Monday, October 19, 2009


An October Moment...

(On the off-chance you're not familiar with October Moments by now, go here first...)

Old Sam was a nice man. Like so many of the men I knew during my life in New Hampshire, Sam was a big fellow, predisposed to wearing plaid work shirts and large, roomy overalls. When he walked into a room, the very floorboards creaked under his weight.

Often, the creaking floor was the only notice you had of Sam’s arrival. There were two kinds of men in our town: the merry, hail-well-met types who were given to storytelling and to shouting hellos across the town green; and the quiet types for whom conversation seemed almost painful. When they spoke at all, their vocabulary was limited to just a handful of words: Ayuh, nope, welp, and mebbe. Sam was this type of man.

At least, he was whenever he came to the post office, which is where I could be found most summer afternoons, helping my aunt Barbara, the village postmaster. Sam would lumber on in, give Barbara a jowly smile and a nod, then give me a quick wink or sketch a jaunty salute, and you knew instantly that he was a nice guy.

But like everyone in our town, he had his eccentricities. From my view of Sam through the post-office window boxes, they amounted to two things. First, he studiously read all of his junk mail. He’d stand right over the trash basket by the door and slowly, carefully open each colorful envelope, examine each shrill piece of marketing entreating him to join this book club or give to that charity. Then, one by one, he’d drop the pieces of paper into the basket. Then he’d look up. “Welp,” he’d say to us by way of farewell, then walk out the door.

The other eccentric thing he did was the thing with the keys.

Sam kept a fairly large ring of keys in the pocket of his overalls. I think it was a legal requirement for residency in our town, that every man over a certain age had to lug around this massive ring containing the keys to every car, truck, tractor, front door, and padlock that he ever owned in his entire life, even if those locks had long since rusted away to nothing. They made quite a jangle, now I’ll tell you. At town meeting, when all these men in their droopy overalls came into the hall, it sounded like a chain gang in the middle of a mass breakout.

Sam’s keys were curiously resistant to jingling, though, at least when he walked. But when he was at the post office, you could hear them. He’d take them out of his pocket and jangle them idly in his hand while he waited for Barbara to hand him his letters (he had long ago forgotten the combination to his mailbox), then put them back in his pocket to begin his careful examination of his junk mail.

But if another customer was in front of him and he had to wait long enough, Sam would stop jangling his keys and slowly shake out one particularly long, old-fashioned looking key. Then he’d carefully, deliberately stick that key--the whole shaft, as long as your middle finger--in his ear.

Whenever this happened, I always stopped what I was doing to watch him. You would have too. It is not physically possible to stick a three-inch long key in your ear--I speak from painful, experimental experience here. But Sam would not just manage to get the whole key shaft in his ear. Once he got it in position, he’d start twisting it this way and that, like he was trying to crank the starter on a cold engine. In fact, that’s how aunt Barbara and I referred to Sam’s strange habit. As he’d stand there in the post office lobby, cranking away, head quivering slightly, eyelids fluttering in some kind of strange ecstasy, Barbara would hiss to me, “Old Sam’s trying to start his brains up again!”

When you live in a small town, no one has his own unique story. Really, you all become part of the same big story, each person a supporting character in the lives of others. When I was young and stupid, I thought old Sam was just this guy I saw sometimes in the summer and would never have any real relation to, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sam had been friends with my grandfather, had known my Dad, man and boy. His wife Edna had been Dad’s first schoolteacher, a claim many older residents in town still make today. When Sam died sometime in the late 1980s (of a heart attack, I think, but am not sure. At least, it wasn’t from any kind of key-induced brain trauma, in case you were wondering), Edna couldn’t keep up the old farm out at Four Corners and so she decamped for the southwest, to live with one of her daughters. And when she did, my parents bought her house.

It was an old Cape-style house, with massive axe-hewn cedar beams notched with the initials of the housewright who framed the place. He had also notched a date on one of the beams: 1740. The frame was sound, as sturdy as the day it was put up, but my Dad had decided that just about everything else in the house had to be torn out and rebuilt. And I mean everything: walls, floors, plumbing, wiring, the whole magilla. I know because I tore most of it out.

