Monday, June 13, 2011

Chopper Boy and the Queen

With a little bit of shame, I admit to being judgemental of people I see walking along the road. Not if they have on exercise clothes, mind you. Clearly, people in exercise clothes are . . . you know . . . exercising. But when people are walking in normal clothes, I tend to have one of those "Why don't they have a car?" moments. I know. Not fair. But . . . why don't they have a car?

Anyway, with my writer's eye, I just tend to try to figure out the individuals I see plodding as I zip by in my status-symbol of a 1999 Saturn, with its manual tranny and custom, manual window-lowering mechanisms. (Yeah, my whip. That's how I roll.)

Today, I was taking my sons over to Grandmom and Grandpop's for sugary, salty afternoon of treats, cartoons and video game-filled joy, and I passed two folks on the side of the road. They didn't have a car, but they did have a tricked-out bike. (By the way -- did you know Melville used the phrase "tricked-out" in Moby Dick to describe a ship? Word.) The bike had a chopper wheel on the front -- you know, the long fork and handlebars so high up you have to reach for them like you are about to do a pull-up. It was pristine, with chrome everything and a big honker-horn on the front.

The guy who was walking it along was about forty-five, in a shirt and tie. It was 90 degrees out and he had the top button done up and the knot up to the Adam's apple. He was followed by a woman, his age, with short hair brushed back and tightly smoothed with something shiny. She was dressed well, too -- khaki pants and a red shirt with white, flowery things on it. Heels, too. (Who am I, Mr. Blackwell?)

They didn't look happy. Maybe they had found a fingerprint on the bike.

So the question wasn't so much why they didn't have a car but why they had that bike -- that bike . . . and, well, you can fill in the other twenty-five questions.

I watched them in my rear-view. They stopped to light cigarettes. She lit his.

I'd forgotten about them until I passed them on the way back. I was driving across a two-laned bridge that bore a lot of traffic. They were riding against the flow of cars, wobbling precariously with her on the handlebars. I caught her again in my rear-view. She was perched comfortably -- cigarette wagging and spinning out twirling smoke like a ribbon dancer -- with an arrogant expression on her face that a two-time prom queen would have envied.

I crested the rise in the bridge, and they were gone.

In my driveway, I took a good look at my Saturn. Maybe I'll give it a good waxing one of these days. Not stinking likely, but the thought does occur to me from time to time.

Or maybe I'll take a long Whitmanesque walk, tomorrow. He used to hike around these parts, you know. His old summer house is five minutes from my place. I wonder if people used to wonder why he didn't have a horse.

I wonder if the bike couple are poets.

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