful post Jason. Keep on riding.

Anonymous said...

While you're at it, when are you going to Publish A Book? Your writing is gorgeous, wonderful to read. Please.

Harry H said...

This is a wonderful post. The Princess Bride was a movie I got to watch often in college and never thought about from your point of view. I'm going to go get on my bike now and duel with my 6 fingered man.

Jason Nunemaker: said...

Anonymous... I'd dearly love to get my collection of short stories and essays off my hard drive and into print, but I haven't collected enough rejection slips to wallpaper the office just yet. Give me a couple more years of futility.   :-)

beth h said...

Omigod. What a beautiful post.

I have a couple of these things lurking in my subconscious, too (one for each parent, neither of whom lived to be 70). Thank you for putting into perfect prose the demons, genetic and otherwise, that I outrun by riding my bicycle.

crankedmag said...

Much agreed! Great post. Also something I mentally battle every day as well. Glad to be a cyclist for life.

nollij said...

Awesome post Jason. I lost my father last year and it brought out the best of my writing: http://tinyurl.com/5zxmvy

You had me in tears again.. thanks a lot dude: you're making strangers cry!

Gentleman Scholar said...

This is the perfect post. Allez!

reverend dick said...

good one.

workbike said...

Well said that man: a great post.