So this is what a machete can do to a man.
One hundred stitches on his left forearm. Sixty-five on his right thigh. Forty on his right thumb. Eight on his chest. If Blaine Hodge were a superhero, he might choose a moniker like Zipper Man, because he now has them all over his body.
Turns out he is a superhero. Hodge can probably come up with a better superhero name, but his superhero resume is solid. Any leotard-wearing crusader would have to admire the way he jumped in the way of a crazed man's swinging machete and almost certainly saved a woman's life.
Here's the crazy part: Hodge is a rapper, actor, singer, songwriter and spoken-word artist who is just wrapping up work on an album of songs he calls "The Mind of a Hero," which in part plays on his fascination with Japanese anime and ... superheroes.
"Conscious hip-hop," he calls it.
Now he is his own best inspiration.
Last Sunday morning, a little after 11, Hodge was sitting with a friend, Joe Harris, near the front door of a Starbucks cafe on Stockdale Highway when a woman burst inside, screaming for help. A moment later a man, dressed head to toe in black, followed her in — and he had a foot-and-a-half long blade at his side.
Seeing this, Hodge said, "I was already moving."
The woman leapt over the counter and the man, moving purposefully, followed her into the baristas' station. And the hacking began.
Hodge found himself between them, initially pleading with the attacker to stop, then trying to physically restrain him. Hodge, 27, is a powerfully built man, but the alleged attacker — later identified by police as Robert Daniel Rivas, 31 — seemed stronger.
As cafe patrons and all but one Starbucks employee darted out the door, the assailant turned and started swinging his machete at Hodge; the distraction allowed the 29-year-old female victim, who police would not identify, to escape.
The assailant swung his machete wildly, forcefully. He hacked Hodge on the shin so viciously he sliced away an eight-inch flap of muscle that then hung from Hodge's leg like an extra tongue. He hacked Hodge on the forearm and on his right hand, cutting to the tendon of his thumb.
Hodge partially blocked one swing that would have probably opened up his chest cavity. The machete grazed him in two places; the fresh scab now on his chest is evidence of the blade missing his right nipple by a quarter inch.
Just when Hodge was regaining his balance and starting to better assert himself, he slipped, banana-skin style, on the pooled blood and hit the floor hard. "I wish they had one of those thick rubber mats back here," he said he actually remembers thinking.
As Hodge scrambled to his feet, the attacker scanned the now-empty cafe for any sign of the woman. He must have spotted her blood trail but instead hopped the counter and walked out the front door of the cafe.
Someone had called 911, and two CHP officers who'd been eating lunch at the Chipotle restaurant just across Stockdale Highway were the first to appear. Hodge staggered out the front door, adrenaline still surging through him, just in time to see their patrol car fly past the Starbucks and down Marsha Street. Hodge imagines they followed the trail of blood dripping from the machete — his blood — to find and arrest the man.
Both Hodge and the female victim were admitted to Kern Medical in critical condition. Hodge went home Wednesday evening after a four-day stay. The female victim's condition is not known, but a friend of hers — a brother in Christ, he called himself – stopped by Hodge's room Tuesday to convey her gratitude.
Hodge, a 2010 Ridgeview High School graduate who works at the State Farm building as a supervisor for Trans West Security, spends much of his off-time organizing standup comedy and hip-hop shows, including a one-Sunday-a-month event at the Padre Hotel, from 5 to 9 p.m., called Sundays on Central Avenue. It's scheduled for this Sunday — or was. Hodge is leaning toward postponement, which of course seems entirely justified.
Hodge is also involved in mentoring programs and annual Kwanza celebrations, his sister Faheemah Salahud-Din told me in the hallway outside his popular hospital room.
Hodge credits his friend and roommate Evan Ross for teaching him a few moves that seem to have paid off in the life-and-death scuffle. Ross is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo who was the American Taekwondo Association's 2008 California first-degree 14- to 16-year-old boys sparring champion.
Hodge also speaks of the overwhelming support he has received.
"Thank you to everyone who has been sending love," he told me as I left him Wednesday.
Rivas, who has a domestic violence conviction on his record from 2014, has been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and resisting arrest. His court date on those charges has not been set.
Hodge will be out of action for a while, which will certainly give him time to further reflect on his "mind of a hero" project. He'll no doubt replay Sunday's events in his hero's mind many times.
"It's not how I pictured it," he said. "It's definitely not as graceful."
People have been calling Hodge a good Samaritan. Let's get our Bible stories straight. Hodge is no good Samaritan.
The good Samaritan helped a stranger who'd been beaten up and robbed and left for dead. Hodge jumped in front of a machete and saved a life. The Samaritan was good, but the perps who left that poor guy on the side of the road were long gone by the time he came along.
"Good" isn't an adequate description of Zipper Man.
Those interested in helping Hodge financially — he'll be out of action for at least six weeks and could have permanent damage to his right hand — can visit his Go Fund Me account (www.gofundme.com/63hm6qo) or write: Blaine Hodge, P.O Box 22707, Bakersfield, CA 93390.
Hodge is planning an album release show Sept. 29 at Sandrinis Public House in Bakersfield. The album will be available for sale online shortly afterward. For details, visit soundcloud.com/staticssound/flaws-prod-by-inflicta