Yesterday had been a fantastic day for Bryan. It had started off with picture perfect weather that was as close to heaven as one was likely to find on April fourth in the Midwest and he had taken full advantage and set out for an early morning bicycle ride. The ride had been nice but meeting Sandy had been exquisite. Ever since his parents’ death in the automobile crash two years earlier nothing had been the same and life had turned from invigorating to insipid. The insurance money plus the crash settlement had given him some breathing room from the need to focus on day to day necessities but nothing in his young life had felt right since.
He had his father’s old Schwinn, bicycle lock, many of Dad’s old bike accessories and Mom’s photo albums and writing journals but when he had lost his parents he had also lost his motivation, anticipation of great things to come, and a general desire to battle the world. Since their deaths he had been aware that what he was doing was existing rather than living and yesterday had been his first ray of sunshine in a 26 month reign of rain.
The impetus for his uptick may have been yesterday’s unseasonably warm spring weather, the magnificently beautiful full moon high in the sky or his attendance at Easter Vigil Mass but none were the cause of his joy as demonstrated by his continued optimism even though the weather had reverted to typical cold and cloudy conditions. Yesterday the mercury had already risen to 64 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun even made a glow in the east but last night’s lows were back to the upper twenties. At least today was calm and the sun was occasionally able to poke through the low, dark clouds and though he preferred to ride early in the day he’d forgone his usual habit of being out and about when there were few people to encounter and had waited until late afternoon to venture forth. He had to admit that the improvement in the weather was pleasant but the real reason he had waited was because his new friend Sandy had agreed to ride with him if he could hold off until things warmed up a bit.
Bryan and Sandy had met early the morning before when they had observed one another play an odd game where they tried to enter the local Super Target Store without being caught by the motion detector that opened the electronic doors that stood next to the non-powered ones. Sandy’s bike tire had picked up a metal shard and after fixing the flat Bryan had offered to ride with her toward home in the early morning light. The two had hit it off and before he’d peeled off and headed for home they had exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet the next day at 8:00 a.m. for an extended ride.
Just after 7:00 on Sunday morning Sandy left him a text that read, “Bryan-too cold for me to ride. Can we reschedule? Call me back when you get this. Sandy.”
Bryan’s response to her text was great disappointment but when he called her he tried to keep his voice and tone light. “Sandy? Hey, it’s me, Bryan. You left me a text?”
“Wow! That was fast. I’m sorry about the short notice but it’s too cold for me to ride right now, do you mind if we reschedule?” she asked with a pleasantly lilting voice.
Even though he felt gut punched he tried to hide his disappointment. “No, that’s okay if you can’t make it. Maybe some other time,” he said feeling miserable.
“How about one o’clock? Would that work for you?”
Bryan’s spirits rebounded immediately as he asked, “Today?!”
“Oh, I’m sorry if that won’t work. Maybe another time,” Sandy said with a tone that mirrored his previous disappointment.
“No, no! Today at one would be great. Do you still want to meet in that little park along the trail just north of J?”
“Kind of cold to meet outside. Why don’t you meet me at the Sag Plaustrum?”
“What’s that?” he asked, unable to hide his uncertainty.
“You haven’t been there? It’s a real biker bar just off the trail on Shaver Road. You can’t miss it. One o’clock okay then?”
“Uh, sure,” he said though he was anything but. “I’ll see you at the biker bar at one.”
“Great! Thanks for being so accommodating. See you there.”
The Sag Plaustrum biker bar turned out to be a hangout that catered to bicyclists, not motorcycle riders. Bryan laughed when he pulled up to the cafe just before 1:00 and saw the old beach cruiser hanging off of their sign. “Biker bar,” he said to himself as he began to lock up his bike.
Sandy pulled up a little after one and apologized for being late. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Bryan,” she said with a smile. “How do you like my biker bar?”
“Funny,” he replied returning her smile. “Did you want to go in or are you ready to roll?”
“I think we’d better go if we’re going to ride. I need to be home by 4:00.”
“How far away is that?” he asked.
“Oh, not very. My house is less than a mile that way,” she told him pointing across the little lake toward the west. “I live over by the golf course but unless we want to swim it’s a few miles to get there from here. Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“Do you just want to take the trail south? Then we can turn around when you say and be sure to get you home on time.”
They agreed that this was likely the best plan and headed south. The ride was lovely despite the lack of sun, the cool temps and a bike path that was far more crowded than Bryan preferred. The trail traffic had thinned considerably once they were south of town and Bryan found his time with the older woman energizing and euphoric. They rode south for a bit over an hour until Sandy said, “We’d better turn around or I’m not going to make my four o’clock appointment.”
The ride north was as exciting for Bryan as the ride south had been and when they got to First Avenue Sandy had stopped and said, “I’d better peel off here and head home. Hey, this was great, Bryan! We should do it again?”
“Uh, do you want me to ride home with you?” he asked looking down rather than in her eyes.
“Not today, but maybe another time? I’ll call you when I’m done with my appointment and maybe we can figure out another good tome to ride?” she asked with a big smile.
“Oh, uh, okay. So be careful. I’ll talk to you later.”
“You too. Bye!” she had said as she scooted across First Avenue and headed west toward the golf course.
Bryan wound his way northward on the trail until he came to the little slough where the Sag Plaustrum was located. The trail forked and he took the path west of Shaver Road and smiled as he looked across the little lake to the biker bar. The trail was full of people walking dogs and not paying attention to what was going on so he was especially vigilant to make up for their inattentiveness. A mile north of the slough he approached what he had dubbed the twisty bridge. The bridge itself didn’t twist but it was a cork screw in the trail that had an underpass beneath 29th Street and then the narrow bridge that crossed the small stream that fed the little lake. It was a place with terrible sight lines and Bryan slowed his pace accordingly.
Just as he emerged from the 29th Street underpass he saw the two old men and their tangled dog leashes on the west side of the trail. Traveling north Bryan was on the right side and figured he should be safe but he slowed to a walking pace just to be prudent. The two silver haired men saved themselves from falling in the tangle of leashes and seemed to be fully recovered so Bryan continued forward on his ride. It was then that one of the men stepped away from the other and crossed the dotted center line that bisected the trail; Bryan was caught completely off guard. All three men yelled as Bryan and the wandering dog walker collided and Bryan slammed into the pavement head first. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was the old man who had not been hit asking, “Buttons?! Buttons?! Are you okay!?” apparently far more concerned with the wellbeing of his dog than he was with the two humans who lay in a pile on the hard asphalt.