This summer has been a great one. The weather has been downright stunning, especially here in the Great White North; hot, dry, sunny. But isn't just the weather, it is the confluence of our kids' lives, our home life, our goals, our hopes. It is a little weird to know that, no matter how great the future might be, this simple time of beauty, growth, love, laughter, and peace in our family has set a new high water mark. Even when we didn't get along, it was civil and understandable. Pinch me, but the Odds family has been surfing the crest for months. Crap, I just jinxed it!
Years ago, I said pretty much the same thing to a friend of mine in Puerto Rico, how our life was bucolic, happy, even mundane. Then we were robbed, our dog died, Mrs. Odd's grandmother passed, and my mother and brother died. I spent a year or three wishing I said, "Naw, life sucks." Truly, for awhile I irrationally thought my big mouth had brought down the Big Hurt. I'm yankee enough to be hardwired that you don't get too up, and that being down is a normal, common part of life. I don't like being down, but I do like climbing back up. Having stated that, Mrs. Odd has taught me over the years that it is okay --maybe even normal -- to be happy with little things, to have simple distractions, and that there is no such thing as jinxes.
See, I can't help feeling that I've run this streak of happy luck all the way out. Yeah, even though I don't believe in jinxes, curses, fate, or design, I can't escape completely from my foundation, my inner self. I can't but feel that God or Death or the Three Sisters tapped me on the shoulder last weekend, as if to say, "Yeah, we see you. You seem a little too happy, brother boy." Tap, tap.
Why the worry? Why the glance over the shoulder? Let me set the stage. I took up road biking again, after years off. Mrs. O hooked me up with an entirely sweet (...expensive) bike, and I took to it like cheese to macaroni. Starting in late May, I started riding hard, often, and every day out, a little faster. I was good wearing my helmet, and maybe not so good cranking my i-pod with motivational tunes. A few weeks into my new pursuit, I set two goals; a thousand miles by end of the summer and break forty miles per hour. So all summer, ride-train-ride. June passed by, and I saw it happen from the road. July passed by, and I saw it from behind the bumper of tourists visiting my town. August arrived, and my miles count was edging past 800, but I was having trouble breaking thirty-eight miles per hour. And then we took a weekend in Vermont.
If you have not been to Vermont, imagine a world that is always tilted 5 - 10 degrees. I lived there for nine years, but didn't really notice. But the first day out on my bike, and it became the key feature I cared about. The state should change its name to plain old Mont. But with the hills and mountains came the extra boost I needed, and on that first ride I broke forty three times. Wahoo. Hair on fire. Indestructible. "I'm flying!"
And so it went. Gathered up the miles, built up the legs, and started thinking, "Can I break fifty?" It really never occurred to me to ask, "Should I break fifty?" So now it is last Saturday, and we are in Vermont again, way up the big hills. I get geared up, and ride uphill for awhile. Delayed gratification, you see. And then I aim the handle bars downhill, and "Whoooooosh." Thirty. Thirty-five. Forty. Forty-one. Forty-two. Curve. Shitfuckshitfuckshitfuckshitfuck...
Tap, tap. My sweet bike has breaks. I began to gently pump the breaks. Shitfuck. Tap, tap. Pump the breaks, stand on the pedals. Shitfuck. Wobble. In my head, I yelled, "What the fuck was that?" Tap, tap. Pump the breaks, stand on the pedals, lean back. Wobble, wobble. Shitfuckshitfuck. Wobble, wobble,wobble. SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, WOBBLE, WOBBLE, WOBBLE. Aloud, with a resigned voice, "Oh, SHIT!"
The curve was coming for me. My bike was breaking apart. I was going forty miles an hour. And in a brief flash, I thought of Little Odds and Buttons, and wondered, "What didn't I teach them?" Pump the breaks, stand on the pedals, lean back, navigate the curve. Wobble, wobble, wobble. Pump. Wobble, wobble. Pump. Look for soft landing area. Pump. Wobble. Pump. Smoother. Smoother? Pump, smoother, pump, smooth. Pump, pump, stop. What happened to "Tap, tap" I wondered? I found myself in parking lot, standing astride my most excellent bike. I wasn't dead. I didn't wipe out. I was gonna go home in one piece. Huh, didn't see that coming.
So Sunday, Mrs. O and I spent the first part of the day at the pool. She picked me up from that very parking lot Saturday and I decided to take Sunday off. Sunning. Reading. Eating. Swimming. Checking my balls. Pinching myself. As the day went along, Mrs. O suggested we take a Alpine Slide ride. Sure, I said. What could go wrong? Tap, tap.
So up the hill we went. Tap, tap. And I sought out the fastest cart. Tap, tap. And I bragged that no one ever gets hurt on these things, those signs are for insurance purposes. Tap, tap. Brakes? Who needs brakes. Tap, Tap. Off we went, swoosh! Faster, faster, faster. Tap, tap. Faster, faster, faster, CURVE! Tap, fuckin' tap!
So how did it end? I stayed in the track. The cart didn't. Funny thing how skin reacts to friction on cement. Tap, tap. We got you, sucker! And strangely, as I ripped down the track and felt my skin flay, and saw stars as my jaw cracked on the track's edge, I thought to myself, "This isn't as bad as yesterday would have been. I really got away easy this time!" Tap, tap.