Em hurriedly worked through the huge basket of wet laundry—hanging each article on the backyard clothesline in order for them to dry in the vibrant afternoon sun. With three grown sons and their families to care for, clothes washing day was always a busy one. Not that Em had to do all the work herself mind you—all three of her daughters-in-law pitched in to tackle the abundance of household chores needing their attention. But as Em hung the last of the last piece of clothing on the line, the other three came running from the back porch announcing that they were finished and in unison sang out, “Can we go now? Can we go now? Can we go now?”
Em smiled, picked up the empty basket, headed their way and replied, “Yes, we can go now—I’ll meet you in the barn as soon as I take this basket back to the house.”
Now where, might you wonder, were these three so excited to be going? While the where is always an adventure, it’s the what that is the important issue. For as they have done for over a hundred years, every Saturday after all the chores are done, Em takes her daughters-in-law on a cycling journey through the surrounding countryside. And as usual, their plan would be to ride for three or four hours then return home in time to take the dry clothes inside and start preparing the evening meal.
Now Em (actually her name is Emzara—even though some know her as Na’amah—and then there is a few who just call her Nancy. It was actually her husband that gave her the nickname of Em several hundred years earlier when they first started dating. Over the years, it just sort of stuck. But, to continue with what I started to say…) Now Em wasn't a fast rider but she wasn't what one would call slow either. Most outings she would easily take an opportunity or two to leave the other three in her dust—but then, like a good mother-in-law, dutifully wait for them to catch up at the top of the hill or in the shade of a tree. As Em made her way to the barn, she was already formulating the day’s route—and even where along that route that she might be able to get the advantage over them once again. Yes, Em had a competitive but playful side to her.
After filling water bottles and airing up tires, Em headed out through the barn door and led the way to the main road. Nel followed on her bike and Zoey and Anna brought up the rear on their tandem. Once reaching the road they turned to the right and then headed towards the outskirts of town. They waved as they were greeted by a few of the neighbors who were out working in their yards or firing up grills for their afternoon barbecues The sky was a gorgeous blue, the sun was bright and the temperature was as nice as anyone could have asked for. As the first few miles ticked away, things couldn't have been more perfect for this merry band of four.
Soon Em and the girls neared the schoolhouse where they had all gone in their younger days. As they were riding past, they noticed a gang of kids painting graffiti all along the side of the building. They hollered at them to stop but the kids just laughed, ignored them and kept spray-painting their gang signs and other slogans. Em decided that it would be best to not antagonize them further so they continued on their ride—she’d report them to the authorities on their return into town.
Within a couple of more miles, the ladies were rolling along the country roads—through the occasional tunnels created by the trees towering along both sides of the road—or past the acres and acres of fields with their crops nearly ready to harvest. Em couldn't help but think of days long gone when she and Noah would be riding the tandem together and enjoying the wonderfulness of a ride like this. She remembered when Noah got her interested in cycling—a few months before they got married. Noah was quite the cyclist back in the day. He and his friends used to wear those goofy leather helmets and travel here, there and everywhere to bike races. They had even talked about doing The Texas Time Trials—but Texas hadn't been invented yet. And now those days were long, long gone. Noah hadn't even touched his bike in nearly a century. All he and their three sons did, from sunup to sundown, was work on that silly boat. It’s all they've done for decades.
About fifteen miles from town, as they rounded the corner, Em snapped back to reality as she saw her opportunity to get a jump on the girls—the two back-to-back hills she called “The Double Humper.” Taking off like a bolt of lightening and just as she had planned, she left the girls in her dust.
Reaching the top of the second hill, Em looked around to see how far back the girls were—a good couple of hundred cubits or so. She slowed to a stop and got ready to dismount her bike when all of the sudden—WHAM!—she was knocked to the ground by two hooded men who had been hiding behind the bushes. They grabbed her bike and went running off into the woods. By the time the girls got to the top of the hill, Em had gotten up and dusted herself off—no major injuries or anything—but the two men and her bike were long gone. Deciding that it would be best to just head back home, Em, with Nel perched on the handlebars, took over riding the single bike—and wondered to herself, “What exactly is this world coming to?”
A little over an hour later, the girls were back riding through the center of town. Just as they were approaching the intersection of Fig Avenue and Gopherwood Street, the doors to the bank burst open and three men came running out carrying several bags of money—they knocked both bikes and all four women to the ground as they made their escape. Dazed, the ladies sat there in the road for a few minutes until the bank manager and a few customers emerged from the building and helped them to their feet. After checking to make sure that everything was okay, they got back on their bikes and started pedaling the last few miles to the house. “Goodness, this has sure been an eventful bike ride!”
Within a matter of minutes, the sky started turning dark gray. One moment the sun was shining—the next was almost like it didn't exist. They only had about three more miles to go before arriving home. As they entered their subdivision, the people that had been doing lawn work were throwing potted plants across the fence at their neighbors—who were responding by throwing lawn furniture and hot coals from the barbecue grill over the fence back at them. “This is all so weird.”
Actual photograph showing bicycles being wheeled
up into the ark. (Camera film quality left a little
to be desired back then.)
Two blocks from home, the sky let loose. In a matter of moments, everything was drenched. The girls quickly stashed the bikes in the barn and feverishly worked to get the soaking wet clothes off of the line and in the house. Once inside, Em got a fire going and the girls started wringing out the clothes and hanging them up all around the house to dry. All at once a streak of lightening illuminated the sky and thunder shook the walls so hard that dishes started falling from the shelves. Just then the front door burst open and Noah bolted in, quickly slamming the door shut behind him. Tossing his raincoat on the floor he glanced around the room, looking at his daughters-in-law then finally making eye contact with his wife as he announced—
“Ladies—pack your bags. We’re going on a cruise.”
Enjoy the ride!