Length of a Heartbeat


The beat of the human heart is less than half a second…

It always amazes me how busy these big truck stops can be. Some cover acres, with restaurant facilities, truck-fueling stations, an automobile complex, and a convenience store. They generally have good prices and clean restrooms, so I’ll stop if they coincide with my needed fuel stops.

As is my habit, after fueling the bike I had pulled her off the pumps and into a parking place in front of the store. I usually grab a drink and lean on the bike, checking maps or other gear and generally preparing myself for the next leg of the trip.

I had just about finished my drink, and was on the right side of the bike facing her. A mini-van had pulled up behind me (to the bike’s right) and as I was about to mount up and get out of this busy place I was vaguely aware that the left passenger door of the mini-van (I did not know before this that they had passenger doors on the left on minivans…) popped open.

“Carla NOOOOO!” It was a woman’s voice, and what started in a scolding tone was a scream of horror by the end of the second word.

I had caught a flash of motion in my peripheral vision so I turned to my left…toward the parking lot and away from the frantic voice.


I dropped my unfinished drink. It seemed to fall in slow motion.

Between the van and my bike a small blonde girl was sprinting out into the main lot. Out into the traffic lane. She was almost at the end of the mini-van. My eyes widened as I realized there was traffic. The car was moving at least 20mph.

Now facing the back of the bike, the bike on my right, the van on my left, and the main lot in front of me, the car was moving fast from right to left. If the girl ran out from between the vehicles, she would get hit. Not could. Would.


Adrenalin surged. One step, two steps, three steps! This fat guy can MOVE. There was no way I could stop, but that didn’t matter. She would be in front of the car, I would just hit the side of it.

Her arm rose as she was running. With my left hand I reached for it…there was little hope of reaching it in time.


I lunged and stretched…

Snag. I got her upper arm, just above the elbow. It was not a clean grab.

Time! Oh jheeze…I can’t hold…

There was no time to reset the grip. Raw strength would have to do–I’ve got plenty of it. Lord help me…I can still feel the flesh crush…

I wear skin-tight light leather riding gloves when the conditions are warm enough. Good ones fit tightly but comfortably, never slip on my hand, and increase my grip in most conditions. Good ones are hard to find and are a bit expensive. I think I paid thirty bucks for this pair. I’d have paid thousands if I knew what they would do for me today.

I jerked hard and spun around to my left, yanking her out from under the front of the car. I then promptly smashed hard into the side of it. Plastic and metal crunched and glass shattered under the stunning impact. The side mirror was crushed off and the driver’s window broke out. I could actually feel the car give…

As the car continued on I went flying. I ended up hitting the side of the mini-van, breaking the side-back window out of it as well and leaving an impressively large Danny-shaped dent. When the world stopped spinning I was sitting on the ground, back against the van, the girl in my arms.


It was all I could do to work up the coordination to release her when her mother tried to take her. Pry bars couldn’t have done it without my cooperation.

I handed the girl to the mother, looked her in the eyes a long moment, tried and failed to speak, and then let out one long breath I did not know I had been holding. I slowly wrapped my arms around my knees, put my head down, and shook. The aftermath of an adrenalin surge like that is difficult to describe to someone that has not experienced it…I could have crushed rocks with my bare hands…but suffice it to say there is a terrible price to pay and you will be incapacitated for a moment or three afterwards.

I have to admit it though. There was more to it than that. I was sobbing. As in uncontrolled crying my eyes out. 300-pound, leather-jacket wearing, tough, biker-dude sitting on the ground with his head on his knees and sobbing.

See, until I fetched up against the van I really didn’t know. Well…that’s not really true. I was actually pretty sure…

I thought I’d lost her…

I don’t think anyone else can truly know…I don’t think I can really explain…just how CLOSE it really was. A matter of fractions of an inch. A matter of fractions of a heartbeat. I can still see the car’s front tire…can read the size and make…can tell you it was going to run clean over her torso…but really, I am not sure I can explain.

I really thought I’d lost her…

The grab…the one that wasn’t clean…had I turned toward the scream…had I not been already wearing my gloves…had it been colder and I was wearing other gloves…had I not wanted a drink at this stop…had I dawdled a second longer at any of the last THREE THOUSAND MILES…that grab would have failed.

When I looked up the paramedics were there. I idly wondered how they got there so fast (I would later learn it took them 11 minutes…just where did the time go?) and why they had two ambulances…one should be enough to check out the girl’s arm. The fire-trucks and a bunch of cops were rolling too. (I would find out later that the car didn’t stop…hit and run).

They must have thought I was pretty badly injured. There was thousands of dollars of damage to the van, and an impressive amount of debris (trim, mirror, tons of glass) in the parking lot from my impact with the other car. I probably furthered their impression as when they asked me who I was (and what year it was, yada yada) I found that first I had to spit out glass and some blood. I think I bit my lip!


How close? I don’t think anyone but me will ever know…but maybe they can get some idea…while the paramedics did their thing, I could not stop staring at the girl’s upper arm. There was an extremely intense bruise already there. It was showing what I already knew. The grab…the one that wasn’t clean…the imprint was clearly there. Two fingers and the thumb. Only the top joint of each. That’s all I had.

Two fingers and a thumb.


Hug ’em if you’ve got ’em folks.

I’m gonna go have some nightmares now.

Daniel Meyer

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