Riding Bikes With Ghosts

Right after dinner after getting the girls in bed I get to the garage and grab my bike and I’m ready to go. Rode it yesterday after not riding it for years and stuffed it in the van and drove it to the QT to inflate the tires for free and rode that bitch. It’s got one sticker on it from the move up north and one from the move back down and all the dust and rust from in between and the front tire is flat again already. Goddammit.

I can stuff it in the van one more time and fight traffic to the QT or I can go two blocks to Wal-Mart and buy a pump. Or I can go back inside and stare at the computer again for a couple hours before I have to get up.

Wal-Mart has the kind you pump with your foot and that’s what I want. I’m not pushing down on some bullshit dynamite contraption like Wile E. Coyote. The cashier could be more civil but it’s Wal-Mart and I expect to be treated like shit. Outside, the heat feels right. Like stepping into an oven. “They don’t have heat like this in the Midwest!” I scream at the parking lot. “They can’t handle heat like this! I grew up in this oven!” Mexican illegals are approaching and I point at them. “Did you? Or you?” And to the man with the turban, “What about you?”

Back in my driveway the wheel is angled so I can’t see the tire is off the rim. I keep pumping and kicking and pumping harder and grinding cause I got the one with the foot thing not the dynamite thing. I rip off the hose, straddle the bike, and the tube is ballooning like it’s some cartoon tube twice the size of my head. I touch it, just touch it, and it explodes. Twice. Why twice I don’t know but I bet it woke up my daughter in her room above the garage and I cuss the world loudly in my head where no one can hear me scream and wait for my wife to come out and say what the fuck you know she just went to bed.

Back to Wal-Mart to get a new tube. It’s the same cashier and this time I’m reaching for the 44 cent bag of peanuts I didn’t get last time because I’m a hungry motherfucker. I’m impulse buying and I’ve got the funds to do it. She doesn’t look up just says “I’m closed.” Like I’m the problem. You horrible witch! I scream in my head where no one can hear me scream. Fuck your peanuts! Screw uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

“Sorry,” I say, and walk.

I walk past closed registers. There is an open one somewhere up ahead, I’m sure of it because I know how this economy works. I find it and I’m getting in line. A lady on a motorized scooter is coming at me, looks right at me, right the fuck at me, and cuts a hard left across my path into the line. My line. The line I’m getting into. And I have to stop so we don’t crash. “Don’t let me get in your way, Your Highness!” I demand.

I contemplate what it will be like when I arrive in Hell.

I’m getting the bitch on. The tube. On the bike. The back door swings open violently and yet (here’s the thing) oh so quietly and it’s my wife whisper-shouting, “What the fuck?”

I tell her I’m going to Hell. She says nothing. She doesn’t have to.

My hands are black. I’m sweating like a race horse. It’s an oven out there like they don’t have in the Midwest, can’t have, wouldn’t know how to have. I’ve got my tire on and it’s inflated. Everyone better get out of my way because it’s late and I have to get up at five to drive an hour to work nine and drive back again.

I’m sweating like a race horse. I pull a bottle of red wine from the pocket of my cargo shorts. Glug glug I’m 44 on a bike with cargo short pockets full of wine and no one can stop me. Not shitty cashiers, not old ladies on scooters, not my wife. I’m pedaling down the street I grew up on. Pedaling past the house I grew up in. And I slow down like it’s a goddamn movie. I stop pedaling and the chain clicks like film in a projector. I feel myself braking like I’m in a movie, and the music changes and we cut to the driveway, the lens pulling back, and then cut back to me as I roll up and put my foot down.

A ghost runs out and jumps on the handle bars. I put my arm around her waist and start pedaling again. I start to feel the wind again and she turns back to me and smiles. “Remember that time you moved back in?” she says.

“Which one?” I say.

“Yeah,” she says, her hair blowing back to tickle my face.

“Yeah,” I say, cicadas buzzing in the trees.

“Remember that time you rode your bike drunk around the lake and scattered the ducks?”

“Yeah.”

“They put a sign up says ‘Don’t Disturb the Ducks.’

“Because of me?”

Her hand cups my cheek as the neighborhood slides past. “I’m just saying there’s a sign.”

“Can’t just be me disturbing the ducks.”

