Showing posts with label Short story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short story. Show all posts

Bicycle Commute (Bim Angst)

Photo mash up:
Author Bim Angst with her bicycle

It was the first day. Not the first day of the bike commute, but the first day of that year’s bike commute. It was the first day of a renewed but not a new commitment.
Top ten reasons she liked the bike commute. But today it was a fat tire, not the sleek little Pinarello she so loved. The asphalt was wet. It has been a month since she was on a bike. She has been taking care of the man. He is laid up with both legs in immovable casts and he needs taking care of, which he knows and allows — not that he has a choice. But which he is seeming quite to like. Somebody else is doing the taking care of today. When she began the taking care of him, it mattered to her greatly — surprise surprise — that she be the one to do all the most very important of the taking care. It mattered to her that he like she was the main one taking/giving the care.
But today. So, it didn’t really matter which bike on which she did the commute. Editing will be needed. Wet asphalt, time away, strength in her legs diminished, who knew what loss in lung capacity. She made the sensible choice.
Order them ten to one. Whatever is at the bottom of a ten reasons list everybody will assume is number one anyway. Why is it usually ten? Top ten. Ok. That sounds nice. Two syllables both starting with hard Ts. Alliteration. Double, equal accent. Remember to harvest the sage. Not a dactyl. Not a trochee. That was three. Not an iamb. Something. Doesn’t matter. Look it up anyway.
Ten. Containment. Things aren’t getting out of hand. It will not go on forever, it will end, maybe shortly. That’s a splice. What was it they said, she read in some journal, about even very bright people being able to remember/handle a maximum of seven things at once? She doesn’t let them use the slash words. But they’re useful. Except when you read out loud. You have to make that chopping gesture in thin air. Point of view shift.
So why ten? Why not seven? Top seven reasons. Slow ones can’t cope with even seven. Three. Sometimes two.
Maybe don’t number the list. Just start in. By the third (numbering again), everybody will just get it’s a countdown. They always seem to confuse it’s and its. Who is this everybody? Not everybody reads. Especially those young people. Does texting count as reading? Sexting?
Number 7. Can’t help the numbering. Need order. Need structure. Even if it is imposed and does not organically take shape. Number 7: Because I live in a beautiful place. Every place is beautiful. Everywhere has its beauties. It’s a frame of mind. It’s a bike frame of mind! Bike frame, get it? Road surface doesn’t have to count, unless it’s good. They always ask her not to count the bad stuff. We live in a beautiful place.
Grit, potholes, washout, lots of broken glass. Beer bottles. Always beer bottles. Passing traffic, some bleeping horns right when they come up behind and scare her the way somebody can make you jump saying boo loud right in your ear when you don’t know they’re back there. They’re their there. They’re there in your hair.
Be fair. 100 pass. Maybe two honk. 98 is a good percentage. 200 pass, maybe one yells nice ass. Hot old bike chicks agree, honking means you have a nice ass. Flipping the bird means you have a nice ass. Yelling nice ass means you have a nice ass. Throwing a can means you have a nice ass. Getting out there on the bike means. No matter how slow you go. You’re out there. The kingfisher is out hunting today!
5000 pass maybe 1, if that, pulls up revving fast in a white sedan with a license plate you cannot read with your single distance no bi/trifocal goggles. Zooming revving up behind, laying hard hard hard on the horn, cruising alongside 30 yards still hard on the horn and then pulls off the horn and yanks hard to the right right in front to slam on the brakes and see if you smash into his back bumper and then he can complain you hit him or do you drop and burn sliding on the side of the road. Peels out. Waves goodbye. Flips the bird. Can you really hear him laughing? Why is it always a guy?
Maybe drivers think tooting the horn is a nice way to let you know they’re back there. Think that. Be generous. It is a beautiful place. One in maybe 5000, maybe not even. A lot more assholes when you drive the car. Road rage. Every stinking day rage. Especially on 422. It makes headlines. Often. People get arrested waving guns out there. Cara carries a gun on the bike. Yo, as Pat says, what’s that about?
The mountains. Never again move out of the mountains even though they’re harder when you’re on the bike. That which does not kill….Nietzsche. Pretty sure. There seems to be some capricious shifting going on.
Number 6: Because it makes me feel virtuous. This will not make the list, at least not this way, but such is what revision is for. One can revise one’s self into something like intelligence. Vonnegut, right? Credit. And a good heart. Clean thoughts. Burning calories not fossil fuels: Number 6. Why oh why do I keep forgetting to bring a snot rag?
Number 5: Half the day’s exercise is done before work. The other half is pretty much a given and you can’t crap out without embarrassing yourself now that you’ve announced you’re commuting by bike. So there. Stronger, better half sticks childish tongue out at weak, lazy, evil half. This is what is meant, partly, by commitment. Once you’re in so far, there’s no turning back. Except if you don’t proclaim intent, ain’t nobody know you didn’t ’ceptns you. Do you like you? Sometimes. Maybe a little bit most days. Most days. Not all. On the bike always.
Four miles, maybe five. Kicking in. Cooking cooking cooking. Booking booking booking. Number 4: It feels good! Number 1? Good chemical stew. Bathing in endorphins. Simmering in the marinade. Mixing metaphors. Synapses snapping. Burning off the toxins. Clarifying the butter. Does clarifying butter get rid of any of the cholesterol? Something about the brain. Which is connected to the heart. Real. Figurative. Metaphoric. Metaphysic. Is that a word? Think it and you alter capabilities.
Number 3: Get rid of cholesterol. Or some such stuff about health. It’s good for you. Me. Her. The cyclist. Cyclists in general. Anybody. Everybody. The general public. At least that which reads. Are people who read less obese?
Number 2. Don’t go there. What will be number 1? Stop those juvenile thoughts. You can’t skip number 2 and number 1 (even if you leave off the numbering) if you’re doing a top 10/7 list. What’s Number 3? Jiz? Giz? Comes/cums from gism? Jism? How is that spelled? Eat a good/better breakfast before you get on the bike. Everybody loves jiz. But. Butt. Here we go again. If they only knew. Don’t even think about Top Ten. Two Ts. T.T. Titties. I used titties in a story! Tits and ass. T&A T&A T&A.
Number 1: It’s good. It’s all good. Can you say that? Will anybody anywhere have any idea at all what all you mean? Good is relative. (Even if you don’t have good relatives, or what you think are good relatives. But that’s relative to. Too.) Come back. Stop circling. Cut through the mall/plaza parking lot and completely bypass the bottleneck. Right turns. That’s how FedEx does it. It is FedEx, right? UPS? Look that up. They won that award. For right turns. Get it right, right/correct, if you’re going to use it. Your going to use it. Feel free to make mistakes in a draft.
Number 2. Going back behind the Giant where the trucks unload is kind of like looking at the bowels of the American retail industry. Not deep into the bowels because then you’d have to get into the packing houses and sweat shops, the places where they wear white plastic suits and rubber gloves, condoms, where they wear galoshes because they’re slopping around in blood and guts, ear plugs so they don’t have to hear the screams, face masks so they don’t sneeze on the meat you eat. That rhymes. Does rhyme kill it? This is why you eat vegetables. (Evil twin inside, we know you so dearly love a good grilled steak, but we forgive you, you’re/your only human.) Try to be humane. Try harder.
Don’t think on this too deep. Deeply. The language is alive. Adjective. Adverb. Either okay now depending on how you look at it. No lumpers here. Do they have big hooks? (Did you read that as boobs or books?) Who unloads the trucks? The drivers? The stockboys? They’re not all boys anymore. But they are, aren’t they, still boys in that sense/way. It’s a different culture back here. Culture. Apply to everything. Like it. But that’s number three. Or number four. I like it. It makes me feel good. Same thing? Give up what makes you feel bad. Even if for a very short time it makes you think you feel good. Remember butter.
Number 1: You get to wear fluorescent green and shocking pink. Petty but true. Important. That sweet daughter who as a little girl got so very very angry/indignant when someone else picked out clothes and made her wear them. Minor but first first first. Even if you don’t put it there. Everybody should get on a bike. Pedal off this fat. There is no such thing anymore as a prosperous gut. Nobody under the age of 40 even knows what that means. Sweat. Smile. Get lean. Smile some more. Do it. Just do it (Nike ad). When you smile, you change the chemistry in your brain. Say hello. Change the world. Ha. Smell the neighborhood. Smell your own sweat. Sweet. They confuse that too. Sweet sweat. Sweat sweet. That’s a command. Listen to the voices. Make conversation. Cut pollution. Give up cars, have a little fun. Change the world one pedal stroke at a time. Really. It’s true. It’s all true.
Number 1: It takes more time. Maybe that’s the point. Press the button for the automatic door.
In the intervening time, she talked to very young people about commas, something she did that no longer seemed important in the same way it had seemed important when she first started talking to young people about things like commas, though now that it didn’t really matter if she did it well it was said she really did do it pretty well. How many words can you take to say something? But now the main point was not the commas but the way it pays the bills that pay for the rest.
And so today, not yesterday, as she sat down to the computer, she thought she should have written it yesterday, when it was all there in her head whole and perfect.


BIM ANGST lives with a small pack of big dogs and bicycles from Saint Clair, PA.

“Bicycle Commute” was originally published in Pennsylvania English, issues 33/34, Spring 2012.


“Bicycle Commute,” © 2012 by Bim Angst, has been posted on with permission from the author and may not be reposted or republished without permission.

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