Monday, June 10, 2013

Cycling with Abe

Part One –

I was riding my bicycle along FM1488 Wednesday morning – having just left Magnolia and headed towards Hempstead - when I looked down and noticed what appeared to be a five-dollar bill down in the ditch to my right. I stopped, got off my bike and ventured down into the ditch to retrieve the bill. Sure enough – lucky me! – a nice, clean, and oddly enough, quite crisp five-dollar bill. Surely someone had just recently lost this since it was neither faded nor grungy like one would expect a five-dollar bill lying in a drainage ditch to be. I folded the bill in half and tucked it into my jersey pocket.

As I climbed back up the side of the ditch toward my bike, a young woman in her mid-twenties was riding her bicycle in my direction coming the wrong way down the shoulder of the road. Her attention was primarily focused along the ditch to her left. As I was bending over to pick up my bike she rode up and stopped next to me.

“Excuse me,” she said, “I was riding through here a little while ago and I think I dropped a five-dollar bill. You haven’t seen it by any chance have you?”

I thought to myself, “Gee! What are the chances of this happening?” I jokingly asked her to describe it. She laughed and said, “Well, it kinda looks like a five-dollar bill!” – then we both laughed a little. I reached back into my jersey pocket, pulled out the five-dollar bill and handed it to her. She thanked me and tucked the bill into her jersey pocket and we both continued with our bicycle rides in opposite directions. “Easy come – easy go.”

Billie Windsor crossed over to the eastbound shoulder of FM1488, continuing her ride to Magnolia and thinking to herself, “Gee! What are the chances of that happening?” She had previously resigned herself to the fact that there would be no way in the world that she would find that five-dollar bill. Guess she can chalk one up now for that feeling inside that wouldn't let her quit looking! After a few miles, Billie reached the intersection at FM1774 on the west edge of town – an intersection where usually there’s a woman selling flowers. (Billie was planning on visiting her Dad later in the evening and thought it would be a nice surprise for him to receive a rose from his favorite daughter – even though she is his only daughter!) Unfortunately, it was either too early in the day or else the flower lady had taken the day off. Billie turned right onto FM1774.

As Billie approached Nichols Sawmill Road, she noticed that Taco Juan had his mobile taco stand set up near the intersection over along side of the train tracks. (His name was really Juan Castillo but everyone knew him as Taco Juan. He had rigged his bicycle with a small trailer on which he carried everything necessary to prepare his fantastic tacos on the roadside – including a couple of stools on which customers could relax while eating.) Billie decided that a couple of Taco Juan tacos would be a well-deserved brunch after the few exhilarating miles that she had just ridden on her bicycle. She veered across to the left side of the road and pulled up to Taco Juan’s stand.

“Hey! Miss Billie!” greeted Juan as he saw Billie approaching. “I haven’t seen you for many weeks.”

“Hi Taco Juan,” replied Billie, “yes, I was assigned to a temporary job down in the valley -  been down there the last four weeks. I just got back in town yesterday afternoon and decided to take the rest of the week off so I could get in some long overdue bike riding.”

“And some of my fantastic tacos too – hey, Miss Billie?”

“Yes, Taco Juan. I’ll take two of your fantastic tacos.”

Billie propped her bicycle up against the light pole and sat down on one of the stools while Juan prepared her two tacos. He remembered that she always liked “no onions and an extra scoop of the green stuff.” When he was done, he placed them on a paper plate and, along with a paper towel, handed them to Billie while saying, “That will be four dollars please, Miss Billie.”

Reaching into her back jersey pocket, Billie retrieved the five-dollar bill, handed it to Juan and said, “You can keep the change.”

Rather than put the five-dollar bill in his cash box like he would have normally done, Juan was more intent on having a conversation with Billie while she ate, so he stuffed the bill into the right front pocket of his pants. As Billie made quick work of her two tacos and while Juan tried his best to keep her verbally entertained, a carload of teenagers pulled up on the gravel area next to them, hung out of the passenger side windows and began placing their orders for some of Taco Juan’s “fantastic” tacos. Billie finished eating, got back on her bike and pedaled away down FM1774. Juan uttered an unheard “bye” as he quickly got busy with the beginning of the lunchtime rush.

