“Fit!” I ordered the tire gauge. But it popped off the valve with a hissing sigh. My bike tire was still malleable even after three go-rounds with the air hose. I didn’t really need to read the PSI to know  I was doing it wrong.  “Here, you’ve actually got a car flat.” I handed the air hose to a man waiting beside me.

“Take your time,” he said.  But he didn’t hand it back. Instead he shook it. “There’s the problem. It’s broken. There isn’t enough pressure to force the inner tube to inflate.”

I glared at the machine for deceiving me with its hiccupping hum. “Do you know anyplace else close we could go?”

“I’m going to try the Chevron over on Atlanta Highway.”

“Thanks. I guess I will, too.” I stuffed my gauge in my pocket and checked the straps on the car’s bike rack, then followed him out of the parking lot.

It was the first cool day in September, and the sun was dipping lower in the sky. Two stoplights and a U-turn later, I decided I could have pedaled to the next gas station faster than I had driven the car. I watched the man kneel beside his vehicle then get up again with asphalt stains on his khakis.

“Good luck!” He waved as he pulled out.

Right away, I could tell the difference. This machine positively juddered with pressurized energy. Its hose was stiff and hard to manage, and when I applied it to my bike’s valve stem, it emitted a satisfying whish before I completed the connection with a tiny thup.

The tire swelled, but then it twanged and popped over the rim on one side. “Seriously?” The sky was turning orange and pink now. I was running out of daylight. I set down the air hose and got ready to drain the air out.

“ ‘Scuse me.” A woman picked up the hose. Without looking at me, she said, “Do you mind if I take a turn while you fix that?”

“No. Um. Not a problem.”

I fiddled with the valve and listened to the air blast. When a sufficient amount had drained out, I reset the rim and waited. The pinks and oranges were fading to grays by the time the woman finished. Couldn’t she tell I was in a hurry? Wasn’t it obvious that I had only dashed out to fill my tires so I could take a quick ride around the block? Could she not see my window of opportunity for that ride closing as the rays disappeared from the sky?

Finally, she drove away. “Thanks,” she said as she pulled out. It sounded like an afterthought.

I jammed the air back in place, but the valve retreated into the rim. “Really?” I looked around to make sure the parking lot was empty before I set the hose down again. When I yanked the valve back out, something else tupped loose, like maybe the inner tube had been kinked, possibly even folded up over the rim’s edge.

By the time both tires were filled, the colors had left the sky. Twilight had settled, and full dark would follow within minutes. Once I repeated the U-turn and stoplight routine, then drove through the neighborhood to my house, it would be too dark for my ride. And the neighborhood was right there, just exactly behind me, across two deserted parking lots. “Damn it, I could bike faster.”

“I’m sorry?”

I hadn’t seen or heard the other car arrive, but now a woman stood beside her car holding her own tire gauge. “Here.” I handed her the hose. “I’m through.”

I threw the car into reverse, but instead of pulling out into traffic, I drove around behind the gas station and parked next to its car wash. I unhooked my bike from the rack and wrestled it to the ground. I could bike it faster, and Scott could bring me back to pick up the car when I got home. With a final glance to the sky, I set out walking across the grass between two parking lots. Then I threw one leg over the seat, grabbed onto the handlebars, and started to pedal.


About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Rider — 31 Comments

  1. I love your writing, Jessie, absolutely love it. It’s so rich in detail and compelling to read. This piece was no exception.

    I’m a runner not a cyclist, but I do understand the craving to get out there and enjoy that list bit of sunshine. Glad you finally got that ride in!

    • Yes! I’ve tried to run, and I think I feel biking what you feel on a good run. I yearn to live by a good bike path again. I used to in Lexington, and I did not take nearly enough advantage of it.

  2. Oh, I hate that feeling that something I want to do is just within my grasp, but still out of reach. You captured that perfectly! I hope you enjoyed your ride:)
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  3. I love how Kathleen said that your writing is rich in detail. That describes it perfectly to me!
    You write so beautifully that I am completely submerged into whatever you are describing. I had no idea why you were so determined to ride that bike, but damn if I wasn’t searching the horizon along side of you, hoping the sun would linger a few more minutes.
    To me, this is a perfect example of the “why” not mattering because you made the “how” so damn interesting.

    Oh, AND you did it with so few words.

    Show off. 😉

    Awesome piece Jessie!
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    • Thanks Dawn! The reason was kind of buried there in the paragraph where I was waiting for the lady who swiped the air hose to give it back. First pretty day that I could, and the bike’s tires went flat over the hundred million degree summer.

  4. These early fall evenings in the South are so perfect for a bike ride, aren’t they? I’m glad you finally got to make the most of it.
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  5. Oh, isn’t that ALWAYS the way?

    I haven’t ridden my bike in years. It’s been living in my in-laws basement. Since I know live on a stupidly steep hill I doubt I will get back into it anytime soon 🙁
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  6. I am just copying and pasting this first part. Sorry … I promise you will only have to endure it once. I’m Angela — new to blogging and new to yeah write. But, not new to writing. Until becoming unemployed this June (effin’ Scott Walker … oops!), I taught high school English and Creative Writing was one of those courses. So, long story short: I will always have lots to say. Feel free to curse at me if you don’t want to hear all my feedback. If you want more, let me know that too. I will glady offer even further feedback, but I’m not interested in pissing anyone off my first time on the grid. Now, on to your post …
    Very good writing. This made me want to go for a bike ride in this beautiful fall weather (something I probably haven’t done in five years). Nice details and imagery.

    • Waving hi!! Scott Walker is a dangerous asshat. Please, please, please, I welcome concrit. I have a hard time getting it. Welcome to blogging and to yeah write in particular.

  7. Love the attention to small details, and so many of them. Bike straps, rims of tires, pressure gauges, sunset colors… it all matters and you caught it all to give us the best vision. Great job!
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  8. Yes, the details here are fantastic. The hissing and the scene is so good. I love this. It feels different than your other pieces, though I am not sure how. I like it alot. Maybe it’s those details.

    • Cool! I guess the onomatopo… oh I can’t spell that word, and my brain has lost its internal spellchecker. Anyway that could make the difference ;P

  9. i couldn’t figure out why i cared about the bike or what the big deal was, but your writing is so good it just compels me to read and be involved.
    also, i was in the dentist today and thought of you.
    further, the third person thing does freak me out a bit.
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    • I was hoping that the ‘first ride of the season’ was enough reason, but you weren’t the only one unsure why it mattered! Thanks for the huge compliment, and I’m so so so so so sorry you had to have a visit with your sadist erm dentist.

  10. I love your determination to go for a bike ride – a fabulous solution and ending to this well-told story. As others have mentioned, I loved the rich details, especially the hissing, tupping and darkening of the sky. Well done!
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