I had recently moved back to New Hampshire after a bitterly unsuccessful attempt to find work as a magazine man. I was almost a year out of college and was bunked up with my Big Brother, in a cramped loft of an A-frame house my parents were renting until they found a house they wanted. When Dad came home very early in the spring of 1990 and told me he and Mom had bought Sam’s old house, it was my first real understanding of how the lives of others in this place were connected to mine in ways I had not fully appreciated before. I also understood that I was not going to get to sleep in a room of my own again unless somebody got busy over at Sam’s house and began clearing the way for a major remodel.

And so my days began to fall into a predictable and comfortable pattern. I would rise late in the morning after sleeping off the effects of my night job. I’d dress in my grubbiest clothes, fill a shopping bag with a stack of sandwiches, a large bag of chips and a 3-liter bottle of Coke, then head over to Sam’s house, pick a spot and start swinging my crowbar. I’d work til about 4, go home, shower all the dust and crap off me, then go off to my job.

It was a satisfying existence, although not without its minor inconveniences. One especially vexing concern, to my Dad anyway, was that we couldn’t find Sam’s keys. His widow didn’t have them, and she assured us they had not been buried with him--in fact, she was sure she'd left them somewhere in the house--but they were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t such a big deal when it came to the house proper--we were planning to tear out all the old doors and locks anyway. But in the barn and the back shed, there were a few nice old brass locks on some doors and hatches and Dad dearly wanted to salvage those locks. Of course, he also wanted to see what was behind those locked doors and hatches (and for the purpose of ending needless suspense, I’ll tell you what we ultimately found: old hay, some firewood, a few rat skeletons, and one very startled raccoon). Days passed, no keys turned up, and we just kept on working.

A little more than a month after we began work on the house, I found myself in the narrow, low-ceilinged space of an upstairs bedroom. We were planning to cut through the roof and build out a dormer, so I need to clear out most of the plaster wall and framing on one side. I tended to work alone, banging away with my sledge and crowbar, my earphones clamped firmly to my head, my favorite music blasting away. So I just about crapped myself one day when I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I squawked and jumped and turned, crowbar at the ready.

But it was just my Dad. “Better check your swing, Mister Man,” he said, laughing.

It was just shy of lunchtime, too early for my Dad to be here. “Why aren’t you at work down at the plant?” I asked as I took off my headset.

“Pipe fitters are on strike,” Dad said. He was a union man through and through and wouldn’t cross a picket line for love or money. “So you got another helper for today. Maybe even longer, if they don’t settle things.” He began inspecting my handiwork, noting where I’d have to saw something out, where we’d have to knock up a support beam to keep the other side of the roof from falling in while we built the dormer.

"And I want you to be real careful with these big boards in this closet wall right here," he was telling me. "Them are single sheets of pine, come from pine trees that ain’t around no more. I’m gonna woodwork them a bit and--"

He stopped talking and put his hand up. This was my Dad’s quick-quiet stance, which I knew from an entire youth of walking in the woods with him. The moment he heard a snap of twig or rustle of leaves, he’d freeze and put his hand up like this, and we’d listen. I always felt my pulse quicken at moments like these, half-expecting a large, child-eating bear to come crashing through the bushes at any moment.

But this time, there were no twigs to snap, no leaves to rustle. We stood there like statues for a long moment. Dust and plaster hung suspended in the weak sunlight, the stillness of the old house a palpable thing.

And then we heard it. The distinct sound of heavy feet lumbering across the floor downstairs.

Errrrrrrnk. Errrrrrrrnk. Orrrrnnnnnnk. Arrrrrrrnk.

Dad took his finger from his lips and pointed to the crowbar in my hand. Wordlessly, I handed it to him. He gripped it tight, his face hardening. Dad was always on the lookout for burglars and prowlers and people who might be generally out to Get His Stuff. He had a lot of expensive power tools stowed in the cupboard of the old pantry near the front door, too. They’d be real easy to carry off.

Whoever was downstairs, it sounded like he’d entered through the front door and was creeping slowly through the room that was just below us. But in the silence of the house, it sounded like he was right there with us.

Errrrrrrnk. Errrrrrrrnk. Orrrrnnnnnnk. Arrrrrrrnk.

The footsteps continued for a few seconds more, then stopped. Right below us, they stopped. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even breathe.

