Hi, Mom — a new beginning (Part 1)

September 8, 2014 § 4 Comments

Hi, Mom

Well it is a new beginning for me at last. Like I told you this would be a breakout year for me with the Amarillo Flyers and it was. After I poddied at East Lurchford and Tonkinville and got fourth behind Higgins at the Tour de Sumpkins I caught the eye of Brad Krankewitz he is the team manager for Team Ding-a-Ling. They are a regional powerhouse in northwestern Idaho you have probably heard of them. Their sponsor is Ding-a-Ling, the electronic doorbell company that has almost a total monopoly on doorbells in northwest Idaho and they are looking to grow their market in Southern California with a first class bike team.

Mom, this probably makes you almost as happy as if I said I have a job and this is going to be one once I get my pro contract. Krankewitz wants me to move from Amarillo to Los Angeles next month so I can try out for the team by doing the winter cyclecross season there. Cyclecross or cross as it’s known is one dumb sport from what I have seen. You run around with your bike and jump over tires and jog upstairs while carrying your bike. It looks pretty easy from what I have seen on YouTube just riding around in the dirt carrying your bike which is pretty stupid. They are about to get shown up on their home turf but that’s life.

Anyway if I can get some results in cyclecross then Krankewitz will give me a pro contract for the road season in ’15 which will be my big break because you know I am not getting any younger but neither are you, ha ha! Cindy is going to be thrilled with our big move to the Big Time she’s going to be pretty darned happy for us to be moving away from behind the feedlot and smelling cowsh*t from the minute you wake up until you go to bed at night and on your laundry. She has been my rock and I think she and I have a future, mom, I care about her alot. But I wanted to tell you first because you are my mom and I love you! Also I am kind of short on cash again this month so if you could pop $150 into my account that would be great thanks and I love you!

In case Pap is negative again tell him that Team Ding-a-Ling is giving me a free bike and a place to live on the beach in Los Angeles where it’s great training and I can show the pros there what kind of stuff I’ve got. I will be opening the can on a regular basis, Pap will know what that means. Also I will get free clothing not like those cheapskates on the Flyers who aren’t pro at all and I’m still waiting for my race reimbursements from 2012. Plus Ding-a-Ling race kits look very sheik and stylish not like the Flyers with that big vulture carrying a bloody dead skunk in his claws splashed across the back of our jerseys.

Also I am working on a new nicky for the big move to the Big Time and instead of Porky like those a**h**** on the Flyers always call me I’m thinking about Blitzkrieg which goes well with my name, Billy Blitzkrieg what do you think? PS Blitzkrieg is a word I looked up on the Internet it is from World War 1 when the Germans invaded England and it means lightning war you would know about that because that was your growing up days, right? I will be opening the can and bringing the blitzkrieg to those California softies, this Texas boy will make his momma proud. PPS Dad can tell you what opening the can means.

Love you Mom (don’t forget the money),

Billy (you can call me Blitz if Blitzkrieg is too long)

The taco strikes back

September 7, 2014 § 9 Comments

I rode my bike to the Milt Olin protest ride on Wednesday. It was in Calabasas, a solid two-and-a-half hour pedal from the South Bay. Milt was run over in the bike lane by a cop who was texting on his phone and typing on his mobile computer. The ride was organized to protest the decision by assistant district attorney minion Rosa Alarcon not to file misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the deputy.

Even a slap on the wrist, apparently, was too much to ask.

There was a soul-sapping headwind all the way out the bike path. At CotKU, no one was waiting to join me, understandable since most people at 2:00 PM the Wednesday after Labor Day weekend are working. Coming into Santa Monica the most frightening thing in 32 years of bicycling happened.

I was riding in the bike lane on Main Street, just north of Abbot Kinney, when a Range Rover going the other direction swerved over into my lane. Accelerating to well over 50 mph, the bearded psycho leaned out the window and spit at me. Unfortunately for him, the onrushing wind blew the spit back into his face. Nor could he hop back into his lane because he’d overtaken three cars traveling in his direction, so he went even faster.

When I turned around to shoot the bird, he jerked back into his lane so hard that he almost flipped his car. I imagined the headline: “Cyclist killed en route to memorial ride for killed cyclist.”

