Archive for June, 2017

Cult Bump


He had put himself alone almost immediately. Thursday night group ride from the brewery, six men out, together for the first mile. Then the expected surge at the front. Three fast men away, and caught by a red light with the slower duo. Good guys. Would have been a pleasure to ride with them. But a steady effort kept the leaders in sight, and a bit more pressure pulled them closer. They were strong men, soft-pedaling a bit to let him back on.  Everyone in limbo. It would take a good amount of energy to catch them, and much more to stay once they upped the pace. Two miles later he was on, and they descended together into Poolville.

“You must have had the hammer down to catch us like that.”

“Pretty clear to me that you guys didn’t have the hammer down.”

That was the salute.  He hung on for the short climb out and settled  comfortably into the last spot in the pace line. Mark pulled a couple miles miles, then John. Twenty three mph mostly. Easy enough to hang on. He decided to do his duty and got to the front, Cateye reading lower twenties. About a kilo in the train went by,  too fast to board. The big boys were warmed up and racing, and he shouted for them to go.

Twelve miles later he killed the front flasher and rolled, alone, back down the brewery driveway. Flashy new jersey. Loose stone. Spectators at the outdoor tables. Well done. Blared the car horn accidentally struggling out of his cleats, but what the hell, he had a story.

He offered the first rendition to the two riders he had left behind, one of them the titular host of the ride. Indoors, he kept it snappy. A report fitted in between their bites of pizza and grilled cheese.  The second five ounce beer made him brave.

“Mind if I join you, ladies?”

Beth and Zoe, the wives of two friends who were still out on the off-road ride. Early forties, and as radiant as can be. He imagined that if he were to ever blog post his story, his friend RR would protest for more detail on these two. They had no food.

“How are you?!?!”

They seemed delighted.

“Not bad for an old guy.”

Beth’s response made him remember that she’d encouraged him once before, on a ride that left from her house. “You’ll be fine” she’d said that time, and she’d been right.

“You’re not that old.”

He smiled.

“Yes. Yes….I am exactly that old.”

Smiles all around.

“Well I’m pretty thoroughly beaten up. Twelve miles of John and those guys and I’d had enough of that.”

Smiles and nods. Both husbands were tough nuts on a bike.

“But I did have an adventure.”

A sunny summer evening at a picnic table. Four eyebrows raised.

“”I peeled off to SC Road to leave those guys at it, figuring to take River Road back here. And where SC hits River there’s a short little climb, and as I came up it I could see an Amish buggy coming down River, so I prepared to wave and be friendly. Once up onto River though, I could see the buggy pulled over on the shoulder, man and woman standing in the front, two little kids standing in the back, and all peering down into the ditch. As I got closer I started to glimpse another buggy, this one in the ditch and practically upside down. As I slowly passed I asked if they needed help.”

Zoe and Beth looked apprehensive. Perhaps I was telling it well.

“”No, but thanks for asking. We don’t even know what happened.”

The man had reins in his hand. As I rolled slowly past the scene I could see that a very substantial county route sign, the sign and steel post, were bent flat to the shoulder. Bent right at ground level. I thought about the phone in my pocket. I knew the Amish didn’t have one. I circled back and asked:

“Are there people down there?”

The man clucked his cheek and the horse took a step forward. A little girl, two or three, flipped off the back of the cart. She landed right on her head.””

As the ladies gasped and grabbed their faces he remembered the tumbling dress and bonnet. He remembered saying “You lost your baby”.  He remembered that the impact had sounded like a bag of potatoes dropped from a height onto the pavement. He did not mention the sound, but indicated the height with his hand.

“About four feet, I’d say.”

He could not leave the mothers of a collective eight children there for long.

“And she jumped right up and started crying.”

He remembered saying “You’re okay baby.” The relief washed over him again as he granted it to the ladies. He had been surprised to see the child jump up. He’d caught a brief glimpse of the side of her face, crying, from five feet away.

“So the man handed the woman the reins, came back and hooked the little girl under the arms and took her to the woman. He took the reins as he got back on the wagon, clucked again, and they drove off down the road. And as they rolled away, the man and woman both were looking over their shoulders at me with big, laughing smiles on their faces.”

The story had survived the crashing relief of an undead child. His listeners were not fanning themselves but leaning in to grasp the surrealness of his experience. Where had he learned to tell stories like this?

“So I was alone, or so I hoped. When they rolled off like that I was inclined to think it was foul play of some sort. I could see splintered wood at the back of the wrecked buggy. It was well off the shoulder in a deep ditch with tall grass all around it. I thought about calling 911, but I didn’t. I went down in the ditch the best I could with my cleats on and braced myself on the buggy and peeked inside. No one inside. But it was clear, if only from the road sign, that there had been some violence, probably with a car involved. A hit and run? I decided to call 911 before I started looking through the brush and jungle for victims. Operator asked my location first, then the nature of my emergency, and then assured me that they were aware of an incident there and that it had occurred earlier in the day. I said thank you.”

“So they were just there gawking?”

“Maybe. Maybe they were trying to figure out how to pull the wreck out, but the man told me they didn’t know what happened.”

He thought of the little girl and wished he’d caught that train. He told himself to try harder next time.