On second thought, I don’t really train with Rudy

September 11, 2012 § 19 Comments

Of all the awesome awesomeness of Rudy Napolitano’s national championship ride in Bend, Oregon last week, the most awesome ego fapping part of all is that I’m now able to say, “Yeah, I train with that dude. National road champ, 35+. Uh-huh.”

I’m not the only wanker who got a woody thinking about the stars-and-stripes jerseys brought home by Rudy, Rich Meeker, Michael Easter, Jamie P., and the medals harvested by Jeff K., DeMarchi, Glass Hip Worthington, Charon Smith, Karl Bordine, and the other SoCal riders who dominated at nationals. No sooner had news of Rudy’s win hit the Cycling Illustrated newsfeed than a whole host of other bone idlers began crowing and bragging about how they train and race with these champions.

Prez even admitted what we all do but are too ashamed to confess: Calling his buddies back East to say “THOSE are my training partners, yo!”

The difference between theory and practice

In theory, I suppose it’s legit to say, for example, that I train and race with Rudy and those dudes. Most Saturdays, after all, he shows up on the Donut Ride, and I show up on the Donut Ride. Several times a year I do the Really Early Morning Ride a/k/a REMR. Jeff does the REMR. And of course numerous times I suit up and saddle up for local crits and road races, events at which Jamie, Glass Hip, Meeker, and Charon also toe the line.

Unfortunately, the extent of my “training rides” with Rudy usually ends about fifteen minutes into the ride, or whenever he makes an acceleration, whichever comes first. I mean, can I really call it “training with Rudy” when he’s not even breaking a sweat and I’ve pulled over and quit? Did we train together when he lazily pedaled away from a hundred idiots on the part of his training ride that was actually before his training ride, because if it had been his actual training ride we, like, would never have known he was there?

Same for the “racing with Rich” thing. Did I really race with him when I got shelled on the first climb? Were we really racing together when he was sprinting for first and I was sprunting for 86th? Were Charon and I in the same race when he was a tiny speck at the front and I was a flailing wanker barely hanging onto the tail end of the whip?

And if it’s that bad for me, what about the other bone idlers like Prez who are still attending esteem building classes in order to actually enter a Cat 2 or 35+ race? What about the wank fodder that gets diarrhea and breaks out in hives the night before the “big” showdown at CBR, then wets their bed so badly they catch cold and miss the race?

Cycling is a reality show, and you’re Snooki

The antics of the men and women who trundled off to Bend and whipped the snot out of the best amateurs in America, if truth be told, have nothing in common with the antics of the rest of us. It’s like having Rahsaan Bahati next to you on the New Pier Ride. He’s with you, but he’s not really with you.

The accomplishments of those who returned with jerseys and medals are incredible. They did what the rest of us wish we could do: Ride our bikes smarter and faster than anyone else in the country. Having them back in our midst is good for some ego fapping, but it’s kind of a bummer, too. If they put the wood to the best racers in America, what’s the math looking like that I’ll ever finish ahead of them?

Right.

Better dial up ol’ Russ back in Texas and let him know that my training partner just won nationals. Uh-huh. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll. Me and Prez, I mean. When we’re not crashing. Or getting dropped. Or ego fapping on the bricks.

The importance of lying wisely

September 2, 2012 § 27 Comments

When it comes to lying, we all get a pass virtually all of the time. There’s no other way we’d make it through the day.

[Middle of bike race] “How’s it going?”

[Can barely keep from falling over] “Fine, you?”

[Customer] “Will these wheels make me faster?”

[Clerk] “Absolutely.”

[Guy with a huge inheritance] “Was it good for you?”

[Chick on first date] “It was unbelievable.”

[Wife] “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?”

[You] “No.”

The vast majority of our lies are permissive lies. The person receiving the lie knows it’s a lie, and in fact prefers the deception to the truth. Don’t believe me? Try answering “yes” to that last question the next time you’re asked.

Off limits lying

There is another group of lies that is off limits. You aren’t allowed to tell these lies unless you’re also prepared for a shitstorm of consequences if and when the truth comes out. Fortunately, this type of lie often comes with lots of warning signs. For example, if it says “Signed under penalty of perjury,” even if you don’t know exactly what perjury is, you sure as hell understand “penalty.”

Other little indicators are when, prior to being asked the question, someone commands you to “Raise your right hand.” In the personal sphere, off limits lies may be indicated when the questioner has her hands on her hips, or on a skillet, or on the trigger.

Sports lies and the lying liars who tell them

Political speech has for so long been exempt from any requirement of veracity that it is superfluous to remark after a debate or press release or interview, “He was lying.” Of course he was lying. He’s a politician. If we’d wanted someone to tell us the truth about our crumbling society and the sacrifices it will take to fix it, we’d have hired Mother Teresa.

At the other end of politics, where veracity is punished with getting booted from office, we have the world of sports. For the most part, sports, and especially professional sports, are also filled with lies and liars.

[Coach] “I’m not sure he’ll be ready in time for the big game tomorrow.”

[Player] “I didn’t bet on the outcome of my own games.”

[Announcer] “This game is going to be a thriller!”

However, and it’s a big however, there is one sport where mendaciousness will get you excommunicated once and for all and forever if you’re ever caught in the lie. The sport is running. The lie is about your time.

