FC: It's just that easy
1: The wind over her windscreen came to hush as she pulled up to the light. She held the heavy clutch to the floor and backed off the accelerator letting the engine come to a purring idle. Taping the gas, the big block growled, its torque rocking the freshly waxed, silver vehicle. She smiled. The 1977 International Scout was probably one of the greatest off-road machines ever built. At least, that’s what her uncle would say time and again, he in the driver’s seat and her slowly gaining vision over the dashboard. He’d add, “And it’s the last year that doesn’t need an emissions check.” For some reason he’d always grin at this. Smiling, she raised her eyes and deftly manipulated the gear, clutch and accelerator in response to the green light. The Scout lurched forward and began to descend the hill before her. Coming to the next cross street, the light changed first to yellow then red, demanding she stop. “Damn these, cursed lights.” She muttered, downshifting and checking the rearview for anyone breaking hard behind her. Instead of a car, she spotted a bicycle coming up quickly and making to pass on the right. She rotated her head catching the rider as he swished by the open top of her Scout. She watched the bike slow slightly as it approached the red light, and then accelerate as the rider pedaled through the empty intersection. “Rules don’t’ apply” She thought following him though the red light with her gaze. Further down the hill, bike and rider overtook a dusty brown pickup going through a green light before disappearing to view. She moved her truck forward with the changing of the light and checked the time on her dashboard. A few red lights later she finally nosed her short machine into the gravel parking lot of Old Town coffee house. The large tires padded over pebbles, and she pulled into a space near the brick building. The late afternoon sun came in hot through the open top, shining from over her left shoulder. Built on a hill, Old Town offered panoramic views of the bay. It had a deck that wrapped around most of the southwest facing wall like one you might find in an old western. Upon this porch sat a man, legs crossed, inhaling the aroma of fresh brewed espresso. She recognized him as the man who raced past her idle Scout not fifteen minutes earlier. His eyes came up from the cup, touching her eyes for the briefest of moments. Then he turned his stare to the ever approaching sunset. With the horizontal rays of the low sun, the glass door before her framed her image in gold. She was somewhat tall, slender through the waist and had the square shoulders of a swimmer. Her dark blue shirt and cutoff jean shorts contrasted sharply with her winter whitened arms and legs. Reaching for the door handle she made a mental note to get down the park for a little sun worship.
2: A few strands of her near black hair lifted on the wind as she stepped through the coffee house entrance. It seemed rather empty for such a gorgeous afternoon, but she spotted her friend and made her way to the kneehigh round table. Her friend leaned back casually cradling her bowl of cappuccino and grinning softly up from deep cushions. Approaching the table she smiled exposing two rows of straight white teeth, “Have you been waiting long?” she asked. “No, not long. Just long enough to sit back and take in this view.” She followed the eyes of her friend as they swept through the café and out the wall of windows that looked upon the water and curve of the bay. Old Town reminded her of her grandmother’s mountain house in Montana. It’s A-frame architecture, perfect for the winter snow, reached high to the ceiling and created one wall for windows. How she had loved to watch the sunrise while everyone slept. She let the thought go and turned to the counter to order her drink. “Double espresso” she requested. “Let’s sit outside.” They agreed, her friend dislodging herself from the squat couch. She picked up her drink from the counter and they made for the patio door. The door opened to vivid blues and oranges and only just a hint of the sulfurous paper mill just below her at the water’s edge. “One of these days, that plant is going to shut down and we’ll finally have some fresh air in this town.” She said as they made their way across the dark brown deck. They sat at a tall, metal table with two tall wooden stools. She glanced at the man sitting across the deck from them. He was looking at her. He nodded slightly, somewhat arrogantly she thought. She looked away and perched upon the solid stool. “Do you know that guy?” she said in low tones. Her friend stole a glance, “I don’t know his name, but I’ve seen him around town. I always see him when I’m in my car. I’m pretty sure he rides that thing everywhere.” They both looked at the mud-caked bicycle leaning against the brick wall near the man’s table. “Are his leg’s shaved?” Her friend murmured after another moment.
3: “I don’t know. All I see is mud.” She replied. Her friend’s phone rang and she answered it. Ignoring her friend, she looked towards the man. He was leaning back into the soft curve of the padded chair, his relaxed demeanor a sharp contrast to his keen features. Every move of his hands or shift of his legs caused individual cords of muscle to rise and fall in his forearms and calves. He raised a tiny cup to his lips. His neck extended to meet the raised cup and tight tendons tensed below his taught skin. Draining the contents and setting the cup upon the table before him, he scooped up his helmet and stood. The lower half of his legs were mud splattered and a stripe of soil ran down the center of this back. Turning his body toward her, she could see little spots of caked mud speckling his face except for the smooth white skin just around his eyes. This gave him a rather raccoon appearance and she smiled beside herself. Taking this as an invitation, the spotted man took a step toward her returning her smile.
4: “Hi. Mind if I join you?” He asked. “Uh, well, I guess.” She somewhat shrugged her response and gestured to a chair at another table adding, “Grab one of those stools.” She suddenly felt a little nervous which surprised her. “Actually, I have to go. You can have my chair.” Her friend said standing and gathering her things. “Sorry, it was my mom. She needs some help with something. I’ll call you tonight.” She grinned at her friend and stole a quick glance at the man the exited into the café. When her friend had left, the man sat down. “Quite a view.” He said, more looking at her than the sunset. “This spring weather has been oddly nice.” She said, her voice tight but casual. “Must be especially nice for riding.” She continued in an effort to relax. She glanced at the idle cycle by the wall.