Farther along in Santa Monica I stopped at the Ocean Park toilets but no one was waiting there either, so I pedaled on. Ascending Topanga Canyon I was passed by Peppy, the British neo-Cat 4 who regularly drills, grills, and kills on the NPR. “I waited at the Ocean Park toilets,” he said. “Where were you?”

“I didn’t see anyone so I kept going.”

“Um,” he said, exacting his vengeance with a nasty pace all the way up the climb.

We reached the assembly point for the memorial ride. There was a helicopter, as well as news trucks from every major TV station. The assistant district attorney’s decision not to prosecute had outraged the bicycling community. “Rosa Alarcon licks balls!” said one angry cyclist.

We put on arm bands and rolled out at 4:30, heading towards downtown, a mere three hours distant, through the worst traffic in the San Fernando Valley. I only had one water bottle and it was empty. The air in the valley was wretched and loaded with marble-sized particulates. A hacking cough began and we caught every light, hundreds and thousands of them, all the way to downtown. At one point our group split in half when the leaders rolled through a yellow light.

We remnants didn’t know the route and the leaders vanished in the distance. A mad chase ensued, with me and Peppy doing a desperate time trail to bridge and alert the leaders that half the group was four stoplights and twelve light years back. The hacking cough migrated down to the lowest part of my lungs.

In Burbank we were joined by a rider who was wearing a Total Team Sky Outfit And Team Bike. He looked just like Chris Froome except for his backpack, in which he carried a portable, hi-fidelity speaker. It was connected to his iPod, and he blasted us with an endless stream of terrible music, including Elvis, the Beatles, New Age Christian, hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, and jazz fusion. The music was so loud that when it paused between songs the background noise of LA’s rush hour traffic sounded muted, silent, pastoral.

This lasted until 7:30, when we reached the LA County District Attorney’s office. The ride had swelled as we crossed the city, and a candlelight vigil was held in Milt’s honor. Marv, Don, Brendan, and JF had joined the ride after work, and these four South Bay riders, along with me and Peppy, headed back home on Venice Boulevard in the pitch black.

It might as well have been Venice-Roubaix, so cracked and scarred and chug-holed were the roads. We had lights, but speeding along in a pace line they only illuminated the ass of the rider in front. Peppy had bonked and I was dead, even as the fresh South Bay foursome laid down a grueling pace.

JF, who had been noticeably absent from the working end of the paceline, came to the fore at last and put in a mighty turn. Peppy had yet to take a single pull, and I was about to pop. Suddenly JF, forty whole seconds into his effort, shouted out “El Dolor del Estomago! The most famous taco truck in the city!”

Almost taking us all out with a might brake and swerve, JF zoomed into the packed parking lot, where fifty people stood in line for the best of El Dolor’s offerings. Half an hour later we were standing against a trash can, each polishing of a mound of chicken-and-habanero-bean tacos.

Whether it was the energy of the food or the roaring volcano in his bowels, Peppy came to life. Everyone else retreated the other way, towards death, as he dragged us at 30mph down the barely-lit, cratered asphalt of Venice Blvd. After several miles Brendan dropped off, pleading menstrual cramps. Marv spied a blinking light that said “Beer” and vanished. JF, whose idea the taco stop had been, metamorphosed into a rolling effluent pipe.

We all parted ways on the bike path, except for Marv, who had been smart enough to stop when he found an open bar. I made it to Malaga Cove at 9:30 and called my wife to pick me up. I’m sure I’ve felt worse on a bike, but it’s hard to pinpoint when. Then I thought about Milt Olin, struck down in the prime of life, father and husband, killed by a cop who was too lazy to pull over and text.

My exhaustion evaporated and I felt grateful for being alive and angry at the kangaroo court’s cowardice. What happened to this kind and gentle man could happen to any of us, and on the way to the ride, in my case it almost did. Over a 150 people showed up on bikes and crossed the entire city to register their outrage and to demand justice for Milt, justice for every other person who dares risk death simply by riding a bicycle. With only three months left before the statute of limitations tolls, time is running out for the DA to do the right thing.

Won’t you take a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard? The link is here with contact information and sample letters to email the DA. With prime time news coverage on every major news channel, District Attorney Jackie Lacey can be called to account only through the strength of your voice. Please help. Don’t give up.