Then in one sudden motion, Dad dropped to the floor, elbows and knees and crowbar all slamming with a BANG that made me scream and would certainly have scared the bejesus out of anyone downstairs--the noise would have been directly over their heads. But we didn’t hear anyone shout or scream or call out. So my Dad yelled, in his very loudest voice. “WHO’S THERE, BY GORRY?!?”

If it had been a curious neighbor, they would surely have announced themselves. Had it been a prowler, we’d have heard the shuffling of feet as they got the hell out.

Instead, we heard nothing.

Dad was up off the floor, crowbar in the head-bashing position. “You look out, see if you see anyone,” he said, pointing to the dusty, cracked window set into the wall behind me. I did this while Dad scuttled to the ladder that would take him down. I peeked out the window—nothing but trees and a glimmer of wet tarmac out on the road beyond. Dad had clambered a few steps down the ladder, then stopped dead.

He called my name. “Come here a minute, will ya?” he asked, the let’s-kick-some-ass tone gone out of his voice.

As I walked over to where the ladder was, Dad was peering down below at something I couldn’t see. He was shaking his head. “We must be the stupidest sons-of-bitches alive, ol’ fella,” he said, laughing.

“Why?” I said.

He just laughed some more. “We heard someone creaking around on the floor downstairs, right?” I nodded. I was almost to the ladder now.

“Well, sir, then you tell me: How the hell could they do that when there IS no floor downstairs?” he asked.

I didn’t even have to come down the ladder to realize what he was saying. He was right, of course: We discovered early on that almost the entire downstairs floor of the place was dangerously rotted. Consequently, we had to tear out most of the floor first, leaving us with just a couple of narrow cedar beams as walkways over the pit of the old cellar. As I stood at the top of the ladder (it was a long one, extending all the way to the cellar floor), I surveyed the open area below, trying to see what could possibly have made that distinctive foot-on-floorboards sound we’d heard. But all that was down there was a lattice work of cedar beams and a couple of gravity-defying walls off in one corner that had hung onto the ceiling supports even after we tore the floor out from under them. Everything below this was stone and dirt from the cellar far below.

“Well, Mister Man,” Dad said, “If you can find a floorboard to creak down here, you’re a smarter fella than me. You ever heard anything like this going on here before?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head vigorously. Although of course, I usually wore my headphones and listened to my Walkman, or made so much noise with a saw or crowbar that I wouldn’t have heard anything, I realized a little sickly. Now granted, I was in my early 20s by this time, my years growing up in a haunted farmhouse already a fact of my life. But it had been a while since anything quite like this had happened to me. I was a little shook up.

So I did what I always do when I’m shook up; I made a joke out of it. “Must be old Sam walking around,” I said, hazarding a weak chuckle.

Dad liked this. “Ayuh! Ol’ fella come to check on our progress.” He took a breath, then bellowed. “Sam, hope you like what we done with the place! We’ll be starting on the barn next, soon as I find your goddamn keys!”

As soon as he said this, my Dad got a kind of shocked, startled look, as if he’d just remembered something. He hustled down the ladder and hopped to a floor beam that was immediately below. I started down the ladder myself, then stopped to watch as Dad edged along the floor beam until he was in the room that was right below where we had been standing, the room where we had heard someone walking on the floor that wasn’t there anymore. Along the outside wall of this room, two radiators sat on either side of the window. We hadn’t torn these out yet, so they just hung there, suspended by the strong pipes that came up from the furnace in the cellar. Dad hopped from the beam to the window and was now hanging by the sill to inspect the radiator.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“These are old radiators,” he said, staring closely at the one in front if him. “Hot-water heating. You know what you have to do every season when you turn the furnace on?”

I did. “Bleed the air out of the pipes?”

“Ayuh. And what do you need to open the radiator air valve?” He had his hand on the radiator now and was pulling on it.

I knew the answer, and by now you probably do too. “You need a special key,” I said.

But Dad didn’t hear my answer because he was too busy whooping. The moment he pulled the radiator out away from the wall, there was a loud jingle and the massive ring of keys (no doubt they had been set atop the radiator by Sam's wife and fell down the back) plummeted through the space where the floor should have been and landed in the dirt of the cellar. With a cackle, Dad let go of the window sill and dropped down to join them. He stood up and shook them at me triumphantly.

“Knew they had to be here somewheres,” he said. “Shoulda thought of the radiators. Guess I oughtta thank old Sam for jump-starting my brains for me.”