Why runners are so whacko about times

In cycling, you can pretty much fake anything, even in the “race of truth.” Spend enough money on equipment, or on a coach, or on “supplements,” and you can eke out a marginal improvement over what you did previously.

In mass start events it’s even easier. Get lucky and make the break. Sit wheels the whole race and sprint at the end. Have your teammates work their hearts out so that you can cruise in at the finale. Leapfrog your way from 50th to 25th in the last half-lap.

Running? Not so much.

Running is simply a sport of minutes and seconds, and the great unwashed majority of runners live and die by how much time it takes to complete a course. This is one reason that runners rarely suffer from the “professional masters racing syndrome” common among cyclists. As a runner, you know your PR. You know the times of your competition. They are either within reach (rarely, if ever) or completely beyond anything you could even think about doing in your wildest, craziest fantasy.

The hardest of the hard core

Of all the running disciplines, none approaches the majesty and respect of the marathon. The marathon is such a dreaded and awful event that millions and millions of first-rate athletes will never even attempt it, so terrible is its reputation. Those who do run a marathon invariably mark it as one of their signal athletic achievements. It is a high watermark of ability, endurance, preparation, and toughness, irrespective of the time it takes to finish.

Hence, the finishing time for a marathoner is unforgettable. It’s an indelible number, down to the second. This is partly a function of the horrific nature of the event, but it’s also a function of the preparation that such an event entails.

In order to run a marathon, you have to know how quickly you can run a mile. Those one-mile splits that you become intimately familiar with in training become the yardstick for your finishing time. There has never been a marathoner who did not know, prior to ever doing the race, a close approximation of their best possible finishing time.

In fact, the act of running the marathon is a mental and physical game of hewing as closely to your splits as possible. The worst thing you can do is to start off way under your splits. You’ll melt like cheese on a griddle.

No marathoner has ever been, or ever will be, confused about their finishing time

When you run a marathon, you will either be close to your estimated best time or horribly slower due to weather, injury, illness, starting too quickly, terrain, nutrition, or any other number of factors that can ruin you on race day.

What will never, ever happen is that, after thorough preparation, you will run an hour faster than your best estimated time. It’s not not humanly possible, and it’s easy to see why: If you were targeting a four-hour marathon, you’d need to run 9:10 miles. If you were targeting a sub-three hour marathon, say a 2:55:00, you’d need to run each mile in 6:41.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been beaten repeatedly about the testicles with a giant block of concrete, or if you’ve ever had root canal surgery without anesthesia, or if you’ve ever given birth through your anus, but that’s the pain differential for a person who runs 9:10 splits suddenly having to run even a handful of 6:41 miles.

Let alone the physical impossibility of suddenly churning out a string of 6:41’s, the mental impossibility is much greater, as if it even made sense to speak of degrees of impossibility. What’s clear to anyone who’s ever run a mile is that you can’t suddenly, or gradually, shave minutes off your splits in a marathon.

The anchor in the runner’s sanity

This is why, on average, runners are less batshit crazy than cyclists. They know that there’s no way they will ever go from running 9:10 splits to 6:41 splits, no matter how fancy the shoes, the coach, or the drugs. And because your times admit of so little improvement once you’ve become a conditioned runner, lying about those times takes on an outrageousness that can scarcely be described.

Lying about your race time is not simply ignoble, it is a complete repudiation of the suffering and preparation that is marathoning.

Cyclists, of course, lie all the time about everything. Runners? Not about their marathon times, because it makes a mockery of your fellow runner and, if uncovered, makes a mockery of you. You don’t simply become a gassy liar who can’t be trusted to recount his race time, like some douchebag golfer who kicks the ball and shaves strokes, you become the antithesis of integrity, the noxious weed that, if left unchecked, will overgrow the entire garden.

Once a marathoner gets away with lying about their time, the game is over for everyone, because in running, the game is the time.

How hard is it to run a sub-three hour marathon?

Consider this quote, from a guy who finished his first New York Marathon in 2:59:36. “…that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.”

The runner? Seven-time-strippee-of-the-TdF Lance Armstrong.

Breaking three hours in a marathon is so far beyond the realm of the possible for the vast majority of runners that, if you’re lucky enough and talented enough and dedicated enough to actually do it, it is a lifetime milestone. You would more easily forget the first time you got laid, or your birthday, than you would forget the time of your sub-three hour marathon, down to the second, especially if it was the only marathon you ever ran.

Which brings up another point. Unless you’ve run dozens of them, you remember every marathon you’ve ever run. And even more importantly, if you’ve only run one marathon, there’s no way on God’s green earth that you would ever, ever, ever think that you’d run several. It’s as impossible as thinking you’d gotten both legs amputated instead of just one.

So now the table is set. Dinner is served. Everyone, please come to the table and enjoy a helping of a lie so sick, so twisted, so profoundly fucked up, and so indicative of scumbaggery that when you read it, it should make your stomach turn.

Interviewer Hugh Hewitt: Are you still running?

Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or [less].

Hewitt: But you did run marathons at some point?

Ryan: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

Hewitt: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

Ryan: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.

Hewitt: Holy smokes.

