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SIX
The bridge span was roughly two football fields long and the sidewalk was raised about two feet above street level. The elevation helped assuage the claustrophobia I felt while riding down a sidewalk three feet wide and hemmed in on both sides by guard rails. “Well, at least we shouldn’t have any trouble with a driver smacking us from behind while texting,” I said to myself.  Halfway across the bridge I spied a figure up ahead and tried to make sense of what I saw. “Oh!” I exclaimed. “He’s pushing his bike. Wonder if his bike’s got a problem or he just doesn’t like riding in close quarters?” I asked, more of myself than Jack.

“I don’t know!” Jack said back.

“Wow. Good hearing, buddy,” I replied as we rolled slowly down the sidewalk. “No sense getting on this guy’s tail, he’s got nowhere to go until we’re off the bridge.”

Rolling up to him I heard the distinctive flop, flop, flop of a flat bicycle tire. “Flat, huh?” I asked. “Do you have a pump or anything? I can probably help.”

The man startled at my voice. “I’ll be out your way in a minute. I got a flat,” he said.

“I hear that. No worries. We’re not in a hurry.”

“Well I am! I gotta get to work. I’m gonna be late for sure.”

“How far you got?”

“I work at Target.”

“Up Merle Hay?”

“Yeah. Got a flat back by Harding Middle School. Left enough time to ride but not to walk, goddamn it.”

“Pull over onto the trail. Let me see what’s going on.”

“Man, I got to go.”

“I know. I know a lot about bikes. Let me see if I can help you.”

Exhaling hard the man pulled onto the crushed cinder trail that led down the steep hill in front of Motor Vehicle. “Don’t know what you can do. It’s flat.”

“Yeah,” I said dismounting from my bike. “That’s for sure. I was thinking I could loan you my front wheel but your bike doesn’t have quick release.”

“Quick who? I gotta go.”

“Quick release,” I repeated, pointing to the lever that held my front wheel in the fork’s dropout. “It just flips right off. You don’t have a wrench do you?”

“No! I got to go. Thanks and all, but I’m late.”

“Get out?” Jack asked from the Burley.

“Not yet, buddy. Soon. Hang on, okay?”

“Okay, Paki.”

“It’s like an hour walk pushing your bike. Here,” I added, unhooking the Burley and removing the bracket from beneath the Schwinn’s rear wheel quick release, “take mine to work and I’ll come swap you later today. How late you working?”

“Till nine. What you mean you’ll swap me? You’re going to give me your bicycle for mine? Why would you do that?”

“Think of it as a Christmas present. You got a phone?”

“Sure I got a phone. Why?”

“Put me in your phone. What’s your name?”

“Diego.”

“I’m Manny,” I said, taking my phone out of my pocket. “What’s your phone number?”

“It’s 515-242-8445. You just going to give me your bike?”

“No. I’m just going to lend you my bike. I’ll push your bike home and we’ll swap after I fix your flat.”

“That’s crazy. What’d you say your name was?” Diego asked, pulling out his phone.

“Manny. Manny Magsasaka. My phone’s 319-558-2254. What’s your last name?”

“Montoya.”

“Alright. I’ll call you before I stop by. Go.”

“For real?”

“For real. Weren’t you ever a boy scout?”

“What? No.”

“Jack and I are doing our good turn. Go! You’re late!”

“Alright, Mr. Boy Scout. Thank you so much! Merry Christmas!”

“Back at you. Go!”

“Merry Christmas, Jack!” Diego added with a wave.

I watched Diego pedal up the street and then realized that without a wrench I had no way to hook the Burley to the back of the man’s Mongoose. Exhaling hard I said, “Well, Jack, looks like I better call Lola for help.  Lunch is gonna be a little bit late. Can you handle that?”

“Eat lunch?” Jack asked.

“Yeah. We should be home in less than a half hour.”

“Okay, Paki.”

“Okay, Jack. Hey? You know what?”

“You love me!”

“That is correct. Let’s walk over to Motor Vehicle, okay?”

“Okay, Paki.”