END

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Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 levers may soon control Garmin computers

September 6, 2014 § 20 Comments

Shimano Corp. revealed at Interbike today in Las Vegas that it is teaming up with Garmin to create the world’s first integrated computer-bike control system.

“We have the technology to put the computer controls directly into the levers,” said chief engineer Shin Hayata, “and Garmin is the perfect partner. This allows them to reduce the size of the onboard computer as well.”

In addition to data control, the next-generation Shimano Di-3 Unilever will also incorporate a power meter as part of the bottom bracket. According to assistant lead engineer Haruo Nakajima, “More and more, cycling is a data-driven activity at all levels. Instead of having different components by different manufacturers that have to be synched, the Di-3 Unilever will be a truly all-in-one experience with a continuous wireless Strava or Garmin Connect upload that lets you read your KOM’s, PR’s, and more importantly, the data of other riders in realtime, as you ride.”

Perhaps most revolutionary for the average cyclist, the Di-3 will also include on-board controls that allow riders to instantly access email, bank accounts, and social media networks such as Facebag, Tinder, Grinder, and Slither. Marketing and technical outreach director Akiko Fuji explains: “Cycling is quickly becoming an extension of our daily life, and research shows that people become anxious when they are away from home on long bike rides, most of which last an average of 35 minutes. Our Fully Integrated Technology System [FITS] lets customers work, answer emails, balance their checkbook, and check the kids’ homework while they’re riding. It really redefines the word ‘fun.'”

Not everyone at Interbike was thrilled with the new Di-3 Unilever. “What’s next, an automatic tampon changer?” snarled Road Bike Action Guns and Lance Magazine technical editor Smithy Wesson. “Bikes were made for pedaling and for defending one’s home against abortion providers. This takes away from the essence of cycling although we expect massive ad buys as a result, which is a good thing.”

Fuji disagreed. “Cycling has become too difficult for most Americans,” she said. “With our FITS system, which will eventually utilize electronic hub-assist so that riders don’t have to pedal too hard, more people will be exposed to the wonderful world of bicycling. With direct downloads to Netflix and drone robots to do the actual pedaling in the Di-4 model, people can enjoy cycling on the couch, which is much safer than actually riding in traffic.”

Noted philosopher and bicycle maker Richard Sachs rolled his eyes when asked about the latest technical improvements. Speaking from a cave filled with hammers and other crude Paleolithic tools in the Massachusetts woods, Sachs claimed that “Bikes is bikes, stupid,” and asserted that “It is doubtful that having someone else ride for you can be considered ‘cycling.'”

END

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How to break your tongue

September 4, 2014 § 3 Comments

There are many linguistic theories on how the Welsh language developed into an unpronounceable stew of jawbreaking consonants, but the most favored explanation is that after centuries of toothlessness the people of Wales simply gave up on vowels. This explains the difficulty that outsiders have in pronouncing names like “Aberystwyth.”

I won’t suggest the proper way to pronounce “Aberystwth,” but a friend of mine who has a name that is almost as unpronounceable, Mike Puchowicz, has recently begun collaborating with the exercise physiologists at Aberystwyth University. Mike has tried for the last few years to erase all evidence of his connection to the anonymous Twitter feed of Cap Taintbag, but to no avail. Cap Taintbag’s observations, curses, innovations in English, and general insults to the cycling public remain Mike’s greatest and most enduring work. They do not, however, do much to assist his current efforts at getting tenure.

The Aberystwythians and Puchowiczians are very interested in human power, how it is generated, and how long it can be sustained. They have therefore put together a study protocol to advance this investigation, although if they’d asked me I would have suggested a 2-hour survey of Pornhub (you’d learn all you ever need to know about human power and its duration). A link to the study is here, and guess what? You’re invited!

In order to participate, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Ride your bike a bunch
  • Race your bike four times (in an 8-week period)
  • Use a power meter
  • Bear your own risks for nausea, vomiting, cardiac dysfunction, and death

There. I’ve done my part for the advancement of science. Now back to our regular programming.

END

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Roadkill

September 3, 2014 § 28 Comments

I had been standing out in front of the courthouse for more than an hour, “discussing” the facts of her case with a client.

“When did you first talk to him?” I asked her.