Dad got the locks open that afternoon. And I continued to work at the house almost every day for the next six months. Always with my headphones off.

But I never heard the floors creak again.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Thursday, October 01, 2009


In Which We Find the Path...

May 1976:

I am not quite to the part of our street where the tar ends and the dirt road begins, but I can see it. It’s far, but not too far. I crank a little harder. My old green Schwinn shakes and rattles and sounds like it’s going to tear itself apart as I speed up. The dirt road is getting closer.

Then, even above the sound of my old bike, I hear my Dad’s truck. He makes a wide arc around me, but in passing he still manages to spray me with dirt and bits of gravel. I jam on the brakes and the bike skids sideways to a halt. Dad jumps out and stares at me for a moment.

“You supposed to be riding out this far?” he asks. It’s a rhetorical question, so I don’t answer. I get off the bike and wheel it over to the truck. It’s a heavy bike, but Dad effortlessly picks it up by the frame and shot-puts it over the tailgate. I open the door and climb up into the passenger seat. Dad puts the truck in gear and we roll down the last stretch of road up to where the tar ends.

“You know where this is? This is the town line. It’s more than a mile from the house,” he says, reminding me what I already know: I’m not supposed to ride my bike any further than down to the neighbor’s or up to the bridge. The town line where the dirt road begins is way past the bridge.

“I know,” I say. “It’s what I was going for.”

“Why would you? Knowing you’re gonna catch hell from your mother?” he asks as he makes a u-turn and we head back.

I can’t answer him, not completely, not at the age of eight. I’m tired of riding up and down our little span of street, tired of my Big Brother jumping out from various hiding places, trying to knock me off the bike I’ve only
just learned
to ride. I’m proud of this new skill, so hard-won; intoxicated by the sense of potential, of the things I can do with it. Every time I pedal out onto our road and hear the whirring of the tread on the tar, feel the wind in my face, I become aware of an immense possibility. I could go anywhere now, I think.

“Well?” Dad asks. He’s waiting for an answer.

“I just wanted to cross the town line,” I said.

Dad shakes his head. “Your come this way in the car four or five times a week! Why--?”

“Not on my own!” I cry. I’m not supposed to interrupt my Dad--it really riles him--but I can’t help it. I feel a sense of determination building in my head. This seems like an important point to me, but it’s beyond my power to articulate. “I just wanted to see how far I could get on my own,” I say finally, as we pull into the driveway. Mom is waiting on the steps; the look on her face is the look of a woman who just got the weather report, and it’s all storm clouds. I lose bicycling privileges for a week, and also have to bear up under the supplemental punishment of being smirked at by BB. It’s a few days before I realize that my Dad never yelled at me for interrupting him.

September 1976:

It’s quite an accident scene, if I say so myself. Viewed from overhead, it must look awesome: Here are the two cars of the old ladies who went this way off the camp road, and that way into the flower bed. There’s the truck of the guy who wasn’t looking, down in the ditch, its engine ticking and smoking lightly. There are the two big tire ruts from the truck, including the big swooshy one that went right over my old green bike. Oh, and here’s the best part: the big depression in the dirt right next to the bike, and the trail of blood from the depression, leading off and away.

Yeah, overhead it’s a pretty cool scene, but probably not so much from my Dad’s perspective. From his view, pulling up in the main entryway of the campground in Skowhegan, Maine, it must have been a little worrisome. Especially when he saw the distinctive battered green bike, this far down the hill from our campsite.

The manager of the campground is out in the middle of the road, trying to direct traffic. The guy in the truck is drunk and his axle is broken. He’ll need a tow truck. Old Lady #1 is already backing her car onto the road and getting the hell out of there. Old Lady #2 has left her car in the flower bed, and that really seems to have annoyed the manager. He’s calling for her, but she isn’t answering. She’s sitting next to me. In a second, so is my Dad.

“Knew if I followed the trail of blood I’d find you, by Gorry,” he says with a laugh. But he sounds shaky, like he’s just had a bad scare, which I know is impossible. Dad’s not afraid of anything.

