A blast rang out behind us.
My eyes shot to Andrew. He had already turned to me. Our eyes met for a split second, confusion between us. Then we grabbed the back of the sofa and wrenched our bodies around.
Several car lengths back was a semi truck and trailer. Gray smoke poured from the trailer’s left side, from the wheels on the inside of the road. A blowout. In the smoke, a dark mass pulsed, in rhythm with the truck’s speed. The shredding tire was rolling off its rim and with each rotation of the wheel, the distended rubber flapped more wildly. Within the first ten turns of the wheel, the rubber came off, the driver not even having had a chance to slow down.
Andrew and I had been so focused behind us that we gave no thought to oncoming traffic. There hadn’t been any. But at the pinnacle of rubbery discharge, that precise instant the rim threw the tire, a motorcycle–traveling in the opposite direction–appeared.
The tattered tire was in motion, vicious and cyclonic. Its trajectory looked to intersect that of the motorcyclist. Did he have any idea what was about to happen? Smoke rolled out from under the trailer, distracting, obstructing. He wouldn’t know to look for a chunk of rubber flying for him. How could he know he would need to dodge one?
The paths intersected. The projectile was true to its target. The man was struck by the rubber.
At that exact moment, the motorcycle and its operator vanished into the trailer’s cloud of smoke.
The rubber reappeared, spinning along the far side of the road, its momentum altered.
“What’s going on, guys?” Scott called back.
We ignored him. We didn’t have an answer. We were still waiting to see the outcome.
A break in the smoke. The motorcycle was still up, the operator’s feet still poised on the pegs while his hands had a death grip on the bars—he was caught in the dreaded wobble. The bike gyrated between his legs, too far left, too far right, too far left, too far right, like a spinning top about to topple.