Some afternoon a year ago, I rode my 3-speed bicycle to a local Walgreens to check on something I no longer recall. I came out empty-handed. Ahead I saw a tall, kinky-haired, Mocha-Coffee-skinned fellow, straddling his bicycle, bent way over, checking out my bike up close. I might have been alarmed, but it was well-locked.
Approaching, I said an obligatory, “Hi.”
Then he said, "You got a good lock. Can't cut that."
"Yeah," I said. "Eighty-five dollars for that lock. It's German, has case-hardened steel alloy," I rattled off with some pride. "And," I added, "the guy where I bought it has one just like it for his bike that costs more than his car.”
"This ain't like those Kryptonite locks," he said. "A Kryptonite you can pop off with a crowbar. And guys, too, got portable saws, cut them in no time. Bike's gone."
"Those saws, battery-powered?" I asked.
"Yeah ... you know, I really like this Windsor, got one just like it in my garage."
"You buy it online?" I asked, thinking of my two-forty, free shipping, self-assembly.
"No, uncle gave it to me. Don't ride it much, just look at it."
I unlocked my folding lock, stashed it in its frame mount. We kept talking.
Anyone like Mocha Coffee is hyper-aware about talking to a white person. Our chat was going well, we continued ... fifteen minutes or more.
He told me more about himself. He'd gotten out of prison recently. (Probably not for bicycle theft, I'm sure). He said his girlfriend had left him and he was going through a rough time.
Then he got around to telling me his mother was white, and she was related to former Portland mayor, Bud Clark, who really supported bicycles in Portland. He said though he loved Portland--he had "Portland" tattoo'd on his arm--Oregon was still a Jim Crow state.
As for his dad, Mocha Coffee volunteered the bloodline: one-half Black, one-quarter Samoan, and one-quarter Cherokee.
Having shared his identity, but no occupation; he gave me tips. "You got good axle nuts on your wheels. Way better than quick-release, your wheels be gone like that."
He asked me how my blinky front light came off. I showed him the secret housing cover release, hexagonal screws inside. “Allen-head screws,” he clarified. Perhaps, I'd taught him a new one.
Then he showed me his front light. A cigar-box sized affair hanging off his handlebars, with a couple of fluorescent tubes, powered by a rechargeable battery. Turned it on. "You should of see this at night." He had to go and took off, a powerful lanky figure pedalling away, riding like a cool breeze.
Image credit: bike-components.de
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
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