Early afternoon, around 1:30 pm, Juan determined that the lunch crowd had basically come and gone so he decided to close up shop. After cleaning a few pans and packing everything neatly onto his trailer, he jumped on his bicycle, crossed FM1774 and started making his way down Nichols Sawmill Road. During the first three or four miles of Juan’s bicycle ride, his clean-crisp five-dollar bill had been working its way down his leg on the inside of his pants – the pants that Juan always forgets about as having a hole in the bottom of the right front pocket.  As he came to the intersection at Butera Road, Juan had to slow to a near stop for a car making a wide turn out of the gas station on the corner. When he started pedaling again, the five-dollar bill secretly worked free from around his ankle and blew over into the parking lot of the gas station – coming to a rest against the curb at the southwest corner.

As Juan continued his journey home, Norman Piedmont was topping off his water bottle with ice from the soft drink dispenser inside the corner convenience store. Walking towards the door while screwing the cap back on, he thanked the cashier for letting him use the restroom and refill his water bottle. Once outside, he placed the bottle in the cage on his bicycle downtube, put his helmet back on and adjusted his rear-view mirror. He mounted his bike and headed across the parking lot towards the street. At the edge of the lot, he slowed while a passing garbage truck came around the corner. He waved to the two guys hanging off the back bumper and was just getting ready to pull out onto the road when the wind draft from the garbage truck lodged the five-dollar bill loose from its resting place and sent it scooting to directly in front of Norman’s front wheel. Norman unclipped, got off his bike and bent down to pick up the bill. “Wow!” he thought to himself. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just “Wow!” He stuffed the five-dollar bill into his handlebar bag and carried on with his bike ride.

Norman was enjoying the solitude of his afternoon ride. He enjoyed the time to think. On this particular ride, his thinking was primarily dominated with thoughts pertaining to the argument that he had with his wife right before she left for work that morning. Recounting the sequence of events for the last several miles helped him to realize that it was just another one of those silly little things that had gotten blown way out of proportion and that he probably hadn't handled it in the best of fashion. He had pretty much decided that he needed to do something extra special in the way of an apology. Of course, all of this was complicated by the fact that his wife works days and he has to be at work on the swing shift at the cardboard box factory in Hempstead before she gets home. So these were the main topics circulating through Norman’s brain as he continued the last leg of his bike ride, making his way over to Joseph Road and then north to the subdivision where he lived.

At the flower shop on the corner of Hegar and FM1488, Hazel Sanders was placing her daily purchase in the over-sized, double rear baskets of her Schwinn six-speed cruiser. Every weekday afternoon, Hazel stops here on her way into Magnolia to purchase four dozen long stem roses – each individually wrapped and then banded together in two bundles of twenty-four. For nearly two years, Hazel has worked the intersection at FM1488 and Magnolia Boulevard (also known as FM1774) near the railroad tracks selling roses to the people in their cars and trucks as they get stopped at the traffic light. Five bucks apiece. She almost always sells out in three or four hours. Not bad profit for a little bit of effort.

A few minutes later, as Hazel was pedaling through the intersection of Joseph Road and FM1488, she heard someone calling out to her. She turned and saw a guy on his fancy road bike riding up Joseph Road, waving his arm and shouting for her to stop. She stopped just past the corner and waited for him to catch up.

“Are you selling those roses?” inquired Norman – thinking that this would be the perfect way to have his apology waiting for his wife when she arrived home later in the day.

“Five dollars each,” replied Hazel.

Norman unzipped his handlebar bag, reached in and retrieved the five-dollar bill as he said, “Guess I've got just enough for one then.”

Norman extended his arm to offer her the bill and Hazel extended hers to accept it. At that precise, split minuscule moment of a second when the five-dollar bill was not fully being controlled by either the giving or the receiving parties, an eastbound eighteen-wheeler barreled by at sixty-something miles per hour and ripped the bill from between their hands and sent it rocketing down the road. Before either Norman or Hazel had a chance to react, three more trucks sped by rapidly, each one sending the five-dollar bill further on down the road and ultimately out of sight.

Hazel looked at Norman and said, “Sorry ‘bout that,” – got back on her bike and continued on to Magnolia. Norman crossed the road heading west towards his subdivision thinking, “Maybe I’ll just write my wife a sweet little note of apology.”
Part Two –

I was riding my bicycle along FM1488 Thursday morning – having just left Magnolia and headed towards Hempstead - when I looked down and noticed what appeared to be a five-dollar bill down in the ditch to my right…

Enjoy the ride!