“Got reflexes like a cat, this one,” the lady says, then tells Dad how the guy in the truck came through the main gate way too fast and started fishtailing in the dirt road, driving oncoming cars this way and that. I just remembered seeing a truck coming at me and knew I couldn’t turn the bike to avoid him--it was a heavy, cumbersome bike, a little too big for me to steer with any speed or grace. So I jumped, off the bike and to the side, landing in a hard patch of gravel that laid the underside of my arm raw like a big piece of sandpaper. The truck must have missed me by only a foot or two, but I never noticed. I was too busy staggering over to the campground swimming pool. My arm was studded with bits of dirt and whole actual stones, sunk right into the flesh. I needed to wash it off and see how bad the damage was. So I knelt down and dipped my arm in the public pool. The chlorine stung like a mother. Old Lady #2 came over to make sure I was alive, I guess, and keep me company while I picked small stones out of my arm. After pulling out one particularly deep stone, a small but persistent spray of blood started jetting out of my wrist and into the pool. At the lady’s urging, I pressed hard against the injury with my other hand, and that’s how my Dad found me.

“Look,” I say, nodding my head at the pool. It’s not a big pool and its color has gone from sea green to light pink. “Hey, it’s a pool of my own blood. Get it?” I laugh. I feel dizzy.

“Were you headed for the gate?” Dad asks as he pulls out a clean hankie from his back pocket and ties it--hard and tight--around my wrist.

I look around and wonder absently where the old lady went. Then I look at my Dad. “Yeah,” I answer. “It’s only two miles to town. I wanted to--"

“I know what you wanted,” he says as he helps me to my feet. The old lady is back in her car in the flower bed, gunning the engine. Dad walks me to his truck. Someone comes running over to us, wheeling my bike. It has been run over by a truck and still the damn thing works, not so much as a broken gear or bent rim.

“I hate that bike,” I mutter as Dad shot-puts it into the back. “I don’t care if I can’t ride it for a week.” Not that I’d want to, not with my arm bleeding and sore the way it is.

Dad hops in next to me and start up the truck. “Well, sir,” he says, “I’d be inclined to get you a new bike if I thought you’d ride where you’re told.” He doesn’t realize it at the time, but he’s just struck a deal with me.

April 1980:

“This way!” I gasp, making a sharp left off the main street and into the alley. My best friend Shawn follows me on his bike. Shawn is the tallest kid in our class but he has to crank hard to keep pace with me. This is because I am highly motivated: the Privat boys are right behind us, and if they catch me, I’m convinced they will pull my tongue from my head.

I fancy myself something of a boy detective most of the time, but right now all I am is a smart-ass on the run. The older Privat boy, Larry, is BB’s age and size. He and his younger (but not much smaller) brother Craig saw me and my friend in the park. I was wearing the Army utility belt that served as my Mobile Crime Lab and had taken out my magnifying glass and a piece of paper. Shawn and I were testing our survival skills, trying to start a fire by holding the glass in the sun, above the paper. You never knew when you might be on stake-out some cold night and needed a fire, you know?

Larry called over. “What are you two little fags doing with your faggy magnifying glass?”

“Why?” I called back before I could stop myself. “You want to borrow it so you can find your ding-dong?”

And so, to the bikes.

I was riding my faithful steed, my trusty, speedy Huffy Thunder Road racing bike, complete with authentic motorcycle hand-grips and battery-powered 8-channel CB radio (working range up to 25 feet!). My parents got it for me almost four years ago when we left Maine. I had behaved myself ever since, riding only within sight of the house and using my new bike mostly to jump makeshift ramps that BB set up in the driveway. Then we moved to Kansas, to a small town with big sidewalks and quiet, untrafficked streets. Gradually, BB and I were given the run of the town, so long as we didn’t ride out on the highway past the school, over the railroad tracks on either end of town, or past the Litch farm, where the town road disappeared into the vast sorghum fields. I stayed within those limits, but made it my business to know every street, alley, and access road in town.

Halfway up the alley, I hook a sharp left and hope Shawn is keeping up. Then I veer right, across an old embedded track from when they used to back box cars up to the back of the feed store. Now we’re in a dark alleyway lined by vine-covered fences on either side. “Where--?” Shawn asks, huffing behind me. I brake hard, then turn the bike left and duck under an ivy overhang. We’re on a very narrow sidewalk running between two tall buildings. Elbows and knees brushing brick on either side, we glide along the cool dark space and emerge two blocks from where we first turned. The Privat brothers are nowhere in sight.

Shawn is impressed, and that takes some doing. “Not bad,” he says. “Did you really know where you were going?”

