Hill to Die On
Rodney sat behind the wheel of his souped up Chevrolet.
Becky leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek for luck.
"You can take him, Hot Rod," all he needed her to say;
For a second, he ignored the revving engine of the truck,
The one poised beside him, the one he was about to race,
The one who had never lost on this makeshift drag strip,
A rural two lane on the outskirts of town, this place;
Soon "mark set go," steering wheel clenched in his grip.
Speed shifting was a thing Rodney did well, call it skill.
As they approached the finish line, up above, on a grade,
Rodney glanced, saw the truck slacking, time for the kill;
He shifted down into overdrive, seeing his opponent fade.
In an instant, clear as glass, he heard a still small voice,
"Is this the hill you want to die on" was what it relayed.
Losing his concentration, or call it nerve, then by choice,
His foot disengaged the accelerator, his speed delayed.
The truck sped by in a flash, then swerved into his lane,
A successful move avoided a head-on with a blinded raccoon.
Thanks to Rodney, neither driver, or critter, was slain,
No one but that driver saw, but never said, by light of moon.
Seeing his life flash before his eyes, brought sense of relief;
Hearing the cheers of the crowd. that was soon pushed aside.
Hot Rod's shot at teenage glory, as well as Becky's belief,
Vanished in that night; and overlooked, he might have died.
When production comes to town, the locals tend to not stray,
Rodney found good factory work, drawing a machinist wage.
A wildcat strike emptied the factory; Rodney was on his way
To join in with the dissenters, most caught up in a rage.
This all came about by a slacker, being justly taken to task.
Rather than face the music, he chose to disrupt and incite.
He misled his cohorts, seeking to hide behind a union's mask.
In time word spread throughout the plant. It was time to fight.
Taking time to stall his lathe, made Rodney last in the chain.
Soon he found his way to a bay door, above the parking lot.
Something came over him, looking down on this sea of disdain;
A feeling once known, but over time set aside to be forgot.
"Is this the hill you wish to die on, choice yours to make?"
This was all it took to give him pause, and choose to halt.
As violence erupted before him, he did not make that mistake.
Even though he knew some coworkers would condemn his fault.
The police were called to the the plant, security force's aid.
Mob rule succumbed to clubs and steel cuffs on random wrists.
The union failed to sanction the protest when truth was said.
The voice of reason, on this occasion, beat the rule of fists.
Rodney lost some friends that night from a word to the wise.
Deep down, he knew, true friends don't put you in harm's way.
With new positions to train, Rodney was a choice to supervise;
His just reward for maintaining his cool, and not going astray.
For a night shift worker, a family diner is a favored haunt.
Often, Rodney would treat himself, rather than pack a lunch.
A meat and three, with dessert and all the coffee you want;
For a late night fellow, the want of coffee packs a punch.
This was a typical evening, sounds of ironstone and silverware
Tempered the sounds of voices, passing time, enjoying a meal.
The bandits came unnoticed, until one said, "Hands in the air!"
Within seconds, the room went silent, at this scene surreal.
As one man rushed the counter, the other guarded the entrance.
Demands were made to open the register, with a pistol to show.
Rodney had his own, concealed, waiting for his proper chance;
Seeing nervous eyes guard the door, his nerve began to grow.
Sitting calmly at his table, while slowly reaching behind,
That same still voice, he recognized, came to calm his hand.
"Is this the hill you choose to die on? You may soon find,
Innocent lives might well be lost in a fatal foolish stand."
Rodney snapped back to reality, placed his hands on the table,
By this time, pick pocketing was now part of the robber's plan.
He piled as much loot on an empty table cloth as he was able;
When he frisked Rodney, feeling his gun, he turned and ran.
Once out the door, the villains never made it to their ride.
Police had gotten word of the robbery from a passing stranger.
No shots were fired. When "Hands up" arose, the men complied.
Relief came to all, especially Rodney, at passing of danger.
Some men go through life, known as average, if that, at best.
To the average man on the street, no deeds to be revered.
Their comings and goings never noted, or granted manifest.
To some, but not all, a life between shade and shadow feared.
Not all are destined to lead a parade or to win a vaunted race.
Rare is one who leads a revolt and stands above to persevere.
Few ever feel the warm effects of a hero's welcoming embrace.
Valor is its own reward, though seemingly never made clear.
Is the destiny of all accomplishments, great or small, to fade?
Or, are all worthy endeavors subject to a level of acclaim?
Many such exploits go unnoticed along life's passing parade,
But as such, are recorded, for all of those who this way came.
In this scene, we find Rodney, resting in a state of recline.
Lately, it has become a struggle for him to get up and walk.
He is surrounded by friends and generations of his bloodline.
With closed eyes, he tries to hear all said, as they talk...
"Taught me to ride a bicycle, wouldn't hear of training wheels."
"To the lake, would not stop until I caught the biggest fish."
"Showed me how to swing a bat so I'd know how a home run feels."
"Christmas Day at his house was always my best holiday wish."
Such reverence in reminiscing, brings a smile to Rodney's heart,
Interrupted by a still small voice, he's known before them all.
"Is this the hill you want to die on? If so, time to start."
Quietly without fanfare, he sees the gate, his final call...
Michael Todd (2016)