“I’m just saying.” She’s got one hand behind my neck and her forehead tucked under my chin as she points with her pinky. “There’s your dad’s old house.” It goes by like an old black and white movie. We’re on the set and the background is fake and repeats.

“Yeah.”

“Don’t you want to peek over the fence?”

“Yeah. Not now, though.”

Her hands on my knees as we coast, she points with her toes, “There’s Sandra Bourland’s house.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t live there anymore. I’m sure her parents don’t. I’m sure it’s bought and sold a couple times since.”

“Don’t you want to –”

“Yes. All of it. Everything you want to do.”

She smiles. “Is that why you came to get me?”

“It just happened, but everywhere you want to go, me too.”

“You were so done here.”

“But I’m back now. And here we are.”

“It’s nice.”

“I didn’t expect it.”

“Home.”

“Home.”

We arrive at the lake.

“There’s the bench where—”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Tires in the grass and I’m pedaling as hard as I can in high gear and there are no ducks which is good because I’d fuck them up. I turn the wheel and destroy the brakes and skid sideways to a stop and dismount the machine and sling it into the water and it goes glug glug down to the bottom and a duck squawks, put out.

I pull another bottle of wine out of my cargo short pockets and collapse on the bench with my ghost.

“I love you.”

“Me too.”

“Glad your back.”

“Me too.” I spit red wine into the air and it arcs triumphantly towards scorched earth. I wipe my mouth with my wrist.

It feels okay. It’s hot as fuck and the sun has gone down. I have to be up for work at five. I bet my wife is worried but she hasn’t called.

***

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30 thoughts on “Riding Bikes With Ghosts

  1. I laughed, and I felt this. Bugnuts crazy. I’m going to start putting wine into my cargo shorts too, and ducks – fuck em. Who gives a crap if they’re put out, they’re meant for my dinner table.

    Great voice – really Walt, this was a cool cool read. Despite the heat.

    Like

    • I don’t know what else the pockets are good for. The one time I had duck it tasted like a garden hose. Maybe I had a bad one? My original About page (Iong gone) talked about how my style or voice would be consistently inconsistent from piece to piece as I experimented and tried on differenent ones. I borrowed some of your style in this one. Hope you don’t mind none too much. You know what they say about imitation. Have a good day, good sir.

      Like

      • I’m honoured that you borrowed anything from me… that is a high high compliment. Not like you of all people need to borrow anything from me, but again, I’m honoured.

        Consistently inconsistent… that is a great goal to reach for.

        Like

      • I’m honoured that your honoured. As you’ve said, your approach is usually very immediate and in the moment. Mine is typically much more polished and edited and clipped and cut and pasted, and sometimes that works, and sometimes that can suck the life out of the thing. I’m learning from you how to be a little less of a control freak. That’s my take anyway. I’m open to feedback from you or anyone else who’s reading. I agree with your comments on at the matticus kingdom too.

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  2. You always leave me with questions! Who is the ghost? How did she die? Who was she to him? Why did he leave and then come back? Had he not ridden the bike because he had moved away and the ghost wasn’t there to jump on the handlebars?

    Liked by 1 person

    • My, that’s a lot questions! In another post I mentioned that my wife once told me she thought there was a ghost in the house I grew up in, and I mentioned how I thought I sensed its sadness when she (my mom) moved out. I really did ride by the house on my bike recently, and I really did feel compelled to brake and it did feel melodramatic like a movie might. I wanted to roll up into the driveway and take a look around. It was hard not to. I have a lot of feelings for that house and that neighborhood, and using the ghost to express them made sense to me and felt right. I never thought about who the ghost was, male/female, etc until she became a she and a character in the story. I liked the idea, the image, and I didn’t take it much farther than that. I guess what I’m saying is some of the questions you’re asking never occurred to me while others I think are answered in previous posts. But maybe it would be a better story if there was more to it. It would certainly be a lot longer. Thanks for this comment! I wonder if others have these questions now.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Funny tags, you. I like the voice here you’re trying on, the pace of it and the herky-jerky quality. I don’t read flash fiction, I’m not sure the format works for me to write or read yet. I subscribed to Longreads some time ago, to support them, but haven’t read it yet…and when I met the guy who started it at a WP blogger conference in Portland, he said something like, they’re interested in online fiction but it hasn’t stuck yet, or its time hasn’t come yet, something like that. I wonder if it has to do with our attention spans and how much we can really delve into a story while reading it online, or whatever % of us read on our mobiles or on the toilet. This piece makes me want to read a more developed version of the same. As a writer/blogger, I sometimes fall into the pit-trap of writing to this level of attention for my readers because it gets me off the hook of doing the hard work to take it further. I think I had that realization just recently, I’m going to stop posting poems that are like 50% done so I can tinker with them until they’re done-done (without sucking the life out of them, as you said in another comment here). Would like to see you play with this voice some more, personally.