“One month ago.”

“And that was the first you ever heard of it?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And this lawyer never called you before then?”

“No.”

“And you never got any mail from him?”

“Oh, no. Never.”

“So how did you find out about it?”

“Well, about a year ago this lawyer called and told us to pay.”

“I thought you said you first heard of it a month ago?”

“I did? It was a year ago.”

“Okay. Did you talk to anyone about it more than a year ago?”

“No, never.”

“So what happened when the lawyer called you a year ago and told you to pay?”

“I told him I wasn’t gonna pay because we had already told him that.”

“Already? So you had spoken with him before?”

“Yes. About two years ago.”

It was one of those days. I left the courthouse pretty beaten down and drove along Maple to Torrance. At the light there were two cars with their flashers on. A big, white Mercedes SUV had crumpled the rear of a little Ford Transit that was wrapped with a logo saying “Prestige Auto Collision Centers.” Some stuff you can’t make up.

Instead of driving their cars into the capacious parking lot by the courthouse, the drivers simply left their cars at the place of impact, blocking the right lane. They leisurely stood around taking pictures while the rest of us got into the middle lane. The left lane was for left turns only.

I was the first car at the light, and it took forever. My mind was wandering. “Why don’t they move their cars? Why won’t my client pick a story and stick with it? What kind of beer should I grab at BevMo? What’s for dinner? My armpits itch.”

The light turned green and I had to make a right turn in front of the mashed-up Transit. My blinker was on, and Prius-like I slowly eased ahead and began to turn. Thankfully my window was down, because just as I committed to the turn a voice shrieked in the window.

“Heyyagggghfukkkkk!”

It was a biker on a fixie, no helmet, splitting the tiny space between my car and the Transit, going straight through the intersection at full speed as I tried to turn right. Reflexively I smashed the brake. The biker shot by, missing the front of my turning car by inches. He turned around towards me, mid-intersection, and flipped me off.

I was shaking.

The driver in the car on my left yelled at me. “That fuggin’ idiot! What the hell was he doing? Good job, man!”

“No,” I said. “That was my fault. I should have looked.”

“With what? The eyes in the back of your head?” The driver shook his head and I drove off.

“So that’s what it’s like,” I thought, still trembling, “when you wear the shoe on the other foot.”

END

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Even the wankers (Get lucky sometimes)

September 2, 2014 § 19 Comments

Derek had been cajoling me to do the last CBR crit of the season for over a week. “C’mon, dude,” he said. “The field will be easy. All the fast guys will be at nationals or tapering for it.” And then the biggest lie of all: “It’ll be fun!”

When you are old and slow and tactically stupid and racing your bike on the fumes of dead dreams, you are vulnerable. “Okay,” I groused. “But I’m not shaving my legs. I’m done with that shit.”

Derek smiled. “No problem.”

I met him at the corner of Anza and Carson at 11:25. The race started at 12:35, and it was a forty-minute pedal if you caught all the lights, which never happens. This gave us a very comfy 40-minute safety buffer. We chatted and pedaled along the mostly empty Sunday streets of Torrance until the street became not-quite-so-empty, then pretty-trafficked, and finally stopped-completely-dead-in-a-sea-of-cars.

We threaded the lanes until we got to the source of the problem: The world’s longest freight train. “What the hell is this?” Derek asked.

“They run the really long ones through town on Sundays to minimize traffic disruption.”

“Crap,” he said, looking at his watch. “How long does it take?”

“I’ve never been stopped at one for more than thirty minutes.”

As the endless train endlessly rolled by at a whopping 5 mph, we sat stewing in the heat. The plus side was that if it lasted much longer we’d miss the race, which was fine with me because I didn’t want to do the 35+ category anyway. If it was hopeless racing with my own leaky prostate peers in the 50+, throwing down with the snotnoses was something much worse than hopeless. The last two 35+ races I’d entered I hadn’t even finished.

Still, the fast guys wouldn’t be there …

“Let’s go!” Derek said as the caboose rolled by. We were now touch-and-go for making the race, and the pre-race race began. Plowing into a nasty headwind and catching every single red light on Carson, we time-trailed to the race course moments before liftoff.