“Yes,” I said simply. “Yes I do.”

October 1991:

It’s mid-month and still unseasonably warm in Chicago. I’m sitting out on a bench in front of my office building, eating a tomato and bologna sandwich which, at that time in my life, I considered the second-most delicious thing ever. The most delicious thing ever is walking toward me from the parking lot, where I just watched her pull in.

“Hi,” Her Lovely Self says, sitting down on the bench next to me. I can smell her perfume, and something else. The high sweet smell of oil, of a kind that puts me in mind of my Dad’s chainsaw. She arches her back, turns her face to the sun. “It’s beautiful out,” she says.

“Beautiful,” I echo, staring at her, bits of sandwich all but falling out of my mouth, I'm that pathetic. Then I catch myself and before she can see me gazing at her with such adulation, I direct my eyes down at the ground. At her shoes in fact: a pair of off-white flats. One of them has some kind of dark scuff mark along the top. The mark looks like--

“Can I have your nuts?” she asks. I look up, startled and strangely hopeful, then see her pointing to the bag of cashews sitting nearby. “Thanks,” she says as I hand them over. “I didn’t have time to eat lunch today. Had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket.” I nod. Her birthday was last weekend. She went out partying with her roommates and her current boyfriend, some ding-dong she met on a bus to a Cubs game. This guy seems to have locked up all of her free time, time I wouldn’t mind sharing with this vision of loveliness. But I need an in, some way to--

Then it hits me. The smell: chain oil. The scuff on her shoe: a tread mark. No time to buy lunch because she was out looking at something to spend her birthday money on. She’s buying a bicycle, I think. God bless you, boy detective, wherever you are.

“I hear it’s going to be warm all weekend. What are you gonna do?” she asks.

“Oh,” I say nonchalantly. “I’m going to take my new bike for a spin, maybe ride up the Skokie Trail--"

“Did you just get a bike?” she says, genuinely enthused. “I was just shopping for one!”

“No way!” I cry, giving her a what-are-the-odds look, even as I’m wondering where I’m going to find the money--today--to buy the bike I just told her I owned. Except...I can’t quite find it in me to beat myself up for lying. Because in that moment, I realize that I’m telling a kind of truth. “I love my bicycle,” I say. “Ever since my old Huffy rusted to bits, I’ve wanted a new bike. It’s how I find my way. When you’re on your bike, well, that’s when you really know where you are. You know?”

Her Lovely Self just stares at me. “You say some funny things sometimes,” she says, then pats me on my forearm, the one with all the scars and gravel divots. “But that’s okay. I’ll pick you up Saturday morning. You can figure out how to put my new bike rack on the back of my car.” I smile and before I can stop myself, I tell her how happy I would be to get my hands on her rack.

August 2009:

I wake in the darkened room and for a minute, I don’t know where I am. Then I feel the tension headache pulsing behind my eyeball, feel the tightness in my shoulders, the pulse in my neck. I stare at the clock--it’s almost nine--and jump out of bed. Late! I think. I can’t be late for work!

Then I remember: It’s Saturday. My first week as editor-in-chief is over. I survived it. I didn’t end up in a pool of my own blood. I didn’t have to run and hide in an alley. No one took away my nuts in a baggie. The relief is palpable.

I throw on a t-shirt and shorts and stagger downstairs to the kitchen of my temporary living quarters. I make a cup of coffee and step outside. It’s already a warm day. Runners and moms with jogging strollers are making use of the walking trail just across the way. Someone told me the walking trail connects to a canal tow path, which in turn joins up with a rail-trail that gives you access to the entire city. I look over at the side of the building, to where my old bike sits, waiting. It could be my green Schwinn, my black Huffy, the mountain bike I bought in Chicago on impulse, and that impulse was love. It's my bike and it sits and waits, but not for long.

In a few minutes, helmet adjusted and water bottle filled, I’m slowly pedaling over to the walking trail. The headache is evaporating, the tension across my shoulders easing. I may have survived my first week on the job, but I still have a city to learn, boundaries to stretch. I see a sign pointing me to the dirt path along the canal, to the city, to the future. I coast along the tarmac walking trail, onto the road, and down the hill.

I am not quite to the part of the street where the tar ends and the dirt road begins, but I can see it. It’s far, but not too far.

I crank a little harder.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

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