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    • Well, it’s interesting that you don’t read flash ficiton and I don’t read poetry, yet we read each other. I mentioned in another comment that I borrowed the pace from Trent. What you call the herky-jerky style is, I think, something of yours I borrowed. If what you mean by herky-jerky is what I think you mean, anyway. And it might not be. But what I’m saying is that in this one I was consciously ripping off/riffing off pieces of his style and yours that I like. I was going to say I put your chocolate in his peanut butter, and althought that made for a catchy commercial back in the day sounds a little weird now, so I won’t say it. Or I will ask you to forget I sad it. Or wish I hadn’t said it. How’s Europe?

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      • And hey, thanks for the tip on Trent because I started following him too — another writer from Ross’s neighbourhood. I like the chocolate and peanut butter mash-up and use that often, though somehow it has a vague homo-erotic thing happening, at least to me. And now I should close my laptop and go communicate directly with people, without keys and boxes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your writing! You speak right to my heart (without all of the expletives–which just isn’t me, but I can read it from someone else for-goodness-sake). I’m in the process of getting ready to move back home FROM the midwest to my hometown, New Orleans, LA. Which is hotter than f***k! But I so miss it, along with my family. Been in Illinois for nearly 14 years and have had enough. Your piece really spoke to me. If you head on over to my site you’ll see why. Great job!!

    Like

    • Thanks for the love! I don’t usually work blue. According to the stats, this is my 117th post, and I’d guess about 115 of them are expletive-free. I’ve got family in Baton Rouge and I like New Orleans a lot. Also was born in Chicago and have family there. But I grew up in Texas and Texas is home. Just came back after four years in Ohio, that’s all my wife could take. She had to get home. At one point I created a blog for her to write out her frustrations called Home, Tortuga (Spanish for turtle, her favorite animal) but she never got into it. I will check out your blog and be rooting for you to get back home!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Missed this when you first posted it – apologies. Great post – ranting, raving, full of bile and longing for other lifetimes.
    Love the idea of picking up a ghost on your handlebars – picking it up, running with it a bit, then consigning them back to the past where they belong.
    Love your cussing the girl in Walmart – they also own Asda, a previously British owned supermarket, and clearly their staff are trained the same the world over. The one’s in our local store pretty much push the customers out of the way so they can get through. Pay peanuts, get monkeys.
    Love your mobility scooter lady too – have a lot of them near us, speeding on the pavements, dodging buses on the road, hanging there shopping baskets with furry animal keyrings (why do they do that?)
    I don’t own any cargo pants, though. Unfortunately, you can’t fit bottle of wine in jeans pockets. I might try a quarter of vodka, though.

    Like

    • Well, now, I do believe you are the first to apologize for missing a post! Really, most people just ignore them, pretend like they are not there. Just kidding, kind of, but there are a lot more people who don’t read than do, so while it’s never expected for anyone to like or comment, it’s always a pleasure when they do. Thank you!

      There is a good bit of bile and ranting and raving. Or so I thought, and so I intended. Most people seem to have found it humorous, though. Which was also unexpected. I guess there are some funny elements, and while I often intend my posts to be humorous, this one not so much. But oh well.

      You must try cargo clothing. Shorts, pants, what have you. Forget that they are out of style now. Stock up while prices are low. They are quite handy, and fashions come back around, don’t you know.

      Like

      • Nothing wrong with a bit of righteous bile every now and again – anger is an energy, as John Lydon once bellowed – and I do heartily approve of a bit of creative swearing. Big and most definitely clever.
        I don’t assume anyone to read my posts either (and often I’m not disappointed 🙂 ) but I enjoy your posts, so try not to miss them.
        I always rather liked the look of cargo pants – combats we’d probably call them over here. Lots of pockets is handy, though these days I often forget where I’ve put something, so lots of Columbo – esque pocket patting may ensue.

        Liked by 1 person

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