5: “Absolutely. Though, I ride year round so I’ve gotten pretty used to what most people call bad weather. Honestly, I find there’s something to enjoy in any type of weather. If sun, then, all the better, but if rain or snow or frigid cold, I just dress appropriately. There’s nothing quite like a gentle mist during the early morning commute to get the brain fired up.” He extended his right hand and said, “I’m Eddy, by the way.” “Hi, I’m Clair.” She felt her hand be enveloped in the warm, firm pressure of his shake. Like his calves, his hands were thick and strong and reminded her of her uncle’s. When he said his name he flashed a smile revealing almost white teeth framed in smooth thin lips. “That’s a beautiful Scout you’re driving. My good buddy in high school had one very similar. Though his was powder blue. What year is that? I’m guessing75.” “Close. It’s a 77. It belonged to my uncle.” She looked away, out over the water. Then she sat up straighter, reached for her cup and added, “I’ve been driving it for about a year now. I love driving around town with the top off listening to a little Dave Matthews. My uncle completely rebuilt it. He found it on Craig’s List but it was in fairly rough shape. I helped him with some of the restoration and when we painted it, we both put our initials on the inside of the fender.” She took a delicious sip and returned the cup to the saucer. “You and your uncle must be close.” He said. “We were. He died last year of colon cancer. He had diabetes and was pretty overweight. But then he got cancer and just went downhill. I can’t believe how quickly everything happened.” She took a deep breath, her dark lenses hiding her watery eyes. “Well, he sounds like a hell of a guy. Good with his hands. You must have many cherished memories.” “I’ll tell you what,” she said. “He could cook something fierce. His specialty was his holiday baked beans. He had this giant cauldron that would come out a couple days before any holiday. He’d spend hours slowly cooking down the onions and soaking the beans and then adding each ingredient. They’d sit on the stove and simmer and I used to sneak into the kitchen and steal bites from time to time.”
6: Suddenly she said, “I’m sorry. We just met and here I go on about my uncle.” “That’s all right,” he said. “I would have liked to have met him.” “So, what about you?’ she asked perking up a bit. “You obviously love to ride your bike. But why do you shave your legs?” He chuckled. Slightly embarrassed he said, “It’s mostly psychological. If you think you’re fast, then you will be fast. At least a little anyway. It also makes for a smoother massage. When you ride as much as I do, a good massage can make a big difference.” “How long have you been riding?” “I’ve been riding bikes my whole life. I started on a BMX, but just for getting to my friends’ houses. No racing or anything. When I was about 12, my dad gave me his dirtbike which changed my life and I spent a number of years getting my kicks on CO2. That led to a proper street bike and many more years exploring the countryside, a copy of Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance tucked into my tank bag.” “So why did you stop riding motorcycles? Isn’t riding a bicycle everywhere difficult or impractical? I mean, how do you do your shopping?” “That’s easy. I just don’t buy as much,” he said with a smile. “To be honest, I still own a vehicle. Actually, not the greatest where mileage is concerned, but it’s almost 20 years old and only has 120,000 miles on it. And most of those aren’t mine. I use it when I need it and use the bike for everything else. I usually pick up my daily caloric needs from the farmers market on my way home from work. Most of the vegetables and fruits are grown locally and as long as I stop a couple times a week, I don’t need to carry much on the bike. It also helps me avoid buying those irresistible snack foods that don’t help me climb mountains on my bike.” The outdoor lamps had been lit and the slight trace of disappearing pink lingered below the few remaining clouds on the horizon. The water had turned steal-indigo hemmed by the faint amber glow of the city lights ringing the bay. Another couple had settled over their steaming cups across the deck. Their picnic table was one like you might find at a state park and they were speaking in low voices. A mic keyed to life at a nearby beer garden and when she looked back at him, he was staring at her.
7: “You know, that Scout would look good in someone’s collection. You and your uncle did a pretty fantastic job restoring it. I imagine it would catch a pretty penny and you could make sure it goes to a good home. Imagine it like putting a good horse out to pasture. He won’t get used much, but will be well groomed and you could probably go visit anytime.” He said this in all seriousness and though it kind of stung her at first, the words made sense. “And what would you have me do instead? Ride a bike?” “Why not? They might be white, but you’ve got strong legs. And imagine the tan you’d have in no time. Besides, didn’t I hear you say something to the effect of wanting that paper plant to shut down so that the air might be cleaner? I agree. I can’t wait till GP leaves town. But there’s something we can all do right now. Think if everyone used a bike twice a week to commute or for all trips within two or three miles of their homes? How much cleaner would the air be then? Did you know that in Malmo Sweden, a local group started the No Ridiculous Car Trips campaign. Sounds funny I know, but the idea was to get people thinking about how they use cars and how bikes might be included in their daily lives. They had a stationary man endlessly pedal on a billboard, drawing attention to a group of volunteers who asked people to tell their story. They were given a small card and were asked to write about their most ridiculous use of their car. The best stories received a new bike. There’s much more to it, but consequently, bike use in Malmo has increased by 50% and with cyclists now involved in city planning, they expect the number to reach 50% of all city trips, done on bike.”
8: “You make it sound so easy,” She said. “I truly think it is easy. And with the money you would get from your Scout, you could have one hell of a bike, a nice chunk of change to keep in the bank and you’d really be making a difference,” he said. He looked towards the sound of the outdoor music and said, “Tell you what. Why don’t we go grab a drink at The Bay. You can ride my bike and I’ll walk and I’ll try to convince you to buy a bike.” She thought about it for a second, then stood and said, “Alright, but I’m buying the first round.”