Ryan:I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

As we all now know, Ryan has only run one marathon, not “marathons.” And as we also know, his time was not 2:50-something, it was 4:01, a lie which should now speak, quite loudly, for itself.

New USA Cycling category descriptions are out!

August 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

USA Cycling has released a new and definitive set of category descriptions for road racing. These supplant the previous rulebook definitions found in Sections I(A)(ii) through (vi). USA Cycling offers these descriptions to help new cyclists understand the difference between the categories, and greatly simplifies the descriptions found in previous editions of the rulebook.

Category 5: What is this death thing of which you speak?

Category 4: Today is a good day to die.

Category 3: Today is a good day for you to die.

Category 2: Today is a good day for me to kill you.

Masters 45+: No dying today.

Masters 55+: I refuse to die in a bike race.

Masters 65+: Let’s enjoy riding our bikes wearing colorful clothing, okay?

Setting boundaries

August 14, 2012 § 11 Comments

Dear Lance,

I understand this may be a one-tweet stand, but now that you’ve tweeted a request to me, and I’ve tweeted a tweet to let you into my secure Tweeter inner sanctum, I think we need to come to an understanding.

Will you call me tomorrow?

First, I understand that you have 3.7 million followers, and I have 188. I also understand that the people who follow you are some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, whereas most of my followers are tweetbots, spammer personal injury law firms, and insane people with names like FrauFickenDammt and Scabby the Rat. Well, actually, Frau Ficken hasn’t followed me yet. I’m hoping she will soon, though, because she says the coolest shit, like today when she went into a restaurant and called the waiter a knuckle fucker.

Before granting your request, I checked out the people who you follow, and was frankly concerned. Bill Maher. Mahatma Gandhi. Lots of chicks with killer racks. People whose opinions matter on the world stage and who have the ear of those in power, not to mention totally boss pimps like Cancellara.

Which really made me think, like, why are you adding me to that select list of barely 400 people out of 3.7 million? Is it because of what I write here?

There’s no “here” here

So I thought about it and figured out why you wanted to enter the inner Wankmeister sanctum. First, you wanted to see who my associates are. Well, now you know. Funny, huh? And only a handful of them are currently incarcerated.

Second, you wanted to begin the process of seeing if there was some way to influence “the message.” The good news? You already have! The bad news? So can anyone else with a keyboard and a little flattery. Like all whores, I go to the highest bidder. Right now the going price is really cool prescription eyewear and free kits designed by Joe Yule. So make a note of that, and by the way, you should hire him as your kit designer. The Shack/Livestrong stuff needs…help.

Now that I’ve given you everything you want, it’s time for us to talk about me. My needs. My wants. My hopes. My childhood dreams and hopes for the future, except for those which have been shattered by Jonathan Vaughters.

Accept me for who I am

All the socks and undies I own. True story.

A loving tweetership between equals is only possible with mutual respect. You mustn’t try to change me, but rather you must accept me as I am, RuggedMaxxx2 and all. If you don’t know about and use RuggedMaxxx2, I’m not sure we can ever have a meaningful relationship, although I’m willing to try. Of course even as I write this, I fear that we may not work out. I have one small drawer that contains all my socks and underwear. You have entire dressers devoted to undergarments. I rent. You own. I’m Specialized. You’re Trek. Most perilous to our relationship, and the one thing we may never get over, is this terrible reality: You’re Oakley. I’m SPY. I feel so helpless.

My gym set. Note 15-lb kettlebell. Alternate with books to strengthen your dorsas bulemias.

Are we doomed from the outset? And then I consider other material things, like your gym and your bike shop and countless bikes and all the other possessions that make me feel small and rather poor. But there can be more to a relationship than just money and power, right? You can learn to appreciate what it’s like to be batshit poor, and I can learn to appreciate being showered with free bike swag and invites to swanky parties and free trips on your personal jet and free bike swag and invites to the Tour (well, maybe not that), right? Right?

Love me, love my friends

I know a lot of people who get involved in the heat of the moment like this and then have trouble with the other’s friends once Tweeter passions cool. Let’s take care of that now. My friends are non-negotiable (except for the ones who are, like that dude who wore the undersized all-white kit on the Holiday Ride last year and blinded several people with his hairy buttcrack).

I think the best way for you to get to know me is to spend time with me and my friends on the bike. We have a little ride here called the NPR. You would have a hard time hanging on, and I’m not saying that to be rude, but rather as a warning.

We have Prez, who just got force upgraded from Cat 3 and has the hardest abs in the wankoton, plus the weirdest kit color combos. He is a sprunter and is not afraid of you. You’ll have to get on his good side but be wary at the same time, because all those steel plates in his head are from crashing.

We have dudes like Bull, a wanker of legendary proportions, and Hair (a/k/a Shrimpy Dick), who is a badass. If you’re too scared to mix it up on the NPR, you’re welcome to join us on the Wheatgrass Ride, where Backpack George in the floppy jogging pants, saggy socks, and askew helmet can outclimb anyone for the first mile up from the reservoir.

Bring your A Game, Lance, and I’m just saying that because I want you to fit in. And even if you can hang with Backpack George, we’ve still got Tink who WILL school you, and Jules, the 13 y/o child who will put you in the pain cage and throw away the key if you dare to challenge him on the Donut Ride. Check my YouTube videos under fsethd to see what you’re signing up for. I think after a couple of tries you will be able to hang, but don’t feel bad if you get dropped in the beginning.

It’s a one-way street

Although you have to love my friends, I don’t have to love yours, although I will try to. Maybe. For a small fee. But not that Ferrari dude. I understand that you have some current legal issues arising out of the use of drugs. Now, I smoked a bunch of dope back in the day and am a reformed drunk, so I “get” the drug thing. No matter how much Nancy Reagan used to preach “just say no,” it always seemed easier to just say “Yes, the sensimilla, please.”

It was sure more fun than saying “No,” except for that time in junior high when I had failed 8th Grade life science and was taking summer school at Sharpstown High. We were taking the HouTran bus to school, stoned out of our gourds at the back of the bus, when I started hallucinating that the fucking bus had caught fire. I imagined that everyone ran off and a fire truck came.

Finally a huge firefighter rushed in and dragged me off the bus, which had actually caught fire. Being stoned for me was always like that. I just hallucinated shit that was already there, so I figured why pay all this money for weed and get kicked out of school to see what I’m already seeing?

I bring this up because drugs are that way. You kind of fall into it, and then it’s like, “Fuck, I don’t need this shit.” But hey, you probably hear about this enough in your day job, so I’ll let it slide for now.

Miscellaneous

Oh, here’s some other info. I’m a Capricorn. I love Japanese food. My favorite color is blue. I love puppies. Once upon a time I co-authored a book on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. So…TTYL!

Wanky

Book review: “My Penis” by Tyler Hamilton

August 13, 2012 § 35 Comments

Slated for release on September 18, Wankmeister received an advance copy of Tyler Hamilton’s tell-all illiterography, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs” As Told To Daniel Coyle In Very Simple Words And, Where Necessary, With Little Stick Figure Pictographs.

Coyle is known to seven or eight other people as the author of “Lance Armstrong’s War,” The Tale Of A Writer Who Couldn’t Come Up With A Decent Title So He Stole One From Someone Else.

I was flattered to receive the advance copy, and immediately put down the important task of tweeting salacious recipes to @mmmaiko and devoted fifteen solid minutes to reading the book, which is subtitled “My Penis” to reach the cycling demographic that also reads books like “50 Shades of Grey.” CU Tomorrow? Legit Girl? Bump’n’Grind? Yeah, YOU.

Does America really need another disgraced doper’s kiss-and-jail cyclography?

After reading “My Penis,” I phoned author Daniel Coyle to get some background material on the impetus for the book. “When Tyler and I started talking, I realized this was an historic opportunity for me to pay rent,” said Coyle. “Note the way I use ‘an’ with ‘historic.’ Isn’t that cool?”

“Uh, yeah. Go on.”

“No one’s ever had a ticket behind the wall of silence, behind locked doors, onto the team bus. I mean sure, there are books with that name,  books by Kimmage, Voet, Landis, Joe Parkin, every legit book on the history of cycling ever written, TV documentaries, reams of public testimony, arbitration proceedings, detailed scientific evidence, and every kind of proof and testimonial known to man. But this is different!”

“Like, how, dude?”

“Over the past two years, in more than 200 hours of interviews and trips to key locations in Spain and France, Tyler has given me complete access to his story. Emails. Home videos of his dog. Sexts to his wife. Phone messages from his dentist. We even had a seance with his vanishing twin.”

“You don’t believe that shit, do you?”

“You bet I do. To verify and corroborate his account, I’ve also talked to numerous independent sources, including former teammates, several of whom are going on the record for the first time, immediately prior to sentencing. This is a classic tale of human ambition and the consequences of trying to win at any cost.”

“Uh, what were the consequences?”

“Well, for Tyler it resulted in an Olympic gold medal, wins in the Tour, and buttloads of cash. But in the end he was banned for life from bike racing.”

“But wasn’t his career over by then?”

“That’s not the point! It’s a classic tale of human ambition! And the consequences of trying to win at any cost!”

“Sounds like a winner’s game plan to me, dude.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth

Next I called up Tyler. “Yo, dude, this is Wankmeister. Remember me?”

“Hello? Who’s this?”

“It’s me. Wanky. From PV. You came out here three years ago and did the Donut Ride. I fucking crushed it. Remember?”

“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.”

“No! Don’t hang up! I want to talk about ‘My Penis’!”

Click.

Having lost my source, I went to Cyclingnews.com, where I steal most of my shit from anyway. They never disappoint! Here’s the blurb they had. And I’m not making this up:

“Hamilton explained that his time in front of a grand jury during the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping practices he realised that there was a story that needed to be told.

“‘I kept it all inside for way too long and I realized it was a story that needed to be told. I think when people learn how it really was – how it worked, how we did it, what it felt like – they’ll see that this story is bigger than any one individual in the sport. It’s really about making choices when you’re pushed to the edge and deciding what you’re willing to do to compete. I want to take people inside our world so they can understand the lives we lived.'”

In other words, the dude’s flat fucking broke, and rather than get a job gluing on tires or flipping burgers he’s decided to hire someone to write a book for him while they job around Europe getting drunk, riding bikes, and licking the pussy.

So these are the consequences of blind ambition? Fuck, where can I get some?

Back to My Penis

“My Penis” begins with Hamilton’s discovery that no one will take him to the prom except Jonathan Vaughters. They dress each other up (Jonathan dresses up as a boy, but it’s totally unconvincing), and afterwards they make passionate love and symbolically bury Jonathan’s bike in a field and water it with their urine. A lovely rose bush grows on the spot, and they can often be found frolicking naked around its blossoms in spring. But that’s a different story.

After getting recruited by the evil and dastardly Team Dope, Tyler loses his childhood dreams to a dirty, nasty, hairy, fat, toothless, balding, sweaty, unwashed French masseuse with long and unkempt toenails. Francois intends to inject Tyler’s stomach fat with EPO, but misses and hits his penis instead. Tyler’s twelve-day erection earns him a number of nicknames on Team Dope, none of which are printable, even in a nasty, uncouth, sophomoric blog like this one that revels in saying words like “pussy” and “cock” and “cunt.”

First the breakout, then the rash

After his breakout season with Team Dope, Tyler catches the eye of the evil and cruel dictator of the peloton, Lance Strongstrong. Strongstrong, who has just won the Turdy France after a miraculous comeback from a lobotomy, entices Tyler onto the team bus with an offer of candy and a trip to EuroDisney.

The next thing he knows, he’s sitting in Strongstrong’s lap, Johan Squatneel has forced him to sign a multi-million dollar contract, forced him to take drugs, and forced him to ride with the most famous American team in the history of completely unknown and forgettable and forgotten niche/kook/dork sporting teams.

Tyler and Strongstrong part ways upon the death of Tyler’s favorite pet newt, Newton, when Strongstrong makes disparaging remarks about salamanders, particularly the juvenile forms. “That newt was more than a son to me!” Hamilton cried.

“Only person ever liked a Newt was Callista, and she’s a two bit whore anyway,” Strongstrong shot back.

“Fine! You bad man! I’ll go ride for team Phoneycrack!”

Team Phoney Baloney

Unceremoniously kicked off the bus along with his little plastic newt cargo case, Tyler was picked up by Tubby Rihs and Doctor Evil Ochowicz, or “Doc Ock” as he was called by his clients. With his medication properly adjusted, Tyler was forced to win more big races, world championships, and gold medals. He was desperately unhappy at living the lie, and eventually couldn’t take it any more.

“The guilt became so great that after I was busted I confessed,” he says in the most moving passage of the book. “Of course it took a few years to confess, as I had to first deny everything. But that’s how badly I was hurting inside. It felt so great to finally admit the truth.”

Hamilton points out that just because you admit the truth due to running out of legal defense funds and the threat of federal prison doesn’t mean you didn’t really want to tell the truth all along.

“It was freeing,” he adds. “So much so that when I finally came back to cycling I could dope again, get busted, and get banned for life. It’s a beautiful story. The passion. The pathos. They mysteries of the human soul…it’s all right here.”

The book retails for $29.95, but will be available at Half-Priced Rubbish and Discount Records and 8-Track Tapes and Books in October for $1.99, or free on Amazon’s Kindle.

The case of the missing wanker, Part 2

July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

As I pulled myself up into the cab next to Holmes, a chill went down my spine in that typically British, closeted homosexual way of two men pushed shoulder to shoulder and imagining how the other would look dressed in leathers, tied to a tree stump, and barking like a dog while the other spanked him with a wet baguette.

“What could have happened to him, Holmes?” I asked as the cab rattled across the cobbled streets.

“Do you suppose that’s the correct question?” Holmes riposted, and I could see his face turn towards mine in the dark.

“Dash it, Holmes, aren’t you the one who said the poor wanker had vanished without a trace?”

“I did, indeed, my dear Watson.”

“Then what else in blue blazes could the question be? He was here, now he’s gone. What on earth happened to him?”

Holmes chuckled that maddening chuckle of his, when his rapier-like mind has fastened onto its prey like a hungry mastiff, and no goading can loose its grip. I wondered if he’d ever paid to see a grown man naked. “I’ll be at your service when you need me, then,” I said, somewhat gruffly, and pained by Holmes’s sudden turn of silence.

Soon the cobbled roads of London gave way to the rutted unpaved roads leading out of that great city, and my mind drifted, then dozed, until I awoke with a start. “We’ve arrived, Watson,” said Holmes as we both exited the cab.

There before us was a quiet home, to all appearances as normal a place as you could ever hope to find. A tall hedge was in front, and a pretty garden filled with trees suggested the blissful hearth of that happiest British convention, the country home. Holmes rapped on the door, which was swiftly answered by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Dark haired, voluptuous, and radiating sorrow, she cried out, “Oh, Mr. Holmes, thank you for coming! I thought you’d never arrive! Please do come in!”

The wanker’s abode

Holmes strode across the threshold with the piercing look I have seen so often, when the genius of his mind misses no detail, and when what to others is a mass of confusion is, to him, an ordered story legible only to him.

The lovely lady stood there, uncountenanced somewhat as Holmes had not bothered to introduce us, and the awkwardness was furthered by her stare at the giant bulge in my trousers where I had placed my revolver. “Pleased to meet you, madam. John Watson.”

She blushed and held out her hand. “Mrs. Prez. It’s a pleasure, my good sir.”

Holmes turned to us, startled to realize that there was anyone in the room, so raptly had he focused on the living room. “Do you mind,” he asked, “if I have a look in the bedroom?”

“By all means,” said the lovely lady, blushing again.

“Watson, if you would,” Holmes motioned me to follow.

We entered the bedroom of the wanker and Holmes went straight to the closet. Rapha clothing of every variety, Assos bibs and jersey of every color under the rainbow, and cycling shoes in green, yellow, pink, orange, and mucous filled the closet. “Great gods,” I exclaimed. “The man’s a fashion model!”

Holmes shook his head. “As usual, Watson, you cannot see the trees for the forest. There’s nothing here.” He turned back, and took a quick look beneath the coverlet on the bed as he left the room.

“Can you find my husband, Mr. Holmes?” the distraught woman asked, her tear-streaked bosom heaving in worry and fear.

Holmes smiled at her in that comforting way a man has of reassuring a woman, as if to say “You can trust me, my dear, I’m thoroughly gay.”

We remounted the cab, and Holmes let out a short, satisfied laugh. “Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”

“Make of it? Deuce it all, Holmes, it’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle ensconced in an enigma, that’s what I make of it!”

“Come now, Watson, surely you jest? Isn’t it clear what happened to the poor man?”

“Holmes, if I didn’t rate you as my closest friend, I would be so exasperated as to refuse all further attempts at conversation! Don’t tell me you have figured this out? The poor wanker had a terrible wardrobe and even worse fashion sense! What else was there?”

“In the main, the mystery is solved, Watson. There are but two small details I should like to make certain of before we retire for the evening.”

The shanties of London

Before long our cab had brought us back to the outskirts of the city, and from the dim lights of the gas lamps I could see that we were in the slums of Chutney, London’s most notoriously impoverished shantytown, where life’s outcasts, men who had gambled all and lost, dragged themselves to die amidst the stink of filth and the reek of gin. I braced myself as we got out in front of the most wretched, dilapidated tenement I had ever seen, and did all I could to hold my breath as Holmes banged on the door with his walking stick.

A bedraggled, besotted, broken, and surly fellow came to the door, his long greasy locks covering a pock-marked face in which two red, sunken eyes stared out from his gaunt and deathlike skull, the last embers of a spirit that was all but quenched.

“Mr. Smith, I dare say?” said Holmes.

“And what is it to you if I be?” snarled the man.

“It could be nothing, or it could be this and bit more,” said Holmes with a wicked smile, carefully tucking a sovereign into the man’s curled paw.

In a flash we were over the threshold, and never have I seen a more horrid den of iniquity. Floozies lay draped in whatever position their drunkenness or opium stupor left them, while similarly stupefied patrons lounged on the couches, awaiting the dawn that would force them out again into the world they had shunned for a few brief hours of night.

“Come in ‘ere, guv’nor,” said Mr. Smith. “An’ tell ol’ USCF district rep Smithy ‘ow ‘e can be o’ service to the guv’nor.”

“Mr. Smith,” said Holmes. “It can come as no surprise that we’re here to inquire about a certain Prez. Wanker of all on two wheels.”

“Prez!” shrieked the old man, his body shivering with rage. “Prez! O, guv’nor, don’t come ‘ere an’ ask me about ‘im! It’s all I been ahearin’ these last five years, guv’nor, ‘Force upgrade the lad, Smithy!’ an’ ‘E’s winnin’ all the Category 3 races, Smithy, damn ‘is eyes, force upgrade the lad!’ ’tis all they can say from dawn to sunset, guv’nor! An’ what uz I to do, guv’nor? One minute some young lad’s father’s a’ breathin’ down me neck, ‘Force upgrade Prez or I’ll have your hide, Smithy!’ an’ the next it’s Prez ‘imself, guv’nor, writin’ letters and callin’ the higher-ups and takin’ me aside on Sundays an’ sayin’ ‘Now see here, Smithy, you keep me here a Category 3 ’til the SoCal Cup’s all said and done and see here, Smithy, I’ll make it worth your while, eh, Smithy?’ until ol’ Smithy’s been pulled and stretched like a piece of good English taffy in the Indian sun, guv’nor!”

“I’m sure you’ve done your very best, my good sir,” said Holmes in that sympathetic way he had. “But pray tell, what did you decide?”

“What did I decide, guv’nor? Odds bodkins, I force upgraded the lad! I ‘ad to, guv’nor! I ‘ad to! Oh, may the lord have mercy on me wicked soul!” With that the anguished man collapsed in a heap, sobbing inconsolably. Then he sat bolt upright. “But I didn’t do away with ‘im, guv’nor! An’ y’can’t say I did! P’raps one o’ them Cat 3 fellows did ‘im in, guv’nor, but me ‘ands are clean!”

“I thank you for your time, Mr. Smith. Here’s something for your trouble.” The old wretch’s trembling paw accepted the gift, and we left.

“Holmes!” I exclaimed. “Won’t you arrest the man? He’s the killer as plain as day. Either that, or he knows who is!”

With his maddening chuckle, he replied, “Watson, I’m surprised you don’t see it. It’s as plain as day. Let us make one last stop. I think you shall find this amusing enough to place it in that little history of my cases at which you apply yourself so assiduously.”

Palace of the lord

“Cabbie, take us to Kensington!” Holmes shouted to the man.

Before long we found ourselves in front of an iron gate, with a watchman who was none too pleased to see us pull up in our shabby hack. With all the ease of a man who had lived there his entire life, Holmes handed the man his card. “Please tell Lord Smythington that Sherlock Holmes desires the honor of a few moments of his lordship’s time.”

“You can’t be serious, Holmes!” I said. “Lord Charon Smythington? At this hour of the night, uninvited and crudely announced?”

“Let us see,” he said with a smile, “whether Lord Smythington can fit us into his busy schedule, even at such a late hour as this.”

In minutes the watchman led us to the front door of the great home, where the butler ushered us in. “Lord Smythington is taking his evening massage. If the gentlemen have no objection, milord will see them in the massage parlor.”

As we entered, the great man barely nodded his head in greeting. His massive legs, covered in massage oil, were being assiduously worked by his masseuse. “Mr. Holmes?” he said. “To what do I owe this unusual, late night visit?”

“We’ve come for Prez,” said Holmes, his steely blue eyes matched with razor thin lips that meant only business.

“Prez? The wanker? I’ve not seen him since the forced upgrade back in April. It’s a bit of a mystery, really, and I can’t imagine why you’ve come to me.”

“Lord Smythington,” said Holmes “you can either show us to him or we will request official assistance. I’m not certain that the publicity would be welcome to a man such as yourself.”

Smythington looked up. “How did you know he was here, Mr. Holmes? I thought I’d covered my tracks quite professionally.”

“Indeed, sir, you had, but you made one fatal mistake.”

“Ah, yes. And it was?”

“The coverlet, of course. Prez slept every night with pictures of Your Excellency taped to the underside of his coverlet. As soon as I saw them, I knew it was you who had kidnapped him, fearful that with an upgrade he would now become your biggest threat at the Dominguez Hills crit. I needed only a brief chat with Mr. Smith, the district rep, to confirm that Prez had received a forced upgrade, and from there to conclude that it must have been you.”

I couldn’t hold back my admiration. “But Holmes, why didn’t you suspect one of his fellow Cat 3’s? Or one of the junior riders whose parents complain after every race because their boy never gets a chance to win?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson. The 3’s had no reason to do away with him, as he’d been upgraded. From there it was child’s play. Despite his matchless string of victories, Lord Smythington was still concerned about Prez in the 35+ or Cat 2 peloton, if only because of his propensity to fall and crash everyone else out. So he brought him here.”

Lord Smythington looked at Holmes. “And how did you know he was here?”

“Prez went to bed each evening staring longingly at your pictures beneath his covers, Lord Smythingon. You sent a messenger to him, inviting him to come to Kensington to learn the ‘sprinter’s secret.’ He couldn’t resist. Once here, you placed him in the basement with ten years’ worth of cycling magazines, and told him that once he had finished reading them, he would finally win a 35+ masters race. And the poor fool believed you.”

“Yes,” Lord Smythington said, laughing, “he certainly did. I also told him that if he rode all over the peninsula in a giant gear and lifted huge weights in the gym he’d be invincible.”

Even Holmes, ever the steely investigator, broke into a smile at the thought of poor Prez, pushing a 53 x 11 up Hawthorne in the middle of December. Lord Smythington bade us adieu, and we left the great house, Prez in tow.

Epilogue

The following racing season, shortly after I had been apprehended while watching another gentleman through a small hole I had cut in a public lavatory, but prior to sentencing at the Old Bailey, I ran across Prez. He looked to be in the finest of fettle. “How are you, my boy?” I asked.

“Never been better!”

“Oh really? Be a good fellow and do tell.”

“I’ve won every 35+ crit of the season so far! And no crashes!”

“It appears your hard work has paid off, then.”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It certainly has.”

The case of the missing wanker, Part 1

July 18, 2012 § 7 Comments

When I reached 221B Baker Street, I was highly agitated. Holmes had sent me a message through the street urchin Stathis the Wily Greek, and he had intercepted me on the way to dinner.

“‘Scuse me, sir, message from Mr. ‘Olmes,” he’d said, in that impertinent way of urchins everywhere, one hand thrusting the message and the other grasping for a few pence.

I had unfolded the paper immediately, and quickly scanned the note written in his long, spidery hand: “Watson, come quick. I’m in a spot of bother and need your immediate assistance.” Holmes never requested my presence unless it was a matter of quite some urgency.

As I went up the stairs at Baker Street, two at a time, I wondered what could be so pressing. It was only two weeks ago that he’d solved the Case of the Wheelsucking Wanker, a matter of international intrigue and diplomatic delicacy that, had matters turned out otherwise, might have implicated the very highest levels of Her Majesty’s government.

Almost as recently, he’d found the culprit in the Matter of the Wheelchopping Wanker, just before the criminal had taken down an entire peloton’s worth of the very finest men and women in the South Bay. And of course, Scotland Yard was still covering itself in glory after Holmes had uncovered the chain of events that led to the Dropping of the Sag-bellied Wanker, a matter about which Lestrade would be marveling for the rest of his days.

Liquor in front, poker in rear

I burst into Holmes’s flat and was taken aback to see him lethargically staring at the ceiling, a monogram of some sort open on his lap, amidst the telltale signs that he was deep in throes of his beloved opium.

“Dash it all, Holmes!” I said. “You can’t have had me cross London like a madman just to watch you smoke that devilish drug! What is it, man?”

In that languid and sexy way he had just before taking off his clothes and exposing himself to the neighborhood toughs, Holmes slowly turned his head. “Good of you to come, Watson. Pray have a seat. I’ll be with you presently.”

Fidgeting at the ridiculous prospect of watching him in his drug addled state, but secretly pleased that he’d needed my services, I settled down in my habitual chair, unfolded the paper I’d brought with me, and settled into reading the latest front page news. Soon enough, I surmised, Holmes would finish dreaming about prison showers and turn his attention to me. My patience was soon rewarded, as he came out of the drug’s fog with an alacrity that can only be described as astonishing.

“My dear Watson,” he beamed. “Why on earth did you give the cabbie such an absurdly generous tip after he argued with you so about the fare? Surely his joke about the carpenter wasn’t as humorous as all that?”

If amazement had a price on it, mine would have been ten thousand sovereigns. “What on earth, Holmes!” I exclaimed. “Surely you watched me from the window as I alit from the cab! But how would you know about the argument and the jest? They happened before I ever arrived!”

“It’s quite elementary, actually, my dear Watson. You’re a careful fellow who pays particular attention to his boots. Yet your boots are covered in mud, which has only partially dried. You’ve obviously been standing in mud, quite uncharacteristic of you, particularly when riding a cab, and particularly when interrupted by my urchin on the way to dinner at the club–a place you’d hardly appear at looking like you’d taken a tramp through a public latrine.”

“It’s true I abhor a filthy boot.”

“Of course you do, my good fellow. And that’s why you stand on the curb and positively never step in a puddle when mounting a carriage. I’ve seen you protect the shine on your boots this way a thousand times. Yet you did so today, as the mud is not yet dry.”

“That’s plain enough, I suppose.”

“Plain if you observe, my dear Watson. So the question becomes, why did Watson stand in the mud prior to mounting the carriage when it’s plainly not his custom? Obviously, just as he prepared to mount, or shortly thereafter, the cabbie said something to him that made him reconsider. So he stepped back down, missed the curb, and landed in the mud. Quite simple, really.”

“Dash it all, Holmes, it may be just as you say, but it hardly explains how you knew I’d argued with the cabman about the fare, though he was in fact a blackguard and a thief!”

“Aren’t they all, Watson? But what else would have caused you to dismount? Perhaps he could have offended you, but you’re a thick-skinned fellow and well accustomed to dealing with cabbies. More to the point, you’re tight with a pound, Watson, and it’s likely the chap changed his fare once you took a seat.”

“That’s exactly what happened, Holmes! It all sounds so simple to hear you explain it.”

“It sounds simple, Watson, because it is. One only has to look at what’s in front of his nose, rule out the impossible, and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

I was now enjoying his little game. “But you’ve still not explained how you knew about the large gratuity or the jest. You must have watched me from the window, Holmes. That’s too easy.”

“Not at all, Watson. I’ve not moved from this chair for the last three hours. You dashed into the room and your right pocket was unbuttoned.”

“So it is!” I said with surprise.

“A man such as yourself never keeps small change in a capacious pocket like that. For such things he uses a change purse. No, in his right pocket, aside from the sheepskin condoms he uses to protect himself from the microbes in the prostitutes he frequents, a proper English gentleman would keep only a pound note or two.”

“I do, indeed,” I chortled, seeing the way the game would end.

“Why remove a pound note unless you were pleased with the fellow and intended to give him something extra for his troubles?”

“I did indeed!”

“And what could have pleased you about a filthy, boorish, argumentative hackney driver other than a jest? Surely he wasn’t giving you advice on the finer points of brain surgery.”

“Right again, Holmes!”

“Well, then, the rest is mere child’s play. The newspaper that you brought with you has a bold headline about Sir Timothy Carpenter, the banker who now stands accused of fraud. The cabbie, in an attempt to jolly you up after your spat over the fare, made some silly jest about Sir Timothy. Unlike the cabbie, however, I know how greatly you detest Sir Carpenter, and how pleased you are to see him brought to justice. You laughed roundly at the joke, let bygones be bygones, and left the man with a tidy little sum.”

“By Jove, Holmes, when you explain it like that it seems like only a fool wouldn’t have seen it. But I confess that your powers, without the explanation, are astounding.”

“You’re too kind, Watson, but they’re nothing of the sort. I’ve not brought you here to banter about cabbies, however, as you must know.”

“I assumed not.”

“To the contrary, I stand on the verge of the most devilishly confounding mystery I’ve ever encountered. It’s a small thing in its own way, as it concerns a wanker who most agree is a generally disgraceful chap when it comes to cycle racing, somewhat prone to hitting his head on the paving stones, that sort of thing. But the chief difficulty of the thing is that he’s vanished without a trace. And Watson…”

“What is it, Holmes?”

“No ever vanishes without a trace.”

He stood up, threw on his trench coat, pressed his hat against his head, took one last draw from his pipe, and bade me follow. “Do you have your service revolver, Watson?”

“I never travel without it, Holmes.”

“Then let us see what we can find.”

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