As we hurried to the sign-in tent, I saw that Derek had lied and lied well. There was Pat Bos, a guy I’ve never beaten. There was Dan Reback, a guy I’ve never even thought about beating. There was Michael Johnson, a guy that almost nobody has ever beaten. And there was Kayle LeoGrande, the guy who ritually beats everyone else.

The field was tiny and the course was windy, with a small bump leading up to Turn 4. The good thing about the small size of the field was that the race would start slow. I knew this from decades of experience — no one, no matter how good they are, wants to batter for a full fifty minutes in a race with no shelter.

Just before we started, Bart came up to me. “What the hell are you doing racing with these punks?” Bart had gotten third in the Old Farts’ Category earlier in the day.

“Funny, I was asking myself that same question.”

Armin the Great came over and clapped my shoulder, which hurt. “Don’t worry. You will do fine.”

I wanted to believe Armin, but when the gun sounded, his prediction sounded insanely optimistic. At Turn 1 Kayle jumped away from the field with Derek and two others in tow. The pain shot from my legs to my bowels to my eyes as the guillotine edge of reality made itself clear. This was going to be another day of “moral victories.” I already had them classified:

  1. Moral Victory #1: Getting out of bed and riding to the race.
  2. Moral Victory #2: Starting the race.
  3. Moral Victory #3: Finishing the first lap.
  4. Moral Victory #4: Beer.

As we finished the first lap the breakaway looked like it was gone and gone forever. Kayle had already kicked two of the breakaway companions out of the lead and they rocketed backwards, shattered, like pieces of a Morton-Thiokol booster rocket spiraling away from the Challenger space shuttle.

Then I heard the churning, whirring sound of accelerating carbon, and without bothering to look I sprunted hard. MJ came tearing through with Kayle’s teammate, Pat Bos, on his wheel. I latched onto Pat. MJ was flying solo and wasn’t about to let Kayle ride off the front like that.

The speed and wind and misery were so intense that I recounted my four moral victories and decided that now, as we finished Lap 2, was the perfect time to quit. I looked up and saw that MJ had reeled in the break, which contained Kayle and Derek. Everyone sat up except for Mario of Cal Pools, who attacked on the little riser. Derek and Rodrigo Flores went with him, and they pedaled away.

Then Dan Reback jumped and I went with him. A lap later we had bridged, leaving fistfuls of IQ points and galaxies of pointlessness scattered in our wake. We waited for Kayle or MJ or Pat to bridge, but somehow our ragtag group stayed off until, with fifteen minutes to go, we saw that miraculous sight of all miraculous sights: The remnants of the field that we were about to lap.

I have only lapped a field once. It was in 1985, at the crit at the Tour of Georgetown. There is nothing quite like it — it feels like a combination of having unprotected sex while mowing down your opposition on a battlefield with a machine gun. Only better.

We went around in circles for a few more laps. Teammate Eric Anderson set up Derek with the perfect leadout, and Derek responded with an amazing front-tire blowout as he railed through the final turn. I wound up fourth, losing to all my breakaway companions (including the one with a blowout) except for Mario, who sat up in Turn 3 and didn’t even try.

Still, lapping the field? (Yes, it was tiny.) Finishing ahead of two national champions who are contenders for a national championship next week? (No, this wasn’t a very important race for them.) Not getting immediately dropped and flayed by a field 15 years younger than my proper age category? (Dang, I’m old.)

I’m calling this one Moral Victory #5.

END

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Thank dog for flats and King David

August 31, 2014 § 11 Comments

I rang the doorbell. “Come on in,” said Eric, so I did. The Donut starts at 8:05, he lives about ten minutes away, and it was 7:45. “Want some coffee?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

He ground the beans and started boiling water as he leisurely poured some cereal into a bowl. I wasn’t worried about being late, because Eric’s never late. I was worried about the pain.

At 7:55 he ambled off to fill his bottles and “get ready.” I went outside and waited. I was shaking because I knew what was coming.

At 8:00 he rolled down the driveway with me. “We got plenty of time,” he said. “That ride never leaves on time anyway.”

What he meant was, “We’re going to go really fast now.”

It’s a long gradual downhill after climbing from his house up to PV Drive all the way to the start of the Donut Ride in Redondo Beach, with only one brief bump. You know what it’s like when you go, cold legs, from zero to thirty-five in a few pedal strokes? It was like that.

Hanging onto his wheel for dear life, a black Suburban came up behind us but wouldn’t pass even though we were on the shoulder. I kept flicking it to come by, but it wouldn’t. We were doing forty, and finally it came through. No wonder it wouldn’t pass: Clodhopper was at the wheel. “Hop on, boys,” he shouted.

Eric dived onto the bumper as Clodhopper wrapped it up to fifty. I came off at fifty-five and Eric vanished. I caught up to him at the start of the Donut, legs completely blown before the ride even started.

The 80-strong ride tore out of Malaga Cove lickety-split, mercilessly kicking the weak, infirm, and hungover riders out the back. A month or so ago we started doing “the Alley,” a vicious little wall-and-rest-and-steep-kicker that comes early on in the ride. The Alley has eliminated the safe-haven wheelsucking that has always plagued the Donut Ride by allowing wankers to coast along until the big climb up the Switchbacks. Now, the group separates early. One group does the Alley and pays for it the rest of the day; the timid and weak avoid it, only to be swept up and spit out later in the ride. Those who consistently do the Alley get stronger or they quit cycling, what’s known in the business as a “win-win.”

Although initially despised by all who did it, the Alley is now not so much despised as it is thoroughly hated.

Today was no exception. Boy Wonder Diego Binatena led the charge; Sausage, Rudy, Aaron, and a handful of others roared after him. Everyone else was pinned, by their foreskins, with rusty carpet tacks. Shortly after the first stop light, the Wily Greek attacked and took Derek, Rudy, Boy Wonder, and a couple of others. We came close to catching them, as in “the three-legged dog came close to catching the cheetah.”

Chatty Cathy, who had hopped in at the stoplight with a bunch of other course-cutters, came up to me after the break escaped. “Nice new kit you’re wearing!” he said.

“Why don’t you shut up and get your sorry fucking ass up to the front and chase down the break instead of hopping in after the hardest part of the ride and sucking wheel like a leech?”

Chatty Cathy shrugged. “Okay,” he said. Then he went to the front and obliterated about twenty people who were already hanging on for dear life. Then he ramped it up even more and came within 200 yards of pulling back the break. He swung over. “How was that?” he asked.

I spit blood and pooped a little poop. “Urgle,” was the best I could manage.

On the way down from the Domes I spied my teammate Derek on the side of the road with a flat. There is nothing better than being on a ride, feeling destroyed, looking for an excuse to quit, and spying a friend with a flat. I pulled over, and a few other broken souls did, too. The ride roared by.

We spent the next hour riding slowly and enjoying the day. On the final climb up Via Zumaya, a miserable, steep, and endless slog, I was alone and tired and didn’t care. Midway up the climb there was another clump of riders, also changing a flat. More happiness ensued as I dismounted and sat on the curb. Some lady from the neighborhood was walking her poodle and had stopped to chat. She had a very strong South African accent.

“Are you from Texas?” I asked.

“South Africa,” she archly replied.

“Oh,” I said. “You sound like a Texan.”

She laughed politely and the conversation seemed poised to end, which was bad since the flat had been changed and that meant I would have to remount and keep riding. “Where did you go to high school?” I asked her.

“In Johannesburg.”

“Really? I had an old girlfriend who went to high school in Johannesburg.”

The nice lady could now tell she was being hit on by some idiot who didn’t know South Africa from Texas. She raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”

“Yep,” I said. “She went to King David.”

The lady’s jaw dropped. “You’re joking.”

“Nope,” I said. “But you wouldn’t know her. You’re way too young; she’s fifty now.”

“And how old do you think I am?” she coyly asked.

I looked at the landmine and deftly stepped over it. “Early 30’s max,” I lied.

She blushed. “I’m fifty. What was your girlfriend’s name?”

By now the other bikers had regained their composure and stood there, laughing. “I like your style, Wanky,” said Aaron. “Ride up and swoop in. Nice work.”

I ignored him. “Her name’s Annette. Annette Davis.”

The blood drained out of her face. “This can’t be happening. We were best friends.”

By now I had thrown a leg over my bike and got ready to pedal off.  I looked at her intently and paused. “Yes,” I said. “I know.”

END

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