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Joe liked a lot of things about his new home and high on the list was the lack of ice and snow. Just over two year earlier he’d fled the crowded beauty of central Connecticut and the life he and his wife Misty were carving out for themselves in the Atlanta suburbs was one that pleased him.

He didn’t miss New England’s ice and snow but he did find Georgia’s July heat to be even more draining than New Britain’s had been. “Always a trade off,” he thought to himself as he rode up the curb cut in front of the bike store where he worked.

Checking his watch he was relieved to see that he had plenty of time to get himself out of his drenched cycling gear and get cleaned up and changed into his work clothes before the store opened its doors. Promptness was important and Joe took his job as store manager seriously.

Once off the bike he pressed on the front of his Bell V-1 helmet and felt the sweat pad release its ounce plus of moisture. The sweat tumbled to the ground and made a splattering sound as it hit and Joe smiled, thinking back to the time he’d gone cycling with his friend Rob Goldberg who in response to the splattering of sweat had said, “That is so disgusting that it makes me nauseous.”

“Nauseated,” Joe had responded. “When you feel sick you feel nauseated. If you’re nauseous then you’re making somebody else sick.”

“Whatever,” Rob had replied. “I am nauseated because that is nauseous.”

Joe smiled thinking about Rob. Last he’d heard Rob had moved from Hartford to Reston, Virginia. He really needed to write him a short letter to check up on him.

Joe unlocked the front door and hurried back to the alarm box, placing the multi-pronged cylindrical key in the lock and turning it before the alarm went off. Once the alarm was deactivated he retraced his steps to the front door where he peered up and down the parking lot to see if Rick or Todd were within sight.

Rick Chutz owned North Fulton Cycles and even though he lived less than a quarter mile from Joe and his wife Misty he seldom rode his bike the ten miles to work. Todd was as likely to drive as ride but wasn’t as pedantic about arriving at work with time to spare as was Joe. With neither of his workmates in sight Joe re-locked the door, and pushed his bicycle into the service area where he left it leaning against a work bench while he grabbed a water bottle from its cage along with his lunch, a small towel and clothes from the panniers that hung from the Blackburn rack on his Trek 412.

He chucked the lunch in the refrigerator and took the clothes and water bottle into the bathroom where he did the best he could to clean himself with some liquid soap and using the water bottle splashed the soap and sweat off of his body while sitting on the toilet. After another rinse with the bottle he dried himself with the towel, applied deodorant and put the clean, dry clothes onto his somewhat clean but still sweating body.

Coming out of the bathroom he held the dripping shirt and shorts he’d worn riding in at arms length and looked up as he heard the jangle of the front doorbell and Rick called out, “Only me!”

Joe poked his head around the corner of the service area. “Morning. Hot one today, huh?”

“Hotlanta, my friend,” Rick said with a smile. “How you doing?”

“I’m okay. Let me get my wet clothes out of the way and I’ll punch in. How are things at home?”

“Don’t ask. Still not sure what’s up with that woman. Once you’re clocked in I’ll head to the bank to make the deposit. Todd should be here pretty soon.”

“Cool,” Joe replied and after clocking in he flipped the sign on the door to OPEN and grabbed the portable bike rack that held the half dozen used bikes that North Fulton used as an auxiliary OPEN sign.

“Be back soon,” Rick said, holding the deposit bag up in his hand. “Looks like Todd is coming around the corner,” he added, pointing with his chin to the tall, thin, dark haired youngster who approached them on a white and green Schwinn Tempo.

“I know, I know. I’m late,” Todd said in greeting as Rick shook his head and continued to his car with the bank deposit.

“Technically you’re not late yet,” Joe answered, looking at his watch. “But you will be by the time you’re ready for work.”

After wheeling the used bikes out and locking them Joe went inside and grabbed a paper towel from behind the counter where hetook his glasses off and wiped the sweat out of his face. “Still beats shoveling snow,” he said to himself.

With his glasses off Joe’s ability to see clearly was comical. He heard the front bell but did not know who had walked in the door. He blinked, wiped the lenses on his tee shirt, placed his glasses on his head and looked up. “Morning,” he said.

“Yeah. Whatever,” came the heavily accented reply. “I need some brake pads. You got any?”

“Sure. Do you know what kind you need?”

“For my mountain bike. You gonna’ get ’em?” was the stereotypical New York tough guy response.

“Uh, yeah. If you can tell me what kind,” Joe said obsequiously.

“The bikes right out here. Why don’t you look at it and then we’ll both know?” the man demanded.

“You want to bring it in?”

“No, I don’t want to bring it in. Come out.”

“Sure.” Joe turned his head into the service department and hollered to Todd who was in the bathroom changing. “Going outside for a minute. Be right back.”

“Okay,” was the muted reply. “Be right out.”

“You ready? I got places to go.”

“Let’s do it.”

They walked outside and the man said, “I just want pads for the back. You got any of those?”

“Oh, that’s a Pederson roller cam brake. Yeah, we have those. The front’s a standard cantilever but the rear is a little different.”

“And? Didn’t I just say I only want back brakes. I gotta ride my bike to work for a while. Got a DUI. I’ll come back for the front later. Geez.”

“We got em. You want to roll your bike in so nobody takes it or just leave it out here.”

“Since you got em I’ll bring it in. How much?”

“I’ll have to check. Probably eight bucks or so just for the pads. There’s labor if you want us to install them.”

“No shit. I’ll put em on.”

“Okay, I’ll get them.” Joe held the door and the man rolled his bike in. “So where are you from?” he asked as he walked back toward the service department to find the brake pads.

“Where the hell do you think I’m from?”

“I think you’re from New York. Just asking because my wife’s from New York.”

“Isn’t that amazing? News flash. There’s over seventeen million people in New York.”

“Just making conversation. She used to live about an hour north of the city. Out past Westchester in Putnam County,” Joe added as he found the brake pads that he needed and headed back to the showroom. Rounding the corner the tiniest look of interest shone on the man’s face.

“Your wife’s from Putnam County? No shit. Me too.”

“Yeah. Brewster. Like ‘That Girl’?”

“Brewster? Jesus. I grew up in Mahopac. It’s right next door.”

“Sure, I know where Mahopac is. That’s where she was born. In that little hospital.”

“That’s where I was born! Christ what a small world.”

“Yeah. How old are you?”

The old belligerence returned as he asked, “How old do you think I am?”

“I think you’re about the same age as I am. I was born in 1961.”

“Close. Fifty nine.”

“Huh. My wife was born in sixty. Last year I helped a guy that went to Lincoln High in Yonkers; that’s where her father was the principal. The guy knew him.”

“Lincoln High! No shit! My folks moved down to Yonkers and I went to Yonkers High. I used to head up to Lincoln to look for girls.”

“Wow. As you said, ‘small world.'”

“Yeah. That’s funny. What’d you say your name was?”

“Joe Kleen. My wife was names Misty DeMeiner before we got married.”

“DeMeiner huh? Doesn’t ring a bell. How much do I owe you?”

“Eight forty seven with tax,” he said, ringing up the sale.

“Okay. I’ll be back for the fronts later. Huh. Small world.”

“Yep. Thanks.”

“No problem.”