bike fiction

How I came to be here

I never knew my folks. Somehow it seems funny to refer to my biological parents as folks, as if they were decent. All I can remember was moving from one foster home to the next. Sometimes I’d get moved because they had too many kids as it was. Foster parenting is a good business for those who like working from home. Other times I’d get moved for being a jerk.

I made it through several high schools and received a diploma. During senior year I was offered a learning opportunity at a bike shop. The idea was that I would work for a small stipend, while learning a trade, and become a productive citizen. Joe at the shop was one of the first good people I’d met. He convinced me to give up smoking. He claimed that real cyclists only drank beer, and only after a long ride. It wasn’t long before I moved from sweeping the shop and taking out the trash to building up the new stock. As time passed Joe taught me to build wheels and gave me lessons on the intricacies of the cycling world.

One day Joe gave me a new bike as gift for completing a year of loyal service. My first ride on the trails was less than inspiring. I went over the bars a dozen times and each time the bike came with me. But it didn’t take long. Joe imparted some important pointers like how to look ahead on the trail and not directly in front. His theory was that your eyes worked faster than your brain and that you must fix your gaze ahead at all times. In this way you could flow through the trail without thought, just keeping an eye on the present.

Within a few months I entered the first race of the season. When the horn blew I bolted out front and never looked back. The pain of pedaling at maximum potential erased all memories of being in a race and suddenly I was across the finish line ten minutes ahead of number two, heart in my throat. By the end of the season I was sponsored.

My racing career eventually came to an end after several years. I was never a true contender when it came to facing guys with lungs like beach balls and legs like Christmas hams. I was just angry. But my short-lived fame landed me a job with one of the big bike companies as a sales rep. Riding took a back seat to working. My nights were spent in cheap hotel rooms and my days were spent on the road or in suburban bike shops hawking three thousand dollar bikes to guys who would never leave the paved trail.

One night I bummed a cigarette from the guy next to me at the bar. After my first inhale I ordered a gin fizz. It wouldn’t be long before I was fired for poor job performance.

I sat in my one room basement apartment chain smoking and drinking straight gin All I could do was mope and collect unemployment checks.
Months passed me by in a state of drunken haze. My bike collection had dwindled to one old clunker that wouldn’t sell.

I had to do something with myself. I rummaged through my things and found the last few old bike tools I hadn’t yet pawned. My bike was leaning against the wall in the corner of the room. The tires were flat. I cleared the center of the room and leaned the bike against a chair. Slowly I started striping it down. With each piece that came off my focus and intention to get it back in running order became keener.

In my toolbox was a near empty tube of bike lube. I grabbed an old t-shirt from one my sponsors and began to clean and reassemble the old bike. Every piece that went back on was inspected and greased and tightened to perfection. Anything unnecessary was discarded.

By midnight the bike was finished. After setting the bike back against the wall I made a big pile in the middle of the room of all the things I wanted to strip from my life. In went racing jerseys and medals, empty bottles and cigarette packs, junk mail that had been collecting on the table by the door, old letters that I never mailed, magazines, empty pizza boxes, clothes I no longer wore, and finally my last bottle of gin and a half pack of smokes. I tossed it all into a couple of garbage bags and walked them out to the dumpster behind the convenience store by my apartment.

In the morning I rode over to Joe’s shop to see if I could get my old job back. Joe was gone but I got the job.

No comments: