Bern pedaled at a constant cadence of 75 rpm in the lower level of the main Smith Compound residence. A video screen in front of him showed the scene from a camera making its way along a trail somewhere in a rain forest in Costa Rica. His background music faded to nothing, then into Jim Morrison singing about the end of something.
What’s ending? What came before? Was I this high the last time I heard the song or is that my imagination? I don’t think it was what Frank and I listened to in his basement somewhere back in our long ago but who can remember something like that after a few hits of black Afghan? The hot dogs F boiled up didn’t last long. I’ll never forget that part. Exactly which song was playing doesn’t matter, but I always wonder what happened to F after that and if he had indeed killed himself and why no one ever told me. I hope I wasn’t responsible because I wasn’t a better friend. It’s not that I’m high now, because I’m not, but the sync between the video and The End is just too fitting down here. I’m trippin’ and seeing so many things in a different way as the trail bends left and right and climbs above the greenery and across one footbridge and on to another and then I’m in another basement looking for the Christmas presents Rosemary and Dr. Bobby had hidden in the crawl space, on the far side from the stairs so we had to go around the furnace where the Devil lived if we wanted to peek. There was no demon in the next few basements. Just memories of hiding and imagining and talking on the phone beneath my sisters’ bedroom, and sweeping and mopping and checking to see how much oil was left and if termites had left more tracks, and long-forgotten photo albums, and a bobby whistle and a roller skate key that I still carry around sometimes in case of an emergency and to help me remember even though some things can never be forgotten.
Good to see friends at a table in the covered beer garden
on a cool October evening as sky darkens early
from the smoke of not-so-distant wildfires.
The acrid, burnt-forest ambience thickens
and ash begins to decorate the smart device
that sits next to my pint of craft lager,
telling us it's time to put on our masks
and go home.
Experienced cyclists like Mrs. Smith and yours truly know a good bit about avoiding road hazards. I learned some of that the hard way – once by going too fast around a curve on an asphalt trail that was covered in wet leaves, for example, and once by hitting a rough railroad crossing at a bad angle in the rain.
Some of the scariest moments on a bicycle involve children, the scary part being fear of running into and hurting them. After witnessing a number of hazardous situations the other day on some busy, beautiful trails in Summit County, I thought it might be good to state the obvious that is not obvious to everyone.
You are not quick enough to avoid hitting a child who swerves into your path if you are riding as fast as you want to. Slow down. Trust me. A child walking or pedaling on a trail or anywhere else will be in your way at some point. They are learning.
Many adults are still learning. Some never will.
Don’t assume a cyclist or pedestrian you’re passing hears you say, “Passing on your left.” Not everyone has good hearing, and many others are listening to music or podcasts.
Far too many people will not give you a polite “Passing on your left” as they approach you from behind.
You cannot trust anyone who is driving a car, truck or other motor vehicle. That includes me. We are human and we all make mistakes, not to mention those who are drunk, texting or otherwise negligent.
You cannot trust other cyclists, so be responsible for your own safety. I’ve had a cycling friend yell out that a road was clear to cross only to see him nearly hit by a speeding car a second or two later. Always check for yourself.
Today, for example, I dropped my Colorado primary ballot in the box at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. That didn’t make my day, but the act of voting did give me some satisfaction as the next step in sending Sen. Cory Gardner from Washington, D.C., back to the Eastern Plains.
I voted on the way home from picking up my monitor and keyboard from the big building on a hill above Boulder where I’ve spent most of the last nine years doing my day job. After more than three months of working from my basement office, I finally accepted that it could be months if not years before I go back to the big building. A few people have returned so far, but most of us still don’t have that choice. My ultimate choice may be to work from home indefinitely, as much as I miss the view from Boulder.
That thing about retrieving my monitor and other stuff so I don’t have to use the company-issued laptop all by itself didn’t make my day either. It was a sad thing.
What made my day was having a little short story accepted for publication in an online journal. It took maybe 90 minutes to write a couple of months ago. After a handful of rejections, the first flash fiction I’ve written in years has found a home. It may or may not have something to do with a kite.
If you read my story when it’s published next month, it will take you however long it takes to read about 630 words. That’s the flash part